Konrad von Urach (t1227): Zahringer, Zisterzienser, Kardinallegat. By Falko Neininger. [Quellen und Forschungen aus dem Gebiet der Geschichte, Neue Folge, Heft 17.] (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoningh. 1994. Pp. 618. Paperback)
The detailed biography of this influential German Cistercian and cardinal seeks to gauge his role in politics and in ecclesiastical life during the first decades of the thirteenth century. A son to Count Egino IV of Urach as well as a scion of the princely Zahringen family through his mother Agnes (daughter of Duke Berthold IV of Zihringen), Konrad was born c. Il Bo into fortunate circumstances. He entered the clerical career "fast-track" as soon as he reached his majority, first becoming a Liege cathedral canon, then (1199) a Cistercian monk at Villers in Brabant, and eventually being elected abbot of this monastery in 1208/09 at the age (roughly) of 30. Five years later (1213/14) he was elected abbot of Clairvaux, and two years after that (1216/17) he was elected abbot of Citeaux, the mother-house of the order.
In 1219 Pope Honorius III named Konrad cardinal-bishop of Porto and Sta. Rufina and utilized him subsequently in two extended missions as papal legate: he represented papal interests in southern France during the middle period of the Albigensian crusade, and he toured imperial territories north of the Alps in support of the preparations for Emperor Frederick II's proposed crusade to Latin Outremer. Upon Honorius's death Konrad declined to be chosen his successor and made way for Hugolino of Ostia's election as Gregory IX. Konrad himself did not survive Honorius long; probably among the first crusaders to leave Brindisi after the outbreak of pestilence there, he soon became another victim of the epidemic that postponed Frederick's promised departure and triggered the emperor's first struggle with Pope Gregory. Neininger is certainly correct in noting the untimely loss of a prelate whose experience and prestige could have mediated between these two formidable opponents in service to greater goals, namely, the crusade in particular and papal-imperial co-operation in general. In his introduction Neininger notes that Konrad's importance lay in his capacity as a mediator, a middleman, a "fixer," whatever his position might have been at the time. The heart of the study is ordered according to five general themes: Konrad amidst his Urach and Zahringen relations; Konrad as a Cistercian; as a cardinal at the curia; as cardinal-legate in France; and as cardinal-legate in Germany. In two postscripts Neininger discusses Konrad during the final years of his life and provides a summary estimation.
Although Konrad's paternal kindred was by no means unimportant-containing as it did several bishops and abbots, his relatives through his Zlhringen mother included not only both Frederick II and Louis VIII of France, but also the ruling houses of Brabant, Limburg, Geldern, Namur, Holland, Dagsburg, Montfort, and Chatillon. Neininger contends that these ties of kinship later made Konrad the ideal go-between or arbiter of disputes among a large range of powerful personalities, and also determined in part the institutional beneficiaries of many of his actions as prelate and legate.
The young cathedral canon's entry into monastic life can best be explained by the tight relationship between the Cistercians and both sides of his family. In Villers, a daughter house of Clairvaux, Konrad quickly made his mark, becoming prior and abbot in short order. His election to Clairvaux derived probably from recognition of his successful tenure at Villers. As the tenth successor to Saint Bernard, much of Konrad's time and energies were consumed in visitation and supervisory duties as father-abbot over approximately eighty daughter houses or on commissions from the general chapter of the order. In the latter capacity he attended the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.
The culmination of Konrad's monastic career occurred in his election to the abbacy of Citeaux. …