Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Deeds of Pope Innocent III by an Anonymous Author

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Deeds of Pope Innocent III by an Anonymous Author

Article excerpt

The Deeds of Pope Innocent III by an Anonymous Author. Translated with an introduction and notes by James M. Powell. (Washington, D.C. : The Catholic University of America Press. 2004. Pp. xlv, 286. $59.95.)

There survives no authorial manuscript of the Gesta (Deeds) of Pope Innocent III. There are editions from the seventeenth century onwards, of which Migne's (Patrologia Latino., vol. 214, cols, xvii-ccxxviii) based on Baluze and a seventeenth-century manuscript in the Biblioteca Vallicelliana, has probably been the most consulted. The predecessor of Vallicelliana, and the key surviving manuscript, is a fourteenth-century copy now in the Vatican Library (Vat. Lat. 12111) which was in the papal library at Avignon in 1396. There are further copies of the Gesta, none so complete, in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (MSS 5150-2).

Among papal biographies, the Gesta stands out for its intimate detail and the reliability of its evidence wherever it is possible to check. Although the text-at least as we now have it-ends abruptly in 1208, and so has nothing to say about many important events of the pontificate such as the growth of the new religious movements, church reform, and the Lateran Council, it is a major source for our understanding of the recovery of the papal state, the government of the Regno, the unrest in the city of Rome, and papal policy toward the Eastern churches culminating in the Fourth Crusade.

In 1981 a doctoral student at Bryn Mawr, David R. Gress-Wright, completed a thesis on the Gesta-Text, Introduction, and Commentary. This text has been difficult of access outside the United States, and it was sadly never published. It is a great misfortune for the scholarly world, too, that having explored the text in detail and noted interpolations, etc., Gress-Wright did not provide a translation.

A matter of intense interest is the authorship. It is clear that whoever wrote it was extremely close to the pope and had access to the papal registers. …

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