In the preceding article under the above caption we witnessed the opposition of Frederick II to the world pretentions of the papacy. The papal contestant in this struggle with whom we were last occupied is Gregory IX, who, as was stated, died contending for the states of the church in Italy to which Frederick was laying claim. After a papal vacancy of twenty months, Gregory was succeeded by Coelestin IV, who outlived his election less than three weeks. The next pope, Innocent IV (1243-1254), continued the conflict with great vigor. His first move was to escape by flight from Rome, before whose gates the troops of Frederick stood victorious. According to a precontrived plan, the pope was transported by a fleet to Lyons, a city near France, where he could act as freed from the weapons of Frederick. There he put the emperor once more under the ban. Next, he convoked the council, that Frederick had prevented him from holding in Rome. Before the council which is known as the First Council of Lyons, the pope presented many and grave charges against the emperor, the most serious of which was heresy. The emperor was cited to appear upon the council to defend himself, but he declined appearing as a thing beneath his dignity and that of the empire. The pope now pronounced sentence of excommunication and deposition on the emperor, who was little impressed. Hearing of what had been done, he placed the imperial crown on his head and said, “I still possess this crown; and without a bloody struggle I shall not let it be plucked away from me by the attack of any pope or council.” In a circular letter, addressed to all the princes, he denounced the doings of the pope. “Would that we had learned a lesson,” said he, “from the example of the monarchs before us, instead of finding ourselves compelled to serve, by what we must suffer, as examples of those who come after us! The sons of our own subjects forget the condition of their fathers, and honor neither king nor emperor the moment they are consecrated as priests. What have not all the princes to fear from this prince of the priest—meaning the pope—if one of them takes such liberties with the emperor! The princes have none to blame but themselves; they have brought the mischief on their own heads by their submissive obedience to these pretended saints, whose ambition is large enough to swallow up the whole world!” He urged them to come to his aid in dispossessing the clergy of its vast estates, which was only a source of corruption to the church.
So had the fierce contest for the earth between papacy and emperor begun anew. In this contest the pope ceased not to encourage the powerful princes of the church—bishops and archbishops—to attack the emperor. The lay rulers, bent on advancing their own interests, remained neutral, aiding with their arms neither the pope nor the emperor. And the vassals of Frederick became daily more doubtful. It was evident that the downfall of the Hohenstaufen house was approaching. But the spirit of Frederick, now an old man, was still uncurbed and haughty. Innocent had said, “It is evident to the whole world that the emperor’s sole object is the extirpation of the church and of the true worship of God from the earth, that he alone may be worshipped by fallen man.” Frederick held an imperial diet at Verona and denied the charge. To the king of England he wrote, “Our majesty is uninjured by the pope’s anathema. Our conscience is pure. God is with us. Our sole aim has ever been to bring the clergy back to their primitive apostolical simplicity and humility. They were formerly saints, healed the sick, performed miracles; now they are led astray by their own wantonness, and the spirit of covetousness has stifled in their hearts that of religion.”
In Italy, too, the pope continually sought to undermine Frederick’s power and that of his sons by the formation of conspiracies, which being discovered^ were crushed in the bud. Hatred hardened every heart; mercy was unknown. The faction loyal to the emperor, including his two illegitimate sons, Conrad and Enzio, bathed in the blood of their enemies, shed on the scaffold and on the battlefield. But in 1249 Enzio attacked Bologna and was taken prisoner. Frederick offered a huge ransom for his restoration to liberty, which was refused by the citizens; and in his twenty-fourth year this youth, already famed for his mental qualities, beauty and valor, ended his life in a dungeon. Frederick took it so to heart that his health began to fail. One blow followed another. He was abandoned by Peter de Vineis, his shrewdest counsellor. “Alas!” he exclaimed, “I am abandoned by my most faithful friends. Peter has deserted me and sought my destruction. Whom can I trust? My days are henceforth doomed to pass in sorrow and suspicion!” In 1247 the pope once more pronounced sentence of excommunication upon him. But he once more aroused himself. Assembling a fresh army of Moors from Africa, he kept the field, until suddenly laid low by illness at Firenzuola, and there he died on the 13th of December, 1251. His head had worn seven crowns, that of the Roman empire, that of the kingdom of Germany, the iron diadem of Lombardy, and those of Burgundy, Sicily, Sardinia, and Jerusalem. The tidings of the death of the emperor caused the pope to jubilantly exclaim, “Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad.”
Though Frederick lay in his tomb, the papacy still was ill at ease. There were remnants of the Hohenstaufen house to be dealt with—Conrad IV, Frederick’s eldest son and successor, Manfred, Enzio and Henry. The pope denounced them as “the viperous brood’’, and “the poisonous brood of a dragon of poisonous race,” and decreed their ruin. Re-entering Rome, after an absence of seven years, he renewed his war against Frederick. His first act was to offer the crown of Sicily to Edmund, the son of Henry III, king of England. Then he passed sentence of excommunication upon Conrad, who had descended to Italy to make good his claim to his inherited crown. The following year Conrad died, suddenly, at the age of 26. His only son, Conradin, was then but two years old. That same year Henry, to whom the throne of Sicily had been destined by his father, suddenly expired. Their death was attributed to poison, and the crime was said to be committed by the papal faction. The death of the two brothers was soon followed by that of pope Innocent, 1254. They buried him in Naples. According to the standard of men, he was one of the few great popes. The burden of his taxations were crushing. On this account he is charged with having made a slave of the church and turning his court into a moneychanger’s table. To his relatives, weeping at his deathbed, he administered the rebuke, “Why do ye weep, wretched creatures? Do I not leave you all rich?”
Innocent was succeeded by Alexander IV, 254-1261. Under his mild reign, Manfred established his sovereignty in Sicily. But Urban IV, 1261-1264, a Frenchman and the son of a shoemaker, gave the Sicilian crown to Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis IX of France, basing his right to do so on the inherent authority of the papacy to give and take away kingdoms as it chose. Clement IV, 1265-1268, proclaimed a crusade against Manfred and crowned Charles in Rome. In the ensuing war, Manfred was killed.
The sole male survivor of the Hohenstaufen line was Conradin, the son of Conrad and the grandson of Frederick II. Though still a youth, he sought by force of arms to establish his sovereignty in Italy and for this was excommunicated by the pope. His army was completely put to the rout, and he was taken prisoner, given a mocked trial and sentenced to die. On the scaffold erected in the market-place at Naples, he addressed the people, saying, “I cite my judge before the highest tribunal. My blood, shed on this spot, shall cry to Heaven for vengeance. Nor do I esteem my Germans so low as not to trust that this stain on the honor of the German nation will be washed out by them in French blood.” With Conradin the male line of the Hohenstaufen came to an end. Thus the preposterous claims of the papacy survived also the blows struck again and again by this family. The empire lay prostrate in the dust before the papacy. Yet in the meantime Europe had grown up. The multitude largely had lost its fear of the pope’s thunderings. It means that the hour of the papacy as a temporal power had struck.