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Urban IV

(c. 1200—1264)

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(29 Aug. 1261–2 Oct. 1264)

As Alexander IV failed to create any, there were only eight cardinals when he died, one of whom was absent in Hungary, and the meagre conclave meeting at Viterbo debated vainly for three months. Eventually they elected an outsider, Jacques Pantaléon, patriarch of Jerusalem, who was visiting the curia on business of the Holy Land. Born son of a shoemaker c.1185 at Troyes, he studied at Paris and c.1223 became canon of Laon and then c.1242 archdeacon of Liège, and as such attended the first council of Lyons in 1245. Innocent IV, who noticed him there, made him a papal chaplain, then sent him in 1247 as legate to Poland, Prussia, and Pomerania. In 1252 he became bishop of Verdun, and on 9 April 1255 Alexander IV named him patriarch of Jerusalem and legate in the Latin kingdom. He returned to the papal court at Viterbo in the hope of resolving some jurisdictional issues shortly before the death of Alexander IV. A diplomat of wide experience, vigorous in word and action, he knew what he wanted and worked for it with the independence which came from being a Frenchman free from both the entanglements of Italian politics and the rivalries among the cardinals.

Urban saw clearly that, if Innocent IV's victory over the empire was to be consolidated, a sovereign dependent on the holy see must be set up in place of Manfred (c.1232–66), Emperor Frederick II's (1220–50) bastard son, in the kingdom of Sicily and the power of the Hohenstaufen dynasty removed once for all from Italy. First, however, he reinforced the depleted sacred college by naming fourteen cardinals, six of them Frenchmen of remarkable ability, while at the same time maintaining the balance between the contending factions. Although he was never able, because of civil strife, to reside in Rome as pope, he struggled to get a government which acknowledged his suzerainty precariously established there. In a few months he recovered most of the papal state, control of which Alexander IV had lost. By putting pressure on the bankers and merchants of Tuscany he was able not only to revive a Guelph, or pro-papal, party there, but also to assure himself of the finance needed for his projects without needing to appeal to Roman moneylenders. By opposing Pallavicini, Manfred's deputy in Lombardy, and promoting his enemies, the Este and Visconti families, he began rebuilding papal prestige in the north.

Urban's solution for Sicily was the fateful one of offering its crown, Louis IX of France (1226–70) having refused it, to his able and ambitious brother Charles, count of Anjou (1226–85). The claims of Edmund of England (1245–96), whom Alexander IV had invested with the kingdom, were amicably liquidated, Louis IX's scruples were overcome, and negotiations were started with Charles. For some months they were held up because Manfred professed himself ready to recognize the pope's suzerainty and pay tribute, and was backed by the fugitive Latin emperor Baldwin II of Constantinople (1237–61), who hoped that he would lead a crusade to win back the Latin empire. The profound suspicion, however, in which the curia held the Hohenstaufen proved too much, and on 17 June 1263 a treaty was drawn up under which Charles would be enfeoffed with the kingdom of southern Italy and Sicily in return for a lump sum of 50,000 marks sterling and the promise of an annual tribute of 10,000 ounces of gold, freedom for the church in the kingdom, and military aid as required; he was not to accept any offer of the German or the imperial crown, nor to exercise rule in the imperial provinces in Italy or the papal state; he was also to possess himself of his fief within one year. When Manfred heard what was being planned, he reopened hostilities in Tuscany, Campania, and the papal patrimony later in the summer. Urban had to take refuge in Orvieto, where he was forced to accept certain modifications of the draft treaty requested by Charles, and even to recognize his election, in violation of its terms, as senator of Rome. When Orvieto was threatened, he retreated to Perugia, where he died—though some accounts suggest he died on the journey; but by then the treaty had been signed, and Angevin domination was now assured not only for the kingdom of Sicily but, as events were to prove, for Italy itself.


Subjects: Religion

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