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Anacletus II

Title taken by Cardinal Pietro Pierleone at contested papal election of 1130

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Anacletus, II, the title which was taken by Cardinal Pietro Pierleone at the contested papal election of the year 1130. The date of his birth is uncertain; d. January 25, 1138. Though the Pierleoni were conceded to be one of the wealthiest and most powerful senatorial families of Rome, and though they had staunchly supported the Popes throughout the fifty years’ war for reform and freedom, yet it was never forgotten that they were of Jewish extraction, and had risen to wealth and power by usury. The Cardinal‘s grandfather, named Leo after Pope Leo IX, who baptized him, was a faithful adherent of Gregory VII; Leo’s son, Peter, from whom the family acquired the appellation of Pierleoni, became leader of the faction of the Roman nobility which was at enmity with the Frangipani. His marble coffin may still be seen in the cloisters of St. Paul’s, with its pompous inscription extolling his wealth and numerous offspring. His attempt to install his son as Prefect of Rome in 1116, though favored by the Pope, had been resisted by the opposite party with riot and bloodshed. His second son, the future Antipope, was destined for the Church. After finishing his education at Paris, he became a monk in the monastery of Cluny, but before long he was summoned to Rome by Pope Paschal II and created Cardinal-Deacon of SS. Cosmas and Damian. He accompanied Pope Gelasius on his flight to France, and was employed by successive pontiffs in important affairs, including legations to France and England. If we can believe his enemies, he disgraced his high office by gross immorality and by his greed in the accumulation of lucre. Whatever exaggeration there may be as to other charges, there can be no doubt that he was determined to buy or force his way into the Papal Chair. When Honorius lay on his deathbed, Pierleone could count upon the votes of thirty cardinals, backed by the support of the mercenary populace and of every noble family in Rome, except the Corsi and the Frangipani. The pars sanior of the Sacred College numbered only sixteen, headed by the energetic Chancellor, Haymaric, and the CardinalBishop of Ostia. These squadronisti, as they would have been called in later days, resolved to rescue the papacy from unworthy hands by a coup d’etat. Though in a hopeless minority, they had the advantage that four of their number were cardinal-bishops, to whom the legislation of Nicholas II had entrusted the leading part in the election. Moreover, of the commission of eight cardinals, to which, in apprehension of a schism, it was decided to leave the election, one of them being Pierleone, five were opposed to the ambitious aspirant. To secure liberty of action, they removed the sick Pontiff from the Lateran to St. Gregory’s, near the towers of the Frangipani. Honorius dying on the night of February 13, they buried him hurriedly the next morning, and compelled the reluctant Cardinal of San Giorgio, Gregory Papareschi, under threat of excommunication, to accept the pontifical mantle. He took the name of Innocent II. Later in the day the party of Pierleone assembled in the Church of St. Mark and proclaimed him Pope, with the name of Anacletus II. Both claimants were consecrated on the same day, February 23, Anacletus in St. Peter’s and

Innocent in Sta. Maria Nuova. How this schism would have been healed, had the decision been left to the canonists, is hard to say. Anacletus had a strong title in law and fact. The majority of the cardinals with the Bishop of Porto, the Dean of the Sacred College, at their head, stood at his side. Almost the whole populace of Rome rallied around him. His victory seemed complete, when, shortly after, the Frangipani, abandoning what appeared to be a lost cause, went over to him. Innocent sought safety in flight. No sooner had he arrived in France than his affairs took a favorable turn. “Expelled from the City, he was welcomed by the world”, says St. Bernard, whose influence and exertions secured for him the adhesion of practically the entire Christian world. The Saint states his reasons for deciding in favor of Innocent in a letter to the Bishops of Aquitaine (Op. cxxvi). They may not be canonically cogent; but they satisfied his contemporaries. “The life and character of our Pope Innocent are above any attack, even of his rival; while the other’s are not safe even from his friends. In the second place, if you compare the elections, that of our candidate at once has the advantage over the other as being purer in motive, more regular in form, and earlier in time. The last point is out of all doubt; the other two are proved by the merit and the dignity of the electors. You will find, if I mistake not, that this election was made by the more discreet part of those to whom the election of the Supreme Pontiff belongs. There were cardinals, bishops, priests, and deacons, in sufficient number, according to the decrees of the Fathers, to make a valid election. The consecration was performed by the Bishop of Ostia, to whom that function specially belongs.” Meanwhile Anacletus maintained his popularity in Rome by the lavish expenditure of his accumulated wealth and the plundered treasures of the churches. His letters and those of the Romans to Lothair of Germany remaining unanswered, he secured a valuable confederate in Duke Roger of Apulia, whose ambition he satisfied by the gift of royalty; on Christmas Day, 1130, a cardinal-legate of Anacletus anointed at Palermo the first King of the Two Sicilies, a momentous event in the history of Italy. In the spring of 1133, the German King conducted Innocent, whom two great synods, Reims and Piacenza, had proclaimed the legitimate Pope, to Rome; but as he came accompanied by only 2,000 horse, the Antipope, safe within the walls of Castle St. Angelo, looked on undismayed. Unable to open the way to St. Peter’s, Lothair and his queen Richenza, on June 4, received the imperial crown in the Lateran. Upon the Emperor’s departure Innocent was compelled to retire to Pisa, and for four years his rival remained in undisturbed possession of the Eternal City. In 1137 Lothair, having finally vanquished the insurgent Hohenstaufens, returned to Italy at the head of a formidable army; but since the main purpose of the expedition was to punish Roger, the conquest of Rome was entrusted to the missionary labors of St. Bernard. The Saint’s eloquence was more effective than the imperial weapons. When Anacletus died, the preference of the Romans for Innocent was so pronounced that the Antipope, Victor IV, whom the party chose as his successor, soon came as a penitent to St. Bernard and by him was led to the feet of the Pope. Thus ended, after eight years of duration, a schism which threatened serious disaster to the Church.


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