History Of The Christian Church (1892) Philip Schaff

§ 30. The Peace of Venice. 1177


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§ 30. The Peace of Venice. 1177.

The negotiations resulted in the Peace of Venice, which was embodied in twenty-eight articles.139  Alexander was acknowledged as legitimate pope. Calixtus, the anti-pope, was remanded to an abbey, while his cardinals were reduced to the positions they had occupied before their appointment to the curia. Beatrice was acknowledged as Frederick’s legal wife, and his son Henry as king of the Romans. Rome and the patrimonium were restored to the pope, and Spoleto, the Romagna, and Ancona were recognized as a part of the empire.

The peace was ratified by one of the most solemn congresses of the Middle Ages. Absolved from the ban, and after eighteen years of conflict, the emperor met the pope in front of St. Mark’s, July 24, 1177. A vast multitude filled the public square. The pope in his pontifical dress sitting upon a throne in front of the portal of the cathedral must have had mingled with his feelings of satisfaction reminiscences of his painful fortunes since the time he was elected to the tiara. Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and other dignitaries occupied lower seats according to their rank.

The emperor, on arriving in the magnificent gondola of the doge, with a train of prelates and nobles, was received by a procession of priests with banners and crosses, and the shouts of the people. He slowly proceeded to the cathedral. Overcome with feelings of reverence for the venerable pope, he cast off his mantle, bowed, and fell at his feet.140  Alexander, in tears, raised him up,141 and gave him the kiss of peace and his benediction. Thousands of voices responded by singing the Te Deum.142

Then the emperor, taking the hand of the pope, walked with him and the doge into the church, made rich offerings at the altar, bent his knees, and received again the apostolic benediction.

On the next day (the 25th), being the feast of St. James, the pope, at the emperor’s request, celebrated high mass, and preached a sermon which he ordered the patriarch of Aquileia to translate at once into German. The emperor accompanied him from the altar to the door, and paid him the customary homage of holding the stirrup.143  He offered to conduct his palfrey by the bridle across the piazza to the bark; but the pope dispensed with this menial service of a groom, taking the will for the deed, and gave him again his benediction.

This is the authentic account of contemporary writers and eye-witnesses. They make no mention of the story that the emperor said to the pope, "I do this homage to Peter, not to thee," and that the pope quickly replied, "To Peter and to me."

The hierarchical imagination has represented this interview as a second Canossa. In Venetian pictures the pope is seen seated on a throne, and planting his foot on the neck of the prostrate emperor, with the words of Ps. 91:13: —

"Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder:

The young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under feet."144

There is as much difference between the scenes of Venice and Canossa as there is between the characters of Barbarossa and Henry IV. Barbarossa was far superior, morally as well as intellectually, to his Salian predecessor, and commanded the respect of his enemies, even in his defeat. He maintained his dignity and honorably kept his word.

Delegates and letters were sent to all parts of Christendom with the glad tidings of peace. The emperor left Venice toward the end of September for Germany by a roundabout way, and the pope for Anagni on the 15th of October. After an exile of ten years, Alexander made a triumphal entry into Rome, March 12, 1178.

He convened, according to previous agreement with the emperor, a synod to ratify the pacification of Christendom, and to remove certain evils which had multiplied during the schism. The Third Lateran or the Eleventh Oecumenical Council was held in the Constantinian Basilica at Rome during Lent, 1179. It numbered about three hundred bishops, besides many abbots and other dignitaries,145 and exhibited the Roman hierarchy in its glory, though it was eclipsed afterwards by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. The details of the transactions are unknown, except twenty-seven chapters which were adopted in the third and last session.

The council, in order to prevent rival elections, placed the election of popes exclusively in the hands of cardinals, to be decided by a majority of two-thirds, and threatened with excommunication and deposition any one who should dare to accept an election by a smaller number of votes.146  The ordinations of the anti-popes (Octavian, Guido, and John of Struma) were declared invalid. No one was to be elected bishop who was not at least thirty years of age and of legitimate birth. To check the extravagance of prelates on their visitation journeys, the archbishops were limited to forty or fifty horses on those occasions, the cardinals to twenty-five, the bishops to twenty or thirty, the archdeacons to five or seven. Ordained clergymen must dismiss their concubines, or forfeit their benefices. Unnatural licentiousness was to be punished by expulsion from the priesthood and confinement in a convent. The council prepared the way for a crusade against the heretics in the South of France, and promised to those who should engage in it the same plenary indulgence for two years as had been granted to the crusaders against the Moslems.

Soon after the synod, Alexander was again driven into exile by the Roman republic. He died at Cività Castellana, Aug. 30, 1181, having reigned longer than any pope before or after him, except Sylvester I., 314–385, Adrian I., 772–795, Pius VII., 1800–1823, Pius IX., 1846–1878, and Leo XIII., 1878–1903. When Alexander’s remains were being carried to Rome for burial, the populace insulted his memory by pelting the coffin with stones and mud.147  Alexander had with signal constancy and devotion to the Gregorian principles maintained the conflict with Barbarossa. He supported Thomas à Becket in his memorable conflict with Henry II. In 1181 he laid the interdict upon Scotland because of the refusal of its king, William, to acknowledge the canonical election of John to the see of St. Andrews. Upon Louis VII. of France he conferred the Red Rose for the support he had received from that sovereign in the days of his early exile. He presided over the Third Lateran Council and prepared the way for the crusade against the Cathari and Albigenses.

His aged and feeble successor, Lucius III., was elected, Sept. 1, 1181, by the cardinals alone. The Romans, deprived of their former share in the election, treated him with barbarous cruelty; they captured twenty or twenty-six of his partisans at Tusculum, blinded them, except one, crowned them with paper mitres inscribed with the names of cardinals, mounted them on asses, and forced the priest whom they had spared to lead them in this condition to "Lucius, the wicked simoniac." He died in exile at Verona where he held an important synod.

It is a remarkable fact that some of the greatest popes—as Gregory VII., Urban II., Innocent II., Eugene III., Adrian IV., Alexander III., and three of his successors—could not secure the loyalty of their own subjects, and were besieged in Rome or compelled to flee. Adrian IV. said to his countryman and friend, John of Salisbury, "Rome is not the mother, but the stepmother of the Churches." The Romans were always fluctuating between memories of the old republic and memories of the empire; now setting up a consul, a senator, a tribune; now welcoming the German emperor as the true Augustus Caesar; now loyal to the pope, now driving him into exile, and ever selling themselves to the highest bidder. The papal court was very consistent in its principles and aims, but as to the choice of means for its end it was subject to the same charge of avarice and venality, whether at Rome or in exile. Even Thomas Becket, the staunchest adherent of Alexander III., indignantly rebuked the cardinals for their love of gold.

Emperor Frederick survived his great rival nearly ten years, and died by drowning in a little river of Asia Minor, 1190, while marching on the third crusade.

Barbarossa was a man of middle size, bright countenance, fair complexion, yellow hair and reddish beard, a kind friend and placable enemy, strictly just, though often too severe, liberal in almsgiving, attentive to his religious duties, happy in his second marriage, of the noblest type of mediaeval chivalry, the greatest sovereign of the twelfth century, a hero in fact and a hero in romance.148  He came into Italy with the sword of Germany in one hand and the Justinian code in the other, but failed in subduing the political independence of the Lombard cities, and in his contest with the spiritual power of Alexander. The German imagination has cherished his memory in song and story, placing him next in rank to Charles the Great among the Roman emperors, exaggerating his virtues, condoning his faults, which were those of his age, and hoping for his return to restore the unity and power of Germany.

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