The Influence of Papacy in XIII

XIII century became the apogee of the papacy political and spiritual power. In fact, the highest point of the papacy dominance was reached during the pontificate of Innocent III. The history of the Church argues that Innocent III was the most outstanding Pope of the Middle Ages. The phenomenon of high papacy political power appeared due to the fact that majority of Western European countries was in a state of feudal fragmentation. In the absence of a strong centralized state, the church has increased its power and became the only force whose authority was recognized in all countries. The goal of this essay is to analyze the papacy influence on political affairs of Western Europe in XIII century.

The papacy has successfully used the feudal fragmentation of countries in its political interests. The main pillars of this process were the representatives of the church hierarchy, especially bishops and monasteries that had extensive privileges. However, they were vassals of the king and in different periods popes held a variety of positions. Thus, many of them supported the strengthening of the central secular authority in their country, while others pursue the papal policy preventing the strengthening of the central government, and supporting the feudal separatist actions. The papacy in the XIII used all the major political events of that time to increase its impact. It acted as the organizer of the Crusades to the East and gave the religious character of the Reconquista in Spain.


For example, under the slogan of the Christianity spread among the pagans, the Church consecrated predatory raids against the German knights of Slavic and Baltic peoples. Moreover, the papacy has actively participated in the suppression of the common anti-feudal movements and heresies. The political influence of the Church and the Pope has based also on the financial strength. Catholic countries of Europe donated significant amounts of money from the estates of the church, tithes, and fees to the Crusades and other religious extortion. Thus, the papacy had huge financial resources that were often superior to the resources of secular rulers of Europe. As a result, the Pope had the opportunity to pursue an active internal and external policy. Moreover, maintaining control over the entire intellectual and ideological life of society helped to strengthen the political power of the church and the papacy in Western Europe.

As it was previously mentioned, XIII century was a time of the highest power and international influence of the papacy. This process was evident during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III who defended the idea of the ecclesiastical power rule over secular and promoted the claim of world domination. After accession to the throne, he forced the prefect of Rome to take the oath of allegiance to him. In fact, this event destroyed the imperial power of Rome. He followed the same policy in other Catholic areas and formed the independent papal state. Such events fully restored his possessions in the Papal States, and significantly expanded its borders. Besides, the restored imperial power against almost all Italian cities helped him to manage Sicily. Moreover, he gave the papal curia value of the highest court in the Catholic world. He managed to achieve that King John of England, Aragonese, and Portuguese kings pleaded his vassals. In fact, Innocent III and his successors constantly interfered in the internal affairs of Western European countries through their legates claiming the role of European arbitrator. Besides, Innocent III contributed to the creation of the Latin Empire, and his power and impact spread to a large part of the East. Therefore, the influence and achievements of Innocent III prove the high role of a papacy to political affairs of XIII century.

The most difficult task of the Innocent III successors was the implementation of a universal political power of the Popes in the fight against the power of the Frederick II. Initially, the papacy has shown flexibility in relation to the ambitious plans of Frederick II. Honorius III, who came to the power of the papacy after Innocent III, did not compete for the political power. However, the next Pope Gregory IX returned to the policy of Innocent III. He started the confrontation with Frederick II and several times excommunicated him from the church for ego. Despite a slight weakening of the authority of the Pope in the Roman Empire, he had a strong political power in various European countries. For example, the Hungarian King András II was forced to sign an agreement with the papal legate. Thus, the church became free from government control and, in some extent, state subordinated to the church. Besides, the clergy was exempt from paying taxes to the state treasury. Innocent IV became the pope after Gregory IX and brought disappointment to the imperial party because he continued the policy of Innocent III and Gregory IX. After the death of Frederick II, the political positions of the pope strengthened again at a high level. The value of the emperor’s political power inside and outside the empire was completely destroyed. The Empire collapsed to almost entirely small independent areas. In fact, papal policy played an important role in the downfall of the Empire. Papacy used the authority of the church to strengthen the particularistic ambitions in the period of the imperial power weakening. Essentially, a characteristic feature of the Staufer policy was a persistent desire to subjugate Italy. Their interests overlap with the interests of the popes who have seen Italy as their area of control. Therefore, the papacy was aimed to prevent the unification of Italy because politically united country would undermine the foundations of papacy political power. Consequently, the great influence of Innocent III determined the huge authority of papacy at the beginning of the XIII century.

At the end of the XIII century, Gregory X became Pope. Gregory forced the princes to elect a new king, and it became obvious that the emperor and the king titles were a mere formality. The royal and imperial powers were extended only to the limits of the king ownership. However, after Gregory X, popes did not pursue an active policy and their role became negligible. The last significant pope, who fought against the French hegemony, was Boniface VIII. He proclaimed the universal hierocratic monarchy and the absence of taxes for clergy, but in practice, he did not achieve this aim. However, Philip the Fair did not tolerate interference in the management of the affairs in his country. In response to the Pope’s action, he forbade the export of precious metals that declined the income and influence of the Pope. In the last decade of XIII and early XIV century, King Philip IV was able to subdue the church that led to the beginning of papacy decline. Therefore, the papacy had a great impact on political affairs during the majority of XIII century even with a downfall at the end of this century.

In the XIII, the papacy influence on political affairs experienced further strengthening. This process has been associated with mutations in the state and the lack of centralized power. The papacy enhanced its influence by Crusades, control over the population beliefs, and impressive financial resources that allowed them to conduct effective foreign policy. During the reign of Innocent III, Gregory IX, and Gregory X, the papacy reached the highest political power and virtually destroyed the impact of the emperor in the internal and external policy. In fact, Popes fully regained their possessions in the Papal States and achieved recognition of the European kings. Therefore, the papacy played a crucial role in the political affairs in the XIII century.