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Innocent III
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 Innocent III
Innocent III
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Name:
Pope Innocent III
Born: Lotario de Conti
Preceded by: Celestine III (1191 - 1198)
Succeeded by: Honorius III (1216 - 1227)
Roman Catholic Pope #177

Dates:
Born: 1161 (Italy)
Died: June 16, 1216
Pope: January 8, 1198 - June 16, 1216 (18 years, 6 months)

Biography:
Shortly after his election, Pope Innocent III took advantage of a power vacuum in Germany to reassert papal authority in Rome and take control away from the German government. This expansion of authority was not pursued simply on a political level, but also on a religious level as Innocent vigorously fought various forms of heresy.

He eliminated the Manicheans in the Papal States and then turned his eyes towards France where the Albigenses were growing in numbers and strength. Innocent called for a crusade against them in 1208 and sent Simon of Montfort to lead a campaign to eliminate the Albigenses heresy and restore Southern France to Catholic control. This lead to the formal legitimization of the Inquisition in 1233 for use against suspected heresy in Europe.

Pope Innocent III did not see himself merely as a spiritual leader, but also as a temporal ruler. He envisioned a true papal monarchy where the pope served not simply as the Vicar of Christ but also as king with bishops serving under his direct control. Innocent declared the Catholic Church to be a genuine state and, hence, heresy became a crime against the state which could be punished accordingly - both for the spiritual good of the individual as well as the preservation of the Church.

In August 1198, he flexed his temporal authority by issuing a decree calling for what would become the Fourth Crusade. He called out not just to kings but also to barons and individual cities to participate in a crusade to end the Muslim threat to the Eastern churches. Unfortunately, little went right with this endeavor. He hoped for it to start on March 1199, but no one left. It wasn't until November 1199 that enough rulers committed enough troops to comprise an actual army.

Then, there were transportation issues. Only the Venetians could build and provide enough ships to transport a crusading army East - but the Venetians weren't very interested in a religious crusade. The Venetian relationship with Constantinople had long been in decline and now they saw an opportunity to increase their power and acquire territory. So, they re-directed the crusading armies by simply transporting them to a new location, having them sack Zara in 1202 and Constantinople itself in 1204.

Naturally this was a devastating blow to the relations between the Eastern and Western Churches, despite the fact that Innocent immediately excommunicated the Venetians for what they did. It would play a significant role in the eventual schism between East and West.

Pope Innocent III was also responsible for calling the Fourth Lateran Council, the 12th ecumenical council and perhaps the most widely attended of all the medieval councils.

Also Known As: none

Alternate Spellings: none

Common Misspellings: none

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