Sede Vacante 1187

October 20 , 1187–October 21, 1187


In 1184 a controversy had broken out over the succession to the Archbishopric of Trier. The two contestants had each appealed to a friendly ear, Volcmar (Folcmar, Folmarus) to Pope Lucius III, and Rudolf von Wied to the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. After some posturing, Frederick agreed to let the Papal Curia handle the case, knowing perhaps of the divisions among the cardinals and courtiers, or perhaps expecting that the Pope would reciprocate his reasonable attitude. Cardinal Konrad of Mainz, for example, was completely hostile to the Emperor, while his friends were led by Cardinal Alberto di Morra. But the Pope made no decision before he died on November 25, 1185. The Emperor was greatly annoyed when Urban III took up the issue and inally settled the dispute over the See of Trier in favor of his own supporter Volcmar, rather than the Emperor's candidate Rudolf von Wied. This, according to Arnold of Lübeck, was the beginning of strife between the two. Volcmar's principal supporter at the Curia was Cardinal Konrad von Wittelsbach of Mainz, and the decision caused some friction among the cardinals [Arnoldus Lubecensis III. 16; Watterich II, 667 and 672-673]. Volcmar did not get to enjoy his victory. He was forced to flee from Trier by the Emperor in 1187. He was welcomed in France, until Frederick made a treaty with Philip, which included the explulsion of Volcmar from Phili's domains as one of its provisions. Volcmar sought protection from the Archbishop of Reims, Cardinal Guillaume de Champagne [Gesta Trevirorum, 111; Watterich II, 669-670]. He ended up in Tours, from which he retreated to Northampton [Ralph de Diceto; MGH SS 23, 801].

Frederick retaliated against the pope and his system of justice by issuing an edict which forbade appeals to the Papal Court. He closed all the passes and highways that led to Verona and the Papal Court [Arnold of Lübeck, Chronica Slavorum III. 17]. He imprisoned, and sometimes mutilated, persons who were going to the Papal Court with appeals, and he also attacked, seized, and plundered various papal properties [Gervaise of Auxerre, in Watterich II, 668]. His son King Henry campaigned in Tuscany and the Roman Campagna, and cut off papal access to central and southern Italy [Chronicon de rebus in Italia gestis, sub anno MCLXXXVI, p. 138]:

eodem anno rex Henricus fecit parlamentum aput burgum Sancti Dompnini cum Lombardis, in quo parlamento Cremonenses et parmenses cum Placentinis prelium commiserunt. Et inde rex motus cum magno exercituy versus Romam properavit in Campaniam pro discordia quam cum domino papa urbano habebat, ibique multa loca cepit et destruxit.

Pope Urban made an effort to get Archbishop Wicmann of Magdeburg to intercede with the Emperor to restore papal property, or face citation to the Court of Rome. The Emperor began to treat the attitude of the German bishops, most of whom were against his policy toward the Church and Papacy, as a conspiracy against the throne, and grew more and more harsh [Migne Patrologiae Latinae 202, columns 1497 (February 24, 1187); Watterich II, 668-669]. Finally, he was cited to appear before the Pope. When he failed to appear, the Pope decided to excommunicate him pro usurpatione spiritualium [Annales Pegaviensis, in Watterich, p. 678; Arnoldus Lubecensis. in Watterich, p. 681].

This would seem like an unnecessarily narrow view of events, but the issues that were in play were the same as had brought about the Investiture Controversy, which, even now, after sixty-five years since the Concordat of Worms, was still not resolved. The Archbishop of Trier was one of the Imperial Electors, and one of the most important magnates in the German empire. At the same time, his conflict with the Emperor, which caused most of the bishops of Germany to side with the Archbishop and the Church, was a blow to the Emperor. At a time when Frederick was trying to secure the Imperial crown for his son Henry, the Archbishop's support would be critical.

Death of Pope Urban III

Urban III (Uberto Crivelli of Milan) reigned less than two years. He had spent all of his time in Verona, up to September 22, 1187, unable to leave the city. As the Annales Romani puts it: Erat enim maxima discordia inter Imperatorem Fridericum et Papam, ita ut nullo modo dicto Papae et cardinalibus et qui cum ipso erant, extra ipsam civitatem exiendi erat licentia. The trouble between the Emperor and the Pope was so great that the Pope, the Cardinals, and those who were with him, could not leave the city. Due to his enmity with the Emperor Frederick, he was forced to flee secretly from Verona, and ended up dying in Ferrara a month later, on Monday, October 20, 1187, the day after the Feast of St. Luke [Annales Romani, in Watterich II, p. 682; JL p. 528, citing the sources for the date]. He had spent all of his time in Verona, up to September 22, 1187.

In his Electoral Manifesto to the German hierarchy, "Inter divinae dispensationis" [Migne, PL 202, 1537 (JL 16014)], the new Pope, Gregory VIII, says:

Praedecessore siquidem nostro Urbano XIII Kal. Novemb. in bona confessione viam universae carnis ingresso, et tradito solemniter sepulturae, convenimus sequenti die in unum, et missa in honorem Sancti Spiritus, sicut moris est, celebrata, processimus seorsum in unum locum, nos episcopi, presbyteri et diaconi canonibus, et, postpositis diversis ecclesiasticis negotiis, et praecipue calamitatis Orientalis Ecclesiae, quae diebus illis audita fuerat, ad electionem pontificis visum est procedendum, ne, si forte dilationem acciperet, detrimentum ex tarditate per diversas partes Christiano populo proveniret.

There was an emergency (the Cardinals said) due to various matters ecclesiastical, and especially the disaster which had happened to the Church in the Holy Land. This statement absolved them from the necessity of waiting three days until beginning the Election, as the legislation of Pope Boniface in the Roman Synod of 607 demanded [Liber Pontificalis, MGH SS 5, p. 164 ed. Mommsen]: nullus pontificem viventem aut episcopum civitatis suae praesumat loqui aut partes sibi facere nisi tertio die depositionis eius adunato clero et filiis ecclesiae. The death of the Pope was received by the people of Ferrara with seven days of solemn mourning. Canon Robert of Auxerre writes in his Chronicon [MGH SS 26, 252]:

Urbanus papa, cum iam flebilem rem [the fall of Jerusalem] audisset, nimis indoluit, et ex nimio animi dolore languescens, post breve moritur sepeliturque in urbe Ferrarias, quo nuper advenerat de Verona. Ferrarienses cives miram defuncto honorificentiam exhibuerunt et septem diebus eius exequias cum immensis luminaribus celebrarunt.

The Cardinals

Ciaconius-Olduin (columns 1129-1130) states that there were twenty-three cardinals present at the election of Gregory VIII (Alberto de Morra). They omit Cardinal Albino of S. Croce and Cardinal Rogerio of S. Eusebio, but they include Guillaume de Champagne of S. Sabina.

Cardella [I. 2, pp. 156-159] knows of only two cardinals created by Urban III: Henri de Sully and Gandolfo, and he recognizes the dubious nature of both creations.

Cardinals attending:

  1. Konrad von Wittelsbach, consanguineus Imperatoris [Frederici], de Bavaria oriundus. Count Palatine of the Rheinland. Bishop of Sabina, Archbishop of Mainz (November 1163-October 25, 1200) and Salzburg. Brought up in the Church of Salzburg (Christiani Chronicum Moguntinum, in P. Jaffé, Bibliotheca Germanica III, p. 693). In the early part of his career he was embroiled in the schism between Alexander III and "Victor IV" and his Imperial supporters in Germany, and was forced to flee to Rome. In 1177 it was agreed that he should have the Archbishopric of Salzburg, since he was exiled from Mainz (which was given to Archbishop Christian, who died in 1183, after which Conrad was able to regain his seat in Mainz). He subscribed documents for Urban III in the first three months of 1186 [PL 202, 1351 (January 11, 1186)]. He did not subscribe papal documents at all for Gregory VIII or Clement III, and only once for Celestine III (in February, 1197). He died at the end of 1200 [cf. Innocent III, Epistolae III. 4: Migne, PL 214, columns 873-876 (mid-October, 1200) (Potthast 1148); Potthast 1179 (November, 1200)]; and Theiner (editor), Vetera monumenta Slavorum I, no. 246 (Potthast 1225)]. In the Catalogus Moguntinus and in the Annales Moguntini (P. Jaffé, Bibliotheca Germanica III, p. 4 and p. 708), the date of his death is given as 1200. Cardinal Konrad was, of course, hostile to the Emperor, because of the dispute over the See of Mainz. He was no friend of Archbishop Christian or of Christian's patron, Pope Lucius III.
  2. Henri de Marsiac [de Castro Marsiaco], O.Cist., Bishop of Albano. Former Abbot of Altacomba [Hautecombe] in Savoy (1161), of Clairvaux (1176) [Gallia Christiana 4 (Parisiis 1728), 802-803], elevated at the III Lateran Council on March 7, 1179, in the second session {Mansi Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio 22, 234; JL, p. 339].  Gregory VIII sent him to Germany to preach the Crusade (Watterich II, p. 682). His surviving works: Migne, Patrologiae Series Latina Tomus CCIV, cols. 204-402. He died on July 14, 1188. [One may ignore Henriquez, 1554, who wrongly puts his death "circa annum Domini 1186"]
  3. Paolo Scolari, Bishop of Palestrina (first subscribed on January 13, 1181). Educated at S. Maria Maggiore, and made Canon of the Liberian Basilica [F. Contelori, La gerarchia cardinalizia di Carlo Bartolomeo Piazza (Roma 1703) 221; G. Cappelletti, Le chiese d' Italia 1 (Venezia 1844), 606]. Formerly, it seems, Cardinal Deacon of SS. Sergio e Bacco (1179-1180) Built the Episcopal Palace in Palestrina. [future Pope Clement III] {cf. Cardella I. 2, p. 131]
  4. Theobaldus [Thibaud], OSB.Clun.   Cardella I. 2, p. 133-134. He is made a creation of Lucius III by Panvinio, which is certainly true of his appointment as Bishop of Ostia; he appears in inscription of July 13, 1183, as Bishop of Ostia [Ciaconius-Olduin, 1113]. He subscribes from June 15, 1184 to October 29, 1188. He died at the end of 1188 of the pestilence [Epistolae Cantuarienses, no. ccxcii, pp. 275].

  5. Alberto di Morra [Beneventanus], Cardinal Priest in the title of S. Lorenzo in Lucina. S.R.E. Cancellarius [Cardella I. 2, p. 87; JL, p. 146, 432] Cardinal Protopriest.
  6. Giovanni dei Conti di Segni, Cardinal Priest in the title of S. Marco (1167-1190) [JL 16388], and before that Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Porticu (1159-1167) His latest subscription is March 22, 1196. [Cardella I.2, pp. 94-95].
  7. Pietro de Bono [Bononiensis], Cardinal Priest in the title of S. Susanna. Along with Peter, Bishop of Tusculum, Legate to the Emperor Frederick I in 1180, instructed to settle a dispute between the Emperor and WIchmann, Archbishop of Magdeburg [JL 13611-13612 (February 15, 1180)]. He continued to subscribe as late as November 11, 1187. The Necrologium Renanum of S. Maria de Reno (Bologna) enters his death on November 20, 1187: XII. Kl. O. petrus de bono canonicus noster card. sancte susanne, de quo habuimus plantam unam cocineam. a. d. MC Nonagesimo VII [G. G. Trombelli, Memorie istoriche cocern. le due canoniche di S. Maria di Reno e di S. Salvatore (Bologna 1752), p. 227 and 352; J. Brixius, Mitglieder, p. 65]. His successor, Cardinal Alexius, was appointed in March, 1188, in the First Creation of Pope Clement III.
  8. Laborans [Florentine], Cardinal Priest in the title of S. Maria in Trastevere (1179-after June 26, 1189). Formerly Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Porticu. Studied law at Paris. Wrote a work entitled Compilatio decretorum, .which was published on April 30, 1182 [Baronius-Theiner, sub anno 1182, no. 5, p. 502]. Held the degree of Magister.
  9. Albinus, Cardinal Priest of S. Croce in Gerusalemme (1185-1189). Previously Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria Nova (1182-1185). [His name is omitted from Ciaconius-Olduin's list, and he seems to stop subscribing for Urban III on October 24, 1186. Miranda lists him as "present"]
  10. Pandulfus Masca.[Pisanus] (aged 74 or above), Cardinal Priest in the title of Ss. XII Apostoli (1182-1201). Apostolic Subdeacon of Callistus II. (date of death unknown, though he subscribed a bull in 1201). Author of lives of the popes of the XII century.
  11. Melior, Cardinal Priest of SS. Ioannis et Pauli. Archdeacon of Laon and Archdeacon of Reims, he had been made a Cardinal by Lucius III in 1185 [Th. Lejeune, Documents et rapports de la Société paléontologique et archéologique de Charleroi 12 (1883), no. xxvi, 335-339 (November 11, 1185)].
  12. Adelardo Cattaneo, of Verona,. Cardinal Priest in the Title of S. Marcello. He signed bulls for Lucius III in 1185 [Jaffé, Regesta pontificum II, p. 431; Lucius died on November 21, 1185], for Urban III [Jaffé, p. 493; Urban died on October 20, 1187], for Gregory VIII [October-December 17, 1187], and Clement III, until October 29, 1188 [Jaffé, 536]. By 1193, the Cardinal Priest of S. Marcello was Cardinal Fidantius [Jaffé, p. 577; Julius von Pflugk-Harttung, Acta pontificum Romanorum inedita I (1880), no. 435, pp. 374 [JL 17341]. Cardinal Fidantius' successor, Petrus, began to subscribe documents on November 23, 1201 [Potthast, Regesta Pontificum p. 464]. Innocent III wrote four letters on May 10, 1202, to A(delardo) Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinali, Veronensi Episcopo [Migne, Patrologiae 214, columns 985-988; Potthast nr. 1674]. In his biographical notice of Raoul de Neuville, Salvador Miranda explains at n. 1 that "the practice of resigning the cardinalatial title when appointed to a diocese was followed by some cardinals in the 12th and 13th centuries", citing the Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1928 for Cardinal Adelardo Cattaneo in 1888 (The "practice" was not followed by Guillaume de Champagne of Reims, Stephen Langton of Canterbury or Guy Paré of Rheims, Bishop of Palestrina [Gallia Christiana 10 (1717), Instrumenta cols. 53-56 (July 6, 1204) = Potthast 2269]). Note that, according to the evidence cited, Cattaneo continues to be a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church; it is only his titulus that he resigns. Migne remarks [column 985 n. 109] that Cardinal Adelard died in 1211 or 1212. And, as Eubel points out on p. 522, Cardinal Adelardo's successor, Bishop Norandinus, died on October 13, 1214. An inscription on Cardinal Adelardus' tomb in the Basilica of S. Zeno in Verona, to which his remains were transferred in 1642, states that he died in 1225; this inscription is not contemporary with Cardinal Adelardus. He was originally buried simply, and then his body was transferred to an appropriate marble monument, from which it was re-transferred in 1642; concerning the inscription Ciaconius states (column 1119): "eo enim anno non obiit Adelardus, sed eo anno ac die in eo tumulo ejus cadaver reclusum fuisse indicat". It should be noted that Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica I, p. 3 n.1, leaves the date of Adelard's death an open question. Since the Election of 1187 took place in Ferrara, it is very likely that Adelardus attended.

  13. Hyacinthus (Giacinto) Bobone [Romanus], son of Petrus Bubonis de Orsinis, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Cosmedin (1144-1191). Cardinal Protodeacon (primus inter diaconos). On April 27, 1138 he had subscribed as Jacinthus, prior subdiaconorum sacri palatii [JL I, p. 841and 7890].
        Peter of Blois [Epistles 123, in Migne, PL 207, columns 366-367]:
    Vidimus quamplures in Ecclesia Romana in ordine diaconatus usque ad decrepitam aetatem et exhalationem extremi spiritus ministrasse. Certe dominus Caelestinus, qui hodie sedet, sicut ex ipsius ore frequenter accepi, in officio levitae sexaginta quinque annos expleverat [1126-1191], antequam ipsum Dominus in summi Pontificatus apicem sublimasset.
  14. Ardicius Rivoltella [Mediolanensis], Cardinal Deacon of S. Teodoro.
  15. Gratianus (Graziano) [Pisanus], Cardinal Deacon of SS. Cosma e Damiano (1178-1203). Nephew of Pope Eugenius III (reigned 1145-1153).
  16. Bobo (Andrea Boboni) [Romanus], deacon of S. Angelo in Pescheria (1182-1188). He was succeeded by Cardinal Gregorius (1188-1202). Sent by Pope Urban III to France along with Cardinal Soffredus to deal with the hostilities between Henry II of England and Philip Augustus of France.
  17. Ottaviano di Paolo dei Conti di Segni [Romanus], Cardinal Deacon of SS. Sergio e Bacco (1182-1189/90), later Cardinal Bishop of Ostia e Velletri (1189-1206). His successor, Cardinal Lotharius dei Conti, first subscribes on December 7, 1190. Cardinal Lotharius' successor was his cousin, Ottaviano dei Conti di Segni (1205-1231). Clearly, SS. Sergius and Bacchus was a 'family' deanery at the end of the XII century.
  18. Gerardo Allucingoli [Lucca], Cardinal Deacon of S. Adriano (1182–after April 1204) [JL 16419 (June 6, 1189); 16681 (May 2, 1191)]. Rector of Benevento early in the reign of Celestine III.
  19. Soffredus, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Via lata. Soffredus of Pisa (not Soffredus of Pistoia) who was made Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata by Lucius III [Cardella, 148-149] (1182-1193), where he was succeeded by Petrus Capuanus, who in 1205 became Cardinal Priest of S. Marcello [Cavazzi, S. Maria in Via Lata (1908) , p. 401].
  20. Rolando, OSB, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Porticu (1185–after June 23, 1187), Bishop of Dol (1177-1187) [Hauréau, Gallia Christiana 14 (Paris 1866) 1051], he was not enthroned until 1182, due to a long dispute with the Archbishop of Tours, who claimed Dol as a suffragan diocese. Rolando's successor in the Deaconry, Cardinal Gregorius, first subscribes on April 12, 1188. Rolandus was sent to Scotland while still Dolensis electus in 1182, to make peace between King William and John, Archbishop of St. Andrews, but Archbishop Hugo, the occupant of the seat, appealed to Rome. Rolandus wrote a letter to Pope Lucius with all the details, in which he calls himself Suae Sanctitatis servus et alumnus, Apostolicae Sedis subdiaconum minimus. Appeals and counterappeals kept the case running until January, 1188 [Roger of Hoveden]
  21. Petrus Diana [quem docta Placentia mundo edidit, according to his tombstone in S. Cecilia], Cardinal Deacon of S. Niccolo in Carcere Tulliano (1185-1188), and then Cardinal Priest in the title of S. Cecilia (1188-1208).
  22. Radulfus (Ridolfo) Nigelli [Pisanus], Cardinal Deacon of S. Giorgio in Velabro (1185-1188). Promoted to be Cardinal Priest of S. Prassede in 1188 [Epistolae Cantuarienses, no. ccxcii, pp. 276]. He was dispatched by Pope Clement to England on December 10, 1188 [Epistolae Cantuarienses, no. ccxci, pp. 274; JL 16360], with Legantine powers to settle the dispute between Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury and the Monks of Canterbury. He fell ill at Pavia and died on December 30, 1188, at Mortara [Epistolae Cantuarienses, no. ccxcii, pp. 276].

Cardinals not attending:

  1. Rogerius, OSB Cas., Cardinal Priest in the title of S. Eusebio. Former Abbot of Montecassino, appointed Archbishop of Benevento in 1179 by Alexander III [F. Ughelli, Italia sacra VIII (Venetiis 1721), 126]; he held the post until after July 5, 1217 [G. Cappelletti, Le chiese d' Italia III (1844), pp. 82-87]. His predecessor as Archbishop was Lombardus, who was appointed in 1171 and resigned before July 27, 1179 [Ughelli, Italia sacra VIII, 121-123]. His successor as Archbishop, in 1121, was Ugolino de Comite [Eubel Hierarchia Catholica I, p. 133]. He did not subscribe any papal documents. He is completely omitted by Salvador Miranda.
  2. Guillaume de Champagne (ca. 1135-1202), "Blanches-Mains", fourth son of Thibault Comte de Champagne and Maude (Mahaud) de Flandre. Former Bishop of Chartres (1164-1176). Archbishop of Reims (1176-1202). Cardinal Priest in the title of S. Sabina since 1179 [JL 13369 (April 6, 1179)] [Migne, PL 200, 1228 (JL 13371, April 8, 1179)] [JL 13383 (April 14, 1179)]). He participated in the III Lateran Council of March 5-19, 1179 [Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum 22, 239 and 464], and was made Cardinal in the second session, March 7 [JL, p. 339]. Governor of the State in France (1183). When Pope Lucius expressed a desire to meet with him, King Philip II replied that there was no one in his kingdom dearer to him than his uncle the Cardinal, who was his vigilant eye in his Councils, and the Cardinal was not allowed to go. He did finally go in 1184 (not in 1185, as Duchesne reports; subscriptions show him in Rome in the last three months of 1184). He may have been back in France by April 15, 1185: JL 15402-15405. The last of these documents is a mandate to Cardinal Guillaume of Reims and the Abbot of Maioris-Monasterii (Tours), which would make no sense unless Guillaume were in France.

Dubii Salvatoris Mirandae

In his list of Cardinals present and absent at the Election of 1187, Salvador Miranda (Librarian Emeritus, Florida International University) states that there were thirty-four living cardinals (he forgets Roger of Beneventum), and he names eleven cardinals who did not participate in the Election:

-Gandolfo, O.S.B., title not known.
-Pietro, title of S. Lorenzo in Lucina.
-Roberto, title of S. Pudenziana.
-Rolando Paparoni, title of Ss. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti.
-Raniero, title not known.
-Simeone Paltinieri, title not known.
-Giovanni, title of S. Marco.
-Roberto, bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina.
-Henri de Sully, O.Cist., title not known.
-Ugo Geremei, deacon of S. Teodoro.
-Boson, deacon of S. Angelo in Pescheria.

The following ten, however, were not cardinals in 1187:

There is one genuine cardinal among the spurii:

It should be noted that, if these comments are accepted, Urban III created NO new cardinals during his reign.

The Election

In his Electoral Manifesto sent to the German hierarchy, "Inter divinae dispensationis" [Migne, PL 202, 1537 (JL 16014)], the new Pope, Gregory VIII, says that the Electoral Meeting began on the day after the death and burial of Pope Urban III, that is to say, on October 21, 1187:

Praedecessore siquidem nostro Urbano XIII Kal. Novemb. in bona confessione viam universae carnis ingresso, et tradito solemniter sepulturae, convenimus sequenti die in unum, et missa in honorem Sancti Spiritus, sicut moris est, celebrata, processimus seorsum in unum locum, nos episcopi, presbyteri et diaconi canonibus, et, postpositis diversis ecclesiasticis negotiis, et praecipue calamitatis Orientalis Ecclesiae, quae diebus illis audita fuerat, ad electionem pontificis visum est procedendum, ne, si forte dilationem acciperet, detrimentum ex tarditate per diversas partes Christiano populo proveniret.

There was some competition at the Election. Albrich of Trois-Fontaines says [MGH SS 23, p. 860; Watterich II, 684]:

Interea curia Romana venerat de Verona Ferrarias, quae est civitas ad introitum Venetiae super Adriaticum mare, et super litus maximi fluminis Padi. Ibi in festo sancti Lucae [October 18, 1187] mortuus est papa Urbanus auditis predictis rumoribus et tactus dolore cordis intrinsecus. Ibidem sanior pars cardinalium voluit dominum Henricum Albanensem quondam Clarevallis abbatem eligere, sed timens et praecavens dissensionis periculum prosiliit in medium, dicens: se crucis Domini servum ad praedicandam crucem per gentes et regna praeparatum. Electus est itaque in Papam magister Albertus cancellarius, et vocatus est Gregorius octavus.

The term "sanior pars" is usually an admission that the party in question does not have the majority, and, since the Constitution of Alexander III (1179) that meant two-thirds majority, and it is sometimes an indication of the sympathies of the author of the lines. It seems, in this case, that there was a minority in favor of Cardinal Henri de Marsiac, Bishop of Albano. Henri must have recognized that he did not have a chance of being elected, and fearing the possible consequences of dissension or deadlock among the electors, announced that he wanted to preach the Crusade. Who could deny him his wish? And indeed the new pope assigned him to that very task. Gervase of Canterbury adds that Cardinal Albert di Morra had a good deal of credit with the Emperor, and it was he who had been keeping the Emperor briefed on the confidential doings of the Roman Curia [ed. Stubbs II, p. 402; Watterich II, p. 684]:

Sciebant enim cardinales quod idem Albertus multam imperatoris haberet gratiam, eo quod ipsius semper fovens partem, eidem omnia Romanae curiae revelaret secreta.


Cardinal Albert was elected on the day after the death of Urban III, October 21, 1187, the fourth day after the Feast of St. Luke. (October 18). He himself says [Migne, PL 202, 1537; Watterich II, p. 686 (JL 16014)]:

Cum autem requisitae fuissent civium voluntates, placuit omnibus mediocritati nostrae onus ecclesiasticae provisionis imponere, eet tantum instare, ut non una excusatio mea, cum multae mihi suppeterent, audiretur. Non satis occurrebat mihi quod agerem, dum nec contradicendo, nec acquiescehdo erat tuta libertas, hinc me multo defectu virtutis et scientiae dejiciente, hinc me concordi fratrum voluntati, et instantia provocante. tandem vero considerantes quod non sint hominis viae ejus, nec in eo est ut ambulet et dirigat gressus suos, et quod Christus pro nobis mortuus est et resurrexit, divinae misericordiae nos commisimus, et fratrum acquievimus voluntati, non quod nos ministros idoneos crediderimus, et tantum onus a nobis bene portari, sed ne multum videremur abundare in sensu nostro, et non satis de Domini Dei nostri confidere pietati.

Canterbury Tales

In 1187, there happened to be a delegation of monks of Canterbury at the Papal Court, pursuing their side of a case against Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury. The Archbishop also had his procurators at the Papal Court, Peter of Blois, the Archdeacon of Bath, and William de S. Fide, Precentor of Wells. In October, just after the election, they wrote to their patron the Archbishop [Epistolae Cantuarienses ed. Stubbs, no. cxxxv., pp. 107-108]:

Benedictus Spiritus Sanctus, Qui non deserit sperantes in Se, sed secundum multitudinem dolorum nostrorum corda nostra laetificans, consolatur nos in omni tribulatione nostra. Afflicta insolentiam miserabiliter conculcata jacebat. Terrarum ducibus atque ecclesiarum praelatis et religionis maxime, bellum specialiter videbatur indictum, nec quieta religio nec tuta erat uspiam innocentia ... Sed non est oblitus miereri Deus ... quoniam perniciosissimo et superbissimo exactore de medio sublato [Urban III], cancellarius [Albertus de Morra] unanimi fratrum consensu in papam electus est et consecratus.

In quo vobis et ecclesiae vestrae misericorditer a Domino creditur esse provisum, quia personam vestram hucusque sincere dilexit, et nunciis vestris in afflicitionibus suis consilium quod tunc poterat et auxilium promptus impendit. Iste est qui nuncios vestros dehortatus est ne Urbano servirent. "Expectate," inquiens, "Expectate, non est regnum hujus durabile, et quodcunque statuerit, successor ejus in irritum revocabit." Hanc autem gratiam quam nobis et nostris exhibuit, pro posse nostro continuare curabimus, et vos quantum in vobis est pariter continuetis, missisque quantocius litteris vestris, tam vos quam obsequium vestrum plenius ei offeratis. Litteras quoque vestras et domini regis, et litteras de fraternitate quam instituistis, de quibus in curia quaestio facta est, nobis statim transmittatis, non expectatnes litteras illas a suffraganeis vestris et abbatibus, quas tamen nihilominus, quam citius poteritis remittatis.

Dominus Papa Gregorius nominatus est, et dominus Albanensis injunxit nobis, ut vobis ex parte ejus significaremus, quod cuncta de caetero ad honorem et voluntatem vestram procedent. Magister Moyses [Vice-Chancellor] vos affectuose salutat, qui utique honorem vestrum diligit, et tanquam unus nostrum, ubi opportunum est, circa negotia vestra sollicitum se exhibet et devotum. Adhuc noveritis quod cum universi cardinales tres personas nominassent, videlicet Albanensem, Praenestinum et cancellarium, et eis injunxissent ut secederent quousque deliberassent quem illorum reciperent, dominus Albanensis incontinenti respondit, "Ad quid secederemus? Ego in verbo veritatis dico, quod nunquam hanc administrationem suscipiam. Dominus quoque Praenestinus infirmatur gravissimo et ad onus tantum insufficiens est. Reliquum ergo est ut dictum cancellarium recipiamus; quia non est inter nos aliquis ita idoneus, et qui ita consuetudines et jura ecclesiae Romanae pernoverit, et adeo principibus terrae complaceat." Et ita in amicum vestrum suum honorem et onus curia Romana transfudit. Valete.

The Proctors are obviously showing off to the Archbishop as to the closeness of their confidential relationships with persons of power. It is hard to believe, however, that these persons would make such frank and judgmental statements about their colleagues and superiors to provincials who were persuing a legal case in which they were or would be involved as judges. It is especially hard to believe the scenario in which the College of Cardinals asks three of their members to withdraw from the discussion so that they can be the subject of discussion. Nowhere else in the history of papal elections do we find such a process. The alleged statement of Cardinal Henri of Albano, moreover, represents only what everybody outside the Electoral meeting was thinking anyway. But it is a vivid way of presenting information to cast it in the form of direct address. It is one of the commonest strategies used in preaching. As it happened, the Archdeacon and the Precentor did not know the mind of Alberto de Morra. He immediately ordered, Quoniam ad episcoporum [Epistolae Cantuarienses ed. Stubbs, no. cxxxviii., pp. 112; JL 16016 (October 29, 1187)], that all the decisions of Urban III in the last three months of his life (including the one that went in favor of the monks of Canterbury) were to be enforced. And, on January 26, Clement III issued a decision that went against the Archbishop [JL 16142].

It is said by some, nonetheless, that Cardinal Henri de Marsiac was actually elected, and that he made the Great Refusal. The facts are quite different. His party did not have the two-thirds of the electors, and Henri was not elected pope. In fact, he withdrew from the competition. His generosity and sensible attitude must be acknowledged and applauded. It is only later, non-contemporary sources, in the monkish hagiographies of his Order, that he is made a canonically elected pope. Even his Cistercian hagiography: Henriquez (Angelo Henrique), "Monumenta sacra", p. 1553, notes that he could have been elected pope on the death of Urban III, but he made the Grand Refusal: "tandem Domino Lucio post quatuor annos mortuo, et Urbano ei in Papatum succedente, ipsoque infra duos annos velociter defuncto, sanior pars Cardinalium voluit ipsum in Papam eligere. Ipse totis viribus renitens...". Ciaconius-Olduin (1098). Other hagiographical references collected in Gallia Christiana 4 (Parisiis 1728), 802.

On October 24, "IV. post electionem die, nondum inaugurato", Gregory VIII wrote to all the Faithful, "Nuntio cladis Hierosolimitanae", summoning them to a Crusade to liberate Jerusalem [JL 16013].


Gregory VIII (Alberto di Morra) was crowned on October 25, 1187, in the Cathedral of Ferrara. Two days after his inauguration, he repeated his call to arms in an encyclical letter to all prelates, "Quoniam ad episcoporum" [Migne PL 202, 1538 (JL 16015)], and in a separate letter to the German hierarchy, "Inter divinae dispensationis" [Migne, PL 202, 1537 (JL 16014)].

According to Canon Robert of Auxerre in his Chronicon [MGH SS 26, 252], the news of the election was highly pleasing to Frederick Barbarossa:

Post eum [Urbanum tertium] Albertus cancellarius substituitur et Gregorius octavus vocatur, vir litteratura facundiaque clarus, sed puritate vitae et animi integritate praeclarior suique corporis vehemens castigator. Audita eius promotione laetatus est admodum Fredericus Augustus, eo quod virum discretum et justiciae zelatorem cognosceret sibique benivolum et omnibus, si diu viveret, profuturum.

Gregory VIII reigned for only fifty-seven days, and died at Pisa on December 17, 1187.



J. L. A. Huillard-Bréholles (editor), Chronicon Placentinum et Chronicon de rebus in Italia gestis (Parisiis: Henricus Plon 1856), 137-138. 

B. Pallasticci (editor), Chronica tria Placentina a Johanne Codagnello, ab Anonymo, et a Guerino conscripta (Parmae: 1859), 11-13. 

Philippus Jaffé (editor) , Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII (Berolini 1851). Philippus Jaffé (editor) Regesta Pontificum Romanorum (editionem secundam correctam et auctam auspiciis Guilelmi Wattenbach; curaverunt S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald) (Lipsiae: Veit et comp. 1885) [JL]. [contains summaries of subscriptiones, arranged by Pope]

J. D. Mansi (editor), Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio editio novissima 22 (Venetiis: apud Antonium Zatta 1778).

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Augustinus Theiner (editor), Caesaris S. R. E. Cardinalis Baronii, Od. Raynaldi et Jac. Laderchii Annales Ecclesiastici   Tomus Nonusdecimus 1147-1198 (Barri-Ducis: Ludovicus Guerin 1880) [Baronius-Theiner].

William Stubbs (editor), Chronica Magistri Rogeri de Houedene Vol. II (London 1869) 

Bartolomeo Platina, Historia B. Platinae de vitis pontificum Romanorum ... Onuphrii Panvinii ... cui etiam nunc accessit supplementum ... per Antonium Cicarellam (Coloniae Agrippinae: sumptibus Petri Cholini, 1626). Bartolomeo Platina, Storia delle vite de' Pontefici edizione novissima Tomo terzo (Venezia: Domenico Ferrarin, 1763). Onuphrio Panvinio, Epitome Pontificum Romanorum a S. Petro usque ad Paulum IIII. Gestorum (videlicet) electionisque singulorum & Conclavium compendiaria narratio (Venice: Jacob Strada 1557). Chrysostomos Henriquez, "Monumenta sacra Claraevallensis abbatia et Epitaphia Sanctorum et Virorum illustrium qui ibidem Sepulti Sunt", Fasciculus Sanctorum Ordinis Cisterciensis (Bruxelles 1623).  Alphonsus Ciaconius [Alfonso Chacon], Vitae et Res Gestae Pontificum Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalium ... ab Augustino Oldoino Societatis Iesu recognitae Tomus Primus (Romae: sumptibus Philippi et Antonii de Rubeis 1677) [Volume 1 of the 4 volume edition]. Lorenzo Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa Tomo primo Parte secondo (Roma: Pagliarini 1792). Johannes Matthias Brixius,. Die Mitglieder des Kardinalkollegiums von 1130-1181 (Berlin: R. Trenkel, 1912).

Josephus Antonius Sassi, Archiepiscoporum Mediolanensium Series historico-chronologica Tomus secundus (Mediolani 1755).

Nadig, Gregors VIII 57-tägiges Pontifikat (Basle 1890). G. Kleeman, Papst Gregor VIII (Bonn 1912). F. Gregorovius, History of Rome in the Middle Ages, Volume IV.2 second edition, revised (London: George Bell, 1896) Book VIII, Chapter vi. 3, pp. 608-622. Horace K. Mann, Lives of the Popes in the Middle Ages Vol. X 1159-1198 (London 1914).

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