August 22, 1241—October 25, 1241
First Election


The relationship between Church and State, Gregory IX (Ugolino di Segni, a cousin of Innocent III dei Conti di Segni) and Frederick II Hohenstaufen, was an uneasy one. Both were ambitious and resourceful men. Each understood what the other's intentions were. And they were incompatible. Their first period of open warfare began with the Sixth Crusade, 1227-1229, which Gergory claimed that Frederick had deserted; in fact, Frederick was seriously ill. But Gregory used it as an excuse to stop Frederick's aggrandizement of his power by excommunicating him. Wrong tool, wrong man. Frederick eventually did get to the Holy Land and reached an agreement that got Jerusalem for the Christians. But the Pope pretended that it was a horrible thing for an excommunicated man to lead a Crusade. Instead of being grateful, he continued the excommunication, and tried to overthrow Frederick's throne in Sicily, revealing his own deceitfulness and treachery. Frederick returned and drove out the Pope's mercenary troops, but thought it better to reach an understanding with Gregory than to humiliate him. The result was a Treaty, which revised Frederick's position in Sicily and his relation to the papacy in the latter's favor. But Frederick desired the unification of his Kingdom of Sicily, and, despite his promises to the Pope, he went forward and achieved his aims in the Constitutions of Malfi in 1231.

The second period of mutual hostility began in 1237. Frederick was rebuilding his empire in Lombardy, and had won a considerable victory at the Battle of Cortenuova (November 27-28, 1237). At total of perhaps 35,000 soldiers were involved in the battle. The Lombard League was seriously harmed. Its army was destroyed completely, with thousands dead (some say 10,000) and over 5,000 prisoners, including 2500 from Milan alone. The League and Genoa had been Gregory's principal allies in Itally. Frederick intended to consolidate his position throughout Italy, and one step in this process was to install one of his sons, his natural son Enzio, on the island of Sardinia. This required Enzio to marry Adelasia of Torres, who was heiress to half of the island of Sardinia, a scheme which had the encouragement and blessing of the Doria family of Genoa, as part of their own schemes for aggrandizement. Since Sardinia was a papal fief, this action was sure to cause trouble with Gregory IX. In early 1239, Gregory again excommunicated the Emperor. Frederick obviously was not worried, for he immediately retailiated by expelling Gregory's favorites, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, from Lombardy. Enzio, however, spent little time in Sardinia. Instead, he was brought back to the mainland and made his father's vicar for Lombardy and Legate for the Romagna, giving him a considerable responsibility in consolidating Imperial victories in northern Italy.

The struggle between Pope and Emperor next took the form of mutual denunciations as to character and orthodoxy, and both Frederick and Gregory promoted the idea of a church council for the purpose of disposing of the other. Gregory had the power to actually move in that direction and he did so, summoning a Council to meet in Rome at Easter of 1241. It was impossible, of course, for all of these delegates to travel by land, since Frederick and his allies controlled northern and central Italy. They could get as far as Provence through friendly territory, but either at Nice or Genoa they had to take ship to get to Rome. The Papal Legate in northern Italy, the papal subdeacon Gregory de Romanis, and the two cardinals who were coming from England (Oddo de Monferrato) and France (Giacomo da Pecorara, OCist.) made such arrangements as they could with the Genoese to hire ships to transport them, but there were not enough and conditions were very crowded. Despite warnings to the Genoese of likely attacks to their positions on land, plus fears of desertion or reassignment from the navy to the army, and the uncertainty of the Genoese ships' ability to take on the navy of Pisa, as reinforced by the Emperor and ships from Sicily, the Legate and Cardinals insisted on proceeding. On May 3, 1241, south of Elba, between Pianosa and the island of Giglio, the two fleets met.

The Genoese version of the story of the naval battle of Giglio is given by Bartolommeo the Scribe in considerable detail. All but five of the twenty-seven Genoese ships in the armada were captured, including the ones with the Cardinals, the Legate, the Archbishop of Rouen, and the Abbots of Cluny and Clairvaux [MGH SS 18, p. 196-197]. Many of those who were captured were sent to imprisonment in Naples:

Galeae autem nostrae 27, auditis rumoribus de galeis et aliis navigiis hostium in portu Venero, malum consilium habuerunt, ut non expectantes aliud subsidium velociter moverent ad concilium properarent. Cumque hora infelici pergerent iter suum [May 3, 1241], et essent in aquis Pisanorum supra Zigium, galeae dicti imperatoris 27, in quibus Andriolus filius Ansaldi de Mari praeerat admiratus, et galeae et galiotae quam plures Pisanorum, et aliae sagitae Sagonensium, irruerunt contra nostras, et inceopt proelio casu infortunio obtinuerunt, et captae fuerunt de nostris galeae 22; quinque tantum evaserunt. Et in ipsis capti fuerunt dominus Iacobus episcopus Penestrinae, et dominus Otto de Thoenengo cardinales, et dominus Gregorius de Romania legatus, et alii multi prelati, episcopi, abbates, clerici, et procuratores prelatorum, et ambaxatores civitatum, et thesauri magna quantitas occupata.

Pope Gregory also provides a list of the captured: the Bishop of Palestrina; the Archbishops of Rouen, Bordeaux, and Auxerre; the Bishops of Nimes, Carcassone, Agde, Pavia, Asti, and Tortona; Cardinal Odo of S. Nicolai in Carcere; the Abbots of Cluny, Citeaux, Clairvaux, Pietas-Dei and Fiscanensis; and Gregory de Romanis [Baronius-Theiner 21, p. 249 no. 69 and 71]

Frederick II provides his own narrative of the Battle of Giglio in a letter of May, 1241, as he rejoices at his good fortune both on land and sea that Spring:

Cumque post victam et obtentam Faventiam ad depopulationem vicinae Bononiae nostrum pararemus instantius propositum et conatum, exercitu nostro potenter ex diversis partibus instaurato, feliciter accingeremus aditus: nova nostris expectata desideriis occurrent quod .... [Jacobus] Praenestinus episcopus, nostri honoris et nominis obtrectator, qui rapacem lupum sub ovina pelle tegebat, et quod posset effugere manus nostras expectabat, velut suarum conscius offensarum, species hominum et alterna rerum commercia varietate confinxit, et O..o de Todenengo, sancti Nycolai in carcere Tulliano diaconus cardinalis, qui diu legati fuerant in partibus transalpinis et contra honorem nostrum multipliciter machinati, praelatorum turba, quam dinumerare nemo poterat, pro celebrando Romae contra nos cincilio e diversis provinciis convenerat, Januam venientes, et conspiratione facta cum Januensibus rebellibus nostris et armata ibidem copia galearum, cum quibus duci Romam et Januam reduci convenerant, infaustis eorum auspiciis viam navigationis assumerent, galeas nostras et Pisanorum, quas ad eorum impediendum transitum sollicitudo nostra diu ante providerat et pararat in locis et partibus per quae oportebat eos necessario pertransire, obvias habuerunt, ita quod homines regni nostri cum victorioso Entio filio nostro una cum fidelibus Pisanis galeas rebellium Januensium patenter et potenter aggressi, tribus eorum galeis in mare submersis, et personis et rebus amissis, viginti et duas galeas triumphaliter habuerunt, quarum XVI. specialiter obtentae sunt ab hominibus regni nostri, et reliquis VI. ad manus devenientibus Pisanorum, in quibus capti sunt praedicti duo legati, et cum eis. G. de Romania tertius similiter legatus, qui Januam pro eorum passagio disponendo praecesserat, ut in eodem casu cum eisdem legatis insimul ligaretur. Capti quoque sunt quam plures Archiepiscopi, Episcopi et Abbates, Priores, Praepositi, Procuratores et diversorum niuncii Praelatorum, Ambaxiatores civitatum rebellium Lombardiae, qui contra nos ad ipsum concilium mittebantur, et IV. milia Januensium, praeter Januensium electos, qui pro comitatu et ducatu deputati fuerant Praelatorum, quos omnes carcer includit.

When he had heard about the victory, Frederick changed his plans. He had intended to take on Bologna next, but decided (according to his own letter) to head for Rome itself. He was aided by the felicitous victory of the Pavians, against whom the Milanese, who were enemies of Frederick, had chosen to make war. Three hundred and fifty knights were taken prisoner, in addition to the dead.

Pope Gregory's reaction to the Battle of Giglio is also on record [MGH Epistolae I, no. 828, experte devotionis; Baronius-Theiner 21, p. 249 nos. 69-70 (Vix diebus istis, June 14, 1241); Baronius Theiner 21, pp. 249-250 nos.71-75 (Dolenda novi casus, July 31, 1241)]. On August 16, 1241, less than a week before he died, Gregory sent the Patriarch of Jerusalem to Genoa to encourage the Genoese toward revenge (ad ulciscendum graves iniurias ab ipsis noviter eidem ecclesiae irrogatas) in the name of God and the Church.

Meanwhile, in Rome, in January, 1241, having broken with Pope Gregory, Cardinal Colonna fortified his property at the Mausoleum of Augustus [Lagusta] as well as other castles in the neighborhood. In July, he summoned the Emperor Frederick, who had been devastating the towns of Narnia and Reate, to come to Rome. Cardinal Colonna left the City, and took up residence at Palestrina. He also took possession of Montecello and Ponte Lucano from the Pope. King Frederick supplied him with knights and footsoldiers from the Imperial army. Thereupon the Pope installed Matteo Rosso Orsini as Senator of Rome—a provocative and ill-conceived choice—and Matteo immediately began an attack on the fortified Lagusta. Once again in the history of Rome, it was Orsini and Colonna fighting one another in the streets. In August, the Emperor captured Tibur (Tivoli) and then marched on Rome. He captured the castle at Monte Albano which belonged to the Basilica of St. Paul and burned it down. He also captured several castles that belonged to the Monastery of Farfa and destroyed them. Then he pitched the Imperial Camp at Grottaferrata.

Albert of Bohemia (Albert Behans), Papal Legate in Germany between 1239 and 1253, remarked about Frederick II, "Papam creare gestivit, ac sedem apostolicam subjicere ditioni."

In July, as Ryccardus of S. Germano records it, the Emperor had ordered his agents to confiscate all of the gold, silver, and precious objects that they found in the treasuries of the churches in his jurisdiction. This material was collected at S. Germano in the Church of S. Maria, and put in the custody of twelve well-to-do men of the Kingdom of Sicily. Some of the precious objects he allowed to be redeemed, the rest was stored at the Church of S. Maria de Grottaferrata. Along with his capture of one city after another in the Campagna of Rome, this was a terrible warning to Gregory and his Cardinals of what the Emperor was prepared to do. In August he assembled an army of vastatores at Insula Pontis Solarati and at S. Giovanni de Incarico. Its misson could not be clearer.

Death of Pope Gregory IX

Gregory's last months were a real trial. The end of his hopes for a church council at the beginning of May, with the capture of two cardinals and many of the intended leading participants, Frederick's successful taking of a number of Guelf cities in Lombardy, Tuscany,and the Campagna, and finally Frederick's confiscation of all of the precious treasures of the Church in the Kingdom of Sicily (which would support his war against the popes indefinitely), were severe setbacks. People who find themselves in such circumstances usually die of chagrin, or melancholy, or despair, or heartbreak, or some such. Occasionally they have strokes or heart attacks. Gregory's age is not known, but on August 22, 1241, he was dead. Matthew of Paris mentions "dolor maximus".

He was buried in the Vatican Basilica (Niccolo de Curbio). His reign had begun with the excommunication of Frederick II. His reign ended with a council that had failed to materialize, and his city in the grip of his enemy. With his arrogance, his cupidity, his violence, and his political ineptitude, Gregory IX certainly stands as one of the worst popes of the thirteenth century, as unlike the the Great Innocent as can be imagined. Would that Gregory had only stuck to the codification of Canon Law!

Frederick II wrote his epitaph (August 22, 1241): Revera mortuus est, per quem pax deerat et vigebat dissidium, et per quem plures in mortis periculum incidebant.

The Cardinals

A list of ten voting Cardinals (and two imprisoned cardinals) is provided by Matthew of Paris in his Chronica Majora, sub anno 1241 (Volume IV, p. 165 ed. Luard): fuerunt decem cardinales in Curia praesentes, duobus existentibus in carcere imperatoris. His list does not mention Cardinal Tommaso de Episcopo da Capua or Petrus Capuanus, but does include Robert Somercote. That would be a total of twelve cardinals.

Onuphrio Panvinio [Epitome, pp. 158-159] gives a list of thirteen cardinals, and he excludes Robert Somercote.   However, he lists Jacobus de Vitriaco, Bishop of Tusculum as present; he had died in 1240. He also names Bartholomaeus, Cardinal Priest of S. Pudenziana, who had died ca. 1230. He lists Frater Iacobus [de Pecorara], O.Cist., Bishop of Palestrina, and Oddo de Monferrato as present, and includes Petrus de Capua. He omits Tommaso Capuano. Ciaconius-Olduin, II, column 96, lists fourteen cardinals alive at the time of the death of Goregory IX, but it includes Iacobus de Vitriaco (who died in 1240) and does not include Robert Somercote.

Eubel I, p. 6, n. 10 (whose list does not contain Robert Somercote) names a total of thirteen living cardinals (those listed below). His list includes both Thomas of Capua and Petrus of Capua..  

Matthew of Paris (sub anno 1243, p. 253 Luard) also quotes a letter signed and sent by seven cardinals during the second Sede Vacante of 1241-1243 to the Abbot of Wardon in England: (R[aynaldus] Ostiensis et Velletrensis, J[ohannes] tituli Sanctae Praxedis, S[inibaldus] tituli Sancti Luarentii in Lucina, S[tephanus] tituli Sanctae Mariae trans Tyberim; R[aynerius] Sanctae Mariae in Cosmedin, E[gidius] Sanctorum Cosmae et Damiani, O[tho] Sancti Nicholai in carcere Tulliano) By the time of this letter, Cardinal Oddo had been allowed to rejoin the rest of the Cardinals.

List of Cardinals alive at the Death of Gregory IX:

  1. Rinaldo dei Conti di Segni, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia and Velletri (1231-1254), formerly Cardinal Deacon of S. Eustachio (1227-1231). Protector of the Franciscans. As Legate to Viterbo, he had reconciled the city to Rome; as Legate in Lombardy, he worked to reconcile Frederick II to the Milanese. [Cardella I. 2, p. 246-247]. Protector of the Franciscans
  2. Romanus Bonaventura, Cardinal Bishop of Porto (1236-1243), formerly Cardinal Deacon of S. Angelo in Pescheria (1216-1236) (died 1243)
  3. Guifredus (or Gaufredus) Castillioneus (Castiglione), Cardinal Bishop of Sabina (1239-1241), formerly Cardinal Priest of the title of S. Marco (1227-1239), during which time he had been Legate in Tuscany and Lombardy [Cardella I.2, p. 245], where he laid the Interdict on Pisa [Baluze, Miscellaneorum Tomus III, p. 429]. He had been Archpriest and Chancellor of Milan (died November 10, 1241). "Mediolanensis". Elected Pope as Celestine IV. He survived his election by seventeen days.

  4. Joannes (Giovanni) de Columna (Colonna) [Romanus], second son of Oddone Colonna, Signore di Colonna, Monteporzio, Zagarolo, Gallicano e Palestrina; his younger brother Oddone was Senator of Rome in 1238 and 1241. Cardinal Priest of S. Prassede (1216-1244) Papal Legate on the V. Crusade, 1223. (died on February 9, 1245: 'Matthew of Westminster', Flores Historiarum II, 270 ed. Luard) [Eggs, Purpura Docta I, 138-140]
  5. Stefano de Normandis (dei Conti), . Cardinal Priest of S. Maria in Trastevere (1228-1254), formerly Cardinal Deacon of S. Adriano (1216-1228) Nephew of Innocent III (dei Conti) [Moroni, Dizionario storico-ecclesiastica 48, 110-111] (died December 8, 1254).
  6. Sinibaldus de Flisco (Fieschi), Cardinal Priest of S. Lorenzo in Lucina (September, 1227–December 7, 1254). Rector of the March of Ancona [Theiner, Codex diplomaticus, cxciii, p. 114: October 15, 1240] [Cardella, p. 247]

  7. Rainerius Capocci, OCist. [Viterbiensis], Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Cosmedin (1216-1250) (died 1250).
  8. Egidius [Hispanus] (Gil Torres), Cardinal Deacon of SS. Cosmae et Damiani (December 1216-1255) (died 1255). He was elected Archbishop of Toledo by the Canons of the Cathedral, but Innocent IV refused to ratify his elevation, considering him to be more valuable to the universal Church at his side [Cardella I. 2, 235; Eubel I, p. 5, p. 487] [Warning: The same anecdote is told about Honorius III and Cardinal Conrad von Urach and the See of Besançon]
  9. ? Petrus de Capua [Pietro da Capua, Capuanus], Cardinal Deacon of S. Georgio in velum aureum (1219-1245). Nephew of Petrus Capuanus, Cardinal Priest of S. Marcello
  10. Ricardus Hannibaldi (Riccardo Annibaldi or Annibaldeschi) de Molaria, a Roman, Cardinal Deacon of Sant' Angelo in Pescheria (1237-1274), died at Lyons in 1274, according to his memorial inscription. Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica (named by Innocent IV). Ghibelline. Opponent of the Orsini. [Cardella, 257-259; Eggs, Purpura Docta I (1714), 160-162]. The remains of his tomb are in the Cloister of the Lateran Basilica.
  11. Robert Somercote, Cardinal Deacon of S. Eustachio (Spring 1239–1241). In 1235 he was a royal cleric to Henry III (W. Shirley, Royal and other Historical Letters, I, p. 463-464). When Frederick II marched on Rome in 1239, Somercote was the only cardinal who stayed at the Pope's side. (died September 26, 1241; Eubel says 1251 lapsu calami) Though he died during the deliberations, he is known to have been supporting Cardinal Guifredus Castillioneus, who was eventually elected. The date of his death is given on his tomb in S. Crisogono, VI. Kal. Octob:anno Dnice Incarnationis MCC quadragesimo primo [Forcella, Inscrizioni delle chiese di Roma 2, p. 170 no. 488].

Cardinals not attending at the final vote:

  1. Oddo (Odo, Oddone) de Monferrato [Frederick II calls him Oddo de Todenengo], Cardinal Deacon of S. Nicolai in Carcere Tulliano (1227-1244), later Bishop of Porto (1244-1251). Legate to Frederick II, to attempt to restore peace with Gregory IX, a task at which he failed. Legatus a latere in England; the archbishops and bishops of England, Wales and Scotland were advised of his appointment in a letter of Gregory IX dated February 12, 1237 [Theiner, Vetera monumenta Hibernorum et Scotorum no. 86, p. 33]. His instructions were dated March 24, 1237 [Theiner, no. 87, p. 34]. He arrived in England on June 29, 1237 [Matthew of Paris III, p. 395 Luard]. He was returning to the Curia, when, on May 3, 1241, he was captured by the Pisans and Emperor Frederick [He was present at the beginning of the electoral deliberations, having been released from prison at Naples by the Emperor on parole and with hostages. He returned to prison before the Election was completed]. [Cardella, 247-248; Ciaconius-Olduin II, 81-82; Eggs, Purpura Docta I (1714), 150-153; E. Winkelmann, Mittheilungen des Instituts für oesterreichische Geschichtsforschung 11 (1890), 28-40].
  2. Giacomo da Pecorara, OCist., Cardinal Bishop of Palestrina (1231-1244) In October 1239 he was sent as a Legate by Pope Gregory IX to the princes of the west; he travelled secretly to Genoa as a pilgrim, where he took ship. As he was returning, he was captured in a naval battle between the Emperor Frederick and the Genoese near Pisa. He was held in custody by the Emperor from May, 1241, until May, 1243. (died June 25, 1244). [Eggs, Purpura Docta I (1714), 157-159]

The Septasolium (Saepta Solis)

Some considerable confusion has existed for many years about the details of the site at which this election took place. The key is a document that was more than a century old at the time that the Election of 1241 took place.   In 1130, the newly created Cardinal Silvius, subscribes a letter sent to the German King Lothar with the signature: Silvius diac. S. Luciae iuxta Heligabalum [Watterich, Pontificum Romanorum Vitae II, 185]. The Deaconry of S. Lucia was next to the Heligabalum. The Heliogabalum was the lavish sanctuary built by the emperor Elagabalus (Heliogabalus) to house the sacred meteoric stone in which his god resided. The cult was a solar cult (Sol Invictus). The Heliogabalum (Saepta Solis, "enclosure of the Sun") was located, according to Herodian (Book V. 5), on the eastern slope of the Palatine (clivus Palatinus).

Ryccardus de S. Germano states:

Cardinales qui in Urbe ad papae electionem convenerant, per senatorem et Romanos apud Septisolium includuntur, ut ad creandum papam inviti procedant.

Matthew of Paris describes the building as well, though in remarkably different terms (influenced perhaps by Ovid Met. II. 1ff.):

Convenientibus igitur in unum, in palatio quod Regia Solis dicitur, quinque cardinales elegerunt sextum, scilicet Galfirdum Mediolanensem; et huic electioni favit imperator congratulans.

This building, it seems, had been used before for a papal election. Mittarelli's Annales Camaldunenses (p. 168; Baronius-Theiner 20, sub anno 1198, no. 5, p. 2) record that, upon the death of Pope Coelestine III on January 8, 1198, some of the Cardinals, including Cardinal Lothar, went to S. Giovanni Laterano to conduct the funeral of the late pope. Certain other Cardinals betook themselves to the Monastery of the Septasolium of the Clivus Scaurus. When the funeral was over, those cardinals joined their brothers at the Septasolium and elected Cardinal Lothar as Pope Innocent III:

Defuncto igitur Caelestino, quidam cardinalium se contulissent ad Septasolium monasterii Clivi-Scauri, ut liberius et securius ibi possent de successoris electione tractare, Lotarius cardinalis diaconus sanctorum Sergii et Bacchi cum quibusdam aliis apud basilicam Constantianam voluit decessoris exequiis interesse. Quibus honorice celebratis ipse cum illis ad praefatum locum accessit, et ipsa die VIII. januarii electus fuit Romanus pontifex.

Similarly, in the "Life of Pope Gregory IX," attributed to the Cardinal of Aragon (that is, Cardinal Boso) [Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores III. 1, p. 575], we read that Gregory was elected at the Septasolium on March 19, 1227:

Qui tandem defuncto piae recordationis Honorio III. sexta Feria, hebdomada vero majoris Quadragesimae quinta, de communi et impraemeditata Fratrum concordia, non minus electione canonica quam inspiratione Divina, lacrymabili et clamosa contradictione recusans, inter votivas eligentium manus pia vestium laceratione quassatus, in domo Beati Gregorii Gregorius ejus imitator assumitur apud Septemsolia Summi Pontificis solium, Fratrum instantia devictus, ascendens. Demum vero Romanis exultantibus Populis, ac Clero jubilante prae gaudio, irruentibus etiam cathervatim utriusque sexus hominibus, Pontificali decoratus infula, in Lateranensi Palatio magnifice cathedratur.

There is another document that speaks about buildings in this area, an old donation to the Monastery of S. Andrea e Gregorio, dating to A. D. 975 (Gibelli, p. 19 n.; Mittarelli, Annales Camaldolenses I, appendix, p. 97). It defines the boundaries of the property which is being donated:

Id est illud meum templum, quod Septem Solia minor dicitur, ut ab hac die vestre sit potestati et voluntati pro tuitione turris vestre, que Septem Solia maior dicitur, ad destruendum et suptus deprimendum quantum vobis placuerit. Nec non et omnes cryptas, quas habeo in porticu, qui vocatur [hippodromias] supra dicta Septem Solia in uno tenente coniunctas, videlicet numero triginta et octo, et inferiora et superiora sua cum terra vacante et vellaria ante se, cum introitu et exitu earum a via publica, et cum omni usu et utilitate, et cum omnibus ad eas spectantibus, posita Rome regione secunda, prope septem viis, et inter affines a primo latere suprascripta septem solia a secundo latere ortum, quod est supra cryptas, quae sunt ante monasterium vestrum, et moenia palatii, ubi dicitur balneum Imperatoris, a tertio latere crypte de heredibus Joannis, qui dicebatur de Papa, de septem viis a quarto latere via publica iuxta circum, qui ducit ad arcum triumphale vestri iuris.

First of all, it must be noted that there were two 'Septem Solia', major and minor. It is the Septem Solia Minor which is being deeded to the Monastery. They already own the Septem Solia Major, which was a turris, a towered building (i.e. multi-storied). The Donor is also deeding the cryptae which form a portico of thirty-eight stalls with shops open to the street, having open land in front of them and awnings. These are next to (above) the Septem Solia and joined to it as one property, and lie along the street leading between the Circus Maximus and the Arch (of Constantine?), the Septem Viae. They lay between the Monastery of S. Gregory and the baths of the Emperor (Septimius Severus). Both buildings, the Septem Solia Major and Minor, were evidently in need of repair in A.D. 975, and the Donor grants permission for the destruction of his tower for the repair of the Monks' tower. By 1198, at the election of Innocent III, we hear only of the Monastery of Septem Solia of the Clivus Scaurus, but it becomes the usual place of Election (1198, 1227, 1241). It was not, therefore, an act of cruelty when Matteo Rosso Orsini broght the Cardinals to this building, and it was not a prison or a broken-down ruin, but the normal and expected place for the Cardinals to assemble for the Election of a new pope.

Now the first thing which is obvious is that this Septem Solia where the Cardinals were interned is not the Septizodium. Lanciani's map of the SeptizodiumThe New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Baltimore 1992, pp. 349-350), describes the Septizodium as follows:

It was actually no more or less that what appears from the plans and drawings that survive, a scaenae frons intended as a frame for a program of statuary, probably portraits of the imperial family. Thre is no sign of water, and though the architectures of nymphaea and scaenae frontes were always closely related and crossed boundaries with each other, it seems unlikely that water was ever intended to be introduced. Rather we should think of this as complete in itself.... What was left in the sixteenth century was a building of three storeys, progressively diminishing in height like a scaenae frons, all three with Corinthian colums.... There was evidently rich coffering in all three storeys, but the upper storeys can have been accessible only by ladders, and there is no sign of a building of any sort behind this façade.

In other words, the Septizodium itself (Septizonium) was not a palazzo, much less a monastery; its second and third levels were inaccessible; and its ground floor was only a theatrical façade. There were no additional rooms behind this façade. There is no room for a dozen or so cardinals to be housed and fed, or even held in captivity. There was no room for a meeting of twenty-eight cardinals in 1198. Renaissance drawings show that parts of the Septizodium had already been carted away for building material, making the structure much less than half of its original size. One must also take into account the existence of the ancient Deaconry of S. Lucia in Septisolio (Saepta solis), which seems to have been in or next to the Septizodium (Armellini, Le chiese di Roma, p. 318. There had been no Cardinal Deacon of S. Lucia since 1210, and the church which was intended to be served by twelve monks now only had two clerics [Moroni, Dizionario storico-ecclesiastica 48, 110-111]. The church was restored by Cardinal Stephanus de Normandis at the request of Innocent IV, who also made him Vicar of Rome; it was suppressed by Sixtus V. Rodolfo Lanciani, in his edition of the Forma Urbis Romae, places the Church of the Deaconry next to the north(-east) wall of the Septizonium. That placement thereby excludes a tower with a thirty-eight arch portico at the Septizodium, since the Monastery already owned the Septem Solia Major. The monastery or palazzo must have lain to the north of the Septizonium, adjacent to the Deaconry of S. Lucia in Septasolio. It may even have been that the Church of S. Lucia served as the chapel of the Monastery. It is impossible to imagine a confinement of cardinals for an election of a pope without a chapel or church to service their religious requirements.

It also should be stated that the Cardinals, being placed in confinement at the Septa Solis, were not kept incommunicado from the rest of Rome or the world at large. The Cardinals sent their letter to Frederick II, requesting the presence of the two cardinals he held in captivity. Cardinal Oddo de Monferrato was able to enter (not a problem) and to leave (a surprise). The idea of absolute secrecy, as practiced (theoretically) today, grew up only gradually, and new pontiffs regularly dispensed conclavists from violation of the regulations. Frederick was able to know how the parties had lined up, with six votes for Cardinal Castiglione: et huic electioni favit imperator congratulans. And, equally importantly, his preferences were made known to the Cardinals. At the second conclave of 1241, which lasted until the end of June of 1243, the Cardinals did church business with persons as far away as England [Matthew of Paris, Volume IV, p. 250]. They also negotiated with Frederick and others for the release of Cardinal Jacobus de Pecorara and the prelates who had been seized after the naval battle on May 3, 1241 [Baronius-Theiner, sub anno 1243, no. 17, p. 264]. The same openness is true during the first Conclave, that of 1268-1271

The Election

There were ten cardinals in Rome at the time of Pope Gregory's death, according to Matthew of Paris: Ipsorum dierum curriculo, mortuo, ut praedictum est, Gregorio Papa, fuerunt decem cardinales in Curia praesentes. Giovanni Colonna was apparently one of them, despite the fact that he and Gregory had had their falling out. He had been living at one of his estates near Palestrina, where he had been conspiring with the Emperor Frederick [Ryccardus de S. Germano, p. 381]. But, having heard of the death of Pope Gregory, the Emperor Frederick, who had pitched his camp at Grottaferrata, and was pillaging the suburbs of Rome, granted his permission (licentia), and all the cardinals who were outside the city of Rome returned for the papal election: Imperator ipse apud Criptam ferratam ponit castra sua, et in exterioribus Urbem divastat, et tunc de Gregorio papa quod obierit Romae 21 Augusti, pro certo accepit, de cuius licentia cardinales omnes qui extra Urbem fuerant, pro electione papae facienda ad Urbem redeunt (Ryccardus de S. Germano, p. 381, lines 29-30). And so, with his enemy Gregory dead, and with the license of his Patron the Emperor in his pocket, Cardinal Colonna could return to Rome.

And so Cardinal Giovanni Colonna joined the Curial cardinals who were assembled for the electoral process. Indeed, he was probably the leader of the Imperial party (Ghibbelines). The two cardinals still being held prisoner by Frederick are otherwise accounted for, and so only one cardinal is a matter of uncertainty, Petrus de Capua.

The Electoral Meetings—Conclaves had not quite been invented—began in August, if Ryccardus de S. Germano is to be trusted, at the old building called the Septisolium. The Cardinals did not gather there willingly, but were induced to come together by the Senator of Rome, Matteo Rosso Orsini "Il Grande" (whose younger brother Napoleone succeeded him as Senator, and whose eldest son became Pope Nicholas III in 1275):.

Eodem mense Augusti iussu imperatoris vastatores de regno aput Insulam pontis solarati et aput Sanctum Iohannem de Incarico, ut intrent Campaniam congregantur. Cardinales qui in Urbe ad papae electionem convenerant, per senatorem et Romanos apud Septisolium includuntur, ut ad creandum papam inviti procedant.

Having made sure that the Cardinals would not be able to escape from Rome, Matteo Rosso Orsini went back to his street warfare. In August (according to Ryccardus de S. Germano) he captured the Colonna stronghold at the Mausoleum of Augustus vi Romanorum.

Nicolaus de Curbio, OFM, the Chaplain of Pope Gregory, notes that the Cardinals in the city at the moment (tunc) were rounded up immediately (statim) in a prison-like workshop at the Septemsolium (in carcerali ergastulo apud Septemsolium). The conditions were harsh, he claims. Nicolaus mentions a limitation on supplies (necessariorum subtractionem) and the summer heat. The long meetings added to the stresses, and Cardinal Robert Somercote died (September 26). Others became seriously ill, including Cardinal Sinibalddo Fieschi, that he himself thought he was at death's door. It is Nicholas, it seems, who begins the tradition of demonizing Matteo Rosso and exaggerating the conditions under which the Election proceeded. Modern descriptions, with lurid details of a living cardinal nailed in a coffin and guards defecating and urinating on the Most Reverend Lords, are without foundation in contemporary documents. Indeed, one fails to see them in Platina, or Ciaconius, or Olduin, or Rinaldi, or Cardella, or de Novaes, or Artaud de Montor, or Moroni, or Gregorovius. Even Trollope is without such descriptions.

The Cardinals began voting immediately. According to Matthew of Paris:

Ipsorum dierum curriculo, mortuo, ut praedictum est, Gregorio Papa, fuerunt decem cardinales in Curia praesentes, duobus existentibus in carcere imperatoris. Qui cum, ut moris est, tractassent de electione, quia mutilata fuit contio eorum, non poterant concorditer vel competenter in unum convenire. Miserunt ergo ad imperatorem humiliter postulantes, ut duos cardinales confratres suos [Oddo de Monferrato and Jacobus de Pecoraria] sub quacunque vellet conditione ad Curiam destinaret

As Matthew indicates, their first vote had produced a stalemate, and thereupon they sent to the Emperor to allow the two imprisoned cardinals to come to the Election. It was in response to that plea that, late in August, Cardinals Giacomo de Pecorara and Oddo de Monferrato were moved nearer to Rome, to Tibur (Tivoli), from their prison in Capua: Praenestinus episcopus et Oddo cardinalis cum magistro Iohanne Toletano sub ducatu Tybboldi de Dragone aput Tybur ducuntur. The Emperor Frederick did this, we are told by Matthew of Paris, at the request of the Cardinals in Rome. Frederick even agreed to release the Cardinals so that they could participate, and, no doubt, so that his influence over the Cardinals could prevail. There was a condition attached to the release, however, which was that if Cardinal Oddo de Monferrato were not elected Pope, the two cardinals were to return to captivity (This story is rejected by some authorities: Baronius-Theiner, sub anno 1241, no. 86, p. 253). It seems that only one of the two, Oddo de Monferrato, agreed and was released:

Miserunt ergo ad imperatorem humiliter postulantes, ut duos cardinales confratres suos [Oddo de Monferrato and Jacobus de Pecoraria] sub quacunque vellet conditione ad Curiam destinaret, ne promotio universalis ecclesiae, quae maxime consistit in electione Papali, per ipsum impediretur. Quod imperator benigne concessit, mitigatus precibus Comitis Ricardi, ita videlicet, ut de eorum reditu ad carcerem—et ad priorem statum et conditionem, nisi Otto in Papam eligeretur, remearent.

Frederick's opinion of these two cardinals is on record, in a letter from May, 1241:

nova nostris expectata desideriis occurrent quod .... [Jacobus] Praenestinus episcopus, nostri honoris et nominis obtrectator, qui rapacem lupum sub ovina pelle tegebat, et quod posset effugere manus nostras expectabat, velut suarum conscius offensarum, species hominum et alterna rerum commercia varietate confinxit, et O..o de Todenengo, sancti Nycolai in carcere Tulliano diaconus cardinalis, qui diu legati fuerant in partibus transalpinis et contra honorem nostrum multipliciter machinati, praelatorum turba, quam dinumerare nemo poterat, pro celebrando Romae contra nos concilio e diversis provinciis convenerat, Januam venientes, et conspiratione facta cum Januensibus rebellibus nostris et armata ibidem copia galearum, cum quibus duci Romam et Januam reduci convenerant...

Frederick surely did not believe, expect, or want Oddo to be elected Pope. Neither did he expect that Oddo would vote with Cardinal Colonna and his Ghibbeline party. It was one of his tricks—to appear generous in allowing the cardinals to go to Rome if they were willing to compromise their independence of action by agreeing to his conditions. He knew that his enemy Jacobus would never do so, and he probably expected that Oddo would do the honorable thing and return.

According to Matthew of Paris, the Cardinals were aligned as follows (after the arrival of Cardinal Colonna, and before September 26, when Cardinal Robert Somercote died). Some reconstructions of the Election presume that this list constitutes the results of the first ballot or the first vote. There is nothing in the text to so indicate. But if so, then it must represent the vote in August, before the Cardinals sent to the Emperor for the two imprisoned Cardinals:

Voting alignments in the Election of 1241
Egidius Hispanus Riccardo degli Annibaldi
Stephanus dei Conti Rinaldo dei Conti
Rainerius Capocci Sinibaldo Fieschi
Giovanni Colonna Guifredus Castiglione
Robert Somercote  
Romano Bonaventura  

Even with the arrival of Cardinal Oddo de Monferrato and the death of Cardinal Somercote, no one seems to have been able to muster the seven votes necessary to elect a pope.

In September, according to Ryccardus of S. Germano [MGH 19, p. 381, lines 49-50], the Emperor Frederick dismissed the army which he had ordered to be assembled at Insula, and returned to his own kingdom (not to Sicily, as Gurugé, p. 138, has it). He left behind at Tivoli under guard of soldiers whom he left in Tivoli a bishop and a cardinal (relictis apud Tybur sub custodia suorum, quos ad tuitionem et defensam civitatis ipsius reliquerat, episcopo et cardinali praedictis). If the Latin is construed strictly, it means that only one Cardinal was in captivity at the time, implying that the other, Cardinal Oddo de Monferatto, was still in Rome, participating in the Election.

And, since it was obvious that Cardinal Oddo was not going to be elected pope, he chose to do the right thing and left the Saepta Solis to return to his captivity. His concern, it is said, was for the safety of the hostages he had given, and for his conscience and the oath he had taken: Divisis circa illud tempus omnibus fere cardinalibus et dissidentibus, et electione papali sub desperatione suspensa, rediit Otto ad carcerem imperatoris, ut interpositos obsides liberaret, et se a praestito sacramento et fidei interpositione adquietaret. Exactly when he left is uncertain, but it was after the Emperor left for the south.

In September, Frederick II was in a hurry to get to his own territory. It was not, as Gurugé (p. 138) would have it, "so that he would not be perceived as interfering with the election." His influence had already been exerted several times, and no one was in doubt as to what he wanted and what the consequences might be if he were not accommodated. There were a considerable number of precedents concerning the right of the Emperor to intervene in papal elections, and the right to approve of the result. In any case, Frederick cared nothing about perceptions. In July, the Emperor had ordered his agents to confiscate all of the gold, silver, and precious objects that they found in the treasuries of the churches in his jurisdiction. This material was collected at S. Germano in the Church of S. Maria, and put in the custody of twelve well-to-do men of the Kingdom of Sicily. Some of the precious objects he allowed to be redeemed, the rest was stored at the Church of S. Maria de Grottaferrata. The Emperor left Grottaferrata and headed directly for S. Germano, then to Benevento and finally Foggia. At Foggia, he gave orders that the treasures should be brought to him there. By October, the task was completed. The churches of the south paid a high price for their loyalty to Pope Gregory, and contributed a great deal toward financing Frederick's war against the Papacy. The Emperor was still at Foggia when his wife died in December.

But with ten cardinals still working on the business of finding a new pope, even with Cardinal Oddo there was no successful resolution. Even when Cardinal Oddo left and the Electors were reduced to nine, the party of Cardinal Colonna could only muster five votes of the six needed to elect. One of the Cardinals on the side of Cardinal Bonaventura must have changed sides.

Another Story

The Annales Stadensis of Abbot Albert, sub anno 1241 [MGH SS 16, p. 367] (highly thought of by Raynaldus) has the following absurd story, which at least confirms the report in Matthew of Paris that the two candidates were Cardinal Romanus and Cardinal Guifredus. But, that they both refused and a third person, from outside the Sacred College, was elected (whose name they did not want to give) is a matter of complete confusion:

Papa Gregorius obiit 12 Kal. Septembris, et duo electi sunt, scilicet Romanus Portuensis et Godefridus Sabinensis. Cesserunt ambo, et iterum cardinales elegerunt unum, sed non de suo collegio. Sed Romanis quaerentibus quis esset, nomen illius exprimere noluerunt.

Abbot Albert may have been recording something he did not understand, being unaware of the fact that Cardinal Guifredus (Pope Celestine IV) died after only seventeen days in office and that the Cardinals had to resume their search for a pope. Hence the correct statement that Cardinal Romanus gave way (i.e. was not elected) and that Guifredus also gave way (was taken in death). There was a third candidate, the Emperor's suggestion, Cardinal Oddo de Monferrato, and he was not part of their college, being in the Emperor's prison. But he was not elected. This, however, is over-interpreting to save the appearances. Better to say that the author does not understand his source. [See G. Piatti, Storia critico-chronologica de' Romani pontefici 7 (1767), p. 166: "riputiamo menzognero e favoloso il di lui racconto"]


Nicolaus de Curbio says that Pope Celestine IV (Guifredus Castiglione) did not receive the pallium, was not crowned, and issued no bulls. He was dead in 17 (others say 18) days.

qui morte praeventus, pallium non recepit more papali, munus consecrationis non habuit, neque bullam, et infra XVII. dierum spatium obdormiens in Domino diem clausit extremum.



Nicolaus de Curbio, OFM, "Vita Innocentii Papae IV," Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores Tomus Tertius (Mediolani 1723) p. 592-592e. Stephanus Baluzius, Miscellanea Tomus VII (Paris 1715), pp. 353-405 [Nicolaus was Bishop of Assisi, 1250–ca. 1274; he was Innocent IV's chaplain and confessor]

Henry Richards Luard (editor), Matthaei Parisiensis, Monachi Sancti Albani, Chronica Majora   Vol. IV.   A.D. 1248 to A. D. 1258 (London: Longman 1880) 

Cronaca di Fra Salimbene Parmigiano (tr. Carlo Cantarelli) Volume 1 (Parma: Luigi Battei 1882).   Monumenta historica ad provincias Parmensem et Placentinam pertinentia. Chronica Fr. Salimbene Parmensis, Ordinis Minorum (Parmae: Petrus Fiaccadori 1857) [editio princeps, from a single Vatican ms., containing only part of chronicle 1212-1287]. Emil Michael, SJ, Salimbene und seine Chronik (Innsbruck 1889).

Joannes Benedictus Mittarelli, Annales Camaldalenses ordinis Sancti Benedicti Tomus I (Venetiis 1755), Tomus IV (Venetiis 1759). Alberto Gibelli, O.Camald., Memorie storiche dell' antichissima chiesa abbaziale dei SS. Andrea e Gregorio al Clivo di Scauro sul Monte Celio (Roma 1888). Lawrence Richardson, A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press 1992).

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), pp. 208-212. Bartolomeo Platina, Storia delle vite de' Pontefici edizione novissima Tomo terzo (Venezia: Domenico Ferrarin, 1763), 82-97. Onuphrio Panvinio, Epitome Pontificum Romanorum a S. Petro usque ad Paulum IIII. Gestorum (videlicet) electionisque singulorum & Conclavium compendiaria narratio (Venice: Jacob Strada 1557).  Lorenzo Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa Tomo primo Parte secondo (Roma: Pagliarini 1792).

Augustinus Theiner (Editor), Caesaris S. R. E. Cardinalis Baronii, Od. Raynaldi et Jac. Laderchii Annales Ecclesiastici   Tomus Vigesimus Primus 1229-1256 (Barri-Ducis: Ludovicus Guerin 1870) [Baronius-Theiner].

MGH: G. H. Pertz (editor), Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptorum Tomus XVIIII (Hannover 1866).

Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Annali d' Italia Volume 18 (Firenze: Leonardo Marchini 1827).

J.-L.-A. Huillard-Bréholles (Editor), Historia diplomatica Friderici Secundi Tomus V, Pars II (Parisiis: Henricus Plon 1859). A. Huillard-Bréholles, Vie et Correspondence de Pierre de la Vigne, ministre de l' Empereur Frédéric II (Paris Henri Plon 1865). Giuseppe De Blasiis, Della vita e delle opere di Pietro della Vigna (Napoli 1860). Constantin Höffler, Albert von Beham und Regesten Papst Innocenz IV. (Stuttgart 1847).

Aloysius Tomassetti (editor), Bullarum, Diplomatum, et Privilegiorum sanctorum Romanorum Pontificum Taurinensis Editio III (Turin 1858), pp. 593 ff. [Bullarium Romanum]

F. Gregorovius, History of Rome in the Middle Ages, Volume V.1 second edition, revised (London: George Bell, 1906) Book IX, Chapters 5-6, pp. 205--233.   J. B. Sägmüller, Thätigkeit und Stellung der Kardinale bis Papst Bonifaz VIII. (Freiburg i.Br.: Herder 1896). Karl Wenck, review of Sägmüller, Thätigkeit, in Göttingsche gelehrte Anzeiger 163 (1900) 139-175.   

A. Parravicini Bagliani, Cardinali di curia e "familiae" cardinaliste, dal 1227 al 1254 Volume II (Padua 1972)

W. H. Bliss (editor), Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland. Papal Letters. Volume I (London 1893). W.W. Shirley (editor), Royal and Other Historical Letters illustrative of the Reign of Henry III Volume II. 1236-1272 (London: Longmans 1866).   Abbot Francis Aidan Gasquet, Henry the Third and the Chruch (London 1905).

On Cardinal John of Toledo, see Hermann Grauert, "Meister Johann von Toledo," Stizungsberichte der philosophisch-philologischen und der historischen Klasse. königl. bayer. Akademie der Wissenschaften 1901 (München 1902) 111-325. On the Annibaldi: Fedele Savio, SJ, "Gli Annibaldi di Roma nel secolo XIII," Studi e documenti di storia e diritto 17 (1896) 353-363. Francis Roth, OESA, "Il Cardinale Riccardo Annibaldi, Primo Prottetore dell' Ordine Agostiniano," Augustiniana 2 (1952) 26-60. M. Dikmans, "D' Innocent III à Boniface VIII. Histoire des Conti et des Annibaldi," Bulletin de l' Institut historique belge de Rome 45 (1975) 19-211.

Conradus Eubel, OFM Conv., Hierarchia Catholici Medii Aevi...ab anno 1198 usque ad annum 1431 perducta editio altera (Monasterii 1193) 7-8.  

Christian Huelsen, Das Septizonium des Septimius Severus (Berlin:Georg Reimer 1886). Rodolfo Lanciani, Storia degli scavi di Roma Volume Quattro (Roma: Ermanno Loescher 190 )..Th. Dombart, Das palatinische Septizonium zu Rom (München: Beck 1922).

Anura Gurugé, The Next Pope: After Pope Benedict XVI (Alden, New Hampshire: WOWNH, LLC [self-published] 2010).

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