Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Homeless Pope

Hugh of Jabala tells Pope Eugene about Prester John
Many of you know about the decades when the papacy was headquartered in Avignon (finally returned to Rome by Gregory XI). But not all popes outside of the Avignon situation enjoyed the benefits of Roman living.

Bernardo of Pisa was a Cistercian monk and a close friend of Bernard of Clairvaux. He became Pope Eugene III in 1145, mostly because no one else wanted the job. Ironically, his election probably had a lot to do with being a friend of Bernard of Clairvaux, who at the time was one of the strongest voices for Christianity and was a strong proponent of the pope's authority to wield temporal power; I call it ironic, because Bernard objected to his friend being made pope because he was too mild-mannered and would not be assertive enough as pope.

Eugene had a transient papacy. He left the City to be consecrated in the Abbey of Farfa, in the northern part of Lazio (the region at the center of which lies Rome). While he was gone, Arnold of Brescia (an opponent of the pope's temporal power) convinced the City to change its political structure and shut its gates to the pope.

Italy at the time (and right up through the 18th century) was not a unified country so much as a peninsula with different regions and city-states that eyed each other as competitors or even enemies. Eugene turned to Tivoli (near Rome) and other cities and to Roger II of Sicily to join him in opposing Rome.

He was able to return to Rome, but shortly after angered the citizens by not agreeing to fight Tivoli, and he was exiled again. He traveled to other cities, and then to France where he held synods in the late 1140s. Returning to Italy in 1149, he fled to Tusculum shortly after and stayed there until 1150, after meeting King Louis VII of France and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who were returning from Crusade. With Roger of Sicily's help he was able to return to Rome, but pressure made him retire soon after.

While sojourning through parts of Italy and souther Europe, he managed to see and approve of the works of Hildegard of Bingen. The legend of Prester John started with a report made to Pope Eugene from Bishop Hugh of Jabala.

As much as he tried to do, however, most of it was done while "on the road," and he had little time to enjoy his title of "Bishop of Rome."

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