Anacletus II


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(antipope 14 Feb. 1130–25Jan. 1138)

On the death of Honorius II (13 Feb. 1130), while a minority of cardinals led by the chancellor Aimeric rushed through the clandestine election of Innocent II, the majority meeting in S. Marco later in the day, in the presence of the clergy and people, elected Cardinal Pietro of Sta Maria in Trastevere; he was enthroned as Anacletus II by the bishop of Porto in St Peter's. Although listed an an antipope, it is at least arguable that Anacletus rather than Innocent was the legitimately elected pontiff. The disputed election reflected the rivalries of two powerful families, the Pierleonis and the Frangipanis, and the determination of the powerful chancellor Aimeric to retain control of the papacy. Pietro, of the Pierleoni family, was a great-grandson of the converted Jew Baruch-Benedict, and his Jewish ancestry may have played a part in the schism. Certainly it was used against him by the protagonists of Innocent. Educated in Paris, later a monk at Cluny under Abbot Pontius, he was created cardinal deacon of SS. Cosma and Damiano, probably as a result of family pressure, by Paschal II in 1111 or 1112. He was one of the cardinals who accompanied Gelasius II to France in 1118, and played a decisive part in the election of Callistus II at Cluny in Feb. 1119. So far Callistus had shown himself one of Emperor Henry V's (1106–25) fiercest opponents, and Pietro himself was undoubtedly a hardliner on the investiture issue. It was the money of Pietro's father that ensured the return of Callistus and the curia to Rome, and the pope's promotion of the son as cardinal priest of Sta Maria in Trastevere in 1120 can be seen as expressing his gratitude. In 1121 and 1122/3 he served as legate in England and France respectively, but from 1123 to 1130 he disappears almost entirely from view. There is nothing surprising in this, for almost all missions in this period were entrusted to friends of the chancellor Aimeric, but it is noteworthy that the power and prestige of the Pierleoni family were meanwhile increasing, and that it identified itself with attempts to restore the role of the people in papal elections.

Once elected, Anacletus was undisputed master of Rome through the wealth, influence, and weapons of his family. His immediate object (as was Innocent II's) was to obtain recognition throughout Christendom, and he dispatched a stream of letters seeking it to the kings of Germany and France and leading churchmen everywhere. In these he made much of the fact that, in contrast to the handful of cardinals who had chosen Innocent, the whole of Rome had participated in his election; what is even more striking is his evident insecurity and reliance on personal appeals. Very soon, however, he lost the war of propaganda; largely through the efforts of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) and Norbert of Xanten (c.1080–1134) Europe came out in favour of Innocent, with the exceptions of Aquitaine, Scotland, Milan, and certain other cities of north Italy, and southern Italy. This last he won over by making (27 Sept. 1130) Roger II of Sicily king not only of Sicily but of Calabria and Apulia, as well as overlord of Capua, Naples, and Benevento.


Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) — Christianity.

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