Anastasius IV


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(8 July 1153–3 Dec. 1154)

A Roman from the Suburra (a quarter between the Esquiline, Viminal, and Quirinal), he was originally named Corrado and probably came of bourgeois stock. Nothing is known of his career until Paschal II appointed him cardinal priest of Sta Pudenziana between 1111 and 1114. In 1125 he intervened on Honorius II's behalf in a controversial choice of abbot at Farfa, and in 1127 at Monte Cassino to settle the succession to a deposed abbot; in the second half of 1126 he was created cardinal bishop of Sta Sabina. After the divided election of 1130 he proved a determined partisan of Innocent II and opponent of Anacletus II. During Innocent's absence from Rome from 1130 to 1137, and again in 1339, he remained in the city, or near it, as his vicar. He also served as vicar for Eugene III, possibly in summer 1145, certainly from the beginning of 1147 to Nov. 1149 and from summer 1150 to Dec. 1152. On the very day of Eugene's death he was himself elected pope, and was enthroned in the Lateran on 12 July as Anastasius IV.

A very old man, he had amassed great experience in curial business and had proved his abilities as vicar of the holy see in testing times. He was probably chosen possibly because, as Roman born and as someone who had resided for long stretches in the city, he seemed uniquely qualified, through the contacts he had made with the citizens, to reach a working relationship with the popular commune (in general ill disposed to the curia) which had dominated Rome since 1143, though there is no certain evidence of this before his election. He must, however, have had the confidence of the people's senate, for he was not only consecrated in the Lateran but, in marked contrast to Eugene III and Hadrian IV, was able to reside undisturbed in Rome; nor did the commune make any attempt during his reign, as it had done in the past and would do again, to play off the pope and the German king against each other. It is also evidence of the good relations he enjoyed with the civic authorities that he was able to build a new palace near the Pantheon.

A similarly conciliatory approach characterized other decisions of his which were to be criticized as showing weakness. Thus, whereas Eugene III had refused to ratify an appointment made by Frederick I Barbarossa (1152–90) to the see of Magdeburg, Anastasius did so after his envoy had failed to move the king, and gave the archbishop the pallium when he came to Rome. Again, on the death of Henry Murdac, archbishop of York (1147–53), he closed the dispute which had raged through four pontificates over the appointment of William Fitzherbert (St William of York: d. 1154), deposed by Eugene as archbishop of York, by reinstating him and sending him the pallium. In his reign, through the efforts of Nicholas Breakspear (later Hadrian IV) as legate in Scandinavia, the payment of Peter's Pence by both Norway and Sweden was organized.


Subjects: Christianity.

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