(21 Dec. 1124–13 Feb. 1130)
The election following Callistus II's death was a turbulent one. First, a majority of cardinals, with the Gregorian reform-minded Pierleoni family, put forward Cardinal Saxo of S. Stefano; they then dropped him, and the cardinal priest Teobaldo was unanimously proclaimed as Celestine II. While his installation was in progress, the pro-imperial Frangipani family, with the connivance of the chancellor Aimeric, broke into the assembly and at sword-point had Cardinal Lamberto of Ostia acclaimed pope. Celestine resigned, and after Aimeric and Leo Frangipani had squared the city prefect and the Pierleoni with substantial bribes Lamberto, who had laid down the papal insignia, was duly elected and enthroned as Honorius II.
Often explained in terms of the rivalries of patrician families, these proceedings in fact reflected a struggle among the cardinals themselves, with the old-school Gregorians who formed the majority being outmanoeuvred by a younger group mainly from Burgundy and northern Italy who had been promoted by Callistus II and led by Aimeric who, regarding the investiture issue as settled, were now concentrating on the inner renewal of the church. Humbly born at Fiagnano near Imola (prov. of Bologna), reputedly learned, Lamberto Scannabecchi was one of these. Made cardinal bishop of Ostia by Paschal II in 1117, he had accompanied Gelasius II to France, been a trusted adviser of Callistus II, and taken a decisive part in negotiating the concordat of Worms (1122). Like Aimeric, whom he confirmed as chancellor, he was a canon regular.
Honorius used the peace with the empire which the church had secured at Worms to strengthen its position and promote reform. In 1125 he backed Count Lothair III of Supplinburg for the German crown (1125–37); the new king unprecedentedly asked him to confirm his election. He maintained his support for Lothair by anathematizing (1128) not only his rival Conrad but Archbishop Anselm of Milan, who had crowned Conrad king of the Lombards. In France his diplomatic patience, which aroused the indignation of the increasingly influential Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), eventually led King Louis VI (1108–37) to settle his conflicts with the hierarchy; while he was able to secure the admission of papal legates to England after 1125. His efforts to prevent the formation of a Norman kingdom in southern Italy were less successful, and in Apr. 1128 he was forced to recognize Roger II, count of Sicily (1095–1154), as duke of Apulia in return for his oath of fealty.
Honorius' internal church policies were guided by his increasingly powerful chancellor Aimeric. The majority both of the cardinals he created and of his legates shared their aspirations for moral and spiritual reform in the church; he also showed marked favour to the canons regular, believing them better qualified than the old orders to collaborate in the work. In the same spirit he sanctioned the Premonstratensian canons, recently founded by Norbert of Xanten (c.1080–1134), in 1126; two years later, through his legate at the council of Troyes, he approved the rule of the Knights Templar, in preparing which Bernard of Clairvaux, Aimeric's close friend, had taken a large part. His interventions at Cluny, where he condemned and imprisoned the former abbot Pontius in 1126, and at Monte Cassino, where he forced the resignation of Abbot Oderisius shortly after, have been explained as illustrating the inevitable frictions between the older and younger generations of reformers. The story is, perhaps, more complicated, reflecting the pope's desire to exercise greater control over powerful monasteries and, at least in the case of Oderisius, reflecting also a degree of personal animosity.