Celestine II


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(26 Sept. 1143–8 Mar. 1144)

Originally Guido of Città di Castello, in Umbria, son of aristocratic parents, pupil and lifelong admirer of the philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard (1079–1142) and himself a learned scholar entitled to be addressed as ‘master’, he was brought to Rome by Callistus II, was made cardinal deacon of Sta Maria in Via Lata by Honorius II in 1127, and in Dec. 1133 was promoted cardinal priest of S. Marco by Innocent II, whom he had supported at the double election of 1130. In 1131/2 he served as papal legate in Cologne and Aachen, and was one of those who presented the case for Innocent II's legitimacy before Roger II of Sicily (1095–1154) at Salerno in Nov. 1137. He was legate in France in 1139/40. In 1140 or 1141 Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), conscious of the resistance in the curia to the condemnation of Abelard at Sens in 1140, wrote to Guido warning him not to allow affection for his old teacher to make him sympathetic to his doctrines. Two days after Innocent II's death he was unanimously elected to succeed him, and adopted the name Celestine. He had been one of the five persons recommended by the late pontiff; his election is also said to have had the warm support of Empress Matilda, widow of Henry V (1106–25) whose claim to the English throne when pope he effectively supported by forbidding Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, from making any alteration to the rules governing the right of succession to the crown.

Already an old man, he had for years belonged to the circle of close friends of Aimeric, chancellor of the Roman church (1123–41), and shared their concern for the inner renewal of the church. His two most important acts reversed decisions of his predecessor. First, through the good offices of Abbot Suger of St-Denis and Bernard of Clairvaux, he lifted the interdict which Innocent had laid in 1141 on all places sheltering Louis VII of France (1137–79); the king had agreed to accept the duly elected archbishop of Bourges whom he had previously opposed. Secondly, he refused to ratify the treaty of Migniano (July 1139) under which Innocent, taken prisoner in battle, had been forced to recognize Roger II's sovereignty over southern Italy as well as Sicily. But the critical situation on the borders of the papal state, particularly at Benevento, soon obliged him to modify his intransigence and send envoys to Roger's court at Palermo.‘For the ransom of his soul’ Celestine bequeathed 56 volumes from his personal library (including two by Abelard) to the church of S. Florido, Città di Castello; the silver altar-frontal which he also presented to it remains one of the treasures of the town.

Further Reading

JW ii. 1–7, 716, 758LP ii. 385, 449PL 179: 761–820Watterich ii. 276–8John of Salisbury, Hist. pontif. 42 (ed. M. Chibnall, 85)DHGE xii. 59–62 (R. Mols)EThC 19 (W. Petke)Levillain i. 275–6 (K. Schnith)NCE iii. 318 (M. W. Baldwin)A. Wilmart, ‘Les Livres légués par Célestin II à Città de Castello’, RBén35 (1923), 98–102Mann ix. 102–12


Subjects: Christianity.

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