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Celestine IV - Sickly and Short Pontificate

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Celestine IVThe death of Gregory IX was good news to Emperor Frederick II, and he loudly proclaimed his jubilation to the world. According to Frederick's smug expression, Gregory had flouted the August One, i.e., the Emperor, and therefore had not been allowed to live through avenging August. Frederick expressed the hope that the next pope would be more favorable; and to give some force to his hope, the Emperor remained with his army threatening Rome.

Meanwhile in Rome the senator Matteo Rosso Orsini promptly confined the cardinals in the Septizonium to hurry them on to an election. This appears to be the first conclave in the strict sense of the word, that is, the locking up of the cardinals until they had elected a pope. Though Frederick withdrew his army into Apulia, the cardinals had a hard time coming to a decision. Cardinal Godfrey Castiglioni took an early lead in the balloting but was unable to command the necessary twothirds majority. When the Romans heard the rumor that the cardinals were going to elect an outsider as a compromise, a mob insulted the conclave. Indeed it is said that the Romans threatened to dig up the corpse of Pope Gregory and put it in with the cardinals if they did not elect one of their number. Through the frightful heat of August and September into October the conclave struggled. At last on October 25, 1241, Godfrey Castiglioni gained the necessary majority. He accepted and chose the name Celestine IV.

Godfrey Castiglioni was born in Milan, the son of John Castiglioni and Cassandra Crivelli, the sister of Urban III. He entered the rank of the clergy and rose to be a canon and chancellor of the church of Milan. In 1187 he resigned his honors to enter the Cistercian monastery of Hautecombe. There he is said to have written a History of the Kingdom of Scotland. Forty years later, in 1227, Gregory IX made him cardinal-priest of St. Mark, and twelve years later still, in 1239, Gregory made him cardinal-bishop of Sabina. He must have been a very old man indeed when elected pope.

His advanced age and weak health were probably the chief reasons why the divided cardinals agreed at last on Celestine. He might have made a good pope, for he was an excellent theologian and was charitable to the poor, but he had no time to prove his ability. The sick old man lasted exactly seventeen days as pope. On November 10, 1241, Celestine IV died. His death was the signal for most of the cardinals to hurry out of Rome, because they had no wish to undergo another ordeal like the last conclave. The few cardinals who remained buried Celestine IV in St. Peter's on November ll.


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