interval which separates the reign of Clement IV from that of
Gregory X was signalized by the death of Louis IX before Tunis.
The king was attacked by plague. On Monday, August 25, 1270,
the sun had scarcely glinted on the sea when the lilied flags
slowly descended. At this announcement the whole camp shuddered.
Knights, men at arms, the sick, the wounded, all rushed from
their tents in terror; one side of the royal tent was raised,
and Louis, supported by attendants made his appearance, clad in
haircloth to his feet; his already livid hands bearing a
crucifix, and his eyes fixed upon a bed of ashes spread upon the
parched earth. The last breath of the head of the army was to be
drawn upon that humble couch; it was his last command, and he
had scarcely strength enough left to lie down upon it and to
motion for the crucifix to be again placed before him.
Horrible convulsions seemed to rack his frame, and yet no
complaint, no regret, no murmur escaped his lips. All that his
dying voice was heard to utter was: "Noble Sire, God, have mercy
upon this people that has followed me to this shore! Oh, conduct
it to its own land, lest it be forced to deny thy holy name."
The very last words of the king "Jerusalem! We will go to
The legate who should have attended the king had himself
perished of plague; but the love of the cross was so deep in the
heart of the monarch and of the French that Rome, not
withstanding her widowhood, had not to deplore any misfortune to
the faith. The throne of Peter was vacant, but, with the aid of
Louis IX, religion had no tears to shed. Yet it were not good
that the great moderator should often be wanting to his
children. Had Gregory X been sooner elected, the expedition
against Tunis would probably have been abandoned, and Louis,
upon the road to Syria and in the port of Antipatris, would have
preserved his strength to lead the Christians a second time.
Blessed Gregory X, originally called Theobald Visconti, was
of the family of that name at Piacenza, supposed to derive its
origin from the Flavia family, to which Constantine the Great
belonged. Other authors maintain that the Visconti sprang from
Desiderius, king of the Lombards.
Theobald, son of Hubert, a brother of Otho Visconti,
Archbishop of Milan and lord of that city, was at of Lyons,
archdeacon of Liege, and then became legate in Syria. While
there he was elected pontiff at Viterbo, on the 1st of
September, 1271. The fifteen cardinals who composed the Sacred
College could not agree upon a candidate. One of them proposed
to authorize six cardinals to name the pope, all promising to
recognize the one thus named by compromise. It was necessary to
have recourse to such an expedient, for the conclave had lasted
three years. Gatti, captain of the city, had already had the
roof uncovered so that the inclemency of the weather might
dispose the cardinals to make a final choice. In proceeding by
compromise, the six cardinals put an end to the longest vacancy
of the Holy See that had taken place since the persecutions. At
first they thought of Saint Philip Benizi, of the order of
Servites, who was then famous for his miracles; but learning the
design from Cardinals Ottobuono Fieschi and Ubaldino, who had
proposed him, Saint Philip went and hid himself on the top of
Mount Tuniato until another was elected.
The six cardinals having agreed upon electing Theobald
Visconti on the 1st of September, 1271, a courier was despatched
to Saint Jean d'Acre, where he was with Prince Edward, eldest
son of the King of England, waiting for a favorable moment to go
to Jerusalem. Theobald, having received the news on the 27th of
October, took the road for Italy, and disembarked at Brindisi on
the 1st of January, 1272.
Accompanied by Charles, King of the Two Sicilies, he went to
Benevento, and thence, by way of Capua, to Viterbo, where he
found the cardinals. Thence he proceeded to and was crowned at
the Vatican by Cardinal John Orsini on the 27th of March, 1272.
On the day of the coronation he took possession at Saint John
Lateran, preceded by a magnificent cavalcade; the King of the
Two Sicilies held the pontiff's stirrup, and, at the solemn
banquet which followed, presented him with water to wash his
hands, and served him with the first dish.
In 1273 the German electors, excepting the King of Bohemia,
elected as king of the Romans Rudolph, Count of Hapsburg, the
head of the house of Austria. The Holy Father approved the
election, and induced Alphonso X, King of Castile, to renounce
his claims upon the imperial diadem, to which he believed
himself entitled, which that prince generously and promptly did,
to show himself obedient to the Holy Father.
The same year Visconti, who had taken the name of Gregory X,
wrote to Philip the Bold, King of France, to thank him for
restoring to the Holy See the Venaissin, situated between
Provence and Dauphiny, which was left to the Roman Church by
Raymond, Count of Toulouse, who died in 1249, and which the
kings of France had since held.
It was a pious, able, and generous thought that led the
cardinals to elect a pope whose duties had led him to the Holy
Land and who knew the distress of that unfortunate country.
The recovery of the Holy Land almost exclusive engaged the
thoughts of Gregory. On the 1st of the preceding April he
published a decree convoking at Lyons the fourteenth general
council, and the second of Lyons, which was celebrated in that
city in 1274. The pope was there even in 1273. On his way he
crossed Tuscany, and paused at Florence to endeavor to restore
peace between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines of that city.
History cannot ignore the conduct of Gregory X at Florence.
At first he was accompanied by Baldwin II, son of Henry, brother
of Baldwin I, and afterwards by Charles of Anjou, King of Naples
and brother of Saint Louis.
The pope, delighted with the coolness of the water and the
purity of the air, proposed to his august companions to pass the
summer in that beautiful city. The Guelphs at had exiled the
Ghibellines and treated them with undue rigor. On the 2nd of
July the pope assembled the people of Florence and vicinity on
the banks of the Arno, foot of the Rubaconte bridge. A platform
having been erected to afford seats for the two princes, the
pope from his throne forbade, on pain of interdict, any
distinction to be made in future between Guelph and Ghibelline,
and commanded the syndics of the Guelphs to embrace in his
presence the syndics of the Ghibellines (the pope was head and
protector of the Guelph faction). Gregory in his address to the
people said: "He is a Ghibelline—yes; but he is a Christian, he
is a citizen, and he is your neighbor. Is so much that we have
done to bring about a union to be ineffectual? Is the very name
of Ghibelline, empty as it is, to be more powerful for hatred
than so many clear and substantial reasons for charity? You
declare that you have embraced this party spirit in favor of the
popes and against their enemies? We, Roman pontiffs, we have
received these men to our heart, although they formerly offended
us—these men, your fellow-citizens, who have returned to us; we
have pardoned their insults, and now regard them as our
children. Will you disobey your pontiff, and in his presence?"
From Florence, which no doubt he secretly blessed, Gregory
went to Piacenza, his native city, and arrived there on 3rd of
October. He took with him Otho Visconti, made Archbishop of
Milan by Pope Urban IV, who had not been able yet to take
possession of his see, because the Turriani, a revolted family,
desired an archbishop of their own name. Having entered Milan,
Gregory could not induce the people accept Otho Visconti, though
regularly appointed and the bearer of bulls recently confirmed,
and he was obliged to leave Milan in the same grief that had
The direction of the General Council of Lyons was intrusted
to Saint Bonaventure. This fact is attested by the bull of
canonization of that saint, issued by
Sixtus IV. In that assemblage there were fifteen cardinals,
two Latin patriarchs, seventy archbishops, five hundred bishops,
and more than a thousand prelates and abbots. Never had there a
more numerous council. The Greeks confessed that Holy Ghost
proceeded from both Father and Son, and, for the fourteenth
time, were reconciled to the Latin Church.
It was first decreed that considerable succor should be sent
to the Holy Land. It must have been an imposing scene when the
pontiff said: "We have seen the sufferings of those pilgrims;
one by one we have followed all their misfortunes. Their courage
never tires, no piety can be more submissive than theirs; they
are true children of Jesus Christ, like the companions of
Godfrey, but they have not wherewith to support life. Those who
had money when they went hence, have been robbed of that money,
and even of their clothes. Can our brethren in the desert ask
alms of the wild beasts? These give only death. The Turk and the
Jew some hearken to a cry of distress; but on that long
pilgrimage there are so many cries! It is to the Holy Land that
aid must go; there must be no ambition for kingdoms and
provinces of Asia; Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchre must be
The Flagellants, wherever they were not suppressed, asserted
that baptism by water was useless; that flagellation alone was
effectual, which they called baptism by blood; that all religion
consisted in flagellation. Baronius, according to Novaes,
reproached Saint Peter Damian with having been, if not the
founder, at least the propagator of this sect, so censured by
the Church, and so wrong in deducing from a simple ordinary
penance the consequences of the Flagellants.
This council passed thirty-one canons on ecclesiastical
discipline. All except the nineteenth concern the sixth book of
the Decretals. It was this council that enjoined every Catholic
to bow the head as often as he hears the holy name of Jesus.
The Holy Father, remembering the length of the conclave in
which he at last had been elected, passed laws to prevent like
delays in future. These laws were frequently suspended and then
restored whenever there was too long a conclave.
During this council the great Saint Thomas Aquinas died in
the monastery of Fossa Nuova, whence he was about to repair to
The council having terminated its sessions, the pontiff set
out on the 6th of March, 1275, for Italy. He met Rudolph of
Hapsburg, king of the Romans, at Lausanne on the 10th of
October, and that prince swore to guarantee to His Holiness the
exarchate of Ravenna and other Italian lands belonging to the
Gregory had governed four years, four months, and ten months,
reckoning from his election, when he died at Arezzo, aged
sixty-six years, on the 10th of January, 1276 (a fatal year, in
which four pontiffs died), and he was interred in the cathedral
of that city.
Monsignor Benedict Falconcini de Volterra, Bishop of Arezzo
in 1704, solicited and obtained, under
Pope Clement in 1713, at his own expense, the beatification
of this illustrious pontiff.
Gregory had but little learning, but he was endowed with rare
prudence. He always was the courageous defender of the faith and
of the divine worship, inclined to peace and a conciliatory
spirit, and an enemy to all partiality.
Platina gives the following judgment upon Gregory: "He was a
man illustrious in life for prudence in affairs; for the
strength of soul with which he disdained money and all low
considerations; for his humanity, clemency, benevolence to poor
Christians, and especially those who took refuge in the bosom of
the Apostolic See."
With reference to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Fleury says:" the
life of this saint, who died at forty-nine years of age, seems
short in comparison to his writings. The five first volumes are
commentaries on most of the writings of Aristotle; then come the
commentaries on Peter Lombard, the master of sentences; then a
volume of theological questions, Summa against the Gentiles, the
Summa Theologiae, many commentaries on the Holy Scripture, and,
finally, short treatises to the number of seventy-three, some of
which are doubted. In general, the best critics believe that
many works are attributed to Saint Thomas which are only notes
of his public lectures, called reportata in those days, and that
a similarity of name has confounded with him Thomas the
Englishman, or Jorzi, a friar of the same order who lived in the
same century and at the beginning next."
This biographical data is from
"The Lives and Times of the Popes" by The Chevalier Artaud De
Montor. Published by The Catholic Publication Society of New
York in ten volumes in 1911. The pictures, included in the
volumes, were reproduced from " Effigies Pontificum Romanorum