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Lucius II - The Paradoxical Pontiff

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Mosaic of Lucius IIThis pope's life presents an interesting paradox. Defied and set at naught in his own city by the turbulent Romans, he found his fingers on the pulse of Europe. Gerard Caccianemici was a native of Bologna. His was the standard successful career in the papal service. Canon of St. John Lateran, papal librarian, chancellor of the Apostolic See, and cardinal, he rose steadily under Popes Honorius II and Innocent II.

There are no extant details of his election to the papacy. Gerard was consecrated March 12, 1144. He took the name Lucius II. Though he ruled less than a year and was forced to fight to control his own city, Pope Lucius yet found time to send legates to and receive embassies from the far corners of Europe. The king of Portugal sent to Lucius to commend Portugal to the Pope as a feudal fief. Historians consider that when Lucius accepted the homage of Alfonso Henriquez the independence of Portugal was assured. The City of Corneto, once papal territory, returned voluntarily to the Pope's lordship in the time of Lucius. Humbert, lord of Pringins, a castle near Lake Geneva, came to Rome to offer feudal homage to the pope. But what a different picture at home! At first indeed the Romans accepted the Pope.

Relations between Celestine and King Roger of Sicily had been badly strained, but Lucius was a personal friend of Roger's--indeed, had stood godfather to one of his children. And so when Pope Lucius and Roger met at a conference at Ceprano, there was good hope for peace. But in spite of the friendship of the principals, peace did not come. The cardinals and the Romans were quite anti-Norman, and through their efforts the conference broke up. Roger, enraged, sent his mail-clad knights against the Pope and soon even the Romans had to agree to a truce. But if the Normans subsided, the Romans did not. Angry at the Pope's peace policy and filled with delusions of grandeur, they set up the republic. Jordan of the Pierleoni family, a brother of the old antipope Anacletus, was made Patrician. Pope Lucius, in distress, turned to Emperor Conrad, but Conrad was deaf to his appeals even when St. Bernard added his voice to that of the Pope. Finally, Lucius turned to those natural enemies of the Pierleoni, the Frangipani, and soon Rome rang with the clash of steel and the hoarse war cries of barons and burghers. Jordan had fortified the Capitol. The Frangipani operated from the Circus Maximus. According to one chronicle, Pope Lucius, leading an assault on the Capitol, was struck down by enemy stones. The silence of most chronicles leads historians to-doubt this, but at any rate Lucius did die on February 15, 1145.

Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.

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