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Is it fair to argue that the Medieval Papacy reached the apogee of its power and influence under Innocent III?

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Introduction

Is it fair to argue that the Medieval Papacy reached the apogee of its power and influence under Innocent III? Under Innocent III, the state of the papacy and papal authority changed dramatically and emerged to form what some historians describe as a 'papal monarchy1'. One could argue that during Innocent's reign of 1198-1216, the medieval papacy was at the peak of its power in terms of military strength, control over Rome, international political power and moral influence. Innocent III's own writings reflect this point of view, as he makes clear that he views his position as one of unquestionable, divine endowed authority. However when considering this question of whether the papacy was indeed at its height under Innocent, the gap between theological theory and political reality must be considered, as well as Innocent's reign in relation to his predecessors and successors which may lead historians to inflate their opinion of this period in papal history, due to the decline of the papacy that occurred under Innocent IV. Innocent III international involvement is greater than any of the popes before or after him, during his reign he interfered in almost every kingdom in Europe2, however this does not provide evidence for him actually wielding any power as he was regularly ignored by monarchs such as by King John of England. ...read more.

Middle

Using England as an example, it is clear that Innocent exercised a vast influence as during the interdict, Englishmen were deprived of the sacraments of the church as bodies were not buried and marriages were not solemnised in churches. As Binns puts it 'his weapons may be spiritual but they were uncommonly effective9 The clergy were greatly upset by this and as a result John had to make peace with the pope, one could argue as Chaney does that this shows the strength of the ultimate hold of papal doctrine on the church10, even if not over the individual leader. Innocent himself had no doubts over his control over the church, writing 'so extensive is the authority of the apostolic see that nothing can reasonably be determined in all the affairs of the church except by its authority11'. However one could argue that despite having influence, this is all theoretical power and that this does not show Innocent to be as powerful as many historians inflate his image to be. The calling of the Lateran Council in 1215 is the most decisive piece of evidence in securing the view that Innocent wielded moral influence over the church, being arguably one of the most important councils of the Western church. ...read more.

Conclusion

p68 3 Charter of Submission from the King of England, 1213 in Thatcher and McNeal A Sourcebook for Medieval History (New York 1905) 4 C.R Cheney. 'England and the Roman Curia under Innocent III' Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Volume XVIII Number 2 1967) p172 5 Carlton Munro The Middle Ages 395-1272 (New York 1921) 6 Letter to the prefect Acerbius and the Nobles of Tuscany 1198 in Thatcher and McNeal A Sourcebook for Medieval History (New York 1905) 7 Carlton Munro Carlton Munro The Middle Ages 395-1272 (New York 1921) 8 Jane Sayer Innocent III Leader of Europe 1198-1216 (London 1994) p172 9 L.Elliott Binns Innocent III (Great Britain 1931) p110 10 C.R Cheney. 'England and the Roman Curia under Innocent III' Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Volume XVIII Number 2 1967) p182 11 quoted in Geoffrey Barraclough The Medieval Papacy (Great Britain 1968) 12 Carlton Munro Carlton Munro The Middle Ages 395-1272 (New York 1921) 13 Carlton Munro Carlton Munro The Middle Ages 395-1272 (New York 1921) 14 Jane Sayer Innocent III Leader of Europe 1198-1216 (London 1994)p52 15 Geoffrey Barraclough The Medieval Papacy (Great Britain 1968) p113 16 Jane Sayer Innocent III Leader of Europe 1198-1216 (London 1994)p52 17 C.R Cheney. 'England and the Roman Curia under Innocent III' Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Volume XVIII Number 2 1967) p174 18 Carlton Munro The Middle Ages 395-1272 (New York 1921) Arny Plaut - 1 - ...read more.

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