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Nicholas II (died July 27, 1061), born Gérard de Bourgogne, Pope from 1059 to July 1061, was at the time of his election the Bishop of Florencemarker.

Antipope Benedict X

Benedict X was elected in 1058, his election having been arranged by the Count of Tusculum. However, a number of Cardinals alleged that the election was irregular, and that votes had been bought; these cardinals were forced to flee Romemarker. Hildebrand, later Pope Gregory VII (1073–85), when he heard of Benedict X's election, decided to oppose it, and obtained the support for the of election of Gérard de Bourgogne instead. In December 1058, those cardinals who had opposed Benedict X's election met at Sienamarker in December 1058, and elected Gérard as Pope. He then took the name Nicholas II.

Nicholas II proceeded towards Rome, along the way holding a synod at Sutrimarker, where he pronounced Benedict X deposed and excommunicated. The supporters of Nicholas II then gained control of Rome, and forced Benedict X to flee to the castle of Gerard of Galeria. Having arrived in Rome, Nicholas II then proceeded to wage war against Benedict X and his supporters, with Norman assistance. An initial battle was fought in Campagnamarker in early 1059, which was not wholly successful for Nicholas II; but later that same year, his forces conquered Praenestemarker, Tusculum and Numentanum, and then attacked Galeriamarker, forcing Benedict X to surrender and renounce the Papacy.

Relationship with the Normans

To secure his position, Nicholas II at once entered into relations with the Normans, now firmly established in southern Italymarker, and later in the year the new alliance was cemented at Melfimarker, where the Pope, accompanied by Hildebrand, Cardinal Humbert and the abbot Desiderius of Monte Cassinomarker, solemnly invested Robert Guiscard with the duchies of Apuliamarker, Calabria and Sicily, and Richard of Aversa with the principality of Capua, in return for oaths of fealty and the promise of assistance in guarding the rights of the Church.

The first fruits of this arrangement, which was based on no firmer foundation than the forged "Donation of Constantine", but destined to give to the papacy a position of independence towards both the Eastern and Western Empires, was the reduction in the autumn, with Norman aid, of Galeria, where the antipope had taken refuge, and the end of the subordination of the papacy to the Roman nobles.

Subordination of Milan

Meanwhile, Peter Damian and Bishop Anselm of Lucca had been sent by Nicholas II to Milanmarker to adjust the difference between the Patarenes and the archbishop and clergy. The result was a fresh triumph for the papacy. Archbishop Wido, in the face of the ruinous conflict in the Church of Milan, was forced to submit to the terms proposed by the legates, which involved the principle of the subordination of Milan to Rome; the new relation was advertised by the unwilling attendance of Wido and the other Milanese bishops at the council summoned to the Lateran palace in April 1059. This council not only continued the Hildebrandine reforms by sharpening the discipline of the clergy, but marks an epoch in the history of the papacy by its famous regulation of future elections to the Holy See.

Election reform

Previously, Papal elections had been effectively controlled by the Roman aristocracy, unless the Emperor was strong enough to be able to intervene from a distance to impose his will. As a result of the battles with the Antipope Benedict X, Nicholas II wished to reform papal elections. At the synod held in the Lateran at Easter, 1059, Pope Nicholas brought 113 bishops to Rome to consider a number of reforms, including a change in the election procedure. The electoral reform adopted by that synod amounted to a declaration of independence on the part of the church. Henceforth, popes were to be selected by the Cardinals, in assembly at Rome.


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