Pope Gregory IV

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Gregory IV
101-Gregory IV.jpg
Papacy beganOctober 827
Papacy ended25 January 844
Predecessor Valentine
Successor Sergius II
Created cardinal797
by Leo III
Personal details
Birth nameGregorius
Born Rome, Papal States
Died(844-01-25)25 January 844
Rome, Papal States
Other popes named Gregory

Pope Gregory IV (Latin : Gregorius IV; died 25 January 844) was Bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from October 827 to his death in 844. [1] His pontificate was notable for the papacy’s attempts to intervene in the quarrels between the emperor Louis the Pious and his sons. It also saw the breakup of the Carolingian Empire in 843.

Papal States territories in the Appenine Peninsula under the sovereign direct rule of the pope between 752–1870

The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitively in 1870. At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.

Holy Roman Emperor emperor of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The title was, almost without interruption, held in conjunction with title of King of Germany throughout the 12th to 18th centuries.

Louis the Pious King of Aquitaine

Louis the Pious, also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of the Franks and co-emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813. He was also King of Aquitaine from 781.


Early career

The son of a Roman patrician called John, Gregory was apparently an energetic but mild churchman, renowned for his learning. [2] Consecrated a priest during the pontificate of Pope Paschal I, at the time of Pope Valentine’s death in 827, Gregory was the Cardinal priest of the Basilica of St Mark in Rome. [3] Like his predecessor, Gregory was nominated by the nobility, and the electors unanimously agreed that he was the most worthy to become the Bishop of Rome. They found him at the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian where, despite his protestations, he was taken and installed at the Lateran Palace, after which he was enthroned as Pope-elect sometime in October 827. [4] [5] Gregory’s elevation to the papal see is believed to represent a continuation of the attempts to control the local political situation in Rome which had begun during Pope Eugene II’s pontificate. [6]

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Patrician (post-Roman Europe) post-Roman European social class; a formally defined class of governing upper classes found in metropolitan areas (Venice, Florence, Genoa, Amalfi) and Free cities of Germany (Nuremberg, Ravensburg, Augsburg, Konstanz, Lindau, Bern, Basel, Zurich)

Patricianship, the quality of belonging to a patriciate, began in the ancient world, where cities such as Ancient Rome had a class of patrician families whose members were the only people allowed to exercise many political functions. In the rise of European towns in the 12th and 13th century, the patriciate, a limited group of families with a special constitutional position, in Henri Pirenne's view, was the motive force. In 19th century central Europe, the term had become synonymous with the upper Bourgeoisie and can't be compared with the medieval patriciate in Central Europe. In the German-speaking parts of Europe as well as in the maritime republics of Italy, the patricians were as a matter of fact the ruling body of the medieval town and particularly in Italy part of the nobility.

Pope Paschal I pope

Pope Paschal I was pope from 25 January 817 to his death in 824.

His consecration was delayed, however, until March 29, 828, when he received notice of the Emperor Louis’ approval of his election. This delay was enforced by the imperial envoys, who insisted that the Constitution of 824 expressly forbid the consecration of any Pope-elect until the emperor had satisfied himself of the validity of the election. [7] It was said that the emperor reprimanded Gregory for attempting to have himself consecrated before receiving the approval of the emperor. [8] Gregory complied with these demands of imperial supremacy, and in 828 and 829, the Pope sent embassies to Louis for unspecified discussions.

The Constitutio Romana was drawn up between King Lothair I of Italy (818–855), co-emperor with his father, Louis the Pious, since 817, and Pope Eugene II (824–827) and confirmed on 11 November 824. At the time the election of Eugene was being challenged by Zinzinnus, the candidate of the Roman populace. Eugene agreed to several concessions to imperial power in central Italy in return for receiving the military and juridical support of Lothair. The Constitutio was divided into nine articles. It introduced the earliest known Papal Oath, which the Pope-elect was to give to an imperial legate before receiving consecration. It also restored the custom established by Pope Stephen III in 769 whereby both the laity and clergy of Rome would participate in Papal elections.

In January 829, Gregory was involved in a dispute with Farfa Abbey over the ownership of local monastic land by the Roman church. In a court run by a bishop and a representative of the emperor, and in the presence of Gregory, Ingoald, the Abbot of Farfa, claimed that the Frankish emperors had granted them the lands, and that Popes Adrian I and Leo III had taken possession of the land illegally. [9] The imperial representative made a ruling in favour of the abbey, and that the lands were to be restored to the monastery. [10] Although Gregory refused to accept the ruling, there is no evidence that he managed to get the decision overturned. [11]

Farfa Abbey Church in Fara in Sabina, Italy

Farfa Abbey is a territorial abbey in northern Lazio, central Italy. It is one of the most famous abbeys of Europe. It belongs to the Benedictine Order and is located about 60 km from Rome, in the commune of Fara Sabina, of which it is also a hamlet.

A missus dominicus, Latin for "envoy[s] of the lord [ruler]" or palace inspector, also known in Dutch as Zendgraaf, meaning "sent Graf", was an official commissioned by the Frankish king or Holy Roman Emperor to supervise the administration, mainly of justice, in parts of his dominions too remote for frequent personal visits. As such, the missus performed important intermediary functions between royal and local administrations. There are superficial points of comparison with the original Roman corrector, except that the missus was sent out on a regular basis. Four points made the missi effective as instruments of the centralized monarchy: the personal character of the missus, yearly change, isolation from local interests and the free choice of the king.

Ingoald was the Abbot of Farfa from 815, succeeding Benedict. At the beginning of his abbacy he vigorously protested the policies of Pope Leo III (795–816), which had resulted in the abbey's loss of property. Ingoald complained about not only the—illegitimate, as he saw it—seizure of Farfa's lands, but also the application of dubious laws of Roman origin in a zone that followed Lombard law. While Ingoald also fostered close contacts with the Carolingian rulers of Francia and Lombardy, he resisted secular encroachments on the abbey's privileges as staunchly as he resisted papal ones. The rate of property transactions at Farfa seems to have peaked under Ingoald, but the surviving documentary evidence is far from complete.

The quarrels of the Carolingians

Pope Gregory IV (in the middle) receives a book from Rabanus Maurus (on the right) Gregory-IV Raban-Maur.jpg
Pope Gregory IV (in the middle) receives a book from Rabanus Maurus (on the right)

In 817, by a solemn deed, confirmed by Paschal I, Louis had made a division of the empire in favour of his three sons by his first wife: the future emperor Lothair I, Pepin I of Aquitaine, and Louis the German. Over time, Papal dependence on the Holy Roman Emperor was loosened through the quarrels of Louis the Pious and his sons. Louis’ decision to jettison the agreement of 817 regarding the division of the empire by assigning a kingdom to his youngest son, Charles the Bald, in 829 was criticized by Gregory in a letter to the Frankish bishops. [12] The following year (October 830), after a brief rebellion and reconciliation between Louis and his sons, Gregory declared that Louis’ second wife Judith was to be released from the convent where she had been forced to take the veil, and to be returned to Louis. [13]

Lothair I 9th-century Frankish emperor

Lothair I or Lothar I was the Holy Roman Emperor, and the governor of Bavaria (815–817), King of Italy (818–855) and Middle Francia (840–855).

Pepin I of Aquitaine Frankish king

Pepin I or Pepin I of Aquitaine was King of Aquitaine and Duke of Maine.

Louis the German Frankish king

Louis "the German", also known as Louis II, was the first king of East Francia, and ruled from 843-876 AD. Grandson of emperor Charlemagne and the third son of emperor of Francia, Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye, he received the appellation Germanicus shortly after his death in recognition of Magna Germania of the Roman Empire, reflecting the Carolingian's assertions that they were the rightful descendants of the Roman Empire

When the war between father and sons resumed in Easter 833, Gregory was approached by Lothair, seeking his intervention to bring about reconciliation between Lothair and his father. He was convinced to leave Rome and travel up to join Lothair, in hopes that his intervention would promote peace, [14] but in practice this action annoyed the Frankish bishops who followed Louis, who believed that Gregory was actively supporting Lothair. Suspicious of Gregory’s intent, they refused to obey the Pope, and threatened to excommunicate him, were he to excommunicate them, and even to depose him as Pope. [15] Annoyed by their actions, Gregory's response was to insist upon the primacy of St Peter's successor, the papacy being superior to the Emperor. He stated:

Easter Major Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus

Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

”You professed to have felt delighted when you heard of my arrival, thinking that it would have been of great advantage for the emperor and the people; you added that you would have obeyed my summons had not a previous intimation of the emperor prevented you. But you ought to have regarded an order from the Apostolic See as not less weighty than one from the emperor. ...The government of souls, which belongs to bishops, is more important than the imperial, which is only concerned with the temporal. Your assertion that I have only come to blindly excommunicate is shameless, and your offer to give me an honourable reception if I should have come exactly in the way the emperor wanted me to is contemptuous. With regards to the oaths I have taken to the emperor, I will avoid perjury by pointing out to the emperor what he has done against the unity and peace of the Church and his kingdom. With regards to the bishops, in opposing my efforts in behalf of peace, what they threaten has not been done, from the beginning of the Church.” [16]

Regardless of this claim, the vast bulk of the Frankish bishops maintained that the pope had no business interfering in the internal affairs of the kingdom, or in expecting the Frankish clergy to follow his lead in such matters. Their position was clear, that the equality of all the bishops outranked the leadership of the pope. [17]

The armies of Louis and two of his sons met at Rotfeld, near Colmar, on June 24, 833. The sons persuaded Gregory to go to Louis's camp to negotiate, and initially Louis refused to treat Gregory with any honour. However, Gregory managed to convince Louis of his good faith, and returned to Lothair to arrange a peace. [18] However, Gregory soon learned that he had been deceived by Lothair. Gregory was prevented from returning to the emperor, while Louis was deserted by his supporters and was forced to surrender unconditionally; Louis was deposed and humiliated at the Campus Mendacii, and Lothair was proclaimed emperor. [19] Following these events, Gregory returned to Rome. A second fraternal quarrel resulted in Louis was being restored in 834, but his position was sufficiently weakened that Lothair retained the Kingdom of Italy.

The emperor then sent a delegation to see Gregory, headed by St. Anschar, the Archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen, to question the Pope on the events which led to Louis’s removal from the throne by Lothair. Gregory swore an oath that his intentions were honourable, and that he had always sought to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict between Louis and his sons. Accepting Gregory’s word, the envoys returned to Louis. [20] After this failure in dabbling in imperial politics, Gregory by and large focused his attention for the rest of his pontificate in dealing with internal church matters. [21]

In 836, Lothair, in his role as King of the Lombards, began stripping the possessions of the Roman church. After appealing to Louis, the emperor sent an imperial envoy to investigate the matter. Although Gregory was sick, he managed to advise the envoy of the situation, and asked him to take a letter to the emperor outlining Lothair’s attacks on the Church, which they managed to get past Lothair’s troops at Bologna. [22] Then in 840, with Louis’ death and the accession of Lothair as emperor, war again erupted between the sons of Louis. Gregory made unsuccessful attempts to mediate in the conflict that ensued between the brothers, sending George, the Archbishop of Ravenna as his representative. [23] According to Prudentius of Troyes, George faithfully tried to achieve his objective, but failed due to Lothair’s refusal to allow George to see Lothair’s brothers. However, according to Andreas Agnellus, George tried to bribe Lothair to make his archbishopric independent of Rome, and was captured at the Battle of Fontenoy. [24] The subsequent Treaty of Verdun in 843 broke up the empire of Charlemagne, with Lothair retaining the imperial title and control of Italy.

Building activities and religious issues

The interior of St Mark's Basilica in Rome, including the Byzantine mosaics commissioned by Gregory IV SanMarco-Interno01-SteO153.jpg
The interior of St Mark’s Basilica in Rome, including the Byzantine mosaics commissioned by Gregory IV

Gregory also contributed to the architectural development of Rome. In 833, Gregory completely rebuilt St Mark’s Basilica in Rome, adorning the walls with Byzantine-style mosaics, [25] as well as a number of other churches which he either repaired or rebuilt. He rebuilt the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica, and within the newly decorated chapel within the basilica he transferred the body of Saint Gregory, and from the Catacombs of Rome, he moved Saint Sebastian, Saint Tiburtius, and Saint Gorgonius. [26] He raised the altar in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, and founded a monastery close to the church. [27]

Gregory also repaired the Aqua Traiana, which had been damaged during the pontificate of Leo III. [28] Sometime after 841 Gregory rebuilt and fortified parts of the port of Ostia against the attacks of Saracens, renaming it Gregoriopolis. [29] Around the same time he restored the colony of Galeria along the Via Portuensis, while also establishing a new colony, called Draco, along the left bank of the Tiber River, some eleven miles from Rome along the Via Ostiensis. This was the first clear example of land development undertaken by a Pope within his own territory. [30]

Gregory’s pontificate witnessed the end of the iconoclasm controversy in the Byzantine Empire, [31] while Gregory himself promoted the celebration of the feast of All Saints within the Frankish kingdom on both sides of the Rhine River. [32] Gregory is also known for his appointment of Ansgar as Archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen in 832, and as the apostolic legate to the northern and eastern parts of Europe. [33] On March 31, 837, Gregory sent the Pallium to the Archbishop of Salzburg; he also sent one to Venerius, the Patriarch of Grado, in 828, in support of his claims to have jurisdiction over the bishops of Istria. When a synod awarded jurisdiction to Maxentius, the Patriarch of Aquileia, Venerius appealed to Gregory, who supported him. Meanwhile, the Lombard King Lothair backed Maxentius, who forced the bishops of Istria to obey him, while at the same time ignoring Gregory’s orders to cease. [34] Gregory also supported the candidacy of John IV (Bishop of Naples). [35]

Gregory was also asked to arbitrate during his journey to Francia in 833 the case against Aldric of Le Mans, who was being forced out of his see by partisans of Lothair. [36] On July 8 833, Gregory wrote to the bishops of “Gaul, Europe and Germany” declaring that Aldric had every right to appeal to the pope, and that until the pope had issued a judgement one way or the other, no-one could pass a sentence against him. Further, that this mandate had to be obeyed in order to remain in communion with the Roman church. [37] The letter together with the restoration of Louis allowed Aldric to remain in his see for some time. [38]

Gregory was also asked by emperor Louis’s representative, Amalarius of Metz, to provide an Antiphonary for use at church services at Metz, to which Gregory was forced to admit that he had none suitable for the emperor, as he had already given a number to Wala of Corbie, which he had already taken to Francia. [39]

On January 25, 844, Gregory IV died, [6] and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. He was succeeded by Pope Sergius II.

See also


  1. Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Gregory IV"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. Mann, pg. 190; DeCormenin, pg. 218
  3. Mann, pg. 189
  4. Mann, pg. 190
  5. Hughes, Philip, History of the Church, Vol II (1948), pg. 183
  6. 1 2 Levillain, pg. 644
  7. Levillain, pg. 644; Mann, pg. 191
  8. DeCormenin, pg. 218
  9. Mann, pgs. 191-192
  10. DeCormenin, pg. 219
  11. Mann, pg. 192
  12. Mann, pg. 194
  13. Mann, pgs. 195-196
  14. Mann, pgs. 197-198
  15. Mann, pgs. 199-200; DeCormenin, pg. 219
  16. Mann, pgs. 201-202
  17. Noble, Thomas, The Papacy in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries, in The New Cambridge Medieval History, Volume 1 (1995), pg. 584
  18. Mann, pgs. 202-203
  19. Mann, pg. 203
  20. DeCormenin, pg. 220
  21. Levillain, pg. 644; Mann, pgs. 204-205
  22. Mann, pgs. 205-206
  23. Mann, pg. 207
  24. Mann, pgs. 207-208
  25. Mann, pgs. 189-190
  26. Goodson, Caroline, The Rome of Pope Paschal I (2010), pg. 278
  27. Mann, pg. 218
  28. Mann, pg. 217
  29. Mann, pg. 216; DeCormenin, pg. 219
  30. Levillain, pg. 644; Mann, pgs. 217-218
  31. Mann, pgs. 212-213
  32. Mann, pg. 230
  33. Mann, pgs. 219-220
  34. Mann, pgs. 222-223
  35. Mann, pg. 224
  36. Mann, pg. 226
  37. Mann, pg. 227
  38. Mann, pgs. 227-228
  39. Mann, pgs. 228-229

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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Sergius II