Pope Gregory IX

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Gregory IX
Bishop of Rome
Gregory IX in a manuscript miniature c. 1270
ChurchCatholic Church
Papacy began19 March 1227
Papacy ended22 August 1241
PredecessorHonorius III
SuccessorCelestine IV
Consecrationc. 1206
Created cardinalDecember 1198
by Innocent III
Personal details
Ugolino di Conti

Died(1241-08-22)22 August 1241 (aged 95-96)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post(s)
Coat of armsGregory IX's coat of arms
Other popes named Gregory
Ordination history of
Pope Gregory IX
Elevated byPope Innocent III
DateDecember 1198
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Pope Gregory IX as principal consecrator
Bishop Gregoire2 April 1206
Bishop Cencio (Pope Honorius III)24 July 1216
Bishop Siegfried Ratisbona?? ???? 1227
Mariano FilangeriMarch 1227
Silvestre Godinho4 August 1231
Baudoin d'Aulne, O. Cist.1232
Wilbrand de Kevenburg (Käfernburg)25 November 1235
Walter Cantilupe3 May 1237
Guercio Tebalducci16 May 1237
João Rol (Raol, Raolis)21 December 1239

Pope Gregory IX (Latin: Gregorius IX; born Ugolino di Conti; 1145 – 22 August 1241)[1] was head of the Catholic Church and the ruler of the Papal States from 19 March 1227 until his death in 1241. He is known for issuing the Decretales and instituting the Papal Inquisition, in response to the failures of the episcopal inquisitions established during the time of Pope Lucius III, by means of the papal bull Ad abolendam, issued in 1184.

He worked initially as a cardinal, and after becoming the successor of Honorius III, he fully inherited the traditions of Gregory VII and of his own cousin Innocent III, and zealously continued their policy of papal supremacy.

Early life[edit]

Ugolino (Hugh) was born in Anagni. The date of his birth varies in sources between c. 1145[1] and 1170.[2] He is said to have been "in his nineties, if not nearly one hundred years old" at his death.[3] He received his education at the Universities of Paris and Bologna.

He was created Cardinal-Deacon of the church of Sant'Eustachio by his cousin[4] Innocent III in December 1198. In 1206 he was promoted to the rank of Cardinal Bishop of Ostia e Velletri. He became Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals in 1218 or 1219. Upon the special request of Saint Francis, in 1220, Pope Honorius III appointed him Cardinal Protector of the order of the Franciscans.

As Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, he cultivated a wide range of acquaintances, among them the Queen of England, Isabella of Angoulême.[5]


Gregory IX was elevated to the papacy in the papal election of 1227.[1] He took the name "Gregory" because he formally assumed the papal office at the monastery of Saint Gregory ad Septem Solia.[6] That same year, in one of his earliest acts as pope, he expanded the Inquisition powers already assigned to Konrad von Marburg to encompass the investigation of heresy throughout the whole of Germany.

Gregory's bull Parens scientiarum of 1231, after the University of Paris strike of 1229, resolved differences between the unruly university scholars of Paris and the local authorities. His solution was in the manner of a true follower of Innocent III: he issued what in retrospect has been viewed as the magna carta of the University, assuming direct control by extending papal patronage: his bull allowed future suspension of lectures over a flexible range of provocations, from "monstrous injury or offense" to squabbles over "the right to assess the rents of lodgings".

In October 1232, after an investigation by legates, Gregory proclaimed a crusade against the Stedinger to be preached in northern Germany. In June 1233, he granted a plenary indulgence to those who took part.[7]

In 1233 Gregory IX established the Papal Inquisition to regularize the prosecution of heresy.[8] The Papal Inquisition was intended to bring order to the haphazard episcopal inquisitions which had been established by Lucius III in 1184. Gregory's aim was to bring order and legality to the process of dealing with heresy, since there had been tendencies by mobs of townspeople to burn alleged heretics without much of a trial. In 1231 Pope Gregory IX appointed a number of Papal Inquisitors (Inquisitores haereticae pravitatis), mostly Dominicans and Franciscans, for the various regions of France, Italy and parts of Germany. Contrary to popular belief, the aim was to introduce due process and objective investigation into the beliefs of those accused to the often erratic and unjust persecution of heresy on the part of local ecclesiastical and secular jurisdictions.[9]

Page from a late 13 c. copy of the Decretals of Gregory IX, now in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

Gregory was a remarkably skillful and learned lawyer. He caused to be prepared Nova Compilatio decretalium, which was promulgated in numerous copies in 1234 (first printed at Mainz in 1473). This New Compilation of Decretals was the culmination of a long process of systematising the mass of pronouncements that had accumulated since the Early Middle Ages, a process that had been under way since the first half of the 12th century and had come to fruition in the Decretum, compiled and edited by the papally commissioned legist Gratian and published in 1140. The supplement completed the work, which provided the foundation for papal legal theory.

In the 1234 Decretals, he invested the doctrine of perpetua servitus iudaeorum – perpetual servitude of the Jews – with the force of canonical law. According to this, the followers of the Talmud would have to remain in a condition of political servitude until Judgment Day. The doctrine then found its way into the doctrine of servitus camerae imperialis, or servitude immediately subject to the Emperor's authority, promulgated by Frederick II. The Jews were thus suppressed from having direct influence over the political process and the life of Christian states into the 19th century and the rise of liberalism.[10] In 1234, Gregory issued the papal bull Rachel suum videns calling for a new crusade to the Holy Land, leading to the Crusade of 1239.

In 1239, under the influence of Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, Gregory ordered that all copies of the Jewish Talmud be confiscated. Following a public disputation between Christians and Jewish theologians, this culminated in a mass burning of some 12,000 handwritten Talmudic manuscripts on 12 June 1242, in Paris.

Gregory was a supporter of the mendicant orders which he saw as an excellent means for counteracting by voluntary poverty the love of luxury and splendour which was possessing many ecclesiastics. He was a friend of Saint Dominic as well as Clare of Assisi. On 17 January 1235, he approved the Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the redemption of captives. He appointed ten cardinals[11] and canonized Saints Elisabeth of Hungary, Dominic, Anthony of Padua, and Francis of Assisi, of whom he had been a personal friend and early patron. He transformed a chapel to Our Lady in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.

Gregory IX endorsed the Northern Crusades and attempts to bring Orthodox Slavic peoples in Eastern Europe (particularly Pskov Republic and the Novgorod Republic) under the Papacy's fold.[12] In 1232, Gregory IX asked the Livonian Brothers of the Sword to send troops to protect Finland, whose semi-pagan people were fighting against the Novgorod Republic in the Finnish-Novgorodian wars;[13] however, there is no known information if any ever arrived to assist.

Struggle with Frederick II[edit]

Fanciful 16th c. fresco depicting Gregory excommunicating Frederick II in the Sala Regia, by Giorgio Vasari. Since few details where provided to the artist, the excommunication scene is given generically. Fredrick is shown pointing to a book with the word "Concilium" shown, possibly a reference to the general council that the emperor attempted to call to depose Gregory.[14]

At the coronation of Frederick II in Rome, 22 November 1220, the emperor made a vow to embark for the Holy Land in August 1221. Gregory IX began his pontificate by suspending the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, for dilatoriness in carrying out the promised Sixth Crusade. Frederick II appealed to the sovereigns of Europe complaining of his treatment. The suspension was followed by excommunication and threats of deposition, as deeper rifts appeared. Frederick II went to the Holy Land and in fact managed to take possession of Jerusalem. Gregory IX distrusted the emperor, since Rainald, the imperial Governor of Spoleto, had invaded the Pontifical States during the emperor's absence.[1] In June 1229, Frederick II returned from the Holy Land, routed the papal army which Gregory IX had sent to invade Sicily, and made new overtures of peace to the pope. The war of 1228–1230 is known as the War of the Keys.

Gregory IX and Frederick came to a truce, but when Frederick defeated the Lombard League in 1239, the possibility that he might dominate all of Italy, surrounding the Papal States, became a very real threat. A new outbreak of hostilities led to a fresh excommunication of the emperor in 1239 and to a prolonged war. Gregory denounced Frederick II as a heretic and summoned a council at Rome to give point to his anathema. Frederick responded by trying to capture or sink as many ships carrying prelates to the synod as he could. Eberhard II von Truchsees, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, in 1241 at the Council of Regensburg declared that Gregory IX was "that man of perdition, whom they call Antichrist, who in his extravagant boasting says, 'I am God, I cannot err'."[15] He argued that the Pope was the "little horn" of Daniel 7:8:[16]

A little horn has grown up with eyes and mouth speaking great things, which is reducing three of these kingdoms – i.e. Sicily, Italy, and Germany – to subserviency, is persecuting the people of Christ and the saints of God with intolerable opposition, is confounding things human and divine, and is attempting things unutterable, execrable.[17]

The struggle only ended with of Gregory IX's death on 22 August 1241. The pope died before events could reach their climax; it was his successor, Innocent IV, who in 1245 declared a crusade that would finish the Hohenstaufen threat.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ott, Michael (1909). "Pope Gregory IX" . Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6.
  2. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz (1990). "Gregor IX., Papst". In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm (ed.). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). Vol. 2. Hamm: Bautz. cols. 317–320. ISBN 3-88309-032-8.[dead link]
  3. ^ Brett Edward Whalen (2019), The Two Powers: The Papacy, the Empire, and the Struggle for Sovereignty in the Thirteenth Century, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 122.
  4. ^ Werner Maleczek, Papst und Kardinalskolleg von 1191 bis 1216, (Vienna: Verlag der Oesterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1984), 126–133.
  5. ^ David Abulafia, Frederick II: a Medieval Emperor 1992. 480 pages. Oxford University Press, USA (1 November 1992) ISBN 0-19-508040-8
  6. ^ "De Montor, Artaud. The Lives and Times of the Popes, The Catholic Publication Society of New York, 1911". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
  7. ^ Carsten Selch Jensen, "Stedinger Crusades (1233–1234)", in Alan V. Murray (ed.), The Crusades: An Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (ABC-CLIO, 2017), vol. 4, pp. 1121–1122.
  8. ^ Vizzier, Anne r., "Gregory IX", Dictionary of World Biography, Vol. 2, Frank Northen Magill, Alison Aves ed., Routledge, 1998 ISBN 9781579580414
  9. ^ Thomas Madden, "The Real Inquisition", National Review, June 18, 2004.
  10. ^ Dietmar Preissler, Frühantisemitismus in der Freien Stadt Frankfurt und im Großherzogtum Hessen (1810 bis 1860), p.30, Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg 1989, ISBN 3-533-04129-8 (in German). The doctrine's Vatican indexing is liber extra – c. 13, X, 5.6, De Iudaeis: Iudaeos, quos propria culpa submisit perpetua servituti; the Decretum online (in Latin)
  11. ^ Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, Cardinali di Curia e "Familiae" cardinalizie dal 1227 al 1254 2 vols. (series "Italia Sacra", Padua: Antenori) 1972 (in Italian). A prosopography that includes Gregory's ten cardinals and their familiae or official households, both clerical and lay.
  12. ^ Christiansen, Eric. The Northern Crusades. New York: Penguin Books, 1997. ISBN 0-14-026653-4
  13. ^ "Letter by Pope Gregory IX". Archived from the original on 2007-08-14.. In Latin.
  14. ^ Jong, Jan L. de (2012). The power and the glorification : papal pretensions and the art of propaganda in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 140−141. ISBN 9780271062372.
  15. ^ The Methodist Review Vol. XLIII, No. 3, p. 305.
  16. ^ Daniel 7:8
  17. ^ Article on "Antichrist" from Smith and Fuller, A Dictionary of the Bible, 1893, p. 147

Further reading[edit]

  • Pietro Balan, Storia di Gregorio IX e suoi tempi 3 volumes (Modena 1873).
  • Kathleen Brady, Francis and Clare The Struggles of the Saints of Assisi. (New York: Lodwin Press, 2021). ISBN 978-1565482210.
  • Joseph Felten, Papst Gregor IX. (Freiburg i.B. 1886).
  • Iben Fonnesberg-Schmidt, The Popes and the Baltic Crusades 1147–1254 (Leiden, Brill. 2007) (The Northern World, 26).
  • Guido Levi, Registri dei Cardinali Ugolino d' Ostia e Ottaviano degli Ubaldini (Roma 1890).
  • Damian J. Smith, ed. Pope Gregory IX (1227–1241): Power and Authority (Amsterdam University Press, 2023).
  • Jeffrey M. Wayno. "Governing through influence at the thirteenth-century papal court". Journal of Medieval History (2022).

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Cardinal-bishop of Ostia
Succeeded by
Preceded by Dean of the College of Cardinals
Succeeded by
Preceded by Pope
Succeeded by