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The Popes and the Templars

Pope Honorius II (9 February 1060 – 13 February 1130), born Lamberto Scannabecchi, was Pope from 21 December 1124 to his death in 1130.

Although from a humble background, his obvious intellect and outstanding abilities saw him promoted up through the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Attached to the Frangipani family of Rome, his election as pope was contested by a rival candidate, Celestine II, and force was used to guarantee his election.

Honorius' pontificate was concerned with ensuring that the privileges the Roman Catholic Church had obtained through the Concordat of Worms were preserved and, if possible, extended. He was the first pope to confirm the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. Distrustful of the traditional Benedictine order, he favored new monastic orders, such as the Augustinians and the Cistercians, and sought to exercise more control over the larger monastic centers of Monte Cassino and Cluny Abbey. He also approved the new military order of the Knights Templar in 1128.

Honorius II failed to prevent Roger II of Sicily from extending his power in southern Italy and was unable to stop Louis VI of France from interfering in the affairs of the French church. Like his predecessors, he managed the wide-ranging affairs of the church through Papal Legates. With his death in 1130, the Church was again thrown into confusion with the election of two rival popes, Innocent II and the antipope Anacletus II.

The Conclave of 1124

Pressures building within the Curia, together with ongoing conflicts among the

Roman nobility, would erupt after the death of Callixtus II in 1124. The pontificates of

Urban II and Paschal II saw an expansion in the College of Cardinals of Italian clerics

that strengthened the local Roman influence. These cardinals were reluctant to meet

with the batch of cardinals recently promoted by Callixtus II, who were

mainly French or Burgundian. As far as the older cardinals were concerned, these

newer cardinals were dangerous innovators, and they were determined to resist their

increasing influence. The northern cardinals, led by Cardinal Aymeric de Borgogne

(the Papal Chancellor), were equally determined to ensure that the elected pope would

be one of their candidates. Both groups looked towards the great Roman families for


By 1124, there were two great factions dominating local politics in Rome:

the Frangipani family, which controlled the region around the fortified Colosseum and

supported the northern cardinals, and the Pierleoni family, which controlled the Tiber

Island and the fortress of the Theatre of Marcellus and supported the Italian

cardinals. With Callixtus II’s death on 13 December 1124, both families agreed that the

election of the next pope should be in three days time, in accordance with the church

canons. The Frangipani, led by Leo Frangipani, pushed for the delay in order that they

could promote their preferred candidate, Lamberto, but the people were eager to see

Saxo de Anagni, the Cardinal-Priest of San Stefano in Celiomonte elected as the next

pope. Leo, eager to ensure a valid election, approached key members of every

Cardinal’s entourage, promising each one that he would support their master when the

voting for the election was underway.

On 16 December, all the Cardinals, including Lamberto, assembled in the chapel

of the monastery of St. Pancratius attached to the south of the Lateran basilica. There,

at the suggestion of Jonathas, the Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano, who

was a partisan of the Pierleoni family, the Cardinals unanimously elected as Pope the

Cardinal-Priest of Sant’ Anastasia, Theobaldo Boccapecci, who took the

name Celestine II. He had only just put on the red mantle and the Te Deum was being

sung when an armed party of Frangipani supporters (in a move pre-arranged with

Cardinal Aymeric) burst in, attacked the newly enthroned Celestine, who was wounded,

and acclaimed Lamberto as Pope. Since Celestine had not been formally consecrated

pope, the wounded candidate declared himself willing to resign, but the Pierleoni family

and their supporters refused to accept Lamberto, who in the confusion had been

proclaimed Pope under the name Honorius II.

The Establishment of the Templars

In 1119, a new religious order had been established by some French noblemen. Called the Knights Templar, they were to protect Christian pilgrims entering the Holy Land and to defend the conquests of the Crusades. However, until the time of the pontificate of Honorius II, they had not yet received any official sanction from the papacy. To rectify this situation, some members of the order appeared before the Council of Troyes in 1129, where the Council expressed its approval of the order and commissioned Bernard of Clairvaux to draw up the order’s rules, which now included vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The order and the rules were subsequently approved by Honorius.

Honorius, as suzerain of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, re-confirmed the election of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and established him as the royal patron of the Templars. Honorius tried to manage as best he could the rivalries of the different princes and high-ranking ecclesiastics that were destabilizing the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Long-standing arguments over areas of jurisdiction between the Latin Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem were a constant source of irritation to Honorius. Honorius supported the claims of William of Malines, the new Archbishop of Tyre who claimed jurisdiction over some of the sees that had traditionally belonged to Bernard of Valence, the Patriarch of Antioch. Bernard refused to give up his claims to the sees, and William travelled to Rome and presented his case before Honorius. The pope sent a legate back to Palestine with instructions that Bernard was to acquiesce and that the various bishops were to submit to William of Malines within forty days. Bernard managed to resist implementing Honorius’s instructions, and soon Honorius was too ill to do anything about it.

January 13, 1128

On this day in 1128, Pope Honorius II grants a papal sanction to the military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it to be an army of God. The Knights Templar were a military monastic order that came into being circa 1119 as a collection of French noblemen whose stated purpose was to protect pilgrims on the perilous route to Israel after the victorious First Crusade (1095-1099) opened up the Holy Land to Christian pilgrims.

They initially called themselves the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ, and they swore the vows of monkhood as well as knighthood, renouncing natural desires and swearing chastity, faith, obedience, discipline and poverty. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem was impressed and granted the knights, numbering only nine at the time, a portion of the Temple of Solomon (also the site of the Muslim al-Aqsa mosque) to use as a base. Thus, they became known as the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple, or the Knights Templar for short. By 1125, Hugues de Payens, one of the Order’s founders, was making regular trips to Europe to recruit followers and lobby for funding.

Many noblemen and knights were smitten by the romance of belonging to and fighting for such an Order, and many pledged money and land to the Knights. Over the next two years, de Payens moved in the highest circles of Europe and France, spreading word and establishing the first Templar Preceptory in London, not far from the magnificent Temple Church inside the Inns of Court. de Payens finest triumph was when he caught the ear of Bernard of Clairvaux, an influential theologian and later canonized in 1174. de Payens was invited to make representations at the Council of Troyes in 1128. The Council endorsed the Order as a charitable organization, and Bernard was tasked with drawing up what was later known as Latin Rule of the Templars, consisting of regulations that would form the core of the Rule of the Templars. The Rule followed many of the patterns of Bernard’s own Rule for the Cistercian Order of Monks.

The Death of Honorius

After almost a year of suffering a painful illness, Honorius fell seriously ill in early 1130. Cardinal Aymeric and the Frangipani family began planning their next moves, and Honorius was taken to the San Gregorio Magno al Celiomonastery, which was located in the territory controlled by the Frangipani. Supporters of the Pierleoni family, already preparing to back Pietro Pierleoni on a rumor that Honorius had died, stormed the monastery of the dying Honorius, hoping to force the election of Pietro. Only the sight of the still living Honorius in full pontifical robes forced them to disperse.

Nevertheless, Cardinal Aymeric’s plans had not yet reached fruition when Honorius died on the evening of 13 February 1130. The cardinals supporting the Frangipani immediately closed the monastery gates and refused to allow anyone inside. The next day, and contrary to the usual customs, Honorius was quickly buried without any pomp or ceremony in the monastery, as the hand-picked cardinals got around to electing Gregorio Papareschi, who took the name Pope Innocent II. At the same time, the excluded cardinals, most of whom were supporters of the Pierleoni family, elected Pietro Pierleoni, who took the name Anacletus II, throwing the church once again into schism. Honorius eventually transferred from the monastery to the Lateran for reburial once Innocent II had been elected. He was buried in the south transept next to the body of Callixtus II.

Papal Coat of Arms

Heraldry developed out of military insignia from the time of the First Crusade. The first papal coats of arms appeared when heraldry began to be codified in the 12th to 13th centuries. At first, the popes simply used the secular coat of arms of their family. Thus, Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254), who was born Sinibaldo Fieschi, presumably used the Fieschi coat of arms, as did Adrian V (Ottobon de Fieschi), the nephew of Innocent IV.

It is possible that already some 13th-century popes used their secular coat of arms during their papacy: According to Michel Pastoureau, Pope Innocent IV (1243- 1254) is likely the first who displayed personal arms, but the first of whom a contemporary coat of arms survives is Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). Some sources also indicate family arms (not attributed arms) of the popes of the second half of the 12th century; thus, editions of the Annuario Pontificio of the 1960s presented the arms of the popes beginning with Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), and John Woodward gave those of the popes from Pope Lucius II (1144-1145) onward. Thus, Innocent III (Lothaire de Segni, 1160-1216) and Gregory IX (Ugolin de Segni, 1145-1241) may have used the coat of arms of the Counts of Segni. Therefore, for the first several popes of the Templars, there exists no coat of arms.

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