Pope Clement III (1187-91)
Who was Pope Clement III?
Date of birth for Pope Clement III is unknown; elected 19 December, 1187; d. 27 March, 1191. During the short space (1181-1198) which separated the glorious pontificates of Alexander III and Innocent III, no less than five pontiffs occupied in rapid succession the papal chair.
They were all veterans trained in the school of Alexander, and needed only their earlier youthful vigour and length of reign to gain lasting renown in an age of great events. Gregory VIII, after a pontificate of two months, died on 17 December, 1187, at Pisa, whither he had gone to expedite the preparations for the recovery of Jerusalem; he was succeeded two days later by the Cardinal-Bishop of Palestrina, Paolo Scolari, a Roman by birth.
The choice was particularly acceptable to the Romans; for he was the first native of their city who was elevated to the papacy since their rebellion in the days of Arnold of Brescia, and his well-known mildness and love of peace turned their thoughts towards a reconciliation, more necessary to them than to the pope. Overtures led to the conclusion of a formal treaty, by which the papal sovereignty and the municipal liberties were equally secured; and in the following February Clement made his entry into the city amid the boundless enthusiasm of a population which never seemed to have learned the art of living either with or without the pope.
Seated in the Lateran, Pope Clement turned his attention to the gigantic task of massing the forces of Christendom against the Saracens. He was the organizer of the Third Crusade; and if that imposing expedition produced insignificant results, the blame nowise attaches to him. He dispatched legates to the different courts, who laboured to restore harmony among the belligerent monarchs and princes, and to divert their energy towards the reconquest of the Holy Sepulchre. Fired by the example of the Emperor Barbarossa and of the Kings of France and England, a countless host of Christian warriors took the road which led them to Palestine and death. At the time of Clement's death, just before the capture of Acre, the prospects, notwithstanding the drowning of Barbarossa and the return of Philip Augustus, still seemed bright enough.
The death of the pope's chief vassal, William II of Sicily, precipitated another unfortunate quarrel between the Holy See and the Hohenstaufen. Henry VI, the son and successor of Barbarossa, claimed the kingdom by right of his wife Constanza, the only legitimate survivor of the House of Roger.
The pope, whose independence was at an end, if the empire and the Two Sicilies were held by the same monarch, as well as the Italians who detested the rule of a foreigner, determined upon resistance, and when the Sicilians proclaimed Tancred of Lecce, a brave but illegitimate scion of the family of Roger, as king, the pope gave him the investiture. Henry advanced into Italy with a strong army to enforce his claim; an opportune death reserved the continuation of the contest to Clement's successor, Celestine III.
By a wise moderation Clement succeeded in quieting the disturbances caused by contested elections in the Dioceses of Trier in Germany and St. Andrews in Scotland. He also delivered the Scottish Church from the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of York and declared it directly subject to the Holy See. Clement canonized Otto of Bamberg, the Apostle of Pomerania (d. 1139), and Stephen of Thiers in Auvergne, founder of the Hermits of Grammont (d. 1124).
- Catholic Encyclopedia