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Honorius II - Rags To Riches

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Mosaic of Honorius IIIn sharp contrast to the high-born blue blood Calixtus II, his successor Lambert was born of a poor family. But in the Middle Ages the Church provided a career open to talent, and of talent Lambert had plenty. About his early life little is known except that he was born at Fiagnano near Imola. He must have had a good education for he had the reputation of being crammed full of literature. He became archdeacon of Bologna and then under Urban II joined the papal court.

Paschal II made him cardinal-bishop of Ostia and Calixtus II sent him as legate to the famous Diet of Worms. There his diplomatic skill helped to bring an end to the lay investiture struggle. This success gave Lambert a reputation and made him an outstanding possibility for the papacy. Yet his election was to be most peculiar. With the strong hand of Calixtus removed, Rome rapidly returned to its customary disorder. The powerful Frangipane family wished to secure the election of Lambert, but the popular choice was Cardinal Saxo. The cardinals, as often happens chose neither favorite, but a dark horse, Theobald Buccapecu, who was called Celestine II. But while the cardinals, Lambert among them, were singing the Te Deum, the irritated Frangipani began to shout, "Lambert Pope!" and without more ado hustled Lambert off to a throne and proclaimed him Honorius II. A nasty schism was in the making, but Theobald, a good humble man, seeing that most of the cardinals went over to Honorius, resigned. Honorius also had qualms. Calling the cardinals together he too resigned; but though the cardinals accepted the resignation, they immediately re-elected him. His conscience appeased, Honorius accepted. Although the lay investiture quarrel had been settled at Worms, Honorius might have had trouble with Henry V. That wily monarch was not proving to be overnice in his fulfillment of the Concordat. But Henry died in 1125 and with him ended the Salian dynasty.

His successor, Lothair of Supplinburg, loyally carried out the Concordat. Honorius, in turn, loyally backed Lothair against a rebellion raised by Henry's nephew, Frederick of Hohenstaufen. When Roger of Sicily tried to take over South Italy, Honorius used both spiritual and temporal arms to stop him. Roger defied both, and Honorius gave in and allowed Roger to unite South Italy and Sicily. Honorius had to intervene strongly to restore good order in the great monasteries of Monte Cassino and Cluny. He also tried to settle the quarrel between Latin bishops in Palestine. A positive achievement was the solemn confirmation of the Premonstratensian Order in 1126. Honorius also approved the order of Knights Templar. These fighting monks along with the Hospitallers were a mighty bastion to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1130 Honorius felt that he was dying. Since Cardinal Pierleone openly planned to succeed him, Honorius withdrew to a monastery on the Celian. Even there his deathbed was disturbed. A rumor of his death brought Pierleoni swarming around the monastery, and they dispersed only when the sick Pope showed himself at a window. Honorius died on February 14, 1130.

Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.

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