My little project of weekly Pope drawings has hit a delay in the last month but it’s a most wonderful delay. We welcomed our new baby in March and He really wouldn’t be here except for us joining the Catholic Church 4 years ago. The Church’s teaching on birth control,held firm by future Saint,Pope Paul VI,caused us to completely reevaluate our perspective and reexamine how we live our lives. Along with other weird hints(that are almost too crazy to believe)that God kept using to nudge us into this direction,we decided to drop the birth control and allow our family to be open to life and open to a third baby. It didn’t take long before our little arrow from God arrived and he has brightened our lives in all new ways and now we can’t imagine our family without our little cradle Catholic! Our baby literally would not be here without the Catholic Church or Pope Paul VI’s stand to uphold her teachings and I and my family will forever be grateful for the great changes that it has brought to our lives.
Pope Victor III was described as a man of “unusual holiness” and he much preferred to remain the abbot of his beloved Monte Cassino monastery than become Pope. Reluctant and also gravely ill,Victor had a short and unremarkable Papacy. Victor is one of the few Popes to be buried outside of St.Peter’s basilica. His body is entombed in the chapter-house of Monte Cassino(where he did his greatest work),but it was briefly moved to Rome during World War II for safe keeping. Pope Victor III was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1887 and that puts him one step away from being declared a Saint.
Before he was Pope,Gregory VII(born Hildebrand of Sovana)was a major player behind the scenes of several Popes and in how they would be elected for the rest of time. When he became Pope he was a force to be reckoned with,asserting his supremacy over both Church and state matters. The majority of his Papacy was actually spent in a running feud with Holy Roman emperor Henry IV,who Gregory excommunicated three times. One of those times Henry appeared before the Pope in a hairshirt begging and crying for forgiveness……..then a few years later to turn around and try to remove Gregory by force and install his own Pope. Their major issue was known as The Investiture Controversy. This was a fight over whether secular rulers,such as Henry,had the right to install their own Bishops and Abbots in their own lands,which is something the Pope felt that they had no authority to do. The back and forth between Gregory and Henry peaked when Henry invaded Rome only to be forced back by Normans loyal to Gregory……and these guys unfortunately then sacked the city. The Romans felt betrayed by the Pope and ran him out of town,where he died in exile.
Pope Alexander II continued to push the powerful reforms to the Church started by his predecessors. The first Pope elected under the new rules made by Pope Nicholas(only Cardinals elect the Pope),Alexander didn’t waste any time going to work on cleaning up his Church. He cleaned out corrupt clergy and supported moves to push out Muslims in Sicily and Spain. Alexander moved his Catholic chess pieces into far-ranging positions,the results of which are still felt today. He appointed a priest named Stanislaus to be the new Bishop of Krakow,Poland. This new Bishop made his name standing up to the King of Poland,being martyred in the process,cementing his Sainthood. Saint Stanislaus is one of the beloved patron saints of Poland,with much of that Deeply Catholic country devoted to him and grateful for his intercession of their prayers. Next,Pope Alexander granted his blessing to French William the Conqueror in his quest to invade England. Alexander favored William over the current King due to William’s vow to help clean up the English Church. William’s invasion,and victory,changed the course of English history(language,art,architecture and we’re probably all related to him in some way or another)
On a smaller scale that is felt at every Mass during Lent is Alexander’s decision to not sing the “Alleluia” before the Gospel reading. The “Alleluia” is pretty joyful song and for Lent we are supposed to be preparing ourselves for the coming death,and resurrection,of our Lord.
Before Pope Stephen IX died,he left strict instructions to his Cardinals not to elect a new Pope until they were all there in one place to convene. While they waited,impatient Roman nobles rushed to elect a Pope of their own,Benedict X. The senior Cardinals fled Rome and then finally got together to elect the Bishop of Florence as the new Pope,who took the name Nicholas II. Backed by the army of Duke Godfrey of Lorraine,Nicholas marched back into Rome and ran the anti-pope Benedict out of town. Once officially installed,Nicholas called a synod to set up new and strict rules for elections. In the previous thousand years Popes were elected in any number of ways,sometimes shady,sometimes not. The new rules only allowed Cardinals to elect the Pope,in secret,and without influence from lay people or nobles or from any various royalty from different places. These rules for the Papal election would go through various streamlining changes,even until now,but they were basically laid down with Nicholas II. While reading up on this I came across the meaning of the word “Cardinal”. It’s derived from a Latin word meaning “hinge”,as in the hinge of the door is very important for it to work,so a Cardinal is a very important part of the Church in order for it to function properly. The red that they wear symbolizes that they will shed their blood to protect the Church if they have to. When settlers first arrived in North America they nicknamed the red birds that they saw after the Catholic Cardinals……(“Catholic Cardinals” sounds like a good name for a Catholic school sports team)
Pope Stephen IX was another of the great reforming Popes,dispatching his cardinals to different parts of Europe to enforce his rules about clergy celibacy and simony. Stephen was dying when he was elected,so he brought about new rules to insure an independent and canonical election for his successor. Feeling that his end was drawing near,Stephen made his cardinals promise that if he died,they would wait until all of them were present before they elected the new Pope. His election plans were unfortunately thrown out the window after his death,causing some anti-Pope shenanigans that we’ll discuss next week.
Pope Victor II was the next in line of the reforming Popes. Victor II took his name from Victor I,who was our first African Pope. Often times when a new Pope is elected,they choose a name to let the world what kind of tone their Papacy will take. Victor II, and his successors,Pope Damasus II and Leo IX,each choose their retro Pope names to call back to the early days of the office when more virtuous men were in the chair of Peter. The most interesting thing about Pope Victor II was that when he passed away,his body was being transported back to Germany for burial but it only made it as far as Ravenna,Italy. That’s where a mob of heavily armed people forcibly took Victor’s body and buried in their local Church. Very strange. Huge fans of Pope Victor? Maybe hunting a local economy boost from Pilgrims that want to see a Pope’s tomb? Probably the latter. His body is still there,at The Church of Santa Maria Rotunda. All the more strange considering the next Pope named Victor(Victor III,1086-1087),would also have burial troubles as his dead body moved from Church to Church to Church until finally finding rest as late as 1963.
Pope Saint Leo IX was a strict reformer and one of our warrior Popes,leading armies against the Normans in southern Italy. He began his career as a reforming Bishop in Germany and was handpicked by Emperor Henry III to be the new Pope. Being a stickler for rules,Leo only accepted his new position if the clergy and people of Rome actually wanted him(they did). Leo set about reforming the Papacy(and the Universal Church)in many ways,combating simony(disposing Bishops elected by bribery),fixing the Vatican’s finances and condemning priests that were not celibate. Leo took his reforms on the road and traveled to Churches in other parts of Italy,Germany and France to make sure every one was on the same page in this effort to clean up the Church.
The Eastern Church begged Leo to help with Norman(Vikings!)invaders in Southern Italy(which was under their jurisdiction),so Leo himself led a ragtag Papal army south to rid the area of the invaders. The leader of the Normans was horrified that he would have to fight,and possibly kill,the Pope,so he tried every effort to compromise but to no avail. The Pope’s army was crushed(because…Vikings!)and Leo was taken prisoner. The respectful Normans apologized to him probably everyday for the next nine months that he was their captive. Leo passed away shortly after being released in 1054. For his moral character and his efforts for reform,he was Canonized in 1082. His feast day is April 19,which is the same day my family and I were baptized and joined the Catholic Church!
Pope Damasus II has the 7th shortest time as Pontiff,only reigning for 24 days. Pope Damasus also has one of the greatest real names for any Pope;Poppo de’ Curagnoni! POPPO! You gotta say that name with dramatic Italian hand gestures(even though Poppo was actually German). Handpicked by German Holy Roman Emperor Henry III,Damasus was briefly held up on his way to Rome by that pesky disposed Pope(and troublemaker),Benedict IX. Benedict kept leaving and returning to Rome,and this time he was marched,by military force on orders from the emperor,out of Rome for good so Pope Damasus could take his rightful place. It was mid-July by this point and Rome happened to be under an awful heat wave. The elderly Damasus contracted malaria and passed away shortly after.
Filling in on art duties this week is my 10 year old son Brody,and I think he did a great job! My lazy butt will return to drawing Popes next week.
After Pope Benedict IX made a holy mess of the Papacy,causing three Popes at once,King Henry III made his way from Germany to Rome to try to set things right. Accompanying him on his journey was the Bishop of Bamberg,Suidger von Morsleben. Popes Sylvester III,Pope Benedict IX and Pope Gregory VI all laid claim to the Papacy(thanks to that rotten Benedict and all of his shenanigans). Henry called a synod and immediately disposed Sylvester(who didn’t want it) and Bendict(who didn’t deserve it),and Gregory(who bought it)was forced to resign. In their place,Henry elected his Bishop(who we already mentioned)to the Papacy. Now we had one Pope and one Pope only and he took the name Clement II. Clement’s first act was to crown Henry III the new Holy Roman emperor. Clement was a reforming Pope and he enacted degrees against simony(looking at you,Pope Gregory VI). Sadly,he didn’t live very long as he soon died from poisoning from lead sugar,but we don’t know if it was murdered or if the lead sugar was used as some sort of medicine. Clement’s body was transferred back to Bamberg,Germany and he is the only Pope buried north of the Alps.
Since I’m falling behind on my weekly Popes,I’ve enlisted my children to help me draw my Popes. This week’s guest artist is my 12 year old son Jack! I paid him in peanut butter cups and Dr Pepper for his trouble.