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Pope Honorius IV : biography

1210 - April 3, 1287

Pope Honorius IV ( ; c. 1210 – 3 April 1287), born Giacomo Savelli, was the head of the Catholic Church from 2 April 1285 to his death in 1287. During his pontificate he largely continued to pursue the pro-French political policy of his predecessor, Pope Martin IV.


Rome and the States of the Church enjoyed a period of tranquillity during the pontificate of Honorius IV, the like of which they had not enjoyed for many years. He had the satisfaction of reducing the most powerful and obstinate enemy of papal authority, Count Guido of Montefeltro, who for many years had successfully resisted the papal troops. The authority of the Pope was now recognized throughout the papal territory, which then comprised the Exarchate of Ravenna, the March of Ancona, the Duchy of Spoleto, the County of Bertinoro, the Mathildian lands, and the Pentapolis, i.e., the cities of Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Senigallia, and Ancona. Honorius IV was the first Pope to employ the great family banking houses of central and northern Italy for the collection of papal dues.

The Romans were greatly elated at the election of Honorius IV, for he was a citizen of Rome and a brother of Pandulf, a senator of Rome. The continuous disturbances in Rome during the pontificate of Martin IV had not allowed that pope to live in Rome, but now the Romans cordially invited Honorius IV to make Rome his permanent residence. During the first few months of his pontificate he lived in the Vatican, but in the autumn of 1285 he removed to the magnificent palace he had just erected on the Aventine.

Sicilian Conflict

Pope Honorius IV cameo. Sicilian affairs required immediate attention from the new Pope. Previously, under Martin IV, the Sicilians had rejected the rule of Charles of Anjou, taking Peter III of Aragon as their king without the consent and approval of the Pope.

The massacre of 31 March 1282 known as the Sicilian Vespers had precluded any reconciliation. Martin IV put Sicily and Pedro III under an interdict, deprived Pedro III of the kingdom of Aragon, and gave it to Charles of Valois, the younger of the sons of King Philip III of France, whom he assisted in his attempts to recover Sicily by force of arms. The Sicilians not only repulsed the attacks of the combined French and Papal forces, but also captured the Angevin heir, Charles of Salerno. On 6 January 1285, Charles of Anjou died, leaving his captive son Charles as his natural successor. Honorius IV, more peaceably inclined than Martin IV, did not renounce the Church's support of the House of Anjou, nor did he set aside the severe ecclesiastical punishments imposed upon Sicily.

On the other hand, he did not approve of the tyrannical government the Sicilians had been subject to under Charles of Anjou. This is evident from legislation embodied in his constitution of 17 September 1285 (Constitutio super ordinatione regni Siciliae), in which he stated that no government can prosper that is not founded on justice and peace. He passed forty-five ordinances intended chiefly to protect the people of Sicily against their king and his officials.

The death of Peter III on 11 November 1285 changed the Sicilian situation in that his kingdoms were divided between his two Alfonso III of Aragon, who received the crown of Aragon, and James II of Aragon, who succeeded as King of Sicily. Honorius IV acknowledged neither the one nor the other: on 11 April 1286, he solemnly excommunicated King James II of Sicily and the bishops who had taken part in his coronation at Palermo on 2 February. Neither the king nor the bishops concerned themselves about the excommunication. The king even sent a hostile fleet to the Roman coast and destroyed the city of Astura by fire.

Charles of Salerno, the Angevin pretender, who was still held captive by the Sicilians, finally grew tired of his long captivity and signed a contract on 27 February 1287 in which he renounced his claims to the kingdom of Sicily in favour of James II of Aragon and his heirs. Honorius IV, however, declared the contract invalid and forbade all similar agreements for the future.

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