The Papal Schism and You

After the death of Pope Honorius II in February 1130, the College of Cardinals were divided. An early-morning vote elected Innocent II, but some believed that vote lacked the proper quorum to decide. A later, second vote elected Anacletus II, who had the support of the majority of the cardinals, as well as of the local nobility in Rome.

By May 1130, Innocent fled to France. There, he found an ally in the abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, who helped him gain the support of the European monarchs. While Anacletus had the support of Sicily, Scotland, Aquitaine, the Crusader States, and Poland, Bernard systematically undermined Anacletus’s support. By 1136, the primary remaining ally of Anacletus was Roger II of Sicily (who received his crown from Anacletus in exchange for support.) This support was under threat as Lothair II of Germany was leading troops into the kingdom of Sicily. By the time the Dragon Star appeared, Lothair’s troops had made several decisive victories, and was marching on Salerno, which would spell the end of both Roger’s position, and Anacletus.

All of this changed when the Dragon Star appeared in the sky. Lothair’s troops, already unhappy about being fighting in the Italian summer heat, started to claim this was an ill omen. Anacletus seized the initiative, claiming that the comet was a sign from God that Lothair’s cause was unjust, and this claim spread was spread by his remaining loyalists. Whether moved by this argument, or (more likely) by reports of rioting and uprisings back in Germany, Lothair was forced to pull his troops back in July 1137. This turned out to be a disastrous move for Lothair, as he perished in the Alps in his haste. Even worse, a large portion of his army was in the path of the comet on August 3, 1137, and most of the German forces were killed or injured during the creation of the Scar.

With the death of Lothair, and the destruction of the German army, Anacletus’ claim took on new life. Combined with Roger’s near-immediate reclaiming of lost territories in Lothair’s absence, many felt that this was indeed divine mandate. The work that Bernard had done started to unravel, hastened by the abbot sickening and dying after the storms, and as the fall of 1137 wrapped up, Anacletus found himself back in a tenable position. The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre officially stated their support for Anacletus, as did the Knights Hospitalier, sending a number of their troops to Rome to reinforce Anacletus’ strength. (Notably, the Knights Templar were silent on this topic, focusing on dealing with the aftermath of the Dragon Star and studiously avoiding the question.)

Anacletus also seized the initiative when the Dragonborn started to become known, stating the the powers, as side-effects of the comet, were also gifts from God. By attempting to find Dragonborn and bring them into the Church, he gained a level of popularity and power by creating a Church-sanctioned team to act in the Church’s name.

The Papal Schism and You

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