October 1187 papal election

The October 1187 papal election (held October 21) was convoked after the death of Pope Urban III. He and the papal court had escaped from the imperial blockade of Verona only the month before, and had taken refuge in Ferrara.[1] The election, held in Ferrara the day after the pope's death, resulted in the election of Cardinal Alberto Sartori di Morra, who took the name of Gregory VIII. He was a partisan of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, whose election delighted him. Gregory VIII reigned only two months.

Papal election
October 1187
Dates and location
21 October 1187
Key officials
DeanKonrad von Wittelsbach
CamerlengoMaster Melior
ProtopriestAlberto di Morra
ProtodeaconGiacinto Bobone Orsini
Elected pope
Alberto di Morra
Name taken: Gregory VIII
← 1185

Popes at VeronaEdit

Lucius III was elected on 1 September 1181, but had to be consecrated and enthroned at Velletri, due to the hostility of the Romans.[2] He was only allowed back to Rome at the end of October, but in mid-March 1182, having refused to grant the consuetudines conceded by earlier popes, he was forced to retreat to Velletri.[3] In the meantime, refugees from Tusculum, which had been destroyed earlier in the century by the Roman commune, began to rebuild their fortifications. Annoyed by the challenge, the Roman commune reopened the war. Pope Lucius took the part of the Tusculans, but as the Romans had one success after another, he called for aid from the imperial Vicar in Italy, Archbishop Christian of Mainz, who managed to drive the Romans back. The Romans renewed their offensive, devastated the territory of Tusculum in April 1184, and then turned their wrath against Latium. The pope then fled to the Emperor Frederick, who was at Verona.[4] The pope wanted aid against the Romans, of course, but there was also the issue of the inheritance of Countess Mathilda of Tuscany, which had been willed to Saint Peter, but which was occupied by the emperor, on the grounds that it was part of the empire and Mathilda and her husbands had been his vassals. Frederick wanted the pope to preside at an imperial coronation for his son Henry.[5] When the pope adamantly refused, Henry invaded and ravaged the Roman campagna;[6] Frederick besieged the pope in Verona, forbidding appeals to the pope from anyone in his domains, and obstructing appeals from elsewhere. Anyone apprehended in an attempt to reach the papal curia or returning from it was imprisoned and subjected to torture.[7]

Lucius died on 25 November 1185, still residing in Verona, while an angry and uncooperative emperor resided at the imperial headquarters in Pavia. The election of his successor, which was brief and unanimous,[8] took place on the next day. The successful candidate was Humbertus Crivelli, the Archbishop of Milan and Cardinal of S. Lorenzo in Damaso, " a violent and unyielding spirit, and a strong opponent of Frederick (Barbarossa)," in the words of Ferdinand Gregorovius. He took the name Urban III, and maintained all of the uncompromising policies of Lucius III.[9] Frederick continued his policy of blockading the pope and cardinals inside Verona into 1187.[10] Urban had reached the decision to excommunicate the emperor, for usurpation of spiritualities, but he was dissuaded by the pleas of the inhabitants of Verona.[11] Shortly after 22 September 1187, Urban and the cardinals escaped from Verona, and by 3 October had found refuge in Ferrara, where Urban died on 20 October.[12]

List of participantsEdit

At the death of Pope Urban III there were probably 23 cardinals.[13] Basing on the countersigning of the papal bulls in October 1187[14] it is possible to establish that probably 13 of them participated in the election of successor of Urban III. According to the rules established by Pope Alexander III, 9 votes would be necessary to elect.

Elector Place of birth Cardinalatial title Elevated Elevator Notes
Henri de Marsiac, O.Cist.[15] Château de Marcy, France Bishop of Albano March 1179 Alexander III Withdrew his candidacy at the election to the papacy
Paolo Scolari Rome Bishop of Palestrina 21, September 1179 Alexander III Archpriest of the patriarchal Liberian Basilica; future Pope Clement III (1187-1191)
Thibaud, O.S.B.Cluny France Bishop of Ostia e Velletri 1184 Lucius III
Alberto di Morra, C.R.Praem. Benevento Priest of S. Lorenzo in Lucina and Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church 21 December, 1156 Adrian IV Protopriest; elected Pope Gregory VIII
Pietro de Bono, C.R.S.M.R. Rome Priest of S. Susanna 18 March 1166 Alexander III
Laborans de Pontormo Pontormo Priest of S. Maria in Trastevere 12 September 1173 Alexander III
Melior, O.S.B.Vall. Pisa Priest of SS. Giovanni e Paolo 16 March 1185 Lucius III Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church
Adelardo Cattaneo Verona Priest of S. Marcello 16 March 1185 Lucius III Future bishop of Verona (1188-1214)
Giacinto Bobone (Orsini) Rome Deacon of S. Maria in Cosmedin 22 December 1144 Lucius II Protodeacon; future Pope Celestine III (1191-1198)
Graziano da Pisa Pisa Deacon of SS. Cosma e Damiano 4 March 1178 Alexander III
Ottaviano di Paoli Rome Deacon of SS. Sergio e Bacco 18 December 1182 Lucius III Future bishop of Ostia e Velletri (1189-1206)
Pietro Diani Piacenza Deacon of S. Nicola in Carcere 16 March 1185 Lucius III
Radulfus Nigellus Pisa or France Deacon of S. Giorgio in Velabro 16 March 1185 Lucius III

Six electors were created by Pope Lucius III, five by Pope Alexander III, one by Pope Lucius II and one by Pope Adrian IV.

Absentee cardinalsEdit

Probably ten cardinals were absent:

Elector Place of birth Cardinalatial title Elevated Elevator Notes
Konrad von Wittelsbach Bavaria Bishop of Sabina
and Archbishop of Mainz
18 December 1165 Alexander III prior cardinalium
Joannes Anagninus
(Giovanni dei Conti di Anagni)
Anagni Priest of S. Marco 1158/1159 Adrian IV Protopriest; future bishop of Palestrina (1190-1196)
Guillaume aux Blanches Mains France Priest of S. Sabina
and Archbishop of Reims
March 1179 Alexander III Minister of State of the Kingdom of France
Ruggiero di San Severino San Severino Priest of S. Eusebio
and Archbishop of Benevento
Ca. 1178-1180 Alexander III External cardinal
Albino, C.R.S.F. Gaeta (?) Priest of S. Croce in Gerusalemme December 18, 1182 Lucius III Future bishop of Albano (1189-1197)
Pandolfo Lucca Priest of SS. XII Apostoli 18 December 1182 Lucius III
Soffredo Pistoia Deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata 18 December 1182 Lucius III Papal legate in France
Bobo Rome Deacon of S. Angelo in Pescheria 18 December 1182 Lucius III Papal legate in France;
future bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina (1189-1190)
Gerardo Lucca Deacon of S. Adriano 18 December 1182 Lucius III Papal Vicar
Rolandus Pisa Deacon of S. Maria in Portico 16 March 1185 Lucius III Former bishop-elect of Dol (1177-1185)

Six absentees were created by Lucius III, three by Alexander III, and one by Adrian IV.

Death of Urban III and the election of Pope Gregory VIIIEdit

Pope Urban III died at Ferrara on 20 October 1187, grieving over the disasters in the Holy Land.[16] On the following day thirteen cardinals who had been present in Ferrara began the proceedings to elect his successor.[17] They operated according to the rules promulgated by Pope Alexander III at the Third Lateran Council in March 1179.

One of the cardinals under consideration was Henri de Marsiac, the former abbot of Clairvaux. He was aware that he did not have sufficient votes, and forseeing and fearing the danger of dissension, he stood up and announced that, as a servant of the cross of Christ, he was prepared to preach the crusade in various kingdoms and peoples. He was obviously reacting to recent reports of disaster in the Holy Land.[18]

Paolo Scolari and Alberto di Morra, the senior cardinal-priest, were also considered. Paolo Scolari was at a disadvantage because he was seriously ill at that time, and was not up to the burden, according to a remark attributed to Cardinal Henri de Marsiac.[19] The cardinals were aware that the papal chancellor, Albert di Morra, was in great favor with the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, because he was a member of the imperial party in the curia, and because he reported to the emperor all the confidential activities of the Roman curia.[20] But there remained only the old papal chancellor Alberto di Morra. On 21 October 1187 he was unanimously elected pope and took the name Gregory VIII.

Shortly after the election, the two proctors of the archbishop of Canterbury met with Cardinal Henri de Marsiac. It was Henri who told them of the three candidates, of the indisposition of Cardinal Scolari, and of the election of Cardinal Alberto di Morra, faute de mieux.[21]

He was consecrated a bishop and enthroned on 25 October.[22] He reigned for one month and twenty-eight days.[23]

It is reported by Robert of Auxerre in his Chronicon that the Emperor Frederick was delighted by the choice of Albert, since he was a favorer of justice and would be favorable to him.[24]


  1. ^ Watterich II, p. 682.
  2. ^ Jaffé, p. 432. Gregorovius, p. 609.
  3. ^ Gregorovius, p. 609 with note 2 (from Roger of Hoveden, citing Benedict of Peterborough): "grave dissidium ortum est inter Romanos et Papam Lucium super consuetudinibus quibusdam, quas praedecessores Papae Lucii facere solebant, quas Papa Lucius se nunquam facturum iuravit. Unde Romani indignati sunt it frequenter rapinas et iniquas combustiones facerunt in terra domini Papae. Dominus vero Papa, de loco in locum fugiens, castella sua et munitiones et civitates munitas adiit."
  4. ^ Gregorovius, pp. 609-611. Jaffé, pp. 465-466.
  5. ^ Gregorovius IV. 2, p. 611.
  6. ^ "Chronicon Fossae Novae", in: Watterich II, p. 681. Gregorovius IV. 2, p. 614.
  7. ^ Gervase of Canterbury and the "Gesta Trevirorum", in: Watterich II, p. 668.
  8. ^ Ralph of Diceto, in: J. Watterich, Pontificum Romanorum... Vitae, p. 663. Horace Kinder Mann, The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages, Volume 10 (London: Kegan Paul 1914), pp. 286-289.
  9. ^ F. Gregorovius, The History of Rome in the Middle Ages Vol. IV, part 2 (London: George Bell 1896), pp. 610-612.
  10. ^ "Annales Romani", in: Watterich II, p. 682: "Erat enim maxima discordia inter imperatorem Fridericum et Papam, ita ut nullo modo dicto Pape et cardinalibus et qui cum ipso erant, extra ipsam civitatem exiendi erat licentiam."
  11. ^ Watterich II, pp. 678, 681 (Arnold of Lübeck)
  12. ^ Jaffé, pp. 527-528.
  13. ^ Cf. I.S. Robinson, p. 44 and 86-87; Kartusch, p. 30; Jaffé, Regesta..., p. 492-493, 528
  14. ^ Jaffé, Regesta..., p. 492-493, 528
  15. ^ Kartusch, pp. 190-196.
  16. ^ Gervase of Canterbury, "Chronica", in: William Stubbs (ed.), The Chronicle of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard, Vol. I (London: Longman, Trübner 1879), p. 388: Interea rumor ille miserabilis de destructione scilicet orientalis ecclesiae, de civitatum captione, de captivitate regis et crucis Dominicae, in curia Romana dispersus, aures et corda cardinalium summi pontificis mira contrivit miseratione, unde dominus papa Urbanus jam senio confectus, prae nimio dolore cncomparabiliter gravatus, ad extrema perductus est. Obiit... xiiii kalendas Novembris, et Ferrariae sepultus est."
  17. ^ J.P. Migne (ed.), Patrologiae Latinae Collectio, Tomus CCII (Paris 1855), p. 1537, Pope Gregory VIII, in his electoral message, Inter Divinae Dispentionis: "Praedecessore siquidem nostro Urbano XIII Kal. Novemb. in bona confessione viam universae carnis ingresso, et tradito solemniter sepulturae, convenimus sequenti die in unum, et missa in honorem Sancti Spiritus, sicut moris est, celebrata, processimus seorsum in unum locum, nos episcopi, presbyteri et diaconi canonibus, et, postpositis diversis ecclesiasticis negotiis, et praecipue calamitatis Orientalis Ecclesiae, quae diebus illis audita fuerat, ad electionem pontificis visum est procedendum, ne, si forte dilationem acciperet, detrimentum ex tarditate per diversas partes Christiano populo proveniret."
  18. ^ Watterich II, p. 684, quoting Albericus of Trois Fontaines, "Ibidem sanior pars cardinalium voluit dominum Henricum Albanensem quondam Clarevallis abbatem eligere, sed timens et praecavens dissensionis periculum prosiliit in medium, dicens: se crucis Domini servum ad praedicandam crucem per gentes et regna praeparatum."
  19. ^ William Stubbs (ed.), Epistolae Cantuarienses (London 1865) [Chronicles and Memorials of the Reign of Richard I, Volume II (Rolls Series)], letter CXXXV, p. 108. And yet, Scolari was present and voted; he began subscribing for Gregory VIII on 31 October; and he travelled to Pisa and was elected pope on 19 December 1187.
  20. ^ Gervase of Canterbury, "Chronica", in: William Stubbs (ed.), p. 388: "Sciebant enim cardinales quod idem Albertus multam imperatoris haberet gratiam, eo quod, ipsius semper fovens partem, eidem omnia Romanae curiae revelaret secreta."
  21. ^ This is according to Peter of Blois, the Archdeacon of Bath, and William de S. Fide, Precentor of Wells, in a letter to Archbishop Baldwin. Stubbs, p. 198: "Dominus Papa Gregorius nominatus est, et dominus Albanensis injunxit nobis, ut vobis ex parte ejus significaremus, quod cuncta de caetero ad honorem et voluntatem vestram procedent.... Adhuc noveritis quod cum universi cardinales tres personas nominassent, videlicet Albanensem, Praenestinum et cancellarium, et eis injunxissent ut secederent quousque deliberassent quem illorum reciperent, dominus Albanensis incontinenti respondit, "Ad quid secederemus? Ego in verbo veritatis dico, quod nunquam hanc administrationem suscipiam. Dominus quoque Praenestinus infirmatur gravissimo et ad onus tantum insufficiens est. Reliquum ergo est ut dictum cancellarium recipiamus; quia non est inter nos aliquis ita idoneus, et qui ita consuetudines et jura ecclesiae Romanae pernoverit, et adeo principibus terrae complaceat."
  22. ^ I.S.Robinson, p. 87. "Chronicle of Melros", in Watterich II, p. 684, n. 4: "XII kalendas eiusdem (novembris) electus Gregorius VIII, et VIII kalendas eiusdem consecratus est."
  23. ^ "Chronicon Fossae Novae", in: Watterich, p. 683. Gregorovius IV. 2, p. 615.
  24. ^ Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptorum Vol. XXVI (Leipzig: K Hiersemann 1926), p. 252: "Post eum [Urbanum III] Albertus cancellarius substituitur et Gregorius octavus vocatur, vir litteratura facundiaque clarus, sed puritate vitae et animi integritate praeclarior suique corporis vehemens castigator. Audita eius promotione laetatus est admodum Fredericus Augustus, eo quod virum discretum et justiciae zelatorem cognosceret sibique benivolum et omnibus, si diu viveret, profuturum."


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  • Jaffé, Philipp (1888). Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab condita Ecclesia ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Vol. II. Leipzig.
  • Kartusch, Elfriede (1948). Das Kardinalskollegium in der Zeit von 1181–1227. Wien.
  • Robinson, Ian Stuart (1990). The Papacy, 1073–1198: Continuity and Innovation. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521264987.
  • Watterich, J. B. M. (1862). Pontificum Romanorum qui fuerunt inde ab exeunte saeculo IX usque ad finem saeculi XIII vitae: ab aequalibus conscriptae (in Latin). Vol. Tomus II. Leipzig: G. Engelmann.