Post-classical history

Eugenius III, Pope (d. 1153)

Pope (1145-1153), who summoned the Second Crusade (1147-1149) in response to the fall of Edessa to the Muslim leader Zangī in 1144.

Born into the noble Pignatelli family of Pisa, he received the name Bernard either at baptism or when he joined the religious life. He began his ecclesiastical career as a canon of the cathedral of Pisa, but in 1135, impressed by Bernard of Clairvaux’s charisma and piety, he joined the Cistercian Order. Soon afterward he became abbot of Tre Fontane in Rome when that ancient abbey was reformed by the Cistercians. He was elected pope on 15 February 1145, immediately following the death of Lucius II, but had to flee Rome, along with the cardinals who had elected him, because of the formation of an antipapal commune. While in exile in Vetralla, Eugenius urged King Louis VII and the nobles of France to fight off the Muslim attack on Edessa in the bull Quantum predecessores (1 December 1145), although some historians suggest that Louis VII had developed plans for a crusade before this. In the bull, subsequently reissued on 1 March 1146 with slight changes, Eugenius made clear that the crusading indulgence granted remission of divine punishment for sin, rather than only remission of ecclesiastical discipline imposed by the church through confession, thus clarifying the ambiguous first crusading dispensation of Pope Urban II.

The crusade gained increased attention after Easter 1146, when Eugenius commissioned Bernard of Clairvaux to preach it. The pope himself traveled to France to promote the crusade in the following year, issuing Divini dispensatione (II), in which, under the influence of Bernard, he proclaimed an attack on the Wends to be part of the crusade and welcomed the participation of the king of Germany, Conrad III. On his own initiative, Eugenius also included the reconquest of Spain in the crusade, particularly urging a campaign against Tortosa and Tarragona. Once the news of the failure of the crusade in Outremer reached Europe, Eugenius acknowledged the magnitude of the defeat and resisted calls to summon a new crusade. He returned to Rome in 1149 with the help of King Roger II of Sicily but was soon forced by Roman politics to flee again. With the aid of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, he regained the city in 1153. He died at Tivoli on 8 July of the same year.

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