Post-classical history

Ralph of Domfront (d. c. 1146)

Latin patriarch of Antioch (1135-1140).

Born at Domfront in Normandy, Ralph was trained as a knight and later took holy orders. He went to Outremer, where by 1135 he had become archbishop of Mamistra (mod. Misis, Turkey) in Cilicia. When Bernard of Valence died the same year, Ralph was chosen to succeed him as patriarch of Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey) by popular acclaim. He did not seek papal ratification, and his enemies alleged that he did not consider the see of Antioch, founded by St. Peter, as subordinate to Rome. Pope Innocent II did not intervene because of the papal schism of 1130-1138. When Raymond of Poitiers, whom the barons of Antioch had invited to be the husband of the child heiress, Princess Constance, reached the city in 1136, Ralph agreed to solemnize the marriage against the wishes of the regent, Constance’s mother Alice, if Raymond would do liege-homage to him. Raymond accepted this condition and became prince of Antioch, and Alice was forced into retirement. Yet Ralph’s secular and ecclesiastical ambitions antagonized the prince and some of the senior clergy, who complained to the pope.

After the schism ended, Innocent II appointed Alberic, cardinal bishop of Ostia, to investigate the charges. The cardinal presided over a synod at Antioch from 30 November to 2 December 1140, at which Ralph’s election was deemed uncanonical and charges of simony and fornication brought against him were upheld; he was deposed and imprisoned in chains in the monastery of St. Symeon on the Black Mountain of Antioch. He later escaped and reached Rome, where a pope (probably Lucius II) quashed his deposition, but he died—allegedly from poison—before he could return to Outremer.

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