Pope Gelasius II

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Gelasius II (died January 29, 1119), born Giovanni Coniulo (John of Gaeta), was pope from January 24, 1118 to January 29, 1119.


He was born between 1060 and 1064 at Gaeta from an illustrious family of Pisa, one of the four main historical Marine Republics of Italy.

He became a monk of Monte Cassino, was taken to Rome by Pope Urban II (1088–99), and made papal subdeacon (August 1088) and cardinal deacon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (probably on September 23, 1088). As chancellor of the Holy Roman Church from 1089 to 1118, he drastically reformed the papal administration, establishing a permanent staff of clerks for the papacy, overcoming the previous custom of relying on Roman notaries to write papal documents, and introducing the minuscule curial script. His tenure also established the precedent that the papal chancellor should always be a cardinal, and should hold the office for life or until he was elected pope.

Shortly after his unanimous election to succeed Pope Paschal II (1099–1118) he was seized by Cencio II Frangipane, a partisan of the Emperor Henry V (1105–25), but freed by a general uprising of the Romans on his behalf. Henry V sought to enforce the privilege of investiture to the papacy conceded to the emperor by Paschal II, but then revoked. He drove Gelasius II from Rome in March 1118, pronounced his election null and void, and set up Maurice Bourdin, Archbishop of Braga, as antipope under the name of Gregory VIII (1118–21).

Gelasius II fled to Gaeta, where he was ordained priest on 9 March 1118 and on the following day received episcopal consecration. He at once excommunicated Henry V and the antipope and, under Norman protection, was able to return to Rome in July; but the disturbances of the imperialist party, especially of the Frangipani, who attacked the Pope while celebrating Mass in the church of St. Prassede, compelled Gelasius II to go once more into exile. He set out for France, consecrating the cathedral of Pisa on the way, and arrived at Marseille in October. He was received with great enthusiasm at Avignon, Montpellier and other cities, held a synod at Vienne in January 1119, and was planning to hold a general council to settle the investiture contest when he died at Cluny.


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