Apostolica Legatia  correct

Song: Nicuzza (Baby) 

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    The last expansionistic move, which determined the future political balance of Europe, was that of the Norwegian, called the Norsmen (men of the North) and later, Normans. Up to about the year 1000 Europe was controlled by three powers: The Byzantine, an extension of the Roman Empire, and two Caliphates: the Fatemite, which extended from Egypt to Sicily and  the Spanish, which controlled great part of Spain and Northern Africa up to Mauritania      


    Even before the year 1000, the Vikings, that had contained their incursions in the Northen territory, including England, had started now assaulting  Europe's  south-western territories, reaching even Paris, pillaging, robbing, burning, and destroying all in their way. These were people whose way of life was brigandage. It was in 911 that the king of France Charles the Simple, to stop them, gave a big territory, what was later called Normandy, to Rollon, one of the strongest chiefs of the Vikings. This territory though had to be subject to the crown and they had to consent to become Christians.


    Later the territory of Normandy was divided among the the knights that had distinguished themselves in battles and some counties were created. One of these counties was given to Tancred, who became Count D'Hauteville. Some of the knights of he Normans became mercenaries for lack of territory and wealth. The mercenaries we want to tlak about here are the sons of Tancred D'hauteville: William Iron Arm, Robert the Guiscard and his brothers, among whom Roger. They  came in Southern Italy and established themselves there to be hired by the best paying army. 


    It was not long when, fighting for the Longobards, because of the sudden desertion of Argyrus, leader of the Longobards, to the Byzantine forces, William found himself count and leader of that army. He defeated the Byzantines and conquered all the Apulian region and surrounding lands.

    At William's death, Robert became count and in 1058 he had a call for help in the controversy between Benedict X and Nicholas II, both aspiring to the papacy. The Normans took Benedict X prisoner allowing Nicholas to be pope. Nicholas gave legal status to the Normans, nominating Robert Duke of Apulia and Calabria, conceded them ownership of all the territories they would occupy as long as they agreed to remain vassals to the pope. Before that, the Normans had received a request for help from the Byzantine empire, to fight against the Moslems in Sicily at the side of the Byzantine general George Maniace. The Normans soon left the Byzantines because of the inequality of distribution of the war bounty, but not before having noticed how fertile the land was and rich the cities. This was one of the reasons why the invasion of Sicily by Robert the Guiscard and Roger, now count of Calabria was decided upon.

    After the Byzantine army left, Sicily became the theater of great strife between the various Moslem kaids. The emir of Syracuse Ibn-ath-Thummah occupied Catania and killed its emir. Ibn-ath-Thummah now emboldened, preceded to conquer all of Sicily, but was stopped and put at risk by his brother-in-law Ibn-Hawwas master of Enna and of the entire central island. Fearing his brother-in-law's power, Ibn-ath-Thummah called the Normans for help. This was the occasion that Roger and Robert were waiting for. With a handful of knights and less than a thousand soldiers the two brothers entered Messina without a fight and soon found themselves occupying a good part of Sicily. Robert was called back to Southern Italy to take care of insurgencies brought about by the nobles, who did not want to be his vassals. Roger was left alone to deal with the Moslems. Soon his became a full-fledged fight for the conquest of Sicily and the expulsion of the Moslems. The fight was long, fierce and at times cruel from both sides, but Roger was gaining territory and momentum. He made Troina his capital and built the first cathedral in Troina, taking the authority that belonged to the Church, to establish dioceses wherever he wanted and in whatever number he wanted to. In 1071, with the help of Robert the Guiscard, Palermo was captured. The Duomo, which had become a mosque was restored and Roger had mass celebrated there. In 1083 he nominated a Latin bishop in Palermo.

    It took Roger thirty years for the complete conquest of Sicily. The great reformer Pope Gregory VII, who fought against simony, came in conflict with the interest of Henry IV of Germany, who wanted, personally, without church interference, to confer titles over the clergy. Because of this pope's opposition to the investiture of prelates by lay people, this conflict came to be known as the Investiture Controversy, and in 1084 Henry brought a great army to Rome occupying it and pillaging it. Gregory had to flee and Henry elected the anti-pope Clement III at the throne of Peter. The Normans, elected Pope Victor III, an abbot of Monte Cassino, who was forced by Clement III to spend his papacy almost entirely in Cassino. At his death, in 1088, the Normans elected Urban II pope. However he could not take office officially because of the interference of Henry IV.

    Urban II traveled to Sicily, as a guest in Troina at the court of Roger, for two reasons: a) he wanted to see first hand that the Moslems were on their way out for the effort of count Roger; b) he needed Roger's help to get rid of Henry IV once and for all. As prize for his help, Roger asked the pontiff to make him Apostolic Legate for all Sicily for religious matters and to nominate him Grand Count of Sicily. As for the former, he already had taken that privilege on his own, because he wanted to replace with his own people, that he could trust, like the French and the English, the charges occupied by the Byzantines in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Now, he wanted the pope to make it official. In 1094 Robert the Guiscard, took Urban II to Rome and, with his army, moved against Henry IV driving him out of Rome and out of Italy. Urban II did not want to give him the authority over the church in Sicily, he nominated him Grand Count of Sicily but no more than that. But when the pope nominated monsignor Robert bishop of Messina and Troina, Roger had him arrested while celebrating mass. The impasse lasted eight months.

    Finally pressed by the necessity for help Urban II consented to what no other Christian ruler had in all of Europe, and with the bull Quia Propter Prudentiam Tuam (because of your prudence) gave Roger the Apostolica Legatia, with the rights of succession "…quod omni vitae tuae tempori, vel filii tui Simonis, aut alterius, qui legitimus tui haeres… legatum Romanae Ecclesiae statumus…" (…that for the time of your life, as for that of your son Simon or any other, who is your legitimate heir…we make legate of the Roman Church…), recognizing Roger sole and supreme authority in Sicily over temporal and spiritual matters, as long as he would not interfere with the salvation of the soul and the dogmas of the Church. With this mandate Roger could now officially establish dioceses, nominate bishops, in other words he will be like the pope in Sicily.

    To this end he formed the Tribunal of the monarchy, which dealt with religious legal problems, such as disputes, claims, crimes and such within the church, involving both laypeople and clergy, with no interference from the pope. Later, Pope Adrian IV, who, with the concordat of 1156 with William the Bad, recognized the right of the Sicilians to turn to the king for ecclesiastical matters and not to the pope, legally accepted Urban II papal bull the Apostolica Legatia. This bull did not always have smooth sailing; on the contrary, throughout the centuries the Roman Curia tried time and time again to erase what they thought was an indignity for the church. More than once different popes tried to render Sicily a vassal of Rome with the pope as supreme authority, but they always failed. The fight was at times harsh between Rome and Frederick II, but even with more than one excommunication against Frederick, the Church did not get anywhere.

    With the death of Frederick II the papacy saw Sicily as an easy goal and offered the crown of Sicily to Charles d'Anjou, who treated the Sicilians so badly as to provoke the Sicilian Vesper during which the French were thrown out of Sicily. The Sicilian people started to organize themselves in city-states and asked Pope Martin IV to take them under his protection. The pope instead on May 7, 1282, day of the Ascension, excommunicated the whole island. At this point, for the threats of Charles d'Anjou and the pope, the Sicilian Parliament offered the crown to Peter III of Aragon and when he accepted, the pope excommunicated him also and declared him fallen as King of Aragon and Valenza, offering that crown to the prince Charles de Valois, son of Philip III King of France.

    In 1285 all the major exponent of this fight died: Charles d'Anjou died in January, Pope Martin in March, Peter III in November. What was going to be the ninety years war did not stop for this, and because the Sicilians refused a proposal by the next pope, Honorius IV, he ordered the continuation of the hostilities. At the death of Honorius, Nicholas IV was elected pope, and broke a treaty sponsored by Edward, King of England, for a lasting peace in Sicily. Peter III, before his death, had designated his son Frederick III as king of Sicily, but the older son James, on becoming King of Aragon, took the crown of Sicily to use it as a bargaining chip in obtaining the blessing of the pope for the kingdom of Aragon after conceding Sicily to Charles the Lame d'Anjou. The Sicilians did not want to hear of it; neither did his brother Frederick III.

    Pope Nicholas IV's death came about and, in the same year Celestinus V gave up the tiara. Thus Boniface V was elected pope. He unilaterally put into effect the treaty of Aragni June 12, 1295, establishing that James of Aragon give back Sicily to the pope, Prince Frederick marry Princess Catherine, daughter of Beatrix d'Anjou, bestowing on Frederick the title of King of Jerusalem. Again the Sicilians said no and the Parliament elected Frederick King of Sicily. War was back on its way, this time not only against the d'Anjou and the pope but also even against James of Aragon, who did not like what his brother did to him.

    The forces against Sicily were preponderant, and although Frederick and his Sicilian and mercenary army had some success, Sicily was falling to the hands of the French, who occupied Catania in 1301 and concluded a temporary armistice. At the end of the truce, the new pope, Boniface VIII, in 1302, reiterated the interdiction of Martin IV, with the bull Unam Sanctam, which said "…omnem humanorum creaturam subesse romano Pontefici" (…every human creature has to be subject to the Roman Pontiff…). This concept was later enlarged by the Curia theologians saying that the pope "…Dei locum tenet in terris…" (…represents God on earth…), therefore "… Summus Pontifex in toto orbe terram in temporalibus jurisditionem habet et plenitudinem potestatis…."(…the supreme Pontiff has fullness of jurisdiction in the whole world in temporal matters…), because "…solus a Deo assuntus in plenitude potestatis…" (…he is the only one raised to full power by God…). 

    He then put Charles de Valois at the head of the d'Anjou army, which in 1302 landed at Termini Imerese occupying that city, and then putting siege to Sciacca. This city defended itself with courage and valor, making it impossible for Charles to take it, and since even pestilence started to circulate amongst his army, he had to come to a conclusion. So Charles de Valois, Robert d'Anjou and Frederick III made a peace treaty, the treaty of Caltabellotta. With this treaty Sicily was once again recognized as an autonomous state, Frederick received the title of King of Trinacria, which at his death would be lost and Sicily would go to the d'Anjou. Frederick never considered himself King of Trinacria, but King of Sicily, and as such started a program of expansion adding to his realm Athens and other lands in 1312. There was never a desire to respect the treaty of Caltabellotta, neither on the part of Frederick nor on the part of the Sicilian people, and when Frederick died, his son Peter IV succeeded to him. That was seen as a breach of the treaty and war ensued again by the d'Anjou and the papacy with the vane attempt to bring Sicily under the authority of the Roman Curia. One such occasion came at the end of the ninety years war.

    Pope Urban V initiated the negotiations for the end of that war and they were concluded by Pope Gregory XI, August 12, 1372, with the treaty of Avignon. This was a very humiliating treaty for Sicily, due to the ineptitude of its king, Frederick IV and to the feudal anarchy existing in Sicily because of the strife among the barons. With that treaty Fredrick became a vassal of Rome and of Jeanne I of Naples, accepted the title of King of Trinacria, a title that again would be lost if he died without heirs, bound himself not to form allegiances without the consent of the Holy See, gave back to the Church all the confiscated property and exempted the religious entities from any taxation. Jeanne of Anjou, queen of Naples would be the queen of Sicily also and the pope would be the supreme authority over Sicily and southern Italy. Finally in 1374, after 92 years, the pope lifted the interdiction over Sicily imposed by Pope Martin IV, and for long time nobody spoke of that matter, both sides probably wishing to avoid the difficult argument. In 1607 the Cardinal Caesar Baronio with a treatise on the Monarchy revamped the question of the Apostolica Legatia, raising bitter debates, but by the intervention of king Philip of Spain the situation between state and church in Sicily remained in the status quo, and Cardinal Baronio lost the papacy because of the veto by Philip of Spain.

    The Roman Curia was always looking for a way, an excuse, to nullify once and for all the privileges of the Sicilians under the Apostolica Legatia. This occasion came on January 27, 1711. The bishop of the island of Lipari sent a lot of chickpeas, fruit of alms from the community, to the market to be sold. The guards of the treasury, always on hand, required the usual payment or tax for the sale of those goods. The bishop of Lipari, Monsignor Tedeschi, complained that his chickpeas were In Coena Domini, that is protected by the famous bull of Pius V of 1568, which threatened of excommunication whomever would tax church property, those were alms, property of the church and therefore exempt from any tax (the dioceses of Lipari had been founded in the 1300s, and therefore was not under the Tribunal of the Monarchy, but under the jurisdiction of the Vatican). The Sicilian authority recognized the mistake made by the guards and reimbursed the bishop the amount withheld (which was about two pounds of chickpeas). The bishop was not happy and asked for a public apology from the viceroy, who flatly refused. 

    The bishop then, made angry, excommunicated the two guards, that, scared for their soul, went and pleaded with the viceroy, who, applying the rules of the Apostolica Legatia had the Tribunal of the monarchy made void the excommunication of the two officials. Monsignor Tedeshi made recourse to the pope who sent a letter to the Church in Sicily confirming the excommunication of the two guards and ordering that copy of said letter be posted on each church. But this order could not have had any effect without the authorization of the king, who was still the Apostolic Legate in Sicily. Therefore the king reacted in ordering the arrest and/or exile of those bishops and priests who were loyal to Rome and confiscating their properties. In time the quarrel became so exacerbated that in 1715 Clement XI launched the interdiction over all of Sicily. This event passed in history as the Lipari's Controversy, and so cried the popular poet:


The Holy Father took away our mass,
The king readies gallows for the priests,
The water comes by drops in the fountains,
The earth won't even sprout lupines!
The Lord God takes down our dwelling,
all our blood sucks the taxman
Sicily meat for sausage has become,
As it was the law of the Saracens!


    In 1728, Pope Benedict XIII, even if somewhat blandly, reaffirmed the rights of the Tribunal of the monarchy in Sicily, and lifted the interdiction. After 17 years the churches in Sicily were opened, the church bells were tolling again and the people could receive the Sacrament without fear from one side or the other. In 1871 the Italian government, even with the opposition of some noted elected officials, abolished the Apostolica Legatia, putting an end to a question, which had lasted for almost eight centuries.