Innocent III (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: At a period of crisis in the Catholic church, Pope Innocent III succeeded in affirming the power of his office against challenges from powerful lay rulers and from the Albigensian heresy, and in so doing became the most powerful pope of the Middle Ages. In addition, through sweeping ecclesiastical reform, he attempted to mute the arguments of the critics of an increasingly venal, poorly educated, and self-indulgent clergy.
The future Pope Innocent III was born Lothario of Segni at Anagni, in the Roman Campagna, the son of Trasmondo of Segni and Claricia, née Scotti, both members of prominent Roman aristocratic families. Occasionally one encounters the surname of Conti for Lothario. This name, Italian for “count,” was assumed by the family after Innocent III’s pontificate. It was one of the most powerful Roman families and furnished several popes to the Church in the thirteenth century. The surviving fragment of a mosaic and a painting of Innocent III confirm that he was short of stature, with a round face, high-arched eyebrows, a straight nose, and a small mouth. Contemporaries also noted his ability to express himself verbally in an incisive fashion and a well-modulated voice that commanded the attention of his audience.
The young Lothario, who was vowed to the clergy, was able to indulge an appetite for learning that he exhibited at an early age. He first studied at Rome...
(The entire section is 2693 words.)
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