Pope Innocent III's Great Impact on Medieval Society

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Pope Innocent III began a sequence of changes that influenced the face of secular and ecclesiastical Europe through careful use of law and political manipulation. It has been remarked that the papacy acquired and retained the most power under the leadership of Pope Innocent III during the late 12th and early 13th centuries. I plan to examine sources primarily pertaining to the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 and secondly to a collection of Innocent III’s papal letters. In my analysis, I hope to draw a correlation between Innocent III's actions and these actions influence on medieval society and why this period is considered to be the height of papal power since its inception.

The Fourth Lateran Council demonstrated Innocent III's great legal prowess and instigated legislation for the western world. Innocent himself had come from a background in canon law and was greatly concerned with solidifying the claims of the church as they pertained to the law, that is, having others ratify his claims under the law and further influencing the masses in supporting the Pope as a universal authority , eventually leading to important effects on many spheres of life for centuries. Careful analysis of his letter of summons (to the council) gives today’s readers a view of Innocent's moral and righteous beliefs. The letter also demonstrates the authority of Innocent III and the power that he wielded. Innocent Iasi’s desire to accomplish good is evident throughout the letter, such phrases as "...we shall convoke a general council to be celebrated solely for the profit of souls" and his description of Earth being the "vineyard of the Lord" infected by thorns convey a deep emotional involvement. Upon further reading the letter states that all persons...

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... High Middle Ages: 1000-1300,ed. by Bryce D. Lyon. Toronto: Collier-Macmillan Canada, Ltd., 1966

Pope Innocent III. The Moon and the Sun (Sicut Universitatis Conditor, 1198) from Charles T. David, Western Awakening Sources of Medieval History Volume II c.1000-c.1500. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1967.

Anonymous. Twelfth Ecumenical Council: Lateran IV 1215, From H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary. St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/lateran4.html

Secondary Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Innocent_III accessed 15 March 2010

David, Charles T. Western Awakening Sources of Medieval History Volume II c.1000- c.1500 New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1967

Tierney, Brian . Western Europe in the Middle Ages: 300-1475. Toronto: McGraw- Hill College, 1999.

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