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ANACLETUS II. (PIETRO PIERLEONI):

Antipope to Innocent II. from 1130 to 1138. By reason of his Jewish descent, which prompted Voltaire to call him ironically "the Jewish Pope," Anacletus had to face a great deal of opposition and calumny.

An ancestor of Anacletus, whose name was probably Baruch, had grown rich in the middle of the eleventh century by lending money to both sides in the struggle between the popes and the Roman nobility. Ambition prompted him to embrace Christianity, on which occasion he assumed the name of Benedict. He married a lady belonging to an aristocratic family of Rome, and his son, Leo de Benedicto Christiano, subsequently took rank among the champions of the papal court in its conflict with the imperial party. Leo's son Petrus Leonis, whose name became the family eponym, resolved to devote his own son, who also bore his name, to the priesthood, and he lived to see this son wear the cardinal's hat. Pierleoni did not become pontiff, however, until after the death of his ambitious father.

One of the group who left Rome with the pope Gelasius II. when the latter fled to France, Leo subsequently was a prominent factor in the election of Calixtus II. The latter manifested his gratitude to Pierleoni, as well as recognition of his talent, by appointing him, toward the end of the year 1123, head of the papal legation to France. While in that country, Pierleoni had the opportunity of fulfilling several important ecclesiastical missions, as well as of presiding at the councils of Chartres and Beauvais.

Innocent II. His Opponent.

Pierleoni was elected pope as Anacletus II. in 1130 by one faction at Rome, while another faction elected Innocent II. Pierleoni received but little support when elevated to the pontificate, while Innocent II. was upheld not only by the councils of Rheims and Pisa, and by the greater portion of the Roman Catholic clergy—who, it would seem, could not forgive Anacletus his reputed Jewish physiognomy—but also by the entire European royalty, with the exception of Roger of Sicily, who was Anacletus' brother-in-law, and by the duke of Aquitania. It redounds to the honor, liberality, and magnanimity of the population of Rome that Anacletus was able to maintain to the last his authority in the capital, notwithstanding the repeated attacks of the emperor Lothaire II., who supported Innocent II.

The opposition to Anacletus expressed itself in the invention and dissemination of the most slanderous reports concerning him. Bernard of Clairvaux, who was the most zealous supporter of Innocent in France, quite naturally poured forth his indignation in a vehement epistle to Lothaire, to the effect that "to the shame of Christ a man of Jewish origin was come to occupy the chair of St. Peter."

Accused of Malfeasance.

But aside from styling him "Judæo-pontifex," the antagonists of Anacletus circulated the most ignominious rumors about him, charging him with the systematic robbery of chapels and churches—in the disposal of which spoils the Jews were designated as his accessories—and not flinching even from accusing him of being guilty of incest. In brief,the consensus of opinion regarding him was summed up in the decision that he was not only as bad as, but even worse than, a Jew.

Though the charge of assisting the pope in robbing the churches and chapels was undoubtedly a calumniation of the Jews, it is quite probable that the Jews sided with Anacletus in this papal schism, which lasted until his death, in the year 1138. The interests of their own safety in Rome, where his sovereignty was unquestioned, must have urged them to adopt the policy of obedience to Anacletus. In fact, the cold, formal response with which Innocent II. greeted the Jewish delegation upon his entry into Rome would warrant this assumption. There is no ground, however, for supposing that the opponents of Anacletus had used their influence to arouse the fanaticism of the masses against the Jews. Both Bernard of Clairvaux, through whose indefatigable zeal and eloquence the rulers of France and of Germany were won for the cause of Innocent, and the inhabitants of Rome, though, as a rule, inimical to the Jews, repeatedly condemned their persecution and oppression. As for Anacletus, however, his ancestral connection with the Jews undoubtedly served to enhance his schismatic troubles, inasmuch as it afforded his antagonists an additional ground for calumniation. Yet it is quite probable that the vague historic recollection of Anacletus—his Jewish origin, his ecclesiastical struggle, and, perchance, his friendly attitude toward the Jews—in later days fashioned itself into a semi-mythical background for the wide-spread medieval legend relating to the Jewish pope (see Andreas).

Bibliography:
  • Güdemann, Gesch. des Erziehungswesens und der Cultur der Juden in Italien, pp. 76 et seq.;
  • Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. d. Juden in Rom, i. 214 et seq., and index;
  • compare Zöpffel, Die Doppelwahl des Jahres 1130, Göttingen, 1871;
  • Göttinger Gelehrte Anzeigen, 1876, pp. 257, 304;
  • Gregorovius, Gesch. d. Stadt Rom im Mittelalter, iv. 391-417.
H. G. E.
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