Simon de Brion (Martin IV) elected Pope

Pope Martin IV (between 1210 and 1220 – March 28, 1285), born Simon de Brion, held the papacy from February 21, 1281 until his death.

Simon de Brion, son of Jean, sieur de Brion, was born at the château of Meinpicien in the province of Touraine, France, in the decade following 1210. The seigneurial family de Brion, who took their name from Brion near Joigny, flourished in the Brie française. He spent time at the University of Paris, then reportedly studied law at Padua and Bologna. Through papal favour he received a canonry at St-Quentin, which he enjoyed in 1238, and spent a period 1248-1259 as a canon of the cathedral chapter in Rouen, finally as archdeacon. At the same time he was appointed treasurer of the church of St. Martin in Tours by Louis IX, an office he held until he was elected pope in 1281. In 1259, just as he disappears from the documents at Rouen, he was appointed to the council of the king, who made him keeper of the great seal, chancellor of France, one of the great officers in the household of the king.
In December 1261, the new French pope Urban IV made him cardinal-priest, with the titulus of the church of St. Cecilia. This entailed Simon de Brion's residence in Rome.
He returned to France as a legate for Urban IV and also for his successor Pope Clement IV, in 1264-1269 and again in 1274-1279, under Pope Gregory X. In the negotiations for papal support for the assumption of the crown of Sicily by Charles of Anjou, he became deeply politically entwined. As legate he presided over several synods on reform, the most important of which was held at Bourges in September, 1276.
Six months after the death of Pope Nicholas III in 1280, Charles of Anjou intervened in the papal conclave at Viterbo by imprisoning two influential Italian cardinals, on the grounds that they were interfering with the election. Without their opposition, Simon de Brie was unanimously elected to the papacy, taking the name Martin IV, on February 22, 1281.
Viterbo was placed under interdict for the imprisonment of the cardinals, and Rome was not at all inclined to accept a hated Frenchman as Pope, so Martin IV was crowned instead at Orvieto, on March 23, 1281.
Dependent on Charles of Anjou in nearly everything, the new Pope quickly appointed him to the position of Roman Senator. At the insistence of Charles, Martin IV excommunicated the Roman Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus (1261-1282), who stood in the way of Charles' plans to restore the Latin Empire of the East that had been established in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade. He thus broke the tenuous union which had been reached between the Greek and the Latin Churches at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274, and further compromise was rendered impossible.
In 1282, Charles was overthrown in the violent massacre known as the Sicilian Vespers. The Sicilians had elected Peter III of Aragon (1276-1285) as their King and sought papal confirmation in vain, though they were willing to reconfirm Sicily as a vassal state of the Papacy; Martin IV used all the spiritual and material resources at his command against the Aragonese, trying to preserve Sicily for the House of Anjou. He excommunicated Peter III, declared his kingdom of Aragon forfeit, and ordered a crusade against him, but it was all in vain.
With the death of his protector Charles d'Anjou, Martin was unable to remain at Rome. Pope Martin IV died at Perugia on March 28, 1285.
Among the seven cardinals created by Martin IV was Benedetto Gaetano, who afterwards ascended the papal throne as the famous Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303).
In the Divine Comedy, Dante sees Martin IV in Purgatory, where the reader is reminded of the former pontiff's fondness for eels and wine.

Born at the castle of Montpensier in the old French province of Touraine at an unknown date; d. at Perugia 28 March, 1285. As priest he held a benefice at Rouen for a short time, whereupon he became canon and treasurer at the church of St. Martin in Tours. King Louis IX made him Chancellor of France in 1260 and Urban VI created him cardinal-priest with the titular church of St. Cecilia in December, 1262. Under Urban VI (1261-4) and his successor, Clement IV (1265-8), he was legate in France with powers to offer the Kingdom of Sicily to Charles of Anjou on certain conditions. Under Gregory X (1271-76) he was sent as legate to France a second time, with ample faculties to stem the abuses that had crept into the Church of France. In this capacity he presided over various reformatory synods, the most important of which was the one held at Bourges in September, 1276 (Mansi, Sacr. Conc. nova at ampl. Collectio XXIV, 165-180). Just six months after the death of Pope Nicholas III, Simon de Brie was unanimously elected pope at Viterbo on 22 February, 1281. His election was due to Charles of Anjou who was present at Viterbo and caused the two most influential cardinals of the Italian faction to be imprisoned before the conclave, on the plea that they were retarding the election. Cardinal Simon de Brie accepted the tiara with reluctance and chose the name of Martin. Though he was only the second pope by the name of Martin he is generally known as Martin IV, because since the beginning of the thirteenth century the Popes Marinus I (882-4) and Marinus II (941-6) were listed among the Martins.

Unable to go to Rome where a pope of French nationality was hated, and unwilling to stay at Viterbo which was under interdict because it had imprisoned two cardinals, Martin IV went to Orvieto where he was crowned on 23 March. Though personally pious and well-meaning, the new pope was dependent in everything on Charles of Anjou whom he at once appointed to the influential position of Roman Senator. He also assisted him in his endeavours to restore the Latin Empire of the East, and excommunicated the Greek emperor, Michael Palaeologus, of Constantinople, who opposed the plans of Charles of Anjou. By this imprudent act he broke the union which had been effected between the Greek and the Latin Churches at the Council of Lyons in 1274. After Sicily forcibly threw off the galling yoke of Charles of Anjou and gave expression to its deep hatred of France in the cruel massacre known as the Sicilian Vespers, Pope Martin IV used his full papal power to save Sicily for France. He excommunicated Peter III of Aragon whom the Sicilians had elected as their king, declared his kingdom of Aragon forfeited and ordered a crusade to be preached against him. But all his efforts proved useless. Among the seven cardinals created by Martin IV was Benedetto Gaetano, who afterwards ascended the papal throne as the famous Boniface VIII.

Born c. 1210, Simon de Brie (or Brion) was the canon os St. Martin of Tours and chancellor of France before Urban IV appointed him cardinal priest of St. Cecilia in 1261. Simon was a papal legate to France when he was elected pope twenty years later. Martin was not allowed to enter Rome and lived at Orvieto during his papacy. In 1282, the Sicilian Vespers expelled Charles of Anjou from Sicily, and Martin excommunicated Peter III of Aragon, whom the Sicilians had chosen to be their king. Martin encouraged Philip III the Bold of France to retake Sicily. Martin died of a surfeit of eels in 1285.