Girolamo Masci (Nicholas IV) elected Pope
Pope Nicholas IV (September 30, 1227 – April 4, 1292), born Girolamo Masci, was Pope from February 22, 1288 to April 4, 1292.
A Franciscan monk, he had been legate to the Greeks under Pope Gregory X (1271–76) in 1272, succeeded Bonaventure as general of his order in 1274, was made Cardinal Priest of Santa Prassede and Latin Patriarch of Constantinople by Pope Nicholas III (1277–80), Cardinal Bishop of Palestina by Pope Martin IV (1281–85), and succeeded Pope Honorius IV (1285–87) after a ten-months' vacancy in the papacy.
Masci was born at Lisciano, near Ascoli Piceno. He was a pious, peace-loving monk with no ambition save for the Church, the crusades and the extirpation of heresy. He steered a middle course between the factions at Rome, and sought a settlement of the Sicilian question. In May 1289 he crowned King Charles II of Naples and Sicily (1285–1309) after the latter had expressly recognized papal suzerainty, and in February 1291 concluded a treaty with Alfonso III of Aragon (1285–91) and Philip IV of France (1285–1314) looking toward the expulsion of James II of Aragon (1285–96) from Sicily. The loss of Acre in 1291 stirred Nicholas IV to renewed enthusiasm for a crusade. He sent missionaries, among them the celebrated Franciscan missionary, John of Monte Corvino, to labour among the Bulgarians, Ethiopians, Mongols, Tatars and Chinese.
Nicholas IV issued an important constitution on July 18, 1289, which granted to the cardinals one-half of all income accruing to the Roman see and a share in the financial management, and thereby paved the way for that independence of the College of Cardinals which, in the following century, was to be of detriment to the papacy.
Nicholas IV died in the palace which he had built beside Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
Born at Ascoli in the March of Ancona; died in Rome, 4 April, 1292. He was of humble extraction, and at an early age entered the Franciscan Order. In 1272 he was sent as a delegate to Constantinople to invite the participation of the Greeks in the Second Council of Lyons. Two years later he succeeded St. Bonaventure in the generalship of his order. While he was on a mission to France to promote the restoration of peace between that country and Castile, he was created cardinal-priest with the title of Santa Pudenziana (1278) and in 1281 Martin IV appointed him Bishop of Palestrina. After the death of Honorius IV (3 April, 1287), the conclave held at Rome was for a time hopelessly divided in its selection of a successor. When fever had carried off six of the electors, the others, with the sole exception of Girolamo, left Rome. It was not until the following year that they reassembled and on 15 February, 1288, unanimously elected him to the papacy. Obedience and a second election however (22 February) were alone capable of overcoming his reluctance to accept the supreme pontificate. He was the first Franciscan pope, and in loving remembrance of Nicholas III he assumed the name of Nicholas IV.
The reign of the new pope was not characterized by sufficient independence. The undue influence exercised at Rome by the Colonna is especially noteworthy and was so apparent even during his lifetime that Roman wits represented him encased in a column — the distinctive mark of the Colonna family — out of which only his tiara-covered head emerged. The efforts of Rudolf of Habsburg to receive the imperial crown at the hands of the new pope were not successful. His failure was partly due to the estrangement consequent upon the attitude assumed by the pope in the question of the Sicilian succession. As feudal suzerain of the kingdom, Nicholas annulled the treaty, concluded in 1288 through the mediation of Edward I of England, which confirmed James of Aragon in the possession of the island, He lent his support to the rival claims of the House of Anjou and crowned Charles II King of Sicily and Naples at Rieti, 29 May, 1289, after the latter had expressly acknowledged the suzerainty of the Apostolic See and promised not to accept any municipal dignity in the States of the Church. The action of the pope did not end the armed struggle for the possession of Sicily nor did it secure the kingdom permanently to the House of Anjou. Rudolf of Habsburg also failed to obtain from the pope the repeal of the authorization, granted the French king, to levy tithes in certain German districts for the prosecution of the war against the House of Aragon. When he appointed his son Albert to succeed Ladislaus IV of Hungary (31 August, 1290), Nicholas claimed the realm as a papal fief and conferred it upon Charles Martel, son of Charles II of Naples.
In 1291 the fall of Ptolemais put an end to Christian dominion in the East. Previous to this tragic event, Nicholas had in vain endeavoured to organize a crusade. He now called upon all the Christian princes to take up arms against the Mussulman and instigated the holding of councils to devise the means of sending assistance to the Holy Land. These synods were to discuss likewise the advisability of the union of the Knights Templars and Knights of St. John, as the dissensions among them had partly caused the loss of Ptolemais. The pope himself initiated the preparations for the crusade and fitted out twenty ships for the war. His appeals and his example remained unheeded, however, and nothing of permanent value was accomplished.
Nicholas IV sent missionaries, among them the celebrated John of Montecorvino, to the Bulgarians, Ethiopians, Tatars, and Chinese. By his constitution of 18 July, 1289, the cardinals were granted one half of the revenues of the Apostolic See and a share in the financial administration. In 1290 he renewed the condemnation of the sect known as the Apostolici. Nicholas was pious and learned; he contributed to the artistic beauty of Rome, building particularly a palace beside Santa Maria Maggiore, the church in which he was buried and where Sixtus V erected an imposing monument to his memory.
The first Franciscan elected pope, Girolamo Masci was born in 1227 near Ascoli in the papal states. He succeeded St. Bonaventure as Franciscan minister general in 1274 and was made a cardinal in 1281. Elected to the papal see in 1288, Nicholas mediated peace between France and Aragon; he received the news that Muslims had taken Acre (1291). In 1290, he condemned the fanatical Apostolici. The pope sent missionaries to Chile and Ethiopia; also, he established the first Roman Catholic church in China. A patron of the arts, Nicholas died in 1292.