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Nicholas I (Latin: Nicolaus I; c. 800 – 13 November 867), called Nicholas the Great, was the pope from 24 April 858 until his death. He is remembered as a consolidator of papal authority, exerting decisive influence on the historical development of the papacy and its position among the Christian nations of Western Europe. Nicholas I asserted that the pope should have suzerainty over all Christians, even royalty, in matters of faith and morals.[1]

Nicholas refused King Lothair II of Lotharingia's request for an annulment of his marriage to Teutberga. When a council pronounced in favor of annulment, Nicholas I declared the council deposed, its messengers excommunicated, and its decisions invalid. Despite pressure from the Carolingians, who laid siege to Rome, his decision held. During his reign, relations with the Byzantine Empire soured because of his support for Patriarch Ignatios of Constantinople, who had been removed from his post in favor of Photius I.

Since the seventeenth century, Nicholas has been venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church, with his feast on 13 November.[2]

Early career

Born to a distinguished family in Rome, son of the Defensor Theodore, Nicholas received excellent education. Distinguished for his piety, benevolence, competence, knowledge, and eloquence, he entered the service of the Church at an early age. Pope Sergius II (844–847) made him a subdeacon and Pope Leo IV (847–855) a deacon. After the death of Pope Benedict III on 7 April 858, Louis II of Italy came to Rome to influence the papal election. On 24 April Nicholas was elected pope, consecrated, and enthroned in St. Peter's Basilica in the presence of Emperor Louis.[3] Three days later, Nicholas held a farewell banquet for the emperor and afterward, accompanied by the Roman nobility, visited him in his camp before the city, on which occasion the emperor met the pope and led his horse for some distance.[4]

Papacy

To a spiritually exhausted and politically uncertain Western Europe beset by Muslim and Norse incursions, Pope Nicholas appeared as a conscientious representative of Roman primacy in the Church. He was filled with a high conception of his mission for the vindication of Christian morality and the defence of God's law.[4] His co-operation with Emperor Louis II and Byzantine forces temporarily stemmed the Muslim advance in southern Italy.[5] He also strengthened the Ostian fortifications against any future Muslim raids.[6]

Bishops

Archbishop John of Ravenna oppressed the inhabitants of the Papal States, treated his suffragan bishops with violence, made unjust demands upon them for money, and illegally imprisoned priests. He also forged documents to support his claims against the Roman See and maltreated the papal legates. As the warnings of the pope were without result, and the archbishop ignored a thrice-repeated summons to appear before the papal tribunal, he was excommunicated. Having first visited the Emperor Louis at Pavia, the archbishop repaired with two imperial delegates to Rome, where Nicholas cited him before the Roman synod assembled in the autumn of 860. Upon this John fled from Rome.[4]

Going in person to Ravenna, the pope then investigated and equitably regulated everything. Again appealing to the emperor, the archbishop was recommended by him to submit to the pope, which he did at the Roman Synod of November 861. Later on, however, he entered into a pact with the excommunicated the archbishops of Trier and Cologne, was himself again excommunicated, and once more forced to make his submission to the pope. Another conflict arose between Nicholas and Archbishop Lothair II of Lotharingia's request for an annulment of his marriage to Teutberga. When a council pronounced in favor of annulment, Nicholas I declared the council deposed, its messengers excommunicated, and its decisions invalid. Despite pressure from the Carolingians, who laid siege to Rome, his decision held. During his reign, relations with the Byzantine Empire soured because of his support for Patriarch Ignatios of Constantinople, who had been removed from his post in favor of Photius I.

Since the seventeenth century, Nicholas has been venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church, with his feast on 13 November.[2]

Born to a distinguished family in Rome, son of the Defensor Theodore, Nicholas received excellent education. Distinguished for his piety, benevolence, competence, knowledge, and eloquence, he entered the service of the Church at an early age. Pope Sergius II (844–847) made him a subdeacon and Pope Leo IV (847–855) a deacon. After the death of Pope Benedict III on 7 April 858, Louis II of Italy came to Rome to influence the papal election. On 24 April Nicholas was elected pope, consecrated, and enthroned in St. Peter's Basilica in the presence of Emperor Louis.[3] Three days later, Nicholas held a farewell banquet for the emperor and afterward, accompanied by the Roman nobility, visited him in his camp before the city, on which occasion the emperor met the pope and led his horse for some distance.[4]

Papacy

To a spiritually exhausted and politically uncertain Western Europe beset by Muslim and Norse incursions, Pope Nicholas appeared as a conscientious representative of Roman primacy in the Church. He was filled with a high conception of his mission for the vindication of Christian morality and the defence of God's law.[4] His co-operation with Emperor Louis II and Byzantine forces temporarily stemmed the Muslim advance in southern Italy.[5] He also strengthened the Ostian fortifications against any future Muslim raids.[6]

Bishops

Archbishop John of Ravenna oppressed the inhabitants of the Papal States, treated his suffragan bishops with violence, made unjust demands upon them for money, and illegally imprisoned priests. He also forged documents to support his claims against the Roman See and maltreated the papal legates. As the warnings of the pope were without result, and the archbishop ignored a thrice-repeated summons to appear before the papal tribunal, he was excom

To a spiritually exhausted and politically uncertain Western Europe beset by Muslim and Norse incursions, Pope Nicholas appeared as a conscientious representative of Roman primacy in the Church. He was filled with a high conception of his mission for the vindication of Christian morality and the defence of God's law.[4] His co-operation with Emperor Louis II and Byzantine forces temporarily stemmed the Muslim advance in southern Italy.[5] He also strengthened the Ostian fortifications against any future Muslim raids.[6]

BishopsArchbishop John of Ravenna oppressed the inhabitants of the Papal States, treated his suffragan bishops with violence, made unjust demands upon them for money, and illegally imprisoned priests. He also forged documents to support his claims against the Roman See and maltreated the papal legates. As the warnings of the pope were without result, and the archbishop ignored a thrice-repeated summons to appear before the papal tribunal, he was excommunicated. Having first visited the Emperor Louis at Pavia, the archbishop repaired with two imperial delegates to Rome, where Nicholas cited him before the Roman synod assembled in the autumn of 860. Upon this John fled from Rome.[4]

Going in person to Ravenna, the pope then investigated and equitably regulated everything. Again appealing to the emperor, the archbishop was recommended by him to submit to the pope, which he did at the Roman Synod of November 861. Later on, however, he entered into a pact with the excommunicated t

Going in person to Ravenna, the pope then investigated and equitably regulated everything. Again appealing to the emperor, the archbishop was recommended by him to submit to the pope, which he did at the Roman Synod of November 861. Later on, however, he entered into a pact with the excommunicated the archbishops of Trier and Cologne, was himself again excommunicated, and once more forced to make his submission to the pope. Another conflict arose between Nicholas and Archbishop Hincmar of Reims: this concerned the prerogatives of the papacy. Bishop Rothad of Soissons had appealed to the pope against the decision of the Synod of Soissons of 861, which had deposed him. Hincmar opposed the appeal to the pope, but eventually had to acknowledge the right of the papacy to take cognizance of important legal causes (causae majores) and pass independent judgment upon them. A further dispute broke out between Hincmar and the pope as to the elevation of the cleric Wulfad to the archiepiscopal See of Bourges, but here again, Hincmar finally submitted to the decrees of the Apostolic See, and the Frankish synods passed corresponding ordinances.

Nicholas showed the same zeal in other efforts to maintain ecclesiastical discipline, especially as to the marriage laws. Ingiltrud, wife of Count Boso, had left her husband for a paramour; Nicholas commanded the bishops in the dominions of Charles the Bald to excommunicate her unless she returned to her husband. As she paid no attention to the summons to appear before the Synod of Milan in 860, she was put under the ban.

Lothair II, not having any children by his wife, Teutberga, had abandoned her to marry his mistress, Waldrada. At the Synod of Aachen on 28 April 862, the bishops of Lotharingia approved this union, contrary to ecclesiastical law. At the Synod of Metz, June 863, the papal legates, bribed by the king, assented to the Aachen decision, and condemned the absent Teutberga, who took refuge in the court of Lothair's uncle, Charles the Bald, and appealed to the Pope. Upon this the pope brought the matter before his own tribunal. The two archbishops, Günther of Cologne and Thietgaud of Trier, both relatives of Waldrada, had come to Rome as delegates, and were summoned before the Lateran Synod of October 863, when the pope condemned and deposed them as well as John of Ravenna and Hagano of Bergamo. Emperor Louis II took up the cause of the deposed bishops, while King Lothair advanced upon Rome with an army and laid siege to the city, so that the pope was confined for two days in St. Peter's without food. Yet Nicholas did not waver in his determination; after Engelberga arranged a reconciliation with the pope,[7] the emperor withdrew from Rome and commanded the former archbishops of Trier and Cologne to return to their homes. Nicholas never ceased his efforts to bring about a reconciliation between Lothair and his wife.

Another matrimonial case in which Nicholas interposed was that of Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald, who had married Count Baldwin I of Flanders without her father's consent. Frankish bishops had excommunicated Judith, and Hincmar of Reims had taken sides against her, but Nicholas urged leniency in order to protect freedom of marriage.

Relations to the Eastern Church

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Benedict III
Pope
858–867
Succeeded by
Adrian II