Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was, perhaps, the most powerful and qualified man to have held the papacy in history, if not the kindest or most empathetic. But despite his flaws, the Catholic Church may not have survived without him.
An intelligent, learned, and energetic man, Lotario dei Conti di Segni took the papacy in January of 1198, going on exert a huge amount of influence over the Christian states of Europe, claiming supremacy even over the European kings.
The Catholic Church faced grave challenges during the 12th century—some of which threatened to dissolve it completely. Pope Innocent III, upon his election, immediately went to work taking on those challenges.
One of the worst challenges lay in the Church’s corruption. Innocent simply wasn’t having it, and made the Church far more rigid in its policies, coming down hard on dissenters—this created an atmosphere that did not permit corruption, but also, unfortunately, did not allow for honest and open criticism.
But it was his reassertion of papal rights and authority that put Pope Innocent III on the map, and he used his influence to coerce monarchs to recognize the supremacy of the Church.
Pope Innocent III’s efforts in developing canon law, promoting administrative centralization, and expanding the Church’s power shaped the life of the Church for subsequent centuries.