This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29 -- Feast of Pope Saint Gelasius II

The name Cenzio Frangipani caught my eye.  He's the cardinal and imperial lackey who tried to prevent Gelasius from becoming pope by imprisoning him in 1118.  More on that in a moment, but first, a word about the name Frangipani. 

Frangipani: doesn't look like a villain
The Frangipani family was one of the most prominent in Rome until the rise of the Colonna and Orsini clans.  Their name comes from frangere panem, to break bread.  They were said to have distributed bread to the poor during one of the famines in the City.  A sixteenth century scion of the family named Marquis Muzio Frangipane is credited with developing a perfume from the Plumeria.  The flower is commonly called the frangipani, and was more familiar to me than the Italian nobles for whom it was named.  A third meaning of the word is an almond pastry filling, though its whether the name is connect to the family or just to breaking bread isn't clear to me. 

Poor old Gelasius II
That's a nice name, conjuring pretty and sweet associations.  It's too nice, in fact, for a cardinal who sells out the papacy to Emperor Henry V.  Pope Gelasius, a learned old monk who had served as Vatican chancellor before being drafted to become pope, was beaten, stomped on, and then dragged by the hair from the his monastery to a nearby castle, where he was chained up and thrown in a dungeon. 

Fortunately, the mobs of Rome resented this.  They stormed the castle, liberated the Pope, and placed him on the throne in the Lateran Palace.  Henry V hurried to Rome with the intention of ousting the Pope, and in a way, he succeeded. Hearing that imperial troops were in St. Peter's basilica, Gelasius hastily packed his court and jumped on a couple of ships and headed down the Tiber. 

Henry took advantage of Gelasius' absence to appoint and confirm an anti-pope.  His choice was an ancient Portuguese cardinal named Maurice Bourdin, who took Gregory as his papal name.  The French ordained Gelasius (who had been a deacon, rather than a priest) and then confirmed him as pope.  After a while, Henry moved out of Rome and Pope Gelasius tried to return, but the Frangipani faction broke up a Mass he was conducting.  Gelasius moved back to France and died soon after in the Cluny monastery. 

Gelasius has never been formally canonized, but he is venerated by his Benedictine brothers, which is good enough for me. 

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