Pope Gregory IX - 344 

Pope Gregory IX
(1227-1241)

Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241), nephew of Innocent III who served as papal legate during his reign, was one of the most influential supporters of women's religious movements during the Middle Ages. The prolific number of Gregory's proclamations regarding the Order of Saint Damian reflects his lifetime of work and his interest in preserving religious women in their way of life. He was one of the lawyer-popes during the era in which canonical legislation was key to the centralization of papal power and its agenda to stamp out heresy.

A series of documents, all entitled Solet annuere, was issued along with Gregory's apostolic blessing in response to the request of "the poor enclosed nuns" to establish new houses. Another series of similar documents, all entitled Religiosam vitam, was issued in 1229 specifying privileges. In the same way four documents issued in 1230 and five issued in 1231 granted privileges, exemptions, and immunities to various houses. They are evidence of the proliferation of houses for enclosed women that prompted the necessity of uniform papal legislation. Volentes ut monasterium, October 7, 1232, limiting the number of members, shows increasingly tight papal control over the developing monasteries.

A number of documents emerge providing directives to Agnes in Prague. These are important because they frequently relate to Clare's letters to Agnes and because, once again, they show the widespread papal scrutiny of enclosed women. Because Agnes was a royal princess and because her father, Ottokar I, and her brother Vaclav III, were successively Kings of Bohemia, her political influence was potentially beneficial to the papal court. Real questions persisted regarding the financial and material provisions for enclosed communities. It took four years for Agnes and her sisters to receive papal approbation to live without common property in the manner of Clare.

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Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 344

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