chapter  3
8 Pages

Pope Innocent III and Secular Law

ByJames M. Powell

On the feast of the Ascension, 1207, Pope Innocent III left Rome and went to Viterbo, where he was received “with great joy, glory and honor.”1 According to the Gesta Innocentii III, his purpose was to use Viterbo as an example that heresy would not be tolerated in the papal state by promulgating a statute against it. The Patarene heretics, however, did not await his coming; they had already left town. What needs to be made clear, however, is that Innocent was acting in his role as temporal rather than as spiritual ruler. Daniel Waley, though he says that the pope is making use of his temporal authority, refers to this statute as an ecclesiastical ordinance.2 But Waley does put this legislation into its proper framework, the Parliament of Viterbo, which he describes as of “greatest importance for the papal state.”3 At Viterbo, Innocent was acting as a secular ruler, promulgating law to be enforced in secular courts. Although Waley has argued that the statutes published in Viterbo did not constitute a “full code” of laws, the present chapter will show that they served as a model for future legislation.