Guido di Castello, born around 1085, may have been the son of the noble Niccolo di Castello. He was born in either Citta di Castello, in the foothills of the Apennines or in Macerata, in the March of Ancona, a little closer to the Adriatic. I tend to think the first is correct only because he donated a silver altarpiece to the cathedral at Citta di Castello as pope.

As a young man, Guido went to Paris to study under Peter Abelard in the old Notre Dame de Paris. He stayed friends with Abelard even after the man’s condemnation in 1140. Eventually, Guido became a distinguished master in the school on his own, becoming the first member of the Roman Curia ever to receive the honorarium “Master”.

After a number of years in Paris, Guido went to Rome to serve in the Curia. Pope Callixtus II ordained him a subdeacon and made him a Scriptor Apostolicus. Even now, his signature can still be seen on some papal bulls. Later, Pope Honorius II nominated him cardinal deacon of Santa Maria in Via Lata.

At the double election of popes in 1130, Guido, not a young frivolous man, took Innocent’s side. Within a few years, Guido became cardinal priest of San Marco. After that, he signed papal bulls as “SRE indigmus sacerdos” until he became pope. During Innocent’s rather long reign, Guido supported Innocent’s claims regarding abbot of Monte Cassino. He became rector of Benevento (1139), papal legate to France and legate to Germany. At this point, he incurred the displeasure of Bernard of Clairvaux for protecting Arnold of Brescia. Arnold had demanded that the Church give up its property. Bernard was not in agreement. Both Arnold and Peter Abelard were condemned to silence for their teachings at the Council of Sen.

The Papacy

The election of September 1143 was the first undisturbed papal election in eighty-two years. Guido was elected on 25 September and consecrated on the third of October, taking the name Celestine II.

Although he had supported Innocent II, he had different policies in mind.

1.       He opposed the concessions Innocent had made to Roger II of Sicily. He refused to ratify the Treaty of Mignano. However, he died before the conflict got out of hand and it passed on to the next pope to handle.

2.       Celestine was in favor of the Plantagenets’ claim to the throne of England. He opposed King Stephen. So, he refused to renew the authority of papal legate on Stephen’s brother, Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester and abbot of Glastonbury. This made Henry secondary prelate to the Archbishop of Canterbury, which was not to Henry’s liking.

3.       Celestine ordered collections be made for the Templars and the Hospitalers, who had a hospital in Jerusalem.

4.       King Louis VII of France had refused Pope Innocent’s choice for archbishop of Bourges. After much haranguing, Innocent had put an interdict on the entire country. It stood for three years. No sacraments were allowed throughout the whole of the country. Celestine got negotiators in within a short time after his consecration and Louis relented. The Pope lifted the interdict and Louis asked for absolution.

On 8 March 1144, not six months after his consecration, Pope Celestine died at the monastery of San Sebastian on Palatine Hill. Some references point to an unnatural death, ie, poison. We will never know. He is buried in the south transept of the Lateran.

It is likely that he had a number of plans which could have changed the direction of the Church, a little, had he lived.


Internal link: POPE INNOCENT III – Lanternarius Press