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Pope Martin IV

Martin IV
Papacy began 22 February 1281
Papacy ended 28 March 1285
Predecessor Nicholas III
Successor Honorius IV
Created Cardinal 17 December 1261
by Urban IV
Personal details
Birth name Simon de Brion
Born c. 1210–1220
Touraine, Kingdom of France
Died 28 March 1285(1285-03-28)
Perugia, Papal States
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Coat of arms Martin IV's coat of arms
Other popes named Martin
Papal styles of
Pope Martin IV
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

Pope Martin IV, (Latin: Martinus IV; c. 1210/1220 – 28 March 1285), born Simon de Brion, was Pope from 22 February 1281[1] to his death in 1285.

Simon de Brion, son of Jean, sieur de Brion, was born at the château of Meinpincien,[2] Île-de-France, France, in the decade following 1210. The seigneurial family of Brion, who took their name from Brion near Joigny, flourished in the Brie français.[3] He spent time at the University of Paris, and is said to have then studied law at Padua and Bologna. Through papal favour he received a canonry at Saint-Quentin in 1238 and spent the period 1248–1259 as a canon of the cathedral chapter in Rouen, finally as archdeacon.[4] At the same time he was appointed treasurer of the church of St. Martin in Tours by King Louis IX of France, an office he held until he was elected pope in 1281. In 1259, he was appointed to the council of the king, who made him keeper of the great seal, chancellor of France, one of the great officers in the household of the king.

In December 1261,[5] the new French Pope, Urban IV made him cardinal-priest, with the titulus of the church of St. Cecilia. This entailed Simon de Brion's residence in Rome.

He returned to France as a legate for Urban IV and also for his successor Pope Clement IV in 1264–1269 and again in 1274–1279 under Pope Gregory X. He became deeply involved in the negotiations for papal support for the assumption of the crown of Sicily by Charles of Anjou. As legate he presided over several synods on reform, the most important of which was held at Bourges in September 1276.

Six months after the death of Pope Nicholas III in 1280, Charles of Anjou intervened in the papal election at Viterbo by imprisoning two influential Italian cardinals on the grounds that they were interfering with the election. Without their opposition, Simon de Brion was unanimously elected to the papacy, taking the name Martin IV,[6] on 22 February 1281.

Viterbo was placed under interdict for the imprisonment of the cardinals and Rome was not at all inclined to accept a hated Frenchman as Pope, so Martin IV was crowned instead at Orvieto on 23 March 1281.

Dependent on Charles of Anjou in nearly everything, the new Pope quickly appointed him to the position of (Western) Roman Senator. At the insistence of Charles, Martin IV excommunicated the Eastern Roman Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, who stood in the way of Charles's plans to restore the Latin Empire of the East that had been established in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade. He thus broke the tenuous union which had been reached between the Greek and the Latin Churches at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 and further compromise was rendered impossible.

In 1282, Charles was overthrown in the violent massacre known as the Sicilian Vespers. The Sicilians had elected Peter III of Aragon as their king and sought papal confirmation in vain, though they were willing to reconfirm Sicily as a vassal state of the papacy. Martin IV used all the spiritual and material resources at his command against the Aragonese in order to preserve Sicily for the House of Anjou. He excommunicated Peter III, declared his kingdom of Aragon forfeit, and ordered a crusade against him,[7] but it was all in vain.

With the death of his protector Charles of Anjou on 7 January 1285, Martin was unable to remain at Rome. He died at Perugia on 28 March 1285.

Among the seven cardinals created by Martin IV was Benedetto Gaetano, who afterwards ascended the papal throne as Pope Boniface VIII.

In the Divine Comedy, Dante sees Martin IV in Purgatory, where the reader is reminded of the former pontiff's fondness for Lake Bolsena eels and Vernaccia wine.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Nikolaus Backes, Kardinal Simon de Brion (Breslau) 1910, used by H.K. Mann and J. Hollnsteiner, The Lives of the Popes in the Middle Ages XVI (London) 1932: 171–205., both quoted by Kay, Richard (1965). "Martin IV and the Fugitive Bishop of Bayeux". Speculum 40 (3): 460–483 [p. 461f.] JSTOR 2850920. 
  3. ^ The Brie champenoise, by contrast, consisted of that part of the pays of Brie that lay within territories of the counts of Champagne. As a measure of the fractionalisations caused by feudalism, the sieur de Brion nevertheless held his seigneurie of Meinpincien from the count of Champagne.
  4. ^ As Magister Simon de Meinpiciaco he signed a document at Louviers, 2 March 1248. (Kay 1965:463).
  5. ^ Date as given by Mann and Hollnsteiner 1932.
  6. ^ Popes Marinus I and Marinus II, by an old error of the papal chancery, were counted as "Martins" II and III.( (Encyclopaedia Britannica' 1911, s.v., "Brie")
  7. ^ Bradbury, Jim (2007). The Capetians: Kings of France, 987–1328. London: Continuum Press. p. 239. ISBN 9781852855284. 


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Nicholas III
22 February 1281 – 28 March 1285
Succeeded by
Honorius IV

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