Pope Innocent III was arguably the most powerful Pope in history. He was the peak of the Medieval Papacy, ruling from 1198 to 1216. He was the first Pope to claim the "plentitude of power", or universal power over the kings of Europe.

Innocent voided King John of England's candidate for Archbishop of Canterbury. John disagreed with the monks' choice for Archbishop and made his own candidate Archbishop (this is known as lay investiture). Innocent chose another candidate over John's and the monks', and when John refused to submit, Innocent placed England under interdict. John responded by persecuting the clergy and seizing church property, and Innocent asked King Philip Augustus of France to invade. John backed down and agreed to become the Pope's vassal.

Innocent also forced Philip Augustus to back down. When Philip left his wife, Ingeborg, because of her bad breath, Innocent placed France under interdict, and Philip agreed to go back to Ingeborg.

Innocent even got his own candidate to be the Holy Roman Emperor. He backed Otto, a Welf who guaranteed to existence of the Papal States. Other nobles vying for the position of Emperor threatened the existence of the States. Innocent crowned Otto in 1209, and Otto failed to keep his promise. Innocent turned to Frederick II, the grandson of Frederick Barbarossa. Frederick defeated Otto and King John at the Battle of Bouvines, and consequently ascended to the throne.

One of Innocent's most influential decisions was to approve the mendicant orders. He gave St. Francis of Assisi approval to organize the Order of Friars Minor, or Franciscans, in 1210. In 1215, he approved the Dominican Order. The mendicant friars were dedicated to poverty and owned no personal property. Many clergymen felt threatened by their poverty; it was seen as an attack on the material wealth that many Bishops and Abbots had accumulated over the years. Innocent's approval of the orders was a strong statement in their favor.

Innocent called the Fourth Lateran Council in November of 1215. Among other things, the Council defined transubstantiation as an article of faith, called for the Eastern Orthodox Church to submit to the Papacy, attempted to reform corrupt clergymen, and prescribed that all good Catholics should confess and take Eucharist at least once a year.

In spite of all of his successes, Innocent III also had some failures. He lacked the means to control all of Europe, so his claim to have "plentitude of power" was not very effective. He couldn't even effectively control the Papal States, and gave control of them to Azzo VI of Este. His attempts to reform the chancery changed nothing.

Perhaps his biggest failure was the Fourth Crusade. He called the faithful of Europe to bring the Holy Land back under Christian control, and many noblemen responded. However, the Venetians who were supposed to ferry them across the Mediterranean Sea diverted them to sack the Christian town of Zara, and even Constantinople, which never recovered from the looting and pillaging. None of the Crusaders ever reached the Holy Land.

In short, Pope Innocent III managed to do many good things during his tenure as Pope. However, his focus on politics caused major problems for the Church in the future.

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