Innocent III, Francis and the Franciscans, and Dominic and the Dominicans Reactions towards Defending Christianity

Published: 2021-06-23
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During the early 1100s, Christianity and papacy faced various challenges ranging from criticisms to heresy. These problems were mostly experienced by Christian leaders and their followers Christians. During this period, Catholics had dominated in the most of the areas with believers. Led by their popes, they reacted distinctly towards the hardships they experienced as a result of their beliefs. Whereas the commercial revolution, as well as medieval Christianity anxiety regarding the wealth and the worldliness of church and papacy, resulted in criticism of Christianity and papacy from 11th, different personalities defended the church and papacy through various ways. This paper will explore some of these personalities and the ways they embraced to defend the church and papacy then.

Pope Innocent III

Innocent III was one of the people who reacted in different ways to the criticism of Christianity and papacy in the 1100s with an aim to defend the church and purpose. During his tenure, Innocent III experienced the most powers whereby he could settle various disputes particularly those involving leaders and imperial elections. Amongst the most challenging tasks was to mediate an imperial succession while preserving the rights of leaders and maintaining the papal power of the Papal States (Sayers, 2000). However, Innocent III was very strategic in bringing together all people in a more Christian manner. He is even recognized amongst the witty Christian leaders in the early Christianity.

Due to the increased political challenges, Innocent was very quick in recovering the Papal States and exercised feudal rights as the overload of the Sicily Kingdom. Through his claimants and in all his dealings, Innocent III worked towards separating Sicily from the empire since most of the rulers who had two crowns seemed threats to the Papal States (Br. Lawrence Mary M.I.C.M., 2010). Innocent III committed his efforts towards protecting Christians, his people from ruthless leaders who were more concerned with gaining power at the expense of other people, more so the kingdoms.

Innocent III undertook various political stands in a bid to protect his people from political invasion. Innocent III influenced his people and promised both Philip and Otto to be very careful with the papal territorial boundaries, but they betrayed his trust. The seriousness of this challenge is evident in Gesta which records many pages of the disputes and the special register for Papal that Innocent kept preserving the record (Sayers, 2000). The record concerned the business of Roman Empire. Innocent feared the ambitions of Philip Hohenstaufen and therefore supported Otto murdered Philip.

The killing of Philip violated the agreements between the pope and Otto and by 1212 Innocent turned to Frederick. He hoped that Fredericks leadership would weaken the Sicilian Kingdom. Supporting Frederick was not his will, but circumstances forced him as a manner of protecting his people (Br. Lawrence Mary M.I.C.M., 2010). He deemed it as not the best judgment and used that dispute to create the popes rights to evaluate the imperial candidates in various contested elections.

Innocent III campaigned against the increasing heresy that was a threat to Christianity. The campaign culminated during the Albigensian Crusade since heretics had taken much control of the southern part of France. In 1199, Innocent III sent legates to challenge the heretics with their supporters (Sayers, 2000). By 1206, St. Dominic had begun preaching to the heretics with the support of the pope. However, the results were not significant and following the assassination of papal legate Innocent III launched anti-heretics crusade and gave the Crusaders full privileges and indulgences.

Francis and Franciscans

On the other hand, Francis and the Franciscans reacted in distinctive ways to the criticism of Christianity as well as institutions of the church to defend the church and papacy. St, Francis, and the Franciscans were more determined to preach the gospel around the world so as to reach the greatest number of people as possible. They sought to cultivate the ideal orders set up by the previous Christians as a means of bringing Christians together and for the longevity of Christianity (Moreland & Curan, 2012). Due to various challenges that faced them, they were divided into three orders with each order mandated to carry out various Christianity promotion functions.

The first order consisted of lay brothers and priests who led in penance, preaching, and prayer. The second order consisted of nuns commonly referred to as Poor Clares while the third order consisted of lay men and women who emulated St. Francis spirit of social service, charity, and teachings (Friedlander, 2002). All these religious leaders under the various orders were more concerned about bringing as many as possible people to Christianity. They were defending Christianity from the heretics criticism by participating in various social services, preaching and teaching people way of life for better lives.

St. Francis and the Franciscans had to travel to Rome to receive approval of their rulings and teachings from Pope Innocent III. In order to protect further criticisms from other people, Innocent III gave them certain conditions while they practiced and carried out Christianity service. They had to live a life of penance, preaching and total poverty. They were deterred from owning any property whether individually or communally. They were to live lives of begging for food from people who listed to them and were not supposed to take anything in return even if it is money (Moreland & Curan, 2012). Franciscans worked towards helping the poor, sick and other needy people in the society.

St. Dominic and Dominicans

St. Dominic and the Dominicans also reacted to the criticism against Christianity and institutions of the church in different ways than the ones embraced by other personalities to defend the church and papacy. St. Dominic and Dominicans faced similar challenges to those that were experienced by Innocent III, but his challenges were more of heresy. Heresy much widespread in the region and was the main challenge that the Dominicans garnered against it. In a bid to curb heresy, St. Dominic established the Dominican Order that purposely committed its efforts towards spreading the gospel as a means of eradicating heresy.

Due to the heretical Albigensian in South France, Dominic saw the need for establishing a kind of an order to counter attack Catharism in the southern region. The order would help to combat heresy amongst other urban problems that would bring a systematic education about the previous monastic orders like Benedictines to tackle the religious difficulties burgeoning the populated cities (Lawrence, 2013). Dominicans were trained to order in their vernacular languages though with a great background in academic theology to reach as many people as possible as well as protecting Christians from heresy among other problems (Lawrence, 2013).

Instead of earning their living on the farms similar to what monasteries did, the new preachers would survive alms-giving and persuasive preaching from people who heard them. Dominicans went a step further and set up a branch of Catholicism Church to specifically deal with heredity. Pope Honorius recognized their order in 2016, and they were, therefore, free to strengthen Christianity roots.

Dominicans used the order which was instrumental in the inquisition. Catharism was frequent in the 12th century and to counter it, prosecution of heretics became prevalent. Dominicans were well trained in identify the heretics and dealing with them accordingly. However, in the 13th century, St. Dominic assigned them with the role of executing inquisitions as per the Dominican Order (Cusato & Mitchell, 2010). The inquisitors acted in full authority and with the name of the pope. They would question the accused heretics in the presence of witnesses where the accused was handed a summary of charges and could take an oath of telling the truth. Dominicans were accused of using various strategies to make the accused cooperate. Even though there was no any practice of torture in Christianity, by the middle of the 13th century, this method was widely used.


Pope Innocent III Francis and the Franciscans, and Dominic and the Dominicans used various strategies that helped curb the different challenges that they faced in early Christianity particularly the criticisms related to Christianity and papacy. Innocent III set the foundation for dealing with these problems and was more involved by political standouts since political instabilities significantly affected Christianity especially the Papal States. All of the three groups faced heresy as a major setback, and each group used distinct techniques in dealing with it. However, these techniques were enshrined in the Christianity practices. Use of campaigns and crusades, the building of churches, developing orders, and preaching and teaching were the main strategies used to challenge the difficulties that Christians experienced.


Br. Lawrence Mary M.I.C.M., T. (2010). Pope Innocent III and the Marks of a Great Papacy. Retrieved 20 April 2017, from

Cusato, M. F., & Mitchell, D. (2010). The Rule of the Friars Minor, 1209-2009 (1st ed). St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publications, St Bonaventure University.

Friedland, A. (2002). The Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century after Saint Francis (Review). The Catholic Historical Review.

Lawrence, C. (2013). The Friars (1st ed). London: I.B. Tauris

Moreland, A. B., & Curran, J. (2012). New Voices in Catholic Theology (1st ed). New York: Crossroad Pub.Vo.

Sayers, J. (2000). Pope Innocent III and His World ed. by John C. Moore. The Catholic Historical Review, 86(1), 109-111.

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