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Approval of Norman expeditions in Italy and Sicily was all the more potent because it most often came directly from the Pope himself. This had to do not only with the Papal territories' geographic proximity to the Normans' conquests, but also with the fact that the Normans were perceived by the Pope as reclaiming for Latin Christendom lands held previously by the Greek Church and the Muslims. The Pope thus had a vested interest in the Normans' expansion: when the Normans, who were Latin Christians, stretched their influence over Sicily and Southern Italy, the area over which the Pope and the Western Christian Church could hope to command authority over religious affairs increased.

Furthermore, the Papacy in these years was trying to break free from the control of the German Emperors, who wanted to keep their customary right to appoint Popes; they did not want to comply with the Papal Election Decree issued by the reforming Pope Nicholas II in 1059, which stated that the Cardinal Bishops ought to elect each new Pope.12 The Popes needed political and military protection from the Western Emperors, and they saw that their best hope lay with the fearsome Normans who had by the mid-eleventh century become the most dominant force in Southern Italy.

It took a long time for the Normans to transform themselves into Papally approved rulers from the professional mercenaries and pirates they were upon their arrival in Italy at the beginning of the eleventh century. The bandits committed many a sacrilege, for not even pilgrims traveling through the peninsula on their way to the Holy Land or the shrine of St. Michael at Monte Gargano were safe. According to Ordericus Vitalis, an English monk who lived in the abbey of St. Evroul in Normandy, the sons of


12. Decree on papal election (April 1059), ed. E. Friedburg, Corpus Iuris Canonici, I (Leipzig, 1879), col. 77-79. Trans. in Tierney 42f.

 

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