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Coat of arms of the Crescentier

A Roman patrician family originating from the Sabina is referred to as a Crescentier , who at times had great influence in Rome and on the papacy in the 10th and 11th centuries and is one of the most important families of the early papal nobility .

The family name is not contemporary, but was derived from the common first name Crescentius and was later adopted as a family name.


The family has been known in Rome since the beginning of the 10th century. The first representative was a Crescencius, who as judex (judge) supported Ludwig the Blind of (Upper) Italy, Roman Emperor from 901/902 to 905, in questions of justice at the Holy See.

As leaders of Roman national politics during the saeculum obscurum , the Crescentians competed with the Tusculans, who were friendly to the emperor . In times of declining imperial influence, the aristocratic family held power over Rome until the beginning of the 11th century and brought with John XIII. (965–972) one of their relatives (or at least partisans) on the papal chair, while other popes of this time are considered "puppet popes" of the Crescentier. The clan also provided the ruling praefectus in Rome and forced the church to make contributions and endowments, in fact plundering the church treasury.

Historians have tried to classify the people who are often only mentioned individually and without context and have made a rough classification into Ottaviani and Stefaniani .

The Castel Sant'Angelo , in 10-11. Century known as domus Crescenti
Crescentier tower in Rome ("Tor Crescenzia") , later the residence of Cola di Rienzo

The base of the Crescentier in Rome was the (actually papal) Castel Sant'Angelo , they also owned numerous properties in the Sant'Eustachio district and a tower on the site of today's Palazzo Madama . In the 12th century, Niccolò di Crescenzio built a tower that still stands today to control the Pons Aemilius and to collect contributions from the Tiber mills, the "Tor Crescenzia". In the country, they had numerous armed rearmates, in particular they ruled the Sabina until the end of the 14th century .

They overthrew popes several times and installed counter- popes , for example in 974 Boniface VII and 997 John XVI. that both ended tragically. After the death of Sergius IV in 1012, they installed their candidate Gregory in the Lateran without being elected by the cardinals . A conflict arose with the Tusculans who, with the support of Emperor Henry II , pushed through the election of their head of the family, Count of Tusculum (a layman), as Pope Benedict VIII , who forced the Crescentians to resort to their rural castles. Abbot Hugo von Farfa managed to play off the branches of the family against each other.

In 1045 they tried to raise Giovanni de 'Crescenzi Ottaviani to Pope Silvester III. once again to regain their influence, but he was deposed by the Tusculans after two years. Since the mismanagement of the Tusculan popes had provoked a strong reform movement under the spiritual leadership of Petrus Damiani , which wanted to push back the influence of the two clans, the Tusculans and Crescentians joined forces in 1058 in the election of the Tusculan Benedict X ; however, he was deposed in 1060. Under Damiani's energetic pupil Gregor VII , the Gregorian reform took place from 1073 onwards .

A last antipope was the Crescentier, when in 1159 when Alexander III was elected. her relative Octaviano de 'Crescenzi was defeated. With the support of armed troops from Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, he was proclaimed antipope Viktor IV and received papal ordinations from Cardinal Bishop Imar von Tusculum , but could not assert himself in Rome. When a conclave took place for the first time in the papal election in 1216 , the cardinal deacon of San Teodoro, Gregorio Crescenzi , was among the participants .

The family withdrew to their rural estates, but repeatedly provided cardinals and until the 16th century owned a row of houses and a palazzo next to the Pantheon in Rome ; from 1580 Giacomo della Porta had two new palazzi built (including the Palazzo Serlupi -Crescenzi in the via del Seminario ) and only died out in the 18th century with the brothers Virgilio Crescenzi, Marchese of Montorio († 1761), and Cardinal Marcello Crescenzi († 1768).

Important representatives