|The rise of Robert Guiscard|
The Normans and the popes : the pact of Melfi (1059)
Robert Guiscard, the last heir of the Hauteville brothers, initiated a plan to consolidate Norman power in southern Italy, in order to thwart the Byzantines and the vague autonomous threats of the Norman barons. Although powerful, he felt he needed to show that his pursuit of conquest was allied with a moral authority. There was little chance that the German Empire would look favourably at his project, due to internal problems. Besides the presence and authority of the emperors from the north had never been welcomed in Mezzogiorno. Robert sought help from the papacy, thinking that despite Civitate in 1053, the time was right for a compromise. Fortunately political circumstances were favourable at this time.
The project was actively supported by the diplomacy of the abbot of Montecassino, Desiderius, who became Pope Victor III, in 1086. In a synod in Melfi, in 1059, Pope Nicholas II confirmed the investiture of Guiscard with the title of duke as well as confirming his right to his possessions in Apulia and Calabria. Furthermore, Sicily under the domination of the Muslims was promised to the Normans, who were assigned to seize it and retain it under the authority of the Holy See. Richard of Aversa was recognised as prince of Capua by the Pope.
This was a decisive turning point for Norman authority in southern Italy, from now on their legitimacy could not be questioned.