OVERVIEW AND GENERAL THESIS:
The eleventh- and twelfth-century papacy's attack on the clerical abuses of simony, clerical marriage, and lay investiture is sometimes called the Gregorian Reform (after Pope Gregory VII, 1073-1085), even though this reform movement had begun earlier with Pope Leo IX (1049-1054). "Simony" (named after Simon Magus from the Acts of the Apostles) was the practice of purchasing spiritual offices/church positions. Clerical marriage was the practice of priests marrying. By 1050 both were regarded by monastic reformers as serious abuses among the secular clergy (i.e. the priesthood). Reformers, influenced by the rise of a commercial economy, interpreted as simony the traditional practice of bishops thanking with gifts the kings and princes who had appointed them to their sees. The older view was that it was simply good manners (the reciprocity of gift-giving).
The Gregorian Reform gave rise to the “Investiture Controversy” (1075-1122). Lay investiture was the practice of laypeople (non-clergy) “investing” ecclesiastical (Church) officers with the symbols of their spiritual offices and powers and, by implication, with the offices themselves. ("Invest" in this sense means to give someone the symbols of office; "investiture" is similar to the military practice of “frocking,” in which an officer selected for promotion pins on the symbols of his or her new rank.) The accepted practice in the early middle ages was for a powerful layperson, usually a king or emperor, to confer upon a newly “elected” bishop the symbols of his episcopal office: a crozier (shepherd’s crook), symbolizing his pastoral duties, and a ring, symbolizing his marriage to the Church. According to canon law, bishops were supposed to be elected by the clergy of the diocese and approved by the laity in their diocese. In practice, anointed kings, claiming to be God’s vicars, appointed bishops and“invested” them with the symbols of their spiritual (spiritualia) and temporal (regalia) authority. As Warren Hollister put it, “Gregory attacked this custom of lay investiture as a crucial symbol of inappropriate lay authority over clergy. His attack was a challenge to the social order and a threat to the authority of every ruler in Western Christendom.” (Medieval Europe: A Short History, 9th edn, 2002, p. 208).
Although the practice of lay
investiture was first banned by Pope Nicholas II in 1059, what historians call
the Investiture Controversy dates from 1075, when Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) renewed the ban, along with
prohibitions on simony (purchasing church offices) and marriage of priests, in
conjunction with a dispute with King
Henry IV of Germany (1056-1106) over rival claimants to the episcopal see
of Milan. The underlying issue of the
Investiture Controversy was lay control over the appointment of bishops and
abbots. Bishops, in particular, possessed jurisdictional authority over
extensive territories and lands (symbolized by their regalia). Rulers in the
eleventh century (and throughout the middle ages) depended upon them for the
administration of their realms. Kings, on the other hand, claimed to rule by
grace of God, and insisted that they were God’s temporal vicars, charged with
overseeing and protecting His Church.
The Investiture Controversy was not a conflict between “Church and State.” Rather, it was a contest between popes and kings concerning the authority claimed by the latter over the Church and its clergy.
Together the Gregorian and Reform and the
Investiture Controversy constituted a sort of 'Frankenstein' story. The
'monster' was Church reform; its creator was Henry III, King of
But the death of
Emperor Henry III in 1056 and the succession of a child, Henry IV, as the new
dynamics of the reform movement was also to lead to attacks upon the papacy.
Along with the papal reform movement came outburst of lay religious enthusiasm
and demands from both the pious laity and the reform clergy for a purer, more
spiritual conception of the Church. The Patarini
"CHURCH" AND THE LAY ARISTOCRACY, CA. 1050
In the ecclesiastical writings of the High Middle Ages, the 'Church' (Ecclesia) was the community of all baptized Christians, consisting of clergy (those who have dedicated themselves to the profession of religion) and laity (ordinary believers). The clergy included both the secular clergy, whose role was to live in the world and minister to the sacramental and spiritual needs of the laity, and the regular clergy or monks, who lived apart from the world and worshiped God in communities under a rule.
By the year 1050, the institutional Church (consisting of all the various churches and monasteries) possessed perhaps as much as a fifth of all the landed wealth in Western Europe. This was the result of gifts to 'saints' donated by pious laymen, who saw such donations as a way to remedy their condition with God. Such gifts are best understood as part of a 'gift-giving' society shaped by the ethos of reciprocity, in which each gifts and benefit expected a gift/benefit in return (conversely, injuries had to be paid back with injuries). As expressed in early medieval charters, pious donations of land were given out of thanks to God for having blessed the donor with his wealth and out of hope that by giving God and his saints land, God might reciprocate with an eternal gift of salvation. In the language of the tenth and eleventh centuries, these nobles sought the 'friendship' and 'love' of the monks. Their association with a monastery gave them access to the monks' sanctity; among the returns that the monks gave their noble benefactors were a place for burial and even a place to spend their final months or years. The general theme is that the goods of this transitory life ought to be used wisely to obtain a heavenly reward: Do ut des ('I give so that you will give').
Land meant wealth and power.
Reluctant to alienate property from their lineage, noble donors often founded proprietary
churches, religious foundations that were to be controlled by the
donor's family. The donor's family would retain the right of appointing the
monastery's abbot, thus retaining effective control over the land (and securing
not only the spiritual benefits of the prayers of the monks and Christian
burial in land associated with a saint, but a place for younger sons). Manorial
lords, similarly, regarded churches on their lands as belonging to them. Thus
in 1050 many monasteries and parish churches were effectively in private hands,
and laymen often had the hereditary right of bestowing a church with its
tithes, burial rights, and revenues to whomever they wishes, often pocketing
much of the money themselves. This privatization of religion meant a
fragmentation of the 'Church,' much like happened with the 'state' with the
passage of royal prerogatives and rights into private hands. The idea of a
universal Christian community, the Church, was all but lost. In early
11th-century charters the term ecclesia invariably came to be associated with
the actual buildings, the churches. The result was a clergy not only dependent
upon the patronage of powerful laymen but also often sharing their secular
outlook. Priests usually married or had concubines. Bishops were great nobles
in their own right, the lords of episcopal cities, of vast holdings belonging
to their sees, of delegated royal rights of justice and revenues (including
minting, markets, and tolls), and the masters of magnificent households. Such
prince-bishops not only supplied knights to fight for their lords, but often
led these warriors into battle. Some were holy men; many were more comfortable
on horseback on the hunt or campaign than they were saying the
Even the princes of the church, the bishops, were appointed by laymen. Early medieval kings depended upon the support of a literate clergy for the administration of their realms. They also depended upon bishops and the greater abbots to support them with knights owed from their vast landed holdings. A bishop's role as defender of his city meant that he had to concern himself with military matters. Between 886 and 908 ten German bishops fell in battle. In the year 1000 Bishop Bernard commanded forces of Emperor Otto III and fought with lance that contained nail of the true Cross. The admittedly unworthy Pope John XII in 960s fought as armed soldier to defend
The theory behind this lay control over clerical appointment derived from a theocratic conception of kingship. Kings were consecrated and anointed to rule (by bishops). They reigned by grace of God and, according to the Bible (Romans 13.1-4), they were God's swords of justice on earth ruling with the power of God. In the Eastern Roman Empire (Constantinople/Byzantium) this conception of kingship developed into the idea that the emperor was the living icon of Christ, possessed with the majesty of God. A similar view was taken by the Frankish king (and emperor) Charlemagne (768-814) and his successors. Though crowned emperor by the pope in 800 A.D., Charlemagne saw himself as entrusted by God with the welfare of his Church and, hence, responsible for its well being.
The idea that kings stood directly below God in a divine hierarchy of authority gave rise to the practice of Lay Investiture. This was the practice of powerful laymen furnishing newly elected bishops and abbots with the symbols of their spiritual offices. (In the case of bishops this included the bishop's crozier, i.e. shepherd's staff, and his ring.) Kings would also bestow upon the newly created prelates the symbols of the temporal authority that they would now possess along with their episcopal and abbatial offices. These symbols of delegated royal authority (e.g. scepters) were called regalia. Kings did not consider Lay Investiture an 'abuse' but a privilege emanating from the divine nature of kingship.
The wealth of episcopal sees and abbacies was so great that they became a sort of commodity. Kings would sometimes sell the ecclesiastical offices to clerical followers, who would then recoup their money from the peasants who worked the Church's lands. The sale of spiritual offices was known as simony (see below for further discussion). What complicated matters was the ethos of reciprocity and the confusion between the bishop's role as a spiritual leader and as a feudal noble. As a landed lord, a bishop, like any other vassal, was expected to pay his lord a relief for the right to take up the fief. And by the ethical demands of reciprocity, a new bishop was morally obliged to thank his patron and lord with a suitable gift to show his gratitude. Thus what one man might consider the sin of simony, another might justify as being a proper gift of thanks. With the fragmentation of church authority and the springing up of multitudes of local churches and abbeys, this sort of transaction became ubiquitous. What exacerbated it was the rise of a cash economy, which made the exchange of spiritual office for gift virtually indistinguishable from a market transaction--and in some cases they undoubtedly were sales.
In the tenth and early eleventh centuries, bishops were great nobles, whose landed wealth made them among the most powerful secular lords in their dioceses. It was possible for a cleric without wealthy and powerful kinsmen to rise to the office of bishop during this period--indeed two of the most renowned intellectuals of the early middle ages, Bishop Fulbert of Chartres (ca. 1020) and Gerbert of Aurillac, who became Pope Sylvester II in 999, had humble origins--, but such men were the exception. Most bishops came from the highest nobility, unsurprising given both the class assumptions of the time and the need in this gift-giving society to make presents to the right people. A bishop's nobility meant that he could enrich his church and monasteries with his familial wealth; a poor bishop, it was thought, was more likely to use his position to help his kinsmen by transferring to them the church's lands, either as gifts or benefices. It was taken for granted that the secular aristocracy would support and foster their clerical kinsmen's rise in the church, and that a bishop would use his position to benefit his blood relations. German bishops were particularly involved in political affairs. Merovingian and Carolingian rulers had claimed the right to “nominate” bishops and abbots, which meant in effect to appoint them. This was a violation of existing canon law that mandated that bishops be freely elected by the clergy and laity of the diocese and that abbots be chosen by the monks, but Carolingian rulers and their successors in France and Germany claimed that they were not mere laymen. Having been anointed kings, they claimed to have spiritual as well as secular authority, and insisted that they were entrusted by God with the protection of His church. As successors of the Carolingians, the Ottonian and Salian kings of Germany retained control over the appointment of German bishops and abbots of royal monasteries. (In tenth-century France, by contrast, this right of nominating bishops had devolved for about half of the episcopacy into the hands of counts and bishops.) The path to a bishopric in tenth- and eleventh-century Germany ran through the court of the king. It was common for kings to fill episcopal vacancies with royal chaplains who had shown ability and loyalty through service as royal chaplains. It is little wonder that when King Otto I the Great (936-974) sought to enhance the power of the German king over the dukes who had elected him, he relied upon bishops and abbots to serve as imperial administrators. Otto and his successors invested bishops and royal abbots with regalian rights over the lands belonging to their churches. These so-called “immunities” gave bishops and abbots the right to exercise high and low justice in their courts (i.e. to fine and punish all criminal activity) and exemption from taxation. They became in effect royal agents and secular rulers. Episcopal and abbatial immunities under the Salian kings of Germany (1024-1125) were territorialized, extending beyond the lands owned by their churches. These prince-bishops and prince-abbots became in effect territorial rulers. By royal grant, they could mint their own coinage, exercise jurisdiction over criminal offenses and breaches of the forest laws, and collect royal dues owed by custom. Some bishops were even invested with entire counties and given the title of count or duke. From 983, the year of Otto III’s death, to Henry III’s death 983, German bishops held at least 36 counties.
The career of Ulrich (or Udalrich), bishop of
During the civil war that plagued
the early years of Otto I's reign, Bishop Ulrich supported Otto by holding for
Ulrich's late tenth-century biographer describes his ecclesiastical activities, emphasizing his visitations to the churches and monasteries in his diocese, during which he would give sermons in Latin (presumably with someone translating them into German for the uneducated), preside over episcopal courts, supervise the morals of the clergy under his care, and perform sacraments and liturgies. The bishop's spiritual duty was to ward off evil spirits, and liturgies, prayers calling upon God to bestow blessings, were conceived to be, in Fichtenau's phrase, 'a presentation of the divinely ordained order, with the bishop in the center and his clergy serving him.' A typical liturgy for the dedication of a new church had the bishop rapping on the church door with his crozier three times before the clergy within opened it for him, then drawing the alphabet with his crozier diagonally across the floor of the church. This would be followed by the bishop blessing the church with water mixed with ashes and salt, symbolizing the Christian people (the water), Christian teachings (the salt), and the passion of Christ (the ash). Such liturgical and ritual duties were in the tenth century more deemed to be more important spiritually for the faithful than pastoral care. Ulrich instructed the clergy under him mainly through his own example. A bishop was also expected to care for the poor, and the traditional formula for episcopal finances reserved one-quarter of revenues for the feeding and clothing of the poor.
Ulrich had other, less spiritual, duties as bishop. Another tenth-century bishop, Rather of Liege, explained his obligations as a newly consecrated bishop: "I was enthroned, I presided over an assembly of clerics, I led my military host against the enemies of the Emperor Otto (I), I returned, I received him who had consecrated me bishop (Bruno of Cologne) and served him, gave him gifts, accompanied him on his journey home as a most devoted servant. Then I turned around, traveled through the diocese, conferred with the most important clerics and laity about what was to be done in order to do justice with everyone" (from Fichtenau, p. 200). An imperial bishop was also expected to attend the “diets” (imperial councils) summoned by the king of Germany and royal judicial courts. Some imperial bishops, including Ulrich, were granted by the king the right to mint their own coinage.
In the tenth and the eleventh centuries kings throughout Western Europe relied
upon bishops to be administrators and justices. They also relied on them for
military service. Though canon law had long forbidden priests to shed blood,
bishops nonetheless led troops into battle. The most holy of them, like Ulrich,
did so unarmed, relying only on prayer to defend them. Many winked at the
restrictions and emulated the model of Turpin in Song of Roland. In the
year 1010 the bishops of Vich,
Ulrich’s activities in defense of Augsburg against the Hungarians highlights the blurry boundaries between the secular and the spiritual in the tenth and eleventh centuries and the responsibility of bishops both for the material and spiritual welfare of the inhabitants of their sees. Ulrich acted recognizably as a secular commander in directing the repair of the town’s walls. But undoubtedly he regarded his prayers, sermons, and liturgical duties as his most critical contribution to the successful defense of the city. Unlike the fictional Archbishop Turpin of the Song of Roland, Ulrich refused to dress in armor even in the presence of the enemy. He relied upon his ecclesiastical vestments to protect him from God’s enemies. Whether or not God heard the saint’s prayers, Ulrich’s calm demeanor and quiet confidence certainly contributed immeasurably to the morale of his troops and encouraged them to withstand the Hungarian assault until King Otto I arrived with a relief army.
Ulrich’s participation in combat was not extraordinary for a bishop of his day. What was more unusual was Ulrich’s careful attention to his liturgical and spiritual duties. In fact, many tenth and early eleventh century bishops differed little in their lifestyles from their comital kinsmen. The concern of monastic reformers about the falconing, hunting and dicing that went on in bishops' households is evidence of this blurring of distinction between the secular and spiritual aristocracies of the tenth and eleventh centuries.
II. KING HENRY III OF
The Council of Sutri
King Henry III of Germany (reigned
1029-1056) at the Council of Sutri. In 962 King
Otto I of Germany was crowned and anointed Roman emperor by Pope John XII. From
that point on, kings of Germany maintained that they were the successors of
Roman and Carolingian emperors. In a sense, Germany became part of an “empire”
that included the kingdoms of Burgundy and Italy. But a German king only could
become emperor if he were crowned and anointed such by the pope. In 1046, seven
years after the death of his father Emperor Conrad II, King Henry III crossed the
Alps into Italy to be consecrated Roman emperor by the pope and to promote
reform in the
King Henry III was an extraordinarily pious man who took his duty to be the guardian of the Church deadly seriously—so much so that he fired his father’s court jesters because he believed it against canon law for the clerics in court to enjoy such crude humor. “More than Otto I or Otto III, Henry III symbolizes theocratic rule,” wrote Uta-Renate Blumenthal (49), the guidance of church and state as a single entity by the divinely elected, anointed emperor described by man as vicarius Christi or vicarious Dei.” Henry III embraced the Christian Peace movement that had begun in France. At the Council of Constance in 1043 he issued a Peace edict and publically granted amnesty to all his enemies, asking those present to follow his example, and repeated that gesture in the following year and in 1047. His piety was greatly shaped by the monastic reform movements emanating from Cluny and from Lotharingia. Many of those who served in his chapel and whom he elevated into the ranks of the German episcopacy were reformers. Because he abhorred the sin of simony, King Henry III abolished the policy of his predecessors of accepting hefty counter-gifts from newly appointed bishops. On the other hand, viewing himself as an anointed ruler endowed with spiritual as well as secular authority, Henry III insisted upon investing those bishops with the symbols of their office, their croziers and rings. (Henry III was the first king to invest bishops with rings.) And after he invested them, Henry III would have them swear fidelity to him. Even more than his predecessors, Henry entrusted his bishops with counties and relied upon them as royal administrators.
Upon arriving in Rome,
Henry was immediately confronted with a major problem: the papacy was in
shambles, with three rival claimants to the papacy: Benedict IX (1032-1044, 10 March to 1 May 1045, 8 November 1047 to
16 July 1048; d. 1056), Sylvester III (1045),
and Gregory VI (1045-1046). Pope Benedict IX was a member
of the Tusculum family, which at that time ruled Rome, and was the nephew of
his predecessor. Elected while still in his twenties, he had a reputation for
violence and sexual laxity. He also pursued a policy of independence from
German kings, which was safe as long as the German king remained in
As king of
Germany, Henry III regarded the bishop of Rome to be as much his spiritual
vassal as any German bishop. He saw it as his duty to heal this breach in the
unity of the Church. Consequently, he summoned all three popes to attend a
synod at Sutri
(20 December 1046.). Gregory VI was the only one to appear. Both he and
Sylvester III were formally deposed, the former for the crime of simony and the
latter because of his irregular election. Three days later Benedict IX was also
deposed by a synod in
In 1048 King Henry
III chose another member of his entourage, Poppo, the
bishop of Brixen, to succeed Clement II as pope. Poppo, who took the papal name Damasus
II, promptly died upon arriving in
Bruno, Bishop of Toul in
The pontificate of Leo IX (1049-1054)
proved to be a watershed in the history of the Papacy. As pope, Leo
IX initiated what was to be called the Gregorian Reform (unfairly named for
Pope Gregory VII). His was also a
pivotal pontificate for the growth of papal authority and power, and for the
development of the papal bureaucracy and the cardinalate.
Among the things that distinguished Leo IX from his predecessors was his
frequent travels. He spent much of his pontificate traveling through
The Council of Reims, 1049 (from Southern, Making of the Middle Ages, based on report given by Anselm, a monk of Reims).
As noted by the
eminent British medieval history Sir Richard Southern, Leo IX fired the opening
salvo of the Gregorian Reform at the Council of Reims in 1049 After his
consecration as pope Leo IX left
After the formal
procession, Leo placed the bones of the saint on the altar rather than inter
them in the tomb. The saint himself was to preside over the council. Leo's
chancellor, the cardinal deacon Peter, announced that the synod was to begin,
and asked who among the bishops and abbots present had purchased their offices.
A tumult ensued, with the Archbishop.. of
Policies of Leo IX.
Leo faced three main problems as pope.
1. realization of church reform
2. protection of papal states from
3. resolution of disputes with
The papacy and the
The rising power
of these Norman bandits in the south was regarded with hostility by Pope Leo
IX, who saw them as a threat to the papal states. In 1053 Leo IX led a small
papal army against the
The solution to the Norman problem
was not to be force but cooptation, and this was to be used by Nicholas II in
1059, when he recognized Robert Guiscard's de facto control over the south. At
the council of Melfi in Aug 1059 Nicholas II invested
Guiscard and Richard of Capua with the territories they already held and
received them as vassal of the Roman church. Robert G was also enfeoffed with all future possessions he could take from
the Saracens in
The oath of fealty
taken by Robert Guiscard (preserved in a collection of canons of Cardinal Deusdedit) promised that he, as duke of Apulia and
The problem of Byzantium.
Here Leo IX's policies proved disastrous. Leo's attempt to deal with the
While a captive, Leo IX sent the cantankerous Humbert of Silva Candida to deal with the Byzantines. Humbert carried a conciliatory letter to the emperor (which played down Henry III's imperial claims) and an inflammatory reproach against the Patriarch. This letter described Rome as a suffering, patient, persecuted Mother and the eastern Church as lost 'in pleasure and lasciviousness, in the dissipation of a long leisure, refusing to take part in the fight waged on her behalf by the pious Mother, repaying her efforts by mocking her Mother's old age and her body worn out by long labors,' etc.). The letter was received with anger. Humbert lost his temper and on 16 July 1054 (3 months after the death of Leo, of which Humbert was ignorant) he placed upon the altar of Hagia Sophia in full view of the congregation a bull excommunicating the patriarch and his followers. The patriarch responded in kind, and the result was a formal schism.
Church reform: attacks on simony
and clericial unchastity:
Because of the support of King Henry III, Leo IX was most successful in his
attempt to reform the morals of the clergy. As bishop of Toul,
Bruno had been an ardent supporter of the reform movement promoted by the monks
Leo IX attacked nicolaitism as one of his first acts. He not only condemned fornicating clerics, but he declared their wives, concubines, and children to be serfs of the church. (This eliminated the problem of a hereditary clergy, since serfs could not be ordained as priests.)
a very difficult problem, in part because of the vagueness of the definition of
the abuse. German kings before Henry III demanded the payment of money from
newly elected bishops in recognition of the king's lordship and as payment for
the bishop's regalia. The payment of money and goods was also conceived as a
proper gift to the king, showing the friendship of the new prelate. Under Henry
III this practice was abandoned as simoniacal, but it
underscores the practical reason why simony was so prevalent: episcopal and
abbatial offices carried with them landed wealth and political power as well as
spiritual authority. Leo IX's first synod, held in the Lateran in April 1049,
deposed all bishops guilty of simony, and declared consecrations by simoniacs to be invalid (position of Humbert
of Silva Candida). At
position, held by Humbert but attacked by Peter Damian,
that all simoniacal consecrations were invalid, would
have created extreme havoc in the Church. Leo's eventual position was to adopt
a penance of 40 days for those who knowingly allowed themselves to be
consecrated by a simonist.
Reform of the papal curia: the creation of a college of cardinals.
Leo IX promoted an
exalted conception of the papacy as the primate of the
The cardinals in 1073 numbered 7 bishops, 28 priests, 18 deacons and possibly
21 subdeacons. They were the clergy of the cathedral
The most important
of Leo IX’s advisers were the Lotharingian monk Humbert, from 1050 cardinal bishop of Silva
Candida, and the Italian monks St Peter Damian and Hildebrand. Humbert of Silva Candida was a monk from
St Peter Damian
(1007-72) was an Italian monk, bishop and, from 1057, cardinal-bishop. A monk
Like Humbert, Peter Damian supported papal supremacy, and saw the papacy as being the font that would wash clean the entire Church. Peter Damian's view of man and the clergy is best seen in his Book of Gomorrah. Here the clergy is assigned the superhuman task, possible only because of God's providence of redeeming man from the depravity into which he had fallen because of sin. Peter Damian, however, was not as extreme as Humbert. He accepted the practice of lay investiture, and saw pious laymen as allies in the war against sin, believing that the natural condition between church and state was cooperation. He took the position that ordinations were valid even if simoniacal (anti-Donatist).
(later Pope Gregory VII 1073-1085)
proved to be the most important reformer to emerge from Leo IX’s curia.
Born c. 1020 of humble parentage in
III. THE INVESTITURE CONTROVERSY
When Henry III
died in 1056 he left as his heir a six year old son Henry IV. The regent, the
widowed Empress Agnes, followed an erratic policy that weakened the crown,
appointing as dukes individuals with independent power. In 1062 Archbishop Anno
became Pope Gregory VII in 1073, the papacy and the emperor were already at
odds, but it was to be the personality of these two men and the seriousness of
the issues that was to transform disagreement into war.
Pope Nicholas II (1058-1061) and the Papal Election Decree of 1059.
The death of Henry
III in 1056 created enormous problems for the papacy. The Roman aristocracy,
led by the
Nicholas II as pope did three significant acts:
1. He issues an election decree that placed the election of popes in the hands of the college of cardinals
2. He condemned the practice of lay investiture
3. He legitimized the rule of the
The Election Decree of 1059. Promulgated at the Lateran synod in
1059 the decree ordered that to exclude simony popes were to be elected by
CARDINAL BISHOPS, and then acclaimed by cardinal clerks, the remaining clergy,
and the people. If necessary, the election could be held outside of
The decree was revolutionary. Canon law demanded episcopal and abbatial
elections 'by clergy and people' to be free, but this had normally meant that
the clergy was to acclaim 'freely' a candidate appointed by the local prince in
control of the diocese. The papacy had thus been alternately in the hands of
the Roman nobles (
At the same synod Nicholas II, apparently inspired by Humbert, issued a condemnation of lay investiture. This was to be the beginning of what has come to be called the Investiture Controversy.
Nicholas II's decrees were directed not against the emperor but against the
Roman aristocracy. The pope's willingness to work with lay authorities is
underscored by his alliance with both the
The Papacy of Gregory VII (1073-1085)
Hilderbrand's election was stage managed in 1073 by Hugh Candidus, a cardinal priest who was one of Leo IX's companions from Lorraine (Southern, Making, 144). During the burial of the deceased Pope Alexander II, Hugh rose in the pulpit and addressed the throng of clergy and laity: “Brethren, you know that from the days of Pope Leo it is Hildebrand who has exalted the Holy Roman Church and freed this city. Wherefore, since we cannot have anyone better fitted to be elected as Roman Pontiff, we elect him now--a man ordained in our church, a man known to you all, and approved by all." (Hugh was soon to transfer his loyalty to Henry IV.) Hildebrand was acclaimed pope without deliberation and discussion by the other cardinals and took the name Gregory VII in honor of his mentor the disgraced Pope Gregory VI. Gregory VII’s election was irregular. It failed to follow the procedures established in 1059; in particular there had been no consultation of the emperor or the imperial court. The irregularity of the election was later to be cited by Henry IV as evidence of Gregory VII’s illegitimacy as pope.
Hildebrand was a
controversial figure, even in his own day. St Hugh of
grown up as a monk in
The key to Gregory VII's policies was the extension of the reform movement to include the independence of the Church from secular authority. His agenda included: 1) prohibition of lay investiture; 2) Attacks on simony and nicolaitism (again purification of church upon the monastic model); 3) promotion of the idea of papal monarchy.
The last is most dramatically revealed in the DICTATUS PAPAE, a list of 27 title headings entered into the papal register in March 1075. The most important of the articles were those that claimed:
a. the supremacy of the Roman pontiff over the entire Church, including the eastern branch ('That the Roman pontiff alone can with right be called universal/That his name alone shall be spoken in the churches') and rule over the episcopate, which entailed the right of deposing and reinstating bishops (a right that could be exercised even by a legate), the power of organizing diocese, the right to be the ultimate judge in ecclesiastical cases, and a claim to be exempt from human judgment.
b. The power to issue canon law
c. the sanctity of the pope qua pope (through the merits of St Peter)
d. Supremacy over the princes of the earth ('That
he alone may use the imperial insignia/That of the pope all princes shall kiss
the feet'), with the practical and revolutionary claim 'that he may absolve
subjects from their fealty to wicked men.' [There is an indication here of
Gregory's view of the pope as the final judge over the entire feudal system; in
his treatment of Henry at
The claim to be the head of the
universal church (over all bishops and over the Patriarch) was supplemented by
the claims to be beyond judgment, to be imputed with saintliness, to be above
all rulers, and to be the ultimate judge of the fitness of kings to rule. This
exalted view of the papacy is also revealed in Gregory's preaching of a holy
war to recover
Gregory's claim of
papal supremacy inevitably brought him into conflict with Henry IV, whose view
of the Church harkened back to that of his father. It also brought him into
conflict with the German episcopate and many Italian bishops, whose
independence was being threatened by this new definition of primacy. This is
most clearly seen in Gregory's treatment of Otto, bishop of Constance, whom
Gregory summoned to
The Problem of Lay Investiture.
Gregory's first decree against the practice of lay investiture was issued in 1075, but it was not until 1078 that he was to make this a defining issue in his pontificate. In 1073-4 Gregory had allowed Henry IV to invest German bishops with ring and crozier, ignoring the decree of 1059. But it is clear that Gregory shared Humbert's views on the matter, and that he viewed lay investiture as a serious affront to the dignity and independence of the church. The issue defined what the Church was and what the source of its authority was. The sacrality of kings was defined in a more limited fashion; their consecration did not confer upon them the sacramental powers of the apostles. Spiritual authority was conferred upon God's clergy through the bride of Christ, the Church. In some ways this is a clarification of Gelasius's doctrine of the two swords (496), one that stressed the monopoly that the clergy had over spiritual power.
Gregory VII's break
with Henry IV was precipitated by the problem of the see of
In 1072 two rival
archbishops were elected, one supported by the Patarini
and the papacy, and the other by the German court. Pope Alexander II in
connection with this dispute excommunicated five clerical advisors to Henry IV.
Gregory VII immediately lifted the excommunications, but conflict broke out
once more in 1075 when the Patarini burnt down
the cathedral of Milan and the anti-Patarine faction
responded by killing the leader of the Patarini.
The opponents of reform came to power in
responded with a renewed excommunication of the five, and a letter reproaching
Henry IV for disobedience and for maintaining contact with men excommunicated
by the pope (8 Dec 1075). The German response was a diet held at
Henry, king not through usurpation but through the
holy ordination of God, to Hildebrand, at present not pope but false monk....By
wiles .... you have achieved money; by money, favor; by the sword, the throne
of peace. And from the throne of peace you have disturbed peace [referring to
Gregory’s support of the Patarenes of Milan against
their bishop], inasmuch as you have armed subjects against those in authority
over them; inasmuch as you have taught that our bishops called of God are to be
despised; inasmuch as you have usurped for laymen the ministry over their
priests, allowing them to depose or condemn those whom they themselves had
received as teachers from the hand of God through the laying on of hands of the
bishops. You have attacked me, who, unworthy as I am, have yet been appointed
to rule among the anointed of God, and who, according to the teaching of the
fathers, can be judged by no one save God alone ... St. Peter himself said:
'Fear God, honor the king1 [1 Peter 2:17]. But you, who fear not God, have
dishonored me, whom He hath established. ... You, therefore, damned by this
curse and by the judgment of all our bishops, and by our own, descend and
relinquish the throne of St Peter which you have usurped. Let another ascend
the apostolic chair who shall not practice violence under the cloak of
religion. ... Henry, king by the grace of God, say unto thee, together with all
of our bishops: Descend, descend, to be damned throughout the ages.'
Gregory responded to the letter by declaring Henry IV and the bishops who followed him excommunicated and deposed (22 Feb 1076). Interestingly, the instrument that Gregory used for this was a prayer to St Peter:
O St Peter, chief of the apostles, incline to us, I beg, your holy ears, and hear me your servant whom you have nourished from infancy. ...And especially to me, as your representative and by your favor, has the power been granted by God of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth. On the strength of this, for the honor and security of your church and in the name of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I withdraw, through your power and authority, from Henry the King, son of Henry the Emperor, who has risen against your Church with unheard of insolence, rule over the kingdom of the Germans and over Italy. And I absolve all Christians from the bonds of the oath which have made or shall make to him; and I forbid anyone to serve him as king. … And since he has scorned to obey as a Christian, I bind him in your name with the chain of anathema [i.e. he excommunicated Henry].
Kings and emperors had deposed
popes before; this was the first time a pope had returned the favor. Even St
Ambrose--whom Gregory claimed as a precedent in his letter to Hermann, bishop
The German princes
planned an assembly in
Gregory was to describe in a letter to the German princes what then transpired:
There, on three successive days, standing before the
castle gate, laying aside all royal insignia, barefooted and in coarse attire,
he ceased not with many tears to beseech the apostolic help and comfort until
all who were present or who had heard the story were so moved by pity and
compassion that they pleader his cause with prayers and tears....even crying
out that we were showing, not the seriousness of apostolic authority, but
rather the cruelty of a savage tyrant. At last overcome by his persistent show
of penitence and the urgency of all present, we released him from the bonds of
anathema and received him into the grace of the
Gregory also demanded an oath from
Henry to accept the papal judgment in his dispute with the rebels and to permit
Gregory to travel safely to
The German princes, in defiance of both Henry and his reconciliation with Gregory, proceeded to elect Rudolf of Rheinfelden as their new king. Two papal legates were present who gave their approval, but Gregory refused to recognize Rudolf. The decision was to take place not in the papal court, but on the battlefield, where Henry's troops defeated the rebels. Rudolf died in battle in 1080, and was succeeded by a new anti-king Hermann of Goslar, who wielded no real power outside of his patrimony in Lotharingia. Gregory VII finally decided in favor of Rudolf in 1080, and deposed Henry for a second time. But this excommunication and deposition was without force. Gregory's dithering had allowed Henry to win militarily and politically.
The high point of
Gregory VII's pontificate was his deposition of Henry IV and Henry's
humiliation at Canossa (1077). The low point was to come in 1084 when a
resurgent Henry IV was to enter
Gregory wrote to his Norman
“vassals” asking them for military aid, and they responded by attacking Rome,
rescuing Gregory, and taking him to safety in the south. Gregory's rescue by
But Gregory did not fail. The reform movement continued, as the reform cardinals gathered together and elected a successor in 1087. The final victor in the battle was to be Pope Gregory VII rather than King Henry IV.
POPE URBAN II (1088-99).
Urban (born Odo), an aristocratic Frenchman, had been archdeacon of Reims
and prior of
King Henry IV's
fortunes took a turn for the worse, with a militarily defeat in
When Urban II presided over the Council of Clermont in 1095, he was the apex of his authority as pope. Wibert had been discredited along with his patron Henry IV. At this council Urban II renewed Gregory VII's pronouncement against lay investiture, proclaimed a peace of God, prohibited, still again, simony, defined fasting practices, prohibited the laity from possessing tithes or churches, forbade clergy to do homage to kings or other laymen, and, of course, called the First Crusade.
Urban's call for an armed pilgrimage to aid the Byzantines
and to liberate the Holy Sepulcher from the Turks recalled Gregory VII's dreams
of Holy War. Urban's call represented the papacy as
directing the activities of the laity. The response was overwhelming, though it
is interesting to observe that no kings went on Crusade, since William Rufus of
England was generally hostile to the papacy, Philip I of France was
excommunicated because of his adulterous union with Bertrada
de Montfort, and Henry IV was not only excommunicated but was holed up in
northern Italy, surrounded by his enemies.
Pope Paschal II (1099-1118): two unsuccessful solutions
Neither Henry IV nor Conrad was to emerge as victor; rather in 1104-5 Henry's second son, Henry V, crowned king by his father in 1099, forged an alliance of German nobles against his father. Paschal II took a hand in the matter by absolving Henry V of an oath of fealty he had taken to his father in 1099.
King Henry V
presented himself as a friend to the reformed papacy--that is, until the death
of his father in 1106. The new king refused to concede the right to investiture
with ring and crozier, and Paschal II refused to relax the papal prohibition.
In 1110 negotiations failed, and Henry set out for
The response from the gathered bishops and clergy was immediate and violent. The cardinals denounced it, and the German bishops refused to be bound by it. Paschal ended up refusing to crown Henry, and Henry responded by taking the pope captive. Two months later the captive pope agreed to the Privilege of Mummolo--the pope granted to Henry the right of investiture before consecration, promised to anoint him emperor, and swore never to excommunicate Henry. Again the response was unanimous rejection, and there was even talk of deposing Paschal. Paschal, freed from captivity, quashed the privilege in 1112.
The English Solution (1105-1107)
The solution to
the Investiture Controversy was to be discovered in
In essence, the English solution of 1105/1107 recognized the episcopacy’s “two bodies.” As pastors of the church, bishops received their authority and power from God via the Church’s clergy through apostolic succession. But as magnates of the realm and landholders of fiefs, they received their temporal powers and authority from the king.
The Concordat of
of Vienne, the son of Count William of
On 23 Sept 1122, Pope Calixtus
II and Emperor Henry V met at
In essence, the Concordat of Worms was the German version of the English solution. The language was not as “feudal” as that of the Concordat of Worms. Rather than granting the king the right to take homage from newly elected bishops, Pope Calixtus II granted Emperor Henry V the right to invest bishops with their regalia, their temporal lands and powers delegated to them by the king. By implication, an emperor could also withhold the regalia, which would be a de facto vetoing of the election. In practice the concessions that allowed the emperor to confer regalia and to be present during and decide disputed episcopal elections meant that the emperor retained a dominant voice in the selection of German bishops. But, in terms of the central issue of the Investiture Controversy, the question of “lay investiture,” the reform papacy had won. From this point on, kings throughout Christendom could no longer claim to have the authority from God to invest bishops (and abbots) with their spiritual offices. The clergy, in this sense, had won independence from the laity. One might even see in this the beginnings of the separation of Church and State.
IV. CONSEQUENCES OF THE INVESTITURE CONTROVERSY: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PAPAL MONARCHY
One practical result of the papal reform was the
growth of papal government and business. The primary function of medieval
rulers was organizing justice and pronouncing judgment; this was also to be
true of the papacy. The age of Gregory initiates an age of intense
ecclesiastical litigation, with papal courts (whether presided over by legates
Ecumenical Councils. Between 650 and 1000 there
were only three ecumenical councils, two in Constantinople and one in Nicaea.
Between 1123 (1st Lateran) and 1274 (2nd of
Papal bulls/letters. Papal
letters were the most important instrument for the conduct of business. They
were the mechanism for conveying orders, resolving disputes, issuing decisions
on doctrine, etc. Here we see a steady increase in the issuance of letters over
the period. Annual average of papal letters in first half of eleventh century
was 1-10. Under Leo IX it rose to 35 and stayed at this level until 1130.
Innocent II (1130-43) issued annually 72; 130 under Hadrian IV (1154-9), 179
under Alexander III (1159-81), 280 under Innocent III (1198-1215), 730 under
Innocent IV (1243-54), and 3646 under John XXII (1316-24) (see Richard
Southern, Western Society and the Church,
Papal justice. The 12th century
was a period of litigation, both secular and ecclesiastical. Between 1140 and
1150 papal jurisdiction began to penetrate even the lowest levels of the church
as a matter of routine; by 1150 the papal courts were overwhelmed with
business. Popes complained about the press of business. Calixtus
II (1119-24) commented that as Archbishop. of
The papacy became
the final arbiter for all disputes between ecclesiastical bodies or persons, or
between clerics and laity over property, rights, and penalties. To deal with
the influx of business the popes began to create ad hoc committees of three
local churchmen to hear and decide with the authority of the papacy. Still
cases flowed to
At that time, the Pope said to the Romans, "When the son of man comes to the seat of our majesty, first say, `Friend, why have you come?' But if he continues knocking without giving you anything, throw him out into the outer darkness." And it came to pass that a certain poor cleric came to the Curia of the Lord Pope and cried out, saying, "Do you, at least, have mercy on me, you doorkeepers of the Pope, for the hand of poverty has touched me. I am indeed needy and poor. Therefore, I beg you to come to my aid." But when they heard him they were exceeding angry, and they said, "Friend, you and your poverty can go to hell. Get thou behind me, Satan, because you do not smell of money. Amen, amen, I say to you, you shall not enter into the joy of your lord [the Pope] until you pay your last farthing." So the poor man went away and sold his coat and his shirt and everything he owned and gave it to the cardinals and doorkeepers and chamberlains. But they said, "What is this among so many?" They threw him out, and he went off weeping bitterly and inconsolably. Later on, a certain rich cleric came to the Curia. He was gross and fat and swollen, and had committed treacherous murder. He bribed first the doorkeeper, then the chamberlain, then the cardinals. But they put their heads together and demanded more. However, the Lord Pope heard that his cardinals and ministers had been lavishly bribed by the cleric, and he was sick even to death. So the rich man sent him medicine in the form of gold and silver, and straightway he was healed. The Lord pope summoned his cardinals and ministers and said to them, "Brethren, be vigilant lest anyone deceive you with empty words. My example I give unto you, that you might grab just as I grab." (Gospel according to the Mark of silver (c. 1160), from John Balnaves’ Bernard of Morlaix)
The cynicism of the anonymous cleric who wrote the parody is palpable: "Blessed are the rich, for they shall be filled; blessed are they who have, for they shall not go away empty; blessed are the wealthy for theirs in the Court of Rome." The martyrs who mattered, according to these critics, were Albinus and Rufinus--pale silver and red gold, characters who first appear during the pontificate of Gregory VII. The age of 'O Roma Nobilis' was over. The irony here is overwhelming. The reform papacy had lost the prestige enjoyed by the secular popes of the tenth century. Even the Blessed Eugene III, a Cistercian monk, was to be condemned as a 'man of blood' by the radical reformer and papal critic Arnold of Brescia, who led a Roman communal movement reminiscent of the Milanese Patarini--formerly allies of the reform papacy--in its lay criticism of clerical morals and its repudiation of the temporal power of prelates.
In terms of
episcopal and abbatial elections, the Investiture Controversy did not result in
the removal of lay influence from the selection of bishops and abbots. Kings
continued to have a decisive say in the matter, as the “election” of Thomas
Becket as archbishop of Canterbury on the insistence of King Henry II in 1162 shows.
(Henry II soon came to regret this choice.) King Henry II, citing ancient
custom of the realm of England, insisted that free election of abbots was a
privilege to be granted by the king, and even a 'free' election was subject to
royal scrutiny, as evidenced by Jocelin of Brakelond's description of the election of Abbot Samson to
the abbacy of Bury St Edmunds. Unworthy men who were more adept at
secular administration than in pastoral care still rose to the office of
bishop. In some cases, unworthy men were elected bishop in full accordance with
canon law. According to Guibert of Nogent, this happened in Laon in
1107 when the clergy of the diocese chose Gaudry,
chancellor to King Henry I, to be there bishop because they believed him to be
wealth. Gaudry, whom Guibert
tells us was more comfortable with a lance under his arm than holding a
crozier, alienated the townspeople of Laon by
engineering the murder of a prominent and popular noble and by attempting to
suppress their commune. The latter led to an uprising in which the bishop was
murdered and the cathedral burnt. But the Investiture Controversy did produce
significant changes in the episcopacy. By the end of the twelfth century the
episcopacy had come firmly under the jurisdiction of the papacy. Abbots now
tended to rise up from within the ranks of their monastery, as monks exercised
their freedom of election to prevent their monasteries from being given under
the rule of outsiders. The election of bishops by canons of the cathedral of
the See, similarly, led to men of lesser nobility and wealth rising up through
the ranks of the church to its highest offices. What was not settled--and was
not to be settled in the Middle Ages--was the extent to which kings were
subject to papal supervision, or, for that matter, popes and bishops to the
authority of kings.
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----- Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1970
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