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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : CHAPTER III THE END OF THE QUARREL

The Church And The Empire by D. J. Medley


[Sidenote: A momentary peace.]

It remained to be seen whether Gregory's failure implied Henry's success. The Emperor returned to Germany, where a strong desire for peace had grown up and was taking practical shape. In some dioceses the Truce of God was proclaimed, which, under heavy ecclesiastical penalties, forbade hostilities during certain days of the week and certain seasons of the year. Henry took up this idea, which as yet was too partial to be effective, and in 1085, in a Synod at Mainz under his presidency, it was proclaimed for the whole kingdom. The unfortunate anti-King Herman found himself deserted, and died, a fugitive, in 1088. Henry's moderation concluded what the desire for peace had begun, and even Saxony seemed to be reconciled to his rule.

[Sidenote: Urban II (1088-99).]

But his triumph was short-lived. Between him and any lasting peace stood the anti-Pope Clement III; for all who had received consecration at Clement's hands were bound at all hazards to maintain the lawfulness of his election. Moreover, Clement's opponent now was a man to be reckoned with. The first choice of the Gregorian party, Desiderius, Abbot of Monte Cassino, could not be consecrated for a year after his election, and four months later he was dead (September, 1087). The partisans of Clement were too strong in Rome, and the next election was carried out with total disregard of the decree of Nicholas II. It took place at Terracina in March, 1088, and was made by a large number of clergy in addition to the Cardinals. The choice fell upon Otto, Bishop of Ostia, a Frenchman of noble family and a monk of Cluny; but it was some years before Urban II could regard Rome as his headquarters.

[Sidenote: His policy against Henry.]

In some ways Urban was more uncompromising than his master Gregory. He upheld the papal legates in their strict treatment of the French bishops; he actually launched against Philip I of France the excommunication which Gregory had only threatened; to the prohibition of lay investiture he added an explicit command that bishops and clergy should not do homage to any layman. But while he showed himself thus in thorough sympathy with his predecessor, in his power of dealing with circumstances he proved himself by far the superior. A succession of clever if thoroughly unscrupulous measures restored the fortunes of the papal party. Henry had succeeded for the moment in dividing and isolating his enemies. Urban set himself to unite the chief opponents of Henry on both sides of the Alps. He planned a marriage between the middle-aged widow, the Countess Matilda of Tuscany, and the eighteen-year-old son of Welf, Duke of Bavaria (1089). Matilda was ready to sacrifice herself for the good of the cause. The Welfs, ignorant of Matilda's gift of her lands to the Papacy, eagerly accepted the bait; but soon discovering that they were being used as tools, they ceased to give any help, and in fact became reconciled to the Emperor. But meanwhile the Pope had discovered other more deadly weapons with which to wound the Emperor. The deaths of the anti-Kings had left the papal party without a leader in Germany. Events had shown the firm hold of the hereditary claim and the Salian House upon a large portion of the Empire. The only acceptable leader would be a member of Henry's own house. Henry's actions played into their hands. His eldest son, Conrad, had been crowned at Aachen in 1087 and sent into Italy to act as his father's representative. He is described as a young man of studious and dreamy character, unpractical and easily influenced. In 1087 Henry lost his faithful wife Bertha, and a year later he married a Russian Princess, Praxedis, who was the widow of the Count of the Northern March. The marriage was unhappy; each accused the other of misconduct; and Henry, suspecting the relations of Conrad with his stepmother, put them both in prison. Perhaps Conrad had already been worked upon by the papal party. He escaped, took refuge with the Countess Matilda, and was crowned King of Italy (1093). But he was only the tool of others. Far more immediately dangerous was the escape of Praxedis (1094), who laid before the Pope the foulest charges against Henry. To her lasting shame the Countess Matilda was the chief agent in these family revolts. The effect on Henry's position in Italy was disastrous. Pope Urban finally recovered Rome, and Conrad, having won the cities of Lombardy, took an oath of fealty to the Papacy in return for a promise of the Empire.

[Sidenote: Beginning of the Crusades.]

And just as if the success of these diabolical schemes was not a sufficient triumph, fortune at this moment gave the Pope a chance of superseding the Emperor in the eyes of all Europe, by inaugurating a great popular movement of which under different circumstances the Emperor would have been the natural leader. In 1085 the Eastern Emperor Alexius had appealed to Henry against the Normans, but now Henry was a negligible quantity -- excommunicated, crowned Emperor by an anti-pope, not likely to undertake a distant expedition. In 1095, therefore, when Alexius needed aid against the Seljuk Turks, it was to the Pope that he sent his envoys, who appeared at the Synod of Piacenza. Those late converts to Mohammedanism had established their kingdom of Roum over the greater part of Asia Minor with its capital at the venerable city of Nicaa, and had captured Jerusalem, which thus passed out of the hands of the tolerant Caliphs of Cairo into those of the most fanatical section of Mohammedans. Pilgrims returning from Jerusalem spread through Europe tales of the harsh treatment to which they were subjected. Then in 1087 a new tribe of Saracens, the Almoravides, crossed from Africa to Spain and inflicted a severe defeat upon a Christian army. It seemed almost as if a combined movement of the Mohammedan world had begun for the final extinction of Christendom. If Gregory had been free he would have wished to promote the reunion of the Churches by sending help to the Eastern Empire; so that it was no novel idea that was suggested to the assembled magnates at Piacenza. Urban II no doubt saw the opportunity offered for asserting the leadership of the western world. Alexius' envoys were heard with sympathy; but Urban felt the need of appeal to a larger public, and summoned a great Council to Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne, where he would be among his own countrymen. Here in November, 1095, he delivered before a vast concourse of persons assembled in the open air an impassioned appeal on behalf of the suffering Christians of the east. The result answered his utmost expectation, and the cry of the assembled multitude, |God wills it,| was the ratification of the papal leadership. All methods were taken to stir the feelings of the west. The vast ecclesiastical organisation was used in order to transmit invitations to possible crusaders; the penitential system of the Church was brought to bear on those already conscious of a sinful life; popular preachers, such as Peter the Hermit, were employed to rouse the interest of the masses; the Pope himself spent the succeeding months in a tour through Southern France; and arrangements were made for the start of the first expedition from the Italian ports at the end of the summer of 1096, under the leadership of a legate appointed by the Pope.

[Sidenote: The first Crusade.]

It is not possible here to follow the fortunes of the Crusaders. Several unauthorised expeditions, which bore witness to the popular enthusiasm, made their way through Southern Germany; but the disorderly crowds which composed them perished either at the hands of the inhabitants of the Eastern Empire, whom they treated as schismatics, or among the Turks in Asia Minor. The real expedition passed partly by land, partly by sea from the Italian ports to Constantinople, whence the Crusaders set out across Asia Minor. Nicaa was taken in June, 1097; the Sultan of Roum was overthrown in battle at Dorylaum in July; Antioch detained the Crusaders from October, 1097, to June, 1098; and it was only in July, 1099, that after a siege of forty days Jerusalem was captured from the Saracens of Egypt, who had recently recovered it from the Turks.

[Sidenote: Its effect on the quarrel.]

But whatever may have been Urban's success in his own land of France and elsewhere, in Germany, at any rate, his efforts to turn the current against the Emperor had entirely failed. Of German lands Lorraine alone sent warriors to the First Crusade. The movement did not penetrate to the east of the Rhine, and the number of Germans who helped to swell the multitude of crusaders who marched through Southern Germany was inappreciable. At the same time the settlement of the questions at issue between Papacy and Empire were indefinitely postponed; for it would have been treason to the crusading cause to press the papal claims against Henry at this moment. It was Henry's turn to experience some good fortune. The proclamation of the Truce of God under his auspices, the manifest interest of the German ecclesiastics, and his own policy of favouring the rising cities combined to strengthen his position. Thus in 1098 he was able to obtain from the German nobles the deposition of his rebellious son Conrad and the election of his younger son Henry as King, who was made to promise that during his father's lifetime he would not act politically against him. Then in 1099 Pope Urban died, and was followed in 1100 by the anti-Pope Clement III, and in 1101 by Conrad. All the personal causes of disunion were being removed. Moreover, the success of the crusading policy made it impossible that Henry or Germany should stand apart from it altogether. Although Jerusalem was the capital of a Christian kingdom and other principalities centred round Tripoli, Antioch, and the more distant Edessa, powerful Mohammedan Princes lay close beside them at Damascus, Aleppo, and Mossul, as well as to the south in Egypt. There was need of constant reinforcement, for the fighting was continual. Under these inducements Germany began to contribute crusaders to the cause. Duke Welf of Bavaria led an army eastwards in 1101. In 1103 Henry's efforts in favour of peace culminated in the proclamation at the Diet of Mainz of the first imperial land peace sworn between King and nobles, which bound the parties to it for four years to maintain the peace towards all communities in the land. This was intended as a preliminary to Henry's participation in an expedition to the east.

[Sidenote: Death of Henry IV.]

But this was the very last thing desired by Henry's enemies, and there began a most unscrupulous attack which ended only with his death. Pope Urban's successor, Pascal II, strengthened by the death of the anti-Pope Clement and the failure of his party to maintain a successor, renewed the excommunication against Henry, and did everything deliberately to stir up strife in Germany. The nobles were angry at the cessation of private war and at the favour shown by Henry to the towns. But again they lacked a leader, and with diabolical craft the papal party worked upon the young King Henry by threatening to set up against him an anti-King who should rob him of the eventual succession. The result was that the young King broke his solemn promise, set up the standard of revolt, and was joined by nobles, ecclesiastical as well as lay, and by the restless Saxon rebels. By a trick he got his father into his power and forced him formally to abdicate, while he himself was crowned King by the papal legate. But the Emperor escaped, and with marvellous energy gathered adherents; but a renewal of the struggle was staved off by his own death after a few days' illness on August 6th, 1106.

[Sidenote: His justification.]

Henry never shook himself free from the difficulties of his own early misdeeds; but the rights upon which he took his stand were those exercised by his predecessors. The uncompromising attitude of his opponents and their humiliation of him made it a life-long struggle between them. Henry was no saint; but his opponents' tactics were indefensible. Under less adverse circumstances he might have proved a successful ruler. But he was the victim of a party which deliberately subordinated means to ends in pursuit of an ideal which Henry could scarcely be expected to understand or appreciate.

[Sidenote: Henry V.]

The papal party in its malice had overreached itself in selecting Henry V as its champion. True, he had destroyed the most stubborn enemy of the Papacy; but his own interests caused him to adopt his father's policy. His one object was to recover the prestige which the German King had lost in the struggles of the last twenty years. He was undisputed King in Germany; he showed an unscrupulous and overbearing demeanour which aroused opposition on all sides. He was not likely to be content with less power than his father had demanded over the German clergy, and at the first vacancies he invested the new bishops.

[Sidenote: Growth of a party of compromise on investiture.]

Henry's bold action was not altogether without reason. For some years there had been growing up within the ranks of the advocates of reform a moderate party which, while opposed to simony and clerical marriage, saw in the continued and close union of Church and State an indispensable guarantee of social order. They aimed therefore at conserving the rights of the Crown no less than at recovering those of the Church. This party is found especially among the French clergy. One of its chief spokesmen, the Canonist Ivo, Bishop of Chartres, who had suffered much for his enthusiasm for reform, insists in his correspondence even with the Pope himself, that the prohibition passed upon lay investiture is not among the class of matters which have been settled by a law for ever binding, but among those which have been enjoined or forbidden, as the case might be, for the honour or profit of the Church, and he appropriately bids the papal legate beware lest the Roman clergy should incur the charge of taking tithe of mint and rue while they omit the weightier precepts of the law. Moreover, both he and his friend Hugh of Fleury, in a treatise dealing with the |Royal Power and Priestly Office,| maintain that the King has the power, |by the instigation of the Holy Spirit,| of nominating bishops, or at least of granting permission for their election; and that, while the royal investiture, however made by word or act, pretends to bestow no spiritual authority, but merely estates or other results of royal munificence, it is for the archbishop to commit to a newly elected prelate the cure of souls.

[Sidenote: Settlement in England.]

This distinction, repugnant as it was to the extremists, soon found practical application. Lanfranc's successor in the See of Canterbury, Anselm, was, like his predecessor, an Italian, transferred from Normandy to England. He had to contend with the typical King of an unrestrained feudalism in the person of William II. A succession of quarrels ended in Anselm's retirement to Italy. Recalled by Henry I, he took back with him the maxims of the reformers about investiture, and refused to do the required homage to the new King. Henry was not an unreasonable man, and he sent Anselm to bring about some arrangement with the Pope. However, it was not until a rupture was imminent that Pope Pascal was persuaded to acquiesce in an agreement on the lines advocated by Ivo of Chartres and his party. By this Concordat (1107) Henry I agreed to give up his claim to invest with the ring and staff, while Archbishop Anselm allowed that the elected bishop might do homage for his lands to the King.

[Sidenote: Pascal II (1099-1118).]

At present neither side in the Empire was sufficiently honest in its intentions to be willing to accept so reasonable a settlement. But the fact that the Pope had felt himself obliged to allow it in one case sensibly weakened his position and correspondingly strengthened that of the German King. It was typical of Pascal's position in general. Though strongly Gregorian in principle, he was neither clever nor courageous, and was inclined to take up a position which he could not maintain. Intent on renewing the prohibition of lay investiture and afraid of Henry, Pascal determined to support himself upon France. Here, at any rate, Philip I had gradually dropped the practice of investiture of bishops. The papal censures of his scandalous private conduct uttered by Gregory and Urban had had no effect. Pascal accepted professions of amendment and acts of humiliation, and ceased to trouble himself further about Philip's private affairs. A Council of French bishops was held at Troyes (1107), where the decrees against lay investiture were renewed. The one gleam of hope for the future appeared in Pascal's deliberate abstention from any pronouncement against the King in person. Henry, occupied on the eastern border, could not pay his first visit to Italy until the beginning of 1111, and it was not without significance that on the eve of setting out he betrothed himself to the daughter of Henry I of England. He was more fortunate than his father had been in the moment of his visit. The Lombard cities quarrelling among themselves were quickly forced to submission; the Countess Matilda, grown old and tired of strife, sent her envoys to do homage for the imperial fiefs; the Normans had just lost their Duke. Pope Pascal, finding himself isolated, did not dare to meet by a simple negative Henry's demand for the right of investiture as well as for his coronation as Emperor.

[Sidenote: His proposal.]

By way of escaping from his difficulty he sent to the King an astonishing proposal. The King was to renounce the right of investiture and all interference in the elections, in return for which the prelates should give up all imperial lands and rights with which they were endowed, retaining merely the right to tithes, offerings, and private gifts: the papal rights over the Patrimony of St. Peter and the Norman lands were specially excepted. It has been pointed out that this was the policy which Count Cavour made famous as |a free Church in a free State.| It seems almost impossible that Pascal should have thought that the German bishops would accept this solution: he may have hoped that they could be coerced into it. But in contracting himself out of the obligations to be imposed on all other ecclesiastical dignitaries, he practically renounced any claim to set the policy of the Church. Henry may have aimed at digging an impassable ditch between the Pope and the German bishops. It was an impossible agreement; for neither bishops nor lay nobles would wish to see so large an addition to the King's resources, while Henry himself could not afford to surrender the right of investiture, since it would stultify his claim to a voice in the election of the Pope.

[Sidenote: Henry's success.]

The publication of the agreement at Rome caused great tumults, Henry contriving that all the odium should fall upon the Pope. Then, since Pascal could not fulfil the part of the agreement which he had made on behalf of the Church, Henry forced him, the successor of Gregory, to acquiesce in the exercise by the German King of the right of investiture with ring and staff. Henry was crowned Emperor, though with very maimed ceremonial, and returned in triumph to Germany.

[Sidenote: Pascal's withdrawal.]

But his triumph was short, for he was immediately threatened with danger from two quarters. On the one side the leaders of the Ultramontane party were naturally most wrathful at this betrayal of their cause, and Pascal, threatened with deposition, placed himself in their hands. At the Lenten Synod of 1112 he confirmed all the decrees of his predecessor against lay investiture, thus annulling his own agreement with Henry. But he avoided issuing any sentence of excommunication against Henry in person. His own legates, however, had no such scruples, and in France Cardinal Conon took advantage of the strong feeling among the clergy to launch excommunications against the Emperor in several ecclesiastical Councils during 1114 and 1115. Guido, Archbishop of Vienne, presiding over a Council of Henry's own subjects at Vienne in 1112, had already condemned their sovereign and forced Pascal to acquiesce in the resolution.

[Sidenote: Henry's difficulties.]

Henry's right policy would no doubt have been to compel the Pope to observe the agreement. But it was more than three years before he could return to Italy. For revolt had broken out again in Germany. The nobles had their own grievances; the Saxons were always ready to take arms; the Church was roused because Henry dealt with ecclesiastical property as if the Pope's original proposal had been allowed to stand. The royal bailiffs acted in such a manner with the cathedrals that of a house of prayer they made a den of thieves.

Henry's forces were worsted in battle and he had recourse to his father's tactics, seeking in Italy, by personal dealings with the Pope, to recover the moral prestige which he had lost in Germany. He had a pretext in the death of the Countess Matilda (1115); for the Papacy was claiming not only her allodial lands, which she might have a right to bequeath, but also her imperial fiefs, which were not hers to dispose of. Henry occupied the dominions of Matilda without opposition. His presence in Italy caused Pascal still to refrain from personal condemnation of the Emperor, and a year later a party friendly to Henry opened the gates of Rome to him. Pascal fled to Albano, and only returned to Rome on Henry's departure, a dying man (January, 1118). His successor, Gelasius II, refused Henry's advances, and the Emperor resorted to the old and discredited policy of setting up an anti-Pope in the person of the Archbishop of Braga, in Portugal, who took the name of Gregory VIII. Gelasius excommunicated Henry and his Pope; but finding himself threatened in Rome, fled to Burgundy, and died at Cluny a year after his election (January, 1119). So far Henry's attempts to deal with the Pope had failed, and the publication of the new Pope's excommunication in Germany made the opposition so strong that Henry found it advisable to return.

[Sidenote: Calixtus II (1119-24)]

Gelasius' successor chosen at Cluny was Archbishop of Vienne, who took the title of Calixtus II. He was the first secular priest who had occupied the papal chair since Alexander II, and he was related to the royal families of France and England. Thus he had a wider outlook than the monks who preceded him, and the nobles would be likely to listen to a man of their own rank. He had been the most uncompromising of all Henry's opponents; but this was a guarantee to the Church that her position and power would not again be placed in jeopardy, for events were at length tending towards a conclusion of the weary strife. The views of the reformers had gained general acceptance as the doctrine of the Church. The obligation of clerical celibacy was acknowledged: simony had much diminished; Henry was the only King in Western Europe who still claimed to invest his prelates. Although it was some time before all the great French feudatories yielded to the spirit of reform, the French King himself had abandoned the practice of investiture for those bishops who were under his control. He retained, however, certain of his rights. The election could not take place without his permission, the newly elected bishop took an oath of fealty to the King, and during the vacancy of the see the revenues were paid to the Crown. It was more important still that in England the question of investiture had been settled by a compromise which recognised the twofold nature of the episcopal office, and that this compromise had received the sanction of the Pope. Henceforth it was practically impossible for the Church to maintain the position of the extreme reformers. When Pope Pascal was forced to grant the right of investiture to the Emperor, Henry I of England, as Anselm complained to Pascal, threatened to resume the practice. Already William I of England had defined the limits of papal power in his dominions without a protest from Rome, and Urban II had actually found himself obliged to endow Roger of Sicily and his successors with the authority of a papal legate within their own dominions. It was clear that the papal authority could do little against a really strong lay ruler. Moreover, the influence of the Church had greatly diminished. There was scarcely a see or abbey to which, during the last forty years, there had not been rival claimants: King and nobles alike had not only ceased to increase the endowments of the Church, but had caught at almost every opportunity of encroaching on them.

[Sidenote: Concordat of Worms.]

The accommodation was very gradual, for much suspicion of insincerity on both sides had to be overcome. The first step was taken in October, 1119. After the failure of direct negotiations between Pope and Emperor, a Council at Rheims, presided over by the Pope, renewed the anathema against Henry and his party, but only consented to a modified prohibition of investitures, since the office alone was mentioned and all reference to the property of bishop or abbot was omitted. It was two years before the next stage was reached, and meanwhile the anti-Pope had fallen into the hands of Calixtus, and Henry was still in difficulties in Germany. Finally, in October, 1121, the German nobles brought about a conference of envoys from both sides at Wurzburg, where in addition to an universal peace it was arranged that the investiture question should be settled at a General Council to be held in Germany under papal auspices. The Council met at Worms in September, 1122, and the papal legates were armed with full powers to act. The result was a Concordat subsequently ratified at the first Council of the Lateran in March, 1123, which is reckoned as the ninth General Council by the Roman Church. By this agreement the Emperor gave up all claim to invest ecclesiastics with the ring and staff. In return it was allowed by the Church that the election of prelates should take place in presence of the Emperor's representatives, and that in case of any dispute the Emperor should confirm the decision arrived at by the Metropolitan and his suffragans. The Emperor on his part undertook that the prelate elect, whether bishop or abbot, should be invested with the regalia or temporalities pertaining to his office by the sceptre, in Germany the investiture preceding the ecclesiastical consecration, whereas in Burgundy and the kingdom of Italy the consecration should come first.

[Sidenote: Results of struggle in Empire.]

We are naturally tempted to enquire who was the gainer in this long struggle? Writers on both sides have claimed the victory. It is clear, however, that neither side got all that it demanded. Considering the all-embracing character of the papal claim, the limitation of its pretensions might seem to carry a decided diminution of its position. Calixtus' advisers strongly urged that all over the imperial lands the consecration of prelates should precede the investiture of temporalities by the lay power. But the German nobles would not budge. In Burgundy and Italy conditions were different: in the former the power of the Crown had been almost in abeyance; in Italy the bishops had found themselves deserted by the Crown and had submitted to the Pope. The Crown had therefore to acquiesce in a merely nominal control over appointments in those lands. But in Germany the King perhaps gained rather than lost by the Concordat. His right of influence in the choice was definitely acknowledged, and by refusing the regalia he could practically prevent the consecration of any one obnoxious to him. The prelates of Germany, therefore, remained vassals of the Crown.

[Sidenote: on Papacy.]

On the other hand, the Papacy had definitely shaken itself free from imperial control. Henry III was the last Emperor who could impose his nominee Papacy upon the Church as Pope; the proteges of his successors are all classed among the anti-Popes. At the same time the papal privilege of crowning the Emperor and the papal weapon of excommunication were very real checks upon the German King; while the success of those principles for which the Cluniac party had striven established the theoretical claim of the Pope to be the moral guide, and the part which he played in starting the Crusades put him in the practical position of the leader of Christendom in any common movement. It was no slight loss to the Emperor that he had been the chief opponent of the Pope and the reformers, and that in the matter of the Crusades he and his whole nation had stood ostentatiously aloof.

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