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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / Volume I: The first hundred years

I: Western Europe on the eve of the Crusades,   pp. [2]-29 PDF (56.0 KB)

Page 26

effective agent. Through his legates the pope could take an active part in
the affairs of the church as a whole. 
 One of the ablest and most energetic members of the papal curia under the
first reforming popes was an ecclesiastic named Hilde brand. Deeply imbued
with the ideas of the Cluniac group, he was convinced that the church must
be independent of all secular control and that the pope must be the absolute
master of the church. In 7073 he was elected pope and took office under the
name of Gregory VII. During the pontificates of Gregory's five predecessors
much progress had been made. The college of car dinals had been established,
papal legates and judges-delegate in troduced, and stern decrees issued against
simony and married clerks. The emperor Henry III was in favor of these reforms
and supported them. But when reformers remarked that bishops should be chosen
without lay interference, Henry turned a deaf ear. Control of the prelates
was the very foundation of his power and he had no intention of abandoning
it. Gregory found the imperial throne occupied by Henry IV, who had but recently
come of age. The pope informed the emperor that bishops should be elected
according to canon law — that is, by the clergy and people of the diocese.
Henry ignored the warning and went on his way. Gregory wrote a stern letter
of rebuke. The emperor replied by calling the German prelates together at
Worms and having them declare Gregory a false pope improperly elected. Gregory
then excommunicated Henry. This gave the emperor's enemies in Germany, the
Saxons and the great lords who feared he would become too strong, a perfect
excuse for revolt. They rose in rebel lion and informed the emperor that
unless he obtained absolution from the pope, they would choose a new ruler.
To make his search for absolution impossible of success, they carefully guarded
the Alpine passes. But Henry slipped through his kingdom of Bur gundy into
Lombardy where the bishops and their levies promptly rallied around him.
The emperor met the pope at the castle of Canossa in northern Tuscany, went
through a humiliating form of penance, and was absolved. All this was dramatic
and pictur esque but it accomplished little. Henry would not abandon his
claim to the right to appoint and invest bishops and Gregory was determined
to win his point. The pope continued to support the German rebels against
the emperor and used his Norman vassals to check the imperial power in Italy.
Gregory died in 7085 in exile with his Norman allies while imperial troops
occupied Rome. After the short pontificate of Victor III, pope Urban II continued

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