1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Investiture
INVESTITURE (Late Lat. investitura), the formal installation into an office or estate, which constituted in the middle ages one of the acts that betokened the feudal relation between suzerain and vassal. The suzerain, after receiving the vassal’s homage and oath of fealty, invested him with his land or office by presenting some symbol, such as a clod, a banner, a branch, or some other object according to the custom of the fief. Otto of Freising says: “It is customary when a kingdom is delivered over to any one that a sword be given to represent it, and when a province is transferred a standard is given.” As feudal customs grew more stereotyped, the sword and sceptre, emblematic respectively of service and military command and of judicial prerogatives, became the usual emblems of investiture of laymen. The word investiture (from vestire, to put in possession) is later than the 9th century; the thing itself was an outcome of feudal society.
It is in connexion with the Church that investiture has its greatest historical interest. The Church quite naturally shared in feudal land-holding; in addition to the tithes she possessed immense estates which had been given her by the faithful from early times, and for the defence of which she resorted to secular means. The bishops and abbots, by confiding their domains to laymen on condition of assistance with the sword in case of need, became temporal lords and suzerains with vassals to fight for them, with courts of justice, and in short with all the rights and privileges exercised by lay lords. On the other hand there were bishop-dukes, bishop-counts, &c., themselves vassals of other lords, and especially of the king, from whom they received the investiture of their temporalities. Many of the faithful founded abbeys and churches on condition that the right of patronage, that is the choice of beneficiaries, should be reserved to them and their heirs. Thus in various ways ecclesiastical benefices were gradually transformed into fiefs, and lay suzerains claimed the same rights over ecclesiastics as over other vassals from whom they received homage, and whom they invested with lands. This ecclesiastical investiture by lay princes dates at least from the time of Charlemagne. It did not seem fitting at first to confer ecclesiastical investiture by such military and worldly emblems as the sword and sceptre, nor to exact an oath of fealty. The emperor Henry I. invested bishops with a glove; Otto II. presented the pastoral staff; Conrad II., according to Wipo, went farther and required from the archbishop of Milan an oath of fealty. By the time of Henry III. investiture with ring and crozier had become the general practice: it probably had been customary in some places since Otto II.
Investiture of ecclesiastics by laymen had certain serious effects which were bound to bring on a conflict between the temporal and spiritual authorities. In the first place the lay authorities often rendered elections uncanonical by interfering in behalf of some favourite, thereby impairing the freedom of the electors. Again, benefices were kept vacant for long periods in order to ensure to the lord as long as possible the exercise of his regalian rights. And, finally, control by temporal princes of investiture, and indirectly of election, greatly increased simony. Otto II. is charged with having practised simony in this connexion, and under Conrad II. the abuse grew prevalent. At a synod at Reims in 1049, the bishops of Nevers and Coutances affirmed that they had bought their bishoprics, and the bishop of Nantes stated that his father had been a bishop and that on his decease he himself had purchased the see. At a synod at Toulouse in 1056, Berengar of Narbonne accused the bishop of having purchased his see for 100,000 solidi, and of having plundered his church and sold relics and crucifixes to Spanish Jews in order to secure another 100,000 solidi with which to buy for his brother the bishopric of Urgel. Innumerable similar cases appear in acts of synods and in chronicles during the 11th century. Ecclesiastical investiture was further complicated by the considerable practice of concubinage. There was always the tendency for clerics in such cases to invest their sons with the temporalities of the Church; and the synod convened by Benedict VIII. at Pavia in 1018 (or 1022 according to some authorities) was mainly concerned with the issue of decrees against clerics who lived with wives or concubines and bestowed Church goods on their children. In time the Church came to perceive how closely lay investiture was bound up with simony. The sixth decree of the Lateran synod of 1059 forbade any cleric to accept Church office from a layman. In the following year this decree was reaffirmed by synods held at Vienne and Toulouse under the presidency of a legate of Nicholas II. The main investiture struggle with the empire did not take place, however, until Hildebrand became Pope Gregory VII. To Gregory it was intolerable that a layman, whether emperor, king or baron, should invest a churchman with the emblems of spiritual office; ecclesiastical investiture should come only from ecclesiastics. To the emperor Henry IV. it was highly undesirable that the advantages and revenues accruing from lay investiture should be surrendered; it was reasonable that ecclesiastics should receive investiture of temporalities from their temporal protectors and suzerains.
Although the full text of the decrees of the famous Lenten synod of 1075 has not been preserved, it is known that Gregory on that occasion denounced the marriage of the clergy, excommunicated five of Henry IV.’s councillors on the ground that they had gained church offices through simony, and forbade the emperor and all laymen to grant investiture of bishopric or inferior dignity. The pope immediately summoned Henry to appear at Rome in order to justify his private misconduct, and Henry replied by causing the partisan synod of Worms (1076) to pronounce Gregory’s deposition. The pope excommunicated the emperor and stirred up civil war against him in Saxony with such success that he brought about Henry’s bitter humiliation at Canossa in the following year. The papal prohibition of lay investiture was renewed at synods in 1078 and 1080, and although Gregory’s death in exile (1085) prevented him from realizing his aim in the matter, his policy was steadfastly maintained by his successors. Victor III. condemned lay investiture at the synod of Benevento in 1087, and Urban II. at that of Melfi in 1089. At the celebrated council of Clermont (1095), at which the first crusade was preached, Urban strengthened the former prohibitions by declaring that no one might accept any spiritual office from a layman, or take an oath of fealty to any layman. Urban’s immediate successor, Paschal II., stirred up the rebellion of the emperor’s son, but soon found Henry V. even more persistent in the claim of investiture than Henry IV. had been. Several attempts at settlement failed. In February 1111 legates of Paschal II. met Henry V. at Sutri and declared that the pope was ready to surrender all the temporalities that had been bestowed on the clergy since the days of Charlemagne in return for freedom of election and the abolition of lay investiture. Henry, having agreed to the proposal, entered Rome to receive his crown. The bishops and clergy who were present at the coronation protested against this surrender, and a tumult arising, the ceremony had to be abandoned. The king then seized pope and curia and left the city. After two months of close confinement Paschal consented to an unqualified renunciation on his part of the right of investiture. In the following year, however, a Lateran council repudiated this compact as due to violence, and a synod held at Vienne with papal approval declared lay investiture to be heresy and placed Henry under the ban. The struggle was complicated throughout its course by political and other considerations; there were repeated rebellions of German nobles, constant strife between rival imperial and papal factions in the Lombard cities and at Rome, and creation of several anti-popes, of whom Guibert of Ravenna (Clement III.) and Gregory VIII. were the most important. Final settlement of the struggle was retarded, moreover, by the question of the succession to the lands of the great Countess Matilda, who had bequeathed all her property to the Holy See, Henry claiming the estates as suzerain of the fiefs and as heir of the allodial lands. The efforts of Gelasius II. to settle the strife by a general council were rendered fruitless by his death (1119).
At length in 1122 the struggle was brought to an end by the concordat of Worms, the provisions of which were incorporated in the eighth and ninth canons of the general Lateran council of 1123. The settlement was a compromise. The emperor, on the one hand, preserved feudal suzerainty over ecclesiastical benefices; but, on the other, he ceased to confer ring and crozier, and thereby not only lost the right of refusing the elect on the grounds of unworthiness, but also was deprived of an efficacious means of maintaining vacancies in ecclesiastical offices. Few efforts were made to undo the compromise. King Lothair the Saxon demanded of Innocent II. the renewal of lay investiture as reward for driving the antipope Anacletus from Rome, but the opposition of St Bernard and the German prelates was so potent that the king dropped his demand, and Innocent in 1133 confirmed the concordat. In fact, the imperial control over the election of bishops in Germany came later to be much curtailed in practice, partly by the tacitly changed relations between the empire and its feudatories, partly by explicit concessions wrung at various times from individual emperors, such as Otto IV. in 1209 and Frederick II. in 1213; but the principles of the concordat of Worms continued theoretically to regulate the tenure of bishoprics and abbacies until the dissolution of the empire on 1806.
In France the course of the struggle was somewhat different. As in the empire, the king and the nobles, each within his own sphere of influence, claimed the right of investing with ring and crozier and of exacting homage and oaths of fealty. The struggle, however, was less bitter chiefly because France was not a united country, and it was eventually terminated without formal treaty. The king voluntarily abandoned lay investiture and the claim to homage during the pontificate of Paschal II., but continued to interfere with elections, to appropriate the revenues of vacant benefices, and to exact an oath of fealty before admitting the elect to the enjoyment of his temporalities. Most of the great feudal lords followed the king’s example, but their concessions varied considerably, and in the south of France some of the bishops were still doing homage for their sees until the closing years of the 13th century; but long before then the right of investing with ring and crozier had disappeared from every part of France.
England was the scene of an investiture contest in which the chief actors were Henry I. and Anselm. The archbishop, in obedience to the decrees of Gregory VII. and Urban II., not only refused to perform homage to the king (1100), but also refused to consecrate newly-chosen bishops who had received investiture from Henry. The dispute was bitter, but was carried on without any of the violence which characterized the conflict between papacy and empire; and it ended in a compromise which closely foreshadowed the provisions of the concordat of Worms and received the confirmation of Paschal II. in 1106. Freedom of election, somewhat similar in form to that which still exists, was formally conceded under Stephen, and confirmed by John in Magna Carta.
Many documents relating to the investiture struggle have been edited by E. Dümmler in Monumenta Germaniae historica, Libelli de lite imperatorum et pontificum saeculis xi. et xii. (3 vols., 1891–1897), See Ducange, Glossarium, s.v. “Investitura.”
On investiture in the empire consult C. Mirbt, Die Publizistik im Zeitalter Gregors VII. (Leipzig, 1894); E. Bernheim, Das Wormser Konkordat (Breslau, 1906); R. Boerger, Die Belehnungen der deutschen geistlichen Fürsten (Leipzig, 1901); K. E. Benz, Die Stellung der Bischöfe von Meissen, Merseburg und Naumburg im Investiturstreite unter Heinrich IV. und Heinrich V. (Dresden, 1899); W. Martens, Gregor VII., sein Leben und Wirken (2 vols., Leipzig, 1894); P. Fisher, The Medieval Empire, c. 10 (London, 1898). For France, see P. Imbart de la Tour, Les Élections épiscopales dans l’église de France du XI e au XII e siècle (Paris, 1891); A. Luchaire, Histoire des institutions monarchiques de la France sous les premiers Capétiens 987–1180 (2nd ed., Paris, 1891); P. Viollet, Histoire des institutions politiques et administratives de la France (Paris, 1898); Ibach, Der Kampf zwischen Papsttum und Königtum von Gregor VII. bis Calixto II. (Frankfort, 1884). For England, see J. F. Böhmer, Kirche und Staat in England und in der Normandie in XI. und XII. Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1899); E. A. Freeman, The Reign of William II. Rufus and the Accession of Henry I. (London, 1882); H. W. C. Davis, England under the Normans and Angevins (London, 1905).