Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages/Book IV

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search



The whole life of Pope Gregory VII. (1073-1085) was one long effort to raise the papacy and the to a higher sphere. It was by his influence—for although not yet pope he was at that time the power behind the throne —that in 1059 a document (see No. I.) was drawn up placing the initiative in the matter of electing the pope exclusively in the hands of the cardinal-bishops. The document, indeed, was tampered with at an early date, for two versions of it have come down to us, one of which gives to the king of the Romans a much larger share in the election than the other.

The questions at issue in the war of the investitures will be more or less clear from the documents themselves, which are given under No. II.; but a slight sketch of the course of this most important struggle is, nevertheless, necessary.

At Gregory's own election in 107-3 the forms of the decree of 1059 were not regarded; but Henry IV. did not lay much stress upon this fact until some years later, when open enmity had been declared between himself and the pope. The "Dictate of the Pope" (No. II. 3) shows most clearly the attitude that Gregory was prepared to take. Exactly what the "Dictate" was intended to be is still a mystery. It may have been either a succession of headings for future elaboration, or a summary of utterances already delivered. At any rate it is found in the register of Gregory's letters which was made in his own day, and its authenticity is undeniable.

A Roman synod in 1075 proclaimed sacerdotal celibacy, made war on simony,—excommunicating five of Henry IV.'s councillors for having attained ecclesiastical office by means of it,—and declared lay investiture to be uncanonical. The wording of the last decree has not come down to us, but was probably similar to 11. 1 and 2, which were issued respectively in 1078 and 1080.

The forbiddal of lay investiture was especially directed against Henry IV., who had recently, disregarding the papal candidate, taken into his own hands the election of an archbishop of Milan. It was one of the boldest moves imaginable, this measure of Gregory's. A renunciation on the part of the king to the right of choosing the men on whom to bestow the rich bishoprics and abbeys of Germany and Italy meant practical abdication. A bishop at that time was not only a dignitary of the church, but also a prince of the realm, whose duty it was to send his contingents to the king's army, and to act as councillor at his court. The fiefs and jurisdictions of the bishoprics were given therefore to faithful followers, not only as a reward for their past services, but also in consideration of their future ones. And now the king was to desist from exercising any further influence on ej^iscopal elections!

No. 4 of the documents under II. explains itself. Henry had continued to consort with the five councillors who were under the bann for simony, although, in a moment of discouragement, he had promised unqualified submission to the pope. He furthermore disdained to treat concerning the matter of lay investiture, although Gregory seems to have invited and courted discussion. The pope's letter reached him at a time when he was flushed with the pride of his victory over the obdurate Saxons. Gregory's envoys, too, used even stronger terms than were contained in the writing they bore. The result was that the king, in a fury of rage, summoned a council to meet at Worms. Two of the archbishops and two-thirds of all the bishops of Germany were present. After listening to a long series of accusations against the pope, the council decreed that Gregory, having wrongfully ascended the throne of Peter, must straightway descend from it. Two letters were despatched to Rome on the same day, one from the king (see No. 5), and one from the bishops (see No. 6). When the German envoys presented them to the pope, who was sitting in council in the Lateran, a scene of wild excitement ensued, and the bearers of such haughty messages were with difficulty saved from instant death. The pope and his synod retaliated (see No. 7) by banning all the dissentient bishops, as well as the king, and by declaring the latter's royal power forfeit, and all of his subjects loosed from their allegiance. Both parties then proceeded to make public their grievances. Henry issued a summons to the princes for a new council to be held at Worms, in which document (see No. 8) he clearly defined his position, while Gregory sent a long letter of justification, couched in the most tolerant terms, to the German bishops (see No. 9).

It was most disastrous for Henry that there happened to be a strong opposition party among the princes of his own land, to whom even an ally like Gregory, the accomplishment of whose aims would have been the greatest possible national misfortune, was not unwelcome. Nor were the princes long alone in their enmity to the king. Gregory succeeded in winning over a number even of the very bishops who had signed the document of his own deposition. Henry's proposed council at Worms was so scantily attended that it was removed to Mainz. Here too the German princes were conspicuous by their absence. Of their own accord the latter held a diet at Tribur, and forced Henry to agree to the convention of Oppenheim (see No. 10). Among themselves they agreed that, should Henry fail to obtain absolution from the bann within a year from the date of the assembly, he should be deposed from the throne. They furthermore invited Gregory to be present at an. Augsburg diet, where he was to sit in judgment on their king.

The latter, meanwhile, was relegated to a species of banishment in Spires, where he was to abstain from all interference in public affairs until the pope's decision should have been rendered. It was not long, however, before Henry found this state of things unbearable, and made up his mind to the step that was to make him the most famous suppliant in history. It was absolutely necessary to break the strong league existing between the pope and the German princes. The latter demanded that the king should gain absolution from the bann. He determined to do so at any price. It must be remembered that the prime teaching of the church was that no repentant sinnew who sought God's mercy in the proper way 1 could possibly fail to obtain it. Gregory's influence as the J spiritual head of Christendom would have been irrevocably shaken had he refused to pardon one who expressed himself as ready to undergo any depth of penance that might be enjoined upon him.

What happened at Canossa is described by Gregory himself in his letter to the German princes (see No. 11). Henry rode away from the Tuscan castle, bound, indeed, by promises for the future, but, in reality, a free man—free to labour and to consult for his own interests. At the price of a deep personal humiliation he had gained an undoubted diplomatic victory.

For a time, indeed, this was not apparent. Little more than a month after the scene at Canossa an assembly of princes at Forscheim elected Rudolf of Swabia as antiIdng. But it soon became evident that Henry's following was far more considerable than that of his rival. It was of the greatest advantage to him that, for a time at least. Pope Gregory remained neutral, taking upon himself the rôle of mediator. But in 1080, under pretence that Henry had hindered the calling of such a council as would have put an end to the civil war, the pope renewed the bann against him, and acknowledged Rudolf as the rightful king (see No. 12).

There is a famous manoeuvre in the Spanish bull-fights, which may prove successful once, but which means death to the torreador should he attempt to repeat it. The result of Gregory's second bann was not unlike it. A storm of indignation rose against the pope, and the Lombard and German bishops rallied to Henry. First in Bamberg, then in Mainz, and finally in Brixen (see No. 13), Gregory was declared deposed. Wibert of Ravenna was made pope in his stead. Gregory's letter of justification, written to Bishop Herrmann of Metz (see No. 14), shows a power of reasoning worthy of the Jesuits. Gregory's pontificate, as is well known, marks an era in the history of the papacy. He was the first to formulate many dogmas which later formed the bases of the most extravagant claims. Boniface VIII.'s "God has constituted us over kings and kingdoms" is but another form of a doctrine of Gregory's.

It is interesting to note that many of the quotations in the present letter are from the forged Isidorian decretals, which claim for the popes the sanction of antiquity for a jurisdiction far beyond that which they had actually enjoyed.

On Easter day 1084 the anti-pope Wibert crowned Henry in St. Peter's as emperor of the Romans, and in the following year Pope Gregory died in exile in Salerno. Henry followed him to the grave in 1106, still in the bann which Gregory and his successors had hurled against him.

But the war of the investitures was not yet fought out. Henry V. was as unwilling and as unable to give up the royal prerogative as his father had been. Various attempts were made at a settlement. In 1111 Henry compelled Pope Paschal II. to draw up an agreement (see 15 a) by which the crown was to receive back all the temporal grants that had been made by it in the course of centuries to the clergy. On these terms, and on no others, was the king ready to renounce the right of investiture. The document, when read in St. Peter's before the clergy assembled to celebrate the imperial coronation, aroused the most violent opposition. The ceremony could not be performed, the day ended in a general uproar, and the pope and the cardinals were taken prisoners by the king. After a few weeks of captivity Paschal was ready to make any concessions, and finally consented to an unqualified resignation of the right of investiture (see 15 b). In the following year, however, a Lateran council repudiated this compact, and a synod held at Vienne declared lay investiture to be heresy, at the same time placing Henry under the bann. In 1118 the question of the investitures led to the election of a new anti-pope and the beginning of a new schism. But four years later, under CalLxtus II., the long struggle was at last ended. The famous Cocordant of Worms (see No . 16). is sued on September 23, 1122, was a compromise in which both parties made almost equal concessions. The emperor renounced the investiture with ring and staff, thus giving to the church the right of nominating and electing her servants. But the elections were to be held in the emperor's presence, and he alone, by a special investiture with the sceptre, might bestow the temporal fiefs and privileges. By refusing to do this he could, readily nullify an election, and the possibility was avoided of having men in the bishoprics who might be hostile to the German or to the imperial interests.

No. III. consists of the documents relating to an interesting episode, which shows how ready the papacy was to put forth every real or theoretical claim to superiority over the empire, and how ably, as yet, the latter was able to maintain its dignity. The date of the correspondence is 1157-8.

Eskil, bishop of Lund, had been captured by German highwaymen while on his way to Rome, and the pope had demanded the emperor's interference in the matter. Frederick had done nothing, for Eskil happened to stand in disfavour with him at the time. The pope accordingly sent two cardinals to Vesan9on to press the matter. In the letters that they bore Adrian spoke of the imperial crown as a benefice that he had conferred upon Frederick. There is scarcely a doubt but that the pope knew the full force of the words he w;as using. Since the time of Gregory VII., who was the first to receive princes as vassals of the Roman see, the feudal relation had been entered into with the papacy more than once, and its terminology could not have been unfamiliar to Adrian. In the present case one of the legates had made matters worse by bursting out with the remark: "from whom then has the emperor the empire except from the pope?"

Frederick's manifesto (III. c) is a spirited defence of the imperial independence. It is to be compared with the similar utterances of the electors in 1338 (see No. VIII.). Almost the entire clergy approved of the emperor's attitude in this matter, and the pope, finding the opposition altogether too strong for him, was fain to explain away the objectionable clauses.

The documents under No. IV. concern the contest between Frederick Barbarossa and Alexander III., which lasted from 1160 to 1177, being the longest war that was ever waged between one and the same emperor and one and the same pope. Alexander was that very chancellor Roland who, as Pope Adrian's envoy, had so angered the emperor at Vesançon; he was known, too, to favour Frederick's enemy, William of Sicily.

Alexander was chosen pope by a majority of the cardinals, but his rival, Victor, besides a strong minority, had the people of Rome—whose vote, as they claimed, was still necessary to the election—upon his side; Victor also enjoyed the priority of consecration.

The synod of Pavia (see IV. a) declared for Victor, and Frederick openly ranged himself upon his side. England and France, however, after much vacillation, took the part of Alexander—who, indeed, for years was forced to fight an uphill fight. On Victor's death (1164) his party elected Paschal, and, as the latter' s successor, Calixtus. In 1165 Frederick and a number of his nobles and bishops took a solemn oath at Wurzburg never to acknowledge Roland, or a pope elected by his party.

Alexander found at last, in the Lombard cities and in the king of Sicily, the allies he most needed. After years of stern fighting with the Lombard League fortune turned against the emperor, and he was obliged to flee from Italy to save his life. It was six years before he was able to raise an army and return. He was preparing to strike a final blow for his prestige in Italy when he was deserted by his powerful vassal, Henry the Lion. The battle of Legnano, fought in 1176, proved a great defeat, and paved the way for the peace of Venice (see IV. c). With the Lombards and with the King of Sicily a truce was arranged, and a term fixed within which a lasting peace was to be established. The oath of Wurzburg was broken, and the reconciliation between the heads of Christendom was solemnized at Venice with the greatest possible pomp and display. Three red marble slabs in the church of St. Mark's still show the spot where the emperor knelt before the pope.

The terms of the peace were not so unfavourable to Frederick as might have been expected. A number of the bishops even, who had been consecrated by his anti-popes, were allowed to remain in their own sees, or were otherwise provided for. But, nevertheless, the papacy had come forth victorious from the long struggle.

No. V. is the act by which King John, in 1213, laid England at the feet of a papal legate, to receive it back, by paying tribute, as a fief from the see of Rome. The course of the struggle between John and Pope Innocent is too familiar to need recapitulation. The papal candidate, Stephen Langton, was finally received as archbishop of Canterbury, and, after removing the interdict, the pope accepted John's submission in the form here given. Innocent was now at the height of his power. England, Aragon, and Hungary, were fiefs of Rome, and the Latin rulers in the East were completely subject to him. Never at any time has the papacy so nearly approached its ideal of world rule.

No. YI. is the bull "clericis laicos," which was issued in 1296, in answer to complaints of the clergy of France and England over the taxes imposed upon them by their respective kings. Edward I. of England obeyed Boniface's menaces, and declared in 1297 that no taxes should be imposed upon his clergy without the papal consent. But Philip of France answered by measures of retaliation, and the conflict began which was to end in the dramatic capture at Anagni, and to lead indirectly to the Babylonian captivity.

No. VII., the bull "unam sanctam," was issued towards the close of the struggle between Boniface and Philip. The last sentence of the bull declares that every human power must be subject to the pope of Rome in order to gain salvation. There have been many attempts to explain away this sentence or to attribute a milder meaning to it, but if one remembers that the bull "ausculta filii" of the same year had contained expressions not dissimilar, and that Boniface had been forced then to claim a milder interpretation, it is not likely but that he knew the effect that his words would produce.

It was in answer to "unam sanctam" that Philip, supported by all classes of the population, by the university and bv the monasteries, appealed from the pope to a future general council.

No. VIII., the law "licet juris" of 1338, was issued by the electors during the conflict between Louis the Bavarian and Pope Benedict XII. This was the last of the great mediaeval struggles between the papacy and the empire. Louis had been on the point of a reconciliation with his old enemy when the war between France and England broke out. Louis held to Edward of England, the pope to Philip of France. Benedict declared the emperor not really repentant, and demanded a renunciation of his royal and imperial rights. It was clear to the electors that, if the pope could claim the right of deposing an emperor, their own position as the persons who had chosen that emperor would be equivocal to say the least. Hence this energetic protest.

It seemed for a moment—strange spectacle—as if all elements in Germany were to go hand in hand in supporting the dignity of the empire. But the internal dissensions, which were to be the curse of the land for centuries, soon regained the upper hand. "The good odour of the emperor began to stink in the nostrils of the princes," as we are told by a contemporary, and in 1346 Charles of Bohemia was chosen as rival king.