WYH2010HF Christianity 8431648
The Gregorian reforms
Links and resources
Gregorian reform from a University of North Florida class
Two anti-Gregorian texts from the University of Leeds etexts
The empire and the papacy, from a 1921 textbook
D.J. Medley, The Church and the Empire, 1003-1034, published 1910, from Project Gutenberg
Philip Schaff on Gregory VII, Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, 1914.
A short history of Sutri, the oldest of the papal states.
John Henry Newman's classical account of the 11th-century Reformation, in his Essays Critical and Historical.
A large bibliography on Gregory VII.
An annotated bibliography on Gregory VII from Spring Hill College.
A short biography of Gregory VII from North Park University, Chicago.
Documents on Canossa: sixteen documents from the Avalon Project, Yale Law School.
Several texts from the period, from the University of Leeds.
Some aphorisms on papal authority, from Gregory VII's register.
A paragraph from the austere Hildebrandine reformer Peter Damian's Liber Gomorrhianus, "the only complete discussion of homosexual activity in the middle ages."
In 1046 the papacy had been a weak institution for centuries, and critically so since the late 800s. Popes had typically been members of important Roman families, or else friends of German emperors with armies in Rome. In order to survive they needed to maintain the favour of their sponsors, which meant annoying the enemies of their sponsors, at the risk that these might at any time gain the upper hand. At the synod of Sutri (the town is shown here) in 1046, the king of Germany arranged to have three claimaints to the papal throne deposed, and had his own candidate, the bishop of Bamberg in Germany, installed as Pope Clement II. Clement's first act was to crown Henry emperor. Moreover, the emperor had himself named "patrician" of Rome, which gave him the right to appoint future popes. So far, all this once again reflected lay control over the papacy. But now, ironically, the emperor's creatures in the papacy proved very independent minded. After the short reign of Clement, the brief return of one of the deposed popes, and the even shorter reign of Damasus II, Leo IX became pope, another of the emperor's appointees. He had been the bishop of the little German border town of Toul (which became part of France in 1648). He brought with him to Rome his chaplain Hildebrand (himself later the pope, with the name Gregory VII). Leo began the century of reform.
The Hildebrandine reforms have classically been interpreted by Roman Catholic writers as necessary, cleansing, and helpful, and by Protestant writers as usurping and tyrannical. Because they pitted leaders in Italy (even if at first they were German!) against German emperors, they have also been interpreted nationalistically. German historians following this line typically regarded the Empire as the First Reich, and saw its humiliation by the papacy as a wrong which history would avenge.
Early reforming popes
Among the many who resented Gregory's measures, and his personality, the foremost was the Emperor Henry IV (pictured here). When the latter deposed some Saxon bishops perceived as disloyal, and appointed bishops of his own to take their place, Gregory refused to recognize the new bishops, and cited the emperor to appear at Rome. The 26-year-old Henry convened a diet at Worms, 1076, which declared the pope deposed, and the emperor wrote the pope an unpleasant letter. Gregory excommunicated the emperor, and freed his subjects from his rule. The German lords, who didn't support the emperor anyway, gave him a year to reconcile with the pope, and invited Gregory to a council at Augsburg. In January 1077, on his way north to Augsburg, Gregory stayed at a castle at Canossa, Italy, pictured here. The emperor, meanwhile, came south from Germany to Italy, through a severe Alpine winter, and learning where Gregory was, came to him as a penitent, without royal robes, barefoot in the snow, fasting at the door of the castle. After three days, Gregory finally absolved him, but required him to accept the decision on the matter of the German lords. Whether the emperor had humiliated himself in front of the pope, or whether he had cleverly forced the pope to lift the excommunication, has long been debated.
In 1080 the emperor threatened to set up his own pope, and Gregory excommunicated him again. The emperor's armies surrounded Rome in 1081, trapping Gregory, and entered the city in 1084. Norman armies rescued the pope, but their depredations in Rome turned the people against Gregory, who fled Rome and died in exile the following year.
Later reforming popes