This lesson contains 14 slides, with interactive quiz and text slides.
Lesson duration is: 45 min
Items in this lesson
AGE 4: The Time of cities and states
4.3 Emperor against Pope
Slide 1 - Slide
people in this lesson
king, later emperor
Slide 2 - Slide
What you can explain / do after this lesson
why the Church wanted to appoint bishops
why secular rulers wanted to appoint bishops
explain the difference between spiritual and secular rules
Slide 3 - Slide
Important dates in this lesson:
1077: King Henry IV goes to Canossa
1084: Henry has himself crowned emperor by an antipope
1122: End of the Investiture Controversy
Slide 4 - Slide
Spiritual: to do with religion or feelings
Secular: to do with worldly non-spiritual matters
Hereditary: when something is passed on from father to son
Diocese: a number of churches in a region joined together, led by a bishop
Investiture: the appointment of a bishop by a pope
Investiture Controversy: conflict between secular and spiritual rulers about an investiture
Reformers: people who wanted to reform (= change to make better) the rules of the Church
lay(person): anyone who is not a cleric (anyone who does not work for/ belong to the Church)
Papal bull: formal letter issued by the Pope
Excommunicated: when you are no longer member of the Church and cannot go to heaven
Antipope: someone who claims to be the Pope besides the regularly elected Pope
Slide 5 - Slide
Did you know that people in the Middle Ages believed that all power came from God? They believed emperors, kings and popes were appointed by Him to rule the earth. Source 4.3.1 shows how this power was divided by Christ. The pope received spiritual power, the power to rule over the Church and its followers. The emperor received secular power, the power to rule over countries and people. Although this might seem fair, kings and emperors wanted more power. What did they do to increase power? How did this affect the Church? You will find out all about it in this paragraph.
Charles V crowned as Holy Roman Emperor
by Pope Clement VII at Bologna
Secular and spiritual power divided by Christ. Miniature from the 13th century.
Slide 6 - Slide
Kings want to increase their power
By the year 1000, landlords had become the really powerful people locally. As vassals, these landlords rented lands from their kings. These lands were supposed to be returned to their king when they died. In practice however, the lands often became hereditary: when the vassal died, the land passed to his sons. How could kings prevent their countries from falling apart? Bishops were not allowed to have children. Some kings therefore decided to turn bishops into their vassals. They even started to appoint bishops they could trust without asking the pope for permission.
German emperor appoints a bishop. Image on a bronze door of a cathedral in Poland, made around 1175.
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Organization of the Church
In the Early Middle Ages, the Church was able to spread Christianity throughout Europe. By 1000, nearly every town or village had its own church and priest. Churches in a region were joined together to form a diocese. The diocese was led by a bishop. He was chosen by the people and priests of his diocese and then appointed by the pope. This meant that a bishop could not be appointed without the permission of the pope, who was the head of the Church. The appointment of a bishop by a pope is called investiture; the bishop receives a ring, mitre and staff from the pope.
schematic overview of the hierarchy of the Catholic church today.
The use of capital letters for offices, titles and positions in English is different from that in Dutch. When a title or position is followed by a name, the English use two capital letters. For example: Pope Gregory, King Henry or President Nixon. A capital letter is also used when only the title is mentioned to substitute the name, e.g. ‘the King’ is used to refer to King Henry. These extra capital letters are not used in Dutch.
Slide 8 - Slide
The Investiture Controversy
Some bishops became very rich and powerful as vassals. Church reformers did not like this. They believed that bishops should only concentrate on spiritual matters. Bishops should not live in wealth and hold secular powers.
Reformers also disliked that kings and emperors started to appoint their own bishops. According to them, only the Church could appoint popes and bishops. This did not stop kings and emperors from appointing their own bishops (lay investitures)
This difference of opinion between secular rulers and the Church is called the Investiture Controversy. Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073-1085) wanted to make sure all bishops were appointed by him alone:
Kings are crowned by a bishop. Image from the 13th century.
Pope Gregory VII banning lay Investitures in 1078.
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Gregory VII versus Henry IV
The Investiture Controversy reached a peak after Pope Gregory VII declared that he had more authority than the emperor. In a papal bull, a formal letter issued by the pope, he claimed:
The German King Henry IV (1050-1106) and his German bishops protested: They stated that Gregory was no longer pope. When Henry appointed a bishop in Milan, which was part of his empire at that time, Gregory excommunicated him. This meant that Henry was no longer a member of the Church and would not be allowed to go to heaven when he died. It also meant that his authority was taken from him.
Power claims from the Dictatus Papae in 1075.
King Henry IV requests mediation from Matilda of Tuscany and the abbot of Cluny. Miniature from the Vita Mathildis, 1114.
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People were not allowed to talk to someone who was excommunicated. Henry had to beg Gregory for forgiveness to have the excommunication undone. He travelled to Gregory’s castle at Canossa, in Northern Italy, in the winter of 1077 and asked Matilda of Tuscany and the abbot of Cluny for help.
To humiliate him, the Pope made Henry beg at the castle gates for three days, barefoot and only wearing a cloth, before he finally forgave him.
A few years later, Henry started to appoint his own bishops again. This time however, he marched on Rome with an army. Pope Gregory had to flee and Henry installed a pope of his own choice: Clement III (r. 1080-1100). This second pope was called an antipope. Henry had himself crowned emperor in 1084 by this antipope.
Emperor Henry IV (dressed as a beggar) is finally received by pope Gregory VII. 19th century painting
King Henry IV had to cross the Alps barefoot to reach Canossa. Nowadays ‘to go to Canossa’ is an expression that means ‘submitting your will to someone’.
Henry IV and his entourage at the gate, 19th century depiction
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The struggle is ended
After King Henry had marched on Rome, Pope Gregory fled the city and died shortly after. In 1122, an agreement was signed between Pope Calixtus II and Emperor Henry V to end the power struggle. It was agreed that bishops had both spiritual and secular tasks. Emperors could give bishops a sceptre as a sign of secular power. The investiture was done by the pope.
Henry IV (left) and his antipope: Clement III (sitting next to him). Image from the Codex Jenensis Bose, 1157.
Antipopes such as Clement III were not an exception in the Middle Ages. Between the third and fifteenth century, there were often two or even three popes at the same time.
Slide 12 - Slide
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