Pope Gregory VII


Ildebrando of Soana, born about 1015-1020 and died May 25, 1085 in Salerno, Italy, was a Tuscan Benedictine monk who became in 1073 the 157th bishop of Rome and pope under the name Gregory VII, succeeding Alexander II. Sometimes known as the monk Hildebrand, he was the main architect of the Gregorian reform, first as an advisor to Pope Leo IX and his successors, and then under his own pontificate.

This reform of the Church intends to purify the morals of the clergy (obligation of celibacy of the priests, fight against the nicolaïm) and to fight against the simony, the traffic of the benefits and in particular of the bishoprics, which causes a major conflict with the emperor Henri IV. This provoked a major conflict with Emperor Henry IV, who considered it within his power to give investiture to the bishops. During the quarrel of the Investitures, Gregory VII obliges the excommunicated emperor to make a humiliating step of penitence. However, this episode was not enough to settle the conflict and Henry regained the advantage by besieging the pope who had taken refuge in the Castel Sant’Angelo. Freed by the Normans, the pope was driven out of Rome by the population, fed up with the excesses of his allies. Gregory VII died in exile in Salerno on May 25, 1085.

Gregory VII is considered a saint by the Catholic Church; he is celebrated on May 25.


Gregory VII was born in Soana near Sorano in Tuscany around 1020. He was named Hildebrand, which recalls the Germanic origin of his family. However, according to some sources, probably with the intention of drawing a parallel with Christ during the canonization process, Hildebrand came from a middle-class family: his father was a carpenter.

Student and chaplain of Gregory VI

Hildebrand was sent at a very young age to Rome, where his uncle was prior of the Cluniac abbey of Saint Mary on the Aventine. He was educated there and would have had as a teacher Jean Gratien, the future Pope Gregory VI. The latter was a fervent reformer. Hildebrand’s culture was more mystical than philosophical: he was more inspired by the psalms or the writings of Gregory the Great (whose name he and his mentor would take when they acceded to the throne of Saint Peter) than by those of Saint Augustine. He became attached to John Gratian who made him his chaplain. He followed him until his death.

The end of the ninth century and the beginning of the tenth century were marked by the weakening of public power due to the dissolution of the Carolingian Empire. Faced with invasions and private wars generated by the rise of a new warrior elite that took over territories, the clerics sought the protection of the powerful. In return, the latter took over the right to dispose of church property and to appoint the holders of ecclesiastical, abbey and parish offices. From then on, these offices were entrusted to laymen, often in exchange for payment, and their transmission was sometimes hereditary. The Church underwent a real crisis of morality: the offices and goods of the Church were subjected to a real traffic (simony) and clerogamy (nicolaism) was very widespread, particularly in Italy, Germany and France.

In reaction, this period was marked by a strong monastic reform movement which obtained the autonomy of many abbeys and imposed a moralization of the conduct of the nascent knighthood, in particular through the movements of the peace of God and then the truce of God. The movement was largely carried by Cluny but not only: the Benedictine abbeys of Brogne in Belgium and Gorze in Lorraine propagated the reform. It was in this spirit that Hildebrand was educated.

Because of the vast size of the Empire, the authority of the Germanic sovereign was quite weak in Italy. The great Roman families (and in particular the counts of Tusculum), used to electing the pope, took over their old prerogatives: three popes from the Tusculani family succeeded each other from 1024 onwards. If Benedict VIII and John XIX are energetic, Benedict IX, elected very young, behaves in a tyrannical and unworthy way. Criticizing his weak morality, Roman insurgents elected an antipope in 1045 (Sylvester III). In difficulty, Benedict IX sold his office to John Gratian who, thinking to restore order, accepted this act of simony and took the name Gregory VI. However, he did not succeed in applying the reform and the disorder was increased: there were three competing popes.

Since Henry II (1014-1024), the emperors were forced to periodically descend with their armies into Italy to restore their authority. Henry III also intervened militarily: on December 20, 1046, at the synod of Sutri, he deposed the three pontiffs and imposed the reforming Pope Clement II.

Hildebrand followed his mentor Gregory VI into exile in Cologne, Germany, and stayed with him until his death in 1048. His austere life was then noticed by Brunon, bishop of Toul and close relative of the emperor, who in turn attached him to his person.

Advisor to the Pontiffs

In Rome, the disorders persist. One after another, the two popes appointed by the emperor, Clement II and Damasus II, were assassinated. In 1048, Brunon was proclaimed pope by a diet held in Worms. He accepted only on the condition of obtaining the consent of the clergy and the Roman people. He is confirmed in this resolution by Hildebrand who persuades him to leave his episcopal clothes and to go to Rome like a simple pilgrim, to ask for the renewal and the confirmation of his nomination. The Romans are sensitive to this humility. Bruno was elevated to the pontifical office under the name of Leo IX on February 1, 1049.

Brought up in the spirit of the monastic reform, he concludes that it is the unworthiness of the preceding popes which was worth to them their disavowal by the Romans and their decay. He named Hildebrand sub-deacon and charged him with the administration of the revenues of the Holy See, close to bankruptcy. The most important acts of his pontificate are carried out under the advice of Hildebrand) who will remain then one of the most influential advisers of his successors Victor II (1055-1057), Stephen IX (1057-1058), Nicolas II (1058-1061), Alexander II (1061-1073). Hildebrand was one of the main actors in what would later be called the Gregorian reform, twenty-five years before becoming pope himself.

The organs of government were reorganized; the services of the chancellery, now very active, followed the imperial model and the function of the cardinals, who were entrusted with key positions in the curia, increased significantly; these places, previously reserved for representatives of Roman families, were open to “foreigners”, which underlined the universal character of the papacy and showed that these appointments should no longer be based on patronage.

A doctrine was elaborated which tended to give the Holy See the power necessary for the accomplishment of the reform. The Dictatus papæ reveal its main ideas: in Christian society, cemented by faith, the function of the lay order is to carry out the commands of the priestly order, of which the pope is the absolute master. Vicar of Christ, he is the only legitimate holder of the Empire, since he is the vicar of Christ, the “supreme emperor”. He can delegate this power and take back his delegation. The emperor is no longer the pope’s cooperator, but his subordinate. He had to carry out the reform program defined by the pope. This program challenged the imperial church.

Hildebrand is sent to France to investigate the heresy of Berenger. The scholastic of Tours asserts that there is only a spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Already condemned at the councils of Rome and Verceuil in 1050, then at the synod of Paris in 1054, Berenger was referred in 1054 to the council of Tours presided by Hildebrand. He recognizes that after the consecration, the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ.

Leo IX died in 1054, but a Roman delegation including Hildebrand succeeded in convincing Henry III of the Holy Roman Empire to choose Victor II as his successor, so the reformist party remained in power in the Holy See, although the pope continued to be appointed by the emperor. After presiding over the imperial funeral on October 28, 1056, Victor II was, on the following November 5, the main architect of the election of Henry III’s six-year-old son as emperor, under the name of Henry IV, and set up the regency of Agnes of Aquitaine, the emperor’s widow. The latter was close to the Cluny movement: the monastery of Cluny was a foundation of her family and Hugues, its abbot, was the godfather of the heir to the throne, the future Henry IV, and the intimate confidant of the imperial family.

However, she did not have the political authority nor the voluntarism of her husband and she governed under the influence of prelates such as Annon of Cologne, Sigefroi I of Mainz and Henri of Augsburg. She had to concede many possessions to the dukes to keep their loyalty. During the regency, relations between the Church and the Empire changed to the detriment of the latter. At the death of Victor II, in 1057, the reformers took advantage of the minority of Emperor Henry IV: Stephen IX was elected pope without Agnes being informed. The new pontiff was the brother of Godfrey the Bearded. The latter, Duke of Lower Lorraine and Tuscany, had entered into conflict with Henry III, anxious to neutralize his vassals who were too powerful: a refusal by the regent could trigger a new rebellion by the great vassals. The new pope was opposed to the nomination of popes by the emperor.

In his 1058 treatise Against the Simoniacs, Cardinal Humbert of Moyenmoutier analyzes the consequences of simony, shows the need to abolish lay investiture and insists on the preponderant role that the Holy See must play in reform. He affirms that the misconduct of the clerics comes from their submission to the laity because the latter invest them not according to their piety but according to the material advantages that this nomination can get them. Stephen IX is assassinated in Florence after only eight months of pontificate.

His successor, Nicholas II, was elected pope in Siena on December 28, 1058 by Hildebrand. He was led to Rome by Godfrey the Bearded who expelled the antipope Benedict X, raised by the faction of Tusculum. To do this, the election of Nicholas II had received the imperial approval of the young Henry IV. On April 13, 1059, Nicholas II had the decree in nomine Dei promulgated by a council meeting at the Lateran, which stipulated that the election of Roman pontiffs would henceforth be reserved for the college of cardinals. The author of this decree is most likely Hildebrand himself. Even if the right of confirmation by the emperor was maintained, the pope was no longer the emperor’s liege. The reformers were able to take advantage of the instability of the Empire to obtain the independence of the Holy See.

After the death of Nicholas in 1061, the cardinals chose Alexander II. A notification is sent to the emperor’s court: in doing so, they do not ask the regent to recognize the election. She chose to ignore it. The cardinals considering that the imperial privilege of confirmation is abrogated, the new pope is crowned on September 30. Furious, the Romans, deprived of their old right of election, carry their grievances to Agnes. She seized the opportunity to counter the new independence of the Sacred College and convened an assembly in Basel which, in the absence of any cardinal, elected another pope, who took the name of Honorius II. This schism lasted a short time and the antipope was abandoned by his protectors in 1064. Comforted in his role, Alexander II accentuated his control over the Church of Italy. He acted in perfect agreement with a group of reformers, among whom Hildebrand had an exceptional influence.


In April 1073, after the death of Alexander II, he was elected by the cardinals, under pressure from the Roman people. He accepted these functions reluctantly: he was already in his sixties and knew the heavy responsibilities. He wrote in 1075 to his friend Hugues de Cluny: “You are my witness, Blessed Peter, that it is in spite of myself that your holy Church has put me at its helm. This election frightened the bishops who feared its severity. The imperial consent having not been given as the established law still requires it, the bishops of France, who underwent the requirements of his reforming zeal when he had come to them as legate, try to push the emperor Henri IV not to recognize him. But Hildebrand requested and obtained imperial confirmation. He did not take possession of the apostolic see until he had obtained it.

As soon as he became king, he claimed Corsica, Sardinia and even Spain by virtue of Constantine’s donation; he maintained that Saxony had been given to the Holy See by Charlemagne, Hungary by King Stephen; and he claimed the denarius of St. Peter from France. These claims were likely to meet with a general refusal and to attract too many enemies, so he refocused his action on the fight against Nicolaism and simony.

He did not immediately enter into conflict with the great ones and initially attacked married priests. For him, as a monk, ecclesiastical celibacy is part of the priestly ideal which sets the ascetic apart. He also saw it as a strength for the Church. He wished for clerics who were only concerned with the Church, without families, independent of social ties and, subsequently, of the influence of the laity, and finally incapable of founding a hereditary caste that would be quick to appropriate Church property. During the Lenten Council of 1074, decisions were taken to remove simoniacal or concubinary priests (nicolaists). In particular, he forbade married or cohabiting priests from entering the churches.

These decrees were contested by many German priests. The embarrassed bishops, mainly in Germany, did not show any eagerness to apply the decisions of this council and the pope, doubting their zeal, ordered the dukes of Swabia and Carinthia to prevent by force the rebellious priests from officiating. He was then reproached by the bishops Theodoric of Verdun and Henri of Spire to have lowered by this decision the episcopal authority in front of the secular power. At first, the emperor Henry IV, already occupied by the revolt of his feudal lords, tried to calm the conflict. He proposed to play the conciliators between the papal legates and the German bishops. However, Gregory VII triumphed in Germany: married priests were scorned, sometimes tortured and exiled; their legitimate wives were ostracized from society.

At Christmas 1075, a revolt was organized in Rome by Censius, leader of the nobility opposed to the reforms. Gregory VII was arrested while officiating in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major and was locked up in a tower. But the pope was freed by the people whose support he had, which allowed him to suppress the revolt.

In Spain, under pressure from the papal envoy, the Council of Burgos (1080) ordered clergymen to send their wives away, but the order was not carried out until the 13th century, under Alfonso the Wise, whose code punished priestly marriage.

In France and England, things were more difficult. The synod of Paris (1074) declared the Roman decrees intolerable and unreasonable (“importabilia ideoque irrationabilia”). At the turbulent synod of Poitiers (1078), the legalist obtained a threat to the auditors of a refractory priest, but the bishops could hardly put this canon into effect without the support of the secular arm, and ecclesiastical marriages persisted.

Lanfranc of Canterbury could not prevent the Council of Winchester in 1076 from authorizing married priests to keep their wives. The Council of London of 1102, under the inspiration of Anselm, ordered their dismissal, but without prescribing any penalties. The second Council of London (1108) had no other effect than to aggravate the disorder of morals in the clergy.

In fact, Gregory VII quickly engaged in the quarrel of the Investitures, could not afford the luxury to face at the same time the emperor and the kings of France and England. He thus spared the last two by adding to his intransigent legate Hugues de Die, the more diplomatic Hugues de Semur, abbot of Cluny.

As early as 1073, he attacked Philip I, king of France, for simony. In 1074, he tried to raise the bishops of his kingdom against him by writing to them:

“Among all the princes who, through abominable greed, have sold the Church of God, we have learned that Philip, king of the French, holds the first rank. This man, who should be called a tyrant and not a king, is the head and cause of all the evils of France. If he does not wish to amend his ways, let him know that he will not escape the sword of apostolic vengeance. I order you to put his kingdom under interdict. If this is not enough, we will try, with God’s help, by all possible means, to wrest the kingdom of France from his hands; and his subjects, struck with a general anathema, will renounce his obedience, if they do not prefer to renounce the Christian faith. As for you, know that, if you show lukewarmness, we will consider you accomplices in the same crime, and that you will be struck with the same sword.”

Philip I promises to amend, but continues as far as the French bishops do not put the kingdom in interdict. The pope understands that his reform cannot be based on bishops, themselves simoniacs: it is necessary for him of the men convinced of the need for the reform. He thus abstains from immediately following up on his threats which would risk generating a schism.

During the Lenten Council of 1075, not only were simoniacal and concubinary priests threatened with excommunication but also bishops were condemned:

“If anyone now receives a bishopric or abbey from any person, let him not be considered a bishop. If an emperor, a king, a duke, a marquis, a count, a power or a lay person pretends to give the investiture of bishoprics or of any ecclesiastical dignity, let him know that he is excommunicated.

Gregory VII also issued a decree forbidding laymen to choose and invest bishops. This was the first time the Church took a position on the issue of lay investitures.

Gregory VII had the legate Hugues de Die, one of his closest collaborators, elected as Archbishop of Lyon. The latter came from a powerful aristocratic family (he was the nephew of Hugues I of Burgundy, abbot of Cluny, and of Duke Eudes I of Burgundy). He was able to apply the Gregorian reform in his archdiocese, convening many councils, during which he excommunicated and deposed the simoniac and concubinary clerics: 1075 in Anse, 1076 in Dijon and Clermont, 1077 in Autun (against the tyrannical Manassès de Gournay, who had deprived Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian monks, of his offices and property.

Emperor Henry IV has just faced a rebellion in Saxony. Faced with the turbulence of the great lords, the support of an imperial church was indispensable.

Indeed, under the Carolingians, the gradual establishment of the heredity of offices had strongly contributed to the weakening of their authority: the emperor no longer had control over the great feudal lords, which led to the gradual fragmentation and dissolution of the Carolingian Empire. To avoid such a drift, the Ottonians relied on the Germanic Church, whose offices they distributed to the faithful, knowing that they would recover them at their death. The bishops, sometimes at the head of real principalities, and the abbots thus constituted the framework of the imperial administration. The emperor ensured the appointment of all the members of the high clergy of the Empire. Once appointed, they received from the sovereign the investiture symbolized by the insignia of their function, the crosier and the ring. In addition to their spiritual mission, they had to fulfill temporal tasks assigned to them by the emperor. Thus, the imperial authority was relayed by competent and devoted men

At first, Henry IV, who was not hostile to the reform, sought to negotiate to continue to appoint bishops. His objective was to strengthen an Empire Church (Reichskirche) in Italy, which would be totally faithful to him.

Gregory VII undertook negotiations with Henry IV, supported by some bishops of the Empire, concerning royal (i.e., lay) investiture. The negotiations having failed, Gregory throws the anathema on the adviser of the king.

In September 1075, following the murder of Erlembald, Henry invested (contrary to the commitments made) the cleric Tedald, archbishop of Milan, as well as bishops in the dioceses of Fermo and Spoleto. Then the conflict bursts.

In December, Gregory sends a virulent letter to Henry, in which he strongly urges him to obey:

“Bishop Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to King Henry, greetings and apostolic blessing (if, however, he is willing to submit to the Apostolic See, as befits a Christian king)”

Beyond the question of investitures, it is the fate of the dominium mundi that is at stake, the struggle between priestly power and imperial power. The historians of the XIIth century call this quarrel Discidium inter sacerdotium et regnum.

In 1075, Gregory VII promulgated the famous Dictatus papæ, canonically defining this doctrine to counteract caesaropapism, i.e. the interference of political power in the government of the Church (see Querelle des Investitures). Relying on princes such as Philip I or William the Conqueror, the Pope succeeded in reducing the prerogatives of feudalism and in setting up an episcopate that was much more independent of the system of secular loyalties.

The spirit of this legislation can be summarized as the revival of the doctrine of the two powers of Pope Gelasius I enacted in the fifth century: all of Christendom, ecclesiastical as well as lay, is subject to the moral magistracy of the Roman Pontiff.

Gregory VII found in the order of Cluny, present in the whole of Latin Christendom beyond the political borders, the necessary ally to relay such an enterprise.

In January 1076, Henry gathered the majority of bishops around him at the Diet of Worms; most of the bishops of Germany and Lombardy then entered into dissidence with the pope, whom they had recognized until then, and declared Gregory deposed. The bishops and archbishops considered themselves to be princes of the Empire, endowed with important privileges; that the attribution of ecclesiastical offices should be the responsibility of the pope seemed to them to be a threat to the Church of the Empire, the cornerstone of its administration. They thus write from Worms a response to Gregory VII, summoning him to leave his function:

“Henry, king, not by usurpation, but by the just ordinance of God, to Hildebrand [first name of Gregory VII before his accession to the papal see], who is no longer the pope, but henceforth the false monk You whom all the bishops and I strike with our curse and sentence, resign, leave this apostolic see which you have arrogated to yourself. I, Henry, king by the grace of God, declare you with all my bishops: resign, resign!”

This revocation is justified by claiming that Gregory was not elected regularly: he was indeed tumultuously raised to this dignity by the people of Rome. Moreover, as Patricius of Rome, Henry had the right to appoint the pope himself, or at least to confirm his election (a right he did not use). It is also claimed that Gregory swore never to be elected pope, and that he was intimately involved with women.

Gregory’s response was not long in coming; he preached at the Lenten synod of 1076 :

“I have been given by God the power to bind and loose, on Earth as in Heaven. Confident in this power, I challenge King Henry, son of Emperor Henry, who has risen with unbounded pride against the Church, for his sovereignty over Germany and Italy, and I release all Christians from the oath they have or may yet take to him, and forbid them to continue to serve him as king. And since he lives in the community of the banished, since he does evil in a thousand ways, since he despises the exhortations I address to him for his salvation, since he separates himself from the Church and seeks to divide it, for all these reasons, I, Your lieutenant, bind him with the bond of the curse.”

Gregory VII declared Henry IV deposed and excommunicated him; having rebelled against the sovereignty of the Church, he could no longer be king. He who thus refused obedience to God’s representative and consorted with other excommunicated persons was in fact stripped of his sovereignty. Consequently, all his subjects are released from the allegiance they have sworn to him.

This excommunication of the rex et sacerdos, whose predecessors had, as patricius Romanorum and in a sacred and theocratic conception of the king, arbitrated the election of the popes, seemed at the time unimaginable and aroused great emotion in Western Christendom. Many pamphlets were written for or against the supremacy of the emperor or the pope, often referring to the theory of the two powers of Gelasius I (German Christendom was deeply divided.

After this excommunication, many German princes who had previously supported Henry, broke away from him; at the assembly of Tribur in October 1076, they forced him to dismiss the councilors condemned by the pope and to do penance before the term of one year and one day (i.e. before the following February 2). Henry must also submit to the judgment of the pope at the Diet of Augsburg, so that the princes renounce to elect a new king.

To intercept the pope before his planned meeting with the princes, Henry decided in December 1076 to cross the snow-covered Alps to Italy. As his opponents blocked his access to the German passes, he had to pass through the Mont-Cenis pass to speak with the pope before the Diet of Augsburg, and thus have his excommunication lifted (thereby forcing the opposition princes to submit to him). Henri has no other way to recover his political freedom of king.

Gregory feared the approach of an imperial army and wished to avoid a meeting with Henry; he withdrew to Canossa, a well-fortified castle of the Tuscan margravine Mathilde de Briey. With his help and that of his godfather Hugues de Cluny, Henri obtained a meeting with Gregory. On January 25, 1077, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, Henry presented himself in the garb of a penitent before the castle of Canossa. After three days, on January 28, the pope lifted the excommunication, five days before the expiration of the deadline set by the princes of the opposition.

The epinal image of Henry going to Canossa in an attitude of humble penitence is based primarily on our main source, Lambert d’Hersfeld, who was also a supporter of the pope and a member of the opposition nobility. Current historical research judges this image to be biased and propaganda. The penance was a formal act, carried out by Henri, and which the pope could not refuse; it appears today like a skilful diplomatic manoeuvre, which gave back to Henri his freedom of action while restricting that of the pope. It is however certain that, in the long term, this event dealt a serious blow to the position of the German Empire.

Although the excommunication was lifted five days before the deadline of one year and one day and the pope himself officially considered Henry as king, the opposition princes deposed him on March 15, 1077 in Forchheim, in the presence of two papal legates. Archbishop Siegfried I of Mainz had an anti-king elected, Rudolf of Rheinfelden, Duke of Swabia, who was crowned in Mainz on March 26; the princes who elevated him to the throne made him promise never to resort to simoniacal practices in the allocation of episcopal seats. He also had to grant the princes the right to vote in the election of the king and could not transmit his title to any sons, abandoning the dynastic principle that had prevailed until then. This was the first step towards the free election demanded by the princes of the Empire. By renouncing the heredity of the crown and authorizing the appointment of canonical bishops, Rudolph considerably weakened the rights of the Empire.

As in the war against the Saxons, Henry relied mainly on the rising social classes (lesser nobility and ministerial officers), as well as on the increasingly powerful free cities of the Empire, such as Speyer and Worms, which owed their privileges to him, and on the cities close to the Harz castles, such as Goslar, Halberstadt and Quedlinburg.

The rise of the formerly disempowered ministers, as well as the emancipation of the cities, met with strong resistance from the princes. Most of them placed themselves on the side of Rodolphe of Rheinfelden, against Henri. The pope remains at first neutral, in accordance with the agreements concluded in Canossa.

In June, Henri put Rodolphe of Rheinfelden in the ban of the Empire. Both of them took refuge in Saxony. Henry suffered two defeats: on August 7, 1078 at Mellrichstadt and on January 27, 1080 at Flarchheim near Mühlhausen (Thuringia). During the battle of Hohenmölsen, near Merseburg, which turned out to his advantage, Rudolph lost his right hand and was mortally wounded in the abdomen; he died the next day, October 15, 1080. The loss of the right hand, the hand of the oath of loyalty taken to Henry at the beginning of his reign, was used politically by Henry’s supporters (it was a judgment of God) to weaken the opposition nobility a little more.

In 1079-1080, Gregory VII brings Eudes de Chatillon (who is the great prior of Cluny and the future Pope Urban II) to Rome and appoints him cardinal-bishop of Ostia. Eudes becomes an intimate adviser of the pope, and supports the Gregorian reform.

In March 1080, Gregory VII excommunicated Henry again, who then submitted the candidacy of Wibert, archbishop of Ravenna, for the election of the (anti)pope. He was elected on June 25, 1080 at the synod of Bressanone by the majority of German and Lombard bishops, under the name of Clement III.

Society was thus split in two: Henry was king and Rudolf anti-king, Gregory pope and Clement anti-pope. In Swabia, for example, Berthold of Rheinfelden, son of Rudolf, opposed Frederick of Hohenstaufen, fiancé of Agnes, daughter of Henry, who had appointed him duke.

After his victory over Rudolf, Henry turned to Rome in 1081, in order to find a way out of the conflict there as well; he succeeded, after three successive sieges, in taking the city in March 1084. Henry then had to be present in Italy, on the one hand to ensure the support of the territories that were loyal to him, and on the other hand to confront Matilda of Tuscany, loyal to the pope and his most bitter enemy in Northern Italy.

After the capture of Rome, Wibert was enthroned as Clement III on March 24, 1084. A new schism began: it lasted until 1111, when the last Wibertist anti-pope, Sylvester IV, officially renounced the papal see.

One week after the enthronement, on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1084, Clement crowned Henry and Berthe emperor and empress.

Eudes de Chatillon was appointed legate in France and Germany, with the aim of removing Clement III, and met with Henry IV for this purpose in 1080, in vain. He presided over several synods, including that of Quedlinburg (1085), which condemned the supporters of Emperor Henry IV and the antipope Clement III, i.e. Guibert of Ravenna.

At the same time, Gregory VII entrenched himself in the Castel Sant’Angelo and waited for an intervention of the Normans supported by the Saracens, who were marching on Rome, led by Robert Guiscard with whom he had been reconciled. Henry’s army was very weakened and did not face the attackers. The Normans freed Gregory, looted Rome and set it on fire. After the disorders perpetrated by his allies, Gregory had to flee the city following his liberators and retired to Salerno, where he died on May 25, 1085.

Having accomplished one of the most important pontificates in history, with a temperament both courageous and tenacious, the pope died on May 25, 1085. He is buried in the cathedral of Salerno. His last words are engraved on his tombstone: “Dilexi iustitiam, odivi iniquitatem, propterea morior in esilio” (that is why I die in exile!).

The work of Gregory VII was continued by his successors. In particular by his adviser Urban II who acceded to the pontificate in 1088, drove out the antipope Clement III, preached the first crusade in 1095 and encouraged the Reconquista. Gregory VII was declared a saint, canonized, in 1606 by Paul V.

The Gregorian reform and the Investiture Quarrel considerably increased the power of the papacy. The pope was no longer subject to the emperor, and the Holy See found itself at the head of vassal states that had to pay an annual tribute. These were the Norman principalities of southern Italy, the county of the Spanish march in southern France, the county of Viennese in Provence, and principalities located in the east, in the regions of the Dalmatian coast, in Hungary and Poland.

On the other hand, the power of the pope at the head of the Church was reinforced by the humiliation inflicted on the emperor. The expansion of the powerful order of Cluny was reinforced. New orders were created, Camaldolese, Carthusian, Cistercian, which were also at the devotion of the pope.

The political and economic power of these orders – and in particular those of Cluny and Cîteaux – is such that they directly influence the decisions of the princes. The power of the clergy was at its peak: they dictated the policies of the West, triggering, for example, the crusades. However, respecting the Christian division between Caesar and God, the Pope shared power with the secular authorities as shown by the Concordat of Worms. On the other hand, the sustained economic growth from which the West benefits does not take long to give an increasing importance to the bourgeoisie: this one is going to progressively impose itself as a new force within the system of tripartite distribution of the medieval society (clergy, nobility and peasants) by asserting its own economic and political power.

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the gradual strengthening of the monarchies, particularly in France and England, which relied heavily on the growing power of their cities, and the resumption of the struggle between the priesthood and the Empire contributed to the gradual weakening of the Papacy.

From the middle of the eleventh century, a Gregorian thought of Christian reconquest and liberation of the Catholic Church was structured. Gregory VII had already conceived a crusade project in 1074, which was articulated as a response to the expansion of Islam. Indeed, following the rout of Byzantine troops at Mantzikert in 1071, defeated by the Seljuk Turks, the Byzantine Empire lost large parts of Syria, and left these new converts to Islam an open door to Anatolia.

Faced with this situation, Gregory sees in this progress of the Turks to the detriment of the “Eastern Christianity” the mark of the action of the devil. A devil bent on the loss of the camp of God, devastating it of the interior by the heresy and the corruption of the ecclesiastics. This demonization of the “Saracens” on the part of the Christian ecclesiastics is the fruit of a rhetorical construction against Islam from its beginnings, and of which Isidore of Seville and the Apocalypse of the pseudo-Method are the precursors.

In reaction to these facts, Pope Gregory went so far as to consider leading an army in person to Jerusalem to help the Christians of the East. In this perspective, Gregory VII wrote on February 2, 1074 to several princes to ask them “in the service of Saint Peter” for the military assistance that they owed him and that they had promised him. On March 1, 1074, he returned to this project in a circular letter intended for “all those who wish to defend the Christian faith. On December 7, 1074, Gregory reiterated his intentions in a letter to Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire, in which he spoke of the suffering of the Christians, and informed the emperor that he was ready to march in person to the Tomb of Christ in Jerusalem, at the head of an army of 50,000 men already available. A week later, Gregory addressed again all his followers to urge them to come to the aid of the Eastern Empire and to repel the infidels. Finally, in a letter dated January 22, 1075, Gregory expressed his deep discouragement to the abbot Hugues de Cluny, where he deplored all the “misfortunes” that were plaguing the Church, the Greek schism in the East, heresy and simony in the West, the Turkish invasion of the Near East and finally his concern about the inertia of the European princes.

This “crusade” project was never realized under Gregory VII, however, and the ideas of holy war had not yet unanimously convinced the Christians of the West.

Among the writings of Pope Gregory VII, the letter he sent to Al-Nasir, Hammadite prince of Bejaia (Algeria), has remained famous for its benevolence towards Islam. It remains a model of interreligious dialogue.

“(…) Now, this charity, we and you, owe it to each other even more than we owe it to other peoples, since we recognize and confess, in different ways it is true, the ONE God whom we praise and venerate every day as Creator of the ages and Master of the worlds. (…) “.

By his name was named the Tomba Ildebranda by Gino Rosi, for one of the Etruscan tombs of the Area archeologica di Sovana, near his birthplace (Soana).

External links


  1. Grégoire VII
  2. Pope Gregory VII
  3. a b c d e et f Pierre Milza, Histoire de l’Italie, Fayard, 2005, p. 209.
  4. Michel Balard, Jean-Philippe Genet et Michel Rouche, Le Moyen Âge en Occident, Hachette 2003, p. 173.
  5. ^ Cowdrey 1998, p. 28.
  6. ^ Beno, Cardinal Priest of Santi Martino e Silvestro. Gesta Romanae ecclesiae contra Hildebrandum. c. 1084. In K. Francke, MGH Libelli de Lite II (Hannover, 1892), pp. 369–373.
  7. «Η έριδα της περιβολής – Studying History». Ανακτήθηκε στις 2 Σεπτεμβρίου 2019.
  8. Más forrás 1028/1029-re valószínűsíti a dátumot.
  9. Pázmány könyvek. [2009. február 27-i dátummal az eredetiből archiválva]. (Hozzáférés: 2011. augusztus 9.)
Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.