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THE TRIUMPHS OF THE POPEDOM.
Great mistress of her art was that false dame,
The false Duessa, clokéd with Fidessa's name.
THE Cæsar and the Pontiff stand forth the two central and most conspicuous figures of the Middle Ages. For some two or three centuries the Holy Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Church were the chief powers of the world. The utterly secularised Christian Church, and the nominally consecrated Roman Empire, that strange pair brought together so strangely and in such complete defiance of the birth and original nature of each, stood side by side at the head of Christendom. The age approved their connection and admitted their joint supremacy, assigning to the empire the chief place in the temporal region, and to the papacy the chief place in the spiritual region.' This seemed a simple and symmetrical arrangement, but it was
1 Dante associates, crowns, and consummates his theory of life with this joint and harmonious sovereignty of pope and emperor. In his treatise De Monarchia, he thus speaks: Two ends has the unalterable providence of God set before man to be striven after, to wit, the blessedness of this life which lies in the exercise of his own virtue (quæ in operatione propriæ virtutis consistit), and the blessedness of the life everlasting which lies in the enjoyment of the sight of God (quæ consistit in fruitione divini aspectus), and to which man's own virtue cannot climb unless holpen by light from heaven. . . . . Wherefore there was need of a twofold guidance in accordance with this twofold end, to wit, of the sovereign pontiff, who in accordance with revelation (secundum revelata) should lead mankind onward to life everlasting; and of the emperor, who in accordance with philosophy should guide mankind toward temporal happiness' (Dante, de Monarchia, apud Johannem Oporinum, Basileæ, 1559, pp. 176–7). The imperial theory is well and briefly put by the greatest of the emperors, Frederick Redbeard, in a letter referring to the contest between the rival popes, Alexander III. and Victor II.: 'Whereas during His passion Christ said of the two swords that they were enough (quod in passione sua Christus duobus gladiis contentus fuit), we believe that in His wonderful foresight He made this declaration with reference to the Roman Church and the empire, inasmuch as these two heads and leading powers of mankind have the direction of the whole world in divine as well as in human things' (Radevicus, de Gestis Frederici, 1. ii. c. 50).
spoiled by the double nature of the Roman Church. The two powers, while fully recognising each other's legitimacy, could not agree to reign together, but each sought to reign over the other; or rather, the empire held to the theory of joint sovereignty, while the popedom, as became the kingdom of this world calling itself a kingdom not of this world, sought to realise the theory of its own sole sovereignty. The Cæsars allowed the spiritual and doctrinal supremacy of the pontiffs, were willing to leave the souls and consciences of men under their dominion; but they demanded their obedience in matters temporal, and demanded it as the successors of those old Roman Cæsars to whom in all such matters the first Christians had yielded entire submission-claimed them as subjects in all affairs of this world, while acknowledging them as masters in affairs of faith.
But this spiritual mastery in nowise satisfied the pontiffs. By very reason of this supremacy over souls, they claimed supremacy over states. Recognising the empire as the chief among merely temporal powers, the popedom pretended to be above it even in matters of this world. If the early Church had rendered absolute obedience to the Roman empire in all secular matters, the papacy had made the empire over to the Germans, had sanctified it, and had the rights of a new creator over its creature. The papal theory was altogether incompatible with the imperial theory. The Cæsar required obedience in temporal matters from his papal subject; the pontiff demanded submission in all things from his imperial creature. The two great powers of the Middle Ages, the two chiefs of Christendom, so closely connected with each other, so curiously dependent on each other, fell out, and fought to ascertain which of the two really and practically was master of the other.
This conflict between the empire and the papacy was inevitable. It arose about bishop-making; it arose in consequence of the twofold character which the Church had assumed as a spiritual and worldly kingdom. The bishops were at once pastors and barons, pillars of the Church and pillars of the State; advancement to a bishopric was advancement to a barony. The emperor claimed the chief share in promoting his subjects; the pope claimed the chief share in promoting his. The Christian people had long lost their original right of choosing their pastors. A man once invested with the ring and the staff was deemed a proper bishop; Cæsar and pontiff fell
out as to which of the two should confer this investiture.2 But the quarrel did not stop here; it broadened and deepened into an all-pervading and mortal enmity. The question whether bishop-making was a papal or imperial function grew into the question whether the civil or ecclesiastical power should have the mastery in all things; the contest between pope and emperor for supremacy in the secularised Church was aggravated into a struggle for supremacy in the world, for universal dominion.
This conflict covers almost exactly the whole period of papal greatness, from the accession of Gregory VII. to the death of Boniface VIII. (1073-1303), and stands out as its most signal and glaring fact, as the great business of the Middle Ages. It lasted about two centuries, and had every characteristic of a deadly struggle between two powers of this world, aggravated and embittered by the spiritual pretensions of one of the combatants. It employed large armies, involved fierce battles and long sieges, shed torrents of blood, and was signalised by enormous crimes. It was carried on with peculiar stubornness and inveteracy. Pontiff after pontiff passed away, yet still the papacy maintained the fight; Cæsar after Cæsar was gathered to his fathers, yet still the empire continued the struggle. The pope stirred up civil war in the empire, and the emperor stirred up civil war in the Church. The pontiff seduced the family as well as the subjects of the Cæsar, wrung his heart as well as shook his throne; the son was set up against the sire, and the bonds of nature were torn asunder, to secure the triumph of the Roman Church. The pope bestowed the imperial crown upon a rebellious subject or son of the emperor; the emperor conferred the pontifical crown upon a discontented and aspiring cardinal. So great were the interests at stake, and so strong the passions in conflict, that a papal candidate for the empire, when once on the imperial throne, became a strenuous upholder of its dignity; while an episcopal partisan of the Cæsars, when once seated on the pontifical throne, became a vehement assertor of its claims. Yet this was through
2 Melchior Goldastus, the great imperial jurist, has, in his huge collections of imperial tractates, Monarchia Romani Imperii, Sacra Monarchia, Apologiæ pro Henrico IV. (Hanau, 1612, 1620), gathered together much literature de Investitura Episcoporum. Donizzo, in his curious versified life of Countess Matilda, thus rudely but exactly states the matter by the mouth of Cæsar Henry V.: .
out a contest for dominion, not a warfare of destruction. The Cæsars fully acknowledged that papacy which they so steadfastly strove to resist; the pontiffs amply recognised that empire which they so mightily laboured to subdue, even when they combined with this contest for the subjection of the imperial throne a war of extermination against a particular imperial house. This tremendous warfare raged almost continuously for two centuries, with now and then a lull from exhaustion, and with now and then a brief truce, as the strife slackened in the hands of some less capable and tenacious emperor, of some less vigorous and grasping pope. The warfare called forth consummate genius and intense devotion on both sides; mighty Cæsars were encountered by mighty pontiffs; the popedom and the empire, the Church and the State, had each its gifted lovers and champion, its self-immolating heroes and martyrs,3 and had
Curiously enough, while the papal cause drew to itself warriors not less valiant than did the imperial cause, the imperial theory had far more attractions for subtle thinkers and powerful intellects than had the papal theory. No intellectual champion of the popedom can be compared for a moment with Occam or Marsilius of Paduawithout bringing in the unapproachable might and majesty of the transcendent imperialist, Dante. It is difficult for a modern mind to understand the enthusiasm with which the Holy Roman Empire inspired so many gifted intellects. Witness the multitudinous treatises which Melchior Goldastus has thronged into his huge folios. The writers thereof are vehemently in love with the cause that they defend. Jordanus, in his treatise de Translatione Imperii, apud Monarchiam Melchioris Goldasti, tom. ii. p. 1466, dilates on the exceeding honourableness of the Roman Empire, and shows how it was especially honoured by Christ. In the masterly tractate de Monarchia, which Dante consecrated to the glory of the empire, and wherein the great schoolman and the great poet are equally visible, he shows that the Roman people rightly acquired the dominion of the world, that their dominion passed to the Cæsars and came down to the present German princes, that the Roman emperor has no maker and master but God, confutes certain allegorical perversions of Scripture urged by the papists, such as the two lights and the two swords, and rejoices in the glory which Christ put upon the empire by coming into this world as its subject and on occasion of an imperial census, by recognising its coinage and enjoining obedience to Cæsar, and by accepting death from the doom of its officer and at the hands of its soldiers. He indignantly exclaims: 'Let those, therefore, who pretend to be sons of the Church, leave off reviling the Roman Empire, since they see how her bridegroom Christ put such honour upon it at each term of His warfare (cum videant Christum sponsum illud sic in utroque termino suæ militiæ comprobasse). O happy Roman people, O thou glorious Italy, if either that weakener (the pope) of thy empire (infirmator ille tui imperii) had never arisen, or if his pious intention had never deceived him!' (c. 2, in fine). Dante will not allow the Church the least authority over the empire, but logically demolishes the claim. That power which has no being or no vigour while another is in possession of its full vigour is not the cause of that vigour (Illud, quo non existente aut quo non virtuante aliud habet totam suam virtutem, non est causa illius virtutis). But when the Church had no being or no vigour, the empire was in all its vigour; therefore the Church is not the cause of the vigour of the empire, nor consequently
each its allies in great events, in potent principles and passions. Other matters were drawn into the struggle; other principles mingled in the fray between the papal and the imperial power. Contemporaneous events interfered somewhat with the conflict; the Crusades, for instance, now mitigated and now inflamed it. The battle of Italian freedom got blended with the battle between papacy and imperialism; and the peril and the victory of Italian liberty were more than once the peril and the victory of papal power. The Guelfs were sometimes democratic as well as pontifical partisans; the Ghibelins were sometimes champions of an aristocracy not less than of the empire. While the mere Papist will certainly be a Guelf, and the mere Protestant will probably be a Ghibelin, the sympathy of a wideminded large-hearted man will not be always and altogether on one side. Political predilections will be mainly with the Italian republics which, in alliance with the popedom, resisted the empire, with the heroism of Milan and with the glory of Florence; while personal feelings, whether of pity or admiration, will be chiefly stirred by emperors and imperial champions—by Henry IV., dethroned by his son, brought almost to beggary, and bereft of burial through the immortal malice of the papacy; by Frederick II., bearing up for twenty-five years beneath the anathemas which pope after pope heaped upon him, and against the hosts of enemies which pontiff after pontiff raised up against him; or by Dante invoking a regenerated empire to the rescue of divided Italy and for the punishment of ungrateful Florence, or turning from the broken wing and dimmed eye of the imperial eagle on earth, to behold the beloved bird renewed and glorified in heaven, to rejoice beneath its burning eye and discourse with its immortal youth among the blessed.
The two beginners of this long and mighty fray were Hildebrand, enthroned in 1073 as Pope Gregory VII., and Henry IV. of Franconia, king of Germany, and son of Cæsar Henry III., that reformer and master of the papacy. Never were an
of its authority, since its vigour and authority are one and the same thing' (p. 168). Throughout the Divina Commedia Dante follows the empire with no less affection, invokes the imperial presence in Italy, rebukes sluggish and careless Cæsars, places the murderers of Julius Cæsar in the nethermost deep of hell (Inferno, xxxiv. 64), gives the imperial lawgiver Justinian a high rank among the inhabitants of Heaven (Paradiso, v.-vi.), and by one of his boldest flights throws a portion of the heavenly host into the form of the imperial eagle, to which he lends utterance, and with which he holds conference (Paradiso, xviii.-xix.).