« PreviousContinue »
tagonists more unequally matched. Against the master-spirit of the age, a veteran ecclesiastic filled with a grand ambition, endowed with a potent genius and an inflexible will, immovable himself but mighty to move others, fanatically intent upon the fulfilment of one design, and exercised from his youth up by successful conflicts for its accomplishment, was set a young, wayward, wilful, irresolute prince, more alive to pleasure than to ambition, fond of his own way, but with no fixedness of purpose, valiant and energetic by fits and starts, but with no commanding ability, the creature of circumstances and the slave of impulse, now an utter craven and now almost a hero. Gregory beheld in the imperial power the main obstacle to papal aggrandisement, and in the imperial court the chief opponents of his designs, bishops of the emperor's making and patrons of a married clergy. He began by excommunicating some of Henry's counsellors and favourites, and, with the help of some discontented German princes, frightened the young monarch into dismissing them. Soon afterwards, however, Henry defeated his rebels, recalled his counsellors, and made more bishops; whereupon the pontiff summoned him as a criminal to Rome, and threatened excommunication in case of disobedience. The Cæsar replied through an assembly of bishops at Worms, which proclaimed Gregory an evil man and an unworthy pontiff. The pope answered by a council at Rome, at which he anathematised and deposed the emperor, put forth the most extravagant pretensions of the papacy, and gave the first clear and distinct utterance to some of them, such as spiritual infallibility and temporal supremacy, the right to set doctrines up and pull princes down. The curse of Rome inflamed the discontent of Germany; and a congress of rebellious nobles undertook to carry out the sentence of Gregory and dethrone the Cæsar. A paroxysm of terror seized upon Henry; he rushed across Germany, hurried over the Alps, and notwithstanding the remonstrances of the Lombard bishops and barons, who detested Gregory and his church system, hastened to the feet of the pontiff, who was sojourning with his devotee and slave, Matilda countess of Tuscany, at her castle of Canossa, and there enacted one of the famous scenes of history-a scene which has bestowed upon his name an immortality of contempt,
* Baronius, an. 1075, n. 8-13, 17, 22, 23; an. 1076, n. 1-7, 9 et seq. Otbertus Leodiensis, de Vita Henrici IV. apud Apologias Melchioris Goldasti, pp. 208, 209. Concilium Romanum iii. apud Concilia, tom. xxvi. pp. 573–577.
and which has lent the remarkable age of Hildebrand and the strange story of the popedom their proudest and most triumphant incident (January 1077). In the outer court, separated from his train, and stripped of his royal apparel, barefooted and fasting, during three days and nights of a grim winter, a young and fiery prince, the emperor of the Romans, the greatest monarch in the world, waited for leave to throw himself at the feet of an aged priest. On the fourth day leave was granted; the prostration was performed, and the imperial penitent was loosed from the papal curse, on condition, however, that he should submit to trial before a German diet, retain or resign his crown according to the sentence of Gregory, and wear no royal ornaments till his doom was pronounced. Away from the scene of his degradation and the sight of his foe, and among his indignant and reproachful Italian partisans, Henry became a new man; the paroxysm of fear which had goaded him to the feet of Gregory was succeeded by a more lasting paroxysm of shame and wrath. He shrank from the fulfilment of the shameful compact; the pontiff insisted; and the quarrel soon passed into open war. Again Gregory laid Henry under the papal curse, again stirred up rebellion in Germany, and set up two rival Cæsars in succession against him. In return Henry had Gregory solemnly condemned and formally deposed by a synod of bishops, set up an anti-pope, brought him in triumph to Rome, had him inaugurated there as Clement III., and received the imperial crown from his hands; besieged Gregory in Castle St. Angelo, and drove him into exile. Italy sided with the Cæsar rather than with the pontiff; bishops, barons, and burghers rallied around Henry; the married clergy, whose battle he was fighting, whose relentless persecutor was his mortal foe, zealously upheld his cause. But Christendom for the most part remained faithful to Gregory; the swords of the invincible Normans were drawn in his behalf; the valiant Robert Guiscard hastened to his rescue from Greece to Italy, to repeat over Henry the victory he had just won over Alexius Comnenus, and to drive the emperor of the West, as he had driven the emperor of the East, before him."
5 Baronius, an. 1077, passim. Vita et Epistolæ Gregorii VII. apud Concilia, tom. xxvi. 1. iv. ep. xii. Otbertus, p. 209. Donizzo, de Vita Comitissa Mathildæ, lib. ii. c. 1 (Muratori, tom. v.)
Baronius, an. 1077-1085, passim. Concilium Romanum v., vi., vii, apud Concilia, tom. xxvi. Otho' Frisingensis, De Gestis Frederici I. lib. i. c. 1-7. Donizzo, lib. ii. c. 1, 2. Otbertus, pp. 212, 213. Gaufridi Sicula Historia, lib. iii. c. 33, 37.
But Gregory found his chief consolation and support in the devotion of Countess Matilda-that type and pattern of female votaries and pious benefactresses, who lavished upon him her wealth, her company, and her services of every kind; who clung to his side in weal and woe; who enjoyed the office of his constant ministrant, and won the reputation of his mistress, and who mingled passionate attachment to the pope with fanatical regard for the popedom; who testified her tenderness for the Roman Church by taking in advanced age one of its youthful champions for her third husband, and still more strongly excited its gratitude by the bequest of her ample domains. Her kinsman Henry found Matilda a most unscrupulous and formidable opponent, the invader of his household, and the seducer of his children. There is no reason to suspect her connection with Gregory of being anything more than the most famous instance of the attachment of a devout woman towards her spiritual guide—an attachment made more tender, but not impure, by the influence of sex.8 She outlived the god of her idolatry for many years, and continued faithful to the popedom to the day of her death (1115). Hildebrand died an exile in the dominions of his Norman friend and vassal, Robert Guiscard (1085), while Henry and his pope held possession of Rome. In the midst of the terrible conflict which he had provoked, the mighty pontiff passed away. But that tremendous struggle did not absorb his energy; the subjugation of the empire did not exhaust his ambition. He attempted the conquest of Christendom, and sought to fashion all the monarchs of Europe into vassals of Rome. He was ever threatening and rebuking Philip I. of France. He forced upon Alphonso VI. of Castile, a warrior and a statesman, the Roman church-service to which he was not accustomed, and a wife for whom he did not care. He laid Bohemia under tribute, while he withheld from her, in spite of her earnest entreaty, worship and the Word in the Bohemian
7 Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, tom. v. pp. 320-471, gives two lives of the countess, one in prose by an anonymous writer, and one in verse by Donizzo, who, in spite of his rude versification, is minute and not uninteresting. In his letters to his devotee, Gregory is at once tender and authoritative, commendatory and exacting. He rejoices over her piety and invites her to Rome (Ep. lib. i. ep. 40, 41), recommends frequent communion, enjoins especial devotion towards the Virgin, and forbids intercourse with the kinsman whom she had taken for her second husband (lib. i. ep. 47; lib. ii. ep. 36).
8 Donizzo, de Vita Mathilda, lib. ii. c. 8-11. about Matilda among the scandals which he
Cardinal Benno thrusts no scandal throngs into his life of Hildebrand
(Benno, de Vita Hildebrandi, apud Apologias pro Henrico IV. pp. 1–27).
tongue. He assumed airs of sovereignty towards the greatest heroes and rulers of the age—the mighty Norman who conquered England and the mighty Norman who conquered Naples. William the Bastard refused the homage which Gregory required, but admitted his pecuniary exactions, defended the independence of his crown better than the estates of his subjects; while in Robert the Wizard the pontiff secured a liegeman, a tributary, and a champion. Hildebrand has the fullest right to be reputed the hero of the papacy and the architect of the papal power. He found the popedom weak and contemptible; he left it strong and terrible. He found it the creature of the empire, and he left it on the high-road to mastery not only over the empire but over Christendom. He developed its ultimate tendencies and fixed its final character. He unfolded in all the height and depth, in all the length and breadth of its pretensions, aspirations and endeavours, the kingdom of this world which called itself not of this world, and he arrogated for it secular lordship over princes by virtue of the spiritual lordship which he arrogated for it over souls. He strove to make the papacy absolute in the Church and to make the Church absolute over the State; he sought to bring the whole of life-social, political, and spiritual-beneath the papal power; he ministered to all the corruptions of the Roman Church; he brought out the full antichristian character of the popedom. The papal ideal was altogether the conception of Hildebrand, and its realisation was in great measure his work. He did not less skilfully devise the means than steadfastly pursue the end. He made war upon clerical matrimony as a source of clerical weakness, and built up papal omnipotence upon priestly celibacy. He assisted at the triumph of transubstantiation. He set the papacy in a path wherein it really walked for some time, and wherein it has affected to walk ever since. No man ever conceived a vaster or more daring design, or laboured more earnestly or successfully for its accomplishment. The great architect of papal power, the perfecter of the arch-corruption of God's truth, must needs fill a very high, though a very unenviable, place among the master-spirits of the world.10
9 Baronius, an. 1074, n. 9-38; an. 1079, n. 16-19; an. 1080, n. 1, 50-57; an. 1084, n. 6. Vita et Epistolæ Gregorii VII., apud Concilia, tom. xxvi. pp. 425, 426, where are given the oath and investiture of Robert.
10 The greatness of Gregory is as clear to Protestants, who deem it pernicious, as to Papists, who esteem it beneficent. His personal goodness is more questionable. It is
Congenial successors pursued the work of Gregory and fiercely maintained the conflict with the empire. Urban II. (1087-97), a man of kindred spirit, carried on the war with Cæsar Henry no less stubbornly and ruthlessly, though not always prosperously. It was when cast forth from Rome by the rival pontiff, Clement, that he listened in shame and sorrow as Peter the Hermit, fresh from the Holy Land, told the tale of the Lord's persecuted people and insulted sepulchre. It was in exile that the pontiff imparted the enthusiasm that he had imbibed, stirred up the representatives of Christendom to the rescue of the Holy Land, and won from the impassioned throng assembled at Clermont the mighty and memorable cry, God wills it! God wills it!' It was in the midst of a deadly struggle with its chief potentate that Urban sent forth the hosts of Christendom to smite the Mohammedans. The first rush against misbelieving Asia was contemporaneous with a terrible civil war in Christian Europe. The first crusade signalised the opening of the conflict between the Holy Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Church, just as the last crusade fell out about its close. The captain of the crusading host, the noble Godfrey of Bouillon, the subject and friend of the emperor while an affectionate son of the Church, may have more cheerfully undertaken the task which withdrew him from the scene of conflict between the master whom he loved and the pontiff whom he revered, and more heartily flung himself into the war against the misbelievers which kept him out of the strife that sundered Christendom, wherein priest fought against priest and son against father. After having set up many competitors against Henry in vain, the pope at last, with the help of the unscrupulous Matilda, turned his son Conrad into a rebel and a rival.12 Conrad soon died, and Urban did not long outlive him. The same spirit dwelt in Urban's successor, Pascal II., and Henry had another son to be seduced. Henry IV. was dethroned by Henry V.: the pontiff struck down the father by the hand of the child.
amusing to compare Benno's abuse of Hildebrand (apud Apologias pro Henrico IV. pp. 1-27) and Otbert's praises of Henry (ibid. pp. 204-24) with Donizzo's glorification of the pope and reviling of the emperor (Vita Comitisse Mathilde, 1. i. c. 1; 1. ii.c. 1-10). Otbert's Latin is very tolerable for the age; the prose of the emperor's panegyrist is far more poetical than the verse of the pope's encomiast.
"Baronius, an. 1095, n. 30–40. Amalricus, de Urbano II. (Muratori, tom. iii. part ii. pp. 301-2). Otho Frisingensis, Chronicon, 1. vii. c. 2-5, ed. Basileæ, 1564. 12 Baronius, an. 1093, c. 2; an. 1095, c. 8. Donizzo, lib. ii. c. 11-20. Otbertus, pp. 214-23.