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rivals to appear before a council of bishops which he had convened at Pavia, and to submit their claims to its decision. In a strain of grave and stately eloquence he portrayed the imperial ideal of Christendom, bewailed the divided Church, and asserted the imperial prerogative of assembling synods and healing schisms.37 Alexander, in every sense the true and legitimate pope, not only as chosen by the majority of the cardinals, but as filled with the papal ambition and heir of the papal policy, kept away, while Victor appeared at the council, and was acknowledged by the synod and the emperor as lawful pope; Alexander was driven from Rome and Italy, where Redbeard and his pontiff ruled and triumphed. But the idea of legitimacy fought for the exile, and Christendom gradually drew near to Alexander. The kings of France and England, Louis VII. and Henry II., the scrupulous and devout Capet, the potent and ambitious Plantagenet, the feeble suzerain and the mighty vassal, so mutually jealous and so perpetually at variance, joined to acknowledge and revere the outcast.38
But Alexander had a still more powerful ally than the combined monarchs of France and England. The league of Lombard cities took his side; the spirit of Italian freedom fought in behalf of the papacy, and clad its confederate in its own glory. In his endeavour to establish the imperial authority throughout Italy, Frederick came into conflict with the rising wealth, growing strength, and free spirit of the Italian cities, especially those of Lombardy. Some few sided with Frederick, and the strife between Guelfs and Ghibelins began. These two famous cries were first uttered during the contest for the imperial crown (1137) in which Welf, duke of Bavaria, a papal partisan and representative of those Saxon chiefs whom Gregory VII. had stirred up against Henry IV., was worsted by Conrad of Hohenstaufen, duke of Suabia, and lord of the castle of Wibelung the cradle of his race, grandson of Henry IV., heir of the Franconian house and representative of the imperial policy, uncle and predecessor of Frederick; and they were now transferred to Italy. The battle-cries of two German houses became the battle-cries of two Italian factions, of two great principles.39
37 Radevicus, L. ii. c. 43, 50–56.
38 Baronius, an. 1160-2, passim.
39 How widely have the German Guelfs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries departed from the Guelfs of the twelfth and thirteeenth! The great papal house of the middle ages has become the great Protestant house of modern times. The chiefs and warriors of the papal party in Christendom yielded that line of Brunswick
Imperial power, as understood by a lofty soul and wielded by a mighty hand, maintained the fight against ecclesiastical power intent on worldly sway, and in alliance with civic freedom intolerant of a strict central supremacy, and with Italian patriotism impatient of foreign domination. In accordance with its indifference as to means and its inflexibility as to ends, the same papacy which made over England and Ireland to ruthless invaders took part with Italy against her foreign rulers. The same power which encouraged the Norman Conquest, upheld the Lombard League, and found its profit in each courseIntent on power, the dreadful sentence spoke Which doomed a nation to the tyrant's yoke, Or smiled on Freedom with approving eye, And lent her cause auxiliar sanctity.
What Countess Matilda was to Gregory VII. in his strife with Henry IV., the Lombard League was to Alexander III. in his conflict with Henry's great grandson. But if the heroic Redbeard was a far more formidable foe than his wayward and wilful ancestor, Italian freedom proved a far nobler and mightier helper than the female devotee who clung so closely to Gregory. The fight lasted long and was bravely fought on both sides. Time after time did Frederick descend from the Alps, now for triumph and now for disaster. In 1162 Milan fell after a long siege; her walls were pulled down, her people were scattered, and the Lombard League seemed broken up. But erelong her walls rose again, her people came back, the Lombards knit themselves more closely together, and in the fortress of Alexandria, which they raised as a bulwark of their liberties, which they called after their pontifical ally, and which their imperial antagonist vainly beleaguered, they erected a monument of the alliance between Italian freedom and the Roman Church. That alliance has long come to an end, and is now turned into bitter hostility; but the stronghold still abides a bulwark of Italian freedom, as the chief fortress of that Piedmont which has, to the exceeding wrath of the popedom, so wonderfully expanded into the kingdom of Italy.40
advanced by the Protestant Succession to the first throne in the world; and the Guelfs wear the crown of Great Britain, on condition of keeping aloof from that Roman Church of which their ancestors were the foremost champions.
40 Otho de Sancto Blasio, Chronicon (Muratori, tom. vi. 1. i. c. 14–23). Baronius, an. 1160-1175. Amalricus (de Alexandro III., Muratori, tom. iii. part ii. p. 37) thus speaks of the foundation of Alexandria: Mediolanenses et Placentini in despectionem
The conflict raged throughout the peninsula. Ancona was stubbornly besieged by the Germans and successfully defended by the Italians. Rome now welcomed and now withstood Frederick, now took in and now cast out the pontiffs of his making. City after city was beleaguered, and pope after pope was set up against Alexander. But this confederacy of the Church and the nation, this combination of Italy in the youthful vigour of her freedom and the papacy in the fulness of its strength, proved more than a match even for the greatest of the German Cæsars. The legitimate pontiff and the Lombard League waxed stronger and stronger; the emperor's nominees sank into disrepute; his troops were worsted by the Italians at Legnano (1175); and Frederick yielded in no craven fear, in no heart-broken despair, but with the wisdom and dignity of a hero and statesman, overmastered but not degraded. In 1177 he repaired to Venice, where Alexander was staying, the honoured guest of the devoted republic; the mighty Cæsar knelt before the aged priest, and in the church of St. Mark, under the eyes of a vast assembly, renounced the schism and made his peace with the Church.41 Soon after he granted liberal terms to the Lombard confederates; and Italian freedom partook the triumph of the popedom over the empire, just as it has now achieved a triumph over the popedom in alliance with the Austrian empire. The defeat of Frederick was signal, but not ignominious. Just a hundred years before (1077), his great grandfather, Henry IV., grovelled before Gregory VII. The scene at Venice had not the personal debasement of the scene at Canossa, but it expressed a greater papal victory: in the one a craven crouched, in the other a hero yielded; in the one an emperor was put to shame, in the other the empire was brought low. Frederick outlived this scene thirteen years, wielding the empire with might and majesty, potent in Germany, not powerless in Italy, and honoured throughout Christendom. His end was that of a mediæval hero; death surprised him on a crusade et oppressionem Frederici, et in amorem et reverentiam ipsius Alexandri papæ, unam magnam et pulchram civitatem papalem atque fortem, cum suo palatio ædificatam fecerunt, cui in honorem dicti Alexandri Alexandriam nomine suo imposuerunt.' 41 Otho de Sancto Blasio, 1. i. c. 20, 23. Baronius, an. 1177, passim.
'The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns:
An emperor triumphs where an emperor knelt.'
Childe Harold, iv. 12.
In a very few years the Austrian will no longer, it may be, reign at Venice, and Francis Joseph be as powerless there as was Frederick Redbeard.
in 1190, and he was drowned on his victorious march through Asia Minor to wrest Jerusalem from its recent captor, the valiant Sultan Saladin.42
The scene at Venice was succeeded by a somewhat long lull in the conflict between the Holy Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Church. The son and successor of Frederick, Henry the Stern, is memorable not as the opponent of the popes, but as the conqueror of Naples and the gaoler of Richard Lionheart. As king of Naples and Sicily, he became the vassal of the papacy, and dying early, in 1196, bequeathed his infant son Frederick to its guardianship. Like almost every one of his doomed race, however, he came in for a papal anathema; but for once the bolt was disinterestedly and deservedly hurled: pope Celestine launched it not against the foe of Rome, but against the wronger of the hero of Christendom, so basely detained and sordidly put to ransom by the emperor.43 During Henry's reign, as during the last years of his father's, the strife between popedom and empire was suspended; but it had not come to an end. Thus far the victory was with the papacy; but it was not complete. The empire was worsted, but not utterly disabled or laid prostrate. In the midst of the conflict with Frederick Redbeard, another signal triumph was won for the papal power. Six years before the mighty Cæsar knelt at the feet of the aged priest with whom he had been so long at war, Henry II. of England, the potent and imperious Plantagenet, knelt in penitent prayer and received bodily chastisement at the tomb of another priest with whom he had lived in fierce conflict, and whom his courtiers had slain.44 The Roman Church found more help in one dead
42 Otho de S. Blasio, 1. i. c. 30-35. Saladin took Jerusalem in 1187. This third crusade was still more illustriously commanded than the second, which had an emperor and a king for its chiefs. In this third holy war, Cæsar Frederick was followed to the East by two kings, Richard of England and Philip of France. But the noblest crusader was Redbeard's own son, Frederick of Suabia, who died before Acre, the martyr of chastity, preferring death to the incontinence which the physicians assured him could alone save his life.
43 Otho de S. Blasio, 1. i. c. 37-45. Baronius, an. 1193-5. The letter which Queen Eleanor wrote to Celestine in behalf of her son, wherein she styles herself Queen by the wrath of God (in ira Dei'), has a singular passion and power about it (Baronius, an. 1193). The glorious part which Frederick Redbeard took in the third crusade, and the death that he met therein, aggravated the infamy of his son in wronging the hero of the Holy War. Henry's baseness towards the English king was fully matched by the savage cruelty with which he oppressed the Normans of Naples. He possessed the energy, but altogether lacked the nobleness, of his race.
44 Frederick of Hohenstaufen and Henry Plantagenet were very exact contemporaries, the former beginning to reign in 1152 and the latter in 1154, the former dying in
English priest than in the whole force of the Lombard Leaguedrew more strength and glory from the tomb of the murdered Becket than from the car encompassed by the warriors of Milan. The scene at Canterbury was not less helpful to the papacy than the scene at Venice. No event ever so aggrandised and uplifted the Church as the murder of her minister beside the altar. No king was ever so ill-served as Henry was by the overzealous servants who caught up his hasty words and rid him of his foe. Never did the State receive a heavier blow than from the swords that struck down the champion of the Church. Mightily as the living champion had served her, Becket became armed with sevenfold might as her glorified martyr. The outcast grew into the most popular and potent saint of the middle ages; the traitor won the homage of kings and the worship of nations; the sepulchre of the murdered priest became the temple of a divinity, thronged with pilgrims and glutted with gifts, whereto Christendom brought her prayers and tears, whereon she lavished her gold and jewels. The papacy throve marvellously upon the martyr of Canterbury. Pope Alexander, who, in order to keep Henry proof against the blandishments of the emperor and the allurements of the antipope, had feebly supported and almost disowned the champion of the priesthood during his life, made haste to improve his death and appropriate his honours. Rome 'pursued the triumph and partook the gale.' She stood forth awful with the awe of his death and mighty with the might of his relics; she wielded the terrors, she wore the glories of his tomb.
As the greatness of the saint was contemporaneous with the greatness of the papacy, so their power and glory in England passed away together. When Henry VIII. renounced the pontiff and vindicated the rights of the State, he did not forget their chief
1190 and the latter in 1189. Both were capable and gifted men, the greatest monarchs of their age; but Frederick was much the better man, had a far higher and more heroic nature, never yielded to the furious rage, the ungovernable lust, and the frantic grief which darkened and debased our first Plantagenet. Both were in conflict with the Church, Frederick mainly on political, Henry mainly on personal grounds, the former in defence of fixed principles of government, and from a high conception of duty; the latter not without regard to the interests of his kingdom and the dignity of his crown, but too much at the bidding of an arbitrary temper and an uncontrolled will. Though both in conflict with the Church at the same time, they gave each other no help. Henry upheld the pope whom Frederick opposed, and married his daughter to Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, the hereditary foe of the emperor, the head of the house of Guelf and the papal party in Germany.