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THE preceding volume came to an end with the picture of a vast Empire seemingly destined to absorb Europe itself. This volume, on the contrary, has offered little for our consideration save the spectacle of Europe fallen to fragments, of its kingdoms sundered from one another, and of disintegration steadily advancing. The alluring dream of Charles the Great has vanished; after his death no temporal prince was found capable of carrying on his work, and it fell to ruins.

Nevertheless, the root idea which had inspired him still persisted: the idea of the unity of the Christian world, bound together and grouped round a single head, ready to give battle to the infidel, and to undertake the conversion of the barbarians. But it was the Church which now appropriated the idea, and which alone, amidst the surrounding confusion, succeeded in maintaining itself as the principle of order and the power of cohesion. To show in broad outline how and to what extent the Church succeeded in this design during the disturbed period which preceded the great Church reform of the eleventh century is the object of these few pages which will thus sum up the history.

Under the ever-present influence of scriptural ideals, Charles the Great had really come to see in himself what he was so often called, a new David, or another Solomon, at once priest and king, the master and overlord of the Bishops of his realms; in reducing those Bishops to the level of docile fellow-laborers with him in the work of government, he had believed himself to be working for the consolidation of his own power. But in this matter, as in so many others, the results of his policy had not accorded with his wishes and expectations. The Bishops, having been called upon to take part in affairs of State, were consequently quite ready to busy themselves with them even uninvited, while, on the other hand, by the investment of the Emperor with a semi-sacer­dotal character the clergy were encouraged to see in him one of themselves, and, despite his superior position, to look upon him as amenable to their jurisdiction.

This had been clearly perceived as early as the time of Louis the Pious, when, on the morrow of Lothar’s usurpation (833), the Bishops, alleging the obligation laid on them by their ‘priestly office’, had plainly asserted their right to examine and punish the conduct of a prince who had incurred guilt by ‘refusing to obey’, as the official record declares, ‘the warnings of the clergy’. For, although Louis the Pious was already looked upon as deposed at the time of the ceremony in St Medard’s at Soissons, the course which the Bishops had adopted without hesitation was in point of fact to bring him to trial for his conduct as a sovereign, imposing on him the most humiliating of penances, “after which”, as the record concludes, “none can resume his post in the world’s army”.

Louis the Pious, as already seen, did, nevertheless, return to “the world’s army”, and was even reinstated in the imperial dignity. Yet this decisive action taken by the Bishops in the crisis of 833 showed clearly that the parts had been inverted. Louis the Pious was the king of the priests, but no longer in the same sense as Charles the Great: he was at their mercy.

The precedent thus set was not forgotten. During the fratricidal struggle which, on the morrow of the death of Louis the Pious, broke out amongst Lothar, Louis the German, and Charles the Bald, the Bishops more than once took occasion to interfere, and to make themselves masters of the situation. In March 82, in particular, when Charles the Bald and Louis the German had encamped in the palace of Aix-la-Chapelle whence their brother had precipitately fled at their approach, the clergy, as Nithard, an eye-witness, relates, “reviewing Lothar’s whole conduct, how he had stripped his father of power, how often, by his cupidity, he had driven Christian people to commit perjury, how often he had himself broken his engagements to his father and his brothers, how often he had attempted to despoil and ruin the latter since his father's death, how many adulteries, conflagrations and acts of violence of every description his criminal ambition had inflicted on the Church, finally, considering his incapacity for government, and the complete absence of good intentions in this matter shown by him, declare that it is with good reason and by a just judgment of the Almighty that he has been reduced to take flight, first from the field of battle, and then from his own kingdom”. Without a dissentient voice the Bishops proclaimed the deposition of Lothar, and after having demanded of Louis and Charles whether they were ready to govern according to the Divine Will the States abandoned by their brother, “Receive them”, they bade them, “and rule them according to the Will of God; we require it of you in His Name, we beseech it of you, and we command it you”.

In thus encroaching on the domain of politics, the Bishops were persuaded that they were only acting in the interest of the higher concerns committed to their care. They had gradually accustomed themselves to the idea that the Empire ought to be the realization upon earth of the ‘City of God’, the ideal city, planned by St Augustine. The study of St Augustine had been the mental food of Bishops, learned clerks and princes themselves, and in their complaints the clergy had always a source of inspiration in the complaints echoed four centuries earlier by St Augustine and his followers. The Empire was hastening to its ruin because religion was no longer honored, because every man was concerned only for his own interests and was careless of the higher interests of the Church, because instead of brotherliness and concord only cupidity and selfishness reigned unchecked. If the Empire were to be saved, the first thing to be done was to recall every man to Christian sentiments and to the fear of God.

Whatever work of the period we open, whether we go to the letters written at the time by the clergy, or whether we examine the considerations on which the demands made by their synods to the king are based, we shall find the same arguments upon the necessity of reverting to the Christian principles which had constituted the strength of the Empire and had been the condition of its existence. For the deacon Florus, the decadence of the Empire is merely one aspect of the decadence of the Church: at the period when the Empire flourished “the clergy used to meet frequently in councils, to give holy laws to the people”; “today”, he goes on, “there is nothing but conciliabula of men greedy of lands and benefices, the general interest is not regarded, everyone is concerned about his own affairs, all things command attention except God”. The conclusion of the whole matter is, he says, that “all is over with the honor of the Church” and that the majesty of the State is a prey to the worst of furies. The same reflections may be found in Paschasius Radbertus, biographer of the Abbot Wala; the whole of the disorder in the State arises from the disappearance of religion, the imperial power has made shipwreck at the same time as the authority of the Church. Wala’s comment, as he made his appearance amidst the partisans of Lothar on the morrow of the penance at St Medard’s, is well known: “It is all perfect, save that you have left naught to God of all that was due to Him”.

To restore to the Church of God and to its ministers the honor that is their due, such is the sheet-anchor which the Episcopate offers to sovereigns. Over and over again during the years that followed the death of Louis the Pious and the partition of Verdun, the Bishops press upon rulers the necessity of acting with charity, and in cases where any error has been committed, of doing penance, and, as a document of 844 expresses it, “asking the forgiveness of the Lord according to the exhortation and counsel of the priests”. And these exhortations bear fruit; in April 845, while a synod was sitting at Beauvais, the King of France, Charles the Bald, after swearing on the hilt of his sword in the Name of God and the saints to respect till death the privileges and laws of the Church, admits the right and even the duty of the prelates both to suspend the execution of any measure he might take which should be to the detriment of these privileges and laws, and also to address remonstrances to him, calling upon him to amend any decisions contrary to them.

Strong in this pledge, the prelates of France, a few months later (June 845) ventured to put forward, at the Synod of Meaux, a whole series of claims directed not less against their king than against the whole lay aristocracy, reproaching both alike with hindering the free exercise of religion. Their reproaches were expressed in a language of command, which on this occasion was carried to such a height that the king, with the support of the magnates, resisted.

Nevertheless, the Bishops remained masters of the situation. In the years that follow, making common cause now with the lay aristocracy, they succeed, throughout the various kingdoms which sprang from Charles the Great’s empire, in imposing their will upon the sovereigns. They are at once the leaders and the spokesmen of the turbulent vassals, ever ready to league themselves together to resist the king. In an assembly held in August 856 at Bonneuil near Paris, with unprecedented violence they accuse Charles the Bald of having broken all his engagements; they warn him in charity that they are all, priests and laymen, of one mind in resolving to see them carried out, and they summon him, in consequence, to amend without delay all provisions to the contrary, concluding this singular request with a threatening quotation from the Psalms: “If a man will not turn, He will whet His sword: He bath bent His bow, and made it ready. He hath prepared for him the instruments of death”.

We have already seen, how two years later this prediction was apparently realized. Louis the German, in response to the appeal of a portion of his brother Charles the Bald’s subjects, invaded his dominions and succeeded in occupying a great part of them. Called upon to ratify his usurpation, a group of Bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Rheims and Rouen gathered together at Quierzy-sur-Oise, following the suggestions of Archbishop Hincmar, carried matters with a high hand; after having recommended him to meditate upon the duties which a prince owes to the Church, they thought fit to bring to his notice these words from the Psalms: “Instead of thy fathers thou shalt have children”, together with the interpretation: “Instead of the Apostles, I have ordained Bishops that they may govern and instruct thee”."

Kings working for the maintenance of peace under the aegis of the Church, such was thenceforward the programme of the Episcopate. And by peace is intended the peace of Christendom, the peace of the Church; to disturb it is to infringe the laws of which the Church is the guardian, and to revolt against the Church itself. Thus in a synod assembled at Metz on 28 May 859, the Bishops of the kingdoms of Western France and Lorraine do not hesitate to characterize the attempt of Louis the German to seize upon his brother's lands as a “schism in the Holy Church and in Christendom”, adding that he is bound to ask absolution for it. A month later in an assembly held at Savonnières (14 June 859) Charles the Bald himself appears to give official recognition to the claims of the clergy; in making a complaint against Wenilo (Ganelon), Archbishop of Sens, who had ventured to crown his brother Louis the German king in his place, he expresses astonishment that a claim should have been set up to depose him, “without the case having been submitted to the judgment of the Bishops, by whose ministry he had been consecrated king, and to whose fatherly admonitions and sentences he had been and ever was ready to submit himself”.

The episcopal theory was thus expanded to its utmost limits, as it was about to be stated even more rigorously, and with the greatest boldness by the illustrious Archbishop of Rheims, Hincmar, in numerous treatises and letters or in the decrees of councils which on all hands are allowed to be his work. The theory, very simple in itself, may be brought under these few heads: The king is king because the Bishops have been pleased to consecrate him: “It is rather through the spiritual unction and benediction of the Bishops than from any earthly power that you hold the royal dignity”, writes Hincmar to Charles the Bald in 868. The Bishops make kings by virtue of their right to consecrate, and so are superior to them, “for they consecrate kings, but cannot be consecrated by them”. Kings, then, are the creatures, the delegates of the Bishops: the monarchy “is a power which is preserved and maintained for the service of God and the Church”; it is “an instrument in the hands of the Church which is superior to it, because she directs it towards its true end”. Except “for this special power which the king has at his disposal and which lays upon him special duties, he is but a man like other men, his fellows and equals in the city of God. Like them he is bound to live as a faithful Christian”.

The whole trend of this ecclesiastical reaction, thus traced in outline during the half century which followed the death of Charlemagne, was to form a system logically invulnerable but making the monarchy the slave of the clergy. To make head against the unbridled appetites of men the Church claimed as its own the twofold task of maintaining union and concord and of directing the monarchy in the paths of the Lord.

Left, however, to their own resources, and compelled, in addition, to resist the claims and the violent attacks of the lay aristocracy, the Bishops would have been in no position to translate their principles into action. Only a centralized Church, gathered round a single head, could enable them to give practical force to their views, and for this reason, the eyes of an important section of the Bishops were very early directed towards Rome.

This tendency is strikingly shown in the famous collection of the False Decretals which are still to a great extent an unsolved problem despite endless discussion. They were composed within Charles the Bald’s dominions about the year 850 by a Frankish clerk assuming the name of Isidorus Mercator, who, in order to contribute solid support to the prerogatives of the Bishops at once against the arbitrary control of the Archbishops or metropolitans and the attacks of the civil power, did not hesitate to misattribute, to interpolate and rearrange, and thus practically to forge from beginning to end a whole series of pseudo-papal decisions. This collection clearly lays down as a principle the absolute and universal supremacy of the Chair of Peter. It makes the Pope the sovereign lawgiver without whose consent no council, not even that of a whole province, may meet or pronounce valid decrees; it makes him, at the same time, the supreme judge without whose intervention no Bishop may be deposed, who in the last resort decides not only the causes of Bishops but all major causes, whose decision constitutes law even before any other ecclesiastical tribunal has been previously invoked. In this manner, while the Episcopate, freed from the civil authority, is the regulating power within the borders of every State, the Pope appears as the Supreme Head of the whole of Christendom.

Such a theory harmonized too well with the aspirations of the Popes not to find an echo at Rome. They had themselves been trying for some time on parallel lines: to take advantage of the decline of the imperial power to strengthen their own authority, and to claim over the Christian world as a whole that office of supreme guardian of peace and concord which the local Episcopate had assumed for itself inside each of the Frankish kingdoms. The weakness of Louis the Pious and the conflict of interests and of political aims which characterized his reign had been singularly favorable to this project. It has been shown in a preceding chapter how in 833, when the revolt in favor of Lothar broke out, Pope Gregory IV had allowed himself to be drawn into espousing the rebel cause. Urged on by the whole of the higher Frankish clergy who, though maintaining Lothar’s claims on the ground of principle, were, nevertheless, well pleased to be able to shelter themselves behind the papal authority, and, supporting themselves by various texts, pressed upon him the prerogatives attaching to the Chair of Peter, Gregory spoke as sovereign lord. In a letter couched in tart and trenchant language in which the hand of Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons, may probably be traced, he resolutely put forward rights superior to those of any other power whatever. To those Bishops and priests who, loyal to Louis the Pious, had pleaded his orders as a justification for not having hastened to present themselves when summoned by the Pope, Gregory does not hesitate to retort: “Why speak to me of the orders of the Emperor? Are not the orders of the Pope of equal weight? And is not the authority over souls which belongs to the Pope above the imperial rule which is of this world?”

This letter of Gregory IV touched the vital point, since the most formidable obstacle to the centralization of the Church was the dependence of the body of the clergy in each kingdom upon the different princes among whom the secular rule over Christendom was divided. It was left for Nicholas I (858-867) to make energetic resistance to this danger, and to enable the Papacy to attain that position of supreme headship over the Church which his predecessors had often claimed with theories not hitherto wrought out in practice.

At the outset, a series of sensational events, involving nearly simultaneous struggles with the Carolingian sovereigns and with the Emperor of the East, forced upon Nicholas the choice between a humiliating submission and the offensive in circumstances which, if mishandled, might lead to the gravest consequences. Between these two courses a man of Nicholas I’s type could not hesitate. He stood firmly on the rights of the Holy See, and showed himself resolved on their triumphant vindication.

The first question to be decided was, whether in the important matter of the divorce of Lothar II, King of Lorraine, which has been already under discussion, the last word was to rest with the king, supported by a complaisant clergy ready to grant him a divorce, or with the Pope to whom Theutberga, the discarded wife, had appealed. Lothar and the Bishops of his party imagined that they could easily hoodwink the Pope. When Nicholas commissioned two Italian prelates as legates to examine into the matter, and instructed them to hold a council at Metz to which the Bishops of the German, French and Provençal kingdoms were to be convoked as well as the Bishops of Lorraine, Lothar bought over the legates, contrived to exclude the foreign Bishops from the Council, and easily secured the annulment of his first marriage, thanks to the connivance of Gunther, Archbishop of Cologne, and of Theutgaud, Archbishop of Troves (June 863). Nicholas I replied with a bold stroke. When the two Archbishops reached Rome to announce to the Pope the decisions arrived at, he brought them to trial before a synod composed only of Italian prelates, and declared them deposed (October 863), at the same time quashing the decisions of “this new robber rout of Ephesus”, as he called the synod held at Metz.

That a Pope should venture under such conditions to depose Bishops or Archbishops was a thing unheard of. It was in national or provincial councils that condemnation had been pronounced upon Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans, in 817, and upon the Archbishops Ebbo of Rheims, Agobard of Lyons, Bernard of Vienne and Bartholomew of Narbonne in 835, when the reigning Popes had not even been consulted. But Nicholas I had resolved not to be guided by these precedents. At the same synod in which he pronounced the deposition of the two Archbishops in Lorraine, as if to show his determination to deal once and for all with all unworthy prelates, he further declared to be deposed Hagano, Bishop of Bergamo, and John, Archbishop of Ravenna, the first being accused of having lent his help to Gunther and Theutgaud, the second of having made common cause with the enemies of the Holy See (October 863). At the same time he announced that a like penalty would be inflicted upon any bishop who did not immediately signify his adhesion to the sentence which he had pronounced. Finally, he threatened with anathema anyone who should contemn on any occasion whatsoever the measures taken by the Pope, the orders given or the sentences pronounced by him. Thus above the will of kings the will of the Pope asserted itself haughtily and resolutely. Lothar’s brother, the Emperor Louis II, appealed to by the deposed prelates to intervene, determined to vindicate the honor of kings, and marched straight upon Rome at the head of his army. But Nicholas I did not yield to the storm. Having ordered fasts and litanies, he shut himself up in the Church of St Peter and awaited in prayer the moment when Louis II should be overawed and brought to give way. The advantage remained with the Pope, and he even came forth from the struggle with a heightened conception of his own power.



The affair of the Patriarch Photius, to be dealt with more at length in the next volume, the controversies arising from which became in the end involved with the Lorraine question, had accentuated the triumphant mood of the Pope. The Patriarch Ignatius, having been banished by order of Bardas the Regent, and Photius, an official of the imperial palace having been put in his place, Nicholas I was requested to sanction what had been done (860). Reports containing a distorted account of the facts were submitted to him, but he resolved that as the first step an inquiry should be held, and despatched two legates. This was inconvenient to Photius and to the court at Constantinople, for they had counted upon the Pope's unconditional acceptance. They succeeded in terrorizing the legates and inducing them to preside over a so-called general council at Constantinople, which condemned Ignatius and confirmed his deposition (May 861). Nicholas I, from whom the details of the affair were sedulously concealed, limited himself for the time being to the disavowal of the decrees, the council having been summoned contrary to his orders. But he soon took a higher tone. Being, after long delay, made aware of the facts and of the treachery of the legates, he sent out an urgent summons to a council to meet at Rome, pronounced sentence of deposition on Zachary, Bishop of Anagni, one of the legates, and on Gregory Asbestas, Archbishop of Syracuse, who had consecrated Photius, anathematized the latter, declared Ignatius sole legitimate Patriarch, restored to their offices all the Bishops and clergy deposed for their support of his cause, and declared the deposition of all who had been ordained by Photius (beginning of 863).

This meant war. The Emperor Michael III, surnamed, not without reason, the Drunkard, as soon as he was informed of the measures which had been taken, replied from Constantinople by an abusive letter. Nicholas retorted by insisting before everything else on the immediate restoration of Ignatius whether guilty or innocent, claiming for himself the sole right to judge him afterwards in the name of the authority belonging to the See of Rome, “which confers upon the Pope judiciary power over the whole Church”, without his being himself capable of “being judged by anyone”. He prohibited the Emperor from interfering with a matter which did not come within the province of the civil authority, “for”, he added, “the day of king-priests and Emperor-Pontiffs is past, Christianity has separated the two functions, and Christian Emperors have need of the Pope in view of the life eternal, whereas Popes have no need of Emperors except as regards temporal things” (865). Finally, after a few months, in November 866, as the Emperor Michael refused to give way, Nicholas demanded of him the official retractation and the destruction of the insulting letter of 865, failing which he declared that he would convoke a General Council of the Bishops of the West, when anathema would be pronounced against the Emperor and his abettors.

Stimulated by the conflict, the Pope had thus reached the point, through the logical development of the theories which we have already seen put forward by the Bishops from their standpoint, of so conceiving of his power that he no longer saw in kings and emperors anything more than ordinary Christians, accountable to him for their actions, and as such amenable to his sovereign authority. With all alike he takes the tone of a master. To Charles the Bald he writes in 865 that it is for him to see that one of his (the Pope's) decisions is put in execution, adding that “were the king to offer him thousands of precious stones and the richest of jewels, nothing, in his eyes, could take the place of obedience”. He does not fail to remind Charles, as well as Louis the German and Lothar, that the duty of kings is to work for the exaltation of the Church of Rome, “for how think you”, he writes to one of them, “that we can, on occasion, support your government, your efforts, and the Churches of your kingdom, or offer you the protection of our buckler against your enemies, if, in so far as it depends on you, you allow that power to be in any degree weakened to which your fathers had recourse, finding in it all the increase of their dignities and all their glory?”. Kings should accordingly show themselves docile to the admonitions of the Pope, as well in the matter of general policy, that is, in the maintenance of concord among princes, as in the concerns of religion, otherwise the Pope will find himself constrained to launch his thunderbolts against them. He does not even admit of any discussion of his orders ; in 865 Charles and his brother Louis the German having put forward various pretexts for not sending Bishops from their dominions to the council about to pronounce at Rome upon the incidents arising out of Lothar's divorce, Nicholas wrote them a stinging rebuke, expressing, in particular, his astonishment that they should have dared to question the necessity of sending Bishops when he, the Pope, had demanded their presence. And when, on one occasion, Charles the Bald who, be it said, was docility personified, showed himself offended by certain rather ungentle reproofs, the Pope sharply replied that, even if his reprimands were undeserved, the king must needs bow to them as Job bowed beneath the chastening of the Most High.

Yet all was not accomplished when kings were restricted in their initiative and were turned into the agents of the Papal will : the clergy, over whom they were deprived of control, had still to be made, in their turn, a docile instrument in his hands. In this way would the work of uniting Christendom be completed.

It is at first sight surprising that it was in this quarter that Nicholas I met with the most vigorous resistance. It came in the main, from the archbishops, at whose expense the work of ecclesiastical consolidation must necessarily be carried out. Yet even they were forced to yield to the iron will of the Pope. The case of Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims is the most conclusive proof of this. In 861, at a synod held at Soissons he had caused his suffragan Rothad, Bishop of that city, whom he accused of insubordination, to be “cut off from the communion of the Bishops”. Threatened with deposition when another synod met at Pitres next year (1 June 862) Rothad had lost no time in lodging an appeal to Rome, and, in spite of menaces, had refused to appear before the assembled Bishops. Hincmar, proceeding, nevertheless, with the case, had procured sentence of deposition, and consigned Rothad to a monastery. At once the Pope intervenes with a high hand, insisting before anything else that Hincmar and his suffragans shall reinstate the bishop within thirty days, whatever may be the merits of the controversy, and this under penalty of an interdict. Further, he declares that the cause is to be laid before his own court; and charges the archbishop to dispatch to Rome, also within thirty days, two accredited agents who, together with Rothad, shall submit themselves to the judgment of the Holy See. For month after month, Hincmar, by various subterfuges, evaded compliance, but in January 865, the Pope decided on bringing the matter to an issue, and the tone adopted by him in announcing the reinstatement of the bishop is that of a master who will tolerate no discussion of his orders. In trenchant language he censures the conduct of Hincmar, publicly reprobates his bad faith, prescribes to him submission pure and simple under pain of excommunication, and since Hincmar has declared that no appeal lay to Rome in Rothad’s case, Nicholas does not hesitate to assert that even had the bishop lodged no appeal he could not have been deposed except by the Pope or with his consent. For in all grave matters, and notably those in which Bishops are concerned, the Pope is the sole and sovereign judge: “that which the Pope has decided is to be observed by all”.

These general principles which were thus transforming the Church into a vast highly centralized body wholly in the hands of the Pope, were to be unceasingly proclaimed and defined by Nicholas: Every grade of the ecclesiastical hierarchy must yield to the pontifical authority; Archbishops owe their existence to the Pope in virtue of the pallium conferred on them by him; Bishops cannot be judged except by him or in virtue of the authority delegated by hi; councils derive their force and their validity from the power and the sanction of the Holy See. Nicholas I thus takes up the position of the False Decretals, at the same time setting up, in place of the system of Christendom united around the Emperor, that of Christendom united around the Pope.

But hardly was Nicholas I dead (867) before his ideas seemed as obsolete as those of Charles the Great, and the Papacy found itself obliged to abandon the ideal, which Nicholas himself had only very partially realized, of a confederation of princes exclusively occupied in carrying out his will.

In the first place, the Popes, being themselves temporal princes throughout the Patrimony of Peter, were obliged, from the time of Hadrian II’s pontificate (867-872), to provide for the defence of the States of the Church against the terrible risks to which they were exposed by the Saracen invasions. This care, secular in its nature, soon became by force of circumstances their chief preoccupation. The pontificate of John VIII (872-882), though he also was an energetic Pope, consists to a large extent of a series of desperate attempts to organize the defence against the invader, while he makes every possible endeavor to set up an Emperor capable of undertaking the leadership in this enterprise. And although John VIII still maintains the pretensions of the Holy See at a high level, although he goes so far as to claim the sole right of choosing the Emperor himself, and on two occasions, in 875 and in 881, succeeds in making his view prevail, crowning first Charles the Bald and then Charles the Fat, the horizon of the Papacy nevertheless narrows perceptibly. It becomes less and less feasible for the Popes to exercise over kings as a body a directing and moderating power. Anxiety for their own safety outweighs everything else. Formosus (891-896) is even reduced in 893 to imploring the help of Arnulf, King of Germany, in order to repel the aggressions of the House of Spoleto, as in former days Stephen II had called upon Pepin for succor against the attacks of Aistulf the Lombard.

Taking this course, the Papacy was speedily brought into subjection to those princes and kings over whom it had once claimed to reign. For some time the head of the House of Spoleto, the Emperor Lambert, was, with his mother Ageltrude, the real ruler of Rome. Later, the Papacy fell into the hands of the local aristocracy, and for more than half a century a family of native origin, that of a noble named Theophylact, a chief official of the papal palace, contrived to seize upon the direction of affairs and to make and unmake Popes at its pleasure. Then, when the influence of the direct line of Theophylact began to decline, the Kings of Germany came into the field to dispute with them and with another branch of their family, the Counts of Tusculum, the power of electing the Pope. From 963, the date when Otto I caused a council which he presided over to decree the deposition of Pope John XII, up to the middle of the eleventh century, the Kings of Germany and the Counts of Tusculum turn by turn set up Popes, and thrice at least the lords of Tusculum themselves assumed the tiara. Two sons of Count Gregory, Theophylact and Romanus (the latter being ‘Senator of the Romans’ at the time of his elevation to the papal throne), and later their nephew Theophylact, a child of twelve, successively filled the Holy See, under the names of Benedict VIII (1012-1024), John XIX (1024-1032) and Benedict IX (1032-1044). When the latter grew tired of exercising power, he sold it for cash down to his godfather, a priest named John Gratian, who took the name of Gregory VI.

The prestige of the Papacy could not fail to suffer grievously from these strange innovations, the more so as Popes thus chosen, to be set aside as soon as they ceased to give satisfaction, had, for the most part, little to boast of in the matter of morals, and in any case, seldom inspired much confidence in point of religion. Stephen VI (896-897), too passive a tool in the hands of Lambert of Spoleto and his mother, did not hesitate, in order to recommend himself to them, to disinter the body of his predecessor Formosus, to arraign the corpse before a council, to have it condemned, and stripped of the pontifical ornaments in which it had been beforehand arrayed, to order it to be thrown into the common grave whence it was torn by the populace and cast into the Tiber. But what is to be said of the Popes of the tenth century? Sergius III (904-911) was well known to be the lover of Marozia, one of the daughters of Theophylact, and had a son by her, whom later she made first a cardinal and then Pope under the name of John XI (931­936). The warlike Pope, John X (914-928), owed the tiara to Theophylact and Theodora, Marozia’s mother. In 955 came the turn of John Octavian, a grandson of Marozia, a youth of sixteen, son of Alberic, ‘Senator of the Romans’, and himself ‘Senator of the Romans’ since the death of his father in 954. He was raised to the Chair of Peter under the name of John XII (955-964) and completed the debasement of the Papacy by his debauched life and the orgies of which the Lateran palace soon became the scene.

This personal degradation of the Popes, which lasted for nearly a century and a half, had the most untoward results upon the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The progress made in breaking down the resistance of national priesthoods, or that of such a man as Hincmar, through the prestige enjoyed by Nicholas I, could not be maintained by his successors in their very different position. Suffice it to recall here I the violence which in 991 and 993 Arnulf, Bishop of Orleans, and later the prelates assembled in the synod of Chelles, thought fit to use in repelling the interference of Pope John XV, to whom they denied all right of intervention in the matter of the deposition of the Archbishop of Rheims, and even any title to impugn the decisions arrived at by a provincial council.

On the other hand, the Bishops, left to their own resources, were no better able than the Sovereign Pontiff to maintain themselves in the dominant position which they had gradually acquired in the course of the ninth century. They fell anew into dependence upon the king, or upon the feudal lords who were nearer at hand and even greater tyrants. In the tenth century and in the beginning of the eleventh the Episcopate as a whole is in the hands of the feudal nobility, for whom bishoprics are hardly more than fiefs in which it is allowable to traffic, while many of the Bishops themselves, though contrasted with some striking exceptions, are merely lords with whom everything gives way to temporal interests, and whose importance in certain countries, notably in Germany, is to be computed by the part they play as the rulers of principalities or as the vassals and counselors of kings.

The Church itself thus appears as the victim of the same anarchy in which lay society is weltering; all evil appetites range unchecked, and, more than ever, such of the clergy as still retain some concern for religion and for the salvation of the souls committed to their charge mourn over the universal decadence and direct the eyes of the faithful towards the specter of the end of the world and of the Last Judgment.


Legend of the year 1000 AD

Let us, however, avoid laying too much stress upon these allusions to the final cataclysm predicted in the Apocalypse for the period when the thousand years should be fulfilled, during which Satan was to remain bound. Historians have long believed that, as the year 1000 drew near, the populations, numb with terror, and, as it were, paralyzed, awaited in painful anxiety, crowded together in the churches with their faces to the ground, the catastrophe in which they believed the world was about to founder. A few passages from contemporaries, wrongly interpreted, account for this erroneous impression. As the thousandth year approached, the people small and great, priests and lay folk, continued the same way of life as in the past, without being alarmed by those apocalyptic threats in which, even after the thousandth year was past, certain gloomy spirits continued to indulge. Before as after the year 1000, as the facts brought together throughout the whole of this volume abundantly prove, feudal society, wholly given up to its warlike instincts and its passion for violence, still went on dreaming of smashing blows to be dealt and great conquests to be achieved.

But out of the excess of evil good was to spring. In proportion as the lay world allowed itself to be thus carried away, and as the Bishops and their clergy suffered the feudal spirit and customs to encroach upon them more and more, the ascetic life came to present an ever stronger and deeper attraction for all truly devout minds. The tenth century, which saw the Chair of Peter filled by a succession of the most unworthy of Popes, saw also the foundation of the Order of Cluny, and the great monastic reforms initiated and spread abroad by the monks of this order. We shall treat more at length in a later volume of this history of this fruitful new departure, which was one day to have a mighty influence on the reform of the Church as a whole. It need only be said here that, by procuring for the modest hermitage which he planted in Burgundy in 910 complete enfranchisement from all temporal control and by placing it under that of the Holy See only, the founder of Cluny, Duke William of Aquitaine, was laying the foundation for the future greatness of the Abbey. Firmly attached to the Benedictine Rule in its primitive purity, strictly subjected to the absolute control of its abbot, Cluny, thanks to its independent position, rapidly became the refuge of faith and the model to be followed. Not only did benefactions flow in for the support of these pattern monks, whose prayers were doubtless held to be of greater efficacy than those of their fellows, but a whole series of monasteries, old and new, begged for the favor of placing themselves under its patronage and of being reckoned among the number of its priories, in order to share in its Rule and in its exemption from secular domination. France was soon covered with convents affiliated to it from Burgundy to Aquitaine and from Languedoc to Normandy ; Italy, Lorraine, Spain, England, Germany, distant Hungary and Poland were won for it.

And at the very time when Cluny was going forth to its early conquests, quite independently and outside the walls of the Burgundian abbey other fires of monastic revival were being kindled. It was at this moment, to cite only one illustrious instance, that Gerard, lord of Brogne, near Namur, suddenly won over by the attraction of monastic life, founded on his own estate a little monastery, where at first he merely thought to end his days in retirement, contemplation and prayer (923). But before long the fame of saintliness, acquired for him and his companions by their strict observance of the Benedictine Rule, brought about the same miracles in Lorraine as the example of Cluny had worked in Gaul. Gerard gained followers throughout Lorraine and Flanders: the ancient monasteries of the land, the chapters already established, reformed themselves under his direction, new abbeys arose on every side reverting, after the example of Brogne, to the wise and holy precepts of St Benedict.

Thus in the shades of the cloister a new religious society is growing up, preparing itself for the struggle, ready to aid in a general reform of the Church so soon as Popes shall arise with enough energy and independence to resolve upon and inaugurate it.

Meanwhile, in the busier world outside, society, even if led by Bishops themselves worldly, was seeking a remedy against violence which brought anarchy and famine in its train. ‘The Peace of God’ was one such attempt, springing up in a world which knew its own disease. From 989 onwards, synods, beginning in Aquitaine and Burgundy where kingly rule was weakest, anathematized ravagers of churches and despoilers of the poor. The movement spread, and sworn promises to keep from violence to non-combatants and the like misdeeds were prescribed and even gladly taken. It is true that, like most medieval legislation, this was only partly effective, and had to be renewed again and again. But it was a triumph of moral power over brute strength, and upon its solid success the reign of order was founded. Thus civil rulers inherited the Church's task. Feudalism became, to some degree, a regulator of its own disorder, and the supplementary Truce of God (c. 1040) tried to complete what the Peace (c. 990) had begun.