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The early part of the eleventh, as well as the tenth, century is often and rightly called a dark age for the Western Church. Everywhere we find deep corruptions and varied abuses, which can easily be summed up in broad generalisations and illustrated by striking examples. And they seem, on a first survey, almost unrelieved by any gleams of spiritual light. The comparative security of the Carolingian Age, which gave free scope to individual enthusiasm and personal activity, had been followed by wide and deep disunion, under which religion suffered no less than learning and government. Beginning with the central imperial and monarchical power, the social nerves and limbs fell slack; outside dangers, Northmen and Saracens, furthered the inner decay. Communities and men alike lost their sense of wider brotherhood, along with their former feeling of security and strength. Hence came the decay in Church life. If it was to be arrested, it could only be, not by isolated attacks upon varied abuses, but by a general campaign waged upon principles and directed by experience.

Yet condemnations of a particular age, like most historical generalisations, are often overdone. This is the case here, too. There were to be found, in regions far apart, many men of piety and self-devotion. Among such reformers was Nilus (ob. 1005), who founded some monasteries in Italy. Greek by descent, born at Rossano in Calabria, he was inspired even in his early years by the Life of St Anthony (which so deeply touched St Augustine) and so turned to a life of piety, penitence, and self-sacrifice. His visions gained him followers, but his humble service to others carried him into the world of human sympathy. Even when he was a feeble man of eighty-eight he took the long journey to Rome to offer himself as humble companion to Philagathus of Piacenza, whom Otto III had imprisoned after cutting out his tongue and blinding him (998); his brave and courageous reproof moved the youthful ruler, and this accidental association has given Nilus a reputation which his whole less dramatic life deserved. Through him and Romuald of Ravenna, who did much in a small sphere for ascetic life, a fresh stream of Greek influence was brought to strengthen Western monachism, which was growing into an almost independent strength of its own. More widely influential was William of Dijon (ob. 1031), a German born in Italy, commended by his father to the favour of Otto I, and by his mother to the care of the Blessed Virgin. He was brought up in a cloister near Vercelli, but soon came to look towards Cluny as his spiritual home, and in its abbot, Odilo, he found a religious guide who sent him to the task of reform at Dijon, whence his monastic reform spread in Burgundy, France, and Lorraine. Everywhere his name, William supra regulam was revered, and at St Arnulf at Gorze, and St Aper at Toul the spirit of Cluny was diffused through him.

Richard of St Vannes near Verdun (ob. 1046) specially affected Lorraine, and his name, Richard of the Grace of God, shows the impression he made in his day. Poppo, Abbot of Stablo in the diocese of Liege (1020­1048), was a pupil of his, and through him the movement, favoured by kings and utilised by bishops, reached Germany. In some cases, such men had not to work in fields untilled. Gerard of Brogne, near Namur, (ob. 959) and the earlier history of monastic reform must not be forgotten. But while the earlier monastic revival was independent of the episcopate, in the later part of the eleventh century monasticism and the episcopate worked, on the whole, together. Better men among the bishops, and through royal influence there were many such, rightly saw in the monastic revival a force which made for righteousness. It was so at Liege, Cambrai, Toul, and at Cologne, where a friend of Poppo, Pilgrim (1021-1036), favoured Cluniacs and their followers. Thus in Germany, more perhaps than elsewhere, reform gained strength.

The life and wandering of Ratherius (c. 887-974), no less than his writings, illustrate the turmoil and degradation of the day; born near Liege, with a sound monastic training and in close touch with Bruno, the excellent Archbishop of Cologne (953-965), his spiritual home was Lorraine while his troubles arose mainly in Italy. From Lorraine he followed Hilduin, afterwards Archbishop of Milan (931), to Italy (for the revival in Lorraine threw its tendrils afar), and became Bishop of Verona (931-939). Italian learning he found solely pagan in its scholarship; ignorance abounded (his clergy reproached him for being ready to study books all day); clerks did not even know their creed; at Vicenza many of them were barely believers in the Christian God; morals were even worse, clerks differed little from laity except in dress, the smiles or the tears of courtesans ruled everything. The strife of politics prevented reform and intensified disorder. The Italian wars of Otto I, Hugh, and Berengar affected the fate of Ratherius; his episcopal rule was only intermittent (931-939; 946-948; 961-968), and when for a time Bruno of Cologne made him Bishop of Liege (953-955), he was faced through the Count of Hainault by a rival, as at Verona, and found refuge at Lobbes. He was specially anxious to force celibacy upon his Veronese clergy, some married and many licentious; not all would come to a synod, and even those who came defied him; some he cast into prison, a fate which once at least befell himself. With the ambition of a reformer, he lacked the needed patience and wisdom; he toiled overmuch in the spirit of his death-bed saying: “Trample underfoot the salt which has lost its savour”. “He had not,” says Fleury, “the gift of making himself loved,” and it is doubtful if he desired it. The vivid and tangled experiences of his life, political and ecclesiastical, are depicted for us in his works and give us the best, if the darkest, picture of his times.

Nor should it be forgotten that some ecclesiastics did much for the arts which their Church had so often fostered. Bernward of Hildesheim (Bishop 992-1022), for instance, was not only a patron of Art, but, like our English Dunstan, himself a skilled workman; in his personal piety and generosity he was followed by his successor Godehard. Later monks condemned this secular activity, and Peter Damian held Richard of St Vannes, who like Poppo of Stablo was a great builder and adorner of churches, condemned to a lengthy Purgatory for this offence. In France, however, activity was shown rather in the realm of thought, where Gerbert’s pupil, Fulbert Bishop of Chartres (ob. 1028), and Odo of Tournai (ob. 1113) were pre-eminent; out of this activity, reviving older discussions, arose the Berengarian controversy, in which not only Berengar himself, but Lanfranc, of Bec and Canterbury, and Durand of Troarn (ob. 1088) took part. The age was not wholly dead.

One foremost line of German growth was that of Canon Law, which gave, as it were, a constitutional background to the attempts at reform, drawn from the past and destined to mould the future. Here Burchard, Bishop of Worms (1000-1025), was renowned, combining as he did respect for authority systematised by the past with regard to the circumstances of his day. Wazo, Bishop of Liège (1041-1048), the faithful servant of Henry III, had much the same reputation, and his obiter dicta were held as oracles.

Some reformers were bishops, but more of them were monastics—for reform took mainly the monastic turn. Here and there, now and then, could be found really religious houses, and their influence often spread near and far. Yet it was difficult for such individuals or communities to impress a world which was disorderly and insecure. But soon, as so often, reforms, which were first to check and then to overcome the varied evils, began to shape themselves. Sometimes the impulse came from single personalities, sometimes from a school with kindred thoughts; sometimes general resemblances are common, sometimes local peculiarities overpower them. The tangled history only becomes a little easier to trace when it is grouped around the simony which Sylvester II held to be the central sin of the day. It must not be forgotten that Christian missions although at work had only partly conquered many lands; abuses in the older churches paralysed their growth, and the semi-paganism which was left even percolated into the mother-lands.




Bohemian history illustrates something of this process. A bishopric had been founded at Prague (c. 975) in which the Popes took special interest, and indeed the Latin rite was used there from the outset. So Bohemia looked towards the Papacy. But Willigis of Mayence had consecrated St Adalbert to Prague (983), and so to claims of overlordship by the German kings was now added a German claim to ecclesiastical control over Christians who, as we are told, lived much as barbarians. Then Bratislav of Bohemia, largely for political reasons, founded or restored a lapsed Moravian see at Olmutz, over which he placed John, a monk from near Prague, Severus of Prague being promised compensation in Moravia. In 1068 Bratislav, for family and political reasons, made his troublesome brother Jaromir Bishop of Prague, in the hope of rendering him more amenable. But the only change in the disorderly prince was that of taking the name of Gebhard. He, like Severus, strove for the delayed compensation but took to more drastic means: he visited (1071) his brother-bishop at Olmutz, and after a drunken revel mishandled his slumbering host. John complained to Bratislav, who shed tears over his brother’s doings, and sent to Rome to place the burden of the unsavoury quarrel upon Alexander II. His messenger spent a night at Ratisbon on his road with a burgher friendly to Gebhard. Then, strangely enough, he was stopped and robbed on his farther way and came back to tell his tale. A second and larger embassy, headed by the Provost of St George at Prague, an ecclesiastic so gifted as to speak both Latin and German, was then sent, and reached Rome early in 1073. A letter from Bratislav, weighted with two hundred marks, was presented to the Pope, and probably read at the Lenten Synod. Legates were sent who, at Ratisbon, were to investigate the case, but its settlement remained for Gregory VII. It is a sordid story of evil ecclesiastics on a background of equally sordid social and dynastic interests. And there were many like it.

The common corruption is better told us and easier to depict for regulars than for seculars. In the districts most open to incursions, many monasteries were harried or sorely afflicted. If the monks walled their houses as protection against pirates or raiders, they only caused neighbouring lords to desire them for fortresses. The spirit of the ascetic life, already weakened by the civil employment of monks, seemed lost. The synod of Trosly, near Soissons, called by Hervé of Rheims in 909, ascribed the decay of regular life mainly to abbots, laymen, for the most part unlearned, and also married, and so eager to alienate property for their families. Lay lords and laymen generally were said to lack respect for Church laws and even for morality itself; debauchery and sensuality were common; patrons made heavy charges on appointments to their parish churches. This legislation was a vigorous protest against the sins of the day, and it is well to note that the very next year saw the foundation of Cluny. The Rule was kept hardly anywhere; enclosure was forgotten, and any attempt to enforce episcopal control over monasteries was useless when bishops were so often themselves of careless or evil life. Attempts at improvement sometimes caused bloodshed: when the Abbot Erluin of Lobbes, trying to enforce the Rule, expelled some malcontents, three of them fell upon him, cut out his tongue, and blinded him.




The story of the great Italian monastery of Farfa is typical. It had been favoured by Emperors and was scarcely excelled for splendour. Then it was seized by the Saracens (before 915) and afterwards burnt by Christian robbers. Its members were scattered to Rome, Rieti, and Fermo; its lands were lost or wasted: there was no recognised abbot, and after Abbot Peter died his successor Rimo lived with the Farfa colony at Rome and there was poisoned. Then as the great nobles strove eagerly for so useful a fortress, King Hugh supported a new abbot, Rafred, who began to restore it: he settled in the neighbourhood 100 families from Fermo and rebuilt the cloister. As far as was possible, the monks were recalled and the monastic treasures restored. But there was little pretence of theology or even piety; only the study of medicine was kept up, and that included the useful knowledge of poisons, as abbot after abbot was to learn. When Rafred was disposed of, one of his poisoners maintained himself in the monastery by military force; the so-called monks lived openly with concubines; worship on Sundays was the sole relic of older habits, and at length even that was given up. One Campo, to whom King Hugh had given the monastery in fief, enriched his seven daughters and three sons out of its property. When some monks were sent from Rome to restore religion, he sent them back. Then Alberic drove Campo out by force, and installed as abbot one Dagobert, who maintained himself for five tumultuous years until he, too, fell before the local skill in poison. Adam of Lucca, who followed with the support of Alberic and John XII, led much the life of Campo. Then Theobald of Spoleto made his own brother Hubert abbot, but he was removed by John XII, and succeeded by Leo, Abbot of Sant’ Andrea at Soracte. But the task of ruling was too hard for any man, and only force heavily applied could procure even decency of life. If this was the sad state and tumultuous history of monasteries, once homes of piety and peace, it can be guessed how, with less to support them, parishes suffered and missions languished. Priests succumbed and forgot their holy task. Their bishops, often worse than themselves, neither cared nor attempted to rule or restrain them. For the episcopate was ineffective and corrupt.

The primitive rule for election of bishops had been that it should be made by clergy and people. To choose a fit person was essential, but the mode of choice was not defined. Soon the clergy of the cathedral, first to learn of the vacancy and specially concerned about it, began to take a leading part. They, the clergy of the neighbouring country, and the laity, were separate bodies with different interests, and tended to draw together and to act as groups. But the forces, which made for centralisation of all kinds in civil politics, worked in the ecclesiastical sphere as well, and the cathedral clergy gained the leading part in elections, other clerks dropping off, and later on leading abbots appearing. Among lay­men a like process took place, and the populace, more particularly, almost ceased to appear in the election. Thus, in place of election by clergy and laity, we have a process in which the cathedral clergy, the lay vassals of the see, and the leading nobles of the diocese, alone appear. We can trace a varied growth, in which the elements most concerned and most insistent eventually gained fixed and customary rights.

But the more or less customary rights gained in this process were soon encroached upon by the crown. The king had a special interest in the bishops: they were his spiritual advisers, a function more or less important. But they were largely used by him for other purposes. In Germany they were given civil duties, which did not seem so alien to their office when the general conception was that of one general Christian society inside which churchman and layman worked for common Christian ends. To gain their help and to raise them in comparison with the lay nobility, it was worth while, quite apart from piety and religious reasons, to enrich their sees, and even to heap secular offices upon them. Ecclesiastical nobles were always a useful counterpoise to secular nobles; as a rule they were better trained for official duties, the Church had reason to remember gratefully past services rendered to it by kings, and it had always stood for social unity and larger fields of administration. In France, where the authority of the king did not cover a large territory, the greater vassals gained the same power for their own lands. Popular election, even its weakened form, tended to disappear. Ancient and repeated canons might assert election by clergy and laity, but those of them who kept their voice did so rather as surviving representatives of smaller classes than as individuals. More and more the chapters alone appeared for the clergy and the Church; more and more the king or a great feudal lord came to appoint. By the middle of the eleventh century the old style of election had disappeared in France, and the bishopric was treated as a fief.

In Germany the bishops, although for the most part men of high character, were often supporters of the crown and the mainstay of its administration; when a bishop or a great abbot died, the chapter and the great laymen of the diocese sent deputies to the court, and after a consultation with them, in which they might or might not suggest a choice, the king filled up the office. For England such evidence as we have points to selection by the king, although his choice was declared in the Witan, where both laymen and churchmen were present. In all these lands, the decisive voice, indeed the real appointment itself, lay with the king; the part played by others was small and varying. To the Church remained, however, the safeguard of consecration by the metropolitan and bishops; to the diocese itself the local ceremony of enthronement.

For parochial clergy and parishes the history is much the same. In the central countries of Europe the missionary stage of the Church had long passed away, although in newer lands varying traces, or more than traces, of it remained. In most cases the cathedral church had been the mission centre, and from it the Church had spread. Of the early stages we know but little, but there were many churches, serving a parish, which the landowner had built, and in such cases he usually appointed the parish priest. The right of approval lay with the bishop, who gave the spiritual charge. But more and more the office came to be treated as private property, and in some cases was even bought and sold. The patron—for here we come to the origin of patronage, a field tangled and not yet fully worked—was the landowner, who looked on the parish priest as a vassal, and on the church as a possession. For the parish as for the diocese distinct and even hostile conceptions were thus at work. A fit person for the spiritual work was needed; to see to this was the duty and indeed the purpose of the Church. It could be best safeguarded by a choice from above, and in early days a missionary bishop had seen to it. But when a parish church was held to be private property, a totally new conception came into conflict with the ecclesiastical conception. We have a history which can be traced, although with some unsettled controversy.

The legislation of the Eastern Empire, following that of Constantine the Great, allowed churches to be private property, and forbade their alienation, but it also safeguarded the claims of the Church to secure the proper use of the building, and adequate provision for the priest attached to it. Justinian (543) gave the founder of a church and his successors the right to present a candidate for due examination by the bishop.




In the West this was also recognised by a law of a.d. 398, and the priest serving the church was, at least sometimes, chosen by the parishioners. It was well to encourage private generosity, but it soon became necessary to safeguard the control of the bishop, and Gelasius I (492-496), an active legislator, restricted the rights of the founders of churches and attempted to make papal consent necessary for consecration; in this way the Pope might make sure of ample provision for the maintenance of the Church. This clearly recognised the two opposed rights, those of the Church and of the lay founder, but became a dead letter. Legislation under Charles the Great also recognised the private ownership: the Council of Frankfort (794) allowed churches built by freemen to be given away or sold, but only on condition that they were not destroyed and that worship was performed. The Council at Rome in a.d. 826 had to deal as no uncommon case with churches which the patrons had let fall into ruin; priests were to be placed there and maintained. The Synod of Trosly (909) condemned the charges levied by laymen upon priests they appointed; tithes were to be exempted from such rapacity. The elaboration with which (canon 5) relations of patrons and parish priests are prescribed shows that great difficulties and abuses had arisen. But the steady growth of feudalism, and the growing inefficiency of bishops, intensified all these evils. From the ninth century onward the leading principles become blurred. Prudentius of Troyes (ob. 861) and Hincmar of Laon led a movement against these private churches, insisting that at consecration they should be handed over to the Church. Charles the Bald and the great canonist Hincmar of Rheims took a different view; the latter wished to remove the abuses but to allow the principle of private churches. Patronage in its later sense (the term itself dates from the eighth century) was in an early stage of growth; abuses were so rife that principles seemed likely to be lost. Simony grew to an astonishing height, and it was only after a long struggle was over that Alexander III (1159-1181) established a clear and coherent system, which is the basis of Church law today.

When we come to the eleventh century, we find that in parish churches, built by a landowner, the priest was usually appointed by him; thus the right of property and local interests were recognised. But the actual power of laymen combined with the carelessness of many bishops to make encroachment easy; there was a tendency to treat all churches as on the same footing, and the right of approving the appointment which belonged to the bishop, and which was meant to secure spiritual efficiency, tended to disappear. More and more parish churches were treated as merely private property, and in many cases were bought and sold. The patron treated the priest as his vassal and often levied charges upon him.

Moreover, open violence, not cloaked by any claim to right, was common. There were parishes in which a bishop had built a church, either as part of the original mission machinery of the Church or on lands belonging to the see. But sees were extensively robbed and some of these churches too fell into lay hands. There were probably also cases in which the parishioners themselves had elected their priest, but, with the growth of feudal uniformity, here too the lay landowner came to nominate. The tenth and eleventh centuries give us the final stage—of usurpation or corruption—in which the principle of private ownership was supreme, and the spiritual considerations, typified by episcopal control, were lost, almost or even utterly; and with lay ownership in a feudal age, simony, the sale of property which was no longer regarded as belonging to a religious administration, became almost the rule. 

Where the king had the power to fill vacant bishoprics, simony was easy and in a feudal age natural. Kings were in constant need of money, and poverty was a hard task-master. Some of the German kings had really cared for the Church, and saw to the appointment of fit men, but others like Conrad II made gain of the transaction; it was only too easy to pass from the ordinary gift, although some conscientious bishops refused even that, to unblushing purchase. In France simony was especially rife. Philip I (1060-1108) dismissed one candidate for a see because his power was smaller than a rival’s, but he gave the disappointed clerk some words of cheer: “Let me make my profit out of him; then you can try to get him degraded for simony, and afterwards we can see about. satisfying you.” Purchase of sees became a recognised thing: a tainted bishop infected his flock and often sold ordinations; so the disease spread until, as saddened reformers said, Simon Magus possessed the Church.

It must not be supposed that this result was reached without protest. Old Church laws though forgotten could be appealed to, and councils were the fitting place for protest, as bishops were the proper people to make it. Unhappily, councils were becoming rarer and many bishops were careless of their office. Nevertheless, at Ingelheim (948) laymen were forbidden to instal a parish priest or to expel him without the bishop’s leave; at Augsburg (952) laymen were forbidden to expel a priest from a church canonically committed to him or to replace him by another. At the important Synod of Seligenstadt (1023) it was decreed that no layman should give his church to any priest without the consent of the bishop, to whom the candidate was to be sent for proof of age, knowledge, and piety sufficient to qualify him for the charge of God’s people. The equally important Synod of Bourges (1031) decreed that no layman should hold the land (feudum) of a priest in place of a priest, and no layman ought to place a priest in a church, since the bishop alone could bestow the cure of souls in every parish. The same synod, it may be noted, forbade a bishop to receive fees for ordination, and also forbade priests to charge fees for baptism, penance, or burial, although free gifts were allowed. In England laws betray the same evils: a fine was to be levied for making merchandise of a church, and again no man was to bring a church into servitude nor unrighteously make merchandise of it, nor turn out a church-thegn without the bishop’s leave.

It was significant that against abuses appeal was thus being made to older decrees reiterated or enlarged by sporadic councils. And the growth of religious revival in time resulted in a feeling of deeper obligation to Canon Law, and a stronger sense of corporate life. But it was the duty of the bishops to enforce upon their subjects the duty of obedience. In doing this, they had often in the past been helped by righteous kings and courageous Popes. But now for the needed reforms to be effectively enforced it needed a sound episcopate, backed up by conscientious kings and Popes. Only so could the inspiration of religion, which was breathing in many quarters, become coherent in constitutional action. When king and Pope in fellowship turned to reform, an episcopate, aroused to a sense of duty, might become effective.




But the episcopate itself was corrupt, bad in itself, moving in a bad social atmosphere, and largely used for regal politics. Two of the great Lorraine reformers, William of Dijon (962-1031) and Richard of St Vannes (ob. 1046), sharply criticised the prelates of their day: “They were preachers who did not preach; they were shepherds who lived as hirelings.” Everywhere one could see glaring infamies. Guifred of Cerdagne became Archbishop of Narbonne (1016-1079) when only ten years old, 100,000 solidi being paid on his behalf. His episcopate was disastrous: he sold nearly everything belonging to his cathedral and his see; he oppressed his clergy but he provided for his family; for a brother he bought the see of Urgel through the sale of the holy vessels and plate throughout his diocese. In the Midi such abuses were specially prevalent. In 1038 two viscounts sold the see of Albi, while it was occupied, and confirmed the sale by a written contract. But even over the Midi the reforming zeal of Halinard of Lyons had much effect; Lyons belonged to Burgundy, and Burgundy under Conrad II became German. Halinard had been Abbot of St Remy at Dijon, and was a reformer of the Cluniac type; at Rome, whither he made many pilgrimages, he was well known and so popular that the Romans sought him as Pope on the death of Damasus II. One bishop, of the ducal house of Gascony, is said to have held eight sees which he disposed of by will. The tables of the money-changers were not only brought into the temple, but grouped round the altar itself. Gerbert (Sylvester II), who had seen many lands and knew something of the past, spoke strongly against the many-headed and elusive simony. A bishop might say, “I gave gold and I received the episcopate; but yet I do not fear to receive it back if I behave as I should. I ordain a priest and I receive gold; I make a deacon and I receive a heap of silver....Behold the gold which I gave I have once more unlessened in my purse.”




Sylvester II held simony to be the greatest evil in the Church. Most reformers, however, attacked the evil morals of the clergy, and their attack was justified. But strict morality and asceticism went hand in hand, and the complicated evils of the day gave fresh strength to the zeal for monasticism and the demand for clerical celibacy. The spirit of asceticism had in the past done much to deepen piety and the sense of personal responsibility, even if teaching by strong example has its dangers as well as successes. In the West more than in the East the conversion of new races had been due to monks, and now the strength of reformation lay in monasticism. The enforcement of clerical celibacy seemed an easy, if not the only, remedy for the diseases of the day. In primitive times married priests were common, even if we do not find cases of marriage after ordination, but the reverence for virginity, enhanced by monasticism, turned the stream of opinion against them. At Nicaea the assembled Fathers, while forbidding a priest to have a woman, other than wife or sister, living in his house, had refrained, largely because of the protest of Paphnutius, from enforcing celibacy. But the Councils of Ancyra and Neocaesarea (both in 314) had legislated on the point, although with some reserve. The former allowed deacons, who at ordination affirmed their intention to marry, to do so, but otherwise they were degraded. The latter decreed that a priest marrying after ordination should be degraded, while a fornicator or adulterer should be more severely punished. The Council of Elvira (c. 305), which dealt so generally and largely with sexual sins, shut out from communion an adulterous bishop, priest, or deacon; it ordered all bishops, priests, deacons, and other clerks, to abstain from conjugal intercourse. This was the first general enactment of the kind and it was Western. As time went on, the divergence between the more conservative East and the newer West, with its changing conditions and rules, became more marked. In the East things moved towards its present rule, which allows priests, deacons, and sub-deacons, married before ordination, to live freely with their wives (Quintisext in Trullo, held 680, promulgated 691); bishops, however, were to live in separation from their wives. Second marriages, which were always treated as a different matter, were forbidden. The present rule is for parish priests to be married, while bishops, chosen from regulars, are unmarried. The West, on the other hand, moved, to begin with, first by legislation and then, more slowly, by practice, towards uniform celibacy.

Councils at Carthage (390, 398, and 419), at Agde (506), Toledo (531), and Orleans (538), enjoined strict continency upon married clerks from sub-deacons upwards. Siricius (384-398), by what is commonly reckoned the first Decretal (385), and Innocent I (402-419) pronounced strongly against clerical marriage. Henceforth succeeding Popes plainly enunciated the Roman law. There was so much clerical immorality in Africa, in spite of the great name and Strict teaching of St Augustine, and elsewhere, that the populace generally preferred a celibate clergy. Ecclesiastical authorities took the same line, and Leo I extended the strict law to sub-deacons. The Theodosian Code pronounced the children of clergy illegitimate, and so the reformers of the tenth and eleventh centuries could appeal to much support. Nevertheless, there were both districts and periods in which custom accorded badly with the declared law, and the confusion made by reformers between marriages they did not accept and concubinage which opinion, no less than law, condemned makes the evidence sometimes hard to interpret. St Boniface dealt firmly with incontinent priests, and on the whole, although here popular feeling was not with him, he was successful both in Austrasia and Neustria. The eighth and ninth centuries saw the struggle between law and custom continuing with varying fortune. Custom became laxer under the later Carolingians than under Charlemagne, who had set for others a standard he never dreamt of for himself; Hincmar, who was an advocate of strictness, gives elaborate directions for proper procedure against offending clerks, and it is clear that the clergy proved hard either to convince or to rule. By the end of the ninth century, amid prevalent disorder, clerical celibacy became less general, and the laws in its favour were frequently and openly ignored. It was easy, as Pelagius II (578­590), in giving dispensation for a special case, had confessed, to find excuse in the laxity of the age. So too St Boniface had found it necessary to restore offenders after penance, for otherwise there would be none to say mass. Italy was the most difficult country to deal with, and Ratherius of Verona says (966) that the enforcement of the laws, which he not only accepted but strongly approved, would have left only boys in the Church. It was, he held, a war of canons against custom. By about the beginning of the eleventh century celibacy was uncommon, and the laws enforcing it almost obsolete. But they began to gain greater force as churchmen turned more to legal studies and as the pressure of abuses grew stronger.

The tenth and eleventh centuries had special reason for enforcing celibacy and disliking clerical families. Married priests, like laymen, wished to enrich their children and strove to hand on their benefices to them. Hereditary bishops, hereditary priests, were a danger: there was much alienation of clerical property; thus the arguments urged so repeatedly in favour of celibacy were reinforced. Bishops, and not only those who held secular jurisdiction, thought and acted as laymen, and like laymen strove to found dynasties, firmly seated and richly endowed. Parish priests copied them on a humbler scale. Hence the denial of ordination to sons of clerks is frequent in conciliar legislation.

One attempt at reform of the secular clergy, which had special importance in England, needs notice. This was the institution of canons, which has a long and varied history. The germ of the later chapter appears at a very early date in cathedrals, certainly in the sixth century; a staff of clergy was needed both for ordinary mission work and for distribution of alms. But poverty often, as with monasteries later on, led to careless and disordered life. Chrodegang of Metz (ob. 766), the pious founder of Gorze, near his city, and of Lorsch, set up, after a Benedictine model, a rule for his cathedral clergy: there was to be a common life, although private property was permitted; a synod under Louis the Pious at Aix-la-Chapelle (817) elaborated it and it was widely applied. The ideal was high, and although inspired by the asceticism which produced monasticism, it paid regard to the special tasks of seculars; it infused a new moral and intellectual life into the clergy at the centre of the diocese, and education was specially cared for. So excellent an example was soon copied by other large churches, and the system spread widely. In its original form it was not destined to live long: decay began at Cologne with the surrender of the common administration of funds; Gunther, the archbishop, yielded to the wish for more individual freedom, and his successor Willibert in a synod (873) confirmed his changes. After this the institution of prebends (benefices assigned to a canon) grew, and each canon held a prebend and lived apart. This private control of their income, and their surrender of a common life, began a long process of decay. But variations of the original form, which itself had utilised much older growths, appeared largely and widely in history. Brotherhood and the sympathy of a common life furthered diligence and devotion.

In councils of the tenth and eleventh centuries, clerical celibacy and simony are repeatedly spoken of. With few exceptions, all well-wishers of reform, whether lay or clerical, desired to enforce celibacy, although some thought circumstances compelled laxity in applying the law. Thus in France the Council of Poitiers (1000) forbade priests and deacons to live with women, under pain of degradation and excommunication. The Council of Bourges (1031), while making the same decrees (repeated at Limoges the same year), went further by ordering all sub-deacons to promise at ordination to keep neither wife nor mistress. This promise resembles the attempt of Guarino of Modena a little earlier to refuse benefices to any clerk who would not swear to observe celibacy. In Germany the largely-attended Council of Augsburg (952) forbade marriage to ecclesiastics, including sub-deacons; the reason assigned was their handling the divine mysteries, and with German respect for Canon Law appeal was made to the decrees of many councils in the past. Under Henry III the prohibitions were better observed, not only through the support of the Emperor, but because collections of Canons, especially that by Burchard of Worms (Decretum, between 1008 and 1012), were becoming known and gaining authority. The statement of principles, especially from the past, as against the practice of the day was becoming coherent. But the Papacy, which had so repeatedly declared for celibacy, was not in a state to interfere authoritatively. Thus we come to the question of reform at Rome. The movement for reform needed authority and coherence, which were to be supplied from Rome. But first of all Reform had to capture Rome itself.

At Rome a bad ecclesiastical atmosphere was darkened by political troubles and not lightened by religious enthusiasm. There as elsewhere local families were striving for local power; the nobility, with seats outside, was very disorderly and made the city itself tumultuous and unsafe. The Crescentii, so long and so darkly connected with papal history, had lands in the Sabina and around Farfa, and although with lessening influence in the city itself they stood for the traditions of civic independence, overshadowed, it is true, by the mostly distant power of the Saxon Emperors. Nearer home they were confronted by the growing power of the Counts of Tusculum, to whose family Gregory, the naval prefect under Otto III, had belonged; they naturally, although for their own purposes, followed a German policy. Either of these houses might have founded at Rome a feudal dynasty such as rose elsewhere, and each seemed at times likely to do so. But in a city where Pope and Emperor were just strong enough to check feudal growth, although not strong enough to impose continuous order, the disorderly stage, the almost anarchy, of early feudalism lingered long.




When Sergius IV (1009-1012) “Boccaporco,” son of a Roman shoemaker and Bishop of Albano, died soon after John Crescentius, the rival houses produced rival Popes: Gregory, supported by the Crescentii, and the Cardinal Theophylact, son of Gregory of Tusculum. Henry II of Germany, hampered by opposition from Lombard nobles and faced by King Arduin, had watched Italian politics from afar, and the disputed election gave him an opening. Rome was divided. Theophylact had seized the Lateran, but could not maintain himself there; Gregory fled, even from Italy, and (Christmas 1012) appeared in Henry’s court at Pohlde as a suppliant in papal robes. Henry cautiously promised enquiry, but significantly took the papal crozier into his own keeping, just as he might have done for a German bishopric. He had, however, partly recognised Theophylact, and had indeed sent to gain from him a confirmation of privileges for his beloved Bamberg: a decision in Theophylact’s favour was therefore natural. Henry soon appeared in Italy (February 1013); his arrival put Arduin in the shade. Theophylact, with the help of his family, had established himself, and it was he who, as Benedict VIII, crowned Henry and Cunegunda (14 February 1014). The royal pair were received by a solemn procession, and six bearded and six beardless Senators bearing wands walked “mystically” before them. The pious Emperor dedicated his former kingly crown to St Peter, but the imperial orb bearing a cross was sent to Cluny. Benedict VIII was supported now by the imperial arm, and in Germany his ecclesiastical power was freely used; he and the Emperor worked together on lines of Church reform, even if their motives differed.

Benedict VIII (1012-1024) proved an efficient administrator, faced by the constant Saracen peril, and wisely kept on good terms with Henry II. Although he was first of all a warrior and an administrator, he also appears, probably under the influence of the Emperor, as a Church reformer. A Council was held at Pavia (1018), where the Pope made an impressive speech, which, it is suggested, may have been the work of Leo of Vercelli, on the evils of the day, denouncing specially clerical concubinage and simony. His starting point was a wish to protect Church property from alienation to priestly families, a consideration likely to weigh with a statesmanlike administrator, although Henry II might have had a more spiritual concern. By the decrees of the Council, marriage and concubinage were forbidden to priests, deacons, and sub­deacons, indeed to any clerk. Bishops not enforcing this were to be deposed. The children of clerks were to be the property of the Church. In the Council the initiative of the Pope seems to have been strong. The Emperor gave the decrees the force of law, and a Council at Goslar (1019) repeated them. Italy and Germany were working as one.

There was little difference between the ecclesiastical powers of Henry in Italy and in Germany. He knew his strength and did not shrink from using it. Before his imperial coronation he held a synod at Ravenna (January 1014) where he practically decreed by the advice of the bishops; for Ravenna he had named as archbishop his half-brother Arnold, who was opposed by a popularly-supported rival Adalbert. This probably canonical prelate was deposed, and after Henry’s coronation a Roman synod approved the judgment, although it did obtain for the victim the compensation of a smaller see. Decrees against simonist ordinations and the alienation through pledges of Church lands were also passed, and published by the Emperor. A liturgical difference between Roman and German use in the mass was even decided in favour of the latter. So far did German influence prevail.

The reforming tendencies of the German Church found full expression at the Synod of Seligenstadt (12 August 1023). In 1021 a young imperial chaplain Aribo had been made Archbishop of Mayence; and he aimed at giving the German Church not only a better spirit but a more coherent discipline. In the preamble to the canons, Aribo states the aim of himself and his suffragans, among whom was Burchard of Worms (Bishop 1000-1025): it was to establish uniformity in worship, discipline, and ecclesiastical morals. The twenty canons regulated fasting, some points of clerical observance, observance of marriage, in which the canonical and not the civil reckoning of degrees of kinship was to hold; lay patrons were forbidden to fill vacancies without the approval and assent of the bishop; no one was to go to Rome (i.e. for judgment) without leave of his bishop, and no one subjected to penance was to go to Rome in the hope of a lighter punishment. This legislation was inspired by the reforming spirit of the German Church, due not only to the saintly Emperor but to many ecclesiastics of all ranks, with whom religion was a real thing; and for the furtherance of this the regulations of the Church were to be obeyed. The Canon Law, now always including the Forged Decretals, involved respect to papal authority, but Aribo and his suffragans laid stress also upon the rights of metropolitans and bishops in the national Church, which gave them not only much power for good but the machinery for welding the nation together.




In June 1024 Benedict VIII died and was followed by his brother Romanus the Senator, who became John XIX; his election, which was tainted by bribery and force, was soon followed by the death of the Emperor (13 July 1024). The new monarch, Conrad II, was supported by the German adherents in Italy and especially by the Archbishop Aribert of Milan, a city always important in imperial politics. Both he and John XIX were ready to give Conrad the crowns which it was theirs to bestow. So in 1026 he came to Italy; and he and his wife Gisela were crowned in St Peter’s (26 March 1027). Then, after passing to South Italy, he slowly returned home, leaving John XIX to continue a papacy, inglorious and void of reform, until his death in January 1032. Under him old abuses revived, and so the state of things at Rome grew worse, while in Germany, although Conrad II (1024-1039) was very different from Henry II in Church affairs, the party of reform was gaining strength.

With the election of Benedict IX, formerly Theophylact, son of Alberic of Tusculum, brother of a younger Roman us the Consul, and nephew of Benedict VIII and John XIX, papal history reached a crisis, difficult enough in itself, and distorted, even at the time, by varying accounts. According to the ordinary story, Benedict IX was only twelve years old at his election, but as he grew older he grew also in debauchery, until even the Romans, usually patient of papal scandal, became restive; then at length the Emperor Henry III had to come to restore decency and order at the centre of Western Christendom. But there is reason to doubt something of the story. That Benedict was only twelve years old at his accession rests on the confused statement of Rodulf Glaber; there is reason to suppose he was older. The description of his depravity becomes more highly coloured as years go by and the controversies of Pope and Emperor distort the past. But there is enough to show that as a man he was profligate and bad, as a Pope unworthy and ineffective. It was, however, rather the events of his papacy, singular and significant, than his character, that made the crisis. He was the last of a series of what we may call dynastic Popes, rarely pious and often bad; after him there comes a school of reformed and reformers.

Conrad II differed much in Church matters from Henry II. It is true that he kept the feasts of the Church with fitting regularity and splendour and that he also was a “brother” of some monasteries. But his aims were purely secular, and the former imperial regard for learning and piety was not kept up. Some of his bishops, like Thietmar of Hildesheim, were ignorant; others, like Reginhard of Liege and Ulrich of Basle, had openly bought their sees, and not all of them, like Reginhard, sought absolution at Rome. Upon monasteries the king’s hand was heavy: he dealt very freely with their possessions, sometimes forcing them to give lands as fiefs to his friends, sometimes even granting the royal abbeys themselves as such. Thus the royal power worked harmfully or, at any rate, not favourably for the Church, and bishops or abbots eager for reform could no longer reckon upon kingly help. It is true that Poppo of Stablo enjoyed royal favour, but other ecclesiastics who, like Aribo of Mainz, had supported Conrad at his accession, received small encouragement. Conrad’s marriage with Gisela trespassed on the Church’s rule of affinity, and the queen’s interest in ecclesiastical appointments, by which her friends and relatives gained, did not take away the reproach; but she favoured reformers, especially the Cluniacs, whose influence in Burgundy was useful.

A change in imperial policy then coincided with a change in Popes. Benedict VIII may have been inspired by Henry II, but John XIX was a tool of Conrad. For instance, he had to reverse a former decision, by which the Patriarch of Grado had been made independent of his brother of Aquileia. Poppo of Aquileia was a German and naturally an adherent of Conrad; everyone knew why the decision was changed. It was even more significant that the Emperor spoke formally of the decree of the faithful of the realm, “of the Pope John, of the venerable patriarch Poppo, and others.” It was thus made clear that, whether for reform or otherwise, the Pope was regarded by the Emperor exactly as were the higher German prelates. They were all in his realm and therefore in his hands. Here he anticipated a ruler otherwise very differently-minded, Henry III.

Benedict IX could be treated with even less respect than John XIX. It is true that he held synods (1036 and 1038), that he made the Roman Bishop of Silva Candida bibliothecarius (or head of the Chancery) in succession to Pilgrim of Cologne. But in 1038 he excommunicated Aribert of Milan, who was giving trouble to Conrad. To the Emperor he was so far acceptable, but in Rome where faction lingered on he had trouble. Once (at a date uncertain) the citizens tried to assassinate him at the altar itself. Later (1044) a rebellion was more successful: he and his brother were driven from the city, although they were able to hold the Trastevere. Then John, Bishop of Sabina, was elected Pope, taking the name of Sylvester III. Again we hear of bribery, but as John’s see was in the territory of the Crescentii, we may suppose that this rival house was concerned in this attack upon the Tusculans; in fifty days the latter, helped by Count Gerard of Galeria, drove out Sylvester’s party, and he returned to his former see. Then afterwards Benedict withdrew from the Papacy in favour of his godfather, John Gratian, Archpriest of St John at the Latin Gate, who took the name of Gregory VI. The new Pope belonged to the party of reform; he was a man of high character, but his election had been stained by simony, for Benedict, even if he were weary of his office and of the Romans, and longed, according to Bonizo’s curious tale, for marriage, had been bought out by the promise of the income sent from England as Peter’s Pence. The change of Popes, however, was welcomed by the reformers, and Peter Damian in particular hailed Gregory as the dove bearing the olive­branch to the ark. Even more significant for the future was Gregory’s association with the young Hildebrand; both were probably connected with the wealthy family of Benedict the Christian. There was a simplicity in Gregory’s character which, in a bad society calling loudly for reform, led him to do evil that good might come. For nearly two years he remained Pope, but reform still tarried.

Attention has been too often concentrated on the profligacy of Benedict IX, which in its more lurid colours shines so prominently in later accounts. What is remarkable, however, is the corruption, not of a single man, even of a single Pope, but of the whole Roman society. Powerful family interests maintained it; the imperial power might counterbalance them, and, as we have seen, the Papacy had been lately treated much as a German bishopric. In the Empire itself there had been a change; Conrad II had died (4 June 1039), and his son Henry III, a very different man, now held the sceptre.




Whether it be true or not that, as Bonizo tells us, Peter the Arch­deacon became discontented and went to ask Henry’s interference, it is certain that in 1046 Henry came to Italy; German interests and the state of the Church alike incited him. At Pavia (25 October) he held a Council, and the denunciation of simony made there by him gave the keynote of his policy, now, after Germany, to be applied to Italy and Rome itself.

Henry was now a man of twenty-two, versed in business, trained to responsibilities and weighty decisions since his coronation at eleven. He had been carefully taught, but, while profiting from his teachers, had also learnt to think and decide for himself. He had a high ideal of his kingly office; to a firm belief in righteousness he added a conception of his task and power such as Charlemagne had shown. He was hailed, indeed, as a second Charlemagne, and like him as a second David, destined to slay the Goliath of simony. But in his private life he far surpassed the one and the other in purity. He saw, as he had declared at Constance and Treves (1043), the need of his realm for peace, but the peace was to come from his royal sway. He was every inch a king, but heart and soul a Christian king. Simony he loathed, and at one breath the atmosphere of Court and Church was to be swept clear of it. Inside the Church its laws were to bind not only others but himself as well: no son of a clerk, for instance, could hope for a bishopric under him, because this was a breach of law, and he told Richard of St Vannes that he sought only spiritually-minded men for prelates. His father had been guilty of simony, but, at much loss to himself, he abstained from it; his father had been harsh, but he did not hesitate to reverse his decisions: thus he reinstated Aribert at Milan. But on the other hand, election by chapters, for bishoprics and monasteries, was unknown: he himself made the appointments and made them well; in the ceremony of investiture he gave not only the staff but the ring. Synods he called at his will, and in them played much the part of Constantine at Nicaea. This was for Germany, and in Italy he played, or meant to play, the same part. The case of Widger of Ravenna is significant. This canon of Cologne had been named as Archbishop of Ravenna (1044), but when two years had passed he was still unconsecrated, although he wore episcopal robes at mass. He was summoned to the imperial court, and the German bishops were asked to decide his case. Wazo of Liège asserted that an Italian bishop could not be tried in Germany, but clearly to Henry the distinction meant nothing. Wazo also laid down the principle, of novel sound then although common later, that to the Pope they owed obedience, to the Emperor fealty; secular matters the one was to judge, ecclesiastical matters the other. Widger’s case, then, was for the Pope and Italy, not for Henry and Germany. Nevertheless, Henry gained his point and Widger had to return his ring and staff. It was doubly significant that the distinction between ecclesiastical and secular authority should be drawn by Wazo, for the king had no more devoted servant; he said once that if the Emperor put out his right eye he should still serve him with the left, and his acts, notably in defending the imperial rights around Liege even by force, answered to his words. He was the bishop, too, to whom, when he asserted the superiority of his episcopal anointing, Henry answered that he himself was also anointed. Here then, in the principles of Wazo, canonist, bishop, loyalist, and royal servant, but a clear thinker withal, were the signs of future conflict. In Henry’s own principles might be seen something of the same unformed conflict, but with him they were reconciled in his own authority and power.

Such was the king whom the scandals of the Papacy called from Germany, where for six years the Church had rapidly improved, to Rome, over which reformers grieved. Of Rome, Desiderius, Abbot of Monte Cassino and afterwards Pope as Victor III (1086-7), could write, although with the exaggeration of a critic: “the Italian priesthood, and among them most conspicuously the Roman pontiffs, were in the habit of defying all law and all authority; thus utterly confounding together things sacred and profane. Few prelates kept themselves untainted with the vile pollution of simony; few, very few, kept the commandments of God or served him with upright hearts.”




After his synod at Pavia, Henry III went on to Piacenza, where Gregory VI, the only Pope actually in power, came to meet him and was received with fitting honour. Then in Roman Tuscany another synod was held at Sutri; at this point later and conflicting accounts, papal and imperial, begin gravely to distort the evidence and the sequence of events. At the synod the story of the payment made by Gregory VI for the Papacy was told; he was most probably deposed, although a later pro-papal account made him resign of himself, as the bishops refused to judge him. Up to their interview at Piacenza Henry had treated him as the legitimate Pope, but afterwards there was certainly a change. The details of his accession were probably now more clearly unfolded; stress may have been laid upon them, and so Henry may have been influenced. It was not an unknown thing for an Emperor to remove a Pope. Another motive may also have influenced him. His second marriage to Agnes of Poitou, sound as a piece of policy, was within the prohibited degrees. It had caused some discussion in Germany, but there no bishop, whatever he thought, cared to withstand a king so good. Probably at Rome it would be looked at more suspiciously, and to the eyes of a strict Pope might go against the coronation of the royal pair. We are reminded of the marriage of William the Conqueror; both cases would at a later date have been rightly covered by a dispensation, but the law and its system of dispensations was only beginning to grow into shape. And Henry might naturally wish for a Pope who would support him without reserve, for such was his view of bishops generally. The exile, which Gregory was to pass in Germany up to his death (probably in October 1047), is a strange ending to an almost blameless life; it can only be accounted for by the fear of danger arising from him if he were left in Italy. The doubt about Henry’s marriage, and the recognition of Gregory VI as the true Pope, widespread in Italy and testified to by Wazo of Liège in Germany, might be used for trouble.

But if Gregory was removed from the papal throne on the ground of an invalid title, either Benedict IX or Sylvester III must be the rightful Pope; the throne could hardly now be treated as vacant. Henry had doubtless made up his mind for a German Pope, who could be better relied on than an Italian; Rome could well be treated as Milan or Ravenna had been, and a German Pope was a good precedent since the days of Gregory V. The claims of Benedict IX and even of Sylvester III were stirred into life, although they may not have been urged; the story that they were considered at Sutri comes from later writers and is unlikely. It was probably in a synod at Rome (23-24 October) that Benedict was deposed; at one time he had certainly been a rightful, if an unrighteous, Pope, and so he must be legally deposed. Sylvester III, whose claims were weaker, disappeared into monastic retirement at Fruttuaria, and was, if dealt with at all, probably deposed in the same synod.




The way was now clear, and Suidger of Bamberg, a worthy bishop, was chosen as Pope (Christmas 1046). Then, as Clement II, he crowned Henry and Agnes. We can judge of the degradation of the papal office, in spite of the enhanced appeal to it through the spread of Canon Law, by the refusal of Adalbert of Bremen to accept it on Henry’s offer; his own see, even apart from his special Baltic plans, seemed to be more important. There was a show of election in the appointment, but the real power lay with Henry, who named Suidger with the approval of a large assembly; once again he treated an Italian bishopric, even that of Rome, as he would have done a German. Significant is the renunciation by the Romans of their election rights, which must be taken along with the title of Patrician given to Henry.

But the new state of things was not to pass without criticism. From Lower Lorraine came a curious and rather bitter tractate (De ordinando pontifice auctor Gallicus) written late in 1047. It betrays some unrevealed discussion, and the writer urges the French bishops, who had not been consulted in the election of Clement, to stand aloof; it was not for the Church to palter with the laws of marriage at the wish of a king. Evidently, therefore, Henry’s marriage was held to be of moment in the election. Even in Germany there were some who, like Siegfried of Gorze and like Wazo a little later, were uneasy. Siegfried had disliked the marriage, and Wazo protested to Henry, when he sought a successor to Clement, that no Pope could be made while Gregory VI was still alive.

Clement II was worthy of his office, but his papacy was short, and so uneventful; he was overshadowed by the presence of the Emperor, whom he followed to southern Italy, but he held in January 1047 a Council at Rome, where deposition was decreed against all simonists, while those ordained by a simonist bishop were to do forty days’ penance. Like preceding Popes he was ready to excommunicate the Emperor’s foes, and the Beneventans, who refused admittance to the German army, were sufferers. But, setting a strange example to later Popes, he kept his old bishopric, to which, as “his sweetest bride,” he sent an affectionate letter, and where on his unexpected death (9 October 1047) his body was laid to rest (he was the only Pope buried in Germany); a widely-accepted rumour had it that his unexplained illness was due to poison administered in the interests of Benedict IX, and the same was said about his successor. It is certain, at any rate, that on 9 November Benedict returned to Rome, and, supported by the Marquess Boniface of Tuscany, kept his old office until July (1048). Neither Roman families nor Italian nobles would accept imperial control if they could help it. The power of Boniface now threatened to become dangerous: his grandfather Azzo owned Canossa, and his father Tedald, favoured by Henry II, had held Mantua, Ferrara, and other towns, and kept them faithful to the Emperors. Boniface at first followed his father’s policy and Conrad had given him the March of Tuscany. But his choice of a second wife, Beatrice, daughter of Frederick, Duke of Upper Lorraine, brought him into a wider sphere of politics. Distrust grew between him and the Emperor. At Rome he could injure the Emperor most, and hence his support of Benedict. The Romans, however, did not follow him; a deputation was sent to Henry at Pohlde seeking a new nomination, and Poppo, Bishop of Brixen, was chosen (Christmas 1047). But Boniface, although Henry’s representative in Italy, at first refused to lead the new Pope to Rome, and only renewed orders brought him to obedience; then at length he expelled Benedict IX, and the new Pope was enthroned as Damasus II (17 July 1048). On 9 August he too died at Palestrina, after a pontificate of only twenty- three days; poison was again suspected, although malaria may have been the cause. It was no wonder that the deputation which again visited Germany found the papal throne little desired. They suggested Halinard of Lyon, much beloved in Rome, where he had sojourned long. But he did not accept, even if Henry offered it. At Worms the Emperor chose a relative of his own, Bruno of Toul, and so there began a papacy which was to change even the unchanged Rome itself.




Bruno, Bishop of Toul, was son of Hugo, Count of Egisheim, and related to Conrad II, who destined him for rich preferment. Herman of Toul died on 1 April 1026, and the clergy and citizens at once chose for successor Bruno, who was well known to them but was then with the army of Conrad II in Italy. The Emperor hinted at a refusal in hope of better things, but the unanimous election seemed to the young ecclesiastic a call from God; there had been no secular influence at work on his behalf, and so to Toul, a poor bishopric, often disturbed by border wars, he determined to go.

The future Pope had been born 21 June 1002, and, as destined for the Church, was sent to a school at Toul, noted equally for its religious spirit and its aristocratic pupils. His parents were religious and devoted patrons of monasteries in Alsace, and at Toul reforming tendencies, due to William of Dijon, were strong, while an earlier bishop, Gerard (963­994), was revered as a saint; the young man, learned and literary, became a canon of Toul, and although not a monk had a deep regard for St Benedict, to whose power he attributed his recovery from an illness. From Toul he passed to the chapel of the king, and as deputy for Herman led the vassals of the bishopric with Conrad; in military affairs he shewed ability, and was, from his impressive figure, his manners and activity, liked by many besides Conrad and Gisela. His acceptance of Toul seemed to others a self-denial, but even its very poverty and difficulties drew him. He was not consecrated until 9 September 1027, as Poppo of Treves wished to impose a stricter form of oath upon his suffragan, and not until Conrad’s return did the dispute end by the imposition of the older form. This difficulty cleared, Bruno devoted himself to his diocese: monastic reform in a city where monasteries were unusually important was a necessity, and to this he saw; the city lay open to attacks from the Count of Champagne, and Bruno had often occasion to use his military experience, inherited and acquired. Thus, like the best bishops of his day, notably Wazo of Liège, he was a good vassal to the Emperor and a defender of the Empire. On the ecclesiastical side, too, he had that love of the past which gave a compelling power to historic traditions: it was he who urged Widerich, Abbot of St Evre, to write a life of his predecessor, St Gerard; as a pilgrim to the apostolic threshold, he often went to Rome. In diplomacy he was versed and useful : in Burgundian politics he had taken a share; he had helped to negotiate the peace with France in 1032. As a worthy bishop with many-sided interests and activities he was known far beyond his diocese, and even in countries besides his own.

Christmas 1048 Bruno spent at Toul, and then, accompanied by other bishops and by Hildebrand, the follower of Gregory VI, he went to Rome. It was a journey with the details of which clerical and partisan romance afterwards made itself busy. But an election at Rome was usual and, to Leo more than to other men, necessary. As before at Toul, his path must be plain before him. Only when accepted by his future flock could he begin his work, although the real choice had been the Emperor’s. Leo moved along a path he had already trodden, and he needed no Hildebrand, with the warning of an older prophet, to guide his steps. Already he knew a bishop’s duty and the needs of the Church. He now passed into a larger world, even if he kept his former see up to August 1051: his aims and his spirit were already set, only he was now to work on an international field; reading, travel, diplomacy, and episcopal work had trained him into a strong, enlightened statesman, of fixed principles and piety, clear as to the means he ought to use. Church reform had begun in many places and under many leaders; its various forms had been tending to coherence in principles and supports, removal of abuses, and recognition of Canon Law. Taught by these, many eyes had turned to Rome. But guidance had been lacking thence, and abuses had flourished to excess. Leo IX was to bring to the movement guidance; he was to give it a coherence based on papal leadership and power. We find under him all the former elements of the movement welded together, and re-interpreted by a Pope who knew what the Papacy could do. Hence came its new strength. His papacy is marked by its many Councils, held not only at Rome but also far afield: Rome (after Easter 1049), Pavia (Whitsuntide), Rheims (October), Mayence (October), Rome (Easter 1050), Salerno, Siponto, Vercelli (September 1050), Rome (Easter 1051), Mantua (February 1053), Rome (Easter). But this itinerary gives little idea of his travels; on his route from place to place he made visits of political importance, such as to Lorraine, and southern Italy, and even to Hungary; everywhere he strove to rouse the Church, and incidentally composed political or ecclesiastical strifes. Details are wanting for some of these councils, but we must assume that in all of them decrees against simony and clerical marriage, often spoken of as concubinage (which was sometimes the truth), were issued. At the Roman Council of 1049 simony was much discussed; guilty bishops were deposed, and one of them, Kilian of Sutri, while trying to clear himself by false witness, fell like another Ananias and died soon afterwards. There was a like incident later at Rheims, when the innocent Archbishop of Besançon, pleading for the guilty and much accused Hugh of Langres, suddenly lost his voice. It was ascribed to a miracle by St Remy (Remigius), but such details shOw how personal responsibility was now being pressed home on the bishops. There was a suggestion that ordinations bv simonist bishops should be declared null, and it is sometimes said that Leo decreed they were so. This, as it was urged, would have made almost a clean sweep of the Roman clergy, for many Popes of late had been simoniacal. Finally it was settled on the lines laid down by Clement II that a penance of forty days met the case. But Leo brought up the matter again in 1050 and 1051, and on the last date he bade the bishops seek light from God. In the Curia there were different views. Peter Damian insisted that the acts of simoniacal bishops were valid, and he supported this by the assertion that some of them had worked miracles; Cardinal Humbert, on the other hand, went strongly on the other side. The two men were foremost in rival schools of thought, divided by opinions on other matters also. Peter Damian, for instance, welcomed the help of pious kings like Henry III, while Humbert held any lay interference in Church affairs an outrage. Strife on this matter was to grow keener, and the fortune of battle is recorded as by an index in the treatment of simonist ordinations. There was a side issue in the question whether simony was not a heresy, as the musician-monk Guido of Arezzo suggested; if it were, simonist ordinations, according to received doctrine, would be automatically void.

The Council of Rheims (3 October 1049) was of special importance. In France local conditions varied: here the king and there a great vassal controlled episcopal appointments, but everywhere simony was rife. It arose, however, not as in Germany from the policy of one central power, based upon a general principle of law or administration; it was a widespread abuse of varied local origin to be attacked in many individual cases. The needed reform was now to be preached on French soil by the Pope himself; it was to be enforced with all the authority given to the Pope by the Canon Law, genuine or forged; it appealed to ancient decisions, such as that of Chalcedon (canon II, repeated at Paris in 829), against simony, whether in ordinations or in ecclesiastical appointments, and such as those enforcing attendance at councils, which were henceforth commoner. The appearance of a Pope with definite claims to obedience was thus emphasised by an appeal to the deficient but reviving sense of corporate life. And, when the synod had done its work, the appeal was driven home by the summons of guilty bishops to Rome, and by the Pope’s bold guardianship of free elections against royal interference, as in the case of Sens (1049) and Le Puy (1053), and Henry I shewed himself fairly complaisant.

But a German Pope was by no means welcome in France; national diplomacy rather than a fear of papal authority made Henry I look askance on the assembly at Rheims. The consecration of the new abbey church of St Remy was the occasion of Leo’s visit, but the king, by summoning his episcopal vassals to service in a well-timed campaign, made their attendance at the synod difficult, and so many held aloof. An attack upon simony was the first and main business, and after an allocution the bishops one by one were called upon to declare their innocence of it. To do this was notoriously difficult for Guy, the local Archbishop, and the Bishops of Langres, Nevers, Coutances, and Nantes were in the same plight. The archbishop promised to clear himself at Rome the next Easter, which he may have done; the much-accused Hugh of Langres fled and was excommunicated; Pudicus of Nantes was deposed; the two others cleared themselves of suspicion. The Archbishop of Sens, and the Bishops of Beauvais and Amiens, were excommunicated for non-attendance with insufficient reason. The canons enjoined election by clergy and people for bishops and abbots, forbade the sale of orders, safeguarded clerical dues but prohibited fees for burials, eucharists, and service to the sick; some canons recalled the objects of the Truce of God, and others dealt with infringements of the marriage law. If the synod had been in itself and in many ways, and above all in its vigorous reforms, an expression of the Church’s corporate life, it also drove home with unexpected energy the lesson of individual responsibility. The new Papacy as a means of reform had justified itself in a hitherto disorderly field. Summonses to Rome, attendance at Roman synods, and the visits of Roman legates to France, were to secure for the future the gains that Leo had made possible.

From Rheims the Pope passed by way of Verdun, Metz, and Treves, to Mainz, where (in October) a large Council was held. Here simony and clerical marriage were sternly condemned. Adalbert of Bremen and other bishops after their return home enforced these decrees with varying strictness, but without much success; Adalbert drove wives of clerics from his city to the country outside. But the unhappy fact that a few of the bishops, and notably Sigebod of Spires, were not above moral reproach gave Bardo of Mainz, who was named legate, a difficult task. On leaving Germany, Leo visited Alsace and Lorraine, having with him Humbert, a monk of Moyenmoutier in the Vosges; he was designed for a new arch-see in Sicily, but that not being created he was named Cardinal­bishop of Silva Candida. It was doubtless meant that he was to help Leo in the plans already forming against the Normans in southern Italy. Then, whether before or after the Easter Council at Rome (1050) it is hard to say, Leo went to southern Italy where matters religious and secular needed attention. At the outset of his reign an embassy, it is said, from Benevento had begged for his help; there was another embassy in 1052, and probably an intermediate one. And one of the legates whom Leo sent to report upon the situation was Cardinal Humbert. In his own visit of 1050 Leo held Councils at Salerno and at Siponto, in the Norman territory; here the customary decrees were made and some simoniacal bishops deposed. The Easter Council at Rome (1050) was largely attended, as was becoming usual, fifty-five bishops and thirty-two abbots being present. Guido of Milan successfully cleared himself from a charge of simony, but his very appearance to do so marked, much as similar trials at Rheims and Mayence, a triumph for papal power. But, unhappily for Guido, the struggle for precedence between him and Humfred of Ravenna ended in his being wounded so severely as to be healed only on his return by the miraculous help of St Ambrose. But Humfred himself offended by words against the Pope, for which he was excommunicated at the Council of Vercelli, and his forgiveness at Augsburg (February 1051) was followed by a somewhat dramatic death. The very stars seemed to fight against Leo’s foes, and submissions to his commands became more general.

It is needless to follow the later councils of Leo; they were all part of the policy so strikingly begun. A few fresh matters appear in them, mingled with the old: at Vercelli (1 September 1050) the heresy of Berengar, previously discussed in the Roman Council of the same year, was brought up afresh and was to come up again and again. It was an outcome, almost inevitable, of the varied and growing movements of the day. 




From Vercelli Leo went by way of Burgundy and Lorraine to Germany, only coming back to Rome for the Easter Council of 1051. He wished to get the Emperor’s support for a Norman campaign, but the advice of Gebhard of Eichstadt (afterwards Victor II) swayed Henry against it. Then later in the year he visited southern Italy, whither he had already sent Cardinal Humbert and the Patriarch of Aquileia as legates. His plans almost reached a Crusade; he wished for help both from Henry and the Emperor Constantine IX (1042-1055); he had visions of a papal supremacy which should extend to the long-severed East. Hence a campaign against the Normans and negotiations with Constantinople were combined. Benevento, whence the citizens had driven the Lombard Princes, and which Leo now visited, was at Worms (autumn 1052) in a later visit to Germany given to the Papacy in exchange for Bamberg. Leo IX therefore, like many a Pope, has been called, though for services further afield, the founder of the Temporal Power. On his return from the south, Councils at Mantua (February 1053), where opposition to the decrees for celibacy raised a Lombard riot, and at Rome (Easter) followed; at the latter, the rights of the Patriarch of Grado over Venice and Istria were confirmed, and to the see of Foroiulium (Udine), where the Patriarch of Aquileia had taken refuge after the destruction of his city by the Lombards, was now left only Lombard territory. These measures are to be taken along with the Pope’s Eastern plans, in the general policy and military preparations for which Hildebrand had a share. But the host, like other crusading forces, was strangely composed, and the battle of Civitate, which was to have crowned everything, brought only disaster and disappointment. An honourable captivity with the Normans at Benevento made warfare, against which Peter Damian raised a voice, impossible, but Leo could still carry on correspondence and negotiations. The story of the papal embassy to Constantinople, whence help was expected more hopefully than from Germany, has been told elsewhere. The three legates, Cardinal Humbert, Frederick of Lorraine, Cardinal and Chancellor, and Peter, Bishop of Amalfi, had small success, and the breach between the Churches of the East and of the West only became wider and more lasting. Constantine IX had hoped by conquering the Normans to revive his failing dominion over southern Italy, where the Catapan Argyrus was as anti-Norman as Leo himself. But Michael Cerularius, Patriarch since March 1043, had his own large views, carried into politics with much ability, and a natural dislike of the now more strongly-urged Roman claims. Constantinople for many centuries had jealously maintained its independence of Rome; it knew nothing of the Forged Decretals, while Canon Law, Church customs, and ritual were now taking separate paths in East and West. Eastern Emperor and Eastern Patriarch thus had very different interests and views about Leo’s designs. The fortune of war favoured the Patriarch, for Argyrus, like Leo, was routed in Italy (February 1053), and the negotiations at Constantinople came to worse than naught.

But the end of a great papal reign was near. Sick in heart and health, Leo left Benevento (12 March 1054), slowly travelling to the Rome where he had dwelt so little but which he tried to make so great. Before his death he besought the Romans to keep from perjury, forbidden marriages, and robbery of the Church; he absolved all whom he had excommunicated; he prayed for the Church and for the conversion of Benedict IX and his brothers, who had set up simony over nearly all the world. Then (19 April 1054) he died.

There seems to us a contrast between the more political schemes of his later and the reforming work of his earlier years. But to him they were both part of the task to which he had been called. To breathe a new spirit into the Church and to extend its power were both to make it more effective in its duty. Even his warfare for the Church was merely doing as Pope what had been part of his recognised duty as Bishop of Toul. And his papal reign made a new departure. His conciliar and legislative activity had been great, even if, amid the pressure of large events and policies, it slackened, like that of Gregory VII, before the end. He brought bishops more generally into varied touch with Rome. He renewed the papal intercourse and growing control for many lands, such as Hungary and England. He made Adalbert of Bremen (1053) Papal Vicar for his Baltic lands, with power to form new sees, even “regibus invitis.” Much that he had begun was carried further by later Popes, and great as it was in itself his pontificate was perhaps even greater as an example and an inspiration. Under the influence of reform in Germany, of his own training, his own piety, and his devotion to the Church, he had shown, as Bishop of Toul, a high conception of a bishop’s office. He brought the same to Rome, and with wider and more historic responsibilities he formed a like conception for the Papacy. His friend and almost pupil Hildebrand was wont, we are told, to dwell upon the life of Leo, and the things which tended to the glory of the Roman Church. One great thing above all he did in raising the College of Cardinals, which succeeding Popes, and notably Stephen IX, carried further. His very travels, and the councils away from Rome at which he presided, brought home to men the place and jurisdiction of the Papacy which was being taught then by the Canon Law. These councils were now attended not only by bishops but also by abbots, in quickly increasing numbers; first by such as those of Cluny and Monte Cassino, and then by others, until at Rheims (1049) about fifty appeared and at Rome (1050) thirty-two. Many abbots were now privileged to wear mitres and to ordain; attendance at councils was thus natural. They formed a solid phalanx of reformers, and the nucleus of a papal majority. Thus his pontificate abounded in beginnings upon which future days were to build. He brought the Papacy, after its time of degradation, and with the best impulses of a new day, into a larger field of work and power.

Leo IX left his mark in many ways upon following reigns. The central direction of the Western Church continues, although with some fluctuations of policy and persons, while the improved organisation enables us to see it in the documents now more carefully preserved. The Chancery, upon which fell much work due to the new and wide-spread activity of the Popes, was re-organised by him after the model of the imperial Chancery. After his time the signatures of witnesses often appear, and so we can see who were the chief advisers of the Pope; this we can connect with the growing importance of the cardinals. Papal activities are seen in the number of privileges to monasteries, and many documents show a diligent papal guardianship of clerical and monastic property. Rome is kept closely in touch with many lands, leading prelates are informed of papal wishes and decrees. A continuity of policy and of care for special districts can also be traced in series of letters, such as those to Rheims.

Leo’s reforming policy was carried on. Conciliar decrees upon clerical celibacy were repeated, and simony, sometimes forbidden afresh, like marriage, met with new punishment. The policy is much the same, and it is still more directed by Rome. But one difference between him and his successors soon appears, and slowly grows. He had worked well with the Emperor, but the new spirit breathed into the Papacy brought, with a new self-consciousness, a wish for independence. This was natural, and harmonised with the new feeling, intensified by Canon Law, that the hierarchy of the Church should not be entangled with that of the State. About the difficult application of this principle, views began to differ. The papal reigns to which we pass shew us the gradual disentanglement of these rival principles amid the clash of politics.




But Leo’s successor was long in coming, and the exact course of events is somewhat doubtful. Gebhard of Eichstadt had been a trusted counsellor of Henry, he had thwarted the hopes of Leo for large help against the Normans, and now at length he became Pope. The Emperor might well hesitate to part with such a friend, and the prospect of the impoverished Papacy in difficult Italy was not enticing. Here as in the case of Leo IX the real decision lay with Henry. Gebhard’s elevation was settled in the last months of 1054, and he was received and, as Victor II, enthroned “ hilariter” at Rome (13 April 1055).

The Norman victory, and another event, had altered affairs in Italy. Boniface of Tuscany, whose power and policy were threatening to Pope and Emperor alike, was assassinated on 6 May 1052, and his widow Beatrice married (1054) the dangerous and ambitious Godfrey the Bearded, the exiled Duke of Lorraine, who had been administering her estates. Hence arose difficulties with Henry. He was needed in Italy; in April he was in Verona, at Easter in Mantua. In spite of her defence he put Beatrice and her only remaining child Matilda in prison. Godfrey fled across the Alps, and his brother Frederick, lately returned from Constantinople, took refuge at the fortress-monastery of Monte Cassino; here (May-June 1057) he became abbot, after a short but fervid monastic career entered upon under the influence of Desiderius. At Whitsuntide (4 June 1055) Pope and Emperor were present at a council in Florence. Before leaving Italy Henry gave to the Pope Spoleto and Camerino, as well as making him Imperial Vicar in Italy. This may throw light on Henry’s choice of Gebhard and also his alleged promise to restore papal rights. But on 5 October 1056 the great Emperor died. The removal of a strong hand brought new responsibilities to the Pope, his old adviser and friend.

Victor II, like Leo, dwelt little in Rome; he left it at the end of 1055 and travelled slowly to Germany; he was by Henry’s death-bed at Botfeld, and he buried him at Spires. Then at Aix-la-Chapelle he enthroned the young king Henry IV; his presence and experience were valuable to the Empress Agnes, now Regent, and he was able to clear her path and his own by a reconciliation with Godfrey, who was allowed to take the place of Boniface. By Lent 1057 Victor was in Rome to hold the usual council. Then he left the city for Monte Cassino to bring the stubborn monastery, which had elected an Abbot Peter without consulting Pope or Emperor, into accord with the Papacy. The elevation of the Cardinal-deacon Frederick to be its abbot and also Cardinal-priest of St Chrysogonus (14 June) marked a reconciliation, significant ecclesiastically and politically. In July Monte Cassino was left for a journey towards Rheims, where a great Council was to be held. But Victor’s death at Arezzo (28 July 1057) removed from the Empire a pillar of peace, and left the Church without a head. In those days of stress, workers who really faced their task rarely lived long. He was buried, not at Eichstadt as he and his old subjects would have wished, but at Ravenna.

It is not so easy to sketch the character of Victor II as to record his doings. As a young man he had been chosen bishop almost incidentally by Henry III, who may have judged rightly his powers of steady service. The Eichstadt chronicles tell us that as a young man he did nothing puerile; it is also true that as an old man he did nothing great. But neither as German bishop nor as Pope did he ever fail in diligence or duty: his earlier reputation was gained rather as servant of the State than as prelate of the Church; as Imperial Vicar he might have brought peace to Italy as he had to Germany and its infant king. But death prevented his settling the Norman difficulty; there is no reason to think that he had forsaken his former view which had crossed that of Leo IX. His dealings with Monte Cassino, always strongly anti-Norman, had given him a new base upon which he could rely for peace as easily as for war. His work was sound but was not completed. He seems to us an official of many merits, but confidence was the only thing he inspired. He was no leader with policies and phrases ready; he was only a workman who needed not to be ashamed.




On 2 August 1057, the festival of Pope Stephen I, Frederick of Lorraine was elected Pope, and took the name of Stephen IX. He was in Rome when the news of Victor’s death came, and was asked to suggest a successor; he named Humbert, three Italian bishops, and Hildebrand. Then, when asked to be Pope himself, he unwillingly accepted. He was no imperialist like Victor, and he was, like the monks of his abbey, strongly anti-Norman. Above all he was an ecclesiastic, heart and soul. Moreover, he was freely elected at Rome; not until December was a deputation sent to inform the German Court; there was no whisper of kingly recognition and indeed there was no Emperor; he was elected, as a German chronicler complains, rege ignorante, although the circumstances may account for this.

The new Pope had been a canon at Liege. His riches, increased by gifts at Constantinople, made him popular, but he was a monk of deep conviction. His short papacy leaves room for conjecture as to what with longer days he might have done. There were rumours that he meant to make Duke Godfrey Emperor, but he differed very widely from his more secular-minded brother. Like his predecessors he did not stay long in Rome; he soon left it for Monte Cassino, which he reached at the end of November; he arranged for Desiderius to be abbot after his death, but meanwhile to be sent on an embassy to Constantinople. The shadow of death was already on the Pope, when in February 1058 he went to Rome. Before this he had sent representatives, of whom Hildebrand was one, to Germany, probably to announce his election. Now he resolved to meet his brother, but before he set out he gathered together the cardinal-bishops and other clergy of Rome with the burghers. He told them he knew that after his death men would arise among them who lived for themselves, who did not follow the canons but, though laymen, wished to reach the papal throne. Then they took an oath not to depart from the canons and not to assent to a breach of them by others. He also bound them in case of his death to take no steps before Hildebrand’s arrival. Then he set out for Tuscany, but on 29 March 1058 died at Florence where he was buried. Weakness and sickness had long been his lot; it was needless to attribute his death to poison given by an emissary from Rome.

It is clear that Pope Stephen’s thoughts were intent upon the Normans; what support Hildebrand had gained from the Empress-regent we do not know, and the Pope himself was eagerly awaiting his legate’s return. What further help and of what kind he was to gain from Duke Godfrey was even more uncertain. A policy of peace, such as Victor II had adopted, had more to recommend it than had one of war; Monte Cassino was under papal control, and all the cards were in the papal hand. The hurried fever of a dying man made for haste, but death was even quicker. Stephen’s papacy ended amid great possibilities.

But one thing was certain: any line taken would be towards the continued reform of the Church. Stephen had drawn more closely around him able and determined reformers. Peter Damian he called to be Cardinal-bishop of Ostia, a post from which that thorough monk recoiled. He had been unwilling to pass from his beloved Fonte-Avellana to Ocri where Leo IX had made him prior; the sins of the monks filled him with horror, and now he shrank even more from the open world which did not even profess the monastic rule. The Pope had to appeal to his obedience and even to threaten excommunication. So Damian was consecrated at Rome in November 1057, under pressure which he held to be almost uncanonical. He was called from his diocese in 1059 to enforce the programme of discipline at Ambrosian Milan; with him was to go the active reformer Anselm, Bishop of Lucca. To their embassy we must return later. It is enough to notice here that Milan was thus brought into the papal sphere; Guido, its Archbishop, was ordered on 9 December 1057 to appear at the papal Court to discuss the situation.

At length in 1070 Peter Damian gained his release from Alexander II so that he could return to his beloved penitential desert. But his cardinalate he kept and his influence he never lost. As legate, however, he brought his personal power into fresh fields: he was sent to difficult Milan in 1057; to France in 1063 to settle the dispute between Drogo of Macon and the exempted Cluny; and as an old man of 62 to Germany in 1069 to handle the suggested divorce of Henry IV and Bertha. Each mission was a triumph for his firmness or, as he would have preferred to say, for the laws of the Church. The employment of legates to preside at councils superseded the heroic attempts of Leo IX to do so in person; the reverence owed to the Apostolic See was paid to its legates. So we have Humbert’s legateship to Benevento in 1051 and to Ravenna in 1053; that of Hildebrand to France in 1055, when he not only, as Damian tells us, deposed six bishops for simony but, as he himself told Desiderius, saw the simonist Archbishop of Lyons smitten dumb as he strove to finish the Gloria with the words “and to the Holy Ghost.” With the same great aim, Victor II named the Archbishops of Arles and Aix his permanent Vicars for southern France. Leo IX solemnly placed a mitre on the head of Bardo of Treves to mark him as Primate of Gallia Belgica (12 March 1049), on 29 June 1049 gave Herman of Cologne the pallium and cross, on 6 January 1053 gave the pallium and mitre to Adalbert of Bremen as Papal Vicar for the north, and on 18 October 1052 gave the pallium and the use of a special mitre to the Archbishop of Mayence; on 25 April 1057 Victor confirmed the privileges of Treves, and gave the mitre and pallium to Ravenna. The papal power was thus made more and more the mainspring of the Church. Metropolitans became the channels of papal power. To the Papacy men looked for authority, and from it they received honours which symbolised authority. Grants of the pallium to other sees extended the process, and other marks of honour, such as the white saddle-cloths of Roman clerics, were given and prized. The eleventh century, like the tenth, was one in which this varied taste for splendour, borrowed from the past, was liberally indulged. The mitre, papal and episcopal, was being more generally used and was altering in shape, and its growth illustrates a curious side of our period. Laymen shared the tastes of churchmen; Benzo’s vivid picture of “the Roman senate” wearing head­dresses akin to the mitre charmed the pencil of a medieval chronicler.

The death of Stephen IX gave the Roman nobles, restless if submissive under imperial control and papal power, a wished-for chance. Empire and Papacy were now somewhat out of touch, and other powers, Tuscan and Norman, had arisen in Italy. Gerard, Count of Galeria, formed a party with Tusculan and Crescentian help, burst into the city by night, 5 April 1058, and elected John Mincius, Cardinal-bishop of Velletri, as Benedict X; and money played its part in the election. The name was significant, but the Pope himself, more feeble than perverse, had previously been open to no reproach; he had been made cardinal by Leo IX, and on the death of Victor II had been suggested by Stephen himself as a possible Pope. Reform had thus made great strides between Benedict IX and Benedict X. Some of the cardinals were afar, Humbert in Florence, and Hildebrand on his way from Germany, whither he had gone, a little late, to announce the election of Stephen. But as a body they were now more coherent, less purely Roman, and more ecclesiastical; they declared against Benedict, threatening him with excommunication, and fled the city. Then they gathered together in Tuscany and consulted at leisure on another choice. In the end they settled on a Burgundian, Gerard Bishop of Florence, a sound and not too self-willed prelate of excellent repute, favoured by Duke Godfrey and not likely to take a line of his own. Besides the help of Godfrey the approval of the Empress Agnes was sought. Even in Rome itself there was a party against Benedict, headed by Leo de Benedicto Christiano, a rich citizen, son of a Jewish convert, influential in the Trastevere and in close touch with Hildebrand; they sent a deputation to the Empress Agnes at Augsburg, pleading that the election of Benedict had been due to force. As a result Duke Godfrey was ordered to lead the cardinals’ nominee to Rome. Gerard was elected at Siena, probably in December 1058, by the cardinals, together with high ecclesiastics and nobles, and chose the name of Nicholas II. His old see he kept until his death. Then an approach was made towards Rome; a synod was held at Sutri. Leo de Benedicto opened the Trastevere to them, and Benedict X fled for a few days to Passarano and thence to Galeria, where for three months he was besieged by the Normans under Richard of Aversa. Nicholas was enthroned on 24 January 1059; and the captured Benedict was deposed, stripped of his vestments, and imprisoned in the Hospitium of the church of Sant’ Agnese. His name was long left in the papal lists, and he was not an anti-Pope in the ordinary sense until Nicholas II was elected. The choice of Gerard had removed the election of a Pope from the purely Roman sphere to one of wider importance, and the alliance with the Normans, brought about by the help of Desiderius, Abbot of Monte Cassino, gave the Pope a support independent of the Empire or Rome. In all these negotiations Hildebrand played a great part. In the interval between his enthronement and the Easter Council, Nicholas visited Spoleto, Farfa, and Osimo, and at the last place on 6 March 1059 appointed Desiderius as cardinal. In Italy, after the Easter Council at Rome, he held a Council at Melfi, where decrees on clerical celibacy were repeated stringently, and the famous peace was made with the Normans. Then he returned to Rome, accompanied by a Norman army, and the papal sovereignty was enforced. The Norman alliance, and the celebrated decree on papal elections, worked together, and a new era began.

A great Council of 113 bishops was held on 14 April 1059 at the Lateran. Earlier decrees had broadly regulated the election of a Pope; Stephen III (769) and Stephen IV (862-3) had anathematised anyone contesting an election made by priests, prelates, and the whole clergy of the Roman Church. Otto I had renewed the settlement of Lothar I (824), by which the election was to be made by the whole clergy and nobility of the whole Roman people, canonically and justly, but the elect was not to be consecrated until he had taken the oath to the Emperor. The normal canonical form was prescribed, but disorderly nobles, imperial pressure, civic riots, and simony, had tampered with Rome even more than other churches. The German Popes had brought reform but at the price of ecclesiastical freedom.

The Election Decree of 1059 has come down to us in two forms, known as imperial and papal respectively. The latter is now generally accepted, and the former is held to have been falsified by Guibert, then Imperial Chancellor for Italy and afterwards Archbishop of Ravenna and anti-Pope as Clement III. The business of election was, in the first place, to be treated of by the cardinal-bishops. Then they were to call in firstly the cardinal-clerics, and secondly the rest of the Roman clergy and the people. To prevent simony, the cardinal-bishops, taking the place of a metropolitan, were to superintend the election, the others falling in after them. The elect should be taken from the Roman Church, if a suitable candidate were found; if not, from another Church. The honour due to Henry, at present king and as it is hoped future Emperor, was reserved as conceded to him, and to such of his successors as should have obtained in person the same right from the apostolic throne. If a pure, sincere, and voluntary election could not be held in Rome, the cardinal-bishops with the clergy and catholic laity, even if few, might hold the election where they were gathered together. If the enthronement had to be postponed by reason of war or other evil, the Pope-elect might exercise his powers as if fully Pope. Anyone elected, consecrated, or enthroned contrary to this decree was to be anathematised.

The imperial form differed from the papal form summarised above in giving the Emperor a place with the cardinals as a body in leading the election; it does not distinguish the cardinal-bishops from the others, and it does not mention the rest of the clergy or the people. If an election were not possible in Rome, it might be held where the electors chose, in agreement with the king. The differences lie rather in the way in which the king is brought into the election than in the reservation of the im­perial rights, which is much the same in both forms, and the cardinal­bishops are not given the rights of a metropolitan; and the imperial form mentions the mediation of Guibert, Chancellor of Italy and im­perial representative. The changes seem to be made less on general principles than to suit a special case, and if due to Guibert this is what we might expect.

The decree was not strictly kept, but the place given to the cardinals, who were now growing into a College, was significant for the future. Its details had reference to the past election; judged by its standard, the election of Nicholas was correct and that of Benedict was not. But it laid stress on the special place of the Papacy, and in the papal form at any rate it threw aside all imperial influence before assent to the accomplished act. It remained to be seen whether this freedom could be maintained.

Other matters were also dealt with in the Council. Berengar appeared and made a profession of faith dictated by Cardinal Humbert. The regulation of the papal election was announced as a matter of European importance, as indeed it now was, and here the cardinal-bishops are mentioned expressly; the decree on celibacy was strict, and for those clerks who obediently observed chastity the common canonical life was enforced. In this detail we have a trace of the discussion already mentioned No clerk or priest was to obtain a church either gratis or for money through laymen. No one was to hear a mass said by an unchaste priest: the precedent of this canon was to be followed later under Alexander II and Gregory VII. Laymen were not to judge or expel from their churches clerks of any rank. The boldness of this canon may be compared with a more hesitating grant in 1057 to the clergy of Lucca that none of them should be taken to secular judgment. The fuller treatment of simonist ordinations and simony of all kinds belongs to the synods of 1060 and 1061. The upshot of conciliar activity under Nicholas II was to crystallise the former campaign for celibacy into definite decisions, backed by the whole power of the Papacy and the Curia. What had before been tentative was now fixed. Opinion was consolidated, and policy was centralised, not only about celibacy but also about simonists. If those who had been ordained by simonists in the past were allowed to keep their orders and their offices, thus conforming to the policy of Peter Damian at Milan, it was lest the Church should be left without pastors. But for the future there was to be no hesitation, and the correspondence of the Popes with Gervais of Rheims(a see carefully watched as in previous reigns) illustrates the carrying out of the policy.

The Council at Rome (1060) decreed that for the future anyone ordained without payment by a simonist bishop should remain in his order if he was open to no other charge; this decision was made not on principle but from pity, as the number affected was so great. It was not to be taken as precedent by following Popes; for the future, however, anyone ordained by a bishop whom he knew to be a simonist should be deposed, as should the bishop also. Thus a long-standing difficulty was for the time disposed of. Reforming councils in France at Vienne and Tours, held under the legate Cardinal Stephen, made stringent decrees against simony, marriage of priests, and alienation of church property or tithes under legal form. Abbot Hugh of Cluny did the same at Avignon and Toulouse. But it was now more a matter of enforcing decrees already made than issuing new. In Italy some bishops found it difficult to publish reforming decrees, and in some cases did so with risk of violence.

It has been noted as strange that in such a remarkable reign we hear little about the character of the Pope himself. The predominance of the cardinals partly explains it: Humbert, Peter Damian, and Hildebrand (now archdeacon) were not always in accord, and it was for Nicholas to balance conflicting views and policies. He was the president of the College rather than its director. Like other Popes Nicholas kept his old bishopric, and like them too he was often absent from Rome, which was not without its drawbacks, as the English bishops, robbed by the Count of Galeria, found out. But we breathe an air of greater largeness in his Papacy, and things seem on a larger scale.

Nicholas died suddenly near Florence on 27 July 1061, returning from an expedition in southern Italy. The Election Decree was to be tested.

The Norman alliance, and still more the Election Decree, had affected the delicate relations of Pope and Empire. During the minority of Henry IV, matters had been allowed to slide, and when attention was at length given to them the barometer registered a change of atmosphere. So great was the irritation in Germany that the name of Nicholas was left out in intercessions at mass; legates from Rome met with bad receptions.

Meanwhile events in Milan had taken a decisive turn for papal and ecclesiastical history. In position, in wealth, in traditions, both political and ecclesiastical, the city of St Ambrose was a rival of Rome, and hitherto it had proudly kept its independence. Aribert’s opposition to the Emperor Conrad had shown the power of the archbishop; and if an enemy to the Empire were to rule there, imperial influence would be weakened. This Henry III understood. On Aribert’s death in 1045 Guido was appointed. Class distinctions were strongly marked, and the new archbishop belonged not to the barons but to the vavassors; in strength and in reputation he was undistinguished, and Bonizo with his usual exaggeration calls him “vir illiteratus et concubinatus et symoniacus,” but concubinage he was not guilty of. He was not the man for a difficult post, still less the man to lead reform. He valued more the traditions of St Ambrose as a rival of Rome than as a teacher of righteousness. In Italy as a whole the poor were more devoted to the Church than the rich (who tended to have their own chapels), and they were keen to criticise the lives of their spiritual teachers; outbursts of violence against unworthy priests had not been rare in Milan. But these had been isolated acts; what mattered more was that the Milanese Church had settled down into a worldly, possibly respectable, but certainly unspiritual life of its own. It was content to breathe the air around it but did nothing to revive or purify it, although the clergy were numerous “ as the sands of the sea” and the churches were rich. For the most part the clerks were married, and so the Church was deeply intertwined in the social state. Sale of Church offices was common, and there was a recognised scale of charges for orders and for preferments. It was certain that reformers would find much to complain of; so long had the growth of secularisation gone on that, even with a more placid populace, reform when it came was likely to become revolution.

About 1056 the new streams of thought and new ideals began to flow around the hitherto firm footing of the clergy. The movement was headed by a deacon Ariald, a vavassor by birth and a canonist by training, an idealist, inspired by visions of the primitive Church and the simple teaching of Christ: contrasting these with the example of priests whose life could teach but error. He began his campaign in the villages where he was at home; then, when his hearers pleaded their simplicity and urged him to go to Milan, where he would find men of learning to answer him, he took their advice. In the city he found allies ready to help although starting from a different point—Landulf, who was in minor orders, and (later on) his brother Erlembald, of the Cotta family, both gifted with eloquence, ambitious, and thorough demagogues. The movement soon became political and social as well as religious, owing to the social standing of those they attacked. With these two worked Anselm of Baggio, one of the collegiate priests, whom Guido persuaded the Emperor to appoint to the see of Lucca (1056 or 1057). Guido, appointed by Henry III who had misjudged his character, was himself a simonist, and his arguments that clerical marriage was an ancient custom in Milan, that abuse and violence were evil ways of reproving offenders, that the clergy were not immoral but for the most part respectable married men, and that abstinence was a grace not given to all and was not imposed by divine law, had small effect. In other cities, Pavia and Asti for instance, the populace rose against their bishop, and Milan was moved in the same way. Landulf worked in the city; Ariald carried on the campaign in the surrounding villages whose feudal lords were citizens of the town. And Anselm brought the movement into touch with the wider circle of reformers at Rome and elsewhere. Landulf’s eloquence soon filled the poorer citizens with hatred of the clergy, with contempt for their sacraments, and a readiness to enforce reform by violence. The undoubted devotion of the leaders, enforced by their eloquence in sermons and speeches, soon made them leaders of the populace. The use of nick­names—Simonians and Nicolaitans—branded the clerical party; that of Patarines brought in class distinctions, and those to whom it was given could claim like Lollards in England the special grace of simple men. On the local festival of the translation of St Nazarius a riot broke out, and the clergy were forced to sign a written promise to keep celibacy. They had to choose between their altars and their wives. Their appeal to the archbishop, who took the movement lightly, brought them no help. The nobles for some reason or other took as yet no steps to help them. The bishops of the province when appealed to prove helpless, and in despair the clerks appealed to Rome, probably to Victor II. His care for the Empire made the Pope anxious to keep order. He referred the matter to Guido, and bade him call a provincial synod, which he did at Fontaneto in the neighbourhood of Novara (1057). Ariald and Landulf were summoned, but, in their scornful absence, after three days they were excommunicated. Although this synod had been called, its consequences fall in the pontificate of Stephen IX, who is said to have removed the ban from the democratic leaders. The movement had become, as democratic movements so easily do, a persecution with violence and injury. Guido’s position was difficult and in the autumn (1057) he went to the German Court.

But the movement now took a new and wider turn; not only clerical marriage but simony, the prevalent and deeply-rooted evil of the city, was attacked. A large association, sworn to reach its ends, was formed. The new programme affected Guido, equally guilty with nearly all his clergy. It was of small avail that now the higher classes, more sensitive to attacks on wealth than on ecclesiastical offences, began to support the clergy; the strife was only intensified. In the absence of Guido, and with new hopes from the new Pope, Ariald went to Rome and there complained of the evils prevalent at Milan. It was decided to send a legate, and Hildebrand on his way to the German Court made a short stay at Milan (November 1057). He was well received; frequent sermons did something to control the people already roused. But his visit wrought little change, and it was not until Damian and Anselm came as legates that anything was done. Damian persuaded Guido to call a synod, and here, at first to the anger of the patriotic Milanese, the legate presided. It seemed a slur upon the patrimony and the traditions of St Ambrose; even the democratic reformers were aghast. It was then that Damian, faced by certain violence and likely death, shewed the courage in which he never failed. With no attempt at compromise, with no flattery to soothe their pride, he spoke of the claims of St Peter and his Roman Church to obedience. Milan was the daughter, the great daughter of Rome, and so he called them to submission. It was a triumph of bold oratory backed by a great personality; Guido and the whole assembly promised obedience to Rome. Then Damian went on with his inquest; one by one the clerics present confessed what they had paid, for Holy Orders, for benefices, and for preferment. All were tainted, from the archbishop to the humblest clerk. Punishment of the guilty, from which Damian was not the man to shrink, would have left the Church in Milan without priests and ministers of any kind. So the legate took the course taken by Nicholas II in his decree against simonists (1059). Those present, beginning with the archbishop, owned their guilt, and promised for the future to give up simony and to enforce clerical celibacy. To this all present took an oath. Milan had fallen into line with the reformers, and in doing so had subjected itself to Rome. Bonizo, agreeing with Arnulf on the other side, is right in taking this embassy as the end of the old and proud independence of Milan. When Guido and his suffragans were summoned to the Easter Council of 1059 at Rome some Milanese resented it. But the archbishop received absolution and for some six years was not out of favour at Rome.




The unexpected death of Nicholas II was followed by a contested election and a long struggle. Both the Roman nobles and the Lombard bishops wished for a change but knew their need of outside help. At Rome Gerard of Galeria, whose talents and diplomacy were typical of his class, was the leader; he and the Abbot of St Gregory on the Caelian were sent to the German Court, and they carried with them the crown and insignia of the Patrician. The Lombard bishops, with whom the Chancellor Guibert worked, met together and demanded a Pope from Lombardy—the paradise of Italy—who would know how to indulge human weakness. Thus civic politics at Rome and a reaction against Pataria and Pope worked together; the young king Henry acted at the impulse of Italians rather than of Germans; the latter had reason for discontent, but the imperial nominee was not their choice and their support was somewhat lukewarm. Henry met the Lombard bishops (some of whom Peter Damian thought better skilled to discuss the beauty of a woman than the election of a Pope) and the Romans at Basle on 28 October 1061, and, wearing the Patrician’s crown which they had brought, invested their elect, Cadalus, Bishop of Parma, who chose the name of Honorius II, “a man rich in silver, poor in virtue” says Bonizo. Meanwhile the cardinal-bishops and others had met outside Rome, and, hastening when they knew of the opposition, elected, 30 September 1061, Anselm of Baggio, the Patarine Bishop of Lucca. It was a wise choice and likely to commend itself; there could be no doubt as to the orthodoxy or policy of this old pupil of Lanfranc at Bee, tested at Milan and versed in Italian matters; at the same time he was in good repute at the German Court and a friend of Duke Godfrey. Desiderius of Monte Cassino carried a request for military help to Richard of Capua, who came and led Alexander II to Rome. Some nobles, especially Leo de Benedicto Christiano (“of the Jewish synagogue,” says Benzo), influenced the Trastevere, but there was much fighting and Anselm was only taken into the Lateran at night and by force. He was consecrated on 1 October 1061, and like his predecessors kept his old bishopric.

Cadalus found his way to Rome blocked by Godfrey’s forces, but in Parma he gathered his vassals, and could thus march on. But another help was of greater use. Benzo, Bishop of Alba in Piedmont, was sent by the Emperor as his ambassador to Rome; he was a popular speaker with many gifts and few scruples; his happy if vulgar wit was to please the mob and sting his opponents; he was welcomed by the imperialists and lodged in the palace of Octavian. Then he invited the citizens, great and small, and even Alexander with his cardinals, to a popular assembly. The papal solemnity had little chance with the episcopal wit. “Asinandrellus, the heretic of Lucca,” and “his stall-keeper Prandellus,” as Benzo calls the Pope and Hildebrand, were worsted in the debate; Cadalus was able to enter Rome on 25 March 1062, and a battle on 14 April in the Neronian Field after much slaughter left him victor. But he could not gain the whole city, and it was divided into hostile camps. Honorius hoped for help from Germany, and he was negotiating with Greek envoys for a joint campaign against the Normans. But after the arrival of Duke Godfrey there came an end to the strife; both claimants were to withdraw to their former sees until they could get their claims settled at the German Court. Honorius was said to have paid heavily for the respite, but Alexander could rest easy as to his final success.

Alexander was not without some literary support. Peter Damian from his hermitage wrote to Cadalus two letters, fierce and prophetic—the second addressed “To Cadalus, false bishop, Peter, monk and sinner, wishes the fate he deserves ”: he had been condemned by three synods; he had broken the Election Decree; his very name derived from cado laós was sinister, he would die within the year; the old prophet believed the prophecy fulfilled by the excommunication, the spiritual death, of Honorius within the year. At the same time he was writing treatises on the episcopal and clerical life. At this time, too, he wrote his well-known Disceptatio Synodalis, a dialogue between champions of the Papacy and the Empire; it is not, as was once supposed, the record of an actual discussion, but a treatise intended to influence opinion at the assembly called at Augsburg, 27 October 1062, to settle the papal rivalry. But he was an embarrassing ally: his letters to Henry and Anno of Germany, if full of candid advice, laid overmuch stress on the royal rights, and Alexander and Hildebrand were displeased. Damian, perhaps ironically, begged the mercy of his “ Holy Satan.”

It was the practical politics of the day, and not theories or arguments, which turned the balance at Augsburg and elsewhere in favour of Alexander. The abduction of the twelve-year-old boy at Kaiserswertli (April 1062) and his guardianship by Anno of Cologne, first alone and then with Adalbert, changed affairs. The Empress Agnes, who had taken the veil about the end of 1061, withdrew from politics. The German episcopate, weak, divided, and never whole-hearted for the Lombard Honorius, turned towards Alexander. The Synod of Augsburg, led by Anno, declared for Alexander and so gained commendation from Damian; “he had smitten off the neck of the scaly monster of Parma.” Before the end of 1062 Alexander moved towards Rome, and before Easter 1063 Godfrey supported the decision of Augsburg; the inclination of Anno and his position of Imperial Vicar led him to Rome. At the Easter Synod Alexander acted as already and fully Pope. As a matter of course he excommunicated Cadalus, and repeated canons against clerical marriage and simony ; the faithful were again forbidden to hear mass said by guilty priests.

But the opposition was not at an end, so the irrepressible Benzo again led Cadalus to Rome in May 1063; they took the Leonine City, Sant’ Angelo, and St Peter’s, but his seat was insecure. His supporters and his silver dwindled together; the castle was really his prison until he bought freedom from his jailor Cencius with three hundred pounds of silver; with one poor attendant he escaped to the safer Parma.

Then at Whitsuntide, probably in 1064, he met the Council at Mantua attended by German and Italian prelates. Anno (“the high-priest” Benzo calls him) stated candidly the charges against Alexander. Alexander on oath denied simony, and on the question of his election without Henry’s leave or approval satisfied the assembly. Everyone present may not have looked at the Council in the same way, but all were glad to settle the disputed succession. On the second day a mob of Cadalists attacked the gathering. Only the appearance of Beatrice of Tuscany with a small force saved the Pope’s life; some bishops fled. Cadalus was excommunicated, and Alexander could safely go to Rome. But his city was still not a pleasant seat. Benzo did not give up hope and in 1065 visited the German Court; even up to 20 April 1069 Honorius signed bulls as Pope. The remaining years of Alexander’s pontificate can be summarised.

The Norman vassals or allies of the Pope soon deserted him; Richard of Capua ravaged Campania and approached Rome, probably anxious to be made Patrician. Duke Godfrey, acting in his own interests and not those of Henry, marched towards Rome with an army of Germans and Tuscans, and a treaty followed. Once more Pope and Normans were at peace, irrespective of imperial plans and hopes. The balance between Duke Godfrey and the Normans was finally kept. Elsewhere too it was a question of balance. As Anno’s influence at the German Court lessened he depended more upon Rome, and from the German episcopate, lacking any great national leader like Aribo and now gradually losing its former moral strength, he gained small support. At Rome he was humiliated; in 1068 and again in 1070 he had to clear himself of accusations. The system by which metropolitans were to be channels of papal authority was beginning to work its way. But provincial synods both in France and Germany became commoner, and some, such as that of Mainz (August 1071) where Charles, the intended Bishop of Constance, resigned in order to avoid a trial, acted independently. But there as in other cases legates, the Archbishops of Salzburg and Treves, were present. Such councils, often repeating decrees from Rome, raised papal power, and at this very synod the Archbishop of Mainz is called for the first time Primas et Apostolicae sedis legatus. It was no wonder that not only Anno but Siegfried dreamt of a calm monastic life.

The growth of reform seemed to slacken in Alexander’s later years: it may be that Damian was right in contrasting the indulgence shewn to bishops with the severity towards the lower clergy; it may be that the movement was now throwing itself more into constitutional solidification than into spiritual awakening; it may be that the machinery at Rome was not equal to the burden thrown upon it by the vast conception of its work. In England alone, where Alexander had blessed the enterprise of William of Normandy, was success undiluted. The king was just and conscientious; Lanfranc was a theologian and a reformer, even if of the school of Damian rather than of Humbert. The episcopate was raised, and the standard of clerical life; councils, such as marked the movement, became the rule, as was seen at Winchester and London in 1072. But if England moved parallel to Rome it was yet, as an island, apart. It was also peculiar in its happy co-operation of a just king and a great archbishop.

The growth of canonical legislation (1049-1073) is easily traced. It begins with an attempt to regain for the Church a control over the appointment of its officers through reviving canonical election for bishops and episcopal institution for parish priests. But the repetition of such canons, even with increasing frequency and stringency, had failed to gain freedom for the Church in face of royal interests and private patronage. The Synod of Rheims under Leo IX (1049) had led the way: no one was to enter on a bishopric without election by clergy and laity. The spread of Church reform and literary discussion moved towards a clearer definition of the rival principles: the Church’s right to choose its own officers, and the customary rights of king or patron in appointments. So the Roman synod of 1059 went further: its sixth canon forbade the acquisition either gratis or by payment by any cleric or priest of a Church office through a layman. The French synods at Vienne and Tours (1060), held under the legate Stephen, affirmed the necessity of episcopal assent for any appointment. Alexander II, with greater chance of success, renewed in his Roman synod of 1063 Pope Nicholas’ canon of 1059. Under him the two elements, the cure of souls, which was obviously the Church’s care, and the gift of the property annexed to it, about which king and laymen had something to say, were more distinctly separated. It was significant when on 21 March 1070 Alexander gave to Gebhard of Salzburg the power of creating new bishops in his province, and provided that no bishop should be made by investiture as it was accustomed to be called or by any other arrangement, except those whom he or his successors should, of their free will, have elected, ordained, and constituted. So far, and so far only, had things moved when Alexander II died.

The constant use of legates was continued if not increased, and France was as before a field of special care. Thither Damian had gone, returning in October 1063, and Gerard of Ostia (1072) dealt specially and severely with simony. In France, and also elsewhere, the frequency of councils locally called is now noticeable. Not only the ordinary matters but laxity of marriage laws among the laity arising from licence among great and small were legislated upon.

The course of affairs at Milan, however, needs longer and special notice. Alexander II had been for many years concerned in the struggle at Milan; his accession gave encouragement to the Patarines; to the citizens and clergy he wrote announcing his election. When Ariald visited Rome under Stephen IX, Landulf, who was on his way thither, was wounded at Piacenza; his wound was complicated by consumption, and he lost the voice and the energy which he had used so effectively. After his death, the date of which is uncertain, his place was more than filled by his brother Erlembald, a knight fresh from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and with, as it was said, private, as well as family, wrongs to avenge upon the clergy. He had a personality and appearance very different from his brother’s; striking and handsome as became a patrician, splendidly dressed, gifted with that power of military control and organisation which was destined to reappear so often in medieval Italian States. He fortified his house, he moved about with a bodyguard; he became the Captain of the city; personal power and democratic rule were combined and so he was the real founder of the Italian commune. Ariald was content, as he put it, to use the word while Erlembald wielded the more powerful sword. The new leader visited Rome (1065) when Alexander was settled there; he received from the Pope a white banner with a red cross, and so became the knight of the Roman and the universal Church. The archbishop, with no traditions of family or friendship to uphold him, saw power slipping from his hands, and the Emperor counted for naught. From a second visit to Rome (1066) Erlembald returned with threats of a papal excommunication of Guido, and fresh disturbances began. Married priests and simonists were sharply condemned from Rome, and believers were forbidden to hear their masses. But the Papacy sought after order, and the cathedral clergy, faced by persecution, gathered around the archbishop. More tumult arose when Ariald preached against local customs of long standing. Milan had not only its own Ambrosian Liturgy, but various peculiar customs: the ten days between Ascension Day and Pentecost had been kept since the fourth century as fasts; elsewhere only Whitsun Eve was so observed. Ariald, preferring the Roman custom, preached against the local use, and so aroused indignation. Then Guido at Whitsuntide seized his chance, and rebuked the Patarines for their action against him at Rome in seeking his excommunication; a worse tumult than before arose, and the city was again in uproar. But the day after the riot the mass of citizens took better thought and repented. The archbishop placed the city under an interdict so long as Ariald abode in it. For the sake of peace the threatened preacher left, and (27 June) was mysteriously murdered, at Guido’s instigation as his followers said. Ten months later his body was, strangely and it was said miraculously, recovered. He had perished by the sword of violence which he had taken, but the splendid popular ceremonies of his funeral restored his fame, and so in death he served his cause.

Once again two legates came to still the storm (August 1067): Mainard, Cardinal-bishop of Silva Candida, and the Cardinal-priest John. The settlement they made went back to that of Damian, and so recognised the position of Guido, but years of violence had by now changed the city. The legatine settlement attempted to re-establish Church order and Damian’s reforms, and the revenue of the Church was to be left untouched. Violence was forbidden, but things had gone too far; revolution had crystallised, and neither side liked the settlement; Guido thought of resigning.

Erlembald, supported from Rome, thought he could increase his power by enforcing canonical election on the resignation of Guido, setting aside the imperial investiture and gaining the approval of the Pope. But Guido now chose the sub-deacon Godfrey, a man of good family, in his confidence, eloquent, as even his later enemies confessed, and therefore likely to be influential. Guido formally although privately resigned, and Godfrey went to the imperial Court where he was already known through services rendered; he returned with his ring and staff, but was driven away. Alexander II condemned not only Godfrey but also Guido, who had resigned without papal leave; Guido took up his duties again, and remained in power; disorder passed into war. Erlembald, with an army made up of his followers and some nobles, attacked Godfrey. Revolution had become war against a claimant chosen by the Emperor but in defiance of ecclesiastical law and the Papacy. During Lent 1071 part of the city was set on fire, causing great destruction and misery; Guido withdrew to the country and there on 23 August 1071 his life and trouble ended. Not until 6 January 1072 did Erlembald find it possible to elect a successor; by a large assembly from the city, its neighbourhood, and even farther afield, in the presence of a legate Cardinal Bernard, Atto, a young cathedral clerk of good family but little known, was elected. Erlembald, the real ruler of the city, was behind and over all; and many, laymen and ecclesiastics, disliked the choice. The discontented took to arms, the legate escaped with rent robes, and Atto, torn from the intended feast at the palace, was borne to the cathedral, where in mortal fear he was made to swear never to ascend the throne of St Ambrose. But next day Erlembald regained control; he “ruled the city as a Pope to judge the priests, as a king to grind down the people, now with steel and now with gold, with sworn leagues and covenants many and varied. It mattered little that at Rome a synod declared Atto rightly elected, and condemned Godfrey and his adherents as enemies of God. Meanwhile the Patarines held the field, and their success at Milan encouraged their fellows in Lombardy as a whole. But the new turn of affairs had involved the Pope; he wrote (c. February 1072) to Henry IV, as a father to a son, to cast away hatred of the servants of God and allow the Church of Milan to have a bishop according to God. A local difficulty, amid vested interests, principles of Church reform, and civic revolution, had merged into a struggle between Emperor and Pope. Henry IV sent an embassy to the suffragans of Milan announcing his will that Godfrey, already invested, should be consecrated; they met at Novara where the consecration took place.

At the Easter Synod (1073) the Pope, now failing in strength, excommunicated the counsellors of Henry IV who were, it was said, striving to alienate him from the Church. This was one of Alexander’s last acts. Death had already removed many prominent leaders, Duke Godfrey at Christinas 1069, the anti-Pope Cadalus at the end of 1072 (the exact day is not recorded). Peter Damian died on 22 February 1072, and Adalbert of Bremen on 16 March of the same year, both men of the past although of very different pasts. Cardinal Humbert had died long before, on 5 May 1061. Hildebrand was thus left almost alone out of the old circle of Leo IX.

On 21 April 1073 Alexander died, worn out by his work and responsibilities; even as Pope he had never ceased the care of his see of Lucca; by frequent visits, repeated letters, and minute regulations he fulfilled his duty as its bishopo. It was so with him also as Pope. The mass of great matters dealt with was equalled by that of smaller things. Even the devolution of duties, notably to cardinals and especially to the archdeacon, did not ease the Pope himself. He seems to us a man intent mainly upon religious issues, always striving (as we should expect from a former leader at Milan) for the ends of clerical reform, able now to work towards them through the Papacy itself. Reform, directed from Rome and based upon papal authority, was the note of his reign. A man of duty more than of disposition or temperament, he gained respect, if not the reverent love which had gathered around Leo IX. His measure of greatness he reached more because he was filled with the leading, probably the best, ideas of his day than because of any individual greatness of conception or power. But he had faced dark days and death itself with devotion and unswerving hope. It was something to have passed from his earlier trials to his later prosperity and firm position, and yet to have shown himself the same man throughout, with the same beliefs, the same aims, and the same care for his task. If he left his successors many difficulties, and some things even for Gregory VII to criticise, he also left them a working model of a conscientious, world-embracing Papacy, filled, as it seems to us, with the spirit of the day rather than inspiring the day from above. The Papacy had risen to a height and a power which would have seemed impossible in the time of Benedict IX. But the power, strong in its theory and conception, had a fragile foundation in the politics of the Empire, of Italy, and of Rome itself.