{9}           Church decay & renewal

ERA 3 << Medieval Church (1): Expansion & Conflicts (AD 600–1000) >> SESSION 2

Reference: Gonzalez, volume 1, chapters 28-29

9.1  Holy Roman Empire

        9.1.1  Carolingian dynasty

·         Supporter of papacy: The Frankish monarchy became the ardent supporter of the papacy during the Middle Ages, protecting it from barbarian conquests.

·         Merovingian Decline: After Clovis, the power of the Merovingian dynasty gradually passed into the hands of the chamberlains or mayors of the palace. One of them, Charles Martel (689–741), led the Franks in the Battle of Tours [732] to defeat the Muslim Moors who had taken Spain, crossed the Pyrenees, and threatened the heart of Europe. He supported the work of Boniface in converting the tribes beyond the Rhine.

·         New dynasty: Martel’s son Pepin the Short (714–768), with the consent of Pope Zacharias, forced the last Merovingian king to abdicate [751] and founded the Carolingian dynasty [751–987]. He was consecrated by Boniface as the king of the Franks. Pepin fulfilled his promise to the pope by expeditions against the Lombards [754, 756]. He also promised land in central Italy from Rome to Ravenna (Donation of Pepin) to Pope Stephen II [754] who eventually received the land [756].

        9.1.2  Charlemagne (742–814)

·         The empire: Charlemagne, son of Pepin, came to power [768]. He was a devout Christian though he still kept concubines. He engaged in over 50 campaigns in expanding his empire. He divided the empire into areas, each comprising several counties under a duke.

·         Crowned by the pope: When Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne “Emperor of the Romans” [800], almost all of the Western church was under the emperor’s rule, with the exception of the British Isles and Asturias in northwest Spain that the Arabs had never conquered. (Spain was under the Muslim Arabs.)

o        First emperor: Although Charlemagne was considered to be the first Holy Roman Emperor, the continuous line of emperors began only with Otto the Great [962].

·         Eastern conquest: Charlemagne repeatedly invaded the Saxons and the Frisians in Saxony (Germany). The invasions were bloody. All people were either forced to accept baptism or to be slaughtered. The final resistance was broken [785] but the Saxons would later use similar methods to convert their own neighbours.

·         Western conquest: Charlemagne invaded Spain and established a foothold. He supported the long process of Reconquista (reconquest) against the Moors. This effort was completed when Granada was conquered [1492].

·         Ecclesiastical changes: Charlemagne was involved in ecclesiastic matters. He appointed bishops. He enacted laws specifying that the preaching be done in the language of the people, that Sunday be kept as a day of worship and rest, and that tithes be collected as if they were a tax. He entrusted Benedict of Aniane to reform monasticism, bringing monasteries into compliance with the Benedictine Rule.

·         Education: Charlemagne was a patron of learning. He persuaded the great English scholar Alcuin (735–804) to come from York to build his palace school at Aachen. He revived and reformed the existing schools. He introduced to the Franks knowledge preserved in British monasteries. He encouraged having a school in every church.

        9.1.3  After Charlemagne

·         Louise the Pious: Charlemagne’s son Louis the Pious tried to give more autonomy to the church but some bishops took advantage of the freedom for personal gains.

·         Divided empire: After Louis the Pious died [840], his 3 sons fought to gain control in civil wars. They finally divided the empire in the Treaty of Verdun [843]. Charles the Bald controlled Gaul (modern France); Louis “the German” controlled Germany; Lothair controlled a long strip between the two kingdoms extending from the North Sea to the Adriatic Sea. This marked the birth of the modern states of France and Germany; and rivalry between them for possession of the area between them has continued until modern times. At the Treaty of Mersen [870], the central area were mostly divided up between the two kingdoms and the descendants of Lothair were confined to Italy.

        9.1.4  The rise of feudalism

·         The system: Feudalism is a system of political organization based on the possession of land. This was the only way in which justice and order could be maintained during the period of weak centralized authority. The result was the political and economic fragmentation of western Europe, and the decline of all centralized power, including the kings.

·         Reason: Because of the Arab conquests, the trading routes to the east and the south were blocked. Prosperity was drained. Under such circumstances, the main source of wealth was land, rather than money. Feudalism was born.

·         Hierarchy: This was a hierarchical system, based on the holding of lands, in which each feudal lord, which receiving homage from those who owed their lands to him, paid homage to the king, the vassal of God. Grants of land was hereditary. Society was divided into: [1] a group of protectors, the feudal knights, who had the privilege of land ownership in return for their services; [2] a group of producers, the serfs; [3] a group of prayers, the priestly class.

·         Church lands: In the church, since bishoprics and abbots often had vast holdings of land, they became more powerful. These lands were gifts by pious or repentant men, seeking to atone for a life of sin. They remained in the Roman church, held by abbots and bishops. The feudalization of church lands tended to secularize the church and to distract its attention from spiritual to mundane interests. The effort in dealing with the investiture controversy led to the neglect of their spiritual duties.

·         Investiture controversy: Since the oldest son of nobles could inherit the land from their fathers, the nobles often interfered with elections to get an abbey or bishopric for their younger sons and relatives. Many of these ecclesiastical officials were worldly and not interested in spiritual matters. The authority of investiture (to name the candidates) for such positions became one of enormous political significance. At times, both the feudal lord and the pope claimed the right to such authority.

·         New invasions: [1] Vikings: Norsemen (Vikings) from Scandinavia developed the art of shipbuilding and began the expeditions using massive ships. In 9th-c and 10th-c, they attacked the British Isles and northern coasts of France, sacking churches, monasteries, and palaces. Some settled in England and, after much fighting, merged with the Anglo-Saxons. Some settled in Normandy, from whence they came to conquer England under the leadership of William the Conqueror [1066]. Some crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and settled in Sicily and southern Italy. They were mostly converted to Christianity by 11th-c. [2] Magyars: From the east were Magyars (Hungarians). They repeatedly invaded Germany and crossed the Rhine. They were finally stopped by Henry the Fowler [933] and his son Otto I [955] of Germany. Missionaries went to Hungary from Germany and the Byzantine Empire. King Stephen of Hungary became a Christian and forced the conversion of all his subjects.

        9.1.5  Revival of the Roman Empire

·         German ruler: The dukes of Germany, faced with the need of unity for defense against the Vikings and the Magyars, selected Henry the Fowler, the duke of Saxony, as their ruler [919]. He was successful in driving back the invaders.

·         Otto the Great: Henry was succeeded [936] by his son Otto (912–973). Otto made the dukes his vassals and took over supervision of the affairs of the church by choosing bishops and abbots. Then he became interested in affairs across the Alps. He went to Italy to aid the pope against a powerful ruler. Pope John XII crowned him as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire [962]. All central Europe was united until the dissolution of the empire [1806].

·         Interfering the papacy: The German emperors started to interfere in the affairs of the papacy. For example, Emperor Otto III entered Rome to suppress some Roman nobles [996]. He then forced the election of his cousin Bruno as Pope Gregory V. This struggle between the emperor and the pope continued until Innocent III humiliated and defeated the emperor.

·         Conflict between pope & emperor: The ideal kingdom was thought to have two arms: [1] the spiritual, presided over by the pope and responsible for men’s souls; [2] the temporal, presided over by the emperor and responsible for men’s physical well-being. The pope and the emperor were to give each other mutual support. But the question was: Did the pope exercise delegated power from the emperor? (This the pope could not accept.) Or did God give supreme authority to the church, and the pope delegated authority to the emperor? (This the emperor could not accept.) Or did they hold coordinate positions in which God gave to each one directly supremacy within his respective sphere? The answer to this problem occupied the energies of popes and emperors during the Middle Ages until the pope finally succeeded in bring the emperor under his control.


        9.2.1  Old & new ideas

·         Theological debates: During Charlemagne’s reign, schools flourished, manuscripts were copied. Most theological activities centred on controversies over a single point of doctrine or worship.

·         John Scotus Erigena (815–877)—He was an Irish scholar at the court of Charles “the Bald”—one of the grandsons of Charlemagne. He was the most famous theologian of this time. Erigena expounded a form of Neoplatonism mysticism. This was confused with Paul’s theology in the NT, and the Apostle was read as if he had been a Neoplatonist, leading to a pantheistic tendency. Erigena’s book Predestination opposed an extreme form of Augustinianism, which teaches that God predestines evil. On the topic of real presence of Christ in the communion, Erigena favoured a more spiritual interpretation.

·         On predestination: Gottschalk of Orbais, a monk who studies Augustine’s writings, concluded that the church had departed from Augustine in predestination. Gottschalk was criticized by his enemies and was declared a heretic and imprisoned in a monastery.

·         On real presence: Paschasius Radbertus (785–860), a monk of Corbie near Amiens (France), declared [831] that when the bread and the wine are consecrated in the communion (mass), they are transformed into the body and blood of the Lord. They are no longer bread and wine, but the real body of Christ. Shortly after, some began to speak of a “change in substance”. Finally, the doctrine of transubstantiation would be proclaimed in the Council of Lateran IV [1215], and fully defined in the Council of Trent [1545]. The doctrine of transubstantiation was reinforced by the claim that only official clergies from the RCC had the power to perform the miracle of the mass.

·         Adoptionists: Elipandos, bishop of Toledo, declared that, according to His divinity, Jesus was the eternal Son of the Father, but that, according to his humanity, He was Son only “by adoption”. His followers, called Adoptionists, bent his teachings and claimed that Jesus was “a mere man” whom God had adopted. They were condemned by the Frankish theologians and by the popes.


        9.3.1  Benedictine Monastic Order [528]

·         East vs West:

o        [1] Work: Western monasticism tended to be more practical. It rejected idleness, deplored purely ascetic acts, and emphasized work as well as devotion. It did not punish the body for the sole purpose of renunciation, but also to train it, as well as the soul, for a mission in the world.

o        [2] Community: Western monasticism did not place the premium on solitude that was typical in the East. From the beginning, Western monasticism organized life in the community.

o        [3] Hierarchy: Western monasticism did not live in the constant tension with the hierarchy of the church that was typical of Eastern monasticism. Western monasticism has been the right arm of popes and bishops.

·         Benedict of Nursia (480–547)—founder of Benedictine Order—Following a period of extreme asceticism as hermit, Benedict had a group of disciples. They built a monastery at Monte Cassino [528], and founded the Benedictine Order. Benedict’s sister Scholastica founded a similar community nearby for women.

o        Re-establishment: The monastery (abbey) was later looted and burnt down by the Lombards [589] but was re-established [718]. It was destroyed in 1944 but was rebuilt in 1964 by the Italian government.

·         Monastic activities:

o        Prayer: The core of monastic life was prayer. The monks were to gather 8 times a dayMatins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. They included the reciting of the Psalms and readings of the Scripture.

o        Studies: A main occupation was studies. Since books were needed, monks became adept at copying the Bible and other books, and thus preserved them for later generations.

o        Functions: The monastery became a teaching centre for children, perhaps also a hospital, a pharmacy, and a shelter for weary travellers.

        9.3.2  Benedictine Rule [530]

·         Monastic standard: Benedict wrote the Rule for his monastery. With the support of the papacy, Benedict’s Rule became the monastic standard for all Western monasticism. In a synod at Aachen [817], the Rule was made the official rule for all monks in the West.

·         Content: The book aims at a wise ordering of monastic life, with strict discipline, but without undue harshness. It combines brevity with completeness. It emphasized poverty and chastity for all monks.

·         Elements: There are 2 crucial elements: permanence and obedience.

o        Permanence: Monks are not free to go from one monastery to another as they please. This led to great stability in the time of chaos.

o        Obedience: Obedience is to Christ, to the Rule, and to the abbot. Instant obedience to the superior is expected, without grumbling or reluctance. However, the abbot (head of the monastery) must not be a tyrant as he is subject to God and to the Rule.

o        Discipline: An errant monk is to be admonished secretly. If he does not repent after 2 admonitions, he is to be reprimanded before the community. The next step is excommunication, barred from community meals and contact. The next steps are whipping and finally expulsion.

o        Occupations: There are 3 main occupations: [1] manual labour, even those who come from wealthy families would receive no special treatment, [2] divine reading—reading and meditation on the Bible and other spiritual books, [3] work of God—liturgical worship.

o        Humility: There are 12 stages of humility, from the 1st stage of fear of God, to the 12th stage of showing humility to everyone, not just in the heart but also in outward behaviour.

        9.3.3  Cluniac Order [909]

·         Corruption: As the monasteries owned land and gained wealth and power through feudalism, the bishops and nobles who were supposed to be their guardians used them for their own personal gains. By 9th-c and 10th-c, some became abbots by buying their posts, or even through murders, and then lived luxuriously on the basis of the abbey’s income. The Benedictine Rule was generally ignored.

·         Berno de Baume (850–926)—founder of Cluniac Order—He acquired a charter from Duke William III of Aquitaine and founded a monastery at Cluny in eastern France. The charter provided that the monastery was to be free from all secular or episcopal control and that it was to exercise self government under the protection of the pope.

·         Abbots: Berno [abbot 910–926], Odo [abbot 927–944], and 5 succeeding abbots [944–1109] were men of ability and character. They made the monastery a great success so many Benedictine monasteries followed it as a model.

·         Governance: In the past, monasteries were independent of other monasteries in the same order. The abbot of Cluny, however, appointed the priors of new monasteries so the Cluniac order was centralized under one head who worked in close harmony with the papacy. At the darkest hour of the corrupted papacy, they set their sights on the reformation of the entire church. Later, sister houses were set up under the Cluniac order. By 12th-c, over 1100 monasteries were under the abbot of Cluny.

o        The Carthusian monasteries, organized by Bruno [1084], followed this pattern of centralized authority.

·         Reforms: The Cluniac leaders called for reform in clerical life and complete obedience to the Benedictine Rule. They condemned simony (buying and selling of church offices for money) and nepotism (appointing relatives to office). Celibacy was compulsory. They emphasized poverty and an ascetic life. They also insisted that the church should be free from temporal or secular control by civil authorities.

·         Decline: The monasteries created good monastic schools which helped to make Latin the common tongue of the Middle Ages. However, the order gradually declined, again because of its accumulation of wealth. Inspired by the holiness of the monks, people made gifts to the monasteries. The original ideal of simplicity of life was lost. The order came to an end legally in 1790.

        9.3.4  Cistercian Order [1098]

·         Robert of Molesme (1027–1111)—founder of Cistercian Order—In late 11th-c, when the Cluniac order gradually declined, a new monastic reform was founded at the Citeaux Abbey [1098]. The order was the successor to the Cluniac order. Both had similar emphasis and both had wide impact on the church. By 15th-c, the order had 750 monasteries. Today, there are still Cistercian monks, including the Trappists, who are monks in strict observance.

·         Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153)

o        Life: He was the most famous monk of this order. He was later ordered to found a new community at Clairvaux [1115] which became a centre of reformation. It became the parent to 70 new Cistercian monasteries. One of Bernard’s disciples later became Pope Eugene III [1145–1153].

o        His influence: His fame forced him to intervene as arbitrator in many political and ecclesiastical disputes. He was a mystic devoted to the contemplation of the humanity of Christ, the champion of ecclesiastical reform, the preacher of the Second Crusade, and the fighter against all theological innovations, such as Peter Abelard.

o        On grace & free-will: His book Grace and Free-Will maintained that our good works are at the same time entirely the work of God’s grace (leaving no room for boasting) and entirely the work of our own free-will in that it is we who perform them (thus making them worthy of reward). Man’s will is always free in the sense that he wills voluntarily and spontaneously. But without the grace of God, fallen man wills only to sin.

o        On humility & mystical union: His spiritual works taught steps to humility and steps towards mystical union with God. He urged his students to find time for reflection or meditation in the midst of a busy life. Quote: “Humility is a virtue by which a man has a low opinion of himself because he knows himself well…. You will never have real mercy on the failings of another until you know and realize that you have the same failing in yourself.”

        9.3.5  Franciscan Order [1209]

·         Mendicant orders: The growth of cities and trade brought about the monetary economy. While promoting more specialized production and increasing collective wealth, it also resulted in a growing chasm between the rich and the poor. A reaction was the development of mendicant monastic orders. Mendicants (friars) were those who lived by begging, depending on the alms and gifts from the people. They included the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Carmelites, and the Augustinian friars.

·         Francis of Assisi (1181–1226)—founder of Franciscan Order—He was a merchant who found attraction in poverty. He gave up his inheritance and lived as a hermit. Later, he saw the possibility of joining poverty with preaching. He returned to Assisi and started preaching and helping the poor and the sick. People started to follow him.

·         Characteristics: With the approval of Pope Innocent III, he founded the Franciscan Order [1209], taking the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Instead of living in monastic communities to pray and labour, they went among the people of the cities to help them and to preach to them. A sister order for women was founded by Claire [1212], a spiritual sister of Francis.

·         Absolute poverty: Well aware of the temptations that success played before his order, Francis made a will forbidding his followers to possess anything, not only for individual friars, but also for the order as a whole. But shortly after his death, two parties developed. The rigorists insisted on strict obedience to Francis’s instructions. They called themselves “spirituals” who followed the teachings of Joachim of Fiore. The moderates argued that changed circumstances required a less literal interpretation of the rules. Pope Gregory IX declared that Francis’s will was not binding [1230], and the order began to own property [1245].

·         Missionaries: The order sent out missionaries to Egypt, Persia, Ethiopia, and India. John Montecorvino visited Beijing [1294], making a few thousand converts. But the church was destroyed by Ming Dynasty [1368].

        9.3.6  Dominican Order [1216]

·         Dominic Guzman (1170–1221)—founder of Dominican Order—As a clergy, he joined a disciplined monastic life and rigorous study in order to make use of the best possible arguments against heresy. He founded a school near the Pyrenees to teach noblewomen who were converted from Albigensians.

·         Characteristics: He founded the Dominican Order [1216], also called Order of Preachers. Their main objective was preaching, teaching, and study, and poverty was seen as a means to that end. Their recruits received solid intellectual training in their task to refute heresy. They gave the church some distinguished theologians.

·         Work: Since the priority was preaching, the ideal of living by begging was set aside when new circumstances made it advantageous to own property. They soon established a foothold in the universities. They tried to convert Jews (Vincent Ferrer in Spain) and Muslims (William of Tripoli). However, in both cases, some of their success was due to the use of force.

        9.3.7  Military orders

·         Knights of Saint John or the Knights Hospitallers: It was founded in 12th-c to defend pilgrims and to care for the sick.

·         Knights Templars [1118] was brought under the Cistercian rule [1130]. It pledged to defend the Holy Land from the onslaughts of the Muslims. The order was later dissolved [1312] because it was involved too much in French politics.


        9.4.1  Corruption

·         False documents: Pope Nicholas I [858–867] used a collection of historical documents to reinforce his authority. These documents, the False Decretals, were later proved to be forgeries. He was successful in upholding the right of a bishop to appeal directly to the pope. He even tried to assert his authority over the patriarch of Constantinople but was not successful.

·         Murder of popes: Because of the increase in power in the papacy, the election of the pope involved bribery, deceit, or even violence. Pope John VIII [872–882] was murdered. Then, pope followed pope in rapid succession. The papacy became the prize that rival parties in Rome and in the empire fought for. At times, there were two popes, even 3. Between 882 and 1048, there were officially 44 popes, averaging 3 years 9 months; and 14 of them lasted less than one year. Pope Benedict VI [973–974] was deposed and strangled. John XIV [983–984] died of starvation or poison in the dungeon.

·         Nepotism: Pope Sergius III [904–911] was supported by the Italian family of Crescentius whose daughter Marozia was Sergius’s lover. After 5 intermediate popes, Marozia managed to put his son from Sergius III on the papal throne as Pope John XI [931–935]. Later, Marozia’s grandson became Pope John XII [955–964]. After that, her cousin became Pope John XIII [965–972].

·         Changing control: For a while, Emperor Otto III controlled the selection of the pope. He named his 23-year old nephew Pope Gregory V [996–999], and also Sylvester II [999–1003]. When Otto died, the Crescentius family gained control naming 3 popes [1003–1012]. Then the counts of Tusculum gained control naming 3 popes [1012–1032], the last one being Pope Benedict IX.

·         Benedict IX: He became pope when he was 15 years old [1032]. In 1045, he abdicated on a financial reward and the Crescentius family named Pope Sylvester III. Then Benedict IX withdrew his abdication but sold the papal throne to his godfather who became Pope Gregory VI. So there were 3 popes at the same time. Emperor Henry III of Germany intervened; he called the Council of Sutri [1046] which deposed all 3 popes and named Clement II. Clement II died shortly thereafter and Benedict IX became pope again for the third time [1047]. He was finally deposed and excommunicated [1048].

        9.4.2  Pressing problems facing the church

·         Lay investiture: The appointment and the investiture (installation) of bishops and abbots by nobles, kings, and emperors put the church under the control of civil authorities.

·         Simony: The buying and selling of ecclesiastical posts was perhaps the worst evil to be eradicated.

·         Corrupt moral: Many clergy took concubines or indulged in illicit love affairs with the women from their congregations. Some gave more attention to their children than to their clerical duties.

·         Nepotism: The appointments of descendants and relatives to ecclesiastical posts were related to the problem of clerical marriage. Celibacy of the clergy was promoted for centuries but was never turned into a universal rule until the Council of Lateran II [1139].

·         Luxury: High clergies and abbots enjoyed luxurious living.

        9.4.3  Renewal

·         Leo IX [1049–1054]—Henry III appointed his cousin Bruno, Count of Dagsbourg and bishop of Toul as pope. He was known for his reforming zeal. He was accompanied by two wellknown monks, Hildebrand and Humbert, and was welcomed into Rome as Pope Leo IX. He began reform by abolishing simony and promoting clerical celibacy. After successes in Italy, he tried to push the reform even in Germany and France. However, he made two serious errors: [1] He marched against the Norsemen in southern Italy. He was captured and remained a prisoner until shortly before his death. [2] He sent Humbert to Constantinople and caused the East-West Schism [1054].

·         Reforming popes: The next four popes [1055–1073] continued the reforms started by Leo IX. However, they were in fact under the influence of Hildebrand who was the most powerful person in the papacy. The attempt to wrestle the power of investiture of the pope from the aristocracy was made [1059] when Pope Nicholas II decreed that the pope would be elected by the cardinals. This was eventually passed by the council [1179].

        9.4.4  Gregory VII [1073–1085]

·         Ambition: Hildebrand finally accepted to be pope [1073]. His dream was a world united under the papacy, not only western Europe, but also the Byzantine Empire and land under Muslims. He sought to organize a great offensive against Islam.

·         Reforms: He continued the campaign against simony, clerical marriage, and lay investiture. A synod in Rome [1075] forbade any high clergyman to receive investiture from a layman. He was successful in England as William the Conquer had earlier received support from Hildebrand. In France, he was not successful.

·         Confronting the emperor: The pope clashed with Emperor Henry IV [1056–1106] of the Holy Roman Empire. The emperor believed that the power to appoint ecclesiastical posts was important in ensuring the survival of the empire. When extremists tried to enforce clerical celibacy in Milan, the emperor deposed the bishop and appointed a replacement. Gregory, wanting to stop the practice of lay investiture, then ordered Henry to appear at Rome with the threat that he would be deposed and his soul condemned to hell. The emperor responded by calling a council at Worms [1076] which declared Gregory deposed on the grounds of tyranny, adultery, and the practice of magic. Gregory then issued an interdict on Henry, freeing everyone in Germany and Italy from obeying Henry.

·         Canossa [1077]—Because of the erosion of support, Henry finally appealed to Gregory’s mercy. He set out to meet Gregory in Italy. At Canossa, a well fortified city where the pope resided, Henry was admitted as a penitent after waiting barefooted in the snow for 3 days. Henry begged Gregory’s forgiveness and Gregory granted the pardon.

·         Schism: Gregory later supported a rebellion of Henry’s rival, but Henry defeated the usurper and appointed a rival pope Clement III [1080]. He then marched on Rome. Gregory had to flee to Monte Cassino. Finally, the Normans intervened. They fought against Henry and conquered Rome which was plundered; Henry retreated. Gregory died in exile [1085].

        9.4.5  Conflicts with the empire

·         Urban II [1088–1099]—He excommunicated Philip I of France for marital infidelity. He encouraged the rebellion of Henry IV’s son Conrad but the emperor defeated Conrad and disinherited him.

·         Paschal II [1099–1118]—He tried to make peace with Emperor Henry V [1106–1125] by accepting all lay investitures. But he declared that any future lay investiture would be excommunicated. Henry V invaded Italy and Paschal was forced to compromise. The agreement was that the emperor would give up any claim to the right of investiture of bishops, as long as the church gave up all the feudal privileges that prelates had. In Germany, many of the high clergy and the nobility feared the loss of power because of the agreement. The nobility rebelled and many German prelates and regional synods excommunicated the emperor. The emperor invaded Italy again and Paschal fled and died in exile.

·         Gelasius II [1118–1119]—He was captured and released many times and finally died in the abbey of Cluny.

·         Callixtus II [1119–1124]—He negotiated with the emperor and agreed to Concordat of Worms [1122]. Prelates would be elected freely, although in the presence of the emperor’s representatives. Only proper ecclesiastical authorities would have the right to invest prelates. The granting of all feudal rights, privileges, and possessions would be in the hand of civil authorities. The Concordat was confirmed in the Council of Lateran I [1123].

·         Innocent II [1130–1143]—Bernard of Clairvaux succeeded in persuading the monarchs to support the pope. But some cities, including Rome, proclaimed a republic, elected a senate, and declared that they would obey the pope’s spiritual authority, but not his temporal rule. So the next few popes seldom resided in the city. Innocent II called the Council of Lateran II [1139] which made clerical celibacy compulsory.

·         Alexander III [1159–1181]—Emperor Frederick Barbarossa [1152–1190] made peace with the pope and he stopped appointing the line of rival popes. The pope convened the Council of Lateran III [1179] which determined the method of papal election. It was decided that the college of cardinals could elect the pope, with consultation with the people of Rome. The purpose was to eliminate the control of the Roman aristocracy by lay people and the German emperor.

        9.4.6  Innocent III [1198–1216]

·         Most powerful pope: He became the most powerful pope in church history. He believed that he was the vicar of Christ, with supreme authority on earth. He believed that kings derived their authority from him. He would use excommunication (against the individuals, denial of sacraments) and interdict (a sort of general strike by the clergy, against the whole region, forbidding the clergy to perform any but the most essential services—no mass, no preaching, no burial on consecrated ground). He used and threatened to use the interdict 85 times. He published an authoritative edition of the canon law called the Decretum [1140]. It supported the idea of centralization of authority in one individual. He called and controlled the Council of Lateran IV [1215] to affirm his absolute power.

·         Sicily: The widow of Emperor Henry VI placed her infant son Frederick under the protection of the pope by declaring the kingdom of Sicily a fiefdom of the papacy; the pope then declared Frederick II king of Sicily [1198].

·         France: Because of marital infidelity, Innocent III admonished King Philip II Augustus to return to his former wife. When Philip refused, Innocent III placed the entire country under an interdict, forbidding the celebration of sacraments [1200]. Philip yielded and the pope prevailed.

·         Germany: Two factions elected different emperors: Philip, the brother of Henry VI, and Otto IV. Innocent III supported Otto [1201]. The pope decreed [1202] that Philip was tainted by his brother’s crimes, and that the pope has the authority to determine who the rightful emperor was. He claimed that the temporal power and the spiritual power had both been instituted by God; they were like the moon and the sun. Just as the moon received its light from the sun, so the emperor received his power from the pope. A long civil war ensued. It ended only when Philip was murdered [1208]. Otto then broke with the pope and invaded Sicily [1210]. Innocent III excommunicated Otto, declared him deposed, and affirmed that the legitimate emperor was Frederick. With the pope’s support, Frederick appeared in Germany, and the army of Philip II of France then defeated Otto. Frederick II was crowned emperor in Aachen [1215].

·         England: The pope clashed with King John (John Lackland, brother and heir to Richard the Lionhearted) on the appointment of the archbishop of Canterbury. There were 2 rival claimants. Innocent III named a third candidate Stephen Langdon to the post. John refused to accept the papal decision. Innocent III excommunicated him [1209], declared John deposed, released all his subjects from their vows of obedience to him, and called a crusade from Philip II against him. John capitulated and made his kingdom a fief of the papacy [1212]. Then, the English nobility, with the support of Langdon, forced John to sign the Magna Carta [1215], limiting the power of the king. Innocent declared that this was a usurpation of power but this time he could do nothing. His interference was used as evidence against the pope during the Reformation.

·         Other countries: King Pedro II of Aragon was forced to turn his kingdom into a fief of the papacy. The pope also refused to allow the marriage of the King of Leon with his first cousin. The pope also intervened in the affairs of Portugal, Bohemia, Hungary, Denmark, Iceland, Bulgaria, and Armenia.

        9.4.7  Council of Lateran IV [1215]

·         Doctrinal decisions:

o        Transubstantiation: The council promulgated the doctrine of transubstantiation, which holds that in communion, the substance of the body and blood of Christ takes the place of the substance of the bread and wine. “The bread is transubstantiated into his body and the wine into his blood, by God’s power. This is so that we may receive of him what he has received of us (flesh and blood) in order to realize the mystery of unity (with him). No one can effect this sacrament except a duly ordained priest.”

          There was little attempt in the early church to define the body and blood of Christ in the communion. In 4th-c, there were 2 approaches: Augustine represented the “symbolic” tradition, and Ambrose represented the “conversion” approach. Both approaches were acceptable until 11th-c. Gradually, the conversion approach won leading to the decision in this council. Transubstantiation assisted in the pope’s claim to absolute power as only ordained priests can effect the conversion and all priests are controlled by the pope.

o        Heresies: It condemned the Waldensians, the Albigensians, and the Joachimites.

o        Inquisition: It instituted episcopal inquisition—every bishop should inquire as to the presence of heresy in his diocese, and destroy it.

·         Decisions on practices:

o        Clerical conduct: It ordered the clergy to abstain from theatre, games, hunting, and other such pastimes.

o        Fees for service: It ruled that priests charging for the administration of sacraments is unlawful.

o        Cathedral schools: It ordered that every cathedral have a school, and that education in such schools be open to the poor.

o        New monastic orders: It determined that no new monastic orders with new rules could be founded.

o        Penance: It decreed that all the faithful must confess their sins at least once a year. It warned priests against breaking the “seal of the confessional”—revealing sins that have been confessed to them in private. Guilty priests will be deposed from the priesthood and condemned to do lifelong penance in a monastery.

o        Relics: It forbade the introduction of new relics without papal approval.

o        Non-believers: It required all Jews and Muslims in Christian lands to wear distinctive garments that would set them apart from Christians.

·         Control by pope: All these important decisions on complicated issues were made within 3 days. It is clear that most of these matters were not the result of the assembly’s deliberation but rather decisions of Innocent III.



[1] treasure our heritage

Obedience, discipline, and humility in the monastic orders are Biblical and important for Christian living.

[2] appreciate God’s providence

The church still survived even with so much papal corruption.

[3] avoid past errors

Corruption occurred when the church acted like a civil authority.

[4] apply our knowledge

Private control of ecclesiastical offices must not be allowed.

[5] follow past saints

The rejection of worldly possessions by the Franciscans can encourage us to live a simple life.



        What were the theological controversies in the 9th and 10th centuries?

o        theory of adoption of the Son by the Father (adoptionists)—led by Elipandos

o        predestination (as taught by Augustine)—rediscovered by Gottschalk yet he was condemned

o        real presence of Christ in communion—invented by Radbertus

        What were the factors that led to the corruption of the papacy?

o        using false documents to boost its power

o        controlled by powerful families

o        simony—buying and selling of ecclesiastical positions

        What were the main features of Benedictine monasticism? Should today’s Christians learn to practice them?

o        Benedictine monasticism stressed physical labour, prayer, and study.

o        They are good models that today’s Christians can learn to practice.

        What were the 4 main aspects of monastic reform?

o        abolition of simony (buying and selling of ecclesiastic posts)

o        celibacy

o        obedience

o        poverty

        What were the emphases in papal reform? What led to its failure?

o        Reform: compulsory celibacy and abolition of simony

o        Failure: because of possession of land and wealth

        What were the results of the conflicts between the ecclesiastic and civil authorities (popes vs Germanic emperors)?

o        The papacy turned to France for help.

o        Concordat of Worms [1122] defined the separation of powers.