Gregory VII (Hildebrand)
Gregory VII. (Hildebrand)
the greatest man that ever occupied the papal throne. The exact place and year of his birth are not known, yet he is generally supposed to have been born between, 1010 and 1020 at Siena in Tuscany, where, it is said, his father was a carpenter. He spent part of his youth at Rome in the service of pope Gregory VI, whom he accom panied in exile after he left Rome by order of the emperor. They went together to the convent of Cluny, (France), where Hildebrand's austerity and asceticism, soon gave him such ascendancy that he was made prior of the convent though still quite young. He was not destined to remain long in seclusion. Henry III, after having regained the exclusive right of appointing popes, had made three in rapid succession, the latter of whom, Leo IX (Bruno, bishop of Toul), stopped at Cluny on his way to Italy. Hildebrand's influence over him became so great that, laying aside the insignia of his office, he went to Rome in the garb of a pilgrim, and declared that his appointment could only be considered as valid if confirmed by the clergy and the people of Rome. His election being confirmed (in 1049), he called Hildebrand to Rome, and created him cardinal. Guided by Hildebrand's advice, Leo IX attempted many reforms in the Church. Councils were assembled at Rome, Rheims, and Mayence, at which the pope himself presided, and is which all important questions arising from the state of the Church were discussed. The encroachaments of lay authority, the laxity of the convents, the immorality of priests, the practice of selling ecclesiastical charges, and their consequent engrossnment by the civil authorities, which resulted in filling the Church with persons devoted to the temposon of this was, that the churches having been richly endowed by various sovereigns with lands and other temporalities, the incumbents were considered in the light of feudal tenants. By thus keeping at their own disposal the temporalities of the sees, the sovereigns came gradually to appoint the bishops, either by direct nomination, or by recommending a candidate to the electors. Gregory, making no distinction between spiritualities and temporalities, considered the investiture as a spiritual act, insisting that the crosier was emblematic of the spiritual authority of bishops over their flocks, and the ring was the symbol of their mystical marriage with the Church; although Sarpi observes, in his Treatise upon Benefices, there was another ceremony, namely, the consecration of the bishop elect by imposition of hands by the metropolitan, which was the real spiritual investiture. But Gregory's object was to take away from laymen all ecclesiastical patronage, and to make the Church, with all its temporalities, independent of the state. He would not admit of any symbols of allegiance to the state; and he contended that the estates of sees had become inseparably connected with the spiritual office, and could no longer be distinguished; and yet he himself had waited for the confirmation of the emperor before he was consecrated. SEE INVESTITURE. The emperor Henry IV paid no regard to Gregory's councils and their decrees, and he continued to nominate not only to German, but also Italian bishoprics. Among others, he appointed a certain Tedaldo archbishop of Milan, in opposition to Azzo, a mere youth, who had been consecrated by Gregory's legate. But the quarrel of the investiture, which had opened the breach between the pope and the emperor, was lost sight of in the more extraordinary discussions which followed between them. Gregory had been for some time tampering with Henry's disaffected vassals of Saxony, Thuringia, and other countries, and he now publicly summoned the emperor to Rome to vindicate himself from the charges preferred by his subjects against him. This was a further and most unwarrantable stretch of that temporal supremacy over kings and principalities which the see of Rome had already begun to assume. Henry, indignant at this assumption of power, assembled a diet of the empire at Worms, at which many bishops and abbots were present, and which, upon various charges preferred against Gregory, deposed him, and dispatched a messenger to Rome to signify this decision to the Roman clergy, requesting them to send a mission to the emperor for a new pope. Upon this, Gregory, in a council assembled at the Lateran Palace in 1076, solemnly excommunicated Henry, and in the name of St. Peter, prince of the apostles, declared him ipso facto deposed, from the thrones of Germany and Italy, and his subjects released from their oath of allegiance. Gregory, observes Platina, in his Lives of the Popes, was the first who assumed the right of deposing the emperors, whose vassals he and his predecessors had been considered till then, and who had even exercised the power of deposing several popes for illegal election or abuse of their authority. This bold act of Gregory produced for a time the effect which he had calculated upon. Most of Henry's subjects, already ripe for rebellion, readily availed themselves of the papal sanction, and a diet was assembled to elect a new emperor. Henry, however, obtained a delay, and, the matter being referred to the pope, he set off for Italy in the winter of 1077, and, passing the Alps of Susa, met Gregory at the castle of Canossa, near Reggio, in Lombardy, which belonged to the countess Mathilda, a great friend and supporter of the pope. Gregory would not see Henry at first, but insisted upon his laying aside all the insignia of royalty, and appearing in the garb of a penitent in a coarse woollen garment and barefooted. In this plight Henry remained for three days, from morning till sunset, in an outer court of the castle, in very severe weather. On the fourth day he was admitted into Gregory's presence, and, on confessing his errors, received absolution, but was not restored to his kingdom, the pope referring him to the general diet. Henry soon after resumed the insignia of royalty, and, being supported by his Lombard vassals, and indignant at the humiliating scene of Canossa, recrossed the Alps, fought several battles in Germany, and at last defeated and mortally wounded Rudolf of Suabia, who had been elected emperor in his stead, and was supported by Gregory. Having now retrieved his affairs in Germany, he marched with an army into Italy in 1081 to avenge himself on the pope, whom he again deposed in another diet, having appointed Guibert, archbishop of Ravenna, as his successor, under the name of Clement III. Gregory had meantime drawn to his party by timely concessions Robert Guiscard, the Norman conqueror of Apulia and Sicily, who, however, could not prevent Henry from advancing to the walls of Rome; but the city was well defended, and the summer heats obliged Henry to retrace his steps towards North Italy, where his soldiers ravaged the territories of the countess Mathilda. He repeated the attempt against Rome in 1083, but without success. It was finally agreed that a general council should decide the questions between the emperor and the pope. The council assembled at Rome in 1083, and Gregory did not again excommunicate the emperor, but negotiated with him without coming to any definitive result. In fact, Gregory's personal successes were at an end, though the principles of papal supremacy for which he contended took root and grew up in after times. In 1084 Henry was invited by some ambassadors from the Roman people, who were dissatisfied with the pope, to enter the city, which he did on the 21st of March, and immediately took possession of the Lateran, the bridges, and other important positions. Gregory escaped into the castle of St. Angelo, and the anti-pope Guibert was publicly consecrated on Palm Sunday by several bishops. On the following Easter Sunday Henry IV was crowned by him as emperor in St. Peter's church. After the ceremony Henry ascended the capitol and was publicly proclaimed, and acknowledged by the Romans with acclamations. Hearing, however, that Robert Guiscard was approaching Rome with troops, he left the city and withdrew towards Tuscany. Robert came soon after with his Norman and Saracen soldiers, who, under the pretence of delivering Gregory, who was still shut up in the castle of St. Angelo, plundered Rome, and committed all kinds of atrocities. Gregory, having come out of his stronghold, assembled another council, in which, for the fourth time, he excommunicated Henry and the anti-pope Guibert. When Robert left the city to return to his own dominions, the pope, not thinking himself safe in Rome, withdrew with him to Salerno, where, after consecrating a magnificent church built by Robert, he died, May 25,1085. His last words were, 'I have loved justice and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile.' He probably believed what he said. Gregory's character was in many respects a grand and noble one. But impartial history decides that the good he accomplished was far more than counterbalanced by his fanatical enforcement of celibacy (q.v.), which has continued to this day to demoralize the Romanist clergy, and by his semi-blasphemous assertions of almost divine power for the papacy. His earlier efforts for ecclesiastical reform were, no doubt, sincere and earnest; but at a later period he was led astray by the ambition of exalting his see over all the dignities and powers of the earth, spiritual as well as temporal. Not content with making, as far as in him lay, the Church independent of the empire, and at the same time establishing the control of the papal authority over the princes of the earth, objects which he left to be completed by his successor, SEE INNOCENT III, Gregory determined to destroy the independence of the various national churches. His object was to raise the pope to supreme peer over Church and State throughout Christendom. By a constitution of his predecessor Alexander II, which he dictated, and which he afterwards confirmed, it was enacted for the first time that no bishop elect should exercise his functions until he had received his confirmation from the pope. The Roman see had already, in the 9th century, subverted the authority of the metropolitans, under pretence of affording protection to the bishops; but now it assumed the right of citing the bishops, without distinction, before its tribunal at Rome to receive its dictates, and Gregory obliged the metropolitan to attend in person to receive the pallium. The quarrel of Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, with William Rufus, was owing to that monarch not choosing to let him go to Rome, whither he had been summoned. The practice of sending apostolic legates to different kingdoms as special commissioners of the pope, with discretionary power over the national hierarchy, originated also with Gregory, and completed the establishment of absolute monarchy in the Church in lieu of its original popular or representative form. This doctrine of papal absolutism in matters of discipline was by prescription and usage so intermixed with the more essential doctrines of faith, that it came to be considered as a dogma itself, and has defied all the skill of subsequent theologians and statesmen to disentangle it from the rest, while at the same time it has probably been, though at a fearful cost, the means of preserving the unity of the Western or Roman Church" (English Cyclopaedia). The measures accomplished and attempted by Gregory were (1) the abolition of the influence of the Roman nobility in the election of the pope; (2) the removal of all authority in the election of the popes from the emperors of Germany; (3) the establishment of the celibacy of the clergy; (4) the freedom of the Church in the matter of investitures. Great attention has been given to the history of Gregory VII, both by ecclesiastical and political writers, especially within the present century. See Dupin, Eccles. Writers (11th. century);
Mosheim, Ch. History, ch. 11, pt. ii, ch. ii; Neander, Ch. History, vol. iv; Ranke, History of the Papacy, i, 29 sq.; Hase, Ch. History, § 181; Sir James Stephen, Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography, i, 1; also in Edinburgh Review, lxxxi, 143; Guizot, Hist. of Modern Civilization; Bow-den, Life and Pontificate of Gregory VII (Lond. 1840, 2 vols. 8vo); Voigt, Hildebrand als Pabst Gregor VII (Weimar, 1813, 8vo; 2d ed. 1846, 8vo); Spittler, Gregor VII (Hamb. 1827, 4to); Gresley, Life and Pontificate of Gregory VII (Lond. 1829, 12mo); Madelaine, Pontifi-cat de Gregoire VII (Paris, 1837, 2 vols. 8vo); Cassan-der, Zeitalter Hildebrand's (Darmstadt, 1842, 8vo); Soeltl, Gregor VII (Leipsig, 1847, 8vo); Milman, Latin Christianity, iii, 140 sq.; Helfenstein, Gregor's VII Be-strebungen (Frankf., 1856, 8vo); Gfrorer, Papst Gregor VII u. sein Zeitalter (ultramontane view; Schaffhausen, 1859-1861, 7 vols. 8vo); English Cyclopaedia; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. v, 334 sq.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Gener. 21:801.