The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview

5
THE DISCORD OF EMPIRE AND PAPACY 1073-1099

i Gregory VII

Immediately after the death of Alexander II a tumultuous election took place at Rome on 22 April 1073. The new pope was Archdeacon Hildebrand, who had long been a powerful influence at the Lateran palace and who now took the title Gregory VII. The proceedings were irregular, for the 1059 decree was totally disregarded: there was no preliminary discussion among the cardinal-bishops, and no consultation of the German court, nor indeed any other acknowledgement of the due honour which the decree had vaguely reserved to the emperor. The questionable character of the election was to figure among the many charges which Gregory's enemies would direct against him.

He was recognized by contemporaries as one of those rare personalities who can make or mar a world: 'the Christian people is divided into two, with some saying that he is good and others calling him an imposter and a false monk and an anti-Christian'.1 He had been called, he believed, to care for the cause of righteousness, iusticia, and there were almost no limits to the extent of his responsibility. He was deeply impressed by the mass of evil which confronted him in the world, and one of his favourite quotations was Philippians 2: 21: 'they all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ'. He saw those who afflicted the church as 'members of Antichrist' and therefore signs of the approaching end of the world, although it is hard to be sure how literally he intended this language to be understood.2 Against the ranks of iniquity he devoted himself to fighting God's war, a war which was not only a metaphor, for he showed no hesitation in using force against the unrighteous. His

____________________
1
Wido of Ferrara, De Scismate Hildebrandi, i. 2 (MGH LdL i. 535).
2
For the evidence see K. J. Benz, "Eschatologisches Gedankengut bei Gregor VII", ZKg 97 ( 1986), 1-35.

-109-

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