Imperial Lives and Letters of the Eleventh Century

Imperial Lives and Letters of the Eleventh Century

Imperial Lives and Letters of the Eleventh Century

Imperial Lives and Letters of the Eleventh Century

Excerpt

One major premise of conventional political thought was the intellectual battleground of the Investiture Controversy (ca. 1073-1122): while strongly antagonistic, both Imperial and Papal writers shared the classic view that God had divided the government of the Church between bishops, His spiritual, and kings, His temporal vicars. However, both kingship and episcopacy, as the writers of the Controversy knew them, were temporal and spiritual in character, and the nice distinction between their duties implied by this principle could not, in fact, be realized. Kings, on the basis of their material power and spiritual responsibilities, and bishops, by virtue of their spiritual authority and temporal wealth and duties, each claimed supremacy over the other in worldly affairs and correspondingly the right to intervene in the proper administrative functions of the other. When the resulting practical and theoretical difficulties were revealed in the contest of Empire and Papacy, pro-Papal writers attempted to resolve them by arguing that, though divinely bestowed, civil power was delegated to secular rulers indirectly through the spiritual offices of the clergy. Consequently, they maintained, all Christian government, while bipartite, was ultimately subject to clerical direction. This argument prejudiced the converse ideological position described in the following essay: the concept of the spiritual character and duties of the royal office held by the Salian emperors (Conrad II, Henry III, IV, V). In the institutional context of the imperial Church system, this concept was the theoretical warrant for decisive intervention by the secular power in almost all ecclesiastical matters except the purely sacramental. For according to it, the temporal ruler performed quasi-episcopal as well as royal offices in the . . .

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