Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review
Gregor VII. Papst Zwischen Canossa Und Kirchenreform
Gregor VII. Papst zwischen Canossa und Kirchenreform. By Uta-Renate Blumenthal. [Gestalten des Mittelalters und der Renaissance.] (Darmstadt: Primus Verlag. 2001. Pp. xiii, 376; 8 illus. DM 59.)
Modern examinations of Gregory's skeletal remains put him at about 160 cm. or five feet, two and a half inches tall. As any student of church history or of the Middle Ages knows, Gregory stood much taller than that. Uta-Renate Blumenthal, who has written extensively on the papacy, canon law, and the eleventh-century reform movement, offers in this new book a wide-ranging synthesis of contemporary scholarship anchored in more than 500 titles by German, Italian, French, British, and North American scholars. Blumenthal also has something new of her own to contribute to the rich legacy of Gregorian scholarship. Of the book's 338 pages of text, the first 136 focus on Hildebrand and provide a rich account of Gregory's pre-papal years including his birth probably in Sovana, his family background, his youth in Rome, his activities as subdeacon, legate, and archdeacon, and his participation in the Lateran Council of 1059. Blumenthal observes that birthplace and family meant nothing to Hildebrand, who counted himself a son of the ecclesia romana, nurtured in the bosom of St. Peter (p. 43). More specifically Blumenthal argues that Hildebrand began his ecclesiastical career not as a monk, as conventional wisdom has it, but as a regular canon.
Without diminishing the significance of his confrontation with Emperor Henry IV, Blumenthal refreshingly resists the temptation to organize the book around that epochal struggle. What readers might lose in dramatic build-up is more than compensated for by a rounded, comprehensive portrait of the pontificate. …