A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages

By Walter Ullmann | Go to book overview

11

Gradual Decline of Papal Authority

THE POWER OF the papacy lay in the religious and intellectual field; this power exercised by the mind was at all times far more enduring and determinative than that exercised by physical force. In the thirteenth century the bond that held Europe together was a common faith, one that in its essentials was the one fixed by the papacy, despite certain regional or local differences, none of which however affected the substance of the faith. In the public field particularly the commonly held faith left an indelible imprint upon the unquestioned theocratic Rulership. Its basis was nothing but faith in the divinely instituted Ruler, the very theme which the papacy had upheld throughout its long history. This Ruler-ship moreover was underpinned by an elaborate anointing and coronation ceremonial. And the papacy itself was built on exactly the same theocratic premisses to which was added a definite biblically verifiable statement made by Christ to St Peter whose heir the pope was.

These remarks are necessary in order to further the understanding of the measures which the papacy came to take in the thirteenth century against the already mentioned heretical movements. For although they were by no means anti-Christian or anti-religious, they nevertheless based themselves on assumptions which severely impugned the papally expounded and legally fixed faith. And some of the doctrines set forth by the sects struck at the very roots of the universally accepted faith, and in particular at the principle which was considered vital that the priesthood mediated divine favours or graces. The opposition to this principle gravely affected not only an essential dogma of the Catholic priesthood itself, but also began to cast grave doubts on the very institution of the papacy and for the same reason also on the pronouncedly theocratic Rulers. Priestly and royal authority had already begun to resist these attacks on their common bases: the

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A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the Reprint vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction x
  • 1 - The Papacy in the Late Roman Empire 4
  • 2 - The Papal Conflict with the Imperial Government 28
  • 3 - The Papacy and the Conversion of England 51
  • 4 - The Western Orientation of the Papacy 71
  • 5 - The Papacy and Latin Europe 91
  • 6 - The German Monarchy and the Papacy 116
  • 7 - The Gregorian Age 142
  • 8 - Tensions and Conflicts 173
  • 9 - The Zenith of the Medieval Papacy 201
  • 10 - Central Government and the Papal Curia 227
  • 11 - Gradual Decline of Papal Authority 251
  • 12 - Avignon, Rome and Constance 279
  • 13 - The Last Phase of the Medieval Papacy 306
  • Abbreviations 333
  • Bibliographical Notes 337
  • Appendix 367
  • List of Medieval Popes 372
  • Index 377
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