A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages

By Walter Ullmann | Go to book overview

13

The Last Phase of the Medieval Papacy

THE PERIOD AFTER the Council of Constance suffered from its inheritance: confusion, religious inertia, ecclesiastical indifference, erosion of moral standards, uncertainty. The traditional landmarks had either disappeared or lost their meaning. The foundations of contemporary society had received a severe shaking. In particular the papacy was confronted by determined opponents, the radical conciliarists. With its immediate past record only too vividly in the memory of contemporaries, it was difficult for the papacy to appear as an effective promoter of 'reform in head and members of the Church'. For this had now in the post-Constance era become the watchword everywhere, and it does not need much historical imagination to visualize how much easier it was for the conciliarists to claim that the general council alone was better fitted to play the reforming agent than the monarchic papacy.

The antithesis of monarchic papacy and conciliarism was, however, overshadowed in the thirties of the fifteenth century by an entirely different problem. This was wholly independent of the squabble between the papacy and its opponents and concerned the perilous position of the Eastern empire gravely threatened as it was on all sides by the advancing Turks. The tremors which this menace set up throughout Europe were particularly keenly registered by the papacy. The Eastern empire played a decisive role in the initial stages of the papacy's development in the fifth century, and it was to play a similar, though less direct, role in the last phase of the medieval papacy exactly a millennium later.

In order to enlist Western help against the Turks, the Eastern emperor chose the means which he was certain promised success. He once more proposed a union of the Eastern and Western churches. To achieve this it was essential to acknowledge the papal claim to primacy. This it was which made understandable

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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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