The Problem of Sovereignty in the Later Middle Ages: The Papal Monarchy with Augustinus Triumphus and the Publicists

By Michael Wilks | Go to book overview

I. THE PROBLEM OF EPISCOPAL GOVERNMENT

To judge from the volumes of refutation and counter-refutation which materialised under the busy pens of the publicists it was not the lay attacks upon sacerdotal supremacy which were regarded as presenting the gravest threat to the papal monarchy in the fourteenth century. Rather it was from within the ranks of the priesthood itself that a potentially greater danger seemed to menace the papal-hierocratic idea. The refusal of many bishops to obey papal instructions, their defiance under correction, and the support given to them by excommunicate or deposed rulers are all common features of medieval political history, and the repeated stress laid upon the primacy of the Roman church bears witness to the constant need of the papacy to assert its control over the ecclesiastical as much as thelay princes of Europe. Whilst the most Christian kings strove to reduce the pope to a mere caput sacerdotii, the priests in question were hard at work to deny papal headship altogether. In this, it hardly needs to be added, they were ably aided and abetted by the kings themselves, who saw in the breaking of the link between bishop and Rome a means of asserting total control over the episcopate within their own territories. The royal claim that the lay monarch represented the source of the medieval bishop's regalian rights1

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1
See for example the Rex pacificus, ch. 3, p. 676, in which the author extols the services of the French monarchy to the papacy, and adds that by reason of this 'ius plenum habet rex Franciae accipiendi regalia, id est reditus episcopales, dum vacant episcopatus in aliquibus ecclesiis Franciae et conferendi ecclesiastica beneficia quorum collatio ad ipsos episcopos, dum viverent, pertinebat'; cf. Anon., Somnium viridarii, i. 78, p. 85, 'nec [papae] quoad temporalia [rex] subest in aliquo, immo econtra ecclesia Gallicana subest regi Franciae quoad temporalia'; Nogaret, 'Item certum, notorium et indubitatum existit quod dictus dominus rex habet iura regalia universa in regno suo': cited Wieruszowski, op. cit., p. 205. It was of course denied by hierocratic writers that the bishops and clergy were in any way subject to the lay ruler: e.g. Augustinus Triumphus, Summa, xxii. 2 ad 3, p. 131, 'clerici vero a principatu laicali sunt exempti, quia coram iudice seculari conveniri non possunt'.

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