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

APPENDIX 2
THE HIEROCRATIC INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY

PERHAPS the best weapon in the anti-hierocratic armoury was the argumentum prioritatis, namely, the argument that kings had existed long before the time of St. Peter, so that modern lay rulers might have a genuine case for claiming to exist in their own right. Unless it was to be maintained that every king in antiquity was a usurper, it seemed clear that other rulers could be legitimate without papal appointment.1 Moreover this fitted easily into the idea of the natural law origin of authority, and subsequently exercised a considerable influence upon the Thomistic conception of lay government. As John of Paris asserted, there could be no true priesthood before the Crucifixion, since potestas ordinis could not be granted to men before this event: but kings, whose prime function was to provide those things necessary to human life--'officium est ad vitae humanae civilis necessitatem'--must have existed even before the birth of Abraham.2 The problem was not however new to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Earlier hierocratic writers had already begun to adapt the theological conception of the prefiguration of Christ in the Old Testament, and had converted all the great Jewish leaders into pre-Christian popes.3 Accordingly, with

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1
This was constantly used by the French writers: see for example the anonymous tract, at one time thought to be the work of Philip the Fair himself, beginning "Antequam essent clerici rex Franciae habebat custodiam regni sui et poterat statuta facere", Dupuy, p. 21. Also Anon., Rex pacificus, ch. 4, pp. 677, 680; Johannes Branchazolus, Deprincipio imperatoris et papae, i. 4, p. 47; Ugolinus de Celle , De electione regis Romanorum, ch. 9, p. 57.
2
John of Paris, Depotestate regia et papali, ch. 4, p. 183; ch. 10, p. 195; ch. 19, p. 233.
3
This was certainly as old as Augustine, and was stimulated by the setting of Old Testament events in the hierocratic system by Isidore: Ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government, especially p. 86 with reference to the Donation of Constantine. Note the development of the idea with Bernard (PL, clxxxii.

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