The Civilization of Courts and Cities in the North 1200-1500
THE relation of the ecclesiastical and secular arms had always been a major theme in medieval European history, but during the later Middle Ages secularization was especially significant. The papacy's attempt to control and consecrate the secular state had failed. By 1500 the secular power exerted a greater degree of control over the Church in northern Europe than its precursor had done in 1200. In Germany, princely and aristocratic influence was dominant; in France, the powers of the monarchy over ecclesiastical appointments and privileges had greatly increased, while in England a 'national' Church had already emerged in which papal influence was severely restricted. Rulers were still obliged to protect and support the Church within their lands; in return, the higher clergy confirmed and sanctified their authority. Both churchmen and laymen attached great importance to the elevation of secular power into something holier and greater than mere rule by brute force or even by consent. But the temporal ruler was no longer perceived as an instrument, even less as a servant, of the Church's will because the Church had to a large extent been absorbed by the state.
The eclipse of ecclesiastical power--and especially papal