The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview

4
THE PAPAL REFORM 1046-1073

i. Introduction

In the middle of the eleventh century, there were many signs of dissatisfaction with the prevailing conditions within the church. The concern of Cluny for monastic dignity and purity, the beginnings of the eremitical revival and the desire to restore the apostolic life, the sympathy for reform in imperial circles, the circulation of the Decretum of Burchard of Worms and the 'restitution' of local churches from lay to monastic control were all pointing towards a change. At Rome itself there was in the household of John Gratian a group with contacts among reforming enthusiasts in the church outside. It was evident that there was going to be an attack on the evils of Eigenkirchentum and there were hopes that the Roman Church would be a participant in it. What could not have been foreseen was the scale of the offensive, its suddenness, the coherent ideology which was developed to support it, and the decisive impact which it was to have on the whole history of the western church. In the course of twenty-five years, the popes began to intervene vigorously in the affairs of other churches and became the leaders of an international reform movement. After many decades in which the Roman Church had been controlled by the local noble families, influential positions came to be held by men from outside Rome, and of the line of reforming popes only Gregory VII himself was Roman by birth or education. Monks came to play a role in the direction of papal policy for which no previous example can be found: significantly, the great apse mosaic at Sany Clemente, composed as a manifesto for the reforming papacy and completed perhaps about 1120, showed the Fathers of the church dressed in monastic habit. Most startling of all, the dominant thinking in the Roman Church took on a strongly anti-imperial tinge, in defiance of the traditional idea that regnum and sacerdorium operate in the service of God. And the change was rapid. The appointment of the first German pope led almost at once to the promulgation of reform, and

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