The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTORY

Hans-Walter Klewitz saw the 1120s as 'the end of the reform papacy'. The signing of the Concordat of Worms, shortly followed in 1125 by the death of the Emperor Henry V, marked a profound change in the relationship of empire and papacy. It coincided, moreover, with the emergence of new forces which were increasingly to shape the history of the church in western Europe. That is not to say that the next generation of leaders renounced the inheritance which they had received from Gregory VII and his followers; but their concerns were significantly different, and the extension of the word 'Gregorian' to cover their policy is unhelpful.

The hostility which had for so long marked the policy of the Roman Church towards the German emperors was transformed, for thirty years, into an alliance. Some historians have seen these years as a successful expression of papal overlordship over secular kingdoms, and others have called them after one of the outstanding churchmen of the time, 'the age of St Bernard. We shall have to consider the appropriateness of these descriptions; certainly one cannot disregard a new warmth in the relations of regnum and sacerdotium or the prominence of a number of great churchmen (Bernard himself, Suger of Saint-Denis, Wibald of Stavelot among them) who combined respect for papal authority with influence upon the policy of kings. With the middle of the century, we have a sharp change in atmosphere: the succession of two powerful and strong-minded rulers, the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and King Henry II of England, brought a renewal of conflict between church and state, although the issues were largely different from those of the years before 1122.

The second characteristic of the period was the creation of a new monasticism. The groups of hermits who had been experimenting with forms of communal living outside the established houses were brought together not only into monasteries, but into huge families or orders, some of them including hundreds of houses. The Cistercians,

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