The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview

22
THE ROMAN CHURCH AND THE LAY POWER IN THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY

i. Papacy, Kingdoms, and City States

It is often said that the thirteenth century saw the rise of the nation state. At first sight this may seem a paradox, since national sovereignty was inhibited by the claims to universal jurisdiction made by both empire and papacy. Frederick II asserted that God 'has set us above kings and kingdoms', and the canonist Johannes Teutonicus held that 'the emperor is above all kings . . . and all nations are under him'.1 Such views, however, had little impact outside the territories of the empire, and the teaching of Innocent III's decretal Per venerabilem that the king of France 'acknowledges no superior in temporal affairs' was incorporated into canon law.2 The international authority of the Roman Church posed a more complex question and its significance will be considered further in this chapter. We must not in any event concentrate too much on the nation states. The process of their formation was still in its early stages in 1250 and was in progress only in parts of the west. In Germany, Italy, and Poland the opposite was happening: power was being devolved from the centre to princes, communes, and duchies. These governments, however constituted, were functioning within a political system which had changed with the enormous conquests by the French Crown in the old Angevin lands and the southern provinces, which had made the Capetians the leading national monarchy. The decisive period was a short one, because the battles of Las Navas de Tolosa, Muret, and Bouvines between. 1212 and 1214 marked the overthrow of the old order and the creation of the balance of power characteristic of the new century.

The first change which can be observed in European government

____________________
1
MGH Legurn iv Const ii, no. 197, p. 263; Johannes Teutonicus, Gloss (1275/120) cited Gaines Post, Studies in Medieval Legal Thought ( Princeton, 1964), 457.
2
Greg. IX, Decretals, IV.17.13 (715).

-550-

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