Oliver J. (Oliver Joseph) Thatcher.

A short history of mediæval Europe online

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his special duties as a knight.

The warlike character of the times showed itself in the
dwellings as well as in the sports of the nobility. They

Castles. dwelt in forts rather than in houses. Their castles were

built in the places most easily fortified and defended.
Ditches, moats, and walls formed the outer defences, while
the castle itself, with its high lookout tower, made a strong-
hold which alone could endure a heavy siege. The sports
of the nobility consisted principally of hunting, hawking,
and the holding of tournaments. The tournament was sup-
posed to be a mimic battle, but it often resulted fatally.

Feudalism 127



At one tournament alone it is said that sixty knights were

The Church was profoundly influenced by feudal ideas
and customs. The whole clergy, the Archbishops, bishops,
and abbots, through their great temporal possessions, were
drawn into the feudal relation. The Church taught not
only that almsgiving was one of the cardinal virtues, but
also that she herself was the fittest object on which it might
be practised. Everywhere people gave liberally to the
Church, hoping thereby to secure the greatest possible in-
tercession with God from the clergy. Monasteries, churches,
and colleges of canons became rich from such gifts ; in the
course of centuries the clergy became possessors of vast tracts The high
of land and great privileges. Every bishop and Archbishop
was therefore a landlord on whom the care of these great
estates devolved. Because of their immense wealth, as well
as the high honor attached to their calling, they also be-
longed to the aristocratic class and ranked with the secular
nobility. Since they were the most learned they were also
used by the kings and Emperors as counsellors and high
officials. The great incomes of the monasteries and bishop-
rics made them especially attractive, and it early became
the custom to put the younger sons of noble families into
the best of such positions. These ecclesi mistical lands, how-
ever, could not escape the feudal relation. The ruler of
each country declared that all such lands owed him the
customary feudal dues. Every bishop or abbot, on his ac-
cession to the office, became the king's vassal and must take
the vow of homage and the oath of fealty to him and re-
ceive from him the investiture of the temporal possessions
of his office. He must therefore perform, in addition to
his ecclesiastical duties, also the civil duties which were re-
quired of other vassals. Tliis dual character of the clergy
was destined to become one of the i)rincipal causes of the

128 A Short History of Mcdiceval Europe

bitter struggle between the Empire and the Papacy. It
was impossible for the clergy to be faithful to two masters,
both of whom demanded the fullest obedience.

Feudalism reached its height from the tenth to the thir-
Causesofthe teen th centuries and then gradually declined. The inven-
daiism° ^"' tion of gunpowder revolutionized the methods of warfare.
Against fire-arms, the knight's armor and castle were
etjually useless. The close of the Middle Age is marked by
tlie rapid growth of the power of the kings, who succeeded
in gathering the power into their own hands. The nobles
were deprived of their authority. Out of the fragments of
feudalism the king built up an absolute monarchy. The
growth of the cities, also, did much to break down feudal-
ism, for as they increased in power and wealth they wrest-
ed independence from their lords and threw off the feudal
yoke. Various forces were at work to diminish the num-
ber of serfs and villains, such as the crusades, the great
pests, and the constant wars. The feudal lords were left
without a sufficient number of tenants to do their work.
The demand for laborers created the supply, and we find
at once a growing number of free laborers who work for
wages without any feudal ties. Gradually feudal tenures
were changed into allodial tenures. The fifteenth century
saw the breaking up of feudalism, although in France and
elsewhere certain fragments remained till the French Revo-
lution, and the social organization of Europe is still largely
feudal in its fundamental ideas.



During the first two hundred years of the Church's ex-
istence its organization was very loose. Each bishop was
practically independent of all other bishops. But there
was a steady development throughout the Church toward a
closer union of all its parts. The magnificent political and
civil organization of the Empire furnished an excellent
model, which was copied by the Church almost uncon-
sciously. Corresponding to the political head of a prov-
ince, there grew up an ecclesiastical official whose author-
ity extended over the province and whose residence was
the capital of the province ; that is, there was gradually
developed above the bishops of a province an Archbishop Archbishops.
or metropolitan. The civil province thus became also an
ecclesiastical province. The new office naturally fell to
the bishop of the capital of the province. The Church
followed the organization of the Empire so closely that the
ecclesiastical rank of the bishop was at first determined by
the political rank of the city in which he lived.

As several political provinces were grouped together to
form a larger division (eparchy), so also several ecclesiasti-
cal provinces, with Archbishops at their respective heads,
were grouped together and formed a larger province, with
an over-Archbishop at its head. For this officer and his
diocese the word Patriarch and Patriarchate were used in Patriarch,
the fourth century. The capitals of these Patriarchates
were Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Ctesarea in Cappado-

130 A Short History of Mcdiceval Europe

Two lines of

favorins; tlie
growth of the
authority of
the Pope.

cia, Heraclea (which was early replaced by Constantinople),
Corinth, Alexandria, and Rome. In the sixth century
only five of these were recognized — Jerusalem, Antioch,
Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome.

In tracing the growth of the Papacy there are two things
to be kept clearly separate ; the one is the development of
the Bishop of Rome as the head of the whole Church, and
the other is the growth of his power as temporal sover-
eign. These will be traced separately till the year 755,
after which they will be treated together.

In the fourth century the Bishop of Rome already had
two offices : he was, first, the Bishop of Rome, and, sec-
ond, he was also Archbishop or Patriarch over the territory
about Rome. We must discover how he added to these
two a third, the office of Bishop of the whole Church.
Among the natural influences which helped bring this
about may be mentioned the following :

The Bishop of Rome was the only Patriarch in the west,
and he therefore had no competition. Since Rome was
the capital of the Empire, it seemed natural to think of the
Church at Rome as in some sense the capital congregation,
and its bishop the first bishop in the world. The analogy
between him and the Emperor would inevitably be drawn.
The Church at Rome gave liberally for the relief of the
persecuted and of the poor of other congregations. The
Bishop of Rome had charge of the disbursement of these
funds, and received much of the reverence generally given
to benefactors. The Bishops of Rome were, for the most
part, on that side of the great theological questions which
was accepted by the whole Church, and in consequence
thereof the feeling arose that they alone of all bishops could
be depended on to preserve the orthodox creed of the
Church in all its integrity. The bishops and Patriarchs in
the east quarrelled not only about the creed but also about

The Growth of the Papacy 131

political questions. In their disputes they appealed so
often to the Bishop of Rome, that in the end he claimed
the right to judge between them. At the Council of Sar-
dica (343) it was proposed to make him judge in all cases
where bishops who had been condemned by a council
wished to appeal to a higher power. This was an impor-
tant step in the development of his universal jurisdiction.
A council at Niccea (325) took certain action which im-
plied the equality of all the Patriarchs {i.e., the Bishops of
Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus, Ctesarea, and Hera-
clea). The Council at Constantinople (38 1) decreed that
the bishop of Constantinople, who had now replaced the
bishop of Heraclea, should have the first place in honor
and dignity after the Bishop of Rome, because Constanti-
nople was regarded as the new Rome or capital of the Em-
pire. This council merely fixed a matter of etiquette, saying
only that the Bishop of Rome possessed a little more official
dignity and honor than the others. The Council of Chal-
cedon (451) admitted that the Bishop of Rome was entitled
to great honor because he was bishop in the ancient capi-
tal ; but the bishop of New Rome was entitled to equal
honor, because he was bishop of the city in which the Em-
peror resided and the Senate had its seat. Against this the
Bishop of Rome, Leo the Great (440-61), protested. He
admitted that Constantinople was the capital of the Em-
pire, but declared that the political rank of a city did not
determine the ecclesiastical rank of its bishop. It is the
Apostolic origin of a church that entitles it to a higher ec-
clesiastical rank. The churcli of Rome, he declared, had
been founded by Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. To
his successors Peter had passed on all his rights, dignity, and
supremacy, so that as he was first among the Apostles, the
Bishops of Rome were first among all the bishops of the
world. By virtue of being the successor of St. Peter,

132 A Short History of McdicBval Europe

Leo claimed the right to exercise absohite power over the
whole Church. Leo was the first to give a clear-cut ex-
pression to this Petrine theory, which from that day to this
has been regarded as the basis for the supremacy of the
Bishop of Rome.
Dionysius Early in the sixth century Dionysius Exiguus, a monk

of Rome, published two books, the one a collection of
canons of the various church Councils, the other a collec-
tion of letters, opinions, and decisions of Popes on various
matters. Dionysius treated the opinions of the Popes as
if they had as much weight as the action of the councils ;
and as these two works were widely used in the west, they
helped raise the authority of the Papacy.

While all the causes that have just been named contrib-
uted to elevate the Pope to a position of supremacy, it was
The Popes his success in Christianizing the Barbarians in western Eu-
sionary work ^^pe that assured him his position at the head of the Church.
The Bishops of Rome labored for the conversion of the
Arian Germans to the orthodox belief, and made a close
alliance with the Franks when Chlodwig accepted the true
faith. The Christianization of England through the efforts
of Gregory the Great has already been described. These
Anglo-Saxons, the Pope's youngest converts, were the most
zealous promoters of his interests. Through them the or-
thodox faith, one of the tenets of which was the supremacy
of the Bishop of Rome, was carried to Ireland, Scotland,
and to all the German tribes on the mainland who were
either heathen or only nominally Christian, and owed no
allegiance to the Bishop of Rome. An Anglo-Saxon prin-
cess. Queen Margaret of Scotland, toward the end of the
eleventh century, subjected the Church of Scotland to the
Papacy, and made it conform in all respects to the Roman
Catholic Church. Only the Irish Church, the Church of
St. Patrick, remained independent and yielded no obedi-

in the west.

TJie GrozvtJt of the Papacy 133

ence to Rome, till Henry II. (1154-89) conquered a part
of Ireland and brought its Church into subjection.

In a former chapter attention was called to the mission-
ary labors of Irish monks in Scotland and England. They
did not confine their efforts to those countries. Many mis-
sionary bands, numbering generally thirteen persons, were
sent to the mainland, and labored among the Friesians and Irish mission-
other German tribes, whose Christianity was only nominal. conUncnL^
Their Church organization was very loose, and they were
not attached to the Bishop of Rome. The Irish mission-
aries found ample field among them for all their activity.

It was a West Saxon, Winifred, or Boniface, as he Avas Boniface,
later called, who was to reorganize the Church among all the °"755-
Germans, and subject it to the Bishop of Rome. He was
born about 680 ; was brought up in a monastery ; and or-
dained a priest when about thirty years old. In 718 he
went to Rome and received from the Pope a commission to
Christianize and Romanize all the Germans in central Eu-
rope. For nearly five years he travelled through Germany,
from Bavaria to Friesia, in the prosecution of his work. In
723 he again went to Rome, and was made a missionary
bishop without a diocese, at which time he took the same
oath to the Pope which was required of the bishops in
the diocese of Rome. Practically, therefore, the Pope
must have regarded Germany as a part of his diocese,
and as closely attached to him as were the districts about

From Karl Martel, and after him from Pippin, Boniface
obtained support in his work. He received supplies of both
men and means from England, and was able to establish in
Germany many monasteries. In 743 he was made Arch-
bishop of Mainz. He called councils, at which the work
of organization was perfected, heresies refuted, supei-stitious
rites and customs forbidden, the lives of the clergy regulated.

134 -^ Short History of McdicBval Europe

his opponents condemned, and the authority of the Bishop
of Rome acknowledged.

In 753 he resigned his position as Archbishop of Mainz,
and went again, with a large number of helpers, as a mis-
sionary to Friesia, where he met a martyr's death (754 or
755). But the principal part of his work was done. He
had organized the Church throughout Germany and sub-
jected it to Rome. It was from this Church of Germany,
now truly dependent on Rome, that Christianity was to be
carried to the remaining German tribes, such as the Saxons,
Danes, and the people of Scandinavia, and to the Slavic
peoples to the east of the Elbe. In this way the doctrine
of the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, which had become
a part of the Roman creed, was spread throughout all Eu-
rope, and was regarded as an essential part of Christianity.

The Roman This movement may be called the Roman Catholic Con-
Catholic Con- , , ,, ,,,■ ^ r ■ 1 /-

quest of the qucst ot the vVest ; for it was a conquest, the outcome of a
^^^^'- policy, the full results of which could not be foreseen by

the Popes of that time.
An estimate of The work of Boniface has been variously judged. He
has been exalted as the apostle of the Germans and con-
demned as the enslaver of the German Church. It was, in-
deed, unfortunate in its later results, that the Church of
Germany was so completely in the hands of the Bishop of
Rome, but at that time the choice was, in reality, between
subjection to Rome and heathenism. Boniface chose the
former, because it was by all odds the best thing to do.
The Church among the Franks and Germans was in a
wretched condition. Many of the Church lands were in
the hands of laymen. There was little or no discipline,
and no control exercised over the clergy. Each priest did
what was right in his own eyes. There were, at this time,
many vagabond priests and monks wandering about over
the country, obtaining a precarious living by imposing


TJic Grozuth of the Papacy 135

upon the people. There was also much heathenism among
the people. Such a state of affairs was little better than
heathenism pure and simple, and such Christianity, such
a Church, would certainly be unable to maintain the Franks
in the leading position they were now holding. Boniface
put an end to this disorder. He forbade all monks to leave
their monastery without sufficient reason. The wandering
clergymen were put under the control of the bishop of the
diocese in which they might be found. Strict discipline
was everywhere introduced into the monasteries. All
monks were compelled to live according to the rule of St.
Benedict. Laymen were forbidden to hold church property.
In a word, the Church was reformed, and a much better
type of Christianity was established among the Franks. This
was the work of Boniface and deserves praise and admiration.

The growth of the temporal power of the Papacy is, in
some respects, even more difficult to trace. We have to
discover how the Pope acquired political power ; first, the
civil authority in Rome and its duchy, and then the tem-
poral headship over the whole world.

From the time of Constantine the bishops were entrusted
with an ever-increasing amount of civil power. They
acted as judges; they were guardians of morals; they Growth of the

. , . . .... Irene's teni-

had the oversight of magistrates and a share in the govern- poral power,
ment of the cities. To these the Bishop of Rome added
still more imi)ortant powers, and was easily the most im-
portant man in Rome. lie bitterly resented the riglit,
claimed and exercised by the Emperors at Constantinople,
to dictate to him in ecclesiastical matters, and was finally
so angered by their haughty treatment of him that he was
ready to revolt. The image controversy gave him the
desired opportunity. When the Emperor, Leo III., forbade
the use of images. Pope Gregory II. replied that it was not
the Emperor but the Bishop of Rome who had authority

136 A Short History of Mcdiceval Europe

over the beliefs and practices of the Church. Gregory III.
(731-41) even put the Emperor under the ban.

In his struggle with the Lombards the Pope appealed
first to Karl Martel and then to Pippin, visiting the latter
in 753-54, and begging him to come and deliver him from
their encroachments. Pippin made two campaigns into
Italy and compelled the Lombards to cede to the Pope a

Beginning of strip of territory which lay to the south of them (755).

state, 755. This marks the beginning of the temporal sovereignty of the

Pope. He was freed from the eastern Emperor, and recog-
nized as the political as well as the ecclesiastical ruler of
Rome and its surrounding territory, under the over-lordship
of Pippin, who had the title of Patricius.

We have seen that the Pope took the final step in his
revolt from the eastern Emperor by crowning Karl the
Great Emperor. He persuaded Ludwig the Pious to allow
himself to be recrowned by him. In 823 he crowned
Lothar Emperor, and later his son, Ludwig II. By such a
long hne of precedents the Pope so completety established
his claim to confer the imperial crown that it was not
seriously questioned for centuries.

Thus far, in discussing the growth of the Papacy, we
have not taken into account the personal element. Such
men as Leo I., Gregory II., Gregory III., and Nicholas I.

Makers of the (85S-67) have, with great justice, been called makers of
the Papacy, because of their activity in formulating and

Nicholas I., advancing the papal claims. Nicholas I., especially, was a
man of great force, and made himself felt through all parts
of Europe. Throughout his pontificate he acted on the
theory that he was responsible for the conduct of affairs in
the whole Empire. He did not wait for questions to be
brought to him, but considered it his duty to take the
initiative whenever he discovered anything wrong. Under
Nicholas the Papacy possessed more influence and power

The Grozuth of the Papacy 137

than it had ever had before, and under none of his suc-
cessors did it reach so higli a plane until the appearance
of Gregory VII.

For awhile in the tenth century, indeed, it seemed that
the Papacy was to be destroyed by the local political fac- The Papacy in

^ -' ■' . , „ , the hands ot

tions of Rome. The political character of the oftice made factions.

it a thing to be coveted by all the great families of the city.

The dignity of the office was dragged through the mire of

the ward politics of Rome ; it was controlled by infamous

women and filled by licentious men. Its political character

overshadowed its religious character, and the Popes forgot

that they owed any duty to the outside world. Otto I.,

Otto III., and Henry III. rescued the Papacy from its

perilous position and reminded the Popes that they were the

head of the whole Church and not simply officials of Rome.

During the eleventh century the Papacy, keeping well in

mind its former world-wide claims, grew steadily in self- The Papacy,

reformed by

assertion. The Cluniac reform was spreadmg, and its ideas the Emperors,
were gradually taken up by the Popes, and their policy reasserts itself,
shaped in accordance with them. In the Council of Pavia
(1018) Benedict VIII. forbade the marriage of the clergy.
Simony, the obtaining of office in any other way than by a
canonical election, was also forbidden because the Popes
saw that they could never control the clergy until they could
control their election.

Henry III. made and unmade Popes, and treated them as
subjects who owed him obedience. Toward the end of his Leo ix.,
reign, however, Leo IX. (1048-54) exhibited a spirit of
independence in his government which indicated the coming
stomi. He was appointed by Henry III., but refused to
accept the office until he had been elected by the people and
clergy of Rome. He travelled incessantly throughout Italy,
France, and Germany, holding councils, settling disputes,
and regulating affairs with a vi^or and independence born

138 A SJiort History of Mediceval Europe

of his authority as Pope. He went one step farther in the
question of simony. Every bishop in the Empire was not
only a clergyman, but also, by virture of his office, a kind
of political official of the Emperor. That is, he was com-
pelled to perform certain civil duties. He was, besides, a
feudal subject of the Emperor, and as such owed him
homage for the church lands which he held. The Emperor,
of course, received certain taxes or income from all the
lands in the Empire, whether owned by the Church or by
laymen. No bishop could be inducted into his office until
he had taken an oath of allegiance to the Emperor and been
invested by him with the episcopal lands. The Pope had
no part either in his election or his investiture or induction
into office. Leo IX. was the first to see the disadvantages
of this to the Papacy, and in the Synod of Rheims (1049)
The question asserted the right of the Pope to invest the bishops with the
broached. "^^ insignia of office. He made no attempt, however, to en-
force it.

Gradually the papal theory was working out into all its
logical conclusions. The Popes were slowly perceiving how
vast were the opportunities offered them. The vision of
universal dominion floated dimly before them. The ques-
tions at issue between the Papacy and the Empire were
The conflict at being Stated with more precision. The conflict was ready
to break out. There were wanting only the opportunity and
the man to make use of it. The opportunity came when
Henry HI. died, leaving a boy only six years old to succeed
him, and the man was Hildebrand, a papal officer, but al-
ready at Henry's death the power behind the throne, and
as fate would have it, the Pope was made the guardian and
protector of the boy-king.



The accession of Henry IV., a mere boy, to the throne
of Germany gave the Papacy the opportunity for which
it had been waiting. Since the reform of Henry III.
(1046) the Papacy had been rapidly gathering power.
Hildebrand, the adviser of several successive Popes, had
been able to direct all their efforts toward the same end.
The pontificate of Nicholas II. (1059-61) was made Nicholas II.
famous by the alliance which he made with Robert Guis- ^°^^~
card and by the publication of a decree fixing the manner
of the election of the Pope. Up to this time there had
been many and great irregularities in the papal elections.
In theory the Pope was elected by the clergy and people of
Rome; but the factions in the city had many times con-
trolled the election and the Emperor had often named the
Pope. Hildebrand clearly saw that the elections must be
taken from the control of the people. In accordance with
his ideas, Nicholas, in a council (1059), proclaimed a de-
cree that the seven cardinal or titular bishops of Rome

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Online LibraryOliver J. (Oliver Joseph) ThatcherA short history of mediæval Europe → online text (page 11 of 25)