James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

. (page 31 of 55)
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came a byword among other nations. To
the assertion of French bishops that
science was practically unknown in Rome,
the papal legate could reply : " The
representatives of Peter and their scholars
will have neither Plato nor Virgil for their
masters, or any other philosophic cattle.
Peter did not know everything, and yet he
became the doorkeeper of heaven."

Together with this self-satisfied ignor-
ance we may observe another tendency
which turned to heathen authors for that
satisfaction which had been previously
found in religion. It was not the great
and noble thoughts that were admired in
these authors, but their heathenism and
the shortcomings of their culture.

Among the Teutons the new faith had
been received with deep feeling and
religious seriousness. Here we may ob-
serve among the bishops a zealous desire
to influence the people for their good, the
spirit which supported the false decretals,
and the ideas of supremacy entertained by
a Nicholas ; humble submission to, and
veneration of, the Church was their

The sound system of education initiated
by Charles the Great and his scholars
was a barrier against that thaumaturgic
spirit which had passed from the Graeco-
Roman world to the Prankish kingdom,
and had become associated with heathen
superstition. This tendency was able
to develop unchecked under the successors
of Charles the Great. It was
The Desire most zealous i y forwarded by

Holy Relics the Church, which was anxious
to secure the reverence of
the people as the possessor of divine
power and the guardian against all the
powers of darkness. Every church and
every monastery therefore attempted to
gain possession of some relic. It seemed
impossible to impress the rude minds of the
people more deeply than by showing some
supernatural power proceeding from these
remnants of decay. The more extra-
ordinary the character assigned to these

treasures, the greater their value. It is even
said, probably in ridicule of the whole-
hearted credulity of the peasantry, that
one monastery could show a piece of the
cradle in which the Infant Christ had lain,
and a piece of the wood of which St. Peter
had wished to make three tabernacles at
the Transfiguration.

It must be said that the number of
relics offered for sale increased so enor-
mously that apprehensions of possible
deceit began to arise. In those cases
an attempt was made by a three days'
fast to induce God to prove the
genuineness of the saint's body by a
miracle. The celebrations held upon the
translations of relics resembled triumphal
processions. The bands that joined the
procession increased at every stage of the
journey, for the holy relic might perform
a miracle at any and every moment upon
the way. If no other miracle were to
be seen, it often happened that after a
heavy night's rain the heaven grew
splendidly clear upon the morning when
the relic was to resume its journey.

There was, however, something even
greater than these relics of the saints, for
the Church in her services had Christ
her Lord present in person. It had long
been taught that in the Mass the bread
and wine were changed into the body
and blood of Christ by the words of the
priest, and the ignorant said blood
was often to be seen upon the host, or
that a lamb might be seen upon the
altar. Great was the power that had been
given to the Church ; the simplest person,
when once the Church had made him a
priest, could perform this highest of all
miracles, and bring down the lofty King
of Heaven from on high.

' SWlth What reverential aWe

_ must ^ people have cele-

Evil Spirits , , .. \ r

brated divine service when
at any moment Christ might show to
the eyes of those present the mystery
concealed beneath the forms of bread and
wine. As a matter of fact, the attempt to
withdraw the people from their faith in
the old gods proved unsuccessful. They
might indeed be persuaded to praise God
the Father Almighty, and to renounce the
devil and all his works ; but they retained
a firm conviction of the powers of those
demoniacal spirits who filled the world.

There was no ~urer means of securing
the reverence and obedience of the masses
to the Church than by representing the

Church as triumphant over the dark powers
of evil spirits. Hence the people were
taught to obtain blessings for the house
in which they lived, for the spring from
which they drank, for the bread which
they ate, for the orchard and the field
from which they gained their harvest. The
first ears of corn, the first apples, the first
grapes, eggs, cheeses, and meat were
brought to the Church that the blessing
of the Church might preserve all from
harm. It was thought well to say a blessing
upon the dogs when the cattle were driven
to the pasture, upon the bees when
they left their hive, upon caterpillars and
sicknesses, that they might pass away.
The Church did not fail to appreciate the
danger that the ignorant population might
modify these Christian uses and formulae
to the form of their old heathen magical
rites, that the old heathen superstition
might merely assume a veneer of Chris-
tianity. Equally alive was it to the danger
that such action might cause Christianity
to be regarded as nothing but a means of
protecting mankind from earthly misfor-
tunes. Deeper minds all this
Development time had a more spiritual
of the , . t /-.. ? ..

. , conception of Christianity.

Confessional , Tr , ,

What must be remembered
is that the Church through the ages waL- a
Catholic Church for all sorts and conditions
of men, saints and sinners alike not a
society of Saints alone.

The confessional was an institution that
in course of time was developed. Every-
one had now to come to confession. If
all were not conscious of their sins,
the priest was obliged to begin an examina-
tion, and to address the penitent in such
terms as these : " Perhaps you do not
remember all that you have done ; I will
therefore question you. Have you com-
mitted - ? " The result was in-
evitable ; the conscience was certainly
awakened to what was forbidden by God,
and in such a way that people learned to
regard their own sins with sorrow and

The sense of penitence that transforms
mankind was quickened and widely de-
veloped by this questioning, for the
reason that such examination aimed merely
at inducing men to confess the sins they
had committed ; that is, to confess where
false shame would forbid their utterance.
A knowledge of evil was thus produced,
which, far from killing, rather expanded
the conscience. The theory was that the



Penances in

penance imposed upon the sinner would
deter him from a repetition of the offence,
and therefore improve him.

But when the acknowledgment of sin,
at which such confession aimed, brought
no inward change, confessors found them-
selves obliged to modify the weight of their
penances, because " in these times the
zeal for penance is no longer
what it was." A man, for
instance, who might have
been condemned by the old
rules to bread and water for a year, was
now commanded to fast in this manner
only for one day in the week. Even so
little as this often proved unattainable.
Thus the time of penance was abbrevi-
ated, and the deficiency was filled by the
saying of psalms and other prayers. Or
money might be paid in lieu of penance ;
and churches and priests
were also included in the
" pious purposes " for
which such money was
given. " The weakness of
the penitent " was so far
considered that perform-
ance of penance by a
third party was permitted.
Priests and monks were
especially competent to
act thus as proxies, and
were often offered
gifts by the peni-
tent whom they
thus relieved of
his duties. Such a pro-
ceeding inevitably fostered
the theory that man could buy back
his sins from the Church, and that all he
needed was to offer the Church his blind

When Alberic was ruling over Rome,
religion in Italy had sunk to such a
pitch that this far-seeing prince recognised
the immediate necessity of a change. No
help could be expected by appealing to
the Popes, and he therefore appealed to
the Cluniac monks. This order had been
founded on Romance soil in Burgundy
about 910, 'and was originally intended
merely to reform the degenerate monastic
svstem by the reintroduction of a strict
Benedictine rule. It was obvious, how-
ever, that the reasons for the decay of the
orders were to be found in the fact that
they were not entirely independent of the
temporal or episcopal powers.

Hence it was thought well that the Pope






Benedict V. -was elected Pope on
the flight of Leo VI., but when the
latter was brought back and re-
placed in the papal chair, Benedict,
the opposition Pope, was exiled.

alone should have authority over the
Cluniacs. At an earlier period individual
monasteries had existed in isolation,
and had consequently lost much of their
power of resistance to foreign in-
fluence; all were now to form a congrega-
tion conducted upon uniform principles,
living according to the rule of the Cluniac
movement. From these beginnings
naturally developed the great influence
which this order exercised upon the history
of the Church. If the Pope were to be the
sole head of the order, and if only harm
could be expected from the secular power,
it was necessary to secure that no eccle-
siastical power should have any influence
in the Church except the Pope. At that
period it was impossible to conceive any
separation between the spiritual and
secular spheres of the state, so that this
order became the cham-
pion of the papal pro-
gramme as put forward by
Nicholas I.

These zealous brethren
were summoned by Alberic
in 936, and in many cases
they succeeded in arousing
a sense of religion and a
desire for improvement
even in the papal court.
This party, which was
disgusted at the appalling
prevalence of immorality,
probably inspired the de-
spatch of that embassy
which asked the German
king, Otto I., for help.
Otto came to Italy, but declined to inter-
fere in the government of the Church.
He was anxious only to secure the secular
subjection of the Pope to his own authority,
and thus to remove any obstacle to the
execution of his political plans. Hence
when he was crowned emperor in 962
he left the Pope the secular power over
Rome, but this he could exercise only
in subordination to the emperor ; in
consequence no Pope could be here-
after consecrated until he had sworn
allegiance to the emperor.

The Pope, however, by his conspiracy
with the emperor's enemy, Berengar, to
whose sons he threw open the gates of the
town, forced Otto to go further than he had
intended. John even instigated the wild
Hungarians to invade Germany, that Otto
might be obliged to leave Italy. When the
emperor marched upon Rome, John fled,

and declined to appear when summoned vised by him. It was a renewal of the

to answer for his actions. The emperor, theories of Charles the Great, provoked by

therefore, held at Rome a synod, over the moral bankruptcy of an independent

which it should have been the duty of papacy. On the death of Gregory, Otto

the Pope to preside ; and in accordance bestowed the papal chair upon his former

with the wishes of the people and clergy teacher, the famous scholar, Gerbert.

he deposed the unworthy John, and An open breach was prevented only by

appointed Leo VI. Roman faithlessness the close friendship uniting these two

obliged him once more to sit in judgment Popes with the emperor, for the diver-

upon a Pope. The Romans gence of

Who Ran


upon a Pope. The Romans
had recalled the miserable John,
and Leo was forced to flee.
John then lost his life as the

gence ot opinions concerning the due
position of the papacy was bound to lead
to some rupture. After the deaths of
Otto and Gerbert, the papacy again

result of a plot, and Benedict V. was ap- became a plaything in the hands of the

pointed to succeed him. Otto returned, Roman nobility, and lost all influence in

overpowered the revolt, replaced Leo in consequence. In 1012 two rival Popes

the papal chair, and condemned the op- were in existence ; one of these applied

position Pope to exile from Italy.

to the German king, Henry II., who

Immediately after Otto's death desperate recognised his adversary Benedict VIII.
party struggles broke out in Rome ; the as Pope. In conjunction with Bene-
prestige and influence of
the papacy was much im-
paired. In France, where
the voice of the Pope had
often been represented as
that of God, they referred
to the Pope as " the Anti-
christ, sitting in the temple
of God, and acting as
though he were God."
They considered the ad-
visability of separation from
the Roman Church as pro-
phesied by the apostle. It
was Germany that came to
the rescue of the papacy at
the time of its greatest con-
fusion. A synod consisting almost entirely make the monks models of self-renuncia-
of Germans broke the strength of the strong tion and piety, but still the servants of
French opposition. German emperors gave the papacy. He fought with the Pope
German Popes to the Church and assisted against simony and many of the acts of


Famous as a scholar, Gerbert be-
came Pope on the death of Gregory
and took the title of Sylvester II.
Heis said to have introduced Arabic
numerals and invented clocks.

diet, Henry attempted to
reform the Church, but
once again it was the
emperor who took the
initiative. Henry's high
respect for the Church and
his rich presents gained
him the title of saint, but
he insisted that the Pope
should address him as
"lord, "and he appointed
or deposed bishops. He was
no less anxious than the
Cluniac monks for monastic
reform, but this he strove
to secure by methods of
his own. He wished to

in the work of its reorganisation.

the clergy. His object, however, was not

Gregory V. formerly Bruno, the son to release the bishops and clergy from all
of the Duke of Carinthia a cousin of connection with secular affairs, bu to

Otto III., was the first German Pope ;
he was distinguished both for his intellect-
ual powers and his strong character, and
was firmly resolved to raise the Church
from the depths into which it had fallen.

purify the spiritual office of its faults.

The Church was, in fact, reformed,
but the real reformer was the emperor,
not the Pope. Strangely enough, we
hear of no general objection to the theo-

Otto III., who was crowned emperor by cratic position thus occupied by the
the new Pope in 996, regarded himself emperor. In the cathedral of Mainz
as the head of Christendom. His theory the archbishop could say to the new king,
was that the Pope should advance the
general welfare, in subordination to him-

self, as one of the magnates of the empire.

Conrad II., '" Thou hast reached the
highest dignity, thou art the representa-
tive of Christ," and in German circles

If synods were held, the emperor presided, this saying met with cheerful approval,

taking the advice of the Pope and of those Conrad II. ruled the Church as his

who were present. He issued "orders" to predecessors had done, but not with the

the Pope, while papal decisions were re- same consciousness of duties imposed by



his position, or with the same warm
interest in ecclesiastical reform, though
the necessity for this had again become im-
perative. Pope Benedict IX. was a boy of
twelve years old. He was the son of the
count of Tusculum, Alberic, and in 1044 was
deposed and a new pope, Sylvester III., was
chosen. Eventually, however, Benedict's
party won the day and he was able to return.

A well-meaning man was placed in the
apostolic chair : this was Gregory VI.
Benedict IX. did not feel himself bound
by the contract of sale, but continued to
regard himself as the successor of Peter.
There existed at one and the same time
three Popes, all in opposition. In vain
the best of them, Gregory, attempted
to draw Rome and the Church from
the condition of anarchy. Once again
Germany brought help. A synod assem-
bled in Rome, though without a summons
from any Pope;
it begged Henry
III. to save the
Church, and
not in vain.
The views of
Charles the
Great and Otto
I II., who had re-
garded the em-
peror as priest
and king, were
also shared by
Henry; inspired
by honest piety,
he devoted all
his powers to the reform of the Church.

The state of affairs was indeed appalling.
The example given by Rome and its
bishops had found imitators far and wide.
As might had for so long been right in
Rome, a general tendency had arisen
throughout France and Germany to dis-
regard human and divine right, and to
seize any advantage that could be grasped.
There was no security for private property,
while robbery and bloodshed
J mg were the order of the day. The

Condition ... ,. .. J .

of Rome practice of prosecuting private
quarrels had risen to bound-
less excess. The Christian world had
now learned from the papacy to regard the
spiritual calling as a distinction which
guaranteed earthly success. Simony had
become general. Anyone who desired an


Benedict IX. was driven from office, but was subsequently restored
to power. Gregory VI. obtained the papacy from Benedict IX., but the
latter continued to regard himself as Pope ; Sylvester III. also claimed
the papal chair, and thus there were three Popes at the same time.

these privileges ; at the same time, there
was not the smallest consciousness of the
contemptible nature of this practice. Even
the " saint " Henry II. had shown no hesi-
tation in accepting money from the ap-
plicants who demanded ecclesiastical posts.
In France the Cluniac monks had suc-
ceeded by strenuous efforts in securing
the observance of the Truce of God, which,
at any rate, gave a short breathing space
between incessant feuds and quarrels. In
Germany, Henry III. secured even greater
results. By example, requests, and orders
he forced the nobles to respect the general
Land-peace which he had proclaimed ; he
then declared war upon simony. He had
no intention of surrendering his right to
fill up vacant bishoprics, nor did anyone
demand so much of him ; it was not until
a later date that public opinion ventured
to brand this as simony. He renounced

all profit, how-
ever, which
might accrue to
him in conse-
quence of these
rights. On his
pilgrimage to
Rome he held a
synod at Pavia,
and delivered
an impressive
speech to the
audience who
had all secured
their ecclesi-
astical offices
improperly. So deep an impression was
made upon those present that they
begged him for mercy and forgiveness, in
fear that they would all lose their posts.
A general order was then issued that
henceforward no spiritual office or dignity
was to be acquired as in their cases.

The next task was the salvation of the
papacy, which was now claimed by three
co-existent Popes. This schism was ended
in 1046 by the synods of Sutri and of
Rome. All the Popes were deposed, and
Henry invited the Romans to choose a
new one. They replied : " Where the
royal majesty is present, our rights of
election do not exist." The German
bishop, Suidger of Bamberg, was pre-
sented to the papal chair, under the title
of Clement II. From his hand Henry

ecclesiastical office was prepared to pay received the imperial crown. The Romans

for this source of revenue, while every conferred upon their emperor the patrician

patron was anxious to make capital out of power, and with it the right of appointing

37 2 4




Church ;

the Pope. So great was the joy at the
services which the emperor had performed
for the Church that the strongest ecclesi-
astics showed no indignation at the cession
of these high rights to the emperor, but
regarded his powers as a divine reward for
his efforts in " snatching the Church from
the jaws of the insatiable dragon." The
time was to come when a papal
election would be declared ac-
cursed if conducted by other

, , > f .

powers than those of the
but it was necessary also to pro-
vide that this new manner of election should
make the advance of slackness impossible.
Would that such men as the papal
nominees of Henry III. had invariably been
appointed ! His next appointments were
the Germans, Poppo of Brixen (Damasus
IL), Bruno of Toul (Leo IX.), and Gebhard
of Eichstatt (Victor II.). _
Under the emperor's orders
they co-operated with him in
the task of church reform.
The revival of the imperial
power and the reformation of
the Church was accompanied
at that time by a resump-
tion of missionary activity,
which had been almost
entirely dormant since'
the death of Charles the
Great. With this revival of
missionary zeal, marked as it
is by a somewhat secular and
political character, we may
observe also a renewal of
intellectual activity, though not imme-
diately obvious in the theological sphere.
The famous poem " Waftharius," com-
posed by Ekkehard pf St., Gall^about-927,

In 1046 the Romans ejected the
German bishop;* Suidger of F-am-
berg, to the papacy, under the title
of Clement II., and from his hand
Henry III. received the imperial

the theories of Charles the Great, and the
papal tendency, originating with the
Cluniac reforms. The condition of the
Church cried so loudly for improvement
that help was accepted from any quarter,
no matter what the nature of its ultimate
object. Even religious movements wholly
foreign to the German nationality com-
manded the respect of Germans, provided
that they implied the renunciation of the
prevailing godless spirit.

It perhaps was a consequence pf
Cluniac influence in Italy that many, in
horror of the immorality of the age,
abandoned the world and took refuge in
asceticism to atone for the sins of their
contemporaries. Romuald, who belonged
to the family of the dukes of Ravenna,
founded the hermit order of the Camaldu-
lenses in 1018. The holy Nilus lived as
a hermit in Lower Italy,
clothed in a black goatskin,
going bareheaded and bare-
footed, and eating nothing
but a fragment of bread
every few days. Peter
Damiani practised . self-
mortification by psalm-sing-
ing, an expiation which re-;
lieved the sinners of the
world from centuries of pen-
ance ; his friend Dominic, as
a result of incessant practice,
was able to rain blows upon
his back with such incredible
rapidity that he did penance
for a century in six days.
Romuald, like Nilus, was visited by the
Emperor Otto III. and revered as a saint
of God. In the garb of a penitent the
powerful emperor prostrated himself be-

heralded a new era in literature. In a fore the hermit, and lay beside him upon
short time theology made a tentative his hard rush couch ; it seemed that he
advance. Notker Labeo of St. Gall, who "Would gladly have remained with Romuald

as a humble monastic brother.

Such facts teach us that the momentary
supremacy of the German over the Roman
Church was but external, based upon the
degeneracy of the latter, and that
the spirit of the German Church
'Papacy was en tirely Roman. This spirit,
if carried to its logical conse-
quence, leads to the theories of Nicholas I.
{Ge papacy and the Roman Church were
saved by the German emperors.

The return which Rome made for this
rescue from the slough of despond was a
revival of its claim to the due obedience
of all human beings, the emperor included.

37 2 5

died in 1022, composed a number of \
lations and commentaries on- ; *fhe books of
the Bible in a language chielfly German ; we
still possess his commentary on the Psalms.
William, the abbot of Ebersbachin Bavaria,
compiled his famous commentary oh the
Song of Solomon. In France the master*
of the cathedral school of Rheims, Gerbert,
afterwards Pope Sylvester 1 1., was a
famous figure.

It is, however, remarkable T:<3*t>bserve
the peaceful manner in which these two
tendencies co-operated, while aiming at
a revival of religious influence ; there
was the imperial tendency, based upon













Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 31 of 55)