Today’s installment concludes Holy Roman Emperor Takes Control of the Papacy,
the name of our combined selection from Ferdinand Gregorovius and Joseph Darras. The concluding installment, by Joseph Darras from Histoire de l’Eglise depuis la création, was published in 1877. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed four thousand words from great works of history. Congratulations!
Previously in Holy Roman Emperor Takes Control of the Papacy.
The accession of Gregory VI was the harbinger of an epoch of moral renaissance. The wise Pontiff, whose glory it had been to free the Church from a disgraceful yoke, proved himself worthy of the sovereign power, as much by the zeal with which he wielded as by the noble disinterestedness with which he resigned it. He found the temporal domains of the Church so far diminished that they hardly furnished the Pope with the means of an honorable maintenance. As guardian of the rights of the Church, he hurled an excommunication against the usurpers. The infuriated plunderers marched upon Rome with an armed force. The Pope also raised troops, took possession of St. Peter’s church, drove out the wretches who stole the offerings laid upon the tombs of the Apostles, took back several estates belonging to the domain of the Church, and secured the safety of the roads, upon which pilgrims no longer ventured to travel except in caravans. This policy displeased the Romans, who had now become habituated to plunder. Their complaints induced Henry III, King of Germany, to hurry to Italy, and to summon a council at Sutri, during the Christmas festival, to inquire whether the election of Gregory should be regarded as simoniacal. The Pope and the clergy entertained the sincere conviction that they were justified in bringing about, even by means of money, the abdication of the unworthy Benedict, thus to end the scandal which so foully disgraced the Holy See. As opinions were divided on this point, Gregory VI, to set all doubts at rest, stripped himself, with his own hands, of the Pontifical vestments, and gave up to the bishops his pastoral staff. Having given to the world this noble example of self-denial, Gregory withdrew to the monastery of Cluny, bearing with him the consciousness of a great duty done. He died in that holy solitude in the odor of sanctity.
The see left vacant by the magnanimous humility of Gregory VI was bestowed, by general consent, upon Suidger, bishop of Bamberg, whom King Henry had brought with him to Rome. The new Pope, whose elevation was due only to universally known and acknowledged virtues, took the name of Clement II, and was crowned on Christmas-Day (A.D. 1046); in the same solemnity he bestowed the imperial title and crown upon Henry III, and his queen, Agnes, daughter of William, duke of Aquitaine.
The Emperor Henry, during his sojourn in Rome, sent for St. Peter Damian to assist the Pope by his counsels. The illustrious religious thus wrote to the Pontiff, in excuse for not complying: “Notwithstanding the Emperor’s request, so expressive of his benevolence in my regard, I cannot devote to journeys the time which I have promised to consecrate to God in solitude. I send the imperial letter in order that your Holiness may decide, if it become necessary. My soul is weighed down with grief when I see the churches of our provinces plunged into shameful confusion through the fault of bad bishops and abbots. What does it profit us to learn that the Holy See has been brought out from darkness into the light, if we still remain buried in the same gloom of ignominy? But we hope that you are destined to be the savior of Israel. Labor then, Most Holy Father, once more to raise up the kingdom of justice, and use the vigor of discipline to humble the wicked and to raise the courage of the good.”
On his return to Germany, Henry took the Pope with him. The city of Beneventum refused to open its gates to the Sovereign Pontiff, who, at the Emperor’s request, pronounced against it a sentence of excommunication. Clement made but a short visit to his native land, and hastened back to Rome. His apostolic zeal led him to visit, in person, the churches of Umbria, the deplorable condition of which he had learned from the letter of St. Peter Damian. On reaching the monastery of St. Thomas of Aposello, he was seized with a mortal disease, before having accomplished the object of his journey. His last thought was for his beloved church of Bamberg, to which he sent, from his dying couch, a confirmation of all its former privileges, assuring it, in the most touching terms, of his unchanging affection.
This ends our selections on Holy Roman Emperor Takes Control of the Papacy by two of the most important authorities of this topic:
- History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages by Ferdinand Gregorovius published in 1872.
- Histoire de l’Eglise depuis la création by Joseph Darras published in 1877.
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