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Pope, Bishops and Canon Law: A Study of Gregory VII’s Relationship with the Episcopate and the Consequences for Canon Law

Pope, Bishops and Canon Law: A Study of Gregory VII’s Relationship with the Episcopate and the Consequences for Canon Law

By Alison Sarah Welsby

Leeds History First, Vol.2 (2005)

Introduction: The eleventh-century reform movement was a massive phenomena and the pontificate of Gregory VII alone, constitutes an enormous historical topic. Scholarship has tended to focus on the conflict between regnum and sacerdotium and consequently Gregory VII is best known for his dispute with Henry IV and his attacks on the secular influences in the Church. Gregory is remembered for events such as Canossa and his two excommunications of King Henry. Unfortunately focus here has often been at the expense of studying Gregory’s actions and impact within the Church. As Tellenbach has pointed out, only because Gregory managed to strengthen his hold over the spiritual hierarchy was he able to assert its supremacy over the secular.

Gregory devoted great amounts of time and energy to amending the governmental structure of the Church. His battle cry was centralisation and papal power. For this study we have focused on Gregory’s relationship with the episcopate, examining his efforts to bring all bishops under the direct control and supervision of the apostolic see. We have tried to understand how the canonical tradition was employed to serve this end and how it reflected the changes that were brought about.

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