“In the Name of Almighty God”: Gregory VII and the Investiture Controversy

“In the Name of Almighty God”: Gregory VII and the Investiture Controversy

By Sam Dollarhide

Western Oregon University, Senior Seminar Thesis, 2010

Introduction: The Investiture Controversy was a conflict between Pope Gregory VII and the German King Henry IV over who had the right to appoint church officials in the Catholic Church. In the Roman Council of 1074 presided over by Gregory he declared: “Those who have been advanced to any grade of holy orders, or to any office, through simony, that is the payment of money, shall hereafter have no right to officiate in the holy church.” This statement as well as several others made throughout the Dictatus Papae offended and enraged secular rulers across Western Europe, especially Henry IV the Holy Roman Emperor, who previous to Gregory’s pontificate had appointed church officials at their pleasure. This was the escalation of a growing and serious rift between the Church in Rome and the secular power in the Holy Roman Empire. Pope Gregory VII was one of the greatest popes to ever occupy the papal throne; he was a true reformer who acted out of religious zeal; however his decisions had far ranging religious as well as political consequences across Europe, including his removal from Rome by Emperor Henry IV in 1083, and his death in exile in 1085. Nevertheless, his ideals and goals were realized after his death at the Concordat of Worms in 1122, which put an official and final end to lay investiture.

Over the years scholars have examined the life of Gregory VII. Innumerable journal articles cover nearly every aspect of Gregory’s life, examining the influences that caused his burning desire for Church reform. Several books published in recent years take a detailed and comprehensive view of Gregory’s life and career. A key aspect of studying the life of Gregory is the struggle for power between church and state, a common issue through out the history of the western world. Gregory’s action had a profound effect on this relationship and was one of the first cases of a conscious decision to attempt to separate the two powers completely.

Of a few prominent authors who have contributed to the study of Gregory, Uta-Renate Blumenthal has produced significant scholarship on Gregory VII and the era he lived in. Her works focus specifically on the Investiture controversy and the relationship between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. This is an extremely important dynamic to analyze when trying to understand the actions and events of Gregory’s pontificate. Blumenthal’s book The Investiture Controversy is a very authoritative look on the events of the Investiture Controversy and the impact it had on the legacies of Gregory and Henry, as well as examining the motivation by both sides. The work aims to set the Investiture Controversy into a wider context of the relationship between popes and secular monarchs in Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and to understand the social dynamic that made this controversy such a powerful event, in the history of medieval Europe.

Click here to read this thesis from Western Oregon University

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