Regnum et sacerdotium in Alsatian Romanesque Sculpture: Hohenstaufen Politics in the Aftermath of the Investiture Controversy (1130-1235)

Frederick Barbarossa, middle, flanked by his two children, King Henry VI (left) and Duke Frederick VI (right). From the Welf ChronicleRegnum et sacerdotium in Alsatian Romanesque Sculpture: Hohenstaufen Politics in the Aftermath of the Investiture Controversy (1130-1235)

Gillian Born Elliott

University of Texas at Austin: Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (2005)


During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, two major schisms between the papacy and the empire erupted. The first struggle, the Investiture Controversy, lasting from 1077-1122, set the Church against the Holy Roman Emperor on the issue of the right to choose and install bishops. The second papal/imperial conflict concerned the question of papal supremacy over Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1159-1179). Because these two conflicts impacted both imperial and papal territories, the churches on imperial soil had to choose to support either the papacy, the spiritual head of the church, or the emperor, the secular lord of these imperial territories. As part of a territorial campaign to win and maintain the loyalty of Alsace, the homeland of the Hohenstaufen family, Barbarossa directly concerned himself with the affairs of several churches in the region. At the same time that Barbarossa exerted his influence on these churches, artistic programs emerged attesting to the success of the emperor’s territorial politics.

The church of St. Peter and Paul at Andlau (1160) in Lower Alsace is of key importance for understanding later sculptural programs designed to please Frederick Barbarossa in the area. Three sculpted motifs at Andlau can be specifically linked to imperial ideology: the Christus Triumphans, the Traditio Legis, and Dietrich’s Rescue of Rentwin. Each of these themes had traditional associations with both the pope and the emperor and had been employed by popes during the Investiture Controversy to advocate papal supremacy over the emperor. Barbarossa and his supporters readapted these three motifs in Alsatian sculptural programs to reiterate the emperor’s traditional God-given right to authority in the sacred and secular realms.

Click here to read this thesis from University of Texas at Austin

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