Hildebrand, a native of Tuscany, born in the early part of the eleventh century, had embraced from his boyhood the most rigid ideas of monasticism. Dissatisfied with the laxity of the Italian monks, he crossed the Alps, and entered the austere convent of Cluny, in Burgundy, then the foremost in numbers, wealth, and piety.
In the year 1049, Bruno, bishop of Toul, arrayed in all the splendor, and attended by the retinue, of a Pontiff elect, arrived at Cluny, and demanded the hospitality and the homage of the monks. Bruno was cousin to Henry III., Emperor of Germany, and had been nominated by him to fill the vacant See of Rome. Hildebrand, the Prior of Cluny, soon acquired great influence over the mind of Bruno. He convinced him that he had made a false step in having accepted the appointment from the hands of a layman, and recommended him to lay aside the pontifical vestments which he had prematurely assumed, travel to Rome as a pilgrim, and there receive from the clergy and people that apostolical office which no layman had a right to bestow. Bruno consented. Hildebrand's lofty views of ecclesiastical dignity prevailed over the more genial mind of his new friend. He followed the advice; threw aside his robes, and taking the monk as his companion, he pursued his journey to Rome in the simple garb of a pilgrim.
The impression produced was great, and all in favor of Bruno. No sacerdotal or imperial display could have had the same power over the people. Miracles are said to have marked his way, and by his prayers swollen rivers sank within their natural bounds. He was hailed with universal acclamations as Pope Leo the Ninth. Hildebrand was immediately rewarded for his services. He was raised to the rank of a cardinal, and received the offices of sub-deacon of Rome with other munificent preferments. From this time he was practically pope — the real director of the Papacy.
Just at this point of our history we meet, through the subtlety of Satan, the most extreme and opposite of characters, Hildebrand's one object was to subdue the outer world; the self-inflicted cruelties of others were to subdue the world within themselves.
Peter Damiano, bishop of Ostia, was severely ascetic. He wore sackcloth secretly, he fasted, he watched, he prayed, and, in order to tame his passions, he could rise in the night, stand for hours in a stream, until his limbs were stiff with cold, and spend the remainder of the night in visiting churches, and reciting the Psalter. The avowed object for which he so labored was the restoration of the dignity of the priesthood, and a stricter church discipline. Such is the delusive power of the enemy within the church of Rome. But a monk, named —
Dominic, was considered the great hero of this warfare against the poor unoffending body. Satan concealed from his dupe the difference between the body and the deeds of the body. Dominic wore next to his skin a tight iron cuirass, which he never put off, except to chastise himself. His body and his arms were confined by iron rings, his neck was loaded with heavy chains, his scanty clothes were worn to rags, his food consisted of the coarsest fare, his skin was as black as a negro's, from the effects of his discipline. His usual exercise was to recite the Psalter twice a day, while he flogged himself with both hands, at the rate of a thousand lashes to ten psalters. It was reckoned that three thousand lashes were equal to a year's penance; the whole Psalter, therefore, with this accompaniment, was equivalent to five years. In Lent, or on occasions of special penitence, the daily average rose to three psalters; he "easily"(? ) got through twenty — equal to a hundred years of penance — in six days. Once, at the beginning of Lent, he begged that a penance of a thousand years might be imposed on him, and he cleared off the whole before Easter.
These flagellations were supposed to have the effect of a satisfaction for other men's sins — works of supererogation, which formed the capital for the sale of indulgences, which we shall hear of by-and-by. Death mercifully put an end to his pitiable delusions in the year 1062.
Take another example of ecclesiastical life, for Satan found something to suit every taste.
The worldly prelates were in the habit of riding forth attended with troops of soldiers, with swords and lances. They were surrounded with armed men like a heathen general. Every day royal banquets, every day parades; the table loaded with delicacies; the guests, their voluptuous favorites. Crime and licentiousness held revel in the palaces of the prelates. So great was the wickedness of Rome in the tenth century, that historians in general consent to draw a veil over it for the sake of our common humanity. Can our deluded countrymen who are hastening over to Rome, know, that within a period of a century and a half, about this time, so dreadful were the scenes of the Vatican, that "two popes were murdered, five were driven into exile, four were deposed, and three resigned their hazardous dignity. Some were raised to the pontifical chair by arms, some by money, and some received the tiara from the hands of princely courtesans... It would be heretical to say that the gates of hell had prevailed against the seat and center of Catholicism; but Baronius himself might be cited to prove that they had rolled back on their infernal hinges to send forth malignant spirits, commissioned to empty on her devoted head the vials of bitterness and wrath."
We now turn to the immediate object of our history — the career of Hildebrand, as Gregory the Seventh, from whose lips we shall hear an account of the infallible popes very different from the above.
The day is yet future when man, the Antichrist of 2 Thessalonians 2 energized and led on by Satan, will "exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped;" but surely in the life and character of Gregory, we have a dark foreshadowing of that masterpiece of the enemy. Were it not for the proof and illustration of scripture which Hildebrand's designs afford, we would willingly pass over his history. No silver line of grace, no love, human or divine, can be traced in a single act of his public administration; but with great swelling words of the most daring blasphemy he speaks of himself as the successor of St. Peter, the follower of Jesus, and the utterance of the mouth of God. At the same time it is evident to all that he was the very incarnation of antichristian pride, arrogance, and intolerance. His language sometimes borders on the assumption of divinity, and nearly approaches the blasphemy of the man of sin.
From the time he entered Rome as the companion of Bruno till his advancement to the pontifical chair — a period of twenty-four years — he was the ruling spirit in the Vatican; but he was in no haste for preferment. With more than human sagacity he was studying the condition and relations of Church and State; he was acquiring a knowledge of man and of the affairs of all Europe; he was maturing a lofty but daring scheme of a vast spiritual autocracy in the person of the Pope. All this appeared when he ascended the throne, and assumed in his own person the responsibility of the power which he had so long directed, though in an inferior station. His avowed object from the first was the absolute freedom and independence of the clergy from imperial and all lay interference of every description, whether to nominate or to consecrate an ecclesiastic; and, on the basis of this liberty, he boldly asserted that spiritual authority was higher and more legitimate than temporal. These proud pretensions led the church of Rome, in the person of her pontiff, to usurp dominion over the western empire, and over all the kingdoms of Europe, or rather of the whole world. Nothing more is wanted to confirm these assertions than the following Dictates.
The following are said to be some of Gregory's maxims; they will give the reader an idea of the man, and of the spirit of popery. "It is laid down that the Roman pontiff is universal bishop, that his name is the only one of the kind in the world. To him alone it belongs to depose or to reconcile bishops; and he may depose them in their absence, and without the concurrence of a Synod. He alone is entitled to frame new laws for the church — to divide, unite, or translate bishoprics. He alone may use the ensigns of empire; all princes are bound to kiss his feet; he has the right to depose emperors, and to absolve subjects from their allegiance. He holds in his hands the supreme mediation in questions of war and peace, and he only may adjudge contested successions to kingdoms — that all kingdoms were held as fiefs under St. Peter. With his leave inferiors may accuse their superiors. No council may be styled general without his command. The Roman church has never erred, and, as scripture testifies, never will err. The pope is above all judgment, and by the merits of St. Peter is undoubtedly rendered holy. The church was not to be the handmaid of princes but their mistress; if she had received from God power to bind and to loose in heaven, much more must she have a like power over earthly things."
But while the sovereign domination of the church had long been the fond dream of Hildebrand, he saw that certain reforms were necessary to the accomplishment of his object; and to these he now addressed himself in all the energy and intrepid firmness of his character.
About the close of Gregory's first official year (March, 1074), he assembled a numerous council at Rome, for the purpose of declaring war against the two great vices of the European clergy, and the two great hindrances to his theocratic scheme, namely, concubinage and simony, or the marriage of the priests and the sale of benefices. Many who were favorable to reform thought the edict as to celibacy not only severe but unjust, because it applied equally to the most honorable marriages and the basest profligacy. It was resolved in council, without opposition: first, that priests should not marry; secondly, that those who were married should put away their wives, or renounce the priesthood; thirdly, that for the future no one should be admitted to holy orders who should not profess inviolable continence.
Many of the early fathers had endeavored to establish the connection between celibacy and sanctity, and to persuade men that those Who were wedded to the church should avoid the contamination of an earthly union. Several of the popes had also advocated celibacy; but, unless under the severest personal discipline or in the strictest monastic communities, it was little observed and probably never enforced beyond the bounds of Italy. But Gregory made his voice to be heard and feared on this subject from the Vatican to the utmost limits of Latin Christendom. He wrote letters to all archbishops and bishops, princes, potentates, and lay officers of every degree, on pain of incurring severe punishment or eternal perdition, to cast out and depose, without mercy, all married priests and deacons, and to refuse their contaminating ministrations. These despatches were full of anathemas against all who resisted his decrees; and, assuming the place of God, he says, "How shall they obtain pardon for their sins who despise him who openeth and closeth the gates of heaven to whom he pleaseth? Let all such beware how they call down the divine wrath upon their own heads;... how they incur the apostolic malediction, instead of earning that grace and blessing so abundantly poured out upon them by the blessed Peter! Let them be assured that neither prince nor prelate shall escape the doom of the sinner who shall omit to drive out and expel, with inexorable rigor, all simoniacal and married priests; and all who shall listen to the call of carnal sympathy or affection, or shall from any worldly motive withhold the sword from the shedding of blood in the holy cause of God and His church, or shall stand aloof while these damning heresies are gnawing at the vitals of religion... shall be regarded indiscriminately as accomplices of the heretics, as counterfeits and cheats."
The promulgation of this edict produced, as may well be conceived, the greatest possible agitation and distress throughout the whole of Christendom. Up to this time, right or wrong, marriage had been the rule, celibacy the exception. And the injustice of the edict made it more intolerable, for it fell as severely on the most virtuous as on the most vicious, and stigmatized them all alike as guilty of concubinage. We must leave the reader to imagine the effect of such a decree on thousands and tens of thousands of happy families; details would fill a volume. It dissolved the most honorable marriages, rent asunder what God had joined together, scattered husbands, wives, and children, and gave rise to the most lamentable contentions, and spread everywhere the direst calamities; wives, especially, were driven to despair, and exposed to the bitterest grief and shame. But the more vehement the opposition, the more loud the anathemas against any delay in the plenary execution of the pontiff's commands. The disobedient were delivered over to the civil magistrates, to be persecuted, deprived of their properties, and subjected to indignities and sufferings of various kinds. Part of one of his letters said on this point, "He whom flesh and blood moveth to doubt or delay is carnal; he is condemned already; he hath no share in the work of the Lord; he is a rotten branch, a dumb dog, a cankered limb, a faithless servant, a time-server, and a hypocrite."
But as none of the sovereigns of Europe were disposed to fight for the wives of the clergy, the pope soon had the matter all his own way, and many of the lewd priests were not sorry to be delivered from the obligations of their evil ways.
Simony. The conflict arising from the twin law for the suppression of simony was more difficult to deal with; and, being protracted through many years, it involved both the church and state in many and great calamities.
In the eleventh century the feudal system is said to have arrived at maturity, and the sin of simony — or the sale of ecclesiastical benefices — to have reached its evil height. At this period history informs us that, from the Papacy down to the lowest parochial cure, every spiritual dignity had its money-price and became an object of barter or sale. Even the bishopric of Rome had been so notoriously bought and sold about this very time, that there were three contemporary popes: Benedict IX. held the Lateran; Sylvester III., the Vatican; and Gregory VI., Santa Maria. But so disgraceful were the contentions, and so fierce the actual warfare between the popes and their friends, that the Emperor Henry III. was implored by the Italians to come to Rome and examine the conflicting claims of the three pontiffs. A council was held at Sutri, about the year 1044, when the most unheard of immoralities, and the most flagrant simony, were proved against the popes before Henry. Which of the three the high church now claims as the legitimate successor of St. Peter, we know not; but there can be no doubt that they were all the lineal descendants of Simon Magus, who thought that the gift of God might be purchased with money. Few, very few, were the true descendants of Simon Peter, who left all and followed Jesus.
The evil worked downwards, and every order of the clergy was affected, if not corrupted, by this prevailing sin. When the bishop found he had paid too much for his See, he naturally raised the price of the inferior stations in order to indemnify himself. Thus the great prelates of the church were engaged in the most degrading traffic and secularizing speculations. Nothing could be lower, and it opened the door of the church to the worst of men. Laymen, without education or religion; barbarians, without civilization, purchased holy orders, and forced themselves into the sacred ranks of the priesthood, and of course brought with them the worst wickedness of the world, and the greatest enormities of the heathen. Simony thus became the all-comprehending sin of that period, and every vice naturally sprang from it. But we will endeavor to ascertain its origin.
So long as the church was poor, persecuted, and despised by the world, there were no purchasers for benefices. When a man lost his worldly status by becoming a Christian, and exposed himself to imprisonment and death, all trafficking in ecclesiastical preferments was unknown. But after the union of Church and State, and when the wealth of the world began to flow into the coffers of the church, there was a great temptation to enter the sacred order for the privileges and immunities which it secured. Simony thus became the inevitable consequence of the rich endowment of the greater Sees.
In the early days of episcopacy the bishop was elected by the clergy and the people of his diocese, but in process of time episcopal elections became so important; that the lay-lords, and even the sovereigns, were tempted to interfere, and ultimately to establish and claim the privilege of positive appointment. Charlemagne himself set the example of advancing his natural sons to high ecclesiastical dignities. The privilege thus usurped was soon abused. The most important charges and offices were either bestowed on favorites, or publicly sold to the highest bidder, without regard for the interests of religion, sanctity of character, or even literary qualifications.
The universal feudal practice of making presents to the sovereign, or to the liege lord, at every act of promotion, was followed by the ecclesiastics. When a bishop or abbot died, it was usual, in the first place, to report the vacancy to the court, then the ring and the crosier of the deceased prelate or abbot were placed in the hands of the temporal superior. The bishop or abbot next appointed was bound by the general custom to present a gift or acknowledgment; this necessarily led to a transaction which assumed the character of a bargain and sale. The gift or offering, which at first was accepted as honorary and voluntary, was at length exacted as a price with unscrupulous rapacity. With this was connected the famous question of investiture. The ring, the symbol of his mystic marriage with his diocese; the staff, the scepter of his spiritual sway. This investiture conveyed the right to the temporal possessions or endowments of the benefice. It presumed not to consecrate, but permitted the consecrated person to execute his office in a certain defined sphere, and under the protection and guarantee of the civil power.
Many of the Sees were endowed with sovereign rights and royalties within their respective provinces. Bishops and abbeys had grown into principalities and governments, and to these ecclesiastical princes the largest share in the offices and councils of state had been entrusted. In the feudal system, bishops had become in every respect the equals of the secular nobles. "In every city," says Milman, "the bishop, if not the very first of men, was on a level with the first; without the city he was lord of the amplest domains. Archbishops almost equalled kings; for who would not have coveted the station and authority of a Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, rather than that of the feeble Carlovingian monarch? "
But the superior clergy were in no respect behind the laity in the corrupt practice of selling the spiritual offices within their patronage. Bishops and abbots sold their churches, without shame or remorse, that they might repay themselves for their outlay. That which had been obtained by unworthy means was employed for unworthy ends. Such was the fearful state of things both in Church and State, and such the unhallowed motives of men for taking holy orders, when Hildebrand sent forth his famous decree against all simoniacal practices, and against the whole right of investiture by the temporal sovereign, prince, noble, or any layman.
GREGORY AND INVESTITURES A.D. 1075
The formal inauguration of a bishop or abbot by the delivery of a ring and a staff had been customary with the emperors, kings, and princes of Europe, long before the establishment of the feudal system by Charlemagne, probably from the time of Clovis. And so far, if we bear in mind the relation of the Church to the State, and the original source of the privilege, it appears fair and right, though to a spiritual mind a most incongruous combination of temporal and spiritual powers, and ruinous to both. "When the early conquerors of the West," says Dean Waddington, "conferred territorial grants upon the church, the individuals who came to the enjoyment of them were obliged to present themselves at court, to swear allegiance to the king, and to receive from his hands some symbol, in proof that the temporalities were placed in their possession. The same ceremony, in fact, was imposed on the ecclesiastical as on the lay proprietor of royal fiefs, and it was called investiture. Afterwards, when the princes had usurped the presentation to all valuable benefices, even to those which had not been derived from royal bounty, they introduced no distinction, founded on the different sources of the revenue, but continued to subject those whom they nominated to the same rank of allegiance, and the same ceremony of investiture, with the laity."
In the first fervor of conversion, the conquerors, from Constantine downwards, had been in the habit of bestowing a share of their newly-acquired property upon monasteries and churches; but the gifts of the successive dynasties were moderate, compared with the imperial house of Saxony. Under the German emperors church property accumulated rapidly, and to an enormous extent. "In the eleventh and twelfth centuries," says Greenwood, "freeholds in perpetuity were possessed by the churches to a very great extent. The bishops and abbots were enriched, not, as heretofore, by gifts of single plots of ground, or farms, but by grants of whole cities and towns, by cantons and counties. Thus Otho I. gave to the monastery of Magdeburg several boroughs, with their purlieus and the rural districts appertaining thereto. Otho II. granted three boroughs out of the imperial domain to the church of Aschaffenburg, with all the lands appurtenant. The terms of the conveyance do not appear to have differed at all from those used in secular grants of the like nature. And in practice, notwithstanding the different character and calling of the grantees, the same ideas of the nature and requirements of the grant appear to have been entertained by the spiritual as by the lay vassal. Thus bishops and abbots buckled on armor, mounted their chargers, and marched to the field, at the head of their sub-vassals and tenants, in discharge of the feudal duties incurnbent upon their lands, nor could the latter be easily moved at all till led into action by their lawful chiefs.
"The great ecclesiastics, so far from objecting to these unprofessional demands, entered heartily into the sport of war, and bore themselves in the field with a degree of martial prowess which might become the bravest of the lay chivalry."
Such was the state of what may be called the Christian constituency when Hildebrand issued his memorable edict against lay investitures; and such was the right or usage on the part of the crown of nominating and appointing to the greater ecclesiastical dignities and benefices. Hildebrand's scheme was to abolish entirely even the remotest claim of any interference, either for or against, on the part of the laity, in spiritual appointments, and to deprive the sovereign of the right of investiture, with which the law and custom of centuries had armed him, and which he regarded as the most precious prerogative of his crown. This was the question raised, the prize at issue, and the great battle to be fought, between the potentates of Europe and the meagre monk in the Vatican. Gregory now addressed himself to the contest, the greatest by far ever undertaken single-handed in any age.
The discerning eye of the vigilant pontiff had long watched the spirit and movements of all Christendom. He was well acquainted with the moral and political life, the strength and weakness, of all nations. He may be seen in the spiritual warfare temporizing with the strong, and bending all his strength against the weak. He speaks contemptuously of the feeble king of France, and claims tribute as an ancient right. Charlemagne, he says, was the pope's collector, and bestowed Saxony on the apostle. But to the dreaded William of England and Normandy his language is courteous. The haughty Norman maintained his Teutonic independence; created bishops and abbots at his will; was absolute lord over his ecclesiastical as over his feudal liegemen.
In Spain and the northern nations Gregory was more assumptuous and successful, but it was against the empire that he concentrated all his forces, and resolved to measure the strength of the Papacy with the whole power of Henry. If he could humble the highest and proudest of monarchs — the successor of the Caesars — the victory would tell on all other sovereigns.
The youth and inexperience of Henry, the demoralizing tendencies of his education, the revolt of the German princes, and the troubles that too often afflict a country during a minority, encouraged the daring priest in his bold designs. The decisions of the council, held in 1074, against the universal sin of simony, and the marriage of the clergy, were duly communicated to the Emperor. The crafty pope embraced the opportunity of assuming the greatest friendship for Henry. He admonished him as a father to return to the bosom of his mother, the holy Roman church, to rule the empire in a more worthy manner, to abstain from simoniacal presentations to benefices, and to render due allegiance to his spiritual superior.
The Emperor received the pope's legate courteously, commended his zeal for the reform of the church, and was altogether most submissive in his tone. But Gregory was not to be satisfied with unmeaning praise and apparent repentance. He now desired permission, as supreme arbiter of the affairs of Germany, to summon councils there, by which those accused of simony might be convicted and deposed. But neither Henry nor the bishops would grant leave to the pope's legates to assemble a council in Germany for such a purpose. The clergy dreaded his severe inquisition into their titles, and the Emperor dreaded having his own patronage curtailed. But the impatient zeal of the ambitious priest would brook no delay and submit to no opposition.
In the following year (1075) he convoked a second council at Rome, and proceeded to those measures which he had intended to accomplish by synods in Germany. At the head of his Roman clergy, men vowed to his cause by interest and pride, he determined at all hazards to strike at the root of all abuses comprehended under the odious name of simony. On this occasion he excommunicated some of the favorites of Henry; he deposed the Archbishop of Bremen, and the bishops of Strasburg, Spires, and Bamberg, besides some Lombard bishops, and five of the imperial court, whose assistance the Emperor had used in the sale of benefices. He also decreed that "whoever should confer a bishopric or an abbacy, or should receive an investiture from the hands of any layman, should be excommunicated." Henry again professed a measure of penitence, acknowledged the existence of simony, and his intentions in future to discourage it, but that he could by no means be induced to give up the power of appointing bishops and abbots, and the investiture so closely connected with that power. Gregory, on the other hand, exasperated by the king's disobedience, and by his appointing to the See of Milan and other bishoprics, without awaiting the decision of the apostolic See, sent him the most peremptory summons to appear in Rome, to answer for all his offenses before the tribunal of the pope, and before a synod of ecclesiastics; if he should refuse or delay, he was at once to suffer the sentence of excommunication. The 22nd of February was the day appointed for his appearance.
"Thus the king," says Milman, "the victorious king of the Germans, was solemnly cited as a criminal, to answer undefined charges, to be amenable to laws which the judge had assumed the right of enacting, interpreting, and enforcing by the last penalties. The whole affairs of the empire were to be suspended while the king stood before the bar of his imperious arbiter; no delay was allowed; the stern and immutable alternative was humble and instant obedience, or that sentence which involved deposition from the empire, and eternal perdition."
The Emperor, who was a high-minded prince and of an ardent temperament, being extremely indignant at this mandate, treated it as a wanton insult, and immediately called a convention of German bishops at Worms. His object was to depose the pope who had thus declared war, even to the death, against himself. These prelates, after passing many censures on the conduct of Hildebrand, pronounced him unworthy of his dignity, deposed him, and appointed a meeting for the election of a new pontiff. Gregory, on receiving the sentence by the king's messengers and letters, was not the least disturbed by such empty denunciations. In a full assembly of one hundred and ten bishops, he suspended the ecclesiastics who had voted and spoken against him. He then pronounced the excommunication of the Emperor, declaring "that he had forfeited the kingdoms of Germany and Italy, and that his subjects were absolved from their oath of fealty."
In the assembly Gregory thus spoke:
"Now, therefore, brethren, it behoves us to draw the sword of vengeance; now must we smite the foe of God and of His church; now shall his bruised head, which lifts itself, in its haughtiness, against the foundations of the faith, and of all the churches, fall to the earth, there, according to the sentence pronounced against his pride, to go upon his belly, and eat the dust. Fear not, little flock, saith the Lord, for it is the will of your Father to grant you the kingdom. Long enough have ye borne with him; often enough have ye admonished him: let his seared conscience be made to feel!" The whole synod replied with one voice, "Let thy wisdom, most holy father, whom the divine mercy has raised up to rule the world in our days, utter such a sentence against this blasphemer, this usurper, this tyrant, this apostate, as may crush him to the earth, and make him a warning to future ages... Draw the sword, pass the judgment, that the righteous may rejoice when he seeth the vengeance, and wash his hands in the blood of the ungodly."
The formal sentence followed: the audacious priest, in the most blasphemous manner, identifies himself with the divine majesty, and utters the most solemn language in the foulest hypocrisy. After affirming, with a lying tongue, that he had been reluctantly compelled to ascend the pontifical throne, he said,
"In full confidence in the authority over all Christian people granted by God to the delegate of St. Peter, for the honor and defense of the church, in the name of the Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and by the power and authority of St. Peter, I interdict King Henry, son of Henry the Emperor, who, in his unexampled pride, has risen against the church, from the government of the whole realm of Germany and Italy. I absolve all Christians from the oaths which they have sworn, or may swear, to him, and forbid all obedience to him as king... Because he has held communion with the excommunicated, and despised the admonitions which, as thou knowest, I have given him for his salvation... I bind him, therefore, in thy name, in the bonds of thy anathema, that all the nations may know, and may acknowledge, that thou art Peter, and that upon thee, as upon a rock, the Son of God hath built His church, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her."
Before the synod was prorogued, Gregory addressed letters to "all Christians," enclosing copies of the acts of the council, and commanding all men, as they desired to be numbered among the flock of the blessed Peter, to accept and obey the orders therein contained; more especially those which related to the deposition and anathema against the king, his "false bishops, and reprobate ministers." And, after exhorting the people to resist Henry, even unto blood, the lying priest dared to utter, "God is herein our witness that we are not moved by any desire of temporal advantage, or by carnal respects of any kind, in reproving wicked princes or impious priests; but that all we do is done from pure regard for our high office, and for the honor and prerogative of the apostolic See," etc.
War was now openly proclaimed; the effect of these letters, thrown broadcast into a kingdom already divided and among a people already discontented and accustomed to rebellion, was immense. Both Church and State were rent in pieces, some taking part with the king, others with the pontiff. A civil war broke out, which raged for seventeen years, throughout the Roman empire; bishop against bishop, the people against the people; "while," says one, "the earth drank up the blood that was shed, and the grave closed alike over those who suffered and those who inflicted the misery." All Germany was in a state of distraction, dissension, and all but prostration.
The dukes of Swabia, taking advantage of the general feeling against Henry, and encouraged by the pope's legates, rose in arms against the sovereign to whom they had sworn fealty, and elected Adolphus as king. In the meantime, Hildebrand himself neglected none of his own means of warfare, a warfare in which he was deeply skilled. Great swelling words of most awful import were his weapons. The "name of God; the peace of God; the commands of God; the salvation of God; the keys of the blessed Peter; closing the gates of heaven; opening the gates of hell; eternal perdition," etc., were words which struck terror into every human mind, and the manacles with which he bound his slaves.
As this great struggle went on, the pope was gathering strength, Henry was losing it and felt it ebbing fast. His heart sank within him: everything seemed blasted by the curse of St. Peter; the princes revolted; the prelates and the people renouncing their allegiance, and conspiracies arose on every side. Such was the evil influence of the pope, who now stepped forth in the full panoply of ecclesiastical, or rather of diabolical, power, to trample in the dust his own liege lord. Under all these depressing and crushing circumstances Henry came to an arrangement with the rebellious princes — that the claims and wrongs of both parties should be submitted to the pope, who was invited to preside at a council to be held at Augsburg for that purpose.
The fallen Emperor was now caught in the toils of the enemy. The policy of Gregory had been successful. Having created a revolution, and caused much bloodshed between the princes of the realm and Henry, which he artfully shifted from the ground of individual or political grievance to that of religion, he now pretended to be a peacemaker. Hence such words of base hypocrisy as, "Deal gently with Henry, and extend to him that charity which covereth a multitude of sins." We shall soon see the quality of Gregory's gentleness and charity towards Henry.
The king's cause was now desperate. Stripped of all power, even of the sign of royalty, and feeling that he had nothing to hope for from an assembly of his rebellious subjects and his avowed enemy, he resolved, as a last chance, to try and gain a personal interview with the pope, and throw himself as a penitent at his feet. With difficulty he collected from his few remaining friends sufficient money to defray his expenses to Italy. He left Spires in the depth of winter, with his wife and infant son, and one faithful attendant. But the Alps were still between them and Italy. And even nature now seemed to conspire with the pope against the fallen king. The weather was unusually severe. The Rhine and the Po were thickly frozen over, and the snow which covered the Alps was as hard and as slippery as ice. Besides, the passes were jealously watched by the Dukes of Bavaria and Carinthia, the enemies of Henry. Altogether a passage seemed impossible. But the effort must be made, however perilous. According to the agreement between Henry and the rival princes, or the states general, he must obtain absolution within a year and a day of the date of the papal anathema, or forfeit his crown and kingdom for ever; but if he could obtain absolution within that time, they would return to his standard and their allegiance.
The Alps must be crossed. The fatal day — the 23rd of February — was hastening on. Guides, well acquainted with the paths, were hired, something like a road was cut through the snow for the royal party. With great difficulty they reached the summit of the pass; but the descent was yet more hazardous. It looked like a vast precipice of smooth ice. But the difficulty must be overcome. The men crept down on their hands and knees, often slipping and rolling down the glassy declivities. The queen, her infant son, and female attendant, were drawn down by the guides in the skins of oxen, as in sledges. The horses were lowered by various contrivances; some, with their feet tied, were allowed to roll down; but some were killed, and few of them reached the reached the bottom in a serviceable state.
The unexpected arrival of Henry in Italy produced a great senation. Princes and bishops assembled in great numbers, and received him with the highest honors. The Italians looked to him for a redress of their grievances. Those who had been excommunicated by Hildebrand looked eagerly for vengeance; and the Lombard nobility and the prelates hoped that he was come to depose the dreaded and detested Gregory. As he moved onwards the number of his followers gradually increased; but Henry could not pause to plunge himself into any new scheme; he could not imperil the throne of Germany; he must obtain absolution before the fatal 23rd of February.
In the meantime Gregory had set out for Germany, but the news of Henry's descent into Italy arrested his march. He was uncertain whether he had come as a humble suppliant, or at the head of a great army, and hastened to place his person in safety at Canosa, a strong castle in the Apennine mountains, belonging to his faithful friend and ally, the "great countess" Matilda.
Bishops and abbots who had fallen under the papal ban followed the king's example, and hastened to Canosa. With naked feet, and clothed in sackcloth, they presented themselves before the pontiff, humbly imploring pardon and absolution from the dire anathema. After a few days' penance in solitary confinement, and with scanty fare, he absolved them, on condition that, until the king should be reconciled, they were to have no intercourse with him. For Henry himself more humiliating terms were reserved.
On arriving at Canosa, the king obtained an interview with Matilda, the Marchioness Adelaide (his mother-in-law), and Hugh, abbot of Cluny, and engaged their intercession with the pope for a merciful consideration of his case. After many objections raised by the implacable pope, and pleas urged by Henry's friends, Gregory at length proposed, "that if he be truly penitent, let him place his crown, and all the ensigns of royalty, in my hands, and openly confess himself unworthy of the royal name and dignity." This demand seemed too hard, even to the ardent admirers of the pope, who entreated him "not to break the bruised reed;" and in condescension to their importunities, he promised to give the king an interview.
It was now towards the end of January; the year of grace was nearly expired; and Henry resolved to accept the pope's conditions. He was determined to do and to bear all, so that he might but disappoint the plottings of his rebellious subjects, and retain the empire.
"On a dreary winter morning," says Milman, "with the ground deep in snow, the king, the heir of a long line of emperors, was permitted to enter within the two outer of the three walls which girded the castle of Canosa. He had laid aside every mark of royalty, or of distinguished station; he was clad only in the thin white linen dress of the penitent, and there, fasting, he awaited in humble patience the pleasure of the pope. But the gates did not unclose. A second day he stood, cold, hungry, and mocked by vain hope. And yet a third day dragged on, from morning to evening, over the unsheltered head of the discrowned king. Every heart was moved, except that of the representative of Jesus Christ. Even in the presence of Gregory there were low, deep, murmurs against his unapostolic pride and inhumanity. The patience of Henry could endure no more. He took refuge in an adjacent chapel of St. Nicolas, to implore, and with tears, once again the intercession of the aged abbot of Cluny. Matilda was present; her womanly heart was melted; she joined with Henry in his supplications to the abbot. "Thou alone canst accomplish this," said the abbot to the countess. Henry fell on his knees, and, in a passion of grief, entreated her merciful interference. To female entrearies Gregory at length yielded an ungracious permission for the king to approach his presence. With bare feet, still in the garb of penitence, stood the king, a man of singularly tall and noble person, with a countenance accustomed to flash command and terror upon his adversaries, before the pope, a greyhaired man, of small unimposing stature, bowed with years."
The terms imposed on Henry were characteristic of the unfeeling, inexorable, tyrant; he acted in this matter more like a fiend incarnate than a human being. Finding that the royal penitent was brought so low, that any terms would be accepted, he forced him to drink the bitterest dregs of humiliation. We need not trouble the reader with his lengthy stipulations. Such demands had never been made or heard of before in the annals of mankind. But his one grand object was the consolidation of his own elaborated scheme of papal authority. Having placed his foot on the neck of the greatest monarch in the world, he attempted the establishment of the pontiff's right, in the face of Europe, to judge kings, dispose of kingdoms, and absolve subjects from their oath of allegiance to excommunicated kings. This gave the pope enormous power over the whole outer world. It constituted rebellion against a lawful sovereign a sacred duty to the church and to God.
THE EFFECTS OF THE PAPAL POLICY
Gregory soon found that he had gone too far — that the humiliation at Canosa could never be forgotten and could never even sleep until it was revenged. Compassion as well as interest moved many princes and prelates to gather round the fallen king, now that he was released from the ban of excommunication. Hildebrand was generally hated because of his political tyranny, and dreaded because of his ecclesiastical censures. The revolted princes of Germany were secretly encouraged by the pope to dispute the possession of the throne with Henry, which increased his perplexity, and prevented him from turning his arms against Rome. He prayed that Henry might never prosper in war, and, in the name and with the blessing of the apostles, he bestowed the kingdom of Germany on the rebel, Rudolph, duke of Swabia. The pope even ventured to prophesy that within a year Henry would either be dead or deposed; and, as if he knew the end from the beginning, he sent a crown to the future king, with an inscription, signifying that it was the gift of Christ to St. Peter, and of St. Peter to Rudolph. But he was soon proved to be a lying prophet as well as a lying priest, and the remorseless foreenter of civil war.
The king's strength gradually increased in spite of all the wicked and cruel plottings of Gregory. After years of the most terrible civil war and fearful bloodshed, the armies of Henry and of his rival, Rudolph, met once more on the bank of the Ulster, in October 1080. The engagement was long and obstinate, but the fall of Rudolph gave Henry the victory. He received his death-wound, it is said, from the lance of Godfrey, afterwards the first king of Jerusalem; a sabre-wound from another cut off his right hand. It is reported that the dying prince, looking on his dissevered hand, sorrowfully acknowledged, "With this hand I ratified my oath of fealty to my sovereign, Henry: the punishment is just; I have now lost life and kingdom." The king's adversaries being now discouraged and paralysed, he determined on turning his forces against his most formidable and irreconcilable enemy. He crossed the Alps, entered Italy, and encamped under the walls of Rome.
The city having been well provisioned, the walls strengthened, and the loyalty of the Romans secured by the wealth of Matilda, Henry was more or less engaged for three years in blockading and besieging Rome; but in the summer of 1083 he gained possession of the guilty city. Gregory took refuge in the strong castle of St. Angelo, and a few of his partisans in their fortified houses. Henry was willing to come to terms with Hildebrand, and to accept the imperial crown from his hands. But the pope would hear of nothing but unconditional submission. "Let the king resign his dignity, and submit to penance," were the only terms of Gregory. The clergy — bishops, abbots, and monks, and the laity, entreated him to have mercy on the afflicted city, and come to terms with the king.
But all attempts at negotiation were fruitless; the inflexible pope despised alike supplications and threatenings. The absolute submission of Henry, and satisfaction to the church, were the lofty demands of the imprisoned pope. But Henry was no longer the deserted, the broken-spirited, suppliant at his feet, as at Canosa.
The Romans at length, weary of enduring the miseries of a siege, and no hope of relief from the Italian Normans, declared in favor of Henry. He was master of the greater part of the city. His first step was to place Guibert the Archbishop of Ravenna in the papal chair, as Clement the Third. He had been named by a synod of bishops as the future pope. Henry now received the imperial crown from Clement, with his Queen Bertha, and was saluted as Emperor by the Roman people.
The position of Gregory now seemed desperate. He was a prisoner, and might soon be given up to the vengeance of Henry. He could expect no aid from Philip of France. William of England was not disposed to embroil himself in the pope's quarrels. Matilda, Countess of Tuscany, alone could be relied on. She was the most powerful, wealthy, and zealous supporter of the interests of the church in that country. On the death of her mother and of her husband, while still young and beautiful, the crafty pope persuaded her to settle all her possessions on the church of Rome; which were afterwards entitled the States of the Church. But Matilda's men and money were not sufficient for the pope's present necessity. In his great distress he entreated the help of Robert Gutscard, a great Norman warrior. He had been suspected as an accomplice of Cencius in his conspiracy against Gregory, and had been under the censure of the church for several years. But the pope was ready to release him from the ban of excommunication, and even to hold out the hope of the imperial crown if he would at once come to his aid. The great Norman accepted the pope's terms, and placed his ruthless sword at Gregory's service.
In order therefore to meet the pope's wishes, receive his blessing, and overthrow his enemies, Robert collected an army of 30,000 irregular infantry, and 6000 Norman cavalry, and put them in march for Rome. It was a wild and motley host, in which were mingled adventurers of many nations: some had joined his banner to rescue the pope, and others from love of war; even the unbelieving Saracens had enlisted in great numbers. Tidings soon reached Rome that an overwhelming force was advancing to the relief of the beleaguered forts.
Henry, apprehending no danger, had sent away a great part of his troops; and as the remainder were unequal to encounter this formidable host, he prudently withdrew his forces, assuring his Roman friends that he would soon return. He retired to Civita Casteliana, where he could watch the movements of all parties.
Three days after Henry had left the city, the Norman army appeared under the walls. Alas, alas, for the inhabitants of that guilty city! A darker and heavier day than she had ever passed through was at hand; and all her calamities were traceable to the revengeful, implacable spirit of her high priest. But rather than yield to the temporal power, even the blood of Rome — his own city and capital — must flow. The dominion of the papacy over the kingdoms of this world was his one grand idea; and no adversity could induce him to yield one point of his lofty pretensions. He was as inflexible in a prison as in a palace. "Let the king lay down his crown and give satisfaction to the church" were the proud and disdainful words of Hildebrand, though a prisoner, and though both the clergy and the laity were beseeching him to come to terms with Henry. But he despised alike the murmurs, the menaces, and the supplications of all. He must have known the character of those murderous hordes that were at his gates, and what the consequences would be the moment they entered. But his mind was made up, and at any cost of human bloodshed and misery he inexorably pursued his imperious designs.
The Romans were unprepared for their defense, and scarcely made a show of resistance. The gate of St. Laurence was speedily forced, and the city was at once in their power. The first act of Robert, that dutiful son of the church, was to release the pope from his long imprisonment in the Castle of St. Angelo. The Norman formally received the pontifical blessing. Rising from the pope's feet, thus blessed and edified — awful mockery and blasphemy! Robert let loose his ruffian bands on the unprotected flock of the so-called chief shepherd. For three days Rome was subjected to the horrors of a sack. The Normans and the infidel Saracens spread themselves over every quarter of the city. Slaughter, plunder, lust, and violence, were uncontrolled. On the third day, when the Normans were feasting and revelling in careless security, the inhabitants, driven to despair, broke out in general insurrection, rushed armed into the streets, and began a terrible carnage of their conquerors. Thus surprised, the Normans flew to arms, and immediately the whole city was one scene of wild and desperate conflict.
"The Norman horse," says Milman, "poured into the streets, but the Romans fought at advantage, from their possession of the houses and their knowledge of the ground. They were gaining the superiority: the Normans saw their peril. The remorseless Gutscard gave the word to fire the houses. From every quarter the flames burst forth furiously: houses, palaces, convents, churches, as the night darkened, were seen in awful conflagration. The distracted inhabitants dashed wildly into the streets, no longer endeavoring to defend themselves, but to save their families. They were hewn down by hundreds. The Saracen allies of the pope, who had been the foremost in the pillage, were now the foremost in the conflagration and the massacre."
Gregory, it is said, exerted himself at this terrible moment, yet not, alas! to save his so-called flock from the cruelty of the Normans, but to save some of the principal churches from the general conflagration. Gutscard was at length master of the city, or rather of the ruins of Ancient Rome, but his vengeance was not yet appeased. Thousands of Romans were publicly sold as slaves, and thousands carried off as prisoners. It is supposed that neither Goth nor Vandal, neither Greek nor German, ever brought such desolation on the city as this capture by the Normans. And be it carefully noted by the reader, as showing the real spirit of popery, that the ferocious Gutscard was bribed by Gregory to become his ally, his deliverer, his protector, and his avenger. The miseries, massacres, and ruin of Rome were justly attributed to the obstinacy of the pope at that time, and have been ever since by all impartial writers. And no one was ever more fully persuaded of this fact than Gregory himself. He never trusted either his person or his fortunes even within the ramparts of St. Angelo after the departure of his Norman allies.
Covered with everlasting shame, branded with eternal infamy, and dreading to hear the reproaches which must have been cast upon him as the author of the late calamities, he retired from the city of St. Peter, in company with his allies, while its ruins were still smoking, its streets lying desolate, and its once numerous inhabitants slaughtered, burned, or carried into captivity. Faint and broken-hearted, we doubt not — from pride awfully mortified — he first rested at the monastery of Monte Casino, then proceeded to the Normans' strong castle of Salerno. He never saw Rome again.
A numerous body of ecclesiastics, devoted to the promotion of the lofty pretensions of the degraded pope, followed him to Salerno. There he held a synod, and as if unmoved and unshaken by the horrors he had caused and witnessed, he thundered out again anathemas and excommunications against Henry, the anti-pope Clement, and all their adherents. But these were his last thunderpeals. Death was approaching rapidly. The great, the inflexible, asserter of the supremacy of the sacerdotal order must die like other men. He called before him his fellow-exiles, made a confession of his faith — especially as to the eucharist, having been suspected of sympathising with Berengar's views — forgave and absolved all whom he had anathematised, with the exception of the Emperor and the anti-pope. With these he charged his followers to make no peace unless on their entire submission to the church.
A fearful tempest raged, it is said, as his friends hung over the dying pope. His last memorable words were, "I have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile." "In exile, my lord," said a bishop of congenial feelings, whose priestly pride was not rebuked by that spectacle of mortality, "thou canst not die in exile! Vicar of Christ and His apostles, thou hast received from God the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession!" The daring breath of blasphemy thus closed, as it had surrounded, the life of the great churchman. But his departed spirit was far away from the flattery of his friends to be manifested before another tribunal. There all would be judged, not according to the principles of popery, but according to the eternal truth of God as it has been revealed unto us in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him" is a word of sweetest assurance to the heart; for what must that word "blessed" mean, when used by God Himself! But oh! what of those who live and die without Christ! who will at last have to say, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." Oh! who can fathom the depths of misery — the eternity of woe, in these two words, "not saved!" "not saved!" What a text for a preacher! what a warning word for a sinner! May my reader lay it to heart, before laying down this volume; and may he carefully contrast the death of the great churchman with the death of the great apostle.
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." (2Ti 4:7-8.)
Even a false prophet was compelled to say, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."
Having seen so much of the king in connection with the pope, we will briefly notice his end before commencing a fresh chapter.
He survived his great antagonist twenty-one years. On the 7th of August, 1106, Henry closed his long and agitated life, his eventful reign of fifty years. History is full of every incident of that great monarch's life from his early boyhood till his death, but even an outline of his political life falls not within our plan. The contrast between the affections of his people and the enmity of the church is remarkable, and tells its own tale. Branded though he had been by the pope with the mark of the beast, he was greatly loved by the people. He had many faults very common to kings, but he had a large place in the hearts of his people. "At the news of his death," says Greenwood, "their love overflowed in deep and bitter lamentations. A general cry was heard in the streets of the city of Liege; the court and the people, the widows and the orphans, the multitude of the poor and indigent of the city and country flocked to the obsequies of their sovereign, their friend, their benefactor. With uplifted voices they bewailed the loss of their father; dissolved in tears they kissed his cold hands, they embraced the inanimate limbs, and could with difficulty be persuaded to give place to the attendants in waiting to prepare the body for burial. Nor could they be persuaded to quit the tomb; but for many days relieved each other day and night to watch and pray beside the place where they had laid him."
Nothing could be more beautiful or touching than the testimony of these true mourners to the benevolence of the Emperor. But oh, how different, how sad, how sorrowful, when we turn to the so-called church, the so-called representatives of the meek and lowly Jesus! The wrath of his papal adversaries seems to have been heated sevenfold when they heard of such honors being paid to the body of the excommunicated Henry. The young king, his son, Henry V., was threatened with the anathemas of heaven unless he caused the accursed remains of his father to be exhumed and deposited in some unconsecrated spot; or-inconceivable assumption and wickedness!-let the pope be applied to for a post mortera absolution. His faithful bishop Albert, who had given his sovereign decent burial in the church of St. Lambert, was compelled, as a penance for this act of gratitude and love, to disinter the body with his own hands, and have it conveyed to an unconsecrated building in an island on the Moselle. But these indignities thus heaped on the lifeless body of the late emperor produced a reaction. The young king, though he had been trained by Pope Pasehal II. to deceive his father and openly to rebel against him, became alarmed at this spiritual terrorism, gave orders for the body to be removed to Spires, and solemnly deposited in the tomb of his ancestors. The procession was followed by nearly the whole population. The service for the dead was performed with every ceremony and honor usual on such occasions.
Bishop Gibbard, one of the fiercest of the late Emperor's persecutors, happened to be from home at this moment, but the news of what had taken place brought him back in all haste. Boiling over with indignation, he caused the body to be once more exhumed, placed in unconsecrated ground, and imposed a penance on all who had attended the procession. But the voice of affection could not be silenced by the relentlessness of the bishop. The citizens in a body attended the corpse to its new resting-place with loud lamentations. "They reminded the bishop," says Milman, "how the munificent Emperor had enriched the church of Spires; they recounted the ornaments of gold and silver and precious stones, the silken vestments, the works of art, the golden altar-table, richly wrought, a present of the eastern Emperor Alexius, which had made their cathedral the most gorgeous and famous in Germany. They loudly expressed their grief and dissatisfaction, and were hardly restrained from tumult. But they prevailed not. Yet the bier of Henry was still visited by unbought and unfeigned witnesses to his boundless charities. At length, after five years of obstinate contention, Henry, was permitted to repose in the consecrated vault with his imperial ancestors."
We have thus given a more detailed account than usual of the struggle between Gregory and Henry, in order that the reader may have before him a fair specimen of the spirit and doings of popery in the middle ages. And be it known, its spirit never changes: its doings may, according to the power and opportunities of the reigning pope. As it was, so it is, and evermore will be the same. No language can exaggerate the blasphemy, cruelty, and tyranny of the papacy; and the same spirit pervades, more or less, every member of her community. For what, it may be asked, in plain terms, was the crime of Henry which brought upon him such unrelenting persecution during his life and after his death? The reader will remember that the dispute arose about investitures.
The traditional right of monarchs to have a voice in the appointment of the bishops and church dignitaries in their states had been recognized for centuries. They not unfrequently nominated to the See of Rome, as to the other bishoprics in their dominions. Even Hildebrand himself waited patiently till his own election received the legal ratification of the Emperor. But scarcely had he been raised to the pontifical chair, when he wrote an insulting letter to the Emperor, commanding him to abstain from simony, and to renounce the right of investiture by the ring and staff. Henry, in self-defense, asserted the prerogatives which his predecessors had exercised without question, especially since the days of Charlemagne. Gregory then thundered a sentence of excommunication against him, released his subjects from their oath of fealty, and pronounced him deposed for disobedience. Popery now threw off its mask, and the world was no longer in doubt of the aims and objects of the spiritual power. But so great was the ignorance of the period that the wildest pretensions found many supporters, and so superstitious were the people, that they were made to believe that all who took up arms against the excommunicated king, were to be regarded as the champions of the faith.
This was the head and front of Henry's offense against the papacy. This was the cause of so much human bloodshed and suffering: the inexorable priest would not yield a point, the Emperor fought for his traditional rights, and thus the great struggle continued until death closed the scene.
Chapter 20 - The Crusades