Week 21 – the 11th century, Christendom

What were the problems besetting the Church in the tenth and eleventh centuries? What was “moderate reform”?

Church became entangled in the feudal system: bishops and abbots held their offices as fiefs from nobles, could be chosen by their lords as vassals (and as vassals they must serve they lords). Lords often chose such people for political reasons, even if they had no idea what they were doing. This was because bishops were not allowed to have legitimate children, meaning they couldn’t have an heir that would take over, which made them ideal administrators from the view of kings. This resulted in spiritual rigour.

The moderate reform started with Pope Leo IX being chosen as Pope. He did not think being chosen by lords was enough to make him Pope, so he travelled to Rome and told the Church offices that he shouldn’t be Pope because of all his previous sins in his life. This made people only want him more for his humbleness.

Describe the events that took place during the conflict between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV. What was at stake?

Gregory VII doesn’t want king choosing the Church officials, Henry disagrees, says it is a tradition now, to which Gregory replies that if something is being done wrong over and over again, it does not mean it is tradition and we should stick to it. Henry needs bishops to offset power of nobles; disputed election for bishops of Milan brings issues to a boil, Henry appoints his choice in Milan, then in other places and Pope Gregory VII demands he cease. Henry lashes out on Henry and gets excommunicated. In 1077, a meeting at Canossa is held, at which Henry’s excommunication is lifted. Then, three years later, he gets excommunicated again, but this time he drives Pope out of Rome. In 1085, before Gregory dies exiled from Rome, he says: “I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile”.

What was Christendom?

Christendom was, and still is, an international society. Christian view the world as one place, not as many different countries with different people. Monasteries sent their monks from one country to another, nationality wasn’t considered when choosing superiors and it was normal for someone to be a bishop or archbishop in a different country. Nationality also had nothing to do with being accepted as a university professor. Church had the power to remove monarchs and excommunicate people or kings. Church could interdict cities, which was very stressful for the kings, as it was a punishment for something he previously did and people were affected because of him.

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