I. BEFORE 1556
From their first appearance in the history of the world the Germans represented the principle of unchecked individualism, as opposed to the Roman principle of an all-embracing authority. German history in the Middle Ages was strongly influenced by two opposing principles: universalism and individualism. After Arminius had fought for German freedom in the Teutoburg Forest the idea that the race was entitled to be independent gradually became a powerful factor in its historical development. This conception first took form when the Germanic states grew out of the Roman Empire. Even Theodoric the Great thought of uniting the discordant barbarian countries with the aid of the leges gentium into a great confederation of the Mediterranean. Although in these Mediterranean countries the Roman principle finally prevailed, being that of a more advanced civilization, still the individualistic forces which contributed to found these states were not wasted. By them the world-embracing empire of Rome was overthrown and the way prepared for the national principle. It was not until after the fall of the Western Empire that a great Frankish kingdom became possible and the Franks, no longer held in check by the Roman Empire, were able to draw together the tribes of the old Teutonic stock and to lay the foundation of a German empire. Before this the Germanic tribes had been continually at variance; no tie bound them together; even the common language failed to produce unity. On the other hand, the so-called Lautverschiebung , or shifting of the consonants, in German, separated the North and South Germans. Nor was German mythology a source of union, for the tribal centres of worship rather increased the already existing particularism. The Germans had not even a common name. Since the eighth century most probably the designations Franks and Frankish extended beyond the boundaries of the Frankish tribe. It was not, however, until the ninth century that the expression theodisk (later German Deutsch ), signifying "popular," or "belonging to people" made its appearance and a great stretch of time divided this beginning from the use of the word as a name of the nation.
The work of uniting Germany was not begun by a tribe living in the interior but by one on the outskirts of the country. The people called Franks suddenly appear in history in the third century. They represented no single tribe, but consisted of a combination of Low and High German tribes. Under the leadership of Clovis (Chlodwig) the Franks overthrew the remains of the Roman power in Gaul and built up the Frankish state on a Germano-Romanic foundation. The German tribes were conquered one after another and colonized in the Roman manner. Large extents of territory were marked out as belonging to the king, and on these military colonies were founded. The commanders of these military colonies gradually became administrative functionaries, and the colonies themselves grew into peaceful agricultural village communities. For a long time political expressions, such as Hundreds , recalled the original military character of the people. From that time the Frankish ruler became the German overlord, but the centrifugal tendency of the Germanic tribes reacted against this sovereignty as soon as the Merovingian Dynasty began slowly to decline, owing to internal feuds. In each of the tribes after this the duke rose to supremacy over his fellow tribesmen. From the seventh century the tribal duke became an almost independent sovereign. These ducal states originated in the supreme command of large bodies of troops, and then in the administration of large territories by dukes. At the same time the disintegration was aided by the bad administration of the counts, the officials in charge of the territorial districts ( Gau ), who were no longer supervised by the central authority. But what was most disastrous was that an unruly aristocracy sought to control all the economical interests and to exercise arbitrary powers over politics. These sovereign nobles had become powerful through the feudal system, a form of government which gave to medieval Germany its peculiar character. Caesar in his day found that it was customary among the Gauls for a freeman, the "client," voluntarily to enter into a relation of dependence on a "senior." This surrender ( commendatio ) took place in order to obtain the protection of the lord or to gain the usufruct of land. From this Gallic system of clientship there developed, in Frankish times, the conception of the "lord's man " ( homagium or hominium ), who by an oath swore fealty to his suzerain and became a vassus , or gasindus , or homo . The result of the growth of this idea was that finally there appeared, throughout the kingdom, along with royalty, powerful territorial lords with their vassi or vassalli , as their followers were called from the eighth century. The vassals received as fief ( beneficium ) a piece of land of which they enjoyed the use for life. The struggle of the Franks with the Arabs quickened the development of the feudal system, for the necessity of creating an army of horsemen then became evident. Moreover the poorer freemen, depressed in condition by the frequent wars, could not be required to do service as horsemen, a duty that could only be demanded from the vassals of the great landowners. In order to force these territorial lords to do military service fiefs were granted from the already existing public domain, and in their turn the great lords granted part of these fiefs to their retainers. Thus the Frankish king was gradually transformed from a lord of the land and people to a feudal lord over the beneficiaries directly and indirectly dependent upon him by feudal tenure. By the end of the ninth century the feudal system had bound together the greater part of the population.
While in this way the secular aristocracy grew into a power, at the same time the Church was equally strengthened by feudalism. The Christian Church during this era -- a fact of the greatest importance -- was the guardian of the remains of classical culture. With this culture the Church was to endow the Germans. Moreover it was to bring them a great fund of new moral conceptions and principles, much increase in knowledge, and skill in art and handicrafts. The well-knit organization of the Church, the convincing logic of dogma, the grandeur of the doctrine of salvation, the sweet poetry of the liturgy, all these captured the understanding of the simple-minded but fine-natured primitive German. It was the Church, in fact, that first brought the exaggerated individualism of the race under control and developed in it gradually, by means of asceticism, those social virtues essential to the State. The country was converted to Christianity very slowly for the Church had here a difficult problem to solve, namely, to replace the natural conception of life by an entirely different one that appeared strange to the people. The acceptance of the Christian name and ideas was at first a purely mechanical one, but it became an inner conviction. No people has shown a more logical or deeper comprehension of the organization and saving aims of the Christian Church. None has exhibited a like devotion to the idea of the Church nor did any people contribute more in the Middle Ages to the greatness of the Church than the German. In the conversion of Germany much credit is due the Irish and Scotch, but the real founders of Christianity in Germany are the Anglo-Saxons, above all St. Boniface . Among the early missionaries were: St. Columbanus, the first to come to the Continent (about 583), who laboured in Swabia; Fridolin, the founder of Saeckingen; Pirminius, who established the monastery of Reichenau in 724; and Gallus (d. 645), the founder of St. Gall. The cause of Christianity was furthered in Bavaria by Rupert of Worms (beginning of the seventh century), Corbinian (d. 730), and Emmeram (d. 715). The great organizer of the Church of Bavaria was St. Boniface. The chief herald of the Faith among the Franks was the Scotchman, St. Kilian (end of the seventh century); the Frisians received Christianity through Willibrord (d. 739). The real Apostle of Germany was St. Boniface, whose chief work was in Central Germany and Bavaria. Acting in conjunction with Rome he organized the German Church, and finally in 755 met the death of a martyr at the hands of the Frisians. After the Church had thus obtained a good foothold it soon reached a position of much importance in the eyes of the youthful German peoples. By grants of land the princes gave it an economic power which was greatly increased when many freemen voluntarily became dependents of these new spiritual lords; thus, besides the secular territorial aristocracy, there developed a second power, that of the ecclesiastical princes. Antagonism between these two elements was perceptible at an early date. Pepin sought to remove the difficulty by strengthening the Frankish Church and placing between the secular and spiritual lords the new Carlovingian king, who, by the assumption of the title Dei gratia , obtained a somewhat religious character.
The Augustinian conception of the Kingdom of God early influenced the Frankish State; political and religious theories unconsciously blended. The union of Church and State seemed the ideal which was to be realized. Each needed the other; the State needed the Church as the only source of real order and true education ; the Church needed for its activities the protection of the secular authority . In return for the training in morals and learning that the Church gave, the State granted it large privileges, such as: the privilegium fori or freedom from the jurisdiction of the State; immunity, that is exemption from taxes and services to the State, from which gradually grew the right to receive the taxes of the tenants residing on the exempt lands and the right to administer justice to them; further, release from military service; and, finally, the granting of great fiefs that formed the basis of the later ecclesiastical sovereignties. The reverse of this picture soon became apparent; the ecclesiastics to whom had been given lands and offices in fief became dependent on secular lords. Thus the State at an early date had a share in the making of ecclesiastical laws, exercised the right of patronage, appointed to dioceses, and soon undertook, especially in the time of Charles Martel , the secularization of church lands. Consequently the question of the relation of Church and State soon claimed attention; it was the most important question in the history of the German Middle Ages. Under the first German emperor this problem seemed to find its solution.
Real German history begins with Charlemagne (768-814). The war with the Saxons was the most important one he carried on, and the result of this struggle, of fundamental importance for German history, was that the Saxons were brought into connexion with the other Germanic tribes and did not fall under Scandinavian influence. The lasting union of the Franks, Saxons, Frisians, Thuringians, Hessians, Alamanni, and Bavarians, that Charlemagne effected, formed the basis of a national combination which gradually lost sight of the fact that it was the product of compulsion. From the time of Charlemagne the above-named German tribes lived under Frankish constitution retaining their own old laws the leges barbarorum , which Charlemagne codified. Another point of importance for German development was that Charlemagne fixed the boundary between his domain and the Slavs, including the Wends, on the farther side of the Elbe and Saale Rivers. It is true that Charlemagne did not do all this according to a deliberate plan, but mainly in the endeavour to win these related Germanic peoples over to Christianity. Charlemagne's German policy, therefore, was not a mere brute conquest, but a union which was to be strengthened by the ties of morality and culture to be created by the Christian religion. The amalgamation of the ecclesiastical with the secular elements that had begun in the reign of Pepin reached its completion under Charlemagne. The fact that Pepin obtained papal approval of his kingdom strengthened the bond between the Church and the Frankish kingdom. The consciousness of being the champion of Christianity against the Arabs, moreover, gave to the King of the Franks the religious character of the predestined protectors of the Church ; thus he attained a position of great importance in the Kingdom of God. Charlemagne was filled with these ideas ; like St. Augustine he hated the supremacy of the heathen empire. The type of God's Kingdom to Charlemagne and his councillors was not the Roman Empire but the Jewish theocracy. This type was kept in view when Charlemagne undertook to give reality to the Kingdom of God. The Frankish king desired like Solomon to be a great ecclesiastical and secular potentate, a royal priest. He was conscious that his conception of his position as the head of the Kingdom of God, according to the German ideas, was opposed to the essence of Roman Caesarism, and for reason he objected to being crowned emperor by the Pope on Christmas Day, 800. On this day the Germanic idea of the Kingdom of God, of which Charlemagne was the representative, bowed to the Roman idea, which regards Rome as its centre, Rome the seat of the old empire and the most sacred place of the Christian world . Charlemagne when emperor still regarded himself as the real leader of the Church. Although in 774 he confirmed the gift of his father to the Roman res publica , nevertheless he saw to it that Rome remained connected with the Frankish State; in return it had a claim to Frankish protection. He even interfered in dogmatic questions.
Charlemagne looked upon the revived Roman Empire from the ancient point of view inasmuch as he greatly desired recognition by the Eastern Empire. He regarded his possession of the empire as resulting solely from his own power, consequently he himself crowned his son Louis. Yet on the other hand he looked upon his empire only as a Christian one, whose most noble calling it was to train up the various races within its borders to the service of God and thus to unify them. The empire rapidly declined under his weak and nerveless son, Louis the Pious (814-40). The decay was hastened by the prevailing idea that this State was the personal property of the sovereign, a view that contained the germ of constant quarrels and necessitated the division of the empire when there were several sons. Louis sought to prevent the dangers of such division by law of hereditary succession published in 817, by which the sovereign power and the imperial crown were to be passed to the oldest son. This law was probably enacted through the influence of the Church, which maintained positively this unity of the supreme power and the Crown, as being in harmony with the idea of the Kingdom of God, and as besides required by the hierarchical economy of the church organization. When Louis had a fourth son, by his second wife, Judith, he immediately set aside law of partition of 817 for the benefit of the new heir. An odious struggle broke out between father and sons, and among the sons themselves. In 833 the emperor was captured by his sons at the battle of Luegenfeld (field of lies) near Colmar. Pope Gregory IV was at the time in the camp of the sons. The demeanour of the pope and the humiliating ecclesiastical penance that Louis was compelled to undergo at Soissons made apparent the change that had come about since Charlemagne in the theory of the relations of Church and State. Gregory's view that the Church was under the rule of the representative of Christ, and that it was a higher authority, not only spiritually but also substantially, and therefore politically, had before this found learned defenders in France. In opposition to the oldest son Lothair, Louis and Pepin, sons of Louis the Pious, restored the father to his throne (834), but new rebellions followed, when the sons once more grew dissatisfied.
In 840 the emperor died near Ingelheim. The quarrels of the sons went on after the death of the father, and in 841 Lothair was completely defeated near Fontenay (Fontanetum) by Louis the German and Charles the Bald. The empire now fell apart, not from the force of national hatreds, but in consequence of the partition now made and known as the Treaty of Verdun (August, 843), which divided the territory between the sons of Louis the Pious: Lothair, Louis the German (843-76), and Charles the Bald, and which finally resulted in the complete overthrow of the Carlovingian monarchy.
As the imperial power grew weaker, the Church gradually raised itself above the State. The scandalous behaviour of Lothair II, who, divorced himself from his lawful wife in order to marry his concubine, brought deep disgrace on his kingdom. The Church however, now an imposing and well-organized power, sat in judgment on the adulterous king. When Lothair II died, his uncles divided his possessions between them; by the Treaty of Ribemont (Mersen), Lorraine, which lay between the East Frankish Kingdom of Louis the German and the West Frankish Kingdom of Charles the Bald, was assigned to the East Frankish Kingdom. In this way a long-enduring boundary was definitely drawn between the growing powers of Germany and France. By a curious chance this boundary coincided almost exactly with the linguistic dividing line. Charles the Fat (876-87), the last son of Louis the German, united once more the entire empire. But according to old Germanic ideas the weak emperor forfeited his sovereignty by his cowardice when the dreaded Northmen appeared before Paris on one of their frequent incursions into France, and by his incapacity as a ruler. Consequently the Eastern Franks made his nephew Arnulf (887-99) king. This change was brought about by a revolt of the laity against the bishops in alliance with the emperor. The danger of Norman invasion Arnulf ended once and for all by his victory in 891 at Louvain on the Dyle. In the East also he was victorious after the death (894) of Swatopluk, the great King of Moravia. The conduct of some of the great nobles forced him to turn for aid to the bishops ; supported by the Church, he was crowned emperor at Rome in 896. Theoretically his rule extended over the West Frankish Kingdom, but the sway of his son, Louis the Child (899-911), the last descendant of the male line of the German Carlovingians, was limited entirely to the East Frankish Kingdom. Both in the East and West Frankish Kingdoms, in this era of confusion, the nobility grew steadily stronger, and freemen in increasing numbers became vassals in order to escape the burdens that the State laid on them; the illusion of the imperial title could no longer give strength to the empire. Vassal princes like Guido and Lamberto of Spoleto, and Berengar of Friuli, were permitted to wear the diadem of the Caesars.
As the idea of political unity declined, that of the unity of the Church increased in power. The Kingdom of God, which the royal priest, Charlemagne, by his overshadowing personality had, in his own opinion, made a fact, proved to be an impossibility. Church and State, which for a short time were united in Charlemagne, had, as early as the reign of Louis the Pious, become separated. The Kingdom of God was now identified with the Church. Pope Nicholas I asserted that the head of the one and indivisible Church could not be subordinate to any secular power, that only the pope could rule the Church, that it was obligatory on princes to obey the pope in spiritual things, and finally that the Carlovingians had received their right to rule from the pope. This grand idea of unity, this all-controlling sentiment of a common bond, could not be annihilated even in these troubled times when the papacy was humiliated by petty Italian rulers. The idea of her unity gave the Church the strength to raise herself rapidly to a position higher than that of the State. From the age of St. Boniface the Church in the East Frankish Kingdom had direct relations with Rome, while numerous new churches and monasteries gave her a firm hold in this region. At an early date the Church here controlled the entire religious life and, as the depositary of all culture, the entire intellectual life. She had also gained frequently decisive influence over German economic life, for she disseminated much of the skill and many of the crafts of antiquity. Moreover the Church itself had grown into an economic power in the East Frankish Kingdom. Piety led many to place themselves and their lands under the control of the Church.
There was also in this period a change in social life that was followed by important social consequences. The old militia composed of every freeman capable of bearing arms went to pieces, because the freemen constantly decreased in number. In its stead there arose a higher order in the State, which alone was called on for military service. In this chaotic era the German people made no important advance in civilization. Nevertheless the union that had been formed between Roman and German elements and Christianity prepared the way for a development of the East Frankish Kingdom in civilization from which great results might be expected. At the close of the Carlovingian period the external position of the kingdom was a very precarious one. The piratic Northmen boldly advanced far into the empire; Danes and Slavs continually crossed its borders; but the most dangerous incursions were those of the Magyars, who in 907 brought terrible suffering upon Bavaria ; in their marauding expeditions they also ravaged Saxony, Thuringia, and Swabia. It was then that salvation came from the empire itself. The weak authority of the last of the Carlovingians, Louis the Child, an infant in years, fell to pieces altogether, and the old ducal form of government revived in the several tribes. This was in accordance with the desires of the people. In these critical times the dukes sought to save the country; still they saw clearly that only a union of all the duchies could successfully ward off the danger from without; the royal power was to find its entire support in the laity. Once more, it is true, the attempt was made by King Conrad I (911-18) to make the Church the basis of the royal power, but the centralizing clerical policy of the king was successfully resisted by the subordinate powers. Henry I (919-36) was the free choice of the lay powers at Fritzlar. On the day he was elected the old theory of the State as the personal estate of the sovereign was finally done away with, and the Frankish realm was transformed into a German one. The manner of his election made plain to Henry the course to be pursued. It was necessary to yield to the wish of the several tribes to have their separate existence with a measure of self-government under the imperial power recognized. Thus the duchies were strengthened at the expense of the Crown. The fame of Henry I was assured by his victory over the Magyars near Merseburg (933). By regaining Lorraine, that had been lost during the reign of Conrad, he secured a bulwark on the side towards France that permitted the uninterrupted consolidation of his realm. The same result was attained on other frontiers by his successful campaigns against the Wends and Bohemians. Henry's kingdom was made up of a confederation of tribes, for the idea of a "King of the Germans" did not yet exist. It was only as the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" that Germany could develop from a union of German tribes to a compact nation. As supporters of the supreme power, as vassals of the emperor, the Germans were united.
This imperial policy was continued by Otto I, the Great (936-73). During his long reign Otto sought to found a strong central power in Germany, an effort at once opposed by the particularistic powers of Germany, who took advantage of disputes in the royal family. Otto proved the necessity of a strong government by his victory over the Magyars near Augsburg (955), one result of which was the reestablishment of the East Mark. After this he was called to Rome by John XII, who had been threatened by Berengarius II of Italy, and by making a treaty that secured to the imperial dignity a share in the election of the pope, he attained the imperial crown, 2 February, 962. It was necessary for Otto to obtain imperial power in order to carry out his politico-ecclesiastical policy. His intention was to make the Church an organic feature of the German constitution. This he could only do if the Church was absolutely under his control, and this could not be attained unless the papacy and Italy were included within the sphere of his power. The emperor's aim was to found his royal power among the Germans, who were strongly inclined to particularism, upon a close union of Church and State. The Germans had now revived the empire and had freed the papacy from its unfortunate entanglement with the nobility of the city of Rome. The papacy rapidly regained strength and quickly renewed the policy of Nicholas I . By safeguarding the unity of the Church of Western Europe the Germans protected both the peaceful development of civilization, which was dependent upon religion, and the progress of culture which the Church spread. Thus the Germans, in union with the Church, founded the civilization of Western Europe. For Germany itself the heroic age of the medieval emperors was a period of progress in learning. The renaissance of antiquity during the era of the Ottos was hardly more than superficial. Nevertheless it denoted a development in learning, throughout ecclesiastical in character, in marked contrast to the tendencies in the same age of the grammarian Wilgard at Ravenna, who sought to revive not only the literature of ancient times, but also the ideas of antiquity, even when they opposed Christian ideas. Germany now boldly assumed the leadership of Western Europe and thus prevented any other power from claiming the supremacy. Moreover the new empire sought to assert its universal character in France, as well as in Burgundy and Italy. Otto also fixed his eyes on Lower Italy, which was in the hands of the Greeks, but he preferred a peaceful policy with Byzantium. He therefore married his son Otto II, in 972, to the Greek Princess Theophano.
Otto II (973-83) and his son Otto III (983-1002) firmly upheld the union with the Church inaugurated by Otto I. Otto II aimed at a great development of his power along the Mediterranean; these plans naturally turned his mind from a national German policy. His campaign against the Saracens, however, came to a disastrous end in Calabria in 982, and he did not long survive the calamity. His romantic son sought to bring about a complete revival of the ancient empire, the centre of which was to be Rome, as in ancient times. There, in union with the pope, he wished to establish the true Kingdom of God. The pope and the emperor were to be the wielders of a power one and indivisible. This idealistic policy, full of vague abstractions, led to severe German losses in the east, for the Poles and Hungarians once more gained their independence. In Italy Arduin of Ivrea founded a new kingdom; naturally enough the Apennine Peninsula revolted against the German imperial policy. Without possession of Italy, however, the empire was impossible, and the blessings of the Ottonian theory of government were now manifest. The Church became the champion of the unity and legitimacy of the empire.
After the death of Otto III and the collapse of imperialism the Church raised Henry II (1002-24) to the throne. Henry, reviving the policy of Otto I which had been abandoned by Otto III, made Germany and the German Church the basis of his imperial system; he intended to rule the Church as Otto I had done. In 1014 he defeated Arduin and thus attained the Imperial crown. The sickly ruler, whose nervousness caused him to take up projects of which he quickly tired, did his best to repair the losses of the empire on its eastern frontier. He was not able, however, to defeat the Polish King Boleslaw II: all he could do was to strengthen the position of the Germans on the Elbe River by an alliance with the Lusici, a Slavonic tribe. Towards the end of his reign a bitter dispute broke out between the emperor and the bishops. At the Synod of Seligenstadt, in 1023, Archbishop Aribo of Mainz, who was an opponent of the Reform of Cluny, made an appeal to the pope without the permission of the bishop. This ecclesiastical policy of Aribo's would have led in the end to the founding of a national German Church independent of Rome. The greater part of the clergy supported Aribo, but the emperor held to the party of reform. Henry, however, did not live to see the quarrel settled.
With Conrad II (1024-39) began the sway of the Franconian (Salian) emperors. The sovereigns of this line were vigorous, vehement, and autocratic rulers. Conrad had natural political ability and his reign is the most flourishing era of medieval imperialism. The international position of the empire was excellent. In Italy Conrad strengthened the German power, and his relations with King Canute of Denmark were friendly. Internal disputes kept the Kingdom of Poland from becoming dangerous; moreover, by regaining Lusatia the Germans recovered the old preponderance against the Poles. Important gains were also made in Burgundy, whereby the old Romanic states, France and Italy, were for a long time separated and the great passes of the Alps controlled by the Germans. The close connexion with the empire enabled the German population of north-western Burgundy to preserve its nationality. Conrad had also kept up the close union of the State with the Church and had maintained his authority over the latter. He claimed for himself the same right of ruling the Church that his predecessors had exercised, and like them appointed bishops and abbots ; he also reserved to himself the entire control of the property of the Church . Conrad's ecclesiastical policy, however, lacked definiteness; he failed to understand the most important interests of the Church, nor did he grasp the necessity of reform. Neither did he do anything to raise the papacy, discredited by John XIX and Benedict IX, from its dependence on the civil rulers of Rome. The aim of his financial policy was economic emancipation from the Church ; royal financial officials took their place alongside of the ministeriales , or financial agents, of the bishops and monasteries. Conrad sought to rest his kingdom in Germany on these royal officials and on the petty vassals. In this way the laity was to be the guarantee of the emperor's independence of the episcopate. As he pursued the same methods in Italy, he was able to maintain an independent position between the bishops and the petty Italian despots who were at strife with one another. Thus the ecclesiastical influence in Conrad's theory of government becomes less prominent.
This statesmanlike sovereign was followed by his son, the youthful Henry III (1039-56). Unlike his father Henry had a good education ; he had also been trained from an early age in State affairs. He was a born ruler and allowed himself to be influenced by no one; to force of character and courage he added a strong sense of duty. His foreign policy was at first successful. He established the suzerainty of the empire over Hungary, without, however, being always able to maintain it; Bohemia also remained a dependent state. The empire gained a dominant position in Western Europe, and a sense of national pride was awakened in the Germans that opened the way for a national spirit. But the aim of these national aspirations, the hegemony in Western Europe, was a mere phantom. Each time an emperor went to Italy to be crowned that country had to be reconquered. Even at this very time the imperial supremacy was in great danger from the threatened conflict between the imperial and the sacerdotal power, between Church and State. The Church, the only guide on earth to salvation, had attained dominion over mankind, whom it strove to wean from the earthly and to lead to the spiritual. The glaring contrast between the ideal and the reality awoke in thousands the desire to leave the world. A spirit of asceticism, which first appeared in France, took possession of many hearts. As early as the era of the first Saxon emperors the attempt was made to introduce the reform movement of Cluny into Germany, and in the reign of Henry III this reform had become powerful. Henry himself laid much more stress than his predecessors on the ecclesiastical side of his royal position. His religious views led him to side with the men of Cluny. The great mistake of his ecclesiastical policy was the belief that it was possible to promote this reform of the Church by laying stress on his suzerain authority. He repeatedly called and presided over synods and issued many decisions in Church affairs. His fundamental mistake, the thought that he could transform the Church in the manner desired by the party of reform and at the same time maintain his dominion over it, was also evident in his relations with the papacy. He sought to put an end to the disorder at Rome, caused by the unfortunate schism, by the energetic measure of deposing the three contending popes and raising Clement II to the Apostolic See. Clement crowned him emperor and made him Patrician of Rome. Thus Henry seemed to have regained the same control over the Church that Otto had exercised. But the papacy, purified by the elevated conceptions of the party of reform and freed by Henry from the influence of the degenerate Roman aristocracy, strove to be absolutely independent. The Church was now to be released from all human bonds. The chief aims of the papal policy were the celibacy of the clergy, the presentation of ecclesiastical offices by the Church alone, and the attainment by these means of as great a centralization as possible. Henry had acted with absolute honesty in raising the papacy, but he did not intend that it should outgrow his control. Sincerely pious, he was convinced of the possibility and necessity of complete accord between empire and papacy. His fanciful policy became an unpractical idealism. Consequently the monarchical power began rapidly to decline in strength. Hungary regained freedom, the southern part of Italy was held by the Normans, and the Duchy of Lorraine, already long a source of trouble, maintained its hostility to the king. By the close of the reign of Henry III discontent was universal in the empire, thus permitting a growth of the particularistic powers, especially of the dukes.
When Henry III died Germany had reached a turning-point in its history. His wife Agnes assumed the regency for their four-year-old son, Henry IV (1056-1106), and at once showed her incompetence for the position by granting the great duchies to opponents of the crown. She also sought the support of the lesser nobility and thus excited the hatred of the great princes. A conspiracy of the more powerful nobles, led by Archbishop Anno (Hanno) of Cologne, obtained possession of the royal child by a stratagem at Kaiserswert and took control of the imperial power. Henry IV, however, preferred the guidance of Adalbert, Archbishop of Bremen, who was able for the moment to give the governmental policy a more national character. Thus in 1063 he restored German influence over Hungary, and the aim of his internal policy was to strengthen the central power. At the Diet of Tribur, 1066, however, he was overthrown by the particularists, but the king by now was able to assume control for himself. In the meantime the papacy had been rapidly advancing towards absolute independence. The Curia now extended the meaning of simony to the granting of an ecclesiastical office by a layman and thus demanded an entire change in the conditions of the empire and placed itself in opposition to the imperial power. The ordinances passed in 1059 for the regulation of the papal elections excluded all imperial rights in the same. Conditions in Italy grew continually more unfavourable for the empire. The chief supporters of the papal policy were the Normans, over whom the pope claimed feudal suzerainty. The German bishops also yielded more and more to the authority of Rome ; the Ottonian theory of government was already undermined. The question was now raised: In the Kingdom of God on earth who is to rule, the emperor or the pope ? In Rome this question had long been settled. The powerful opponent of Henry, Gregory VII , claimed that the princes should acknowledge the supremacy of the Kingdom of God, and that the laws of God should be everywhere obeyed and carried out. The struggle which now broke out was in principle a conflict concerning the respective rights of the empire and the papacy. But the conflict soon shifted from the spiritual to the secular domain; at last it became a conflict for the possession of Italy, and during the struggle the spiritual and the secular were often confounded. Henry was not a match for the genius of Gregory. He was courageous and intelligent and, though of a passionate nature, fought with dogged obstinacy for the rights of his monarchical power. But Gregory as the representative of the reform movement in the Church, demanding complete liberty for the Church, was too powerful for him. Aided by the inferior nobility, Henry sought to make himself absolute. The particularistic powers, however, insisted upon the maintenance of the constitutional limits of the monarchy. The revolt of the Saxons against the royal authority was led both by spiritual and secular princes, and it was not until after many humiliations that Henry was able to conquer them in the battle on the Unstrut (1075). Directly after this began his conflict with the papacy. The occasion was the appointment of an Archbishop of Milan by the emperor without regard to the election already held by the ecclesiastical party. Gregory VII at once sent a threatening letter to Henry. Angry at this, Henry had the deposition of the pope declared at the Synod of Worms, 24 January, 1076. Gregory now felt himself released from all restraint and excommunicated the emperor. On 16 October, 1076, the German princes decided that the pope should pronounce judgment on the king and that unless Henry were released from excommunication within a year and a day he should lose his crown. Henry now sought to break the alliance between the particularists and the pope by a clever stroke. The German princes he could not win back to his cause, but he might gain over the pope. By a penitential pilgrimage he forced the pope to grant him absolution. Henry appealed to the priest, and Gregory showed his greatness. He released the king from the ban, although by so doing he injured his own interests, which required that he should keep his agreement to act in union with the German princes.
Thus the day of Canossa (2 and 3 February, 1077) was a victory for Henry. It did not, however, mean the coming of peace, for the German confederates of the pope did not recognize the reconciliation at Canossa, and elected Duke Rudolf of Swabia as king at Forchheim, 13 March, 1077. A civil war now broke out in Germany. After long hesitation Gregory finally took the side of Rudolf and once more excommunicated Henry. Soon after this however, Rudolf lost both throne and life in the battle of Hohenmoelsen not far from Merseburg. Henry now abandoned his policy of absolutism, recognizing its impracticability. He returned to the Ottonian theory of government, and the German episcopate, which was embittered by the severity of the ecclesiastical administration of Rome, now came over to the side of the king. Relying upon this strife within the Church, Henry caused Gregory to be deposed by a synod held at Brixen and Guibert of Ravenna to be elected pope as Clement III . Accompanied by this pope, he went to Rome and was crowned emperor there in 1084. Love for the rights of the Church drove the great Gregory into exile where he soon after died. After the death of his mighty opponent Henry was more powerful than the particularists who had elected a new rival king, Herman of Luxembourg. In 1090 Henry went again to Italy to defend his rights against the two powerful allies of the papacy, the Normans in the south and the Countess Matilda of Tuscany in the north. While he was in Italy his own son Conrad declared himself king in opposition to him. Overwhelmed by this blow, Henry remained inactive in Italy, and it was not until 1097 that he returned to Germany. No reconciliation had been effected between him and Pope Urban II . In Germany Henry sought to restore internal peace, and this popular policy intensified the particularism of the princes. In union with these the king's son, young Henry, rebelled against his father. The pope supported the revolt, and the emperor was unable to cope with so many opponents. In 1105 he abdicated. After this he once more asserted his rights, but death soon closed (1106) this troubled life filled with so many thrilling and tr
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