Investiture Controversy

The Investiture Controversy or Investiture Contest was a conflict between church and state in medieval Europe over the ability to install high church officials through investiture.[1] By undercutting imperial power, the controversy led to nearly 50 years of civil war in Germany. According to historian Norman Cantor, the Investiture Controversy was "the turning-point in medieval civilization", marking the end of the Early Middle Ages with the Germanic peoples' "final and decisive" acceptance of Christianity. More importantly, it set the stage for the religious and political system of the High Middle Ages.[1]

It began as a power struggle between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV in 1076.[2] There was also a brief but significant investiture struggle between Pope Paschal II and King Henry I of England from 1103 to 1107. The conflict ended in 1122, when Pope Callixtus II and Emperor Henry V agreed on the Concordat of Worms, which differentiated between the royal and spiritual powers and gave the emperors a limited role in selecting bishops. The outcome was largely a papal victory, but the Emperor still retained considerable power.

Myers, Philip Van Ness (1905), A medieval king investing a bishop with the symbols of office


In the 11th and 12th centuries, a series of popes challenged the authority of European monarchies about who had the authority to appoint ("invest") local church officials such as bishops of cities and abbots of monasteries.

After the decline of the Western Roman Empire, investiture was performed by members of the ruling nobility despite theoretically being a task of the church.[3] Many bishops and abbots were themselves usually part of the ruling nobility. Given that most members of the European nobility practiced primogeniture, and willed their titles of nobility to the eldest surviving male heir, surplus male siblings often sought careers in the upper levels of the church hierarchy. This was particularly true where the family may have established a proprietary church or abbey on their estate. Since Otto the Great (936–72) the bishops had been princes of the empire, had secured many privileges, and had become to a great extent feudal lords over great districts of the imperial territory. The control of these great units of economic and military power was for the king a question of primary importance due to its effect on imperial authority.[4] It was essential for a ruler or nobleman to appoint (or sell the office to) someone who would remain loyal.[3]

Since a substantial amount of wealth and land was usually associated with the office of a bishop or abbot, the sale of church offices—a practice known as "simony"—was an important source of income for leaders among the nobility, who themselves owned the land and by charity allowed the building of churches.

Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII

The crisis began when supporters of the Gregorian Reform decided to rebel against simony by forcefully taking the power of investiture from the ruling secular power, the Holy Roman Emperor, and placing that power wholly within control of the church. The Gregorian reformers knew this would not be possible so long as the emperor maintained the ability to appoint the pope, so their first step was to forcibly gain the papacy from the control of the emperor.

When six-year-old Henry IV became King of the Germans in 1056, the reformers seized the papacy while the king was still a child. In 1059, a church council in Rome declared, with In Nomine Domini, that leaders of the nobility would have no part in the selection of popes and created the College of Cardinals as a body of electors made up entirely of church officials. Having regained control of the election of the pope, the church was now ready to tackle investiture and simony.

In 1075, Pope Gregory VII composed the Dictatus Papae. One clause asserted that the deposal of an emperor was under the sole power of the pope.[5] It declared that the Roman church was founded by God alone – that the papal power (the auctoritas of Pope Gelasius) was the sole universal power; in particular, a council held in the Lateran Palace from 24 to 28 February the same year decreed that the pope alone could appoint or depose churchmen or move them from see to see.[6] By this time, Henry IV was no longer a child, and he continued to appoint his own bishops.[5] He reacted to this declaration by sending Gregory VII a letter in which he withdrew his imperial support of Gregory as pope in no uncertain terms: the letter was headed "Henry, king not through usurpation but through the holy ordination of God, to Hildebrand, at present not pope but false monk".[7] It called for the election of a new pope. His letter ends, "I, Henry, king by the grace of God, with all of my Bishops, say to you, come down, come down!", and is often quoted with "and to be damned throughout the ages", which is a later addition.[8]

The situation was made even more dire when Henry IV installed his chaplain, Tedald, a Milanese priest, as Bishop of Milan, when another priest of Milan, Atto, had already been chosen in Rome by the pope for candidacy.[9] In 1076 Gregory responded by excommunicating Henry, and deposed him as German king,[10] releasing all Christians from their oath of allegiance.[11]

Enforcing these declarations was a different matter, but the advantage gradually came to be on the side of Gregory VII. German princes and the aristocracy were happy to hear of the king's deposition. They used religious reasons to continue the rebellion started at the First Battle of Langensalza in 1075, and for seizure of royal holdings. Aristocrats claimed local lordships over peasants and property, built forts, which had previously been outlawed, and built up localized fiefdoms to secure their autonomy from the empire.[5]

Hugo-v-cluny heinrich-iv mathilde-v-tuszien cod-vat-lat-4922 1115ad
Henry IV requests mediation from Matilda of Tuscany and abbot Hugh of Cluny

Thus, because of these combining factors, Henry IV had no choice but to back down, needing time to marshal his forces to fight the rebellion. In 1077, he traveled to Canossa in northern Italy to meet the pope and apologize in person. As penance for his sins, and echoing his own punishment of the Saxons after the First Battle of Langensalza, he wore a hair shirt and stood barefoot in the snow in what has become known as the Walk to Canossa. Gregory lifted the excommunication, but the German aristocrats, whose rebellion became known as the Great Saxon Revolt, were not as willing to give up their opportunity and elected a rival king, Rudolf von Rheinfeld. Three years later, Pope Gregory declared his support for von Rheinfeld, and excommunicated Henry IV again.

Henry IV then proclaimed Antipope Clement III to be pope and Rudolf von Rheinfeld died in 1080, effectively ending the internal revolt against Henry. In 1081, Henry invaded Rome for the first time with the intent of forcibly removing Gregory VII and installing a friendlier pope. Gregory VII called on his allies, the Normans in southern Italy, and they rescued him from the Germans in 1085. The Normans sacked Rome in the process, and when the citizens of Rome rose up against Gregory, he was forced to flee south with the Normans. He died soon thereafter.

The Investiture Controversy continued for several decades as each successive pope tried to diminish imperial power by stirring up revolt in Germany. These revolts were gradually successful. Henry IV was succeeded upon his death in 1106 by his son Emperor Henry V, who had rebelled against his father in favor of the papacy, and who had made his father renounce the legality of his antipopes before he died. Nevertheless, Henry V chose another antipope, Gregory VIII. Later, he renounced some of the rights of investiture with the Concordat of Worms, abandoned Gregory VIII, and was received back into communion and recognized as legitimate emperor as a result.

English investiture controversy (1102–07)

At the time of Henry IV's death, Henry I of England and the Gregorian papacy were also embroiled in a controversy over investiture, and its solution provided a model for the eventual solution of the issue in the empire.

William the Conqueror had accepted a papal banner and the distant blessing of Pope Alexander II upon his invasion, but had successfully rebuffed the pope's assertion after the successful outcome, that he should come to Rome and pay homage for his fief, under the general provisions of the "Donation of Constantine".

The ban on lay investiture in Dictatus Papae did not shake the loyalty of William's bishops and abbots. In the reign of Henry I, the heat of exchanges between Westminster and Rome induced Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, to give up mediating and retire to an abbey. Robert of Meulan, one of Henry's chief advisors, was excommunicated, but the threat of excommunicating the king remained unplayed. The papacy needed the support of English Henry while German Henry was still unbroken. A projected crusade also required English support.

Henry I commissioned the Archbishop of York to collect and present all the relevant traditions of anointed kingship. On this topic, the historian Norman Cantor would note: "The resulting 'Anonymous of York' treaties are a delight to students of early-medieval political theory, but they in no way typify the outlook of the Anglo-Norman monarchy, which had substituted the secure foundation of administrative and legal bureaucracy for outmoded religious ideology."[12]

Concordat of London (1107)

According to René Metz, author of What Is Canon Law?, a concordat is a convention concluded between the Holy See and the civil power of a country to define the relationship between the Catholic Church and the state in matters in which both are concerned. The concordat is one type of an international convention. Concordats began during the First Crusade's end in 1098.[13]

The Concordat of London (1107) suggested a compromise that was later taken up in the Concordat of Worms. In England, as in Germany, the king's chancery started to distinguish between the secular and ecclesiastical powers of the prelates. Employing this distinction, Henry gave up his right to invest his bishops and abbots while reserving the custom of requiring them to swear homage for the "temporalities" (the landed properties tied to the episcopate) directly from his hand, after the bishop had sworn homage and feudal vassalage in the commendation ceremony (commendatio), like any secular vassal. The system of vassalage was not divided among great local lords in England as it was in France, since the king was in control by right of the conquest.

Concordat of Worms (1122)

On the European mainland, after 50 years of fighting, the Concordat of Worms provided a similar but longer-lasting compromise when it was signed on September 23, 1122.

It eliminated lay investiture, while allowing secular leaders some room for unofficial but significant influence in the appointment process. While the monarchy was embroiled in the dispute with the Church, its power declined while the localized rights of lordship over peasants increased. This eventually led to:

  • Increased serfdom that reduced rights for the majority
  • Local taxes and levies increased, while royal coffers declined
  • Localized rights of justice where courts did not have to answer to royal authority


In the long term, the decline of imperial power would divide Germany until the 19th century. Similarly, in Italy, the investiture controversy weakened the emperor's authority and strengthened local separatists.[14]

On the other hand, the papacy grew stronger. Marshalling for public opinion engaged lay people in religious affairs increasing lay piety, setting the stage for the Crusades and the great religious vitality of the 12th century.

However, the dispute did not end with the Concordat of Worms in 1122; future disputes between popes and Holy Roman Emperors continued until northern Italy was lost to the empire entirely. The church would Crusade against the Holy Roman Empire under Frederick II. As historian Norman Cantor put it, the controversy "shattered the early-medieval equilibrium and ended the interpenetration of ecclesia and mundus". Indeed, medieval emperors, which were "largely the creation of ecclesiastical ideals and personnel", were forced to develop a secular bureaucratic state whose essential components persisted in the Anglo-Norman monarchy.[15]

Cultural references

Science fiction writer Poul Anderson wrote the novel The Shield of Time, depicting two alternate history scenarios - one in which the imperial power completely and utterly defeated the Papacy, and the other in which the Papacy emerged victorious with the imperial power humbled and marginalized - and both ending with a highly authoritarian and repressive twentieth century, completely devoid of democracy or civil rights. The conclusion stated by a protagonist is that the outcome in actual history - in which neither power gained a clear victory, and both continued to counter-balance each other - was the best from the point of view of human liberty.

See also



  1. ^ a b Cantor 1958, pp. 8–9.
  2. ^ Rubenstein 2011, p. 18.
  3. ^ a b Blumenthal 1988, pp. 34–36.
  4. ^ Löffler 1910.
  5. ^ a b c Appleby, R. Scott (1999). "How the Pope Got His Political Muscle". U.S. Catholic. Vol. 64 no. 9. p. 36.
  6. ^ Paravicini Bagliani, Agostino. "Sia fatta la mia volontà". Medioevo (143): 76.
  7. ^ Henry IV 1076.
  8. ^ Fuhrmann 1986, p. 64; Henry IV 1076.
  9. ^ Floto 1891, p. 911.
  10. ^ Pope Gregory VII 1076.
  11. ^ Löffler 1910, p. 85.
  12. ^ Cantor 1993, p. 286.
  13. ^ Metz 1960, p. 137.
  14. ^ Hearder & Waley 1963.
  15. ^ Cantor 1993, p. 395.


Primary sources

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor (1076). "Henry IV.'s Answer to Gregory VII., Jan. 24, 1076". In Henderson, Ernest F. (ed.). Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated by Henderson, Ernest F. London: George Bell and Sons (published 1903). pp. 372–373. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
Pope Gregory VII (1076). "First Deposition and Banning of Henry IV. by Gregory VII., February 22, 1076". In Henderson, Ernest F. (ed.). Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated by Henderson, Ernest F. London: George Bell and Sons (published 1903). pp. 376–377. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
Slocum, Kenneth, ed. (2010). "The Investiture Controversy". Sources in Medieval Culture and History. Boston: Prentice Hall. pp. 170–175. ISBN 978-0-13-615726-7.

Secondary and tertiary sources

  • Blumenthal, Uta-Renate (1988). The Investiture Controversy: Church and Monarchy from the Ninth to the Twelfth Century. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Cantor, Norman F. (1958). Church, Kingship, and Lay Investiture in England, 1089–1135. Princeton University Press.
  •  ———  (1993). The Civilization of the Middle Ages. HarperCollins.
Cowdrey, H. E. J. (1998). Pope Gregory VII, 1073–1085. Oxford University Press.
Floto (1891). "Gregory VII". In Schaff, Philip (ed.). Religious Encyclopedia: or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology. 2 (3rd ed.). New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. pp. 910–912. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
Fuhrmann, Horst (1986). Germany in the High Middle Ages c. 1050–1200. Translated by Reuter, Timothy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press (published 2001). ISBN 978-0-521-31980-5.
Hearder, H.; Waley, D. P., eds. (1963). A Short History of Italy: From Classical Times to the Present Day.
Jolly, Karen Louise (1997). Tradition & Diversity: Christianity in a World Context to 1500. ME Sharpe.
Löffler, Klemens (1910). "Conflict of Investitures" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company. pp. 84–89.
McCarthy, T. J. H. (2014). Chronicles of the Investiture Contest: Frutolf of Michelsberg and His Continuators. Manchester: Manchester Medieval Sources. ISBN 978-0-7190-8470-6.
Metz, René (1960). What Is Canon Law?. The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism. 80. Translated by Derrick, Michael. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Morrison, Karl F., ed. (1971). The Investiture Controversy: Issues, Ideas, and Results. Holt McDougal.
Rubenstein, Jay (2011). Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-01929-8.
Tellenbach, Gerd (1993). The Western Church from the Tenth to the Early Twelfth Century. Cambridge University Press.
Thompson, James Westfall; Johnson, Edgar Nathaniel (1937). An Introduction to Medieval Europe, 300–1500.

Further reading

Primary sources

Halsall, Paul, ed. (2007). "Selected Sources: Empire and Papacy". Internet Medieval Sourcebook. New York: Fordham University. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
Henderson, Ernest F., ed. (1122). "Concordat of Worms, Sept. 23, 1122". Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated by Henderson, Ernest F. London: George Bell and Sons (published 1903). pp. 408–409. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
Pope Gregory VII (1078). "Decree of Nov. 19th, 1078, Forbidding Lay Investiture". In Henderson, Ernest F. (ed.). Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated by Henderson, Ernest F. London: George Bell and Sons (published 1903). p. 365. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
 ———  (1080). "Second Banning and Dethronement of Henry IV., through Gregory VII., March 7th, 1080". In Henderson, Ernest F. (ed.). Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated by Henderson, Ernest F. London: George Bell and Sons (published 1903). pp. 388–391. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
 ———  (1903). "The Dictate of the Pope". In Henderson, Ernest F. (ed.). Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated by Henderson, Ernest F. London: George Bell and Sons. pp. 366–367. Retrieved 13 October 2017.

Secondary and tertiary sources

Blumenthal, Uta-Renate (2016). "Investiture Controversy". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
"Investiture". The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. 2007. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
Nelson, Lynn H. "The Owl, the Cat, and the Investiture Controversy". Lectures for a Medieval Survey. On-line Reference Book for Medieval Studies. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
Schroeder, H. J. (1937). "The Ninth General Council (1123)". Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation, and Commentary. St. Louis, Missouri: B. Herder Book Co. pp. 177–194. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
Van Hove, Alphonse (1910). "Canonical Investiture" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company. p. 84.
1119 papal election

The papal election of 1119 (held January 29 to February 2) was, by an order of magnitude, the smallest papal election of the 12th century currently considered legitimate by the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Gelasius II had died in Cluny having been expelled from Rome by Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, as a result of the Investiture Controversy. Probably only two cardinal bishops, four cardinal priests and four cardinal deacons participated in the election. The election took place in Cluny Abbey in France, while the rest of the College of Cardinals remained in Rome. A non-cardinal Guy de Bourgogne, the Archbishop of Vienne, was elected Pope Callixtus II, and crowned in Vienne on February 9; Callixtus II reached Rome on June 3, 1120.

Anselm of Lucca

Saint Anselm of Lucca (Latin: Anselmus; Italian: Anselmo; 1036 – March 18, 1086), born Anselm of Baggio (Anselmo da Baggio), was a medieval bishop of Lucca in Italy and a prominent figure in the Investiture Controversy amid the fighting in central Italy between Matilda, countess of Tuscany, and Emperor Henry IV. His uncle Anselm preceded him as bishop of Lucca before being elected to the papacy as Pope Alexander II; owing to this, he is sometimes distinguished as Anselm the Younger or Anselm II.

Atto (archbishop of Milan)

Atto (Italian: Attone) was a Cardinal of the Catholic Church who lived in the 11th century.Born in Rome son of a noble family as a young man in 1062 he was elected by the chapter of the Milan cathedral Archbishop of Milan, Attone was elected archbishop in front of a papal legate but the decision of the chapter of the cathedral didn't receive the placet of emperor Henry IV so he coundn't be enthroned.Attone was so forced to left Milan and he reached Rome where he lived in the Church of San Marco is title as Cardinal.During his stay in Rome Attone wrote a book about canon law in that book he supported the supremacy of the bishop of Rome over the civil authorities following the teaching of pope Gregory VII.

The date of his death is unclear for some author the date of the death is around 1080, others authors identify him as a Cardinal Bishop of Palestrina who dies after 1085 and after to be excommunicated by pope Gregory VII.

De Monarchia

De Monarchia (Latin pronunciation: [de moˈ]) is a Latin treatise on secular and religious power by Dante Alighieri, who wrote it between 1312 and 1313. With this text, the poet intervened in one of the most controversial subjects of his period: the relationship between secular authority (represented by the Holy Roman Emperor) and religious authority (represented by the Pope). Dante's point of view is known on this problem, since during his political activity he had fought to defend the autonomy of the city-government of Florence from the temporal demands of Pope Boniface VIII. The work was banned by the Catholic church in 1585.

First Council of the Lateran

The Council of 1123 is reckoned in the series of Ecumenical councils by the Catholic Church. It was convoked by Pope Callixtus II in December, 1122, immediately after the Concordat of Worms. The Council sought to: (a) bring an end to the practice of the conferring of ecclesiastical benefices by people who were laymen; (b) free the election of bishops and abbots from secular influence; (c) clarify the separation of spiritual and temporal affairs; (d) re-establish the principle that spiritual authority resides solely in the Church; (e) abolish the claim of the emperors to influence papal elections.

The council convoked by Callistus II was significant in size: three hundred bishops and more than six hundred abbots assembled at Rome in March, 1123; Callistus presided in person. During the Council the decisions of the Concordat of Worms were read and ratified. Various other decisions were promulgated.

Gotofredo da Castiglione

Gotofredo da Castiglione (sometimes given as Gotofredo II to distinguish him from Gotofredo I, Archbishop of Milan) was an Italian anti-bishop from 1070 to 1075, appointed by Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor to the office of Bishop of Milan. This began the Investiture Controversy, whereby Pope St. Gregory VII excommunicated Gotofredo over the issue of lay investiture.

Gotofredo was eventually recanted as bishop after the Walk to Canossa in 1077.

Gregorian Reform

Should not be confused with the Gregorian calendar.The Gregorian Reforms were a series of reforms initiated by Pope Gregory VII and the circle he formed in the papal curia, c. 1050–80, which dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy. The reforms are considered to be named after Pope Gregory VII (1073–85), though he personally denied it and claimed his reforms, like his regnal name, honoured Pope Gregory I.

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor

Henry IV (German: Heinrich IV; 11 November 1050 – 7 August 1106) became King of the Germans in 1056. From 1084 until his forced abdication in 1105, he was also referred to as the King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperor. He was the third emperor of the Salian dynasty and one of the most powerful and important figures of the 11th century. His reign was marked by the Investiture Controversy with the Papacy, and he was excommunicated five times by three different popes. Civil wars over his throne took place in both Italy and Germany. He died of illness, soon after defeating his son's army near Visé, in Lorraine, France.

Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor

Henry V (German: Heinrich V.; 11 August 1081/86 – 23 May 1125) was King of Germany (from 1099 to 1125) and Holy Roman Emperor (from 1111 to 1125), the fourth and last ruler of the Salian dynasty. Henry's reign coincided with the final phase of the great Investiture Controversy, which had pitted pope against emperor. By the settlement of the Concordat of Worms, he surrendered to the demands of the second generation of Gregorian reformers.

Hermann of Salm

Herman(n) of Salm (c. 1035 – 28 September 1088), also known as Herman(n) of Luxembourg, the progenitor of the House of Salm, was Count of Salm and elected German anti-king from 1081 until his death.

History of the papacy (1048–1257)

The history of the papacy from 1048 to 1257 was marked by conflict between popes and the Holy Roman Emperor, most prominently the Investiture Controversy, a dispute over who— pope or emperor— could appoint bishops within the Empire. Henry IV's Walk to Canossa in 1077 to meet Pope Gregory VII (1073–85), although not dispositive within the context of the larger dispute, has become legendary. Although the emperor renounced any right to lay investiture in the Concordat of Worms (1122), the issue would flare up again.

The Imperial crown once held by the Carolingian emperors was disputed between their fractured heirs and local overlords; none emerged victorious until Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor invaded Italy. Italy became a constituent kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire in 962, from which point emperors were Germanic. As emperors consolidated their position, northern Italian city-states would become divided by Guelphs and Ghibellines.

Long-standing divisions between East and West also came to a head in the East-West Schism and the Crusades. The first seven Ecumenical Councils had been attended by both Western and Eastern prelates, but growing doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographic differences finally resulted in mutually denunciations and excommunications. Pope Urban II (1088–99) speech at the Council of Clermont in 1095 became the rallying cry of the First Crusade.

Unlike the previous millennium, the process for papal selection became somewhat fixed during this period. Pope Nicholas II promulgated In Nomine Domini in 1059, which limited suffrage in papal elections to the College of Cardinals. The rules and procedures of papal elections evolved during this period, laying the groundwork for the modern papal conclave. The driving force behind these reforms was Cardinal Hildebrand, who later became Gregory VII.


Investiture, from the Latin (preposition in and verb vestire, "dress" from vestis "robe"), is the formal installation of an incumbent. In the United States and other countries, the ceremonial signing in of judges, including those of the Supreme Court, is called investiture.

Investiture can include formal dress and adornment such as robes of state or headdress, or other regalia such as a throne or seat of office. An investiture is also often part of a coronation rite or enthronement. It was prevalent in the Middle Ages.

Lay abbot

Lay abbot (abbatocomes, abbas laicus, abbas miles) is a name used to designate a layman on whom a king or someone in authority bestowed an abbey as a reward for services rendered; he had charge of the estate belonging to it, and was entitled to part of the income. The custom existed principally in the Frankish Empire from the eighth century until the ecclesiastical reforms of the eleventh.

Pope Callixtus II

Pope Callixtus II or Callistus II (c. 1065 – 13 December 1124), born Guy of Burgundy, was pope of the western Christian church from 1 February 1119 to his death in 1124. His pontificate was shaped by the Investiture Controversy, which he was able to settle through the Concordat of Worms in 1122.

Road to Canossa

The Road to Canossa, sometimes called the Walk to Canossa (German: Gang nach Canossa/Kanossa) or Humiliation of Canossa (Italian: L'umiliazione di Canossa), refers to Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV's trek to Canossa Castle, Italy, where Pope Gregory VII was staying as the guest of Margravine Matilda of Tuscany, at the height of the investiture controversy in January 1077 to seek absolution of his excommunication.

According to contemporary sources, he was forced to humiliate himself on his knees waiting for three days and three nights before the entrance gate of the castle, while a blizzard raged. Indeed, the episode has been described as "one of the most dramatic moments of the Middle Ages". It has also spurred a lot of debate among medieval chroniclers as well as modern historians, who argue about whether the walk was a "brilliant masterstroke" or an embarrassing humiliation.

Rudolf of Rheinfelden

Rudolf of Rheinfelden (c. 1025 – 15 October 1080) was Duke of Swabia from 1057 to 1079. Initially a follower of his brother-in-law, the Salian emperor Henry IV, his election as German anti-king in 1077 marked the outbreak of the Great Saxon Revolt and the first phase of open conflict in the Investiture Controversy between Emperor and Papacy. After a series of armed conflicts, Rudolf succumbed to his injuries after his forces defeated Henry's in the Battle on the Elster.

Synod of Worms

The Synod of Worms was an ecclesiastical synod and Imperial diet (Hoftag) convened by the German king and emperor-elect Henry IV on 24 January 1076, at Worms. It was intended to agree a condemnation of Pope Gregory VII, and Henry's success in achieving this outcome marked the beginning of the Investiture Controversy.


Wezilo, died 1088, was Archbishop of Mainz from 1084–88. He was a leading supporter of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV in the Investiture Controversy, and of antipope Clement III.

A priest in Halberstadt, Wezilo owed his promotion to the support of Henry IV. In 1085 he negotiated on behalf of the emperor with the papal legate, the future Pope Urban II, and in the same year he was convicted of simony and excommunicated by the pro-papal Synod of Quedlinburg.In May 1087 the forces of Clement III and "the imperialist prefect Wezilo" forced Pope Victor III to retreat from Rome.Wezilo was buried in Mainz Cathedral.

William Warelwast

William Warelwast (died 1137), was a medieval Norman cleric and Bishop of Exeter in England. Warelwast was a native of Normandy, but little is known about his background before 1087, when he appears as a royal clerk for King William II. Most of his royal service to William was as a diplomatic envoy, as he was heavily involved in the king's dispute with Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, which constituted the English theatre of the Investiture Controversy. He went several times to Rome as an emissary to the papacy on business related to Anselm, one of whose supporters, the medieval chronicler Eadmer, alleged that Warelwast bribed the pope and the papal officials to secure favourable outcomes for King William.

Possibly present at King William's death in a hunting accident, Warelwast served as a diplomat to the king's successor, Henry I. After the resolution of the Investiture Controversy, Warelwast was rewarded with the bishopric of Exeter in Devon, but he continued to serve Henry as a diplomat and royal judge. He began the construction of a new cathedral at Exeter, and he probably divided the diocese into archdeaconries. Warelwast went blind after 1120, and after his death in 1137 was succeeded by his nephew, Robert Warelwast.

Investiture Controversy
and events

Middle Ages

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