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formidable rivals to the successors of St. Peter ; but there were many important advantages to be gained, which did not escape the notice of the crafty pontiffs. The secure enjoyment of their temporal dominions, , as the most honorable species of fief or benefice, was obviously an immediate result, but there was a remote one of much greater importance, the change of the precedence, universally conceded to the Romish see, into an acknowledgment of its supremacy.
It is not easy to discover at what time the papacy directly fixed its attention upon destroying the independence of national churches, but assuredly the period was not very remote from that which we have been considering. The contests between the bishops of Rome and Constantinople, like those of more modern times between the archbishops of York and Canterbury, were struggles for dignity rather than power. The primacy which Boniface III. assumed, by taking the title of universal bishop, was nothing more than presidency: thus was a good foundation for a future claim to supremacy, but there is no proof that any such claim was contemplated by Boniface, and every probability is against the supposition.
But when the independence of nations was compromised by the establishment of an empire, it was very natural that the independence of national churches should also be endangered. In the age of Charlemagne, law, order, and intelligence, had no sure support but religion : the popular opinion identified with ecclesiastical influence all that society enjoyed or hoped for; it was the bond that held the discordant parts of the empire together, and the emperor joined with the pope in giving it strength and unity.
The death of Charlemagne relieved the pontiffs from the pressure of 'mperial power; his successor, Louis the Debonnaire, had not strength of mind sufficient to support the weight of empire, while the popes stood ready to grasp the reins of power as they slipped from his hands; they began to exercise their pontifical functions immediately after their election, without waiting for the confirmation of their power, and Louis, embarrassed by nearer dangers, was unable to punish the usurpation. Louis divided his empire among his sons; a fatal error, for in their contests for supremacy the sovereign authority was sacrificed to the feudal lords, and to the spiritual power.
I. must, however, be confessed, that the usurpations of the church, during the sanguinary wars between the successors of Charlemagne, were almost rendered necessary by the circumstances of the time. The competitors for empire were weak and cruel, the profligacy of the feudal lords was only equalled by their ignorance, and the church alone preserved the semblance of justice. The clergy of all ranks profited by the popular opinion in their favor; usurpation followed usurpation without provoking opposition: Charles the Bald acknowledged the right of the bishops to depose him, and the bishops of his council bound themselves by a canon to remain united, “ for the correction of kings, the nobility, and the people.” This gross assumption was applauded by the laity, at once ignorant, wicked, and devout: it was felt by all parties that supreme power should exist somewhere; kings, nobles, and commons, equally felt the want, and, in a greater or less degree, the consciousness that it could not safely be intrusted to themselves. Nicholas I., more bold than any of his predecessors, constituted himself the judge of bishops and kings : he deposed the archbishop of Ravenna for asserting his independence, and would not permit him to be restored until he acknowledged himself a vassal of the holy see: he even cited the king of Lorraine to appear before his tribunal (A. D. 860). Lothaire, king of Lorraine, had divorced his first wife, Theutberga, on a charge of adultery, and, by the advice of his council, chosen a beautiful young lady, called Valdrade, for his second queen. The pope annulled the second marriage, and compelled Lothaire to take back his first wife ; he persevered in enforcing his edict, even after Theutberga herself had submitted to the pretensions of her rival.
Adrian II. was chosen successor to Nicholas ; the imperial ambassadors were excluded from the election, and their remonstrances treated with neglect. He interfered on the side of justice, to secure the inheritance of Lorraine for the emperor Louis II., but the iontiff was foiled by the firmness of Charles the Bald, and his claims to decide between the competitors refuted by Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims. Adrian resolved to conciliate the prince whom he could not subdue, and won Charles to submission by promising him the succession to the empire. This project was executed by Adrian's successor, John VIII.; finding that the king of France was determined to have the title of emperor on any terms, he made him stipulate to acknowledge the independence of Rome and its territory, and to confess that he only held the empire by the gift of the pope.
In an assembly held at Pavia (A. D. 878), Charles was recognised by the Italian prelates and nobles in the following memorable words: “Since the Divine favor, through the merits of the holy apostles and of their vicar Pope John, has raised you to the empire, according to the judgment of the Holy Ghost, we elect you unanimously for our protector and lord.” The pontiff by no means suffered Charles to forget that the empire was his gift: when the Saracens invaded Italy, he wrote to Charles, reproaching him for his delay in affording succor, and desiring him, "to remember the hand that had given him the empire, lest, if driven to despair, we should change our opinion.”
But while the popes were thus triumphant over the emperors, they Wire severely harassed by the turbulent feudal lords, who had taken advantage of the weakness of their sovereign, to establish a virtual indiapendence. They interfered in the pontifical elections, and generally controlled them; they insulted, imprisoned, and murdered the pontiffs ; while the claims of the apostolic see to complete supremacy were tacitly acknowledged throughout Europe, it was itself held in disgraceful servitude by petty tyrants. Two infamous prostitutes, by their influence with the profligate nobles, procured the throne of St. Peter for their paramours, and their illegitimate children; and the disorders of the church finally attained such a height that the imperial power was once more raised above the papal, and Pope John XII. deposed by the em
The vices of this dark period are not justly attributable to popery ; they were the result of feudalism, and so far as the papal system was able to exert any influence, it was employed in counteracting these evils. The great error of the pontiffs was, that they did not arrange a iudicious plan for elections; they left their power thus exposed to the disturbances of a disputed succession which had already proved fatal to the imperial power : had the arrangements been such as to prevent any lay interference, ecclesiastical influence would have gone on increasing without interruption. But the vice and violence of the Roman nobles rendered popery, as a system, for a time inoperative, and prevented a Nicholas from anticipating a Hildebrand
Section III.-The Struggle for Supremacy between the Popes and Emperors.
Otho, deservedly called the Great, was the third emperor of Germany, elected by the suffrage of the German princes. His high character pointed him out to Pope John XII. as a proper protector for the church and the republic, against the fierce nobles of Lombardy, but
pecially against Berengarius, who claimed the kingdom of Italy. Otho crossed the Alps, tranquillized Italy, and was rewarded with the iron crown of Lombardy, and the revived title of Emperor of the West. But both the pope and the Romans were jealous of their benefactor, and even during the ceremony of his coronation, Otho had to take precautions against the daggers of assassins. John soon found that the German emperor was not content with an empty title ; enraged at the progress of the imperial authority, he entered into a secret compact with Adelbert, the son of his ancient enemy, to expel foreigners from Italy, and, at the same time, he invited the Hungarians to invade Germany.
Otho promptly returned to Italy, and having entered Rome, he com pelled the nobles and people to renew their oath of allegiance. He then summoned a council for the trial of Pope John, whose immoralities were flagrant and notorious. The charges against the pontiff contained a dreadful catalogue of crimes, but we can not vouch for the integrity of the witnesses, or the impartiality of the court. There is, however, no doubt that John was a licentious profligate, whose vices not only disgraced his station, but were shocking to humanity. The pope refusing to appear before the tribunal, was condemned as contumacious, after having been twice summoned in vain. Leo VIII. was elected to the papacy, in the room of John, and he not only took an oath of obedience and fidelity to the emperor, but issued a bull, ordaining that Otho and his successors should have a right of appointing the popes, and investing bishops and archbishops; and that none should dare to consecrate a bishop without the permission of the emperor.
This fatal blow to the papacy was unpopular with the bishops; they complained that Leo had subverted, at one blow, the structure which his predecessors had toiled to raise during two centuries. When John, after the emperor's departure, returned to Rome, he easily procured the deposition of Leo, and the acknowledgment of his own claims. The restored pope began to exercise great cruelties against his opponents; but in the midst of his career, he was assassinated by a young nobleman, whom he had rivalled in the affections of his mistress. Such horror had this pontiff's crimes inspired, that many of the Romans believed that Satan in proper person had struck the fatal blow which sent him to his dread account, " with all his imperfections on his head.”
The adherents of John still refused to acknowledge Leo, and without consulting the emperor, they chose Benedict to succeed the murdered pontiff. But the return of Otho threw them into confusion : Benedict hastily tendered his submission to Leo, by whom he was banished; and the Roman nobility and clergy promised the emperor that they would never confer the papal dignity on any but a native of Germany. On the death of Leo, the electors, obedient to their promise, chose John XIII. by the emperor's permission. The pope was too grateful to his sovereign, to resist the encroachments of the imperial power on the city and the church : the turbulent Romans revolted and threw John into prison, but Otho soon came to suppress these disturbances. He restored John, and severely punished the authors of the revolt. Thus the political system of popery seemed utterly ruined, the pontiff ruled the Roman states as a lieutenant instead of a prince, and, far from being regarded as the supreme umpire of monarchs, he was reduced to the condition of a subject.
We have seen that the papacy owed its first success to the national hatred between the Latins and the Byzantines; strength for a new struggle to retrieve its fortunes was derived from the animosity with which the Germans were regarded by the Italians. The death of Otho (A. D. 973), was the signal for new convulsions in Italy; the feudal lords aimed at independence, the cities tried to establish freedom; Pope John tried to uphold the imperial cause, but he was arrested by Cincius, the head of the popular party, and strangled in prison.
Cincius and his faction chose Boniface VII. for their spiritual head; the aristocratic party, headed by the counts of Tuscany, elected Benedict VII.; the former was soon driven from the capital; he sought shelter at Constantinople, where he strenuously urged the Greek emperors to invade Italy. These princes took his advice, and, uniting themselves with the Saracens, subdued Apulia and Calabria. Otho II. vanquished these enemies; but when he returned to Germany, Boniface came back to Italy, made himself master of Rome, and threw his rival into prison, where he was starved to death. Four months afterward the murderer died suddenly, and was succeeded by John XV.
So low had the papacy now sunk, that the whole of John's reign was occupied by a struggle for the government of the city of Rome. Crescentius, an ambitious noble, eager to establish his own despotism under the name of freedom, persuaded the citizens to reject the authority both of the pope and the emperor. Otho II. crushed the revolt, and so firmly established the imperial authority, that he was enabled to nominate one of his creatures successor to John; and the cardinals received as their head Bruno, a Saxon stranger, who took the title of Gregory V.*
Crescentius had little trouble in exciting a new insurrection ; but the Italians were tou feeble to contend with the entire strength of the empire; they were defeated with ruinous loss; their leader was captured and beheaded. On the death of Gregory, Otho nominated Gerbert to the papal dignity, and he was installed under the title of Sylvester II. Although he did not foresee the consequences, Sylvester may be re
• Every pope changes his name on his accession, in imitation of St. Peter, whnn our Lord called Cephas, or Peter, instead of Simon.
garded as the first who made any progress in restoring the power of popery. His personal virtues removed the scandal which had long weakened the influence of his see, his patronage of learning restored to the church its superiority in intelligence, and, through his intimacy with the emperor, he obtained a renewal of the temporal grants which Charlemagne and Pepin had made to his predecessors. The popes now began to support the imperial cause against the turbulent nobles of Italy ; in return they were aided by the emperors in their struggles with the Roman princes and citizens ; but by this alliance the pontiffs were the principal gainers, for the emperor's attention was distracted by various objects while the popes were always on the spot to secure the fruit of every victory. So rapidly had their power been retrieved, that when Benedict VIII. crowned the emperor Henry, to whom he owed the preservation of his dignity, he demanded of his benefactor, before he entered the church: “ Will you observe your fidelity to me and
my successors in everything ?” and the emperor had the weakness to answer in the affirmative.
But the factions of the Roman nobles and citizens prevented the papal power from being consolidated; three rival popes, each remarkable for his scandalous life, shared the revenues of the church between them (A. D. 1045); they were finally persuaded to resign by John Gratian, a priest of piety and learning, and he was elected to the vacant throne by the title of Gregory VI. The emperor Henry procured the deposi. tion of Gregory, and the election of Clement II.
The most remarkable of the deposed popes was Benedict IX.; he was the son of a Tusculan count, and was raised to the chair of St. Peter at the early age of ten years. His vices induced the Romans to raise rivals against him ; but, supported by the aristocratic faction, he would probably have held his place, had he not been bribed to resign in favor of Gregory. The agent in this transaction was Hildebrand, the son of humble parents, who had raised himself by the force of his abilities and his reputation for piety to high rank in the church, and commanding influence in the state. Gregory was undoubtedly a better ruler than his immediate predecessors; he expelled the robbers and freebooters who infested the roads around Rome; he opened a secure passage for the pilgrims who wished to visit the shrine of St. Peter, and he vigorously exerted himself to reform the administration of justice. It was imprudent in the emperor Henry to depose such a man at the instigation of the enemies of order; Clement II. felt great aversion to the proceeding, and very reluctantly consented to his own elevation.
Gregory and Hildebrand, to the great regret of the Italian people, and especially the citizens of Rome, were driven into exile; they retired to the celebrated monastery of Clugni, where Gregory died of vexation, leaving Hildebrand the heir of his wealth and his resentment. Clement was poisoned by an emissary of Benedict nine months after his consecration ; and his successor, Damasus II., shared the same fate. When the news reached Hildebrand, he immediately departed from the imperial court, hoping to have some influence in the nomination of the next pope, but on the road he learned that the Diet of Worms, directed by the emperor, had elected Bruno, bishop of Toul, under the title of Leo IX.