So had Henry IV gone through the motions of humbling himself before the pope, and so had the pope gone through the motions of absolving Henry,—gone through the motions. This is stating the matter correctly; for, as we shall now see, neither the pope had truly forgiven Henry, nor had Henry actually submitted to the pope in the matter of lay investiture. Henry, by wringing an absolution from the pope, had frustrated the attempt of the nobles of Germany to permanently rid themselves of him. But these nobles, refusing to admit that they had been outwitted by the king, and determined to rid themselves of him at any cost, assembled at Forchheim, March 13, 1077, and offered the crown of Germany to Rudolf, Duke of Swabia, after two legates of the pope, who were present, had prevailed upon the assembly to exact from Rudolf the promise that he would submit to Hildebrand (the pope) in the matter of lay investiture. On March 26 Rudolf was crowned; but the citizens of Mainz, where the crowning took place, raised such a storm, that Rudolf had to flee to (Henry’s enemies in Saxony. Henry now demanded of Hildebrand that he excommunicate the usurper, but the pope refused. It shows that, though he had absolved the king, he still wanted him out of the way. Germany now had two kings, Henry and Rudolf. Each would eliminate the other and the result was civil war. Though the pope wanted Rudolf to prevail, he was careful not to openly repudiate Henry while the outcome of the struggle still pended. But when on January 27, 1080 Henry was defeated by Rudolf in a decisive battle at Thuringa, the pope, concluding that Henry’s star had set and that therefore he had nothing to fear from him anymore, invoked the aid of Peter and Paul, and again excommunicated Henry, deposed him as king and declared Rudolf to be Germany’s lawful ruler. Henry instantly replied by an identical action. By a synod of thirty German and Italian bishops, met at Brixen, he deposed Hildebrand and elected an anti-pope under the name of Clement III. But this time the religious sentiment of the age supported Henry and not the pope. There were reasons for this. Firstly, as already has been explained, the multitude looked upon Henry’s act of self-abasement in Canossa as an unheard of and wonderful humility and upon the pope’s treatment of the king on that occasion as tyrannical cruelty wholly unbecoming to the spiritual father of the church. Further, the terrible civil war in Germany between the party of Rudolf and the party of (Henry was still in progress. State and church were being rent in pieces by this conflict, while Hildebrand calmly looked on and by his equivocal declarations and acts kept up the conflict. He expressed his grief at seeing so many thousand Christians fall victims to temporal and eternal death through the pride of one man, but he did not reveal whom he meant by that individual, Henry or Rudolf. Not until the arms of Rudolf met with continuous success, did the pope pass sentence of ex-communication upon Henry. The partisans of Rudolf, who, in making war upon Henry, were fighting Hildebrand’s battles—such was their contention—fiercely reproached the pope of prolonging the disastrous quarrel by his ambiguous conduct; and they seriously questioned the purity of his motives. It was this slowness of Hildebrand in publicly repudiating Henry that turned the pope’s own party against him. And the excessive severity of the treatment he had afforded the king in Canossa, lost for him the sympathy of the multitude. There were not lacking plain indications of this. Henry again was an excommunicated and a deposed monarch and a deposer of the great Hildebrand. But this time the number that drew away from the king was small. Not now as formerly was he forsaken by his subjects almost to a man. It shows that this second ban of the pope produced little effect in Germany. Thus the death of Rudolf the same evening of the day on which he was mortally wounded on the banks of the Elster, Oct. 15, 1880, in his last battle with Henry, was generally regarded as the judgment, of God against him for his infidelity to his lord, king Henry. With Rudolf in the grave, the war abruptly ended. The Hildebrandian party had lost their will to continue the conflict, Henry, knowing that he could count on the moral and physical support of his subjects, and that his position in Germany therefore was strong, decided to bring the pope to terms. Yet, in taking action against the pope he proceeded with great caution. He first sent (Hildebrand overtures of peace and declared himself prepared to enter into negotiations for that purpose with the pope. But the proud pope was adamant in his refusal to incline toward Henry. He would yield nothing, though his friends warned him that in Rome all would go over to the side of Henry and that it would be vain to expect any help from his party in Germany. The pope replied that he deemed it a small thing to be forsaken of men, meaning that he put his trust in God. But as coming from Hildebrand, this was a testimony far too courageous. For, so heavily did he lean upon men that he temporarily suspended his laws against priestly marriages in order to recapture in the present crisis the good will of the clergy in Germany. It shows that an unmarried clergy was not a matter of vital principle with Hildebrand. If it was, he stands accused of compromising with his convictions in order to regain the support of men. As to Henry, he was -determined to compel the pope to incline to him his ear. In the spring of 1081 he crossed the Alps with an army and laid siege to Rome. Shall we now say with a certain historian that Hildebrand, surrounded by danger, stood firm as a rock, and refused every compromise? It is certain that we are nearer the truth in averring that Hildebrand, stubborn as a mule, refused to budge; and that therefore his saying that “I am not afraid of the threats of the wicked, and would rather sacrifice my life than consent to evil,” is but another example of man’s amazing capacity for self-deception.
Contrary to Henry’s expectation, the Romans refused to admit him to their city. Unprepared for a long siege, he retreated for the summer to upper Italy. At Easter, 1083, he returned and in June the city was taken. But so far was Hildebrand from admitting defeat that, entrenching himself in the castle of St. Angelo, he renewed the ban upon Henry and excommunicated all his followers. Henry replied by enthroning his anti-pope, Clement III; (but he also instructed the nobility of Rome to effect a peaceful settlement with Hildebrand and thereupon left the city. The following spring he returned. Being told that no force had been able to move Hildebrand to negotiate, Henry, by a synod once more deposed and excommunicated him and consecrated Clement III by whom he was subsequently crowned emperor. Thereupon he left Rome with the newly consecrated anti-pope never to return. In the meantime, Hildebrand had successfully solicited the aid of the Normans. They came, did these half-christianized heathen, thirty six thousand strong. Having liberated Hildebrand, they gave free reign to their lust of plunder and slaughter, until half the city, including many churches, was reduced to ruins and several thousand citizens were slain. And as if this was not enough, they sold several thousand more into slavery. The survivors cursed Hildebrand. To escape their wrath, he fled to Salerno, as accompanied by a few cardinals and Roman nobles. Here in Salerno the old pope, still unbroken in spirit, though broken in body, spent his last moments in hurling curses at his arch-enemy, Henry, king of Germany, the frustrater of his intention to bind the world to his throne. His last written document is a letter to the faithful in Germany, in which he exhorted them to hasten to the rescue of the church; that is, to Hildebrand, if they wished to go to heaven. And his dying words were, “I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile.” But the truth of the matter is, that he died in exile—and the exile of course was voluntary, self-imposed—because he stubbornly refused to come to terms with Henry regarding the matter of lay investiture. And that stubbornness had little to do with love of righteousness but it had everything to do with the pope’s pride and lust of power. This is the only justifiable appraisal of this remarkable man, considering what he wanted for himself—nothing less than the earth and its fullness—considering the plaice in the universe that in his imagination he had carved out for himself—in his mind he sat on the top of the world with every ruler in church and state at his feet—and considering the unsavory methods which he employed in his striving to elevate himself to that dizzy height. The use he made of his key power is a scandal. He was aware of this. And it troubled him in his last moments. Just before he died he absolved, according to one account, all his enemies with the exception of Henry and Clement III, the anti-pope, and testified his repentance at the controversy which he had excited. But it may be questioned whether this account is true.
The death of Hildebrand could not of course terminate the war over lay investiture. The issues involved remained, awaiting settlement. So the contest was continued now between Henry IV and Hildebrand’s successors in the papal throne. After Hildebrand’s decease, the anti-pope Clement III continued in the possession of Rome. The cardinals faithful to Hildebrand chose Victor III, who soon; died. He was succeeded by Otto, cardinal-bishop of Ostia, a Frenchman, who assumed the name of Urban II. Hildebrand’s efforts to destroy Henry IV was renewed by Urban. Like Hildebrand, he paid little regard to the character of the means employed for the achievement of that purpose. Conrad Henry’s eldest son, wanted to be king in his father’s stead, and Urban encouraged the rebellion even to the extent of crowning Conrad king of Italy at Monza, whither the usurper fled for protection. More important for Urban’s rise to power was the synod of Clermont in France, 1095. Here he captured the hearts of men by the amazing power and eloquence with which he exhorted them to un- sheath their sword against the Seljuk Turks, who had possessed Jerusalem in 1071 and who were harassing the pilgrims to the holy city and desecrating the holy places. After the adjournment of the synod, Urban set out for Rome surrounded by princes and prelates. Passing through France and Italy, the company grew into a vast multitude, full of enthusiasm for their cause. Escorted by troops of crusaders, Urban entered Rome, expelled the anti-pope and took possession of the city. A few years thereafter he died, 1099, after he had pronounced the ban on all his enemies, including Henry IV. Urban was succeeded by Pascal II, who also, after the example of Hildebrand, sanctioned any means to bring about Henry’s destruction. He, too, encouraged the rebellion of Henry’s sons against their father. He exhorted Robert of Flander, who had returned from the first military expedition against the Turks in Palestine, to persecute Henry, that head of all heretics and his friends, to the death; and assured him that he could not offer to God a more acceptable sacrifice, than that of carrying on war against him—king Henry—who had rebelled against God, and sought to rob the church of its sovereignty. “By much battles,” said he to Robert, “they should obtain a place in the heavenly Jerusalem.” The fickle multitude hearkened unto the voice of the pope, so that Henry, with his sons in rebellion against him, was forsaken on all sides. But he still had faithful adherents in the dioceses of Liege and Cambray, Here the Christian sense of truth asserted itself in opposition to the vile fanaticism of the pope. The clergy of Liege had already accused Hildebrand of exchanging the spiritual for the secular sword. They now lodged the same objection against Pascal. They asked him to consider whether he led his sheep in the right way in promising them a place in heaven, if only they attacked and desolated the church of God. Reference here is to the laymen and clergymen still devoted to their lord Henry IV. Pascal had placed all such under the papal ban besides ordering them persecuted to the death. Why should these clergymen be excommunicated, they asked. Is it because they are faithful to their bishop, and the latter to the party of his lord the emperor? They denied the right of popes to pronounce the ban on princes. They maintained that the jurisdiction over them the King of kings, Christ the Lord, who appointed them His vicegerents on earth, had reserved in His own hands. And they were entirely correct. But Pascal no more than Hildebrand would allow himself to be instructed. He continued to make relentless war against Henry. Finally the king was compelled to abdicate. The following year he died, August 7, 1106, under the papal ban, in misery at Liege, and was succeeded by the eldest of his rebellious sons, Henry V. Such at this time was the spirit operative in the papacy as it became flesh and blood in Hildebrand and in these Hidebrandian popes. It was the spirit from the abyss. Yet glorious things have been said of this Hildebrand. “His dying words,” writes one historian, “reveal the fundamental basis of his character, which was great and manly. To this grand spirit, a character almost without equal, belongs a place among the rulers of the earth, men who have moved the world by a violent yet salutary influence.” The religious element, however, raises him to a far higher sphere than that to which secular monarchs belong.”
Pascal reaped the reward of his own iniquity in fomenting and encouraging the rebellion of Henry the Fifth against his own father. For no sooner had he come into power, than he revived the old issue regarding lay investiture. He insisted that the right to appoint and install bishops belonged to him exclusively. But Pascal thought otherwise. So Henry V marched upon Rome in force and had the pope cast into prison. Pascal now was ready to negotiate. For he lacked Hildebrand’s unbending will. Pascal and Henry now reached a remarkable agreement. The bishops should abdicate as temporal rulers to function in their respective domains as spiritual rulers only, and thus allow their vast estates to pass under the direct, temporal jurisdiction of the emperor and the smaller lay rulers. The agreement was good. It was the only solution for the abuse of simony. But it was too revolutionary for general adoption. Human nature being what it is, it asked far too much. It asked that the hierarchy, definitely the papacy, allow the emperor to take over, possess, and exercise a direct temporal rule over, the vast estates of the church and thus allow the bishops to continue on their estates only as spiritual shepherds. To be sure, had the hierarchy agreed to this, the emperor would have been quite willing to waive his right to appointing and installing the bishops. And the office of bishop would have ceased to be the coveted prize of unprincipled men. But the Roman hierarchy, from the pope down to the bishops, had its affections too firmly set upon these properties to even think of parting with them. Had this agreement gone Into effect, the Roman hierarchy would have been deprived of its independent source of income and pope and bishops would have been brought under the necessity of living by the free gifts of the people. For with these vast estates under the direct temporal rule of the emperor and his vassals, the yield of the lands of these estates would have gone to the temporal rulers, and thus not to the church.
Now the pope and his bishops were greatly in need of those vast estates as from them they derived the means for the maintenance of their magnificent courts. Yet that compact between Henry V and Pascal was signed provisionally and the pope crowned Henry emperor of the Romans. But no sooner had Henry returned to Germany, than a synod in Rome rejected the agreement, and Pascal was taken severely to task for the concession. In obedience to the command of the synod, he confessed that he had done wrong and in addition subscribed anew to the decrees of Hildebrand and Urban II against lay-investiture. Pascal died, January 21, 1118. The papacy and emperor were weary of the long war of fifty years. A compromise was reached, known in history as the Concordat of Worms. It was signed September 23, 1122. According to the articles of this compact, the bishops, in their capacity of temporal rulers, continued in the possession of their estates but as vassals of the king and thus under his over-lordship. But an exception was made of the estates of the papacy. Of these estates the pope should be the only and sole lord. As to the common bishops, in their capacity of spiritual rulers, they should be subject solely to the Roman pontiff. Their election should be the sole task of the clergy and the people without the interference of the king, yet with the king approving the choice and with the pope confirming it. Thus the king waived the right of appointing and installing bishops. But he was allowed the so-called touch of the scepter in token that the bishop received from him his temporal possessions and authority. This was indeed a compromise. It did not remove the abuse of simony but only temporarily arrested it; and it continued the secularization of the hierarchy. It would not have satisfied Hildebrand, who had demanded nothing less than the complete independence of the estates of the church.