As we saw, the long war between the papacy and the emperor over lay investiture was terminated by the Concordat of Worms, September 23, 1122. As was explained, according to the articles of this Concordat, the bishops in their capacity of temporal rulers, continued in the possession of their estates but as vassals of the emperor and thus under his overlordship. Only as spiritual rulers should they be subject to the pope. Their election should be the sole task of the clergy and the people with the king approving the choice and the pope as represented by the arch-bishop confirming it. Thus the emperor waived the right of appointing the bishops; but he was allowed the so-called touch of the scepter in token that the bishop received from him his temporal possessions and power as a fief. Such were the articles of this rather ambiguous concordat. But in subscribing to them the pope did not mean to relinquish his claim to the supreme lordship over the kings of the earth, in particular over the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, in their capacity of temporal rulers. In his own eyes the pope, under God, was still the head over all things in state and church, the lord of the earth and its fullness, from whom the kings of the earth, as his vassals, received their power and dominion, so that, according to the way of thinking of the pope, the emperor, in bestowing upon the bishops their temporal possessions and authority was granting out the pope’s possessions, and this also by reason of the fact that these possessions, this vast amount of real estate, represented the accumulated gifts of the faithful bestowed upon the church in the ages of the past. The pope, therefore, had insisted that the right to appoint the bishops belonged to him and not to the emperor. The latter agreed to this and the result was the Concordat of Worms. However, the emperors of Germany did not long hold themselves to this agreement. Soon they again went to appointing bishops. They even made direct war upon the pope, their aim being to bring the papacy in subjection to themselves. The papacy in turn made relentless war upon the emperor, its aim being to maintain itself as the supreme judicial power in church and state through the subjugation of the emperor. As has been explained in a previous article, church and state, according to the prevailing conception, formed a Christian commonwealth. According to the papal party it was the pope, according to the imperial party it was the emperor, who formed under God the supreme judicial power in this commonwealth. Each—emperor and pope—strove to subject the other to himself. Each strove to free himself from the yoke of the other when the other would momentarily prevail. Each strove to resist the encroachments of the other upon what he considered, to be his domain. The war of lay investiture is but a chapter in this carnal warfare. And we now pass on to its next chapter—a chapter that covers the years that intervened the adoption of the Concordat of Worms, 1122 and the peace of Venice, 1177,
Henry, who had acted so criminally toward his parent, Henry IV, expired in 1122. Having no issue, he bequeathed his dominions to the faithful Hohenstaufen, the third great dynasty of the emperors of Germany. In 1138 this family, in the person of Conrad III, was able to capture the imperial throne and the struggle between the papacy and the emperor for supremacy commenced anew. On the one side stood the pope, supported (by France and an unGerman faction in Germany. On the other side stood the emperor determined to defend the prerogatives of state against the encroachments of the pope and to bring the papacy under his control.
Conrad died in 1152. Being without an heir to the throne—shortly before his death his only son Henry had expired in the bloom of youth—his nephew Frederick was elected emperor at Frankford. Besides being remarkable for the handsome and manly appearance, and the genuine German cast of his countenance, Frederick, according to the standard of the world, was one of the ablest of the Holy Roman emperors. He vigorously maintained the independence of the monarchy, as a divine institution, against the claims of the papacy to supreme lordship over the temporal rulers. He set at naught the Concordat of Worms by controlling the election of bishops and thereby made himself complete master of both state and church in Germany. In Rome the papal chair was occupied by the able and energetic Adrian IV, a beggar, raised to the most exalted position in Christendom. He was an Englishman in whom these extremes of fortune met. The Romans demanded that he resign as temporal ruler. He refused and placed the city under the interdict. This was one of the pope’s most effective weapons for enforcing the submission of men to his will, the other being excommunication. The latter was directed against individuals. It separated the person from all relations with his fellow-men. It released the subjects from their oath of allegiance to their king. Any one providing the excommunicated one with food or shelter was penalized by the church. The excommunicated person was shunned as though he were infected toy a contagious disease; and if he died he was refused the rites of burial. The interdict was directed; against a city, province, or kingdom. It closed the churches in the region and silenced the bells. No marriages could be confirmed and no burial rites performed. The sacraments of baptism and extreme unction alone could be administered. At this time Frederick (surnamed by the Italians “Barbarossa” red beard) was in Italy with a powerful army to receive the token of royalty from the Lombards and to be crowned by the pope. The pope was willing only on condition that Frederick order the execution of Arnold a popular agitator of whom more will be said in the sequel. Frederick complied, kissed the pope’s toe, and was crowned. The rebellion of the Roman people was speedily suppressed. But Frederick and Adrian did not live in peace for long. “Who shall be subject to the other?’’ was the question, or, “Who shall be the greater?” Both wanted to be the greater. So Adrian spoke of Frederick’s empire as his gift to the emperor. This was more than Frederick could endure. He marched into Italy with an army to humble Milan and other rebellious Lombard cities. This accomplished, he convoked a diet that rendered the decision that the emperor held his empire by independent divine right and not by the will of the pope. Adrian had more fault to find with Frederick. He rebuked him for taxing certain papal estates, demanding that he should recognize the papal claim of feudal rights over them. The incensed monarch replied that instead of his being a vassal of the pope, the latter was a vassal of the emperor. A war of letters followed. Finally Adrian was decided to excommunicate his imperial foe; but he died before he could execute his intention. He was succeeded by Alexander III, a professor at Bologne, and a distinguished canonist. With this pope the conflict assumed a serious character. The cardinals were divided in their choice and a minority, favorable to the emperor, elected an anti-pope, who assumed the name of Victor IV. Frederick recognized Victor, thinking thereby to gain control of the papacy. Victor now excommunicated Alexander. The latter replied by excommunicating Victor and Frederick and thereby instigated revolt in Lombard and division in the entire patriarchate of the papacy, so that the church was rent by another schism. France, Spain, and England held with Alexander, while Germany, Hungary, Bohemia, Norway and Sweden sided with Victor. Italy was rent in twain. Rome and Tuscany, being under the power of the emperor, supported Victor while the proud commercial and manufacturing cities of Lombardy gave their allegiance to Alexander mostly out of antipathy toward Frederick, whom they refused to recognize as their temporal lord. He crushed the revolt with a mailed fist. Milan was razed to the ground and its population scattered.
Victor IV died’ in April 1164. He was succeeded by Pascal III. So there were still two popes. Alexander now formed a league of Lombardy cities against Frederick. The following year the emperor a fourth time marched into Italy with a strong army, captured Rome and enthroned Pascal HI and was once more crowned. Thereupon he planned to chastise the rebellious Lombards; but his army was decimated by the Roman fever and all Lombardy was in league against him. He was obliged therefore to recross the Alps for safety, which he did almost a fugitive. Pascal III died and Calixtus III was elected as his successor. A fifth time Frederick marched into Italy only to be defeated after a terrible slaughter in a pitched battle with the Lombards. Broken in spirit and in this state of mind despairing of ever being able to beat down the forces supporting Alexander, Frederick forsook Calixtus and made his peace with his rival, known as the Peace of Venice. It was ratified in the presence of cardinals, arch bishops, bishops and a vast multitude that filled the public square, 1177. Frederick prostrated himself before Alexander, and the pope in tears raised him up and gave him the kiss of peace and reconciliation. Glad tidings of the peace were sent to all parts of Christendom. The scenes of Canossa were reenacted in Venice. After ten years of exile, Alexander entered Rome, March 12, 1178. The attempt of Frederick to make himself master of the papacy ended in the triumph of the papacy over him. But his lordship over the bishops of Germany continued. As to Alexander, in 1179 he was driven into exile by the Roman republic. Two years later he died. The coffin in which his remains were carried to Rome for burial were pelted with mud and stones by the Roman populace. Insults such as this show that the people of Rome had as little love for the popes as had the secular power anywhere in the papal patriarchate.