Professor Laurel Carrington
The Investiture Conflict
The beginning of the Investiture Conflict was due to eleventh-century papacy's attack on the clerical abuses of simony, clerical marriage, and lay investiture. According to canon law, bishops were supposed to be elected by the clergy of the diocese, but in practice, anointed kings who claimed themselves to be God’s vicars, appointed bishops and invested them with the symbols of their spiritual and temporal authority, which made power of the popes been challenged. To promote the idea of papal monarchy, reformers seized the opportunity to take the papacy by force while the king, Henry IV, was still a child and could not react. When Henry IV reached adulthood, he continued to appoint his own bishops, while be busy putting down rebellions at the same time. In 1075, after Henry IV won a resounding military victory over the Saxon rebellions, as a position of strength, he resumed his campaign to restore royal authority. As a result, Dictatus Papae appeared in the register of Gregory’s letters, which used to emphasize the power of the pope, and to threaten king Henry’s misbehavior. This attack on the kingship was a challenge to the social order and a threat to the authority of every ruler in Western Christendom. (Bennett, pg. 208) Henry IV reacted to this declaration by sending Gregory VII a letter in which he withdrew his imperial support of Gregory as pope. In the letter, Henry thought that the kingship is “granted by God” but not received from Gregory. Gregory could not interfere his appointment of bishops and abbots. He also quoted what true pope Saint Peter exclaims “Fear God, honor the king” to refute what Gregory said to him. Letters had been passed back and forth between emperor and pope. By the end of 1076 both the emperor and the pope had declared each other excommunicated and deposed from office. After Henry was excommunicated, German princes were happy to hear of it. They used the...
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