German king and Holy Roman Emperor. He succeeded Henry III in 1056 and endured a regency marked by civil strife that instilled in him a resolve to strengthen the monarchy. After reaching majority in 1065, his overly hasty actions in extending royal power in Saxony resulted in war, and he sought church backing in the struggle. Just as victory was gained in 1075, Pope* forbade lay investiture, thus denying Henry a voice in the selection of German church officials. He indignantly deposed Gregory, and the pope responded by excommunicating Henry in 1076. Because most German nobles supported Gregory, Henry sought to forestall his imminent deposition by going to Canossa in 1077 to obtain papal absolution just before a council was to meet at Augsburg.
Civil war followed as the nobles elected another king and Gregory supported him. In 1080 Henry again deposed Gregory (who died in exile, 1085), set up Clement III as his antipope, and was crowned by him in 1084. Henry’s last years were filled with insuperable difficulties as his sons Conrad and Henry revolted and the imperial government collapsed. Resulting from these wars was the growth of feudalism and princely sovereignty in Germany and powerful urban communes in Italy.
Bibliography: G. Barraclough, The Origins of Modern Germany (1947); G. Tellenbach, Church, State and Christian Society at the Time of the Investiture Contest (1959).