Investiture Controversy | Free Online Biblical Library

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Investiture Controversy

This developed into a fifty- year struggle after Gregory VII* (pope from 1073) charged the Salian emperor Henry IV* of Germany with making ecclesiastical appointments through lay investiture, a practice condemned by Nicholas II in 1059. Henry claimed that an imperial divine right for a century had been withdrawn; he sought Gregory's dethronement. Excommunication followed; the imperial ecclesiastics feared for their own security and hesitated to support their king. Henry found himself isolated and sought reinstatement to the extent of humiliating himself before the pope at Canossa (1077). After the intervention of Matilda of Tuscany and the abbot Hugh of Cluny, Gregory heard Henry's plea and absolution ensued. But conniving and fighting followed as a result of earlier resentments: the two protagonists set up an antipope and an anti-king, but with no effect.

After Gregory died in 1085, Urban II turned instead to the crusade without German support: both sides wanted to save face. Paschal II renewed the struggle fruitlessly; the new leaders in Rome agreed with Gregory's aims, but not his means. The principle used to terminate the German investiture controversy (1103-7) was embodied in the Concordat of Worms (1122) and reasserted by the Second Lateran Council (1123), between Callistus II and Henry V: the emperor abandoned lay investiture with ring and staff, but could still demand homage of bishops and abbots in his domains before their ecclesiastical investiture. The German king did have the right of veto over ecclesiastical appointments. This struggle kept German churchmen from cultural advances while they attended to political affairs, and Germany fell behind in its intellectual leadership of W Europe.