This is the essay for the 21st week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering three questions. The first one is, What were the problems besetting the Church in the tenth and eleventh centuries?
The second one is, What were the events that took place during the conflict between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV.
The third one is, What is Christendom?
The church was facing problems in the tenth and eleventh centuries. One of these problems was that positions in the church were being chosen by laymen. Laymen were members of the church who have not been ordained. Being ordained meant that you would become a church official. This problem went all the way up to the pope where he was also being chosen by laymen. This problem started when feudalism and manorialism became more widespread. What happened was that the pieces of land churches were on, were owned by lords. The lords regarded almost everything on their land as theirs and this included churches and monasteries. The lords thought that since it’s their property they can choose who gets appointed and they usually chose someone from their own family members. Because church members started being given positions not because of their loyalty to the church but instead because of their relationship to the lord, loyalty to the church started suffering.
The destruction of loyalty to the church went on with no opposition for a century. This changed in 910 when the monastery of Cluny was established. At the monastery of Cluny, lay control was opposed and forbidden. Cluny spread its ideas and soon there were many monasteries who used Clunie’s rules. But the idea wasn’t widespread yet, because kings and lords supported lay control. There were several reformers supporting the Cluniac reforms. Some of the reformers advocated for severe reform, which meant that lay control shouldn’t take place in monasteries. The one exception was that the king was allowed to appoint church officials. This was because he was seen as a holy figure. There were other reformers who said that the king was just another layman and that he shouldn’t be allowed to appoint church officials either. The third type of reformers were the reformers who advocated for moderate reform. Moderate reform meant that instead of completely removing lay control, that laymen should just choose good church officials, instead of bad ones.
In 1073, when Gregory VII became pope, lay control was still an issue. Gregory made several reform decrees to improve the church but they didn’t work. He wanted to know why his reform decrees didn’t work. Well, Gregory figured out it was because of lay control and some other problems. The reason his decrees didn’t work is that church officials chosen by lay control weren’t very loyal to the church, so they didn’t follow his decrees. But that wasn’t the only problem caused by lay control. It also caused the pope to not have any power in Christendom. Christendom refers to the countries where Christianity plays a very important role in. When Gregory VII was alive this would refer to most of Europe. By that time it was a common notion that the king was in charge of the Christendom, not the pope.
After learning all of this Gregory wanted to fix the church and get rid of lay control. But there was something even worse than lay control. It was lay investiture. Lay investiture meant that instead of kings and lords just appointing church officials, they also invested them with spiritual authority by giving them a scepter, a staff and a ring.The lay investiture problem was at its worst in the Holy Roman Empire, which is modern-day Germany. So this is where Gregory started his assault against lay control and lay investiture.
During that time the king of the Holy Roman Empire was Henry IV. In 1075 Gregory starts his assault against Henry IV, by holding a council. In this council he demanded that all church officials that were invested by laymen should be deposed. He also demanded that the laymen who invested the church officials would be excommunicated. Henry followed the terms of the agreement by not appointing any new church officials. This is until late 1075 when he appointed the bishop of Milan. After this Gregory excommunicated Henry. This was devastating to Henry because it caused him to have very little power. The only option he had left was to go to Gregory to ask for forgiveness. Gregory made Henry wait outside the Monastery of Canosa for 3 days, after which he was given forgiveness. Henry was extremely humiliated by this event, but even after that he still didn’t adhere to the agreement. Then Gregory excommunicated Henry again, but this time it didn’t do much. Henry then drives Gregory out of Rome and then in 1085 Gregory dies in exile.
Even though Gregory died in exile, he didn’t fail his mission to get rid of lay control and lay investiture. This is because he had already changed people’s perception of the state. The investiture controversy caused people to see the difference between church and state. Even though lay control was still used for a while afterward, people’s perception was different. People didn’t see it as one organization but instead they saw it as the state oppressing the church. This revelation is what caused the west and east to become even more different from each other. This is because in the west this revelation happened while in the east it didn’t.
A few paragraphs back I gave a very brief and simple explanation of what Christendom was. I’m now going to tell you why it’s so important. As stated earlier I said that Christendom refers to the countries where Christianity plays a very important role. What makes Christendom so important is that after people began to differentiate the church and state they also started making a different mindset on Christians. The mindset people made was that they didn’t care which country you came from, but instead about whether Christian or not. A great example of this mindset are the crusades. All Christians could join it no matter which country they came from. Before Gregory the great, such a large scale cooperation would’ve been unthinkable. Back then people would’ve looked at where people came from instead.