This is the essay for the 28th week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering one question.
It is: What were the reasons behind the conflicts between the emperors and the popes during the period between 1155-1250?
In 1155, a conflict started between the pope and the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick Barbarossa. This was because he wanted to have control over Lombardy. Frederick wanted Lombardy so he wouldn’t have to worry about the German lords. Pope Alexander III sides with the free cities inside of Lombardy because they both wanted to stay independent from kings and emperors. Eventually, the conflict defused when the Lombards were able to defeat Frederick. This made pope Alexander III reconcile with Frederick. Later on, Frederick arranges a marriage with his son and future heiress of Sicily and southern Italy, as he thought that the HRE should include all of Italy.
Frederick died in 1190. Who Fredericks’s successor would be was being fought by two families. The Hohenstaufens and the Welfs. Hohenstaufens being Fredericks’s own family and the Welfs were a rival family supported by the pope. The candidate from the Welfs was named Otto. The new pope Innocent III was supporting Otto because this would separate the HRE and Sicily and then he wouldn’t be surrounded by the same empire on both sides. Otto also promised the pope that he would listen to him. When Otto became the emperor in 1209, he immediately disobeyed the pope by going back on his promises and he also invades Southern Italy. This makes Innocent III declare Otto as deposed from the title of Holy Roman Emperor.
The pope then starts supporting Frederick II who is the previous Frederick’s son. Innocent III makes Frederick II make promises with him. A few of these promises include abandoning claims on Southern Italy and Sicily and leading a crusade. In 1220, Otto lost all of his power and Frederick II became the new Holy Roman Emperor. After Frederick became emperor he also disobeys the promises he made to the pope by uniting the HRE and Sicily instead of separating them. Frederick also doesn’t go on a crusade as he promised. What makes this worse is that in Sicily he starts plundering holy buildings like monasteries. The problem was that Frederick II was spending so much time in Italy that he had to give more freedom and power to the lords in the HRE. In response, Frederick II raised taxes substantially in Sicily to compensate for the loss in power against the lords. In 1227 pope Frederick II was excommunicated by the new pope Gregory IX, for all of the promises he broke. Frederick II in return denounces Pope Gregory IX for spreading hatred against him. In 1229 pope Gregory IX he excommunicates Frederick II for the second time with an interdict which means that Frederick isn’t able to receive the sacraments anywhere. This time Frederick II takes a more serious counteraction, which is driving all friars out of Sicily and threatening anyone who comes into Sicily with a papal document. In 1241 the pope held a council in Rome. What makes this council special is that Frederick II arrests everyone who tries to attend the council. By this point, the new pope Innocent IV has had enough and declares Frederick II deposed as the Holy Roman Emperor.
In summary, the conflict between the emperors and popes in the time period between 1155-1250 came from the fact that the emperors wanted to fully reunite the HRE by including Italy. On the opposite end, the popes wanted to stay independent. They helped emperors get elected that they thought were loyal to them. Then it turned out that the emperors weren’t and they needed to deal with those emperors as well. In the end, the lords in the HRE had become too strong and it became impossible for the HRE to fully reunite.