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Western Civilization 10, Lesson 105, Essay 2 – The Conflicts Between Pope Gregory VII and King Henry IV

Pope Saint Gregory VII (r. 1075-1085) was one of the many popes who attempted to abolish the practice of laymen investiture.  During his reign, he and King Henry IV had a very interesting conflict over this practice.  In this essay, I am going to briefly describe their disagreement.

When Gregory was first instated as Pope, he tried to reform the Church, but found that his amendments did not stick.  This was because he did not have the ability to instate his own people who would support him.  Those who worked under him were appointed by the king and had their own agendas.

In 1075, he declared that all clerics that were appointed by laymen were relieved of their position and all laymen who continued to do this would be excommunicated.  This did not work for Henry.  He needed his bishops to offset the powerful nobles to diminish the risk of him being overthrown.  In retaliation to Gregory’s new reform, Henry appointed the Bishop of Milan.

Gregory demanded for Henry to stop, but the latter refused to listen.  Following through with his word, Gregory excommunicated Henry and declared him deposed of King Emperor.  Henry’s various vassals and other nobles beneath him rebelled as soon as they heard, forcing him to submit to them.

In 1077, Henry made a trip to Canossa in Northern Italy, where Gregory was, and apologized for his actions.  After forcing Henry to wait in the snow for three days and nights, Gregory lets him enter the fort and eventually lifted the excommunication order.

When Henry returned to his home, he crushed all those who rebelled against him.  Once he gained his former power, he went back to appointing churchmen, even though it was banned.  When Gregory went to excommunicate Henry for a second time, Henry was prepared and forced Gregory to flee Rome.

In 1085, Gregory was officially banned from Rome.  He would live in exile for the rest of his life.

As you can see, the two men had quite the quarrel during Pope Gregory’s time as a Pope.  This story showed how stubborn both men were in their ways. Both were willing to fight to attain what they thought was right and what they thought was best.

Thanks for reading!


Author: sophiaelahirpc

10th Grade student in the Ron Paul Curriculum. Full-time teen writer living in Singapore.

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