Walking to Kanossa. Tug of war in Germany

By the middle of XI century. German emperors considered the popes to be their servants – they appointed them and overthrew them. But the Catholic church still broke out of their death grip.

In 1056 the German throne was occupied by the six-year-old Henry IV. While he was growing up, the power in the state belonged to the dukes. Later, Henry IV had to tame the masterful nobility and at the same time quarrel with the popes.

The energetic and resolute Pope Gregory VII forbade secular authorities to interfere in the appointment of bishops. Henry IV did not like this. But this time I found a braid on the stone. Gregory VII excommunicated the German emperor from the church and freed his subjects from a vassal oath. The princes, in turn, told Henry IV that if he were not removed from exile, he would have to part with the crown.

The Emperor had to go to Northern Italy to confess to his father. At the gates of the fortress of Kanossa, the emperor stood barefoot for

three days, in the rags of a penitent sinner, before being allowed to visit his father. Widely pleased at the humiliation of his enemy, Gregory VII withdrew his excommunication. Since then, the phrase “to go to Kanossa” means to surrender to the mercy of the winner.

It is suggested that in the Kanossa, not the pope, but the emperor won. Henry IV skillfully used his father’s weapon – repentance. He repented as the church demanded, so the pope had to forgive him, although he understood that this should not be done.

Returning to Germany, Henry IV helped obedient bishops excommunicate Gregory VII from the church and elect a new pope. Gregory VII became an exile and soon died. So, Henry IV has humiliated in Canossus in his favor. He kept his throne, and brought his enemy to the grave. But after the death of Henry IV, the emperors, under the pressure of the feudal nobility, made concessions to the popes. In 1122, in Worms, an agreement was signed, according to which the state conceded to the Pope a part of its power over the church. Later, the pope and the monarch jointly appointed bishops.

Since then, the bishops have obeyed the pope more than the emperor. Having lost support of the church, the emperors became even more dependent on the princes, their power weakened.

1077. From the message of Pope Gregory VII to the spiritual and secular princes of Germany about Canossus

He arrived at last, of his own free will, showing no hostility, no insolence, with a small number of people to the walls of Canossa where we stayed. And here for three whole days, at the gates of the castle, throwing all the regal, in a miserable form, barefoot and in a shirt, bursting with tears, pleaded for help and joy of our apostolic charity, so that everyone who was here and to whom the rumors about it came, he caused a feeling of compassion. Following him with requests and tears, everyone was amazed at the unusual cruelty of our character, and some even urged us to show the severity of the terrible apostle, and not the ferocity of the tyrant.

In the end, having been overcome by the power of his repentance and the great entreaty of all those present, we, having removed his excommunication, returned him to the bosom of the holy mother of our church…

The German emperors did not enjoy the support of cities entirely dependent on the princes. Therefore, they could not strengthen the state. In the 13th century, when other Western European states united and became powerful, Germany, on the contrary, split into a number of independent principalities and fell into decay.

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Walking to Kanossa. Tug of war in Germany