The investiture quarrel

The dispute of universals was essentially discussed in small circles on the theological and philosophical level. Its outcome formed the theoretical prerequisites for political dominance of the church. On the other hand it is in complementary relation to the 'investiture quarrel'. Both fit together like theory and practice. The investiture quarrel is the pragmatical consequence of the philosophico-theological 'dispute of universals'. It is the territorio-political outcome of the theoretical developments within the church. Scholasticism is not merely scholarly in this context, it shows clearly its political goals.

Evidently, the Neoplatonic outcome of the dispute of universals is the basis of the harsh constitutional and political claims of a whole series of popes. We will discuss this more in details in the following.

Early tensions, cooperation and dependence of the pope

The investiture quarrel smoulders already at the end of the 8th century, particularly at the coronation of Charlemagne. It was on Christmas day of the year 800 in the church of Saint Peter in Rome. In various contexts pope Leo III. had taken some decisions very independently, above all, decisions which contradicted Charlemagne's ideas of rulership. Particularly disturbing were the pope's ideas about the function of the church within his own territories.

In the year 813 Charlemagne's son Lewis is crowned to become his co-emperor in Aachen. Decisions and celebrations happened without the pope, a clear power-demonstration against Rome. However, cooperation dominates in the 9th century, in the time of the division of the Franconian empire. Lewis the Pious (814-40) lets himself be crowned in 816, in Reims, by pope Steve IV. (816-17). During the period of the division of the empire, the crownings of the emperors were performed by the pope.

The church during the Saxonian-Ottonian empire

At the beginning of the High Middle Ages (10th century), after Conrad I. (911-18), the last Franconian, the Saxon emperors Henry I. (919-936) and Otto I. the Great, returned decisively to Charlemagne's philosophy, particularly with the military conquest of new territories (925 recovery of Lorraine, 928 fights against Slavic tribes, 933 victory over Hungarians). These territorial extensions greatly strengthened their position.

Consequently, Otto I. the Great (936-973) keeps Charlemagne's tradition and celebrates his coronation not in Rome, but at Aachen. The archbishop of Mainz put the crown on his head. In 939 Otto is successful in fighting a riot of the dukes of Franconians, Bavarians and Lorraine. During his first campaign to Italy (951/ 52), he declares himself king of the Franconians and Langobards without having any elections nor a crowning ceremony. In 955 Otto conquers the Hungarians on the Lechfeld. They are converted and settled. Steve the Saint (997-1038), the Hungarian king (the crown was sent by the pope) is thus directly dependent of Rome. In that same year (955) Otto conquers the Slavs at the Rechnitz. The intensive proselytization of the Slavs is supported by the establishment of numerous bishop-headquarters (Schleswig, Oldenburg, Havelberg, Brandenburg, Meissen, Merseburg and Zeitz), which are all united (968) under the control of the archbishop of Magedburg. Between 961- 965 Otto undertakes his second campaign to Italy. Pope John XII. had called him for help. In February 962 the emperor is crowned in Rome. In return, Otto guarantees the 'donation of Pippin' (which corresponds to the factual state territory of the Roman church). The emperor's rights too are renewed in Rome under the title 'Ottonianum'. Under the successors of Otto the Great, namely, Otto II. (973-83) and Otto III. (983-1002) and Henry II. (1002-24) the German empire is consolidated.

The Saxonian-Ottonian monarchy made the church an important suprastructural support of its own ruling, mainly by giving secular authority to bishops and abbots in contrast to the infrastructure of the autochthonous dukedoms. These distinct bishops and abbots had princely power and represented the supreme imperial position below the ruler. In view of Rome, however, the empire maintains its claim of full control over the church in regard to the "investiture" of the bishops and abbots. The possessions of the Franconian church had greatly increased but it remained part of the Franconian imperial asset. The popedom is shown in great dependence of the empire.

During his Italian campaign (996), Otto III. sets his cousin Brun on the pope's throne. As pope Gregory V. (996-999) he will head the coronation ceremony of Otto as emperor. Otto is affected by the glory of Rome and its centralism. In 997 he develops the idea of the renovation of the Roman empire ('Renovatio Imperii Romanorum'). Rome was planned to become the imperial residence from which the empire and its parts, namely Germania, Roma, Gallia and Sklavenia would be governed. In the year 1001 he offers himself the title 'servant of the apostles' ('Servus Apostolorum'). This was to ease his influence over Poland and Hungary. Both were under control of the holy chair.

The Franconian-Salian emperors, the reform-popedom and the investiture quarrel proper

Under Conrad 11. (1024-39) the kingdom of Burgundy joined the German empire. On his first campaign to Italy (1026/ 27) Conrad is crowned, first in Milano with the iron crown, then, in Rome, with the imperial crown. Ten years later, in the second Italian campaign (1037/ 38), he suffers a sensitive rebound. Aribert of Milano, who is supported by the aspiring middle class, entails to him the first defeat of a German emperor against the Lombardian cities. In 1046, at the synodical meetings of Sutri and Rome, Henry III. (1039-56) eliminates three popes he dislikes and blocks the influence of Roman nobility on the election of the pope. With Henry IV. (1056-1106) the Franconian-Salian empire came into the crossfire of the reformatory popedom, respectively into the swirl of the investiture struggle proper. Partially under the influence of the Cluniacensic reform movement, which had been active already in the 10th century, pope Leo IX. (1049-1054) starts to consolidate the papal position within the church. 'Simonism' (purchase of spiritual dignities) provides the pretence for the demand that bishops are elected by the clerus. Evidently, this was a first clerical attack on the investiture-rights of the king. The second attack: in the decree regarding the election of the pope edited in 1059 by Nicolas II. (1058-61) the election of the pope becomes fully independent of any worldly power.

The investiture-quarrel proper, however, breaks out with Gregory VII. (1073-1085). He vehemently follows the papal hard liners among his predecessors. He writes down his program in the so-called 'Dictatus papae'. Therein he demands, first, the exclusion of any intermingling of worldly powers into the internal affairs of the church, second, the leadership of the church over the world, and ultimately the enforcement of the pope's sovereign power within the church.

At its synodal meeting in 1075 the church renews its law of 1059 which prohibited any laic investiture. The provocation was clearly directed towards the German crown. The next year (1076), in January, Henry IV. declares the deposition of the pope at the synodal meeting of Worms along with the German bishops. In this same year at the synodal meeting, the church concludes the deposition and excommunication of the German king under pope Gregory VII. The verdict is considered as a papal punishment. It also frees the king's subjects from their oath of allegiance. Evidently Henry is loosing grounds in his own domain. In October at the 'princely day' of Tribur, in presence of papal legates, the German princes decide to depose the king under certain conditions. In the following January (1077, 25.-28.) Henry goes on his famous gait to Canossa planned as his humiliation. However, through church-penance, he forces the pope to suspend the spell. Three years later (1080) the king is again excommunicated by pope Gregory. In the same year archbishop Wibert in Ravenna is elected as anti-pope. In 1083 Henry conquers Rome as part of his first expedition to Italy. In the following year (1084) he is taking the imperial crown provided by the anti-pope Clemens III. Gregory remains besieged in the Angels'-Castle. He is later, however, liberated by Normans called for help. Henry IV. must leave Rome. But due to heavy looting of the Normanic armies Gregory too must leave the city. He dies the same year in Salerno.

Thus, harsh rank-fights happen on the supreme political scenery. The hard pace of the popedom is clearly interlinked theoretically with the 'dispute of universals', which, at the same time, gains increasingly absolute spirituality, resp. independence of worldly impacts. Despite the dramatic situations, the German power over the church is, however, not yet shaken. The attempt of pope Gregory VII. to establish the unity of the church and the world under papal leadership has failed for the moment.

Nevertheless, it is not astonishing, that in this period the church, for the first time, advertises also for crusades. Originally, the crusade idea came up with the advancing Seldschuks in Syria and against Jerusalem. It is however evident that the concept of a 'holy' war fits very well with the new concept of a supra-worldly church state.

In 1074 already, pope Gregory VII. plans himself at the head of an army of knights. He considers himself as a 'leader' of the Roman type ('Dux') and as bringing help to oriental Christians in the role of a 'pontifex' (priest, Roman term!). Its intention was not only the 'liberation' of the holy grave, the enlargement of the 'spiritual' empire was also on the program. The union of the Greek and Roman church was the ultimate goal. At the synodal meeting of Clermont, pope Urban II. presents his famous, very enthusiastic speech in favour of the holy war ("God wants it"). Western knights and princes line up behind him. Worldly power supports the 'spiritual sword's holy war'.

For more than hundred years these mostly catastrophic events continue, often at the edge of the absurd (children's crusade). We have difficulties to understand all this today.

However, in our framework of dominantly constitutional traits of religion, these excessive events can be understood as an outcome of two imperial constitutions competing for the same territories. In analogy to worldly powers, the holy state claims the right for its holy war. In other words, the crusades are a direct expression of the completed constitutional consciousness of the church of Rome.

The peak of 'spiritual' power: the effects of the dispute of universals

During the 12th (and 13th) century the popedom reaches the peak of its power. It is successful in breaking the dominance of the German church. Church-law has become completely independent. The completion of the universal church controlled by the pope is reached around 1140 with the 'Decretum Gratiani'. With later additions this initial collection of church laws appears today as the factual body of canonical law (Corpus iuris canonici) of the Roman church. Nota bene: still today with the claim of absolute validity!

In the second half of the 12th century, the investiture problem comes up again. In the continued struggle for leadership between imperial and clerical powers, Frederic I. 'Barbarossa' (1152-1190) is confronted with the claims of pope Alexander III. (1159-81). In a conflicting papal election pope Alexander wins support in Sicily, in Lombardia, France and England against his opponent, Victor IV., favoured by the emperor. Alexander further manages also to strengthen the league of the Lombardian cities against Frederic. Frederic answers with his 4th campaign to Italy (1166-68). However, a plague in Rome prevents him from realising his plans. In the course of his fifth campaign to Italy (1177) he is defeated at Legnano. Consequently he was forced to conclude a peace treaty with the pope.

In the first half of the 13th century pope Innocence III. (1198-1216) continues with the strategy of Gregory VII. He again strives for absolute superiority over the church (1215, Lateranic concile) and for absolute superiority over the worldly states (in 1213 England became papal fief). The absolute papal superiority over the church state and its extensions is restored. In the line of the New Testament pope Innocence III. consolidates his position as governor in place of St. Peter, Christ and God ('Vicarius Christi'), from whom the worldly sovereigns receive their territories as fiefs. He widely abolishes episcopal power, replaces it by the highly centralised papal institution of legates. Sicily, England and Portugal are declared as papal fiefs. At different occasions Innocence III. intrudes into state politics of Germany, France and Norway. Legates are delegated to Serbia and Bulgaria. In the year 1215, at the 4th ecumenical Lateranic concile, the first decisions are made in regard to the episcopal inquisition. The church creates its own 'spiritual' court. Early in his career already (1202-04) pope Innocence III. calls the nobility of Europe to a new crusade, the fourth. Constantinople is conquered by the crusaders, the 'empire of the Latin emperor' is set up. However, the planned union of the Greek church with the Roman church has failed.
In spite of this failure, the map of Europe shows something surprising now. Innocence III. and his precursors had managed to form a 'pseudo territorial' empire, which is nearly double the size compared with that of the Hohenstaufens at the same time. It disposes not only of an elaborated 'spiritual' administration system in these territories, it dominates them by its monopoly over the God-given imperial crown.

Pope Gregory IX. (1227-41), later Innocence IV. (1243-57) continue the fight for the church's domination. Since Gregory IX. the inquisition against the heretics is directly under the pope's control. From then on cruel investigations are performed. Those found guilty were transferred to the worldly court, which executed tortures and death penalties (often by burning in public). In the year 1231 the death penalty is introduced for heretics in France and Germany.

It is clear now, that the enormous rigidity of its aims shown by the church in this time, is clearly focused on a coherent legal system, on a constitution. An independent church law is created which supports the supreme papal power over the church and over the worldly states. This consciousness of a 'godly spiritual state' over worldly states increasingly develops strict centralisation of control e.g. through legates. It further integrates the 'worldly' fief system and sets up its own court for its 'subjects' in 'spiritual' matters. This was the famous inquisition which raged several hundred years over Europe. It allowed the abhorring investigations and convictions of 'spiritual' opponents (in the 16th/17th century men like Giordano Bruno or Galileo Galilei). And, finally, not surprisingly, we find the 'holy war' in this context, as expressed in the crusades. All this shows clearly, that the church and its theological disputes were without doubt less devoted to search for truth in God, rather, they were focused on worldly categories of power and control over territories and humans.

The descent of the German empire

The descent of royal power in the empire begins with the emperor Frederic II. (1215-1250). The crowning ceremony of the emperor takes place in Rome (1220). In the same year Frederic 'sells' important imperial rights to his worldly and spiritual princely subjects for their support ('Confoederatio cum principibus ecclesiasticis'; 1232 with 'statutum in favorem principium'), e.g. the powers of court and jurisprudence, coining, customs and fortification. In the contract of San Germane (1228) Frederic and the pope reach agreement about a new crusade. Frederic starts the enterprise one year later. However, he must return from halfway, because of a plague. Pope Gregory IX. punishes him by covering him with the papal spell. A year later Frederic accomplishes the crusade in spite of the spell. After his return, he is honoured with the peace of Ceprano (1230). The spell is taken off. On the other hand the pope now receives special rights in Sicily. But, in 1239 the emperor is again put under papal spell. Two years later, Frederic II. moves the centre of his empire to Sicily (1241). At the ecclesiastic council at Lyon (1245) the church declares Frederic's deposition and condemns him as a heretic. He dies in the same year. He fought the last fight of the empire for Italy and against the popedom.

With the death of Frederic II. the 'universal' western empire is at its end. It decays. In Italy too, imperial developments fall to pieces. The irony of history consists in the fact, that, after its victory, the absolute papal world domination was only of a very short duration. Actually, it ended quite painfully. The spiritual sword, neoplatonically sharpened over centuries against the Franconians, and with success against them, proved worthless against the new powers in France.

The end of the papal 'world domination': the pope ends in prison

With the rising of western national states, the idea of absolute power developed initially by the church had stimulated worldly thinkers in constructing a worldly absolutism. It essentially followed the model of classical Rome. The spiritual absolutism of the church - at least for the moment - had lost its political value.

In the last quarter of the 13th century, Philip IV. the Beautiful (1285-1314), declares the concept of the absolute sovereign and his absolute power for a gradually strengthened France. The concept is essentially based on new interpretations of the Roman constitution. Between 1224 -1303 collisions emerge between Philip and pope Bonifacius VIII.. In continuity with his forerunners the pope had repeatedly expressed excessive claims in regard to his supreme power over the worldly powers. The papal decree 'Clericis laicos' edited in the year 1296, prohibited the taxation of clericals without papal consent. At the beginning of the 14th century, after some intrusions of Philip (1302), the papal decree 'Unam sanctam' harshly emphasised the papal supremacy. Philip the beautiful is very quick and direct in his answer. One year later the pope is taken prisoner in Agnani by William of Nogaret, a highest ranking officer of Philip. Shortly after being freed from prison, Bonifaz dies.

Historically, pope Bonifaz VIII. represents the end of mediaeval popedom. Its thoroughly constructed 'spiritual' absolutism, which had proved successful against the Franks and their successors (1250), now succumbed to the new worldly absolutism of the strengthened national monarchies.

In the year 1309 Clemens V. (1305-1314) transferred the papal residence to Avignon in southern France. The pope became strongly dependent of the French monarchy. Not by case the Avignon-period of the popedom (until 1377) is called the 'Babylonian captivity of the church'. However, not even in this highly precarious conditions, the pope abstained from his supra-imperial constitutional claims. Note that this incident hints to future developments. As long as its theoretical basis remains intact, new buildups continue, the institution survives. In the first half of the 14th century an aftermath happens under Lewis the Bavarian (1314-47). Initial was the interference of pope John XXII. (1316-34) into the throne quarrel . In response, Lewis lets himself be crowned in Rome by representatives of the Roman population. An anti-pope is set up. But this creates reactions in his own domain in regard to his election. Though Lewis's fights for the traditional stately laws (1338) are supported by the princely voters, they are afraid of his harsh enmity against the pope. Consequently, the decisions go against him. In 1346 Charles of Mahren is elected. He governs after Lewis's death as Charles IV.. In the year 1348 the first German university is founded in Prague, an important sign of enlightened thought. From the year 1356 and on, the 'golden decree' is considered as imperial law for the regulation of the kingly elections. Essentially, it remained in validity up to the year 1806. At the beginning of the 15th century Germany gains its new importance in the framework of modern territorial states.

The scholastic construction of the mediaeval 'theocracy'

The territorial implications of the mediaeval history might have become clear from this short chronological sketch of some important events. As worldly power, the Franconian-Salian and Hohenstaufen empire, with its military and political activities was essentially focused on the reconstruction and extension of the former outlines of the West-Roman empire.

Wide parts of the territories with Germanic and Slav populations not controlled by the Romans were subjected until far into the east, and subsequently christianised essentially for the purpose of pacification and control. The church is integrated cooperatively as executive force related to pacification. But, with increasing expansion of the territories, the church manoeuvres itself into an increasingly harsh competition for political dominance. With surprising efficiency Rome develops the constitutional base of a new supra-imperial constitution based on the ancient form of a theocracy. There is a clear connection between the early 'identity dispute' (father and son identical), and the later 'dispute of universals' (God as the supreme term of generalisation existed prior to creation, prior to things) . Both have been codified by the church using Neoplatonism as a basis. The 'investiture quarrel' then shows very clearly how theoretical results are concretised towards the outside in the form of territorio-political claims.

The presentation of mediaeval church politics as power politics is not new. It was recorded and discussed again and again. However, in the historical framework, the basic values which were at disposition of the church were not questioned. Consequently, the historic picture blames the historical figures personally. They appear as individual characters, justified in their behaviour by the turmoils of times. The church itself, its theoretical structure and its value as an institution, is not questioned in the historical framework. Thus, it will recover again and again from such commotions, e. g. by shifting its outer image more towards its more populistic humane base. <23>

However, if we place the history of the church into the wider circles of the anthropology of religion, this may look different. Now theologically fundamental ideas are involved. They enter into a new - and very concrete - dialogue with ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian theocratic constitutions. In view of these theocracies the conditions become evident. What we call religion moves close to the history of law and constitution!