The Papacy as State Monarchy 900-1520

This essay considers the consolidation of the Papal States as land territories held by the Church with the Pope acting as a elected monarch selected by the secretive College of Cardinals.  It ends with the rise of Lutheranism and the invasion of Italy by Francis I and the political outfall between France, Spain, the Papacy and the rise of Lutheranism in Germany and beyond.

Prior to the 11th  century the Papacy as an institution remained an institution for promoting Church power and organization (Blumenthal 2008).  It had relied upon the Carolingian Empire and it successors in the emergent Holy Roman Empire for political protection and as a base for promoting its domains through the spread of monasteries, large churches in towns and its close affiliation and integration into court life and culture through the promotion of clergy form the aristocracy to fill the roles of abbots and bishops.  From the eleventh century onward the Church’s interest in territorial possessions and claims of lands of its own now extended beyond the role and function of the monasteries as holders of large estates throughout Western Europe, but increasing the Papacy centered in Rome began to claim and assert its political domain over lands in Italy.  The Papacy became its own state. What provoked this response by the Papacy was an internal crisis caused by differences and attempts at asserting local autonomy by the local clergy and that by 1046 led to a search for extensive reforms.  This was marked by the first Northern Pope Clement II (1046-7) and eventually the reforms of Pope Gregory.
Since the 9th century the Papacy had relied on support and close ties to the main political and military powerhouse in Western Europe, the Frankish rulers and kingdoms and its successors after the breakup of the Carolingian Empire.  With the breakup of the Carolingian Empire into different states and kingdoms, the Papacy forged alliances with the different kingdoms and had to take sides in the sparring of Roman and Italian factions.  This led to the increased pressures of the Roman and Italian rich families to make sure that members of their own families were appointed to the high clerical ranks:  bishops, cardinals with the potential of gaining the papacy.  Papal politics at the end of the 9thcentury were so bad that pope Stephen VII called a synod or assembly of cardinals and bishops and had the body of his predecessor Pope Formosus (1091-96) exhumed, put on trial for condemnation and tossed into the Tiber River (Blumenthal 2008, 9).  Formosus’ crime was his meddling in selecting the successor to the fledgling Holy Roman Empire when he crowned Arnulf, who controlled the armies in Northern Italy, as Emperor over the child Lambert, the presumed successor to deceased Guy III of Spoleto whose power base was in Southern Italy which was under attack by Muslim armies. Continue reading

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