| Saints and Heroes to the End of the Middle Ages|
|by George Hodges|
| An excellent introduction to the history of the church through portraits of twenty of the most important saints and heroes of the faith from the third century A.D. to the time of the Reformation. Includes Cyprian, Athanasius, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Benedict, Greg-ory the Great, Columba, Charlemagne, Hildebrand, Anselm, Bernard, Becket, Langton, Dominic, Francis, Wycliffe, Hus, and Savonarola. Ages 11-14 |
 A NEW pope was on his way to Rome. He had been duly
appointed by the emperor, according to the custom; and
in his robes of office, with a splendid retinue about
him, he was taking his great journey. But on the road
he was met by a young monk. The monk said, "Father,
you are not the pope of Rome. You have been appointed
by the emperor, but the pope must be elected by the
Thereupon the new pope put off his robes of office,
dismissed his retinue of attendant knights and bishops,
and entered Rome dressed in the gown of a pilgrim, with
bare feet. There he was greeted with enthusiasm by the
clergy and the people and they elected him to be
 their pope, according to the ancient manner.
The monk who gave the pope this good advice was
Hildebrand's father was a carpenter, but he had an
uncle who was a Roman abbot. With his uncle he
studied, and when one of his teachers in the abby was
made pope, Hildebrand because his chaplain. But the
popes of that period were short-lived. Some of them
died of sickness, some of them died of poison, some of
them displeased the emperor and were removed by him.
Hildebrand's teacher was removed by the emperor. Then
the chaplain retired to the great monastery at Cluny.
And there he was when he advised the new pope to wait
till he was elected by the Church.
It is plain that Hildebrand, though he was living in a
cloister, was attentive to the affairs of the great
world. Many good men at that time, finding the world
 bad, turned their backs upon it, and tried to forget
it, except when they said their prayers. Hildebrand
determined to change it. Great bishops came to Cluny
as they passed that way, and great nobles with them.
And they all looked pretty much alike. The bishops
were rich and powerful, with vast estates, fond of
hunting, fond of eating and drinking, and neglectful of
their duties. They were appointed to their places by
kings and princes, and spent much of their time in
courts and palaces, and the clergy under them, having
such examples set for them to follow, and nobody to
keep them in order, fell into temptation. They cared
for money and the comforts of life, rather than for
Hildebrand saw that the situation needed a strong hand.
When the new pope went to Rome in pilgrim's dress,
Hildebrand went with him. He became his chief adviser.
 advised him to assert himself. He urged him to gather
conferences of bishops for the reformation of abuses,
and to do it without asking the permission of princes.
The pope died, and the Roman people desired that
Hildebrand should succeed him. He preferred to be the
power behind the pope. He secured the appointment of
Victor; and after Victor, of Stephen; and after
Stephen, of Nicholas; and after Nicolas, of Alexander.
Thus for twenty-five years, he was the real pope.
Finally, after the death of Alexander, the whole city
insisted that he should be pope, not only in power, but
in name. They demanded Hildebrand, as the people in
the old days had demanded Cyprian, and Ambrose, and
Gregory. It was the custom for one who was elected
pope to take a new name in honor of his new office.
Hildebrand remembered his old schoolmaster, Gregory
VI., whom he had
 served as chaplain, and became Gregory VII.
Now, after long preparation, he was ready to meet the
evils of the world with his own strong hand.
His plan was to make the Church the ruler of the world.
He took up that great fight against the court which
Chrysostom, in his time, had lost, and Ambrose had won.
First, he made the clergy into soldiers of a spiritual
army. He separated them from the world. This he did
by forbidding them to marry. They were living
comfortably with their wives and children, having their
interests partly in the work of the Church, and partly
in their domestic cares and pleasures. They were not
only priests, but husbands and fathers and citizens.
Hildebrand determined that they should be interested in
nothing but the Church. He broke up their families,
and placed them, like soldiers,
 under the command of their superiors. This he was able
to do partly because so many of the careless clergy
were unpopular among their people, and partly because
the monks had taught by word and by example that the
unmarried life is most pleasing to God. The pope
encouraged parishes to drive the married ministers out
of the churches.
Then, having made the priests into a church army, he
separated their offices from the influences of the
world by forbidding the investiture of bishops.
Investiture was the act by which a prince permitted a
bishop to take possession of the lands and property
which belonged to his diocese. The theory was that the
prince owned all the land, and that when the holder of
an estate died it came back into the prince's treasury
until he was pleased to give it away again. Thus the
new bishop came humbly to the prince or the king and
received certain symbols of
 his right to own the church's property under his
permission. Indeed, the symbols,—being the ring
which denoted the bishop's marriage to the Church, and
the pastoral staff which denoted his rule as a shepherd
over his people,—appeared to carry with them, not
only the right to hold the property of the Church, but
the right to exercise the sacred office itself. That,
in fact, was the effect of it. It made it possible for
kings and princes to appoint bishops, and for rich
laymen to appoint ministers of parishes, as they
pleased. Hildebrand forbade investiture. He called a
council in Rome which decreed that any clergyman who
accepted an investiture should be put out of his
office, and that any layman who gave an investiture
should be put out of the Church.
This forbidding of investiture affected every bishop,
as the forbidding of marriage had affected every
priest. The next
 step was to increase the power of the pope. The
priests having been made soldiers, and the bishops
generals, the pope must be commander-in-chief. The
pope, said Hildebrand, is the universal bishop. He may
depose other bishops, if he will. He alone may make
laws for the Church. He is to crown all kings and
emperors, and, if they misbehave, depose them. He may
absolve subjects from their allegiance. He is the
supreme head of all government, the king of kings and
lord of lords, the ruler of the world.
Some of these claims had been made before. Gradually,
through the confused centuries when the old empire was
being broken down and the new empire was being builded
on its ruins, the position of the bishop of the
greatest city of the world had become more and more
important. Hildebrand took these theories and put them
into action. The one man, by the might of his strong
will and the power
 of his blameless life, confronted the whole amazed and
angry society about him, declared with a definiteness
which could not be mistaken that he was the master of
all kingdoms and all churches, and proceeded to act
upon the declaration.
Thus Hildebrand came into collision with the emperor.
Henry IV., as emperor of Germany, was the greatest
sovereign in Europe. He was the successor, under the
new conditions, of the old emperors of Rome. He was
now twenty-five years of age, a careless prince,
following his own pleasures and misgoverning the
empire. Already, some of his subjects had appealed to
the pope to make him amend his ways. The forbidding of
investiture was met by him as the cutting off of
patronage is met by professional politicians. It was
an advantage to him to give away the great places of
the Church, and he proposed to continue to do it. He
attacked the pope.
 He got his bishops together and they declared Hildebrand
deposed. The emperor called him a false monk. He
threatened to put another bishop in his place.
Thus they cursed each other, the emperor and the pope;
but the pope's curses were the more effective. The
unpopularity of the emperor weakened his position.
When the pope declared him excommunicated and deposed,
and thus made rebellion against him a religious duty,
the princes of the empire found the opportunity which
they desired. They gladly accepted the services of this
new ally in their contention against the emperor whose
follies had thrown the empire into disorder. Finding,
accordingly, that both the princes and the clergy, and
with them the people, were against him, Henry submitted
to the pope's demands.
"You must come to me," the pope said, "and ask pardon
for your offenses, and promise to do better. Otherwise,
 shall be emperor no longer." And the emperor came.
It was in the midst of winter, and the pope was at
Canossa, a castle in the heights of the Apennines.
There the emperor came, with his wife and child and a
few attendants, bringing his crown in his hand. For
three days, Hildebrand kept him waiting outside his
door, in the cold court of the castle, barefooted and
in the woolen shirt of a penitent. Then he admitted
him; and the great king, the ruler of the empire, the
successor of Charlemagne, bareheaded and barefooted,
prostrated himself with tears before the pope.
This was the second act in the long tragedy of the
Middle Ages. The pope was now supreme over the
Even thus, Henry gained only a half pardon. He was
told that he must be put on trial, with Hildebrand for
judge; and if he was acquitted he must promise to be
faithfully obedient to the pope.
 The effect of all this on Henry was most unexpected.
The second act of the tragedy seemed ended, when
suddenly the situation was reversed. Henry went away
from that humiliation a new man. As he descended the
long mountain in the bitter cold, his heart was hot
within him. He put the follies of his youth behind
him. For the first time, he was a king in earnest. He
gathered troops about him. He defied the nobles who
were in rebellion. He invaded Italy. He besieged
Rome. He took the city. Hildebrand held only the
Castle of St. Angelo against him, waiting for the
promised assistance of the Normans. But when the
Normans came, and Henry retreated, the pope was like
the man who prayed for rain and was answered with a
flood. The victors, the pope's allies, sacked the
city; and, when the citizens resisted, tried to burn it
to the ground.
In bitter grief, and amidst the
indigna-  tion of the Romans, the liberated pope retired from the
sight of his ruined city to Salerno. And there, in the
midst of a mighty tempest, the thunder rolling and the
winds howling about him, he died. The great mastery,
whereby the pope had hoped to rule the world, punishing
the sins of princes, was lost almost before it was won.
"I have loved righteousness," he said, "and hated
iniquity; therefore I die in exile."
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