THE POPES OF THE GREGORIAN RENAISSANCE
St Leo IX. to Honorius II. 1049-1130
Emperors of the East.
Isaac Comnenus, 1057-1059
Constantine X, Ducas, 1059-10O7.
Kings of France.
Henry I., 1033-1060.
Philip I, 1060-1108.
No sooner did the news of the death of Stephen X (March, 29) reach Rome, than that lawless party of the Roman barons, whose interference in papal elections had in the past epoch brought such disgrace upon the Papacy, made a last effort to keep their usurped power. Headed by Gregory de Alberico, count of Tusculum, Gerard or Girard, count of Galeria, and the sons of Crescentius of Monticelli, an armed band took possession of the city; and, at night, amidst scenes of the wildest disorder, despite the canons, the promises made to the late Pope, and the protests and anathemas of the cardinals, they elected John, bishop of Velletri, as the successor of St. Peter (April 5). By scattering broadcast the money which they had seized in the treasury of St. Peter’s, the nobles succeeded in getting , their puppet acknowledged by a number of the Romans. They could not, however, get a bishop to enthrone him in the prescribed manner. St. Peter Damian, whose office it was, as bishop of Ostia, to perform that ceremony, had fled with the other bishops; so that they were compelled to have the function carried out by an illiterate priest of the Church of Ostia.
The bishop who had after such a fashion been proclaimed Pope was a Roman of the region of St. Mary Major’s, and the son of one Guido. As he had been named by Cardinal Frederick as a possible candidate for the Papacy, he can scarcely have been the fool depicted by St. Peter Damian in the indignant letter which narrates the circumstances of his elevation. If he had no hand in bringing about his selection by the Tusculan faction, nay, if was against his will that he was promoted by it, he sinned, as St. Peter Damian pointed out, by striving to maintain himself in a position in which he had been illegally placed.
Fortunately the day of the counts of Tusculum was over. They had to reckon not only with Hildebrand outside the city, but with a strong opposition in Rome itself, especially in the Trastevere. There it was headed by a noble of the name of Leo, the son of Benedict known as “the Christian”, who seems to have been a convert from Judaism, and to have been the founder of the house of Pierleoni, which was to become so famous in the beginning of the following century.
But the more formidable opponent of baronial anarchy and insolence was Hildebrand. When he returned to Italy from his triple embassy, he was greeted with the sad news that the armed violence of the counts of Tusculum had gone far to undo the work of reform he had so well inaugurated. But the sword had no terrors for Hildebrand. He halted at Florence, and at once began to take steps to foil the blustering doings of the party of misrule. He put himself in communication with those in Rome who were anxious for the reform of Church and State; and, if we are to believe the Roman Annals, sent money to Leo the son of Benedict. Encouraged by his letters, strong opposition was offered by them to the dongs of the Tusculan counts and their creature, and Hildebrand was assured that what he did would meet with their consent.
Then, securing a promise of armed support from Duke Godfrey, he designated as Pope, Gerard, bishop of Florence. He was selected not only on account of his worth, but also, no doubt, because it was thought he would not be unacceptable to the German Court, as he had been nominated to his bishopric by the emperor Henry III. For Hildebrand had resolved to endeavor to secure the adhesion of the empress-regent to his plans. He could not look to her for troops, seeing that it was as much as she could do to maintain her own authority against disaffected Saxons and ambitious nobles. But he realized that her consent to his wishes would not merely avoid complications in the future, but help to the general acceptance of his candidate. It is far from unlikely that he went on this mission himself. At any rate a number of Romans approached the empress on the matter, and obtained from her a commission to Wibert, the imperial chancellor of Italy, and to Duke Godfrey to co-operate with Hildebrand in securing the appointment of the bishop of Florence. On the return of the embassy, the cardinals who had escaped from Rome met together at Siena, probably in December, and duly elected the Burgundian Gerard.
In the first month of the following year Wibert and Godfrey assembled their forces at Sutri. After holding a council there, in which the usurper Benedict was condemned, Gerard and his supporters advanced on Rome. Their friends in the Trastevere forthwith admitted them into that part of the city. After some fighting Gerard became master of Rome, and Benedict, henceforth contemptuously dubbed Mincius, fled to Passarano, and placed himself under the protection of Regem or Regetellus, the son of Crescentius.
After the prefect Peter had been replaced by John Tiniosus, one of Hildebrand’s Trasteverine followers, a solemn assembly of the people was held at the Lateran, and the circumstances of Benedict’s election thoroughly inquired into. Some of those who were interrogated at once acknowledged that the election of Benedict was a crime, but declared that it had been effected despite them; others, however, maintained that, as Benedict was a wise and good man, they had done well in electing him. However, the greater part both of the clergy and the laity were of the same mind as the archdeacon, and accordingly deposed Benedict, and elected Gerard.
Thus duly “chosen by the Roman clergy and people”, the Burgundian bishop, learned, bright, pure, and charitable, was solemnly enthroned in St. Peter’s as Nicholas II, and received from his subjects the usual oath of fidelity. But some, we are told, took it holding up their left hands; for, they said, they had already sworn to Benedict with their right. The same authority insinuates that all this was not accomplished without bribery and the personal solicitations of the Pope.
The position of Nicholas, however, was anything but safe. Benedict had left Passarano, and had betaken himself to the strong castle of Count Gerard of Galeria. It was necessary to have him dislodged, and Hildebrand could not think of any who were at once able and willing to effect that task but the Normans. They had ever shown themselves wishful to approach the Papacy. The time had come, then, to reverse the policy of Leo IX, and to make the best of the Norman occupation of south Italy, which was now an accomplished fact. After the battle of Civitella, the Norman hold of the southern portion of the Italian peninsula had rapidly tightened. Encouraged by his successes against the town, Richard of Aversa assumed the title of Prince of Capua in 1058, though he did not obtain full and final control over it till the middle of 1062. It was to him that Hildebrand, “by command of Pope Nicholas”, betook himself in the first instance. His mission was crowned with complete success. Richard promised fealty to the Pope and to the Roman Church, and dispatched three hundred men with Hildebrand to seize the castle of Galeria. The place, however, was strong, so that after ravaging the district the Normans returned without effecting its reduction. This was in the spring of 1059. The Norman alliance had made a beginning, and was quickly to be extended.
One of the agents who helped to strengthen the good understanding between the Papacy and the Normans was Desiderius, whom we have seen made honorary abbot of Monte Cassino by Stephen X. Prevented by bad weather from sailing to Constantinople for the purpose of carrying out the commission entrusted to him by that Pope, he had had to throw himself upon the generosity of the Norman Guiscard in order to secure a safe return to his abbey when Stephen died. He was fortunate enough to find favor in the eyes of the fierce Norman, who assisted him to reach Monte Cassino in safety, and ever remained deeply attached to him. Duly installed as its abbot on April 18, 1058, it was not, however, till about a year later that Desiderius was consecrated by Pope Nicholas at Osimo (March 7), after he had been ordained cardinal-priest on the preceding day. And, in a bull in favor of Monte Cassino which he praises as the model of monasteries and as allied to the Holy See, Nicholas bestowed on Desiderius, but for his own lifetime only, jurisdiction over all the monks in Campania, and in the Principality of Benevento, and in Apulia and Calabria. With the aid of the local bishops he was commissioned to restore discipline, which, in some monasteries, was relaxed. Such in south Italy was the position of the man whose high intelligence and gentleness of character was to make him the acceptable intermediary between the Papacy and the redoubtable Robert Guiscard.
Whilst Nicholas was utilizing the good understanding which existed between Desiderius and the Normans to effect reforms in the South, he was, about the same time, employing the zeal of St. Peter Damian in the North to continue the good work commenced by Hildebrand in Milan. It was a deputation of its citizens that had moved him to send his legates there. To the fiery saint he joined the milder Anselm da Baggio, or Badagio, bishop of Lucca, and destined to be Alexander II. But this second papal mission was not to be accomplished as quietly as the first. The simoniacal clergy had not been idle in the meantime. They had organized a party in opposition to that of the Patarines. The legates were received, indeed, with the honor which was due to representatives of the Holy See; but no sooner had they proceed to deal in synod with the matter which had brought them to the city, than there arose among the people a regular tumult, organized by the clergy in opposition. This rapidly increased in intensity when Archbishop Guido was seen to be seated on the left of St. Peter Damian, while Anselm was on his right. Many went about shouting that the Church of St. Ambrose ought not to be subject to the jurisdiction of Rome, and that the Roman See had no right to act as judge within that of Milan. The people crowded towards the episcopal palace, where the synod was assembled; they made the whole city reverberate with the harsh clanging of its bells, and threatened Damian with death. Quite unmoved, however, he arose and calmly addressed the angry mob.
What province, he asked them, was outside of the rule of him who had the keys of the gates of heaven itself. Patriarchs and bishops, emperors and kings, have been made by man, but the Roman Church was founded through Peter by Christ Himself. Milan, he reminded them, had received its first apostles from Rome, and their great patron St. Ambrose had ever acknowledged its pre-eminence. “Search”, said he in conclusion, “your own records, and if you do not find there recorded what I have stated, you may account me a liar. But if you discover that I have spoken what is true, then resist not the truth, assail not your mother, but be ever ready gladly to receive the solid food of heavenly doctrine from the one from whom, you first drew the milk of apostolic faith”.
Overcome by the character and eloquence of Damian, the people were not only quietened, but were moved to promise the saint to do whatever he should require of them. “Then”, moralizes the legate, “I saw plainly how all-important it was in ecclesiastical cases to understand the prerogatives (privilegium) of the Roman Church”.
He insisted in the first instance that the archbishop and the principal clergy should sign a declaration to the effect that in future holy orders, ecclesiastical benefices, etc., should be bestowed freely, and that the Western discipline with regard to clerical continency should be strictly upheld. He obtained a similar oath from the majority of the people. Then he imposed suitable penances in the old canonical style on the various delinquents, which they were allowed to redeem by the payment of a fixed sum of money, or, in other cases, by the recitation of prescribed prayers, or the performance of certain works of charity. With all this, however, it will not surprise any who know the world that evils which had struck deep and wide roots were not eradicated by one effort even of a saint.
Lateran Council, April 13, 1059
Soon after the mission of St. Peter Damian to Milan, there met in Rome a synod of one hundred and thirteen bishops, which was destined to exercise a lasting influence on the history of the Papacy. The chief business which occupied the attention of the assembly was the formulating of legislation calculated to prevent the repetition of such elections as that of Benedict X, and to affirm the lawfulness of that of Nicholas. Unfortunately, the struggle between the Popes and the emperors, which occupied no little portion of this period, caused the wording of the principal decree propagated by the council to be afterwards tampered with. Such a version of it will be given here as seems best supported by other documents of acknowledged authenticity which bear upon it.
Besides issuing decrees against simony and clerical and lay incontinency, the council ordained “that, on the death of the Pontiff of this universal Roman Church, (1) the cardinal-bishops shall together and with the greatest care consider who is to be his successor; (2) that they shall then attach to themselves the cardinals of the other orders (clericos cardinales); (3) and that the rest of the clergy and the laity shall next express their adhesion to the new election. To put down all attempt at venality, let the religious men (religiosi viri), the clergy, i.e., the cardinals, take the lead in the election of the new Pope, and let the others follow them. If the ranks of the (Roman) Church can show a suitable candidate, let him be elected; but, if not, let one be taken from another church—saving the honor and respect due to our most beloved son Henry, now king, and one day, by the blessing of God, it is to be hoped, emperor, according as, by the mediation of his envoy, Wibert or Guibert, chancellor of Lombardy, we have granted to him, and to such of his successors as shall have individually obtained this privilege from the Apostolic See”.
“And if the power of the wicked is such that a proper and gratuitous election cannot be made in Rome, let the cardinal-bishops, along with the pious clergy (cum religiosis cleris), and with the Catholic laity, even if few in number, have the right of electing the Pontiff of the Apostolic See where they shall think best. And when the election has once been made, should war or the malice of the wicked prevent the enthronization of the newly elect, let him, as true Pope, have authority to rule the Roman Church. If, despite these decrees, anyone shall have been elected or enthroned by sedition, or by any other means, let him be regarded not as Pope, but as Satan, and let him be degraded from the position he held before such election; and let his aiders and abettors be punished in the same way. In fine, such as should dare to set at naught these decrees were laid under the most dreadful anathemas”.
Although this new legislation on papal elections did not aim at securing absolute freedom of choice, as it allowed the emperor some undefined right of interference, it was a great stride in that direction. It took initiative in the matter out of the hands of emperor, noble, or populace, and rested it finally in the hands of a special section of the Roman clergy, viz. the cardinals, especially the cardinal- bishops, and required that their choice should be simply ratified by the rest of the Romans, cleric and lay.
But it must be borne in mind that this new decree, aimed primarily against the unruly Roman nobility, only made applicable to the Roman See the procedure in episcopal elections then in force in every other see. The early method of election “by clergy and people” had led to such disorders that, outside Rome, it had long been abolished, and the right of election had been vested in the clergy. In order, then, to do away with the tumultuous elections caused by the Roman nobles, this decree committed all future papal elections mainly to the clergy. It was not, however, till our own day, after the election of our present glorious Pontiff, Pius X, that any interference whatsoever of the secular power in the election of a Pope was finally forbidden.
Notice of the work of this synod, which the bishops of the conciliabulum of Worms (January 1076) assign, no doubt correctly, to the promptings of Hildebrand, was sent by Nicholas to the bishops of Gaul, and of Amalfi, as well as to the clergy of the Catholic world in general.
Berengarius of Tours, 1059
Besides endeavoring to promote the canonical or community life among the secular clergy, the council dealt with the heresy of Berengarius. Since his condemnation at Tours in 1054 he had not ceased to propagate his peculiar views. At length (1059), pressed by Hildebrand, he set out for Rome to lay his teaching before the Pope. Because Hildebrand had been considerate towards him, he affected to believe that the great cardinal was in sympathy with his doctrines. He accordingly induced his patron, Geoffrey Martel, count of Anjou (1040-60), and son of the dreaded Fulk Nerra, to write to Hildebrand and induce him to defend the assertion that the bread remains on the altar after the consecration. When he arrived in Rome, and he was called upon himself to unfold what he had to say on this proposition, he would not speak, either because, according to his own version, he was frightened by the threat of death, or because, as Lanfranc asserted, he had no arguments to adduce.
His teaching was therefore condemned; and he had both to burn his own books and to accept a profession of faith touching the Holy Eucharist drawn up by Cardinal Humbert. The main contention of Berengarius was that substance and its appearances or accidents are absolutely inseparable, and that, consequently, where there are the external resemblances of bread, there bread must be. Hence his teaching (if it be supposed that at this period at any rate he believed in the Real Presence) was now equivalent to the impanation or companation theory of Martin Luther. With a view to compelling Berengarius to show his true colors, and to preventing him from continuing his tergiversations, Humbert undoubtedly used terms which modern Catholic theologians would not employ; but which, due regard being had to the doctrines of Berengarius, were well calculated to bring out clearly the teaching of the Church. “The unworthy deacon of the Church of St. Maurice at Angers”, as he called himself, accordingly anathematized the assertion that “the bread and wine after consecration are only a symbol (or sign, sacramentum), and not the true body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and that this body cannot, in fact (or really, sensibly, sensualiter), and apart from the symbol (in solo Sacramento), be handled by the priest or eaten by the faithful”. On the contrary, his profession proclaimed that “the bread and wine of the altar after consecration are not merely a sign (sacramentum), but are the true body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and are actually (sensualiter), and not in figure but in truth (non solum sacramento sed in veritate) handled by the priest, etc”.
No sooner, however, was he back home in safety, than, heartily abusing Cardinal Humbert, “the Burgundian”, as he chose falsely to call him, he began anew to propagate his heretical opinions regarding the Blessed Eucharist. Summoned to Rome a second time by Hildebrand, now Pope Gregory VII, he again confessed before a council (February 11, 1079) that he had taught error, and signed a yet more exactly worded profession of Catholic faith than he had done before.
With such patent evidence of want of character in the “unworthy deacon”, it is curious that Archbishop Trench should have to condemn a disposition to overrate Berenger, and this both intellectually and morally, and should have to emphasize the fact that “he was from the beginning restless and vain ... Then, too, there is a passionate feebleness about him. He scolds like an angry woman. A much smaller man than Abelard ... he shares with him in a very unpleasant trait, namely, that he cannot conceive of any opposing or even disagreeing with him, except as impelled to this by ignorance or dishonesty or personal malice”.
If anything said with regard to Hildebrand by Bishop Benzo of Alba, who was present at this synod, can be accepted as true, it was not broken up before “Prandellus” (such is his designation of his enemy), “after corrupting the Romans with money and lies, placed a regal crown upon the head of his puppet (hydolum). On its lower circlet it bore the words : ‘The crown of the kingdom from the hand of God’, and on its upper one, ‘The diadem of empire from the hand of Peter’. ”
Whatever may be thought of the details of this narrative, there is no reason to doubt the main fact; for it is certain that the Popes were crowned in this century.
The difficulties against which the Popes had to contend in their efforts for reform may be judged from this. Most of the Lombard bishops, “obstinate bulls”, as they are called by Bonizo, as soon as they returned home, took care not to publish the decrees of the council. They had received too much money from the incriminated clerks. The only one who ventured to make them public, viz., the bishop of Brescia, was almost beaten to death by them. This sacrilegious violence, however, had one good result. It led to a considerable increase of the party of the Patarines, and to the number of those who cut themselves off from such of the clergy as were living in concubinage.
After this important synod had finished its sittings, and whilst, to the great grief of Nicholas, the pontifical authority was being set at naught by the Roman barons (Romanorum capitanei), an embassy arrived from the Normans. Among those who had most distinguished themselves on the field of Civitella was Robert, one of the many sons of Tancred of Hauteville. Because he was the wiliest of the wily Normans, “second in craft neither to Cicero nor Ulysses”, he was known among them as the wiseacre (Guiscard) par excellence. According to the Eastern royal poetess, Anna Comnena, who both feared and hated Robert, he was a man “of ruddy complexion, light hair and broad shoulders, and possessed of a voice like to that of Achilles, of a shout which could put to flight myriads of enemies”. This redoubtable warrior, the real founder of Norman rule in Italy, became the chief of his countrymen in Apulia after the death of his elder brother Humphrey (1056 or 1057), and soon made his younger brother Roger the associate of his power. What that power became may be gauged from the fact that in the same year his arms, or the terror of his name, put to flight the emperor of the East and the emperor of the West.
Realizing how much more easily he would be able to accomplish his ends if he had the goodwill instead of the enmity of the Pope, he sent to Nicholas the embassy just mentioned. The ambassadors, in Robert’s name, begged him to come to Apulia, and to effect a complete understanding with their countrymen, reconciling them to God’s church. Nicholas and his advisers resolved to accept the invitation; they too came to the conclusion that it would be better to have the goodwill of the Normans instead of their enmity. The time had come to reverse the policy of Leo IX and Stephen (IX) X. The position of the Normans in south Italy was now assured, and they were anxious to be at peace with the Church.
Accordingly, as well to hold a council for the promotion of discipline as to meet the Normans, the Pope, along with Abbot Desiderius, betook himself to Melfi, the headquarters of their power in Apulia. Robert, who was then engaged in the siege of Cariati on the coast, at once abandoned it. Besides the Normans, some hundred bishops gathered round the Pope in synod. Of the latter, several were deposed for simony and other crimes, and decrees were issued, with not altogether satisfactory results, against the prevailing laxity in the matter of the celibacy of the clergy, which in those parts was encouraged by the example of the Greeks.
When the ecclesiastical business of the synod was finished, the Norman question was discussed. To prove his wish for a thorough reconciliation with the Roman Church, Robert restored all its patrimonies which he had seized. In return, he was not only absolved from whatever ecclesiastical censures he had incurred, but, “at the request of many”, was recognized by the Pope as duke of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily, on condition of his taking an oath of fealty to him, and paying a yearly tribute of twelve denar for every yoke of oxen. At the same time, William de Montreuil, known as the Good Norman, said to have been constituted the armed advocate or standard-bearer of the Roman See.
To seal his compact with the Holy See, Robert took an of oath to Nicholas in the following terms: “I, Robert, by the grace of God and of St. Peter, duke of Apulia and Calabria, and, by like grace, hereafter of Sicily, will from this hour be a true vassal (fidelis) to the Holy Church of Rome, and to thee, Pope Nicholas, my lord. In the counsel or in the act whereby thy life or liberty shall be endangered will I not share; the secret (consilium) which thou shalt have confided to my keeping I will never knowingly reveal to thy hurt; I will steadfastly assist the Roman Church in the protection and extension of the royalties (regalia) and possessions of St. Peter to the best of my power against all men; and I will support thee in the safe and honorable possession of the Roman Papacy, of its territory, and of its privileges (principatum); and I will not aim at harrying or plundering (thy domains), nor will I take possession of any of them without thy express consent or that of thy lawful successors. I will honorably see to it that the Roman Church each year receives the revenues of such of its patrimonies as I now hold or may hereafter come into my hands. All churches in my dominions I put, with their possessions, into thy power, and I will consider the defence of them an obligation resulting from my fealty to the Church of Rome. And shouldst thou or any of thy successors depart this life before me, I, under the directions of the better-disposed cardinals, the clergy, and the people of Rome, will do my best to secure the election and ordination of a Pontiff to the honor of St. Peter. All these things do I swear that I will loyally observe in thy sight, in that of the Roman Church, and in that of thy lawful successors who shall continue to me the investiture granted by you”.
In thus acting as the suzerain of south Italy, Nicholas was partly recognizing the status quo, and partly bestowing on another rights which had been given to his predecessors by the Carolingian and Saxon donations, but which they had never themselves exercised. Nevertheless, we may be prepared to find that the Germans will bitterly resent the action of the Pope. They could justly point out not only that his predecessors had often acknowledged the imperial claims over south Italy, but also that even the Normans themselves had in presence of a Pope sworn fealty to the emperor (1047). However, neither Greek nor German had been able to uphold their power in face of the Normans, so that it is hard to blame the Pope for accepting the suzerainty over a country which its actual owners practically put into his hands. It may be true that the connection with south Italy brought more curses than blessings to the Papacy right down to the nineteenth century, but still the legalizing of the de facto owner’s possession of the two Sicilies by one who had claims to a large portion of them was a blessing at least to the people in that kingdom. With the Normans came comparative peace and order where all had been chaos and war.
This papal recognition of their claims was promptly followed by important results. The following year (1060) saw a beginning made by Count Roger of the expulsion of the Saracens from Sicily, and the time immediately following the holding of the council saw the end of the evil sway which the barons had long held over Rome.
When the Pope began to retrace his steps, there accompanied him a strong force of Normans (c. September 1059).[ The counts of Tusculum, Praeneste, and Sabina were soon subdued, and the Norman army advanced on Galeria, the retreat of the antipope and the chief stronghold of Count Gerard. One of the old domuscultae of Pope Zachary, this fortress, some fifteen miles from Rome, was situated on the Arrone, and was a little south of the Via Clodia. After considerable loss on the part of the Normans, and after they had ravaged the count’s territories as far as Sutri, Galeria was reduced to the last extremity. It was then that the antipope offered to give up his claims, if his personal safety was guaranteed. After this had been done by thirty Roman nobles, Benedict gave himself up, went to Rome with the Pope, and retired to his home near S. Maria Maggiore to lead a quiet life. The power of the Campanian barons was completely broken.
It would not have been natural if Nicholas had forgotten the man who called him to the Papacy, and who had been mainly instrumental in bringing his rival to his knees. Ingratitude, however, cannot be laid at his door. He no sooner returned to Rome than he made Hildebrand oeconomous and archdeacon of the Roman Church. It seems to have been about this year that, perhaps for the second time, he took over the management of the monastery attached to St. Paul’s outside-the-walls, in which he had long dwelt as a monk.
Among the signatures to the decrees of the Roman synod of April is that of “Airard, bishop and abbot of St. Paul’s”. Whilst in the latter capacity, he had been nominated by Leo IX (1049) to the See of Nantes, but had been rejected by its people, had returned to Rome, and had again resumed his government of the abbey of St. Paul. However, about this time (1059 or 1060) he returned to France and made further vain efforts to obtain possession of his see. He was certainly still alive in 1064.
Following Paul Bernried, it would seem that Hildebrand had been “set over” the monastery of St. Paul when Airard left it in 1049. Owing to the latter’s incompetency, it was in a wretched condition both temporarily and spiritually. It would not appear that Hildebrand had then the title of abbot; but he at once reformed it, and handed it back to Airard on his return from his fruitless journey in a very different state to that in which he had found it. Even on Airard’s second departure, he seems for a second period to have governed the abbey at least for some time, probably till the death of Airard, merely as its procurator.
A memorial of his zeal for the external as well as the internal beauty of his monastery has come down to our times in the famous panelled bronze doors of St. Paul’s, which were saved from the disastrous fire of 1823. Standing at present in the sacristy of the great basilica, they are a solid memorial of the renaissance in art which was actually in progress at Constantinople about this time, and of the yearning in western Europe for better artistic work, which accompanied its intellectual awakening in this century. Inscriptions on the doors themselves let us know that they were made in the year 1070, “during the times of His Holiness Pope Alexander II, and of the Lord Hildebrand, venerable monk”, and that they were fashioned at Constantinople by one Stauracius. The expense of their production was borne by Pantaleon, “patricius and consul”, one of the sons of Count Mauro of Amalfi, and an ardent partisan of the Greek cause against the Normans. They were covered with fifty-four embossed bronze plates, ornamented with enamel work and inlaid with gold and silver thread. Needless to say that from one cause and another they are no longer in perfect condition.
From several of Nicholas's letters it is clear that he had very early in his pontificate formed the design of imitating Pope Leo IX and of going to France. Unable, however, to carry out his intention as soon as he had hoped, he manifested his interest in the affairs of that country by the dispatch of letters and legates. The council of 1059 was no sooner over than he sent notice of its decrees “to the bishops of Gaul, Aquitaine, and Gascony”, along with a copy of the retractation of Berengarius.
Perhaps about this also, Nicholas sent to the same country another letter which is worth mentioning, as it puts us in touch with that Franco-Russian alliance of which we have of late years heard so much. In 1051 Henry I of France married, for her great beauty, the Princess Anne, daughter of Jaroslav the Great, grand-duke of Kief (1015-54). Writing to this interesting lady, the Pope tells her that he rejoices to hear that manly virtues have taken up their abode in her womanly breast. He exhorts her to persevere in their exercise to the last hour of her life, and to use her influence that her husband may govern his kingdom well and may protect the Church. In fine, he would have her bring up her children well in the love of their Creator, and remind them that, if they are noble because they belong to the royal family, they are still more noble because they have the Church for the mother.
Whether or not on account of any representations made to him by his wife, Henry appears at this time to have viewed Rome with less suspicion. At any rate the first mentioned among those present at the coronation of his son, the little Philip (May 23, 1059), are Hugh, archbishop of Besançon, and Ermenfrid, bishop of Sion (in the Valais). And they were, the first after the consecrator, Gervais, archbishop of Rheims, to give their assent to the choice of Philip as king, though this privilege was accorded them “out of deference to the person they represented, for it is well known that the election can take place without the consent of the Pope”.
We have several letters of Nicholas to the consecrator of the boy-king of France. In one of these the Pope notes that Gervais has been accused to him of favoring the party of the antipope, and of not paying sufficient attention to the mandates of the Apostolic See. He has, however, taken no notice of these charges, because a person of good standing has assured him of the archbishop’s “loyalty to St. Peter”. He looks to Gervais to help to raise the Church of the Franks, “which has almost sunk to the ground”, and begs him to use all his influence that the king may not allow himself to be led by designing men who hope, by promoting dissensions between their spiritual and temporal rulers, to escape the censure of the Pope. Gervais must strive especially that Henry do not insist on giving the bishopric of Macon to a man who is utterly unfit for the position.
Though in another letter Gervais commanded to make good damage done to the Church of Verdun, we find by yet another that the archbishop succeeded in convincing the Pope that the suspicion he entertained against his devotion to the Holy See was unfounded. Consequently Nicholas was not slow to express his intention of supporting Gervais. “For we have no wish to be lacking in justice, in support of which, were it necessary, we should think it again to die”
Passing over the fact that it was Nicholas who removed the interdict from Normandy, and gave William the Conqueror permission to retain Matilda as his wife, we must notice his pressing on of reform in France. Feeling now more sure both of the king and of the archbishop of Rheims, and strong in the support of the great order of Cluny, he sent at the close of the year (1059) Cardinal Stephen, a Frenchman, a monk of Cluny and the bosom friend of Hildebrand, to continue the struggle against simony and clerical incontinency. Early in the following year the new legate presided over councils at Vienne and at Tours, while the famous Hugo, abbot of Cluny, also acting in the Pope’s name, did the same in the provinces of Avignon and Toulouse.
The progress of the good work was, however, troubled by the death of the king (August 4, 1060). Formally announcing this event to the Pope, Gervais begged for his counsel. “You know how impatient of control our people are, and how hard to rule. I am afraid their dissensions will mean misery for the country. Help me by your advice to avoid it. As you are the father of all, it is for you to give it to every kingdom, but especially to ours, as it is the duty of good men to aid their native land first and foremost”. He longs for the Pope to come to France, for he has brought honor to it, seeing that Rome has chosen him “to make him her own ruler and that of the world”. He would honor the Pope as Our Lord honored Peter when he made him head of the Church.
When Stephen passed from France into Germany, he was very far from finding sentiments such as these animating the breasts of many of the bishops of the latter country, especially the aulic prelates. Though they were no doubt angry at the Norman alliance effected by Hildebrand, and at the tone of the new papal election decree, it seems to have been personal feeling that caused them to act against the Pope. This seems to be established by what we are told of the general taint of avariciousness which seems to have infected them all, and of the action of Anno of Cologne. It is Benzo who tells us that it was Anno who starred up others to avenge injuries which Hildebrand had inflicted both upon him and them. The injuries of which they complained were the well merited censures which Nicholas had meted out to them.
Accordingly, during the course, it would seem, of the summer of the year 1060, the chief officials (rectores) of the royal court, along with, forsooth, some holy bishops of the Teutonic kingdom, conspiring against the Roman Church, collected a council. Therein, with an audacity wholly incredible, they passed sentence upon the Pope and declared all that he had decreed null and void. It is not then to be wondered at that when Cardinal Stephen, of whose great virtue and patience St. Peter Damian has much to say, arrived in Germany, the court officials, as well clerical as lay, would neither admit him to their deliberations nor allow him to present to the king the documents he had brought with him. After being kept waiting some five days, he had to return to Rome without accomplishing his mission.
Whilst, by means of his legates, Nicholas was endeavoring to forward the work of reform in distant lands, both among clergy and people, he was moving about Italy himself with the like intent. His beloved Florence saw him several times, and we have traces of him at Fano, Farfa, and other places.
In April 1060 he assisted at a tragic ceremony, viz., at the public degradation of the papal pretender, Benedict X. Unfortunately, knowledge of this event has come down to us only through the antipapal author of the Annales Romani. From an incidental remark made by him, however, it would appear that it was suspicion, at least, of some new movement in his favor which was the cause of this fresh proceeding against him.
At any rate he was brought by the archdeacon Hildebrand into the Lateran basilica before the Pope and a number of bishops assembled in council. He was stripped of his sacerdotal vestments by Hildebrand, and was compelled despite his tearful protestations, to read aloud a list of crimes laid to his charge. By his side stood his aged mother, with bare bosom and disheveled hair, weeping and wailing, and along with her were his relatives, striking their breasts and tearing their cheeks with their nails.
Unmoved by such a spectacle, the archdeacon cried aloud, “Hear, ye citizens of Rome, the evil deeds of the man you chose as Pope”. Then was the unfortunate forced to clothe himself in the robes of a Pope, only to have them torn from him.
After this humiliating ceremony was concluded, the unhappy man was sent to a hospice attached to the Church of St. Agnes, “that there he might live miserably”, deprived of the right to exercise any of his sacred functions. However, some little time later, at the intercession of Suppus, the archpriest of St. Anastasius, and “spiritual father” of the Pope, he was at length allowed to act as deacon. He died about the time that Hildebrand became Pope Gregory VII, and, if we are to believe the author we are quoting, was buried with papal honors. Gregory, it is suggested, granted this distinction to atone for the uncharitable way in which he had ever regarded him.
The last year of Nicholas’s life found him still full of activity. A brief entry in the Beneventan Annals records that in February he was besieging the castle of Alipergum, probably bringing some refractory baron of the duchy to a sense of reason and duty.
Lateran synod, 1061.
The next month saw him back in Rome holding another synod in the Lateran. Strong decrees were passed against simony; but, owing to the wide spread of the disorder, it was decided that those who before the holding of this synod had been gratuitously ordained by simoniacal bishops were not to be molested, but that in future those who were ordained by a bishop known to them to be simoniacal were to be deposed, along with those who ordained them. And, as though anticipating trouble at the next papal election, owing to the unsatisfactory attitude of the German Court, the election decree of 1059 was renewed.
The presence of Englishmen at this council naturally turns our thoughts to the relations of England with Rome. We have seen that Stigand, who was intruded into the See of Canterbury, had been excommunicated by Victor. The sentence had been renewed by Stephen; but the antipope Benedict, possibly at the request of Earl Harold, who was in Rome on a pilgrimage about that time, sent the pallium to the usurper. Nicholas could not but renew the sentence of his predecessors against Stigand. He had also to act with severity towards the would-be occupant of the other archiepiscopal see of England. Along with Harold’s brother, Tostig, earl of Northumberland, and his wife, there came to Rome for episcopal consecration Gisa and Walter, bishops-elect of Wells and Hereford, as, owing to the prohibition of Pope Victor, they could not apply to Stigand for it. In their company also was Ealdred, bishop of Worcester, who on the death of Cynesige (December 1060) had been nominated to the See of York, and wished to hold it along with the See of Worcester. He had secured his appointment by “playing upon the simplicity of King Edward” and by gold. The “bishops received their consecration, but Nicholas refused to recognize Ealdred as archbishop of York, because he had been transferred to a greater see without the permission of the Pope, and because he wanted to hold two sees.
On their return home the pilgrims fell among thieves. One of the last acts of Gerard of Galena, the main support, as we have seen, of Benedict X, was to plunder Earl Tostig and his company of all their possessions “to the value of a thousand pounds of the money of Pavia”" For this last outrage he was excommunicated by Pope Nicholas and the synod of which we have been speaking. Lighted candles were extinguished when the sentence was pronounced to show that he was under a perpetual anathema
Utterly forlorn, the pilgrims returned to Rome. Tostig was more than indignant, and gave free vent to his feelings in words. “How could the Pope expect men in far-off lands to fear the excommunication which banditti at his very doors despised? He would induce the king of England to withhold Peter’s Pence (tributum S. Petri) till the losses of the pilgrims had been made good”. Tostig was anxious to secure the pallium for Ealdred, and seized his opportunity. Terrified at the thunder of his angry threats, the Pope’s attendants begged him to grant the earl’s request. To show that he was really grieved for what had happened, Nicholas both gave great presents to the pilgrims and granted the pallium to Ealdred, on condition that Worcester received a bishop of its own.
The Pope also entrusted them with two bulls. One was for Wilwin, bishop of Dorchester, confirming him in the privileges and possessions of his see, and the other was for the king. It praises Edward’s love for St. Peter, and prays that the Apostle may be his guardian in every difficulty. “For it is obvious that it is through the reverence and devotion which the kings of the English have ever shown to Blessed Peter that they have lived in honor at home, and have been victorious abroad”. The commutation of his vow granted by St. Leo IX is confirmed, and the abbey, of Westminster, which Edward was engaged in restoring, is declared to be the place where, for ever, the kings of England shall be consecrated, and the royal insignia shall be kept. Edward and his successors are, in fine, declared the “advocates and guardians” of the abbey, its cemetery, and other surroundings.
But the days of Nicholas, all too short for the good of the world, were numbered. Not long after the departure of the English, he went to Florence about the end of May, and there, taken suddenly ill, died on July 27. He was buried, like Pope Stephen (IX) X, in the Church of St Reparata. His epitaph proclaims that for his learning and chastity he was illustrious before the whole world, and that he practiced himself the virtues he taught to others; and it prays that heaven may receive him, in order that amid the blessed he may adore the God of Ages.
The illustrious deeds of Nicholas are celebrated not merely by an epitaph; their fame merited the praise of that severe judge, St. Peter Damian. The same saint also gives us, on the authority of Mainard, bishop of Silva Candida, a striking proof of the Pope’s humility. He assures us that a day never passed without his washing the feet of twelve poor men. If he had not time to perform this lowly act while it was light, he did it by night. Though the influence of Hildebrand was deservedly paramount during his pontificate, what he accomplished in its course is enough to show how baseless are the impertinent judgments of Benzo. If choice of him to be Pope was a credit to the discernment of Hildebrand, his splendid activity and his shining virtues were his own.