Pope Gregory VII

Pope of the Catholic Church from 1073 to 1085

Pope Gregory VII (c. 1015/1020/1028 – May 25, 1085), born Hildebrand of Sovana (Italian: Ildebrando da Soana), was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 22 April 1073 to his death in 1085. He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church.

Pope Gregory VII

One of the great reforming popes, he is perhaps best known for the part he played in the Investiture Controversy, his dispute with Emperor Henry IV that affirmed the primacy of papal authority and the new canon law governing the election of the pope by the College of Cardinals. He was also at the forefront of developments in the relationship between the emperor and the papacy during the years before he became pope. He was the first pope in several centuries to rigorously enforce the Western Church's ancient policy of celibacy for the clergy and also attacked the practice of simony.

Gregory VII excommunicated Henry IV three times. Consequently, Henry IV would appoint Antipope Clement III to oppose him in the political power struggles between the Catholic Church and his empire. Hailed as one of the greatest of the Roman pontiffs after his reforms proved successful, Gregory VII was, during his own reign, despised by some for his expansive use of papal powers.

Quotes edit

  • That it has pleased God to make Holy Scripture obscure in certain places lest, if it were perfectly clear to all, it might be vulgarized and subjected to disrespect or be so misunderstood by people of limited intelligence as to lead them into error.
    • In response to the request made in 1079 by Vratislaus, duke of Bohemia, seeking permission to use Slavonic in local church services.
    • Awake! magazine December 2011, page 7; They Tried to Keep God’s Word From the Masses.
  • Dilexi iustitiam et odi iniquitatem; propterea morior in exilio.
    • I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile.
    • Last words, as quoted in Joseph Priestley A General History of the Christian Church Vol. 1 (1802), p. 361.

Quotes about Pope Gregory VII edit

  • The importance of status is vividly illustrated by perhaps the most celebrated summit in German history: the meeting at Canossa in 1077 between Pope Gregory VII and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. In German this is known as der Canossagang, the journey to Canossa; more aptly in Italian as l’umiliazione di Canossa, for it was truly a humiliation. In the Investiture Controversy—the power struggle between pope and emperor over the right to appoint bishops—Henry had renounced Gregory as pope, only to find himself excommunicated. This papal edict not only imperilled Henry’s immortal soul, it also laid him open to revolt by the German nobility. He sought a meeting with Gregory who, fearing violence, retreated to the castle of Canossa, in safe territory south of Parma. This forced the emperor to come to him. What exactly happened is shrouded in legend, but supposedly Henry arrived in the depths of winter, barefoot and in a pilgrim’s hair shirt, only to be kept waiting by Gregory for three days. When he was finally admitted to the castle on January 28, 1077, the emperor knelt before the pope and begged forgiveness. He was absolved and the two most powerful figures in Christendom then shared the Mass.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the Twentieth Century (2007), p. 14
  • The reconciliation was short-lived. After being excommunicated a second time Henry crossed the Alps with his army and replaced Gregory with an “antipope” of his own. But the events themselves matter less than the myth that grew up around them. During the German Reformation Henry was lionized as the defender of national rights and the scourge of the Catholic pope, often being dubbed “the first Protestant.” And during Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s struggle to rein in the Catholic church, he famously declared in the Reichstag on May 14, 1872: “We will not go to Canossa, neither in body nor in spirit.” He was voicing the new German Reich’s resolve to accept no outside interference in its affairs—political or religious. As a result Henry IV shivering outside the gates of Canossa became a familiar figure in late-nineteenth-century German art; the phrase “to go to Canossa” (nach Canossa gehen) entered the language as a synonym for craven surrender— almost the equivalent of “Munich” to the British and Americans.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the Twentieth Century (2007), pp. 14-15
  • As a mere constellation of talent in different fields Anselm, Gregory VII and William the Conqueror were the greatest men in Europe during this period... William and Gregory were men of action of a kind rare at any time, but almost unknown in the Middle Ages: they were creators who dealt intuitively with confused situations, having little in precedent or business routine or learned construction to guide them. Gregory had an energy of purpose and clarity of vision in practical affairs for which no parallel can be found in these centuries.
    • R. W. Southern, Saint Anselm and His Biographer: A Study of Monastic Life and Thought 1059–c.1130 (1963), p. 4
  • Religion, and it can merge into nationalism as orthodoxy does with the Serbs and the Russians, offers both a cause worth dying for and the promise of eternal life. The crusaders did not leave their homes all over Europe and make the long and dangerous journey to the Holy Land just to acquire loot and land. There was more and better to be had much closer to home. They were driven by what they thought was a divine mission, to retrieve the land where Christ had once lived for Christendom. Many crusaders – kings such as Richard I of England, the Lionheart, and Philip II of France and great landed magnates – left behind properties, position and families and many never returned. Egged on by religious leaders such as Pope Gregory VII, who reminded the faithful of the passage from the Book of Jeremiah ‘Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood’, they killed indiscriminately those they thought of as infidels. In the massacres in Jerusalem in 1099 the streets were said to have run with blood, in some places up to the knees of the crusaders’ horses. ‘None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared,’ said a contemporary account.

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