October 4, 2008

AN OFFER HE COULDN'T REFUSE:

Millennium by Tom Holland (Allan Massie, 10/03/08, Daily Telegraph)

The winter of 1076 saw the German king, Henry IV, presumptive Holy Roman Emperor, shivering in the snow outside the Alpine stronghold of Canossa. "Barefoot and clad in wool, he had cast aside all the splendour proper to a king"; as he waited, "tears were streaming down his face."

He had come as a penitent to seek absolution from Pope Gregory VII, who had excommunicated him and freed his vassals from their allegiance. Only by prostrating himself at the feet of the pope could he hope to save his throne. It was three days before Gregory relented.
advertisement

Historians call the occasion of their quarrel "the Investiture Contest", a dry term for an issue of great importance. Its outcome would determine the nature of Christendom in the Latin West.

The question was this: who should appoint bishops and invest them with the insignia of office: kings or popes, the temporal or the spiritual power? For Gregory, the most ambitious of medieval popes, the essence of the question was far-reaching, for on the answer depended "the right order of the world".

In Tom Holland's opinion, Gregory's victory - short-lived though it would be - meant that he stood "godfather to the future". This is why Holland begins Millennium, his account of a vast sweep of history, with this scene. [...]

Read it, and be thrilled, amazed and enlightened.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 4, 2008 8:02 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« WHY WOULD NIHILISTS CARE IF THE WHOLE BLOCK BURNS DOWN?: | Main | THERE IS NO RUSSIA: »