German King Displayed Wisdom, Humility, Self-Control
The German king and the Roman pope typically cooperated and shared power. The pope was recognized as the spiritual leader of the Europe and the German king was recognized as the political defender of the Church.
In other words, Europe was led by the spiritual guidance of Rome and the political guidance of Germany.
However, Catholic bishops were both spiritual and political rulers. Kings and popes fought over the right to select them. This power struggle is known as the Investiture Controversy.
In 1075, Pope Gregory VII declared the Catholic Church had the right to select German bishops and claimed political control of northern Italy.
German King Henry IV (German: Heinrich) was a devout Catholic but ignored him. He kept selecting bishops and claimed any laws created by Pope Gregory VII were invalid.
The Pope responded by holding a synod (meeting) in Rome where he declared the Holy Roman Empire was subordinate to the Church.
King Henry IV replied with his own synod and invited German bishops. They voted to remove Gregory VII as pope of the Church.
When Pope Gregory VII found out, he threatened to excommunicate King Henry IV and the German bishops at the synod. Later, he decided to give King Henry IV one year to request forgiveness before he would sign the papers and legally excommunicate him.
King Henry IV did not apologize, but instead crossed the Alps with his army and invaded Italy in 1077.
When the Pope learned King Henry VII was on his way, he fled to the Canossa Castle in northern Italy.
King Henry IV approached the castle with his army but stopped at the gates and did not attack.
Instead, he stood in the snow for three days without shoes, food, or shelter. He wore an uncomfortable hairshirt as penance and begged the pope for forgiveness.
His act of penance became known as the “Walk to Canossa” (German: Gang nach Canossa). It took wisdom, patience, and self-restraint. It was also a brilliant strategy because he basically forced the Pope to forgive him.
On the third day, Pope Gregory VII finally absolved King Henry IV and invited him back into the Church.
Pope Gregory VII eventually threatened to excommunicate King Henry IV again three years later in 1080. The threats were politically motivated though and had nothing to do with Henry’s religious beliefs.
King Henry IV responded with another synod (meeting) and invited every German bishop. They voted to remove Gregory VII as pope again. This time though, German bishops also elected Clement III as the new pope of the Church.
In 1082, King Henry IV crossed the Alps again and invaded Rome. Gregory VII fled to Castel Sant’Angelo for protection.
After King Henry IV took Rome, he signed a peace treaty with the Romans and they accepted him as their ruler. They also agreed they would force Pope Gregory VII to crown King Henry IV as the Emperor of Rome or remove him as leader of the Church.
After Gregory VII refused, the Romans abandoned their commitment to him and officially removed him as pope. He eventually fled to Salerno, Italy and died in exile. Before he died the next year, he wrote one last letter which demanded a crusade against King Henry IV and the Germans… (He was ignored…)
In 1084, King Henry IV returned to Rome and instituted Clement III as the new pope. On March 31, Pope Clement III crowned King Henry IV Emperor of the Romans (Latin: Imperator Romanorum), the same way King Charlemagne was crowned in 800.
In 1088 however, Italian bishops met decided to overthrow Pope Clement III. They elected Urban II as the new pope and he immediately excommunicated King Henry IV and Pope Clement III.
The Romans accepted Urban II as their new pope and and rejected Clement III. Urban II declared King Henry IV was “a beast sprung out from the earth to wage war against the Saints of God”. Later, he tried to form a coalition against the Germans. (He was ignored…)
In 1099, Pope Urban II died and Paschal II was elected pope and excommunicated King Henry IV again.
By this time though, King Henry IV was getting old and his son revolted against him in 1104. King Henry IV was arrested, imprisoned at Böckelheim, and forced to give up his crown. When the German people learned about what had happened, a strong movement to bring back King Henry IV spread throughout the lower Rhineland.
Eventually in 1106, he escaped Böckelheim and met a large group of his supporters in Köln. They formed an army and had success but King Henry IV died of illness later that year.
Five years after his death, the Catholic Church released King Henry IV from excommunication. His body is buried at the Speyer Cathedral in Speyer, Germany.
His legacy, the “Walk to Canossa” is widely recognized as a diplomatic success. It was a clever approach that weakened the Pope’s political power. King Henry IV patiently accepted personal humiliation and sacrificed his pride.
This Article Was Part Eight Of “Nazi German: Return Of The Holy Roman Empire” Series:
Introduction: J&J Presents “Nazi Germany: Return of the Holy Roman Empire”
The Spear of Destiny: Saint Longinus & The Holy Lance
Hitler & The Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire
Aryan Jesus: The Catholic Church & Positive Christianity
Holy Roman Emperors: German Kings Protecting Catholic Europe
Saint Charles Martel – Savior of Europe
Saint Charlemange – Father of Europe
Saint Otto I – Protector of the Church
Saint Henry IV & The Walk to Canossa
Saint Frederick Barbarossa
Saint Adolf Hitler
Nazi Fiscal Policy Influenced By Catholic Economic Theory
Cum Nimis Absurdum: Nuremberg Laws Were Catholic Papal Laws
Catholics Invented Jewish Ghettos, Created Badges For Jews
Reichskulturkammer: Nazis Germany’s Catholic Inquisition
Schutzstaffel: SS Officers Were Inspired By Teutonic Knights
Conclusion: The Third Reich Was Return Of The Holy Roman Empire