The Final Conflict Of The Papacy And The Medieval Empire -- By: David S. Schaff

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 058:231 (Jul 1901)
Article: The Final Conflict Of The Papacy And The Medieval Empire
Author: David S. Schaff


The Final Conflict Of The Papacy And The Medieval Empire

Prof. David S. Schaff

To the men of to-day the half-century just passed seems to be one of the most wonderful eras in the world’s history. Men of former generations have had this same feeling as they looked back over the events of their age. Writing of the first fifty years of the thirteenth century, Matthew Paris, a contemporary, says: “All these remarkable and strange events, the like of which have never been seen or heard of, nor are found in any writings of our fathers in times past, occurred during this last half-century.’’ In this list of wonderful events, not a single invention or mechanical discovery is adduced, and from the realm of nature only a few portents are mentioned. But, for all that, those fifty years do constitute a remarkable period. It was still the age of the Crusades, whose energies were, however, fast waning. It was the age of Francis d’Assisi and Dominic, and the rise of the Mendicant Orders. It was the age of some of the greater Schoolmen. It was the age of Innocent III., whose eminence no occupant of the papal chair has ever surpassed, and few have equaled. It was the age of Runnymede and the Great Charter.

Of the period, taken as a whole, the central figure was that very extraordinary personage, Frederick II., King of Sicily and Emperor of Germany. As the last great representative of the House of Hohenstaufen, he attracts attention. His personality is one of the most many-sided of the Middle Ages. There is also a certain mysteriousness about

his ultimate designs and ideals which was even felt by the Chroniclers. His political system, for originality and boldness, has not been excelled from Charlemagne to modern times. Above all, that for which his name stands, is the last struggle between the mediaeval papacy and the empire; a struggle of gigantic proportions, engaging the attention of all Europe, and waged with all the weapons within the reach of both parties,—a desperate struggle, which ended in the humiliation of the empire, and also in the resort by the papacy to measures which shook the supreme confidence that the popular opinion of Christendom had reposed in it.

Carolo piissimo Augusto, a Deo coronato, magno, pacifico imperatori, vita et victoiria. “To Charles, most religious sovereign, crowned of God, the great and pacific Emperor, be life and victory.” These words, acclaiming Charlemagne emperor immediately after his coronation by Pope Leo III., make that Christmas Day of the year 800 the most significant of all but the first. It proved to be the most far-reaching epoch of mediaeval history, as 1517 is of modern history. An empire, universal in theory, was again established...

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