Learning Goal Students will… –Analyze the growing power of Medieval Popes and their use of excommunication
A. The Pope The Pope is the traditional leader of the Catholic (“Universal”) Church, which was the only group of Christians in Europe in the Middle Ages. The Pope lives in Rome, in a place called the Vatican City (sort of like the Forbidden City in China)
Since most people could not read—and did not own a Bible—the Pope was regarded as the ultimate authority on Religious matters. From time to time, the Pope would write a letter, called a Papal Bull, which explained a religious teaching or new Church policy.
B. The Papacy The Papacy—the position (“office”) of the Pope— also had Political power. If the Pope felt someone was working against the Church (either in a Religious or Political way), he could punish the person. The worst punishment was called Excommunication.
If the Pope excommunicated someone, that person was kicked out of the Church. This means: Their marriage was made invalid Their children were made illegitimate They could not be buried in the Church cemetery They would not go to heaven when they died.
One part of Europe that refused to respect the authority of the Pope was the Byzantine Empire—especially in Constantinople. Here, the Byzantine Emperor was the head of the Orthodox Church.
In 1054AD, Pope Leo IX decided to excommunicate the Bishop of Constantinople, causing a permanent split in the Church. Christians who respected the authority of the Pope were called Roman Catholics.
Even Kings could be excommunicated, so everyone had to respect the Pope’s power, especially after Charlemagne was crowned by the Pope. Many Popes were humble men trying to live like Jesus, but others were power- hungry, and this brought them into conflict with the Kings of Europe.
C. Kings of Europe In 1000AD, there were many small kingdoms in Europe, of which England, France, and the Holy Roman Empire (Germany) were the strongest. Muslims still ruled Spain.
The main conflict occurred over who had the power to appoint Church leaders, called Bishops. Some Kings believed that, in their own Kingdoms, they should be able to choose their Bishops—the Pope disagreed.
D. Pope Gregory VII In 1073, a new Pope named Gregory VII came into conflict with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV about a Bishop. Henry tried to have the Bishops revolt against the Pope and replace him, but instead, Pope Gregory excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor.
Desperate to remain Emperor, Henry traveled to Rome to beg forgiveness. The Pope made the Holy Roman Emperor stand barefoot in the snow for three days before forgiving him. This showed that the Pope was more powerful than earthly Emperors.