Investiture Controversy

Investiture Controversy, major dispute between church and state in the 11th and 12th centuries over the role played by lay princes in the ceremonies by which bishops and abbots were installed in their offices. Specifically at issue was the practice whereby the prince bestowed on the prelate the ring and staff that were the symbols of his spiritual authority.

The practice of investiture by the laity

The practice of investiture by the laity developed in the early Middle Ages, as emperors and kings tried to attach to themselves the wealth and authority prelates possessed by offering them protection in return. The practice was, therefore, a natural outgrowth of the feudal system, in which prelates were often secular rulers as well (and thus vassals of the king). The lay princes were often more concerned that bishops and abbots be loyal to them than that they be morally upright.

The Reform Movement

By the middle of the 11th century a movement

By the middle of the 11th century a movement to reform the church had gained great momentum in parts of France and Germany. Recognizing that lay investiture was not in accord with the ancient laws of the church, the reformers attributed to that practice the low morals of the clergy of their day, especially their indulgence in simonythe purchase and sale of church officesand concubinage.

The reform movement clearly took hold in

The reform movement clearly took hold in Rome under Pope Leo IX, and the popes soon became the driving force behind reform. Lay investiture was condemned by Pope Nicholas II in 1059; at the same time, he excluded the emperor from effective participation in papal elections. When, in 1075, Pope Gregory VII expressly forbade all lay investiture, he provoked the wrath of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Thus was unleashed the most violent episode in the whole controversy, as pope and emperor engaged in a series of mutual depositions and excommunications. This head-on clash ended with Gregory`s death in exile in 1085 and with the seeming defeat of his campaign against lay investiture.

Attempted Solutions

Gregory`s successors

Gregory`s successors, while holding to many of the same ideals, were more flexible in trying to work out solutions. The essential interest of the church was to ensure that lay rulers would not confer spiritual office. The essential interest of the kings was that bishops who were also going to be secular rulers be made to acknowledge the authority of the king. St. Anselm, when named archbishop of Canterbury, came into a severe conflict with King Henry I of England over the issue but in 1107 was able to work out a solution by which both archbishop and king achieved their aims.

The Concordat of Worms in 1122 between

The Concordat of Worms in 1122 between Pope Callistus II and Holy Roman Emperor Henry V reflected the English solution and set a pattern for future relations between the church and temporal rulers; it is sometimes said to have settled the Investiture Controversy. According to the concordat, the church was to have the right to elect bishops, and investiture by ring and staff was to be done by the clergy. Elections were to take place, however, in the presence of the emperor, who also would confer whatever lands and revenues were attached to the bishopric by investiture with a scepter, a symbol without spiritual connotations. Despite the concordat, the church in the Middle Ages never obtained complete control over the nomination of bishops, and the problem recurred in many forms. Investiture was a key issue in the Gallican controversies of the 17th century ( "see "Gallicanism) in France, and it was a controversial issue in Spain until recently.

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