Saturday, June 7, 2014


(Continued) Excerpts from:


By Archpriest Basil M. Kherbawi
St, Nicholas Greek-Orthodox Cathedral
Brooklyn, NY
Published 1930



Pope Gregory and Emperor Henry IV continued:

    Because Henry ignored the Pope and his council’s decrees, the Pope became very angry and started by excommunicating the Emperor. There was dissatisfaction between the Emperor and the barons of his empire, that was to the advantage of the Pope, who addressed to the prelates and the princes a letter of advice, pointing out to them that this was the moment for electing a new sovereign.  In the same letter he referred to Emperor Henry, saying, if he were permitted to reign, he must be brought to obedience to the church, that he might “henceforth think of the holy church, not as a bond-maid subject to his will, but as a mistress set over him.”

  The haughty and indignant princes welcomed the Pope’s letter, and assemble at Tribur in the autumn of 1076 for conference, which was attended by legates from Rome who were men wisely chosen, and well trained for their task, Bishops from Germany, and barons from the whole empire, but Henry himself was not present.  The discussion continued for seven days; at last the council resolved that Henry’s continuance in power should solely depend on his reconcilement to the head of the church. If the sun should go down on him still an excommunicated person on the 23rd of February, 1077, his crown was to be transferred to another.  This sentence made the Emperor so completely dependent on his nobles, he had no choice but to submit; seeing no other way of obtaining relief, he determined upon a personal visit to the Pope, to beseech the pardon and favor of the Church.

     It was the depth of winter of such extreme severity that the Rhine was frozen over from November to April, and the road to Italy was in those days a bare track, often winding through the mountain passes, blocked up at this season with snow, and sometimes scaling the very ridge of the Alps, from which the snow never departs. . . . The emperor, himself on his hands and knees, slowly made his way from crag to crag. Not seldom the treacherous path failed them, and men were rolled headlong into the deep snow. The queen and her infant son were let down in the skins of slaughtered beasts, by means of ropes, and thus hardships which royalty rarely knows, the journey was accomplished and the imperial pilgrim found himself early in January, 1077, on the Italian side of the Alps.

     Upon reaching the Pope’s residence, he was made to stay for many days in the freezing weather, before the Vicar of Christ” would listen to a syllable of his petition. Ar last, after Henry was just reduced to the verge of despair, he received announcement that he should obtain absolution on one condition – his delivering up to the Pope his crown scepter, and other symbols of royalty, and confessing himself unworthy to bear the name of king, and above all that Henry should do penance in the castle yard before he should receive the pardon of Christ’s Vicar.  Finally the Emperor was permitted to appear before “his holiness”, the now triumphant and exultant Pope.  The gates of the castle were thrown open, and the royal; penitent stood in the presence of the haughty Gregory “From the terrible glance of whose countenance”, it has been told, “the eye of the beholder recoiled as from lightning.”  But the just Judge of the universe did not permit that cruel Pope to persist very long, with his misconduct.  Henry resumed his royal character, took up arms, and in October 1080, defeated and mortally wounded Rudolph, Duke of Snobia, who had been elected Emperor in his stead by order of the Pope. Then he went into Italy, deposed Pope Gregory and caused Guilbert, Archbishop of Ravenna to be elected Pope, by the name of Clement III, and Pope Gregory was exiled where he died.
To be continued

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