the Fifth Week of Lent
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Latin investire, to put on a vest or covering), in general, is defined by mediaeval writers as the conferring or the giving of possession of a fief or a property by a suzerain lord to his vassal," and was usually accompanied by a certain ceremonial, such as the delivery of a branch, a banner, or an instrument of office, more or less designed to signify the power or authority which it is supposed to convey (compare Gottfried, abbot of Vendome [Vindocinensis], Tractatus de ordinatione' Episcoporsum et Investitura Laicorum, in Melch. Goldasti Apologice pro Henrico IV — dv. Gregorii VII, P. criminsationes [Hamb. 1611. p. 262]).
The contest about ecclesiastical investitures is so interwoven with the whole course of mediaeval history that a brief account of its origin and nature is indispensable to a right understanding of many of the most important events of that period.
1. By the liberality of the northern nations, the Church of Rome had gradually attained considerable wealth, both personal and real. "The Carlovingian and Saxon emperors, the kings of England and Leon, had vied with their predecessors in bestowing on her lavish benefactions, and the clergy were, in consequence, no strangers to wealth. Many churches possessed seven or eight thousand manses; one with two thousand passed for indifferently rich (comp. Hallam, Middle Ages, 2, pt. 1, ch. 7, p. 142, small English edition). Of the lands possessed by the clergy, the greater part might be of little value at the time they had been given perhaps consisting of wild and deserted tracts of country; but they were capable of cultivation and improvement, and as civilization and population increased they became a source of gain and profit." Nay, this accumulation of lands in the hands of the clergy progressed so rapidly that it naturally excited the jealousy of the sovereigns. These provocations- were still further sharpened by another great source of clerical enrichment, viz. the payment of tithes, which seems to have received a legal sanction in the 9th century, but which in the 12th century had become universal. Still other revenues were derived from the free donations and offerings of the laity. "Some made oblations to the Church before entering on military expeditions; bequests were made by others in the terrors of dissolution." Indeed, it became at last a pious custom to assign a portion of the property of a deceased person to the clergy for their distribution among the poor and the needy. But by degrees crafty Romanists learned to rank their churches among the poor, "‘ and as it was believed that the deceased would regard them with special favor, they absorbed the lion's share of the alms, until the other poor were forgotten altogether." Thus what began as a pious custom the Church gradually so distorted until it all flowed into her coffers, and was finally made a compulsory tribute. But, as if all these sources of income were not yet sufficient to meet the wants of an indolent clergy, dependent wholly for their support upon a superstitious and ignorant class, in the Middle Ages as well as in our own day, the penances were added, and, by being made canonical, were imposed upon repentant offenders; and acts of lawlessness, which it ought to have taken more than an ordinary lifetime to discharge, were allowed to be committed for money payments. "One day's fasting might be redeemed with a penny; a year's fasting with thirty shillings, or with freeing a slave that was worth that money (one of the few good things that the Church of the Middle Ages is guilty of). Many, in a glow of zeal, vowed to go on a crusade, but, when the first ardor had cooled down, were glad to purchase exemption. Many, to atone for their sins, set out on pilgrimages to well-known shrines; and, as the clergy had not failed to inculcate that no atonement could be so acceptable to Heaven as liberal presents, large offerings were presented to such churches by the remorse of repentance. At Rome, in the year of jubilee, two priests stood with rakes in their hands sweeping the uncounted gold and silver from the altars." No wonder, then, that the Church and' her officers the bishops, as well as all the clergy, with possessions so vast, and resources so unbounded and fertile, became the objects of suspicion to temporal princes, and objects of envy to the nobles.
2. But, while the enjoyment of these large possessions was undoubtedly the primary cause that provoked the distrust and displeasure of sovereigns, the struggle, which at the close of the 11th and at the beginning of the 12th century was especially fierce between Germany and England on the one. side and Rome on the other, was directly brought about by the symbols incidental to feudal tenures. Investiture by the lord and an oath of fealty by the tenant, which were necessary in the case of all lay barons, had already, even in the old Frankish Church, been required of ecclesiastics before they were admitted to the temporalities of a see (Hallam, Middle Ages, 2, part 1, ch. 7, p. 181; Reichel, See of Rome in the Middle Ages, p. 356), and were claimed to be the special prerogatives of the king. But, instead of fealty and homage, to which the lay barons were subjected, the king used symbols in the investiture of ecclesiastics. It had been at first the custom for the king to deliver or send to the bishops on their installation a ring or a staff, the one as a symbol of the close union which was to exist between the bishop and his congregation, the other as an emblem of his office as guide and shepherd. The delivery of the symbols was in accordance with the fundamental legal principle which the sovereigns were anxious to impress on the ecclesiastics, viz. that all the possessions of the Church were only held by consent of the king and as loans (beneficia), for which reason it became also the bishop's duty to accompany the army when required (see Eicbhorn, Deutsche Staats u. Rechtsgesch, Gott. 1834, pt. 1, p. 202, 505, 516; Sugenheim, Staatsleben d. Klerus 1. Mittelalter, Berlin, 1839, part 1, p. 315). The.bestowing of the symbols implied the installation into office, and was therefore called investiture. The investiture with both ring and staff was not habitual at first. King Clovis I (508) employed only the ring (Bouquet, Rerum Gallic. scriptor. 4, 616: "Quicquid est fisci nostri per annulum tradimus"); Clovis II (623), Louis of Germany, Arnulf, and also Otto I, conferred only the staff while the emperors Henry II and Conrad Ai gave the ring to the bishops merely as a pledge that they would afterwards be invested with the staff. It was not till after these emperors that the investiture with both ring and staff became general, and the sceptre was added to them still later. (See Mosheim, Institutiones hist. eccles. p. 408, note r.; Hü llmann, Gesch. dess Ursprungs d. Stinde 1. Veutschlald, Berlin, 1830, p. 153; Planck, Geschichte der christlichen Kirchl. Gesellschftsvesfassung, 3, 462.) In the ninth century the symbols were first interpreted as referring not only to the investiture of the clergy into their office, but also as an obligation answering to the oath of fealty as given by the lay barons.
For nearly two centuries the practice had continued without exciting scandal or resistance, when the Church began to raise angry and frequent complaints against the assumption of this right by the lay suzerains. "On the part of the suzerains it was replied that they did not claim to grant by this rite the spiritual powers of the office, their function being solely to grant possession of its temporalities, and of the temporal rank thereto annexed. But the Church party urged that the ceremonial in itself involved the granting of spiritual powers, insomuch that, in order to prevent the clergy from electing to a see when vacant, it was the practice of the emperors to take possession of the crosier and ring until it should be their own pleasure to grant investiture to their favorites." The disfavor in which the practice had long been held by the Church was first expressed by Clement II (see Stenzel, Gesch. Deutschl. u. d. Jiankischen Kaiser, pt. 1, 117; 2, 130), but its ‘ most energetic opponent it really first found in the person of Gregory VII, who, having in the year 1074 enacted most stringent measures for the repression of simony, proceeded, in the beginning of the year 1075, to condemn, under excommunication, the practice of investiture, as almost necessarily connected with simony, or leading to it. "The prohibition was couched in the most imperious and comprehensive terms. It absolutely deposed every bishop, abbot, or inferior ecclesiastic who should receive investiture from any lay person. It interdicted him-whosoever should be guilty of this act of ambition and rebellion (which was the sin of idolatry), until he should have abandoned the benefice so obtained-from all communion in the favor of St. Peter, and from admission into the Church. And if any emperor, duke, marquis, count, or secular potentate or person should presume to grant such investiture of bishopric or inferior dignity, he was condemned to the same sentence. This statute made a revolution in the whole feudal system throughout Europe as regarded the relation of the Church now dominant to the state. In the empire (then under Henry IV) it annulled the precarious power of the sovereign over almost half his subjects.
All the great prelates and abbots, who were at the same time the princes, the nobles, the counselors, the leaders in the diets and national assemblies, became to a great degree independent of the crown; the emperor had no concern, unless indirectly, in their promotion, no power over their degradation. Their lands and estates were as inviolable as their persons. Where there was no fealty there could be no treason. Every benefice, on the other hand, thus dissevered from the crown was held, if not directly, yet at the pleasure of the pope. For as with him was the sole judgment (the laity being excluded) as to the validity of the election, with him was the decision by what offences the dignity might be forfeited; and as the estates and endowments were now inalienable, and were withdrawn from the national property, and became that of the Church and of God the pope might be, in fact, the liege lord, temporal and spiritual, of half the world" (Milman, Lat. Christianity, 3:416-417). These proceedings of the pope the kings could not, of course, possibly permit without a practical abdication of all their powers, and hence arose the conflicts of investiture which resulted so triumphantly for the papacy, not only in rising to a supremacy over the princes of the earth, but drawing into their own hands all civil government, and which enabled some of the incumbents of the papal see, e.g. Innocent III, to aspire to be the supreme disposers of the Christian world, with all its belongings (see Reichel, p. 348). Some of the sovereigns, such as Philip of France and William of England, paid no attention whatever to the pope's mandate, and the latter, satisfied that they would not actively oppose him, was quite willing to let them alone; but far otherwise was his conduct towards the emperor Henry IV, whom he sought by every possible exertion to compel to submit to these decisions. For this the licentious and ambitious character of Henry had given him good cause. But for a time he failed to make any impression on the emperor, who paid no regard to the threats of Gregory VII, but continued to nominate not only to German, but also Italian bishoprics. Other causes widened the breach between the emperor and the pope. SEE GREGORY VII.
After Hildebrand's (Gregory VII) death, the rivalry for the papal throne assuaged for a time the controversy on investiture; each papal party, anxious to secure the greatest number of, and most powerful adherents, willingly made all possible concessions. But when Urban II, elected and supported by the Hildebrandian party, ascended the papal throne, the controversy was renewed by his declaration "Nullum jus laicis in clericos esse volumus et censemus," and the subject was even brought before the Council of Clermont (1095). By canon 15 of this council clergymen were forbidden to accept any ecclesiastical office from a layman; the 16th canon applies this especially to kings and other civil authorities; canon 17 forbade bishops and priests binding themselves by feudal oaths to either kings or other laymen; and canon 18 threatened every one who, after two warnings, continued in these forbidden relations, with deprivation of all office and power. Yet Urban found more difficulty than he had expected in bringing the princes to second him in his views, and he did not succeed in enforcing these decisions even in Italy, where Roger of Sicily stoutly defended the rights of the civil authorities.
Urban, however, evaded the difficulty by naming Roger, to whom he was under many obligations, his legate in Sicily. The death of this pope, in 1099, by no means extinguished the opposition, but, instead, the contest became more earnest, and continued during the most of the 11th century. In the beginning of the 12th century it assumed a new form under Pascal II, whose name, of all popes, is most prominently connected with the question of investitures both in England and Germany. Pascal II had ascended the papal throne with the intention of following in the footsteps of his predecessors; but he lacked the strength of character necessary for determined action. "In England, William the Conqueror had maintained his supremacy over the Church with an iron arm. Thus no one was allowed to acknowledge the pope, when chosen, except by the king's permission; no one might receive letters from Rome unless they had been previously shown to him for approval. The archbishop was not permitted to frame any canon, although with the assistance of the bishop of the realm, unless it had been previously sanctioned by the sovereign. Nor was any bishop allowed to excommunicate a baron or minister of the crown on any charge, without having first obtained the king's consent. The same policy was pursued by his son William Rufus, without any difficulties being raised on the part of the popes. They had too many reasons for conciliating the friendship of the Normans in Italy to venture to oppose their wishes in England." Nor was it otherwise now when archbishop Anselm came forward, determined to execute the papal decisions concerning the investitures, and King Henry I felt his prerogatives invaded, and Anselm alone had to bear the whole brunt of Henry's indignation. (See ANSELM).
In 1107, an agreement which had been entered into between the king and the archbishop was finally proclaimed with great solemnity at a synod convened for this purpose. "By it Henry, whilst surrendering an unnecessary ceremony, retained a substantial power; and Anselm's scruples were set at rest by a letter from Paschal, in which he freed those who had received law investitures from the penalties pronounced by his predecessor… Still more fortunate than the English kings were the kings of Castile, who, by directly yielding when Urban's decree was first published, obtained from him an absolute privilege of nomination to all bishoprics in their dominions-a privilege which they have since retained by virtue of a particular indulgence renewed by the pope for the life of each prince" (Reichel, p. 363;. see Hallam, Middle Ages, 2, pt. 1, ch. 7, 190).
But it was in Germany that the struggle about investitures was waged most fiercely, and that it also continued longest. Taking advantage of the political troubles which were agitating the country, Paschal used every exertion to detach the Church entirely from the control of the state. "Not only had Paschal II begun his course by denouncing lay investiture as strongly as his predecessor Urban II, but he had also followed the tactics of Urban." He not only put Henry IV a second time under the ban, but even committed one of the darkest crimes in the annals of history. He estranged from Henry the affection of those to whose love and consideration he was entitled by the most sacred of laws. Two of the sons of Henry IV were incited to rebellion against their own natural father (1101, 1104), which brought the emperor to an untimely grave of broken heart (1106).
Paschal now thought, of course, that he had secured for himself the obedience of Germany, and with pride he announced that henceforth the Church would begin to enjoy anew her liberty indeed, for death had removed, and was fast removing, those who opposed her success (Mansi, 1. c. p. 1209; Muratori, Scriptores rerum Italic. III, 1, 363); he even caused the laws on investiture to be reasserted by the councils of Troyes, Benevento (1108), and Lateran (1100). But for once Paschal II had made his reckoning without his host. His boast, alas, how empty "He had not to wait long before he discovered its vainness; for Henry V was no sooner in undisputed possession of the throne than he maintained as stoutly as his father had done his own right to invest bishops." Strengthened in his opposition by the example of England, and of France also, he interpreted the actions of the councils as threats at his power, and after a vain endeavor to bring the pope to acknowledge his right in a conference at Chalons, he resorted to arms. At the head of a vast army he marched to Italy, and so terrified the pope that he obtained a very favorable compact without the least difficulty (Feb. 9, 1111). But the bishops refused to comply with it, and Henry hesitated not to force a favorable conclusion by imprisoning the pope and his cardinals. By a second treaty, which was now compacted (April 8, 1111), Pascal II actually agreed to surrender all the possessions and royalties with which the Church had been endowed, and which alone had formed the subject of claim on the part of the emperor. To seal the compact more firmly, the pope divided the host with the emperor, and, after coronation, Henry returned to Germany, satisfied that Rome had for once been brought low (see Stenzel, pt. 1, p. 632 sq.).
This treaty, however, never had any practical effect, for the Hildebrandian party disapproved of the pope's concessions, and "nothing remained for Paschal, weak and vacillating Paschal, but to annul the grant, and to assemble a council in the Lateran, and to plead before it that the agreement had been concluded under the pressure of circumstances, in order to save the cardinals and the city of Rome; that it was beyond his power to ‘ surrender any of the liberties and rights of the Church; that it was for the assembly to examine the agreement, and pronounce thereupon; but that for himself lie would adhere to his oath, and undertake nothing personally against Henry," i.e. poor wretched Paschal had sworn to a compact which he felt he could not break himself, but for which, none the less determined to abrogate, he sought a pretext to surrender his authority into the hands of his inferiors, that-they might execute the wishes of his heart, which he dared not openly espouse as a pope. The action of the pope, however, in accordance with his own wishes, was repudiated in a Lateran council in 1112 (Mansi, t. 21, p. 49 sq.), which even put the emperor again under the ban. Unfortunately, Henry had in the mean time made himself many enemies at home by his course concerning the investitures, and the excommunication ‘ still further increased his difficulties.; yet he succeeded in overcoming them all at the time when the papal see least expected it, and his whole power was then directed against the latter. Henry re-entered Italy, seized Rome, and the pope, compelled to flee, died at last in banishment, as by his policy he had well deserved (1118).
Gelasius II was the next successor to the papal throne; but as he lived only a short time (111), the glory of concluding the long-protracted struggle was reserved for Calixtus II, but not before one preliminary contract had been concluded and as soon violated, nor before the utterance of a sentence of excommunication and dethronement on Henry V, at the great synod at Rheims (Labbe, 12). It was now agreed that every investiture should be retained, and each bishopric restored to its former incumbent, but that those belonging to the Church should be governed according to the canons, and the secular ones by the civil laws (Mansi, t. 21, p. 244; Stenzel, p. 690). Upon a second consideration, however, they relented and the question of the oath soon created new pretexts for the struggle between them, and, in a synod of Rheims (1119), Calixtus put the emperor under the ban, and deposed him (Mansi, 1. c., p. 250). In the mean time, archbishop Adalbert, of Mentz, created troubles in Germany. Calixtus strengthened his position in Rome, and even succeeded in taking the anti- pope, Gregory VIII, whom the emperor had opposed to him, prisoner; yet the public sentiment of Germany was strong enough to compel the papal party finally to adopt the course which Ivo of Chartres and the monk Hugo of Fleurv had commanded. "It was an intermediate course between the extreme views of the Gregorian party on the one hand, and the secularizing tendencies of their opponents on the other. It combated the Gregorian position that it was a degradation for the priesthood to own itself subject to any lay authority, and held fast to the principle that to God must be rendered that which is God's, and to Caesar that which is Cesar's. It therefore maintained that the king ought not to invest the candidate bishop with staff and ring, these being the symbols of spiritual jurisdiction, and, as such, belonging to the archbishop; but it allowed homage to be done' to the emperor, and the use of some other symbol for bestowing the temporalities." The celebrated concordat of Worms, Sept. 1122 (Mansi, 1. c. p. 273 sq.), finally settled the question to the satisfaction of all parties, and the Lateran Council of 1123 gave its full approval (comp. Mansi, l. c. p. 277). The emperor agreed to give up the form of investiture with the ring and pastoral staff, to grant to the clergy the right of free elections, and to restore all the possessions of the Church of Rome which had been seized either by himself or by his father; while the pope, on his part, consented that the elections should be held in the presence of the emperor or his official, but with a right of appeal to the provincial synod: that investiture might be given by the emperor, but only by the touch of the scepter; and that the bishops and other church dignitaries should faithfully discharge all the feudal duties which belonged to their principality (see Montag. p. 436 sq.; Stenzel, p. 704). Lothair III, Henry's successor, rendered these conditions still more advantageous to the Roman see by substituting a more general profession for the feudal oath (see J. D. Olenschlager, Erlau. terung d. gildenen Bulle, Frankfort, 1766; Urkundenbuch, p. 19).
This measure, to some extent, at least, allayed the ill will which the hierarchical party bore to the Concordat of Worms. The pope had in reality secured but few actual advantages by the concordat. yet the freedom of election obtained by it in the place of the influence exercised over them by the emperor was sure in due time to be of great advantage to the papacy. It certainly had considerable effect in restraining one of the greatest abuses of the Middle Ages, if not in eradicating altogether the real evil of simony and corrupt promotion of unworthy candidates for ecclesiastical offices; and although, even as late as the 12th century, we find instances of the emperor's interference in the election of German bishops, and even of his direct appointments to such offices (see Sugenheim, Staatsleben d. Klerus im Mittelalter, Berlin, 1839, pt. 1, p. 153), these instances are, after. all, only few in number, and disappear altogether after the times of Otto IV and Frederick II. Civil interference in ecclesiastical appointments ceased also in France, England, and Spain; but in Naples, Hungary, Denmark, and Sweden, the kings continued to appoint bishops until the 13th century (Sugenheim,p. 197).
For monographs, see Volbeding, Index, p. 165.. On the general subject, see Staudenmaier, Geschichte d. Bischofswahlen (Ttibing. 1830, p. 249); Reichel, See of Rome in the Middle Ages, pt. 2, chap. 12; Gosselin, Power of the Pope, 2, 345; Milman, Hist. of Lat. Christianity, 3:415 4:146 sq.; Robertson, Hist. of the Christian Church, p. 572 sq.; Butler, Eccles. Hist. to 13th Cent. p. 474 sq., 492 sq.; Mosheim, Eccles. Hist. p. 327, et al.; Herzog, Real Encyklop. 6:s.v.; (J. H. W.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Investiture'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​i/investiture.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.