mighty was the impression made by the poverty of the Minorites, that the Dominicans promptly followed their example and likewise became mendicant.
This alone would serve to indicate the remarkable deepening of the religious life that had taken place in the Latin countries. Its beginning may be traced as early as the 11th century (Pietro Damiani, q.v.), and in the 12th century the most influential exponent of this new piety was Bernard (q.v.) of Clairvaux, who taught men to find God by leading them to Christ. Contemporary with him were Hugh (q.v.) of St Victor and his pupil Richard (q.v.) of St Victor, both monks of the abbey of St Victor at Paris, the aim of whose teaching, based on that of the Pseudo-Dionysius, was a mystical absorption of thought in the Godhead and the surrender of self to the Eternal Love. Under the influence of these ideas, in part purely Christian and in part neo-platonic, piety gained in warmth and depth and became more personal; and though at first it flourished in the monasteries, and in those of the mendicant orders especially, it penetrated far beyond them and influenced the laity everywhere.
The new piety did not set itself in opposition either to the hierarchy or to the institutions of the Church, such as the sacraments and the discipline of penance, nor did it reject those foreign elements (asceticism, worship of saints and the like) which had passed of old time into Christianity from the ancient world. Its temper was not critical, but aggressively practical. It led the Romance nations to battle for Christendom. In the 11th and 12th centuries the chivalry of Spain and southern France took up the struggle with the Moors as a holy war. In the autumn of 1096 the nobles of France and Italy, joined by the Norman barons of England and Sicily, set out to wrest the Holy Land from the unbelievers; and for more than a century the cry, “Christ’s land must be won for Christ,” exercised an unparalleled power in Western Christendom.
All this meant a mighty exaltation of the Church, which ruled the minds of men as she had hardly ever done before. Nor was it possible that the position of the bishop of Rome, the supreme head of the Western Church, should remain unaffected by it. Two of the most powerful of the German emperors, Frederick I. and his son Henry VI., struggled to renew and to maintain the imperial supremacy over the papacy. The close relations between northern Italy and the Empire, and the union of the sovereignty of southern Italy with the German crown, seemed to afford the means for keeping Rome in subjection. But Frederick I. fought a losing battle, and when at the peace of Venice (1177) he recognized Alexander III. as pope, he relinquished the hope of carrying out his Italian policy; while Henry VI. died at the early age of thirty-two (1197), before his far-reaching schemes had been realized.
The field was thus cleared for the full development of papal power. This had greatly increased since the Concordat of Worms, and reached its height under Innocent III. (1198–1216). Innocent believed himself to be the representative of God, and as such the supreme possessor of both spiritual and temporal power. He therefore claimed in both spheres the supreme administrative, legislative and judicial authority. Just as he considered himself entitled to appoint to all ecclesiastical offices, so also he invested the emperor with his empire and kings with their kingdoms. Not only did he despatch his decretals to the universities to form the basis of the teaching of the canon law and of the decisions founded upon it, but he considered himself empowered to annul civil laws. Thus he annulled the Great Charter in 1215. Just as the Curia was the supreme court of appeal in ecclesiastical causes, so also the pope threatened disobedient princes with deposition, e.g. the emperor Otto IV. in 1210, and John of England in 1212.
The old institutions of the Catholic Church were transformed to suit the new position of the pope. From 1123 onward there had again been talk of general councils; but, unlike those of earlier times, these were assemblies summoned by the pope, who confirmed their resolutions. The canonical election of bishops also continued to be discussed; but the old electors, i.e. the clergy and laity of the dioceses, were deprived of the right of election, this being now transferred exclusively to the cathedral chapters. The bishops kept their old title, but they described themselves accurately as “bishops by grace of the apostolic see,” for they administered their dioceses as plenipotentiaries of the pope; and as time went on even the Church’s criminal jurisdiction became more and more concentrated in the hands of the pope (see Inquisition).
The rule of the Church by the Roman bishop had thus become a reality; but the papal claim to supreme temporal authority proved impossible to maintain, although Innocent III. had apparently enforced it. The long struggle against Frederick II., carried on by Gregory IX. (1227–1241) and Innocent IV. (1243–1254), did not result in victory; no papal sentence, but only death itself, deprived the emperor of his dominions; and when Boniface VIII. (1294–1303), who in the bull Unam Sanctam (1302) gave the papal claims to universal dominion their classical form, quarrelled with Philip IV. of France about the extension of the royal power, he could not but perceive that the national monarchy had become a force which it was impossible for the papacy to overcome.
(c) Close of the Middle Ages. Disintegration.—While the Church was yet at the height of her power the great revolution began, which was to end in the disruption of that union between the Temporal and the Spiritual which, under her dominion, had characterized the life of the West. The Temporal now claimed its proper rights. The political power of the Empire, indeed, had been shattered; but this left all the more room for the vigorous development of national states, notably of France and England. At the same time intellectual life was enriched by a wealth of fresh views and new ideas, partly the result of the busy intercourse with the East to which the Crusades had given the first impetus, and which had been strengthened and extended by lively trade relations, partly of the revived study, eagerly pursued, of ancient philosophy and literature (see Renaissance). Old forms became too narrow, and vigorously growing national literatures appeared side by side with the universal Latin literature. The life of the Church, moreover, was affected by the economic changes due to the rise of the power of money as opposed to the old economic system based upon land.
The effects of these changes made themselves felt on all sides, in no case more strongly than in that of the papal claims to the supreme government of the world. Theoretically they were still unwaveringly asserted; indeed it was not till this time that they received their most uncompromising expression (Augustinus Triumphus, d. 1328; Alvarus Pelagius, d. 1352). After Boniface VIII., however, no pope seriously attempted to realize them; to do so had in fact become impossible, for from the time of their residence at Avignon (1305–1377) the popes were in a state of complete dependence upon the French crown. But even the curialistic theory met everywhere with opposition. In France Philip IV.’s jurists maintained that the temporal power was independent of the spiritual. In Italy, a little later, Dante championed the divine right of the emperor (De Monarchia, 1311). In Germany, Marsiglio of Padua and Jean of Jandun, the literary allies of the emperor Louis IV., ventured to define anew the nature of the civil power from the standpoint of natural law, and to assert its absolute sovereignty (Defensor pacis, c. 1352); while the Franciscan William of Occam (d. 1349) examined, also in Louis’ interests, into the nature of the relation between the two powers. He too concluded that the temporal power is independent of the spiritual, and is even justified in invading the sphere of the latter in cases of necessity.
While these thoughts were filling men’s minds, opposition to the papal rule over the Church was also gaining continually in strength. The reasons for this were numerous, first among them being the abuses of the papal system of finance, which had to provide funds for the vast administrative machinery of the Curia. There was also the boundless abuse and arbitrary exercise of the right of ecclesiastical patronage (provisions, reservations); and further the ever-increasing traffic in dispensations, the abuse of spiritual punishments for worldly ends, and so forth. No means, however, existed of enforcing any