OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES 119
Damien, then Prior of his hermitage at Fonte Avellana near Faenza, to become Cardinal Archbishop o Ostia and to prove his zeal for justice and for the purity of the Church by public deeds. Much against his will, quite in the manner in which Dante shows him ut- tering complaints in Paradise, this aged ascetic, who was nevertheless a humanist and a passionate poet, left his consecrated wilderness and during fifteen years played a prominent part in the drama of Church and Emperor. In the Commedia he is made to say that only a little of earthly life was left to him when he was summoned and dragged to the mitre. He was also involved in another fateful occurrence which owed its inception to Pope Stephen the association of the Papacy with the democratic movement in northern Italy.
There the freedom-loving middle classes had risen against the cor- rupt feudalism of their temporal and spiritual masters. Milan, city of industry and commerce, which already in the days of the ancient Church had been a community knowing its own mind and which had since seen the first heretics burned at the stake, was naturally the hearth on which social conflagrations which were to concern European society as a whole later on when cities grew larger were enkindled. Everywhere people felt the weight of the feudalistic economy, but they were no less strongly opposed to the frivolous association between money and religion in the Church. Distinguishing between religion and the servants of religion, the movement voluntarily joined the party of the reform. Doubtless the beginnings of a republican Milan go back to the year 1056, when Henry III died. Then a few priests, among them also two brothers of the noble house of Cotta, took the lead as captains of the people in a struggle against a city clergy, the majority of whom were guilty of simony and fornication. They were in close touch with Hildebrand and Peter Damien, knowing that real improvement could come only from the Papacy. But the other party, led by Archbishop Vido, swore just as passionately by the Emperor. Conscious of their superiority in wealth and culture, they termed themselves "Popolo grasso" and called the reformistic popular party the "Popolo minuto," i. e. the riff-raff.
This opposition was intensified during the next few years into an open fight involving the very existence of the spiritual church. Hil- debrand was still in Germany, treating with the Regent Agnes for the