Page images
PDF
EPUB

pope. They never could forgive the insolence of the former, nor the abject humility of the latter. But their indignation at Gregory's arrogance over-balanced their detestation of their monarch's meanness. He took advantage of this temper, and, by a change of fortune hitherto unknown to the German emperor's, found a strong party in Italy, when abandoned by his own subjects. All Lombardy took up arms against the pope, while the latter was raising all Germany against the emperor. The former had recourse to every art to procure the election of another emperor in Germany, while Henry, on his part, left nothing undone to persuade the people of Italy to choose another pope. The Germans chose Rodolph, duke of Suabia, who was solemnly crowned at Mentz; and this gave Gregory an opportunity of exercising all his finesse in order to extort submission from Henry. He affected to be displeased that Rodolph was consecrated without his order. He had deposed Henry, but it was still in his power to pardon him-he therefore declared that he would acknowledge as emperor and king of Germany that claimant who should be most submissive to the holy see.

But Henry was not now to be duped. He chose rather to trust to the valour of his arms than to the generosity of the pope, and therefore marched his troops against his rival Rodolph, whom he defeated in several engagements. Gregory seeing no hopes of submission, thundered out a second sentence of excommunication, in which, after depriving Henry of strength in combat, and condemning him never to be victorious--he desires the world to take notice that it is in the pope's power to take away empires, kingdoms, principalities, &c. and to bestow them on whom he pleases. The whole concludes with the following extraordinary apostrophe to the apostles, Peter and Paul : “ Make all men sensible that, as you can bind and loose every thing in heaven, you can also upon earth, take from or give to, every one according to his deserts, empires, kingdoms, pincipalities. Let the kings and princes of the age instantly feel your power, that they may not dare to despise the orders of your church; and let your justice be so speedily executed upon Henry, that nobody may doubt of his falling by your means and not by chance.” *

But the apostles were either deaf to the prayer of their pretended successor, or declined their co-operation with it. Henry triumphed over his enemies. Rodolph had his hand cut off in a battle which was fought with great fury near Mersburgh, in Saxony, and, discouraged by the misfortune of their chief, his followers gave way. Rodolph, perceiving his end approaching ordered the amputated member to be brought him, and thus addressed his officers. “Behold the hand with which I took the oath of allegiance to Henry-an oath which, at the instigation of Rome, I have violated, in perfidiously aspiring to an honour that was not due to me.”

The affairs of Henry now revived apace. A new pope was elected, who took the title of Clement III. and the emperor, thus delivered from his formidable antagonist, soon dispersed the rest of his enemies in Germany, and proceeded to Italy, to settle the new pontiff in the papal chair. The gates of Rome being shut againt him, he was compelled to attack the city in form. After a siege of two years, it was taken by assault, and with difficulty saved from pillage, but Gregory retired into the castle of St. Angelo, from whence he hurled defiance, and fulminated his thunder against the conqueror. The siege of St. Angelo was now prosecuted with vigour, but in the absence of Henry, Gregory found means to escape, and died soon after at Salerno, A. D. 1085. His last words

• Fleury's Eccles. History.

were, “ I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile." *

But the troubles of Henry did not terminate with the life of Gregory. The pontiffs who succeeded, proved as inimical to his peace and tranquillity as their predecessor had been. Urban II. contrived, in conjunction with the countess Matilda, to seduce the emperor's son into a rebellion against his father. This young prince, whose name was Conrad, assumed the title of king of Italy, and succeeded so well in his usurpation, that the greater part of the cities of Italy and their nobles acknowledged him as their sovereign. The emperor, despairing of being able to reduce him to obedience by arms, assembled the German princes, who put the delinquent to the ban of the empire,+ and declared his brother Henry king of the Romans. Two years afterwards, both Conrad and the pope died—the latter being succeeded in the papal chair by Pascal II. (another Gregory) and the former by his younger brother Henry as king of Italy.

The new pope was scarcely invested with office ere he contrived to excite young Henry to rebel against his father. He called a council, to which he summoned the aged monarch; and as the latter did not obey the citation, he excommunicated him for the schisms which he had introduced into the church; stimulating his son to rebellion, by alleging that he was bound to take upon himself the reins of government, as he could not acknowledge an excommunicated king or father. In vain did the emperor use every paternal remonstranee to dissuade

• Life of Gregory VII. by Dithmar. + The word ban originally signified banner, afterwards edict, and lasty, a declaration of outlawry, which was thus intimated. “ We declare thy wife a widow, thy children orphans, and send thee, in the name of the devil, to the fonr corners of the earth.”.

his son from proceeding to extremities; the breach became wider, and each prepared for the decision of the sword. But the son, dreading his father's military superiority, and confiding in his tenderness, had recourse to a stratagem as base as it was effectual. He threw himself unexpectedly at the emperor's feet, and implored pardon for his undutiful behaviour, which he attributed to the influence of evil counsellors. In consequence of this submission, he was taken into favour by his indulgent parent, who instantly dismissed his army. The ungrateful youth now revealed the perfidy that was in his heart; he ordered his father to be confined-assembled a diet of his own confederates, at which the pope's legate presided, and repeated the sentence of excommunication against the emperor, whose dignity was instantly transferred to his rebellious son.

The archbishops of Mentz and Cologne were sent as deputies to the old emperor, to intimate his deposition and demand his regalia. Henry received this deputation with equal surprise and concern; and finding that the chief accusation against him was “the scandalous manner in which he had set bishopricks to sale," he thus addressed the audacious ecclesiastics : If I have prostituted the benefices of the church for hire, you, yourselves, are the most proper persons to convict me of that simony. Say then, I conjure you in the name of the eternal God! what have I exacted, or what have I received, for having promoted you to the dignities that you now enjoy?” They acknowledged that he was innocent, so far as regarded their preferments. “ And yet,” continued he, the archbishops of Mentz and Cologne, being two of the best in my gift, I might have filled my coffers by exposing them to sale. I bestowed them, however, upon you, out of free grace and favour, and a worthy return you make to my benevolence ! Do

not, I beseech you, become abettors of those who have lifted up their hands against their lord and master in defiance of faith, gratitude, and allegiance.”

As the unfeeling prelates, deaf to this pathetic address, insisted on his compliance with the object of their mission, Henry retired, and put on his regal ornaments; then returning to the apartment he had left, and seating himself on a chair of state, he renewed his remonstrance in these words ; " Here are the marks of that royalty with which I was invested by God, and the princes of the empire; if you disregard the wrath of heaven, and the eternal reproach of mankind, so much as to lay violent hands on your sovereign, you may strip me of them. I am not in a condition to defend myself.”

Regardless of these expostulations, the two archbishops snatched the crown from his bead, and dragging him from his chair, forcibly pulled off his robes. While thus employed, Henry exclaimed, “Great God! (the tears flowing down his venerable cheeks) thou art the God of vengeance, and wilt repay this outrage. I have sinned I own, and merited such shame by the follies of my youth; but thou wilt not fail to punish those traitors for their violence, ingratitude and perjury.”

To such a degree of wretchedness was this prince afterwards reduced by the barbarity of his son, that, destitute of the common necessaries of life, he entreated the bishop of Spire, whom he had promoted to that see, to grant him a canonry for his subsistence, representing that he was capable of performing the office of “chanter or reader.” Disappointed in that humble request, he shed a flood of tears, and turning to those who were present, said, with a deep sigh, “My dear friends, at least have pity upon my condition, for I am touched by the hand of the Lord."

Yet in the midst of these distresses, when every one

« PreviousContinue »