Gregory VII

views updated May 11 2018


GREGORY VII (Hildebrand, c. 10201085), pope of the Roman Catholic Church (10731085). The facts of Hildebrand's youth and education are hazy. He was born in Tuscany, perhaps at Soana, at an undetermined date: c.1015 according to Cowdrey; Blumenthal says 1020/1025. He went to Rome early in his life and became a professed religious. The tradition that Hildebrand was a monk, perhaps at the Benedictine house of Santa Maria del Priorato on the Aventine, is strong, although recently Blumenthal suggested that he was instead a regular canon. For a time he was a student of the learned and exiled Bishop Laurentius of Amalfi, and also was active in the service of Pope Gregory VI (10451046), with whom he had a familial connection. In January 1047, Hildebrand accompanied this pontiff into exile in Germany, after Gregory's deposition by Emperor Henry III and the Synod of Sutri (December 1046). That exile is the first precisely datable event in the future pope's life. A later tradition that Hildebrand became a monk at Cluny almost certainly is erroneous, although he may well have stayed in that house for a time before his return south. That return occurred in the company of Bishop Bruno of Toul, who in 1049 journeyed to Rome to become Pope Leo IX (10491054).

Leo's pontificate is generally considered to mark the emergence of a reform movement centered on Rome and which became predominant among other initiatives for renewal in the eleventh-century church. Pope Leo brought to Rome a group of reform-minded churchmen from both Italy and the north, and Hildebrand's career developed in conjunction with important individuals such as Peter Damian and Humbert of Moyenmoutier. He was designated by Leo as abbot and rector of the Benedictine house of San Paulo fuori le Mura, and his importance in the evolving administrative operations of the church is seen in his appointment several times in the 1050s as a papal legate north of the Alps. During one such legation, in 1054 in France, Hildebrand presided over a synod at Tours that considered the question of the eucharistic views of Berengar of Tours, whose career would stretch into the 1070s and who would be called to Rome during Gregory's pontificate for an examination of his teachings. It would be a mistake to view Hildebrand as the chief papal adviser at this juncture, but with appointment as archdeacon under Nicholas II (10591061), and with the death of Humbert and the election of Alexander II in 1061, his importance grew. During Alexander's long reign he has been considered, perhaps with only slight exaggeration, as the power behind the papal throne.

Alexander II died on April 21, 1073. During the ceremony for his burial Hildebrand was acclaimed by the Roman populace as Alexander's successor. That public display was at variance with the terms of the well-known decree of Pope Nicholas II (1059), which placed the choice of a pope essentially in the hands of the cardinal bishops. In the spring of 1073 public acclaim preceded selection by the cardinals, and this variance with the decree of 1059 later opened Hildebrand to the charge that his elevation to the papacy was illegitimate. He chose the papal name Gregory, probably in honor both of Gregory I, one of the fathers of Latin Christianity and a venerable monastic pope, and of his relative and onetime patron, Gregory VI. Gregory's consecration as bishop of Rome was on June 30, 1073, a date carefully selected for it is the feast day of the two great saints of the Roman church, Peter and Paul.

The significance of Gregory VII's twelve-year reign must be assessed within the framework of the reforming movements underway at the time throughout Latin Christendom. For decades sensitive churchmen had criticized abuses in religious structure and administration. Chief among those problems was simony, the gaining of an ecclesiastical office by means of payment rather than according to canonical norms. Various circles of ecclesiastical reform in the eleventh century were also adamant in condemning sexual incontinence among the higher orders of the clergy. The offensive against simony and clerical sexual activity marked an effort to purify the hierarchy and the sacramental life of the Latin church, and the notion of puritas ecclesiae ("purity of the church") became a common reform theme.

From the pontificate of Leo IX, however, and especially from the reign of Nicholas II, the papacy was increasingly in a position of leadership in these efforts to purify the church. Repeatedly, in papal letters, conciliar decrees, and through legatine missions, the Roman church fostered reform, aiming particularly at eradicating the aforementioned abuses. It must be stressed, however, that these initiatives did not involve merely administrative changes in the ecclesiastical structure. The theological and practical importance of the changes being sought reached deep into the religious mentality of Latin Christendom, and had profound effects on eucharistic theology, the cult of saints, attitudes toward property, and the role of laymen in designating appointees to church positions. Concomitant with this evolving reform activity an ecclesiology developed centering on the Roman see. The roots of this doctrine reach deep into the history of Latin Christianity, but from the mid-eleventh century the potential and the prerogatives of the Roman church gained increased attention as reform progressed.

Reform of the church in general and increased visibility and power for the Roman church occurred side by side. This new perception of Roman authority was not, however, the invention of eleventh-century thinkers. The dossiers of claims, traditions, and incidents on which Roman leadership rested reach as far into the past as the New Testament and the so-called Petrine passages (Mt. 16:1319). Popes such as Leo I, Gelasius I, and Gregory I were pivotal figures in antiquity who advanced claims that contributed to the special status of the Roman church and its bishop; and in the ninth century Pope Nicholas I was a vigorous proponent of those claims and that status. Yet in the eleventh century from the reign of Leo IX onward the uniqueness and the authority of Rome was stressed increasingly and with new vigor. As the reformers, now in control of the papal office, sought to promote their aims, the prestige and potential of the Roman church became a vehicle for this strategy. As the reform progressed the theoretical authority believed for centuries to be vested in the Roman church became increasingly real, and attention was given in practice as well as theory to the rights and powers of Rome, its clergy, and its bishop.

Such was the general situation confronting Gregory VII at the beginning of his reign. Given his long association with papal reform, it was to be expected that the initiatives for purity in the church would continue. Yet these policies, along with the pope's strong personality and intense devotion to the Roman church, were on a collision course with events growing out of the final years of the pontificate of Alexander II. King Henry IV of Germany, having reached maturity, was determined to exercise control over affairs within his sphere of influence. At issue specifically were claims to authority in both secular and church matters in important cities in northern Italy, especially in Milan. Thus in the early 1070s Henry supported one candidate for the archbishopric of that city while the papacy supported another. There were two questions. Did Henry have a right to grant churches on his own, to whomever he chose; and could Henry ignore directives about ecclesiastical matters from the Roman church and its bishop?

Historians are fortunate to possess from Gregory VII an official papal registera unique survival from the eleventh-century papacyin which the development of events and ideas often can be followed in detail. In the register, under March, 1075, appears a series of twenty-seven epigrammatic statements that were drafted by Gregory and his advisers (the so-called Dictatus papae ), perhaps as titles for a new canon law collection where texts would have been presented from the canonical tradition to support each proposition. The unusual form and special content of these texts has received much attention from historians, for contained therein is a series of strong statements asserting the superiority of ecclesiastical over secular authority, and the absolute authority of the Roman church and its bishop over all churches and bishops. Here is found, for example, in number 12, the statement that the pope may depose emperors, and in number 27, the claim that the pope may absolve subjects of unjust men from their fealty. From the outset of his reign, therefore, Gregory VII was concerned not only to advance policies to bring about puritas ecclesiae, but also, as part of a larger plan, he as eager to define and command obedience to the policies of the Roman church.

The decade between 1075 and Gregory's death in 1085 saw the genesis and development of a church-state controversy between Gregory and Henry that would outlive both leaders. Issues arose about the interaction of the ecclesiastical and secular realms of society that would be debated for centuries. Gregory maintained that he had the right to remove Henry's kingship and to release his subjects from their oaths of loyalty. Henry, on the other hand, claimed that he reigned by the grace of God, not of the pope, and that he possessed the right to control the churches in his realm. Because of what he saw as the indefensible novelty of Gregory's positions he condemned him as a "false monk" and usurper of the papal throne. The battle extended beyond rhetoric and exchanges of letters. In 1076 Gregory excommunicated Henry and forbade him to exercise his royal duties. After a period of complicated diplomatic maneuvering, however, in the early 1080s Henry invaded Italy, drove Gregory from Rome into Norman territory in the south, and installed in his place another pontiff, the so-called antipope, Clement III (Archbishop Wibert of Ravenna). The controversy offers historians compelling vignettes such as the famous episode that occurred in January, 1077, at Canossa in northern Italy. At this crucial stage of the dispute Henry, beleaguered in both Germany and Italy, presented himself to Gregory as a penitent, parading barefoot in the snow to seek forgiveness from the pope. After watching that performance from within the castle for three days, Gregory forgave Henry, and lifted the sentence of excommunication (but probably did not intend to reinstate him as king). What political advantage was gained or lost on each side has been much debated, but Gregory's action in forgiving Henry was the response of a pastor of souls and not of a power-crazed fanatic.

The prohibitions that Gregory formulated against laymen investing individuals with bishoprics and abbeys have been accorded a great deal of attention. In fact, the term Investiture Conflict has sometimes awkwardly been applied to the entire eleventh-century papal reform movement, with the controversy about lay investiture, especially in the German empire, wrongly seen as the cornerstone of Gregory's policy to promote reform. Gregory's decree against lay investiture was probably issued first not in 1075 as once was assumed but only in 1078. The transmission of these rulings must be closely examined to determine the extent to which they were promulgated and applicable at different points throughout Latin Christendom, for the programs of the reformers were not disseminated everywhere in the same manner.

An assessment of Gregory's policies must be given within the general history of the eleventh-century reform and from the perspective of his fascination with and devotion to the Roman church and the papal office. From that perspective the events and the turmoil of his reign appear as outcroppings of a desire to continue the reforming work of his predecessors, and also to establish what he deemed to be the proper order of Christian society. Using the Bible as his chief source, and infused with religious fervor and a deep sense of Roman ecclesiastical possibilities, Gregory believed that the whole world ought to be subject to the leadership of the church, for churchmen were responsible for promoting the kingdom of God on earth and would be held accountable for human souls on judgment day. It was Peter, the founder of the Roman church, to whom Christ gave supreme authority over the terrestrial church, and thus Peter's vicar, the bishop of Rome, was to be obeyed as the supreme authority on earth and must be prime in both ecclesiastical and secular domains. Both realmsthe secular (regnum ) and the religious (sacerdotium )should attend to its own proper duties, but by seeking to do God's will under the headship of the church and ultimately under its chief bishop.

No less than laymen, Gregory expected churchmen to be loyal devotees of Peter and his vicar. The papal office, furthermore, was an awesome responsibility. Gregory believed that it was his divinely enjoined duty not only to protect the church from the stain of abuses such as simony, but also to free it from every distraction that would impede the performance of God's work in the world. The desire for puritas blended into a drive for the liberty of the church (liberts ecclesiae ). It often was necessary, consequently, to instruct and admonish all sectors of society about their duties in the world, and about proper reverence for and obedience to Peter and his successors. Gregory prohibited lay investiture, promoted closer ties between Rome and outlying bishoprics and abbeys, granted detailed powers to papal legates, stressed the need for liturgical harmony with Roman usages, ordered special commissions to investigate the eucharistic teachings of Berengar of Tours, and even proposed early in his pontificate an expedition to the East to beat back the infidel from the Holy Land. Gregory was neither a canon lawyer nor a theologian, although he was concerned with both areas, and he insisted that he was not an innovator. Perhaps he can be understood best as an eleventh-century monk (or regular canon) of intense devotion and energy. He sought to realize what he considered a properly structured Christian society and used the expanded authority of the papal office in his efforts.

At the time of his death in 1085 Gregory was an exile from Rome, driven to southern Italy by Henry IV and an irate Roman populace. He had been deserted by many of his supporters, and many reforming churchmen thought he had gone too far in his battle with Henry. By reason of that battle, however, and because of his powerful personality, Gregory's name has been attached to the entire reform movement of the age, and the term Gregorian Reform is well-known to those who study medieval history. Although his importance is undeniable, the extent to which the cause of church reform was aided or hindered by his pontificate is a complicated issue. Many twelfth-century writers remembered Pope Urban II (10881099), not Gregory, as the great figure of the preceding age of reform. Even so, Urban forcefully acknowledged himself to be a disciple of Gregory, although the extent to which Urban is a true "Gregorian" can be debated. As decades passed Gregory would be cited less and less frequently by his successors and by canon lawyers, but the issues that dominated his reign could not be ignored. Because of the claims that Gregory made, particularly those detailing the relation between secular and ecclesiastical authority, medieval church-state relations had been fundamentally altered and could never again be seen as had been the case prior to 1075.


Two new biographies of Gregory VII recently have appeared and are the starting point for all further study and bibliography: H. E. J. Cowdrey, Pope Gregory VII, 10731085 (Oxford, 1998), and Uta-Renate Blumenthal, Gregor VII. (Darmstadt, 2001). The volumes of the journal Studi Gregoriani, edited by G. B. Borino and others (Rome, 1947), appear at irregular intervals and contain scholarly articles about the Gregorian Age in many languages. Of special significance are the two volumes of papers from an international Congress held at Salerno in 1985, commemorating the 900th anniversary of Gregory's death in that city: vol. 13 (1989), and vol. 14 (1991). The critical edition of Gregory's register is by Erich Caspar, Das Register Gregors VII, "Monumenta Germaniae historica, Epistolae selectae," vol. 2 (Berlin, 19201923). Many sections of the register, following Caspar's edition, have been translated by Ephraim Emerton, The Correspondence of Pope Gregory VII (New York, 1932; reprint 1991). Emerton's introduction, albeit dated, is still useful for discussion of the diplomatic questions raised by the surviving copy of the register in the Vatican Archives, although much has been written on this issue in the past sixty years: see, for example, Hartmut Hoffmann's "Zum Register und zu den Briefen Papst Gregors VII.," Deutsches Archiv 32 (1976): 86130. Emerton's translation has been superseded by a complete English translation of the register by H. E. J. Cowdrey, The Register of Pope Gregory VII, 10731085 (Oxford, 2002). For those letters of Gregory which are not to be found in the register, see the edition and translation by Cowdrey, The Epistolae vagantes of Pope Gregory VII (Oxford, 1972); and for the papal privileges issued by Gregory see Leo Santifaller et al., Quellen und Forschungen zum Urkunden- und Kanzleiwesen Papst Gregors VII., Studi e testi, vol. 190 (Vatican City, 1957).

Robert Somerville (1987 and 2005)

Gregory VII

views updated Jun 08 2018

Gregory VII

Gregory VII (ca. 1020-1085) was pope from 1073 to 1085. One of the greatest medieval popes, later canonized, he was a man of intense conviction and will. He vigorously initiated reforms and asserted the papal claim to primacy of jurisdiction in the Church.

Although Gregory VII did not create the grandiose structure of the medieval papacy, he was certainly one of its chief architects. He became pope at a time when powerful forces were striving to rid the Latin Church of moral corruption and organizational confusion, when the papacy had already begun to assume the role of reforming leadership previously filled by emperors, kings, and lesser churchmen, and when imperial control over the Church in Italy (and, therefore, the papacy) had already weakened. Gregory continued the policies he had previously advocated as a prominent member of the papal court. He intensified papal involvement in the reforming movement and directed that movement along the road that was to lead to the first major clash between pope and Western emperor and ultimately to the papal theocratic claims of the High Middle Ages.

Fully reliable evidence about Gregory VII's origins and early career is scanty. His name was Hildebrand, and he was born in Tuscany, probably in the early 1020s. He spent his early years at Rome, where he received his education and first came into contact with the papal court, then still wracked with corruption. About 1046 he became associated in Lorraine with the most vigorous of the reforming groups of the day. Probably at this time, too, he became a monk, though probably not, as once was assumed, at the great reforming monastery of Cluny.

Early Career

Returning to Rome in 1049 as a follower of the newly elected pope, Leo IX, Hildebrand spent the next 24 years in the service of that pope and his four successors. During this vital period in the history of both the reforming movement and its papal leaders, he was involved in every aspect of the reform and in every phase of the process by which the papacy liberated itself from lay control, German as well as Italian, and sought to establish its rights of jurisdiction over the local churches of Latin Christendom. He was sent on legatine missions in Italy, France, and Germany, and his influence over both the formulation and implementation of papal policy grew steadily, so that by the 1060s he had become preeminent among papal advisers.

Though physically small and weak of voice, Hildebrand possessed a commanding personality, and his contemporaries were impressed by the keenness of his glance, the vigor of his enthusiasm, and the persistence and prophetic ardor with which he denounced what he conceived to be wrongdoing and pursued his lifelong aim of vindicating righteousness in a sinful world.

When Alexander II died in April 1073, Hildebrand was so obvious a choice as successor that, despite the 1059 election decree placing the choice of popes in the hands of the cardinals, he was acclaimed pope by a tumultuous crowd, the cardinals later acceding to the popular choice. His enemies were later to make much of these irregular proceedings; the cardinals, however, acceded willingly at the time, and Hildebrand, taking the name of Gregory VII, was able to embark upon his pontificate without the embarrassment of a contested election.

Character of His Pontificate

Gregory's interests and activities as pope were extremely varied, ranging from the introduction of the Roman liturgical rite into Spain to the promotion of the crusading ideal, soon after his death to be transformed into a reality. In pursuit of the complex diplomatic initiatives which his policies necessitated, he was in contact with most of the rulers of Latin Christendom, to whom, as with William the Conqueror of England, he did not always show the inflexibility that was increasingly to mar his relations with the German emperor-elect, Henry IV.

Three related objectives dominated Gregory's pontificate: Church reform, assertion of his jurisdictional primacy in the Church, and vindication of reform and of his primacy against Henry IV's spirited defense of the religiopolitical status quo.

Gregorian Reform

The dominant concern of the reforming movement had long been with the twin corruptions of simony (the buying and selling of ecclesiastical office) and clerical marriage, which was common despite its prohibition by ancient disciplinary regulations in the Latin Church. Both of these corruptions were symptomatic of the degree to which, during centuries of invasion and turmoil, the spiritual goals of the Church had been subordinated to family, proprietary, and political interests.

Intimately connected with these developments was the gradual extension of lay control, royal or aristocratic, over ecclesiastical appointments, a control symbolized by the ceremony of investiture, by which the lay ruler conferred Church office on the chosen nominee. Only in the latter half of the 11th century did the more radical reformers begin to challenge this principle of lay control. Gregory was not the most radical among these, but unlike the more moderate reformers, he was convinced that the traditional goal of moral reform was unattainable without the elimination or regulation of lay control. To this Gregory added the further conviction that the papal primacy of jurisdiction in the universal church—involving also for him an inexactly defined superiority to all temporal rulers—was no longer to be minimized or gainsaid. These convictions were not the outcome of the pressure of events during Gregory's pontificate: they were deeply held even at the very outset and are reflected in the clauses of the peculiar document known as the Dictatus papae, which was inserted in his register and which included the unprecedented claim "that he [the Pope] may depose emperors."

Investiture Contest

Gregory's attempts to realize his reforming objectives led, by a process which in retrospect seems inevitable, given the dependence of Henry IV's government upon the loyalty and resources of his bishops, to a clash between Pope and Emperor and to the onset of the "Investiture Contest." This conflict, which outlasted both of the initial protagonists, involved the tragedy of civil war and set Germany on the course that was ultimately to lead it to political disintegration. During its long and tortuous course, Gregory excommunicated Henry IV on two occasions, throwing his support finally to a rival claimant, Rudolf; while Henry twice sought Gregory's dismissal and sponsored the election of an antipope, Clement II.

Two dramatic events may be singled out for mention. The first is Gregory's absolution of Henry IV in January 1077. Henry had appeared before the Pope at Canossa as an abject penitent—for Henry, a personal humiliation but a diplomatic victory; for Gregory, a diplomatic disaster but a triumph of priestly conscience. The second is Gregory's death at Salerno on May 25, 1085. Undaunted by what must have seemed a disastrous defeat, he is reputed to have said, "I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile." Since 1606 he has been venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

Further Reading

Ephraim Emerton translated and edited The Correspondence of Pope Gregory VII (1932). The most significant Gregorian studies are in French and Italian. In English see A. J. Macdonald, Hildebrand: A Life of Gregory VII (1932), and J. P. Whitney, Hildebrandine Essays (1932). For a succinct account with an extensive bibliography see Z. N. Brooke in The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 5, edited by J. R. Tanner and others (1929). Studies on the general background include Margaret Deanesly, A History of the Medieval Church, 590-1500 (1925; 8th ed. 1954); Gerd Tellenbach, Church, State and Christian Society at the Time of the Investiture Contest (1940); Brian Tierney, The Crisis of Church and State, 1050-1300 (1964); and Geoffrey Barraclough, The Medieval Papacy (1968). □

Gregory VII

views updated May 29 2018

Gregory vii



A Skilled Administrator.

Gregory VII served the church in Rome for many long and distinguished years before becoming pope in 1073. Consequently, he is more often than other popes referred to by his given name, which was Hildebrand. He was born to a poor family in Tuscany and came to Rome as a boy to be educated at the monastery of St. Mary on the Aventine Hill. Although it has been suggested that he spent his early days as a monk, scholars now think that unlikely. Hildebrand served under seven different popes before his own elevation. He was the chaplain of Pope Gregory VI and even accompanied him in exile to Germany during 1046 and 1047. Upon Gregory VI's death, Hildebrand remained in Germany and worked with reform groups to create a more serious, committed, and spiritual outlook among European clergy. He returned to Rome in 1049 to work under Leo IX as an administrator of papal estates and properties (called the Patrimony of St. Peter). Hildebrand guided other papal successors through their pontificates (such as Nicholas II and Alexander II) and may even have been responsible for helping them get elected. There is little doubt Hildebrand came to influence a crafting of the legislation for the process by which cardinals eventually came to vote on papal successors. In 1059 he was given the title Archdeacon of the Roman church and also held the title of Chancellor of the Apostolic See. His election as pope in 1073 came as no surprise since he had held major administrative posts in Rome for some thirty years prior.

A Major Reformer.

Upon his elevation to the Roman bishopric, Hildebrand began to work more aggressively to reform the morality of the church and clergy by issuing decrees against simony (the buying and selling of clerical offices), clerical participation in sexual activity, and lay investiture (conferring of authority to a church official by a secular prince or landowner). Dictatus Papae, which has been attributed to Gregory, declared Rome's supreme authority in all religious matters. Monarchs reacted to these changing ideas of church authority in varying ways. In England, William the Conqueror saw to it that all of the Gregorian reforms, with the exception of rules against investiture, were rigorously carried out. In France, despite King Phillip I's opposition, the bishops complied. Henry IV of Germany, however, posed a major stumbling block for Gregory's vision, the most important results of which were to raise the moral awareness of the clergy, create a more unified and powerful church governance, and establish an organized administrative system of papal legates. These changes set in place the ideology for the new reforming monastic movements beginning in the late eleventh century, the rebirth of Roman legalism linked to canon law, the condemnation of growing materialism in European society, and even the new theological and scholastic attitudes of the time. Moreover, he created an atmosphere of dialogue that eventually led to some measure of agreement on the vexed question of the existence of the "real presence" in the Eucharist (Christ's actual presence in the elements of bread and wine). It was from the seeds of that resolution that the twelfth-century doctrinal view of transubstantiation would emerge. Although his effort to unite Eastern and Western Christianity were unsuccessful, only two other bishops of Rome, Gregory I (r. 590–604) and Innocent III (r. 1198–1216), could be said to have had as great an impact on the future of medieval Western Christianity.


H. E. J. Cowdrey, Gregory VII (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1998).

I. S. Robinson, Henry IV of Germany (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

—, The Papacy 1073–1198 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Brian Tierney, Gregory VII: Church Reformer or World Monarch? (New York: Random House, 1967).

Gregory VII, Pope (ca. 1023-1085)

views updated May 17 2018

Gregory VII, Pope (ca. 1023-1085)

A pope of the eleventh century against whom a charge of necromancy was brought. Gregory was chiefly noted for his bitter and prolonged struggle with Henry IV, emperor of Germany. A quarrel arose between them regarding a gift by Henry of ecclesiastical dignities. Henry was summoned before Gregory to account for the gifts. He refused to appear, was excommunicated, and, in return, had the pope kidnapped by brigands.

Gregory, however, was rescued by the people of Rome and on his release commanded the Germans to elect a new emperor, Rudolph, duke of Swabia. Henry, attended by a very small retinue, went to Canossa, where Gregory resided, to arrange for terms of peace. He was treated with such severity and neglect that he lost his desire to come to terms with the pope, and on his return he elected an antipope, Clement III. In the struggle that ensued, Henry defeated Rudolph in battle and Gregory was sentenced as a sorcerer. He died in exile at Salerno.

Gregory's fame rests not in magic but chiefly on a prophecy he made publicly that Rudolph would be victorious "before St. Peter's day," a statement on which he staked his papal crown. The unfortunate Rudolph, entirely trusting Gregory's prediction, renewed the battle six times and finally died without having obtained the promised victory.

Other stories credit Gregory with the power of making lightning with a motion of his hand and causing thunder to dart from his sleeve. It was related by Benno that on one occasion he left his magic book behind him at his villa. Entrusting two of his servants with the task of returning for it, he warned them not to look into it on pain of the most awful punishment. Curiosity overcame the fears of one of them, and, opening the book, he pronounced some words. Immediately a band of imps appeared and asked what they commanded. The terrified servants begged the demons to cast down as much of the city wall as lay in their way; thus they escaped punishment for their disobedience. Notwithstanding such folklore, there is no real evidence that Gregory practiced sorcery.


views updated May 29 2018

Hildebrand (Christian pope): see GREGORY VII.