Church, History of, II (Medieval)
CHURCH, HISTORY OF, II (MEDIEVAL)
The history of the Western Church in the Middle Ages falls, as does the general history of Europe, into two main phases. In the first (600–1050), Catholic Christianity, hitherto a community within or coextensive with the Roman Empire, converted the new races that had overrun the ancient civilization. It was itself, however, hampered and pinioned by the imperfectly developed social and economic conditions of pagan and feudal Europe and remained only partially organized. In the second phase (1050–1500), the Church in all its organs and activities shared in the adolescence and maturity of medieval civilization; for almost five centuries Europe was a single cultural unit under a uniform religious organization that was dominated by the papacy. Each of these two phases can be subdivided almost equally. In the first period, from the death of Gregory the Great (604) to the coronation of Charlemagne (800), the papacy slipped its allegiance to the Eastern emperor, only to fall under the shadow of the Frankish monarchy; and the initiative in missionary, devotional, and even theological matters passed to the newly converted peoples of the northwest of Europe. In the second period, from 800 to c. 1050, the Church was absorbed into feudal society and the papacy was powerless, first in the hands of the Roman faction and then under the control of the German monarchy. In the third, from the accession of Leo IX (1049) to the death of Boniface VIII (1303), the papacy asserted and developed its claim to supremacy in spiritual matters and endeavored, for a time with success, to regulate the politics of Europe as well. Concurrently, the flowering of medieval civilization presented a religious and Catholic culture in all its aspects, intellectual, artistic, and social. In the fourth period, from 1303 to the height of the Italian Renaissance, a series of catastrophes befell Europe and the papacy; a new spirit of nationalism divided the peoples; and a moral decline afflicted many of the institutions of the Church.
First Period: 603 to 800. gregory the great stood on the threshold of the medieval centuries, looking back to the days when Church and Empire were coincident and looking forward to the time when the papacy would dominate the Western world. He was also the last pope for many centuries to impose his will and set his mark on western Europe outside Italy. He was followed by a long succession of short-lived, generally meritorious but mediocre popes who were hard pressed to maintain their ground in an Italy abandoned by imperial forces and a prey to the Lombard invaders. At the same time, they were called upon to defend the orthodox faith endangered both by old and new heresies and by that violence of Eastern emperors that culminated in the capture and subsequent death of Pope martin i. Gregory I, lacking imperial protection, had already taken over the civil and military administration of Rome, and during the next 50 years the pope came to control the various territories between Ravenna and Terracina, enfolding the nucleus of
the patrimony of St. Peter, that came to be known as the states of the church and remained in being until 1870. The popes thus became, by accident and of necessity, temporal sovereigns of a small and vulnerable slice of territory with no natural frontiers. For more than 1,000 years this helped to give them status, independence, and financial support, though proving at the same time to be a source of political entanglement and temptation that distracted them from their essential purpose.
Meanwhile a series of theological issues in the Eastern Church, such as monothelitism and the controversy over iconoclasm, joined with personal antagonisms in separating the Eastern and Western Churches, especially after the rise of Muḥammad and the Islamic invasions. These, by reducing the Eastern Empire and by virtually eliminating the ancient patriarchates, united the emperor and the patriarch of Constantinople, often his creature, in hostility toward the claims of Rome. When at last (754) Pope stephen ii, hard pressed by the lombards, appealed for help to the powerful King of the Franks, pepin iii, a contact was made that led to a close alliance with the Frankish monarchy and the eventual coronation (800) of charlemagne as emperor and protector of the papacy.
Missionary Activity. During this same time, Christianity extended its frontiers. The mission of augustine of canterbury to England spread slowly in Kent, Essex, and the Thames Valley, while the conversion of Northumberland and Mercia was due to aidan from Celtic iona and to cuthbert of lindisfarne from beyond the Cheviots. The fusion of England's churches under Roman obedience at whitby, followed by the mission of Archbishop theodore of canterbury and the reorganization of the Church in England, ushered in the golden age of Northumbria and Wessex (see england, the catholic church in). During the same period, columban and his disciples and converts founded monasteries and preached the faith in eastern France and what is now Switzerland. More influential were the Anglo-Saxon missionaries of the early 8th century, willibrord, the apostle of Frisia (The Netherlands), and Wynfrith or St. boniface, the apostle of Germany, who, besides his labors and successes in Hesse, Württemberg, and Bavaria, where he reorganized the existing Christians, did much to rejuvenate the flagging Frankish Church. Willibrord, Boniface, and Boniface's relative willibald all visited Rome and worked under the direct instruction of popes. In consequence, the German and Frisian Churches and their derivatives stood, like the Anglo-Saxon Church, in direct relationship with Rome, a circumstance that was to be of greatest significance in the later history of the papacy. In time, missionaries from England and from Germany also went to the Scandinavian countries, which were not wholly Christianized until the 11th century. To the northeast of Italy the Slavs of Moravia were converted in the late 9th century by the Byzantine brothers Constantine (cyril) and Methodius, working under papal patronage, though part of the territory evangelized by them later joined the orthodox church. It was not until the 10th century that missionaries, preceding and accompanying the German pressure eastward, converted the Magyars and Poles, and not until the 12th and early 13th centuries that Poles and Germans together colonized and converted the tribes on the eastern shores of the Baltic.
Invasions. But there were losses to set against these gains. The armies of Islam, besides submerging the ancient Eastern churches and beating on the gates of Constantinople, overran the scattered Christian churches of North Africa and then conquered Visigothic Spain, one of the most cultured communities of Christendom, in less than three years (711–713). Washing past the Pyrenees at either end, they were only halted (732) near Poitiers, 12 years after their armies in the East had been thrown back from the walls of Constantinople. Later, the Hungarians or Magyars swept across central Europe as far as the Elbe and Burgundy, while in the north the Scandinavian raids on Britain, Ireland, and the coasts of Frisia and France, beginning shortly before 800, continued for more than a century. During part of this age, European Christendom was confined to what was little more than a wide corridor extending from Italy to the British Isles.
Second Period: 800 to 1050. A period of reconstruction began under the Frankish monarchs, culminating in the long reign of Charlemagne (768–814), who ultimately united almost all Continental Christians under his empire. Protector of the pope and, as such, crowned emperor by the pope, Charlemagne continued and developed the regime of his predecessors as divinely ordained governor and administrator of the Church of God. He appointed
bishops, settled liturgical affairs, and even pronounced upon theological issues, with the aid of a group of able clerics, among whom the Anglo-Saxon alcuin was preeminent. adoptionism, the question of iconoclasm and the filioque controversy were all dealt with at aachen, though the papacy was recognized as the ultimate source of authority and orthodoxy. When Charlemagne died, his son, Louis I the Pious at first continued and even extended his control of the Church, but the division of the empire and Louis's own faults and misfortunes allowed the bishops of the court, the heirs of the carolingian reform, to assert their powers. For a generation they controlled the Continental Church north of the Alps, the scene being dominated by Archbishop hincmar of reims (845–888). It was the age of the false de cretals, the predestinarian and Eucharistic controversies, of paschasius radbertus, rabanus maurus and ratramnus, and also of gottschalk of orbais and john scotus erigena. A long series of complaisant and mediocre popes was broken by nicholas i (858–867), the greatest pope between Gregory I and LeoIX. Nicholas, in his reestablishment of authority over the Frankish hierarchy, including Hincmar, in his steadfast refusal to countenance the divorce of Lothair II and in his treatment of the first phase of the affaire photius, asserted in exemplary fashion and maintained in practice the plenary supremacy of the Roman See. If Nicholas's firmness seems at times to have become intransigence, this is attributable to his secretary, the enigmatic anastasius the librarian. His successor, adrian ii, maintained his position, but the collapse of the Carolingian Empire in 885 and the eclipse of the papacy heralded an epoch of political anarchy and weakness, in which the papal office reached a degree of degradation without parallel in the history of the Church.
Monastic Centuries. The five centuries after 600 have been called monastic, in the sense that the higher intellectual, spiritual, missionary, and administrative life of the Church was largely in the hands of monks, who were by and large the only teachers and writers of the age. In the 7th century, Irish monachism was still active, both in the Celtic homelands and in Continental foundations such as Columban's luxeuil and bobbio; but the future lay with the traditional Mediterranean type of community, which gradually accepted the benedictine rule to the exclusion of all others. The monasteries became large landowning establishments, particularly in the German lands, where they were often centers of colonization and missionary activity, as well as seats of bishoprics. Charlemagne and Louis the Pious attempted to impose uniformity of discipline and strict observance of the rule on all monks of the Empire under benedict of aniane. But the organization was wanting, and the union dissolved; henceforth, however, all monks of France and Germany took St. Benedict as patron. The prevailing decadence that ensued was broken by the cluniac reform (909), which gradually built up a vast and uniform congregation, strictly dependent on the abbot of Cluny.
Feudalization of the Church. The disappearance of the Carolingian Empire implied the final separation of France and Germany. In France decomposition into numerous feudal fiefs was rapid, and for two centuries the monarchy was in eclipse. In Germany the five (later six) great duchies came into being, one of the dukes being king of all. In 962 otto i the Saxon, known as Otto the Great, demanded and received the imperial crown from the pope, who alone had the right to bestow it. For nearly a century the papacy, when not a pawn of Roman intrigue, was treated as a religious appanage of the monarchs of Germany. As emperors or kings, these rulers regarded the papacy as their supreme ecclesiastical benefice. This attitude reflected the practice of more than two centuries throughout Europe, the regime of the proprietary church. During this period the old concept of the individual church as a corporation, with property and rights, and of the bishop as supporting and disposing of his clergy, had disappeared. The church was now a chattel, the parochial cure a benefice, and both were in the control of the lord, who appropriated much of the income and bestowed the office of priest, with its residual emoluments, on a clerk of his choice. Bishoprics and abbeys could be treated in the same way, while on the other hand bishops and even the papacy could own churches within or without the diocese of their title. Under such a regime the concept of a spiritual office was low. A church or a bishopric could be bought; a priest, tied by quasi-feudal obligations, might share the common rights of society, marry, or at least share domestic life with a consort and children and pass on his benefice to a son. Thus any program of reform demanded a chaste clergy and the canonical election of bishops without any payment for office.
Third Period: 1050 to 1303. The wind of reform began to blow in north Italy and in the monastic world. St. romuald and St. john gualbert, both Cluniac monks, founded strict new orders, the camaldolese and vallombrosans. peter damian, a disciple of Romuald, was the fiercest preacher of reform. In France william of saint-bÉnigne, a Cluniac, reformed houses in Burgundy, north Italy, and Normandy; and there were other centers in Flanders and Lorraine. Men from all these centers, particularly Lorraine, worked for a reform of the papacy, using the ancient Canon Law (including the False Decretals and other unauthentic pieces) to exalt the office. leo ix, a Lorrainer, appointed by Emperor Henry III in 1048, was the first pope of the new age. He traversed Germany and France, holding synods and deposing simoniacs, the first pope for two centuries to seize the reins firmly and to display papal authority in action throughout Europe. He was less well advised in his choice of the extremist Cardinal humbert of silva candida for the mission of 1054 to Constantinople, which led to the disastrous breach of relations that displayed, though it did not cause, the total lack of understanding between East and West. Leo's successors continued to press reform, and in 1059 a conciliar decree assigned the right of papal election to the cardinals (see papal election decree). This circumvented royal control, but the crucial moment came in 1073 with the election of the archdeacon Hildebrand as gregory vii. The new pope developed his control of the Church, sending legates, deciding episcopal elections, and holding synods, moving firmly against clerical unchastity and simony. He did more. From an intensive study of Canon Law, he extracted a program of papal supremacy that included papal unaccountability and the right to excommunicate and depose a king or emperor. This right he asserted in 1075 when Emperor henry iv was excommunicated and deposed for appointing a rival archbishop at Milan. Faced with rebellion and a rival, Henry appeared as a penitent at Canossa and was absolved by the pope, who allowed spiritual duty to outweigh political wisdom. Henry vanquished his rival, whom the pope supported, and was again excommunicated and deposed (1080). He created an antipope, however, and Gregory was driven into exile, dying at Salerno in 1085. The great issue between priesthood and kingship had been joined.
Gregory VII was one of the greatest of the popes. Basing himself soundly on traditional and papal action in the past, he drove principles to their extreme conclusions and acted fearlessly and drastically when justice seemed to him to demand it. He created the centralized, politically minded papacy of the later Middle Ages; indeed, the scope of papal action in the modern world derives from his exposition of traditional doctrine. Whether in both act and word he carried firmness into harshness and spiritual truth into political design will always be debated, but the papacy could not now retreat; his ideas and ideals (see gregorian reform) inspired popes and bishops in the century that followed. Pope paschal ii extended Gregorian practice; urban ii seized the moral leadership of Europe by preaching the first crusade; and gelasius ii, after a period of confusion, settled the investiture struggle by the concordat of worms (1122). Meanwhile, the reconquest of Spain, marked by the capture of Toledo (1085), added to Christendom a nation born of a crusade and reorganized by the papacy, a land that was soon to be a focus of new learning and thought.
The 12th Century. The 12th century saw the progress of Gregorian ideas throughout Europe. Canonical elections, clerical celibacy, legatine visitations and councils, appeals to Rome, papal protection of exempt religious houses, and assertions of the freedom of the Church were universal. The extraordinary development of intellectual activity and organizational ability throughout Europe and the emergence of numerous new and centralized religious orders accelerated the study and circulation of canon law and perfected the ecclesiastical machinery of justice and administration at papal and diocesan level. It was then that the Cathedral Chapter, the bishop's curia, the archdeaconry, and the rest were set up all over Europe. At the same time there was an unparalleled expansion of the canonical and monastic life. Large and small communities of the regular "black canons," or canons regular of st. augustine, appeared. Later the more monastic "white canons," or premonstratensians of St. norbert, covered northern and central Europe. The traditional Benedictine "black monks" and Cluniacs continued to increase, especially at the periphery of Christendom, while the new "white "cistercians, with their institute of lay brothers, enjoyed a vogue of spectactular proportions. The building of cathedrals, monasteries, and parish churches was equally remarkable. Beginning in France early in the 11th century, a new style of Romanesque architecture and sculpture was developed and spread to Spain, north Italy, south Germany, and later, in its distinctive Norman form, to England after the Conquest. Earlier buildings were torn down to make way for larger ones, and half way through the 12th century the common use of stone vaulting and the pointed arch led to the new Gothic style that, as the techniques of design and construction improved, created masterpieces such as the cathedrals of Chartres, Amiens, and Reims; of Canterbury, Durham, and Lincoln; of Bamberg; and of Seville. These have never been surpassed in majesty of appearance or beauty of appointments. manuscript illumination, the art par excellence of the cloister, reached a new height of achievement. This material and artistic expansion was matched by literary and devotional development. The output of sermons, treatises, commentaries, chronicles, biographies, and letters rose steeply, as may be seen by a glance at such collections as Migne's Patrology. Furthermore, quality matched quantity. Such writers as anselm of canterbury, Peter abelard, bernard of clairvaux, john of salisbury, william of malmesbury, otto of freising, adam of saint-victor, and a hundred others put medieval latin literature high among the achievements of European civilization. Though the "monastic centuries" ended c. 1150, it was the age that in great part "monachized" the sentiment and devotion of Western Christendom; i.e., monastic practices and ideals, such as liturgical elaborations, particular festivals, special psalmody, communal life, and vowed poverty, came to be applied to the secular clergy and even to devout lay folk, with the institution of lay brethren, oblates, and confraters. And the founding of a religious house became a good work beyond all others for a landowner.
These activities were accomplished by a society that, for its numbers, gave birth to an unexampled number of saints and edifying prelates. Popes such as Leo IX, Gregory VII, and Eugene III; bishops such as lanfranc, Anselm of Canterbury, ivo of chartres, and Norbert at Magdeburg; monks and canons such as stephen harding, Bernard of Clairvaux, aelred of rievaulx, and gilbert of sempringham; and women such as margaret, queen of scotland—all are names taken almost at random as representative of a great multitude. Especially outstanding among them was Bernard, who for 30 years was the spiritual director and ombudsman of the Church and the Doctor of his age; he was at once the last of the Fathers and the source of many elements in the devotional life of succeeding ages. No one in private place has ever held such a position of influence and esteem in the history of the Church.
The 12th century ended on a less buoyant note. The renaissance of letters was fading, the new religious orders had lost their first fervor, there were fewer men of genius and sanctity. There were internal clashes of authority and the beginnings of heresy in Italy and France. The cathedral schools were losing ground to the nascent universities, but scholasticism had not yet unfolded its wings. The growing towns in Lombardy, Flanders, and south Germany were restless and uncared for. The papacy, at odds for years with frederick barbarossa and his claims to Sicily, had become entangled in anti-imperial diplomacy.
Innocent III. Then at last, after a run of elderly, short-lived popes, the cardinals in 1198 chose the young Roman canonist who took the name of Pope innocent iii. With extraordinary energy and breadth of view the new pope picked up the threads of government and resolved to devote his pontificate to the Crusade, to the defeat of heresy, and to reform. To the control and reform of the Church as understood by Gregory VII, Innocent added the supervision of Christendom and the claim to act and to rectify in the political sphere when justice or the good of nations demanded. In other words, the power and prestige of the papacy were in intention directed toward the purification of the Church and the well-being of the commonwealth. Innocent's unremitting work, seen in his correspondence and his decretals, was crowned by the Fourth lateran council, the first Western council to rival the ancient gatherings in catholicity and scope. Touching every aspect and degree of Church life, it is notable above all as the first council to legislate for the general body of the faithful in its prescription of paschal Communion and annual parochial confession.
Nevertheless, Innocent had to deal with several difficult matters in which his success was incomplete: the growth of heresy, the Crusade, and German and English affairs. The heretical Cathari in Languedoc and Toulouse demanded attention; and after the attempts of preachers had failed, the pope launched a Crusade of northern French barons, who massacred and ravaged, replacing the papal project of peaceful settlement by military conquest. Innocent's Eastern Crusade ended in the deplorable sack of Constantinople and the establishment of a latin empire, which Innocent, in this too much a man of his age, rejoiced to see. In England, his stern action against the wayward and violent King John was hastily replaced by his support of the externally penitent king. In Germany, after more than one change of front, he supported the young King Frederick II, a child of sorrow for the papacy. In all these fields the pope suffered a great disadvantage in conducting shifting politics at weeks' or months' distance from the scene of action, but in each, also, he misjudged the human agents concerned. Against these failures of policy, it is only fair to set his merit in having recognized the sanctity and value of francis of assisi and St. dominic. His pontificate was the summit of the medieval papacy, and all too short.
Mendicant Orders. The foundation of the two first orders of friars did more than any political or conciliar action to rejuvenate the Church. Francis of Assisi, one of the most original and arresting personalities in European history, the harbinger of a new age with his emotional and aesthetic delicacy and his capacity for self-surrender, probably never wished to found the order that so exactly met the needs and aspirations of his day. Dominic, with a clear and more conventional aim and a genius for organization, supplied the framework later adopted by all the friars. It has been said, with some inaccuracy, that Francis made the Preachers friars while Dominic made the Minors an order. Both groups had a phenomenal success and inspired many imitators, of whom the carmelites, au gustinians, and later the servites were the only bodies of European importance. As centralized, supranational institutes, at once favored and exploited by the papacy, they were a source of spiritual and missionary strength for the Church of the 13th century, to which each order gave a pope, a Doctor, and many notable bishops. Above all, the laity of the cities and towns profited by their preaching and direction and, later, by the consequences of their theological wisdom.
The 13th Century. The century following Innocent III and the Fourth Lateran Council was the high summer of the medieval Church. Universal centralization, given depth by the legislation of the council and the teaching of the new universities and administered by a hierarchy more competent and in general more zealous than at any previous epoch, brought about a new growth of religion at the parish level as well as in the cathedral towns and schools. Dioceses were now fully organized and parishes cared for, while in the material sphere churches were built and rebuilt on a scale and with a magnificence never to be surpassed. At the center, Innocent III was followed in the papacy by a series of able, mature lawyers who carried on and developed his program; but they were men of lesser genius and narrower vision, and it seemed to contemporaries that they monopolized power and exploited the Church. The appointment of bishops—removed from monarchs and restored to canonical electors by the Gregorians—was now claimed by the papacy in an increasing number of situations and finally in all cases by Urban V (1363). Election became a costly business for the bishop-elect. Similarly, provision to benefices, great or small, throughout the Church, was increasingly claimed by or restricted to the pope: in 1265 Clement IV had asserted the principle that was gradually put into practice more and more. Papal provision, like papal appointment of bishops, brought cash as well as patronage to the Roman Curia, while bishops lost many of their assets as patrons and churches suffered from foreign or absentee incumbents. Above all, papal taxation, begun indirectly toward the end of the 12th century, increased rapidly and actual direct taxation began in 1199. Before the middle of the 13th century, first fruits on bishoprics (i.e., one year's revenue) and tenths on all clergy were regularly levied, in addition to the fees payable by exempt houses for particular favors and for costs in litigation. Under innocent iv this exploitation was accompanied by a rigorous use of all means of control and every source of revenue, such as legatine visitations and the visits of bishops (ad limina) to Rome. The pontificate of Innocent IV has been taken as the moment when the papacy first seemed to fleece rather than to feed its flock.
In the realm of politics, Innocent IV used weapons of excommunication and interdict ruthlessly and methodically against frederick ii, and the pope was obeyed by most of the German bishops. The excommunication and deposition of the emperor in 1245, followed by his death in 1250, are usually taken to mark the end of the long struggle and the victory of the papacy over the empire, and they were also the principal business of the First Council of lyons in 1245.
The same epoch—the 13th century—saw the University of paris reach the height of its fame with a series of eminent doctors: william of auvergne, alexander of hales, bonaventure, albert the great, thomas aquinas, robert kilwardby, john peckham, and the enigmatic master of arts siger of brabant. Their careers coincided with the final translation, reception, and criticism of the whole Aristotelian corpus by the theologians and with the appearance, under Siger, of heterodox integral Aristotelian teaching that provoked the Paris condemnations of 1270 and 1277. These marked the end or at least the suspension of the endeavor to make Aristotle the exclusive master of thought, though not before Aquinas had rethought the philosopher and produced a system of Christian philosophical and theological doctrine, and an answer to the old problem of clarifying the relationship of reason to revelation, of nature to grace.
The end of the 13th century was a period of harshness and embitterment. The campaign against heresy was now conducted by the inquisition, equipped with extraordinary powers and with the operating machinery of secret delation and examination assisted by torture, in which the accused was consistently at a legal disadvantage. The rivalry between the Preachers and the Minors (not yet called dominicans and franciscans), exacerbated by the condemnation of 1277, molded theological teaching into schools coincident with the various orders of friars. Within the Minors the tension between those who claimed to follow the rule and those who accepted the many papal interpretations and relaxations— alleviated for a time by the moderation and spiritual wisdom of St. Bonaventure—was now becoming a schism between franciscan spirituals and Franciscan Conventuals, while the wider tension between clerics and secular powers was moving from Germany to England and France, where strong monarchs and a mounting spirit of nationalism were resisting papal claims to tax and to provide. In the Roman Curia the small number of cardinals gave national and family feuds an undesirable influence, and several papal elections became long and bitter contests. An attempt to escape from these resulted in the strange election of an inexperienced hermit as Pope celestine v, and the confusion caused by his incompetence and resignation led to the election of Benedetto Gaetani as boniface viii (1294–1303). With Boniface papal claims to supremacy in the political sphere rose to their highest point. Thwarted in his attempt to prevent the taxation of clergy by kings, he became involved in an exchange of threats with philip iv (the Fair) of France. The pope claimed the right to supervise and condemn royal policies and acts, and if need be to excommunicate and depose. The king and his ministers retorted with charges of simony, immorality, and heresy, and threatened Boniface with a general council. The pope's bull unam sanctam, a masterly exposition of extreme papal claims, was followed by his temporary capture by Nogaret at Anagni and his death a few months later.
Fourth Period: 1303 to 1500. Boniface's successor died after a brief pontificate, and the French archbishop of Bordeaux succeeded him as Pope clement v. Dominated by the French king, who demanded a posthumous trial of Boniface VIII, Clement temporized but yielded to Philip in suppressing the templars, whose wealth the king coveted and whose conviction was secured by calumny and barbarous torture. By his creation of numerous French cardinals, Clement also ensured a series of French popes and settled the papal court at Avignon in 1308, thus occasioning the avignon papacy. His successor, the septuagenarian john xxii (1316–34), was the most remarkable pope of the century. A financial and administrative genius, he reorganized papal finances, greatly increasing the yield from direct taxation; he reformed the papal Curia and reshaped the diocesan pattern in France. Quarrelsome and obstinate, he forced the Emperor louis iv the Bavarian into hostility, thereby depriving the papacy of its Italian revenue and creating an asylum for those who were enemies of the pope on other counts. These enemies included the bitter secularist marsilius of padua; the creator of nominalism, william of ockham; and the rebellious minister general of the Franciscans, michael of cesena, who refused to accept the pope's condemnation of the teaching that Christ on earth owned no property. This opinion, passionately held by the Franciscan Spirituals and many other Franciscans, led them to accuse the pope of heresy, a charge that was redoubled when John XXII gratuitously aired his opinion that souls, however pure, failed to enjoy the fullness of the beatific vision immediately after death. This aberration was condemned by John's successor, benedict xii, a Cistercian, memorable for his reforming constitutions for monks and canons. The residence at Avignon did not end until gregory xi returned to Rome in 1377.
The "Babylonian Captivity" at Avignon has been the object of bitter invective from the days of the contemporary Petrarch to our own. But during the past few decades, opinion has changed. The worst charges of vicious living and subservience to the French monarchy cannot be maintained. The Avignon popes were on the whole respectable and personally devout and not without a care for the wider needs of the Church. Apart from the complaisance of Clement V, few of their failings can be directly attributed to their place of residence. On the other hand, there is no doubt that during the decades at Avignon the luxury and venality of the Curia became a scandal and that the financial exactions and centralization of administration became excessive. The sense that the papacy exploited the Church grew, with the added bitterness that the exploitation was for financial, not for high political, ends, while the French monopoly of places and power and the neglect of Roman interests, spiritual and temporal, undoubtedly angered contemporaries.
There were other aggravating circumstances in this period of discontent. The catastrophic plagues of 1348–49 and the previous outbreak of the Hundred Years' War between England and France demoralized western Europe and accelerated its division into mutually hostile nations. At the same time, the intellectually disturbing effects of Nominalism and the ruthless attacks on the papacy and ecclesiastical government by Marsilius and Ockham provided a background of theory for political actions such as the English antipapal statutes of provisors and praemunire (1351, 1353).
Western Schism and Basel. The return of the papacy to Rome was followed within a few months by an unforeseeable disaster even more damaging to religion. This was the election in 1378 of two popes in succession by the same small body of factious cardinals; the western schism had begun. Though Roman tradition and modern scholarship agree on the probable validity of the first election (of Pope urban vi), contemporaries had no means of arriving at certainty; within a few weeks each party was furnished with cardinals, a curia, and a palace (at Rome and at Avignon), and Europe split into two camps. France, the Iberian Peninsula, and Scotland were in one; the Empire, Hungary, the Netherlands, and England, in the other; Italy was divided. All attempts at a solution by means of resignation or conference failed; both papal lines were perpetuated, and an agreement by the cardinals of both parties to call a council at pisa in 1409 resulted in the election of a third and certainly illegitimate pope, or antipope, john xxiii. Meanwhile, the opinion that only a general council could provide a solution for such a crisis was strengthened by arguments then gaining strength in academic circles at Paris, that such a council was a sovereign power superior to the pope (see conciliarism). The vicious circle was at last broken by the Emperor sigismund, who persuaded John XXIII to convoke a council at constance (1414), which in course of time deposed him, accepted the resignation of the Roman pope, and declared the Avignon claimant deposed. Then a Colonna cardinal was elected (1417) pope as martin v. Previously, the council had condemned and burned John Hus and passed the decree Frequens, which stated that a council should meet after five years, with decennial councils in perpetuity. Martin V successfully restored and improved the papal financial and administrative machinery and with equal success resisted reform of the papal Curia and its abuses. He yielded to opinion, however, by convoking another council, which he did not live to see. This Council, at basel, largely composed of academicians maintaining conciliar supremacy, successfully resolved the quarrel between Catholics and hussites in Bohemia, and passed several thoroughgoing decrees against papal reservation of benefices and Curial avarice. Pope eugene iv, a patient conservative, awaited his hour; and when the Eastern Emperor approached both him and the council, asking for assistance and promising reunion, the pope overbid the council by transferring its sessions to Ferrara to meet Greek convenience. He was successful in achieving an artificial union with the Greeks at the succeeding Council of florence (1438–39), thereby securing the general esteem that the Council failed to diminish even after "deposing" him and electing an antipope. The gathering at Basel expired in 1449 and with it the "conciliar era," though threats of a council continued to alarm popes until the ghost was laid at Trent. It was symptomatic of the return to traditional forms of Church government that two eminent men, conciliarists in their early career, should become staunch papalists. nicholas of cusa, who in his thought turned back to Neoplatonism, was one; the other, Cardinal Juan de torquemada, was a harbinger of the Thomist revival of the following century. Meanwhile, Eugene IV had skillfully made terms with the various governments and, by making some concessions, had retained far more power for the papacy than the nations at Basel had desired, with the single exception of France. There, the epoch had given birth to gallicanism, which transferred all powers of appointment and taxation from pope to king, while admitting the spiritual supremacy of Rome. This arrangement, reasserted in the pragmatic sanction of Bourges (1439), was constantly attacked by the papacy but remained the Magna Carta of Gallicanism for more than three centuries.
By mid-15th century conciliarism was dead, and the papacy had ostensibly recovered its status. The 40 years of unparalleled doubt and division had, however, done immense harm in lowering the spiritual prestige of the papal office and in calling into question its usefulness, its necessity, and its rights. Following hard upon the residence at Avignon, they did more than anything to prepare the ground for the great revolution of the 16th century.
Wyclif and Hus. Meanwhile, heresy had appeared again in a form that was to have only partial success in its early version but was to be absorbed later into the program of mature Protestantism. John wyclif, a leading realist philosopher at Oxford, turned to theology and found the Church in the invisible society of the predestined. He denied the transubstantiation of the Eucharistic elements; questioned the powers of pope, bishop, and priest; and took the Bible as the only rule of faith, preaching poverty and a married ministry. Censured and silenced by Archbishop William courtenay, he died in communion with the Church; and his disciples, called lollards, were driven underground by persecution. By a strange turn of events, his teaching was carried to Bohemia, where it served as the basis and confirmation of the message of John hus, a popular preacher and national leader. Hus and his disciple jerome of prague were condemned and burned at Constance. Their followers, who combined a puritan zeal with nationalist enthusiasm in a country that had recently risen to a notable place in European culture, rose in armed defense of their cause, of which reception of the Eucharist under both species was a shibboleth, giving them their name (utraquists). They successfully resisted a crusade of the Emperor Sigismund, and the Council of Basel was constrained to make a compromise in the Compacts of Prague, which in fact granted little save the optional use of the chalice. Such as it was, the arrangement gave the Hussites an uneasy place within the Catholic Church for almost a century. Though only partially successful and compounded of many elements, not all of them religious, the Hussite movement marked a point of no return. It was the first attempt of a professedly Christian body to break away from Rome in the later Middle Ages; and though it is difficult to establish direct contact between the Wyclif-Hus evangel and the first writings of Martin luther, the identity of ideas between it and the fully developed program of the great Reformer is unmistakable.
Devotio Moderna. The period from 1300 to 1500 was not wholly one of discord and disaster. There were many notable instances of sanctity, with reformers such as bernardine of siena and antoninus of Florence and women such as catherine of siena, bridget and catherine of sweden, and frances of rome. Above all, it was an age of mystical experience and writing. The Dominican school of the Rhineland, originating with Meister eckhart and developed by tauler and henry suso, lay behind the teaching of the great Flemish mystic, ruysbroeck, and in its main lines, wholly traditional in essence, though colored by Neoplatonic language, was to pass to Spain and become classical. The practical aspects of dominican spirituality served as food for countless families of devout women in Rhenish and Flemish convents. In England, joined to the traditional Bernardine-Victorine teaching, it appeared in the works of the unknown master of the cloud of unknowing and Walter hilton, while Richard rolle and the exquisite julian of norwich stood apart as preachers of their own experience. How deeply religious faith still saturated all kinds of men may be seen in dante and Petrarch in Italy, and in England in Chaucer and his contemporaries William Langland and the poet of The Pearl.
Still more extensive was the movement of the contemporary brethren of the common life, who owed their way of life to the inspiration of Gerard groote (1340–89) and whose spirit has been preserved for all subsequent generations by thomas À kempis in his imitation of christ. The Brethren gave to generations of their countrymen a solid religious education, pure morals, and a simple devotion that anticipated the puritan sentiment of a later age; an orthodox faith with a minimum of speculation and liturgical display.
Renaissance. When the Council of Basel expired (1449), the papacy had entered a new phase; the brilliant and artistic activity of Italy was inspiring secular attitudes, and in Europe as a whole an age of authority and absolutism was about to begin. The Roman Curia and in particular the College of Cardinals, in which members of the leading families of Italy were dominant, shared to the full in the luxury and refinement of the age, while the popes entered into the shifting power politics of the day. In the past many popes had been diplomats and some had been warriors, but never before had the papacy stood in the forefront of European diplomacy in the guise of a secular power, the military ally or enemy of other states, a participant in the struggle for supremacy and territorial gain. In an age of individualism and virtù, a succession of pontiffs stood out as intensely human, egoistic sovereigns, who used their near relatives as faithful agents, and bought or rewarded their services with ecclesiastical as well as secular honors. The age from 1447 to 1550 was one of papal nepotism and patronage of the arts. Pope nicholas v was the first to harness the Italian renaissance to the papal chariot; henceforward for more than a century, Rome, which itself was poor in artistic talent, was the mecca of architects, sculptors, and painters, whose works remain for the world to visit in st. peter's basilica, the sistine chapel, and the galleries of the Vatican palace. The converted conciliarist and brilliant, if slightly raffish, literary genius Aeneas Sylvius (Pope pius ii, 1458–64) was the quintessence of his age; he was also the last of the medieval popes in his valiant but unavailing attempt to rouse a crusade. His sucessors devoted their attention to war and alliances in Italy. sixtus iv, a Franciscan, lived (it was said) on war and advanced his disreputable nephews, clerical and lay, to further his policy; he also planned the decoration of the chapel that bears his name. Under his rule the papal court rivaled the splendors of Florence. Under innocent viii, alexander vi, and julius ii the papacy, outwardly magnificent and skillfully steered in the Italian maelstrom, countenanced around it a degree of wordly display and spiritual emptiness that contemporaries at once admired and deplored. For more than a century the cry for reform in head and members of the Church had been heard—and not least frequently in Italy itself, where the tragic career of savonarola had revealed so many of the religious, social, and political ills of the time.
Yet there were still many examples of sanctity in the century of joan of arc, francis of paola, and catherine of genoa. In France and in England, at the end of the century, lefÈvre d'Étaples and John colet were inaugurating the study of Pauline teaching and the human life of Christ that was to seem to many a new and truer basis of religion than a piety of indulgences and monastic observance. The critical scholarship that was beginning to reveal the Gospels and the early Church in a new light, the discoveries that had opened a new half-world, the diffusion of thought that printing was beginning to make possible—all this and much else, was heralding a new age; but in 1500 no one could have foreseen what shape reform would take, if indeed it were to come.
Bibliography: The whole period is covered by Histoire del'Église, ed. originally a. fliche and v. martin, now by j. b. duroselle and e. jarry (Paris 1935) v.5–15. The sections by É. amann and a. fliche are particularly valuable. Of the older historians, a. hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, 5 v. (8th ed. Berlin 1954), covers France to 900 and Germany and Central Europe to 1428 and is still unrivaled for breadth of scope and wealth of documentation. h. k. mann, The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages, 18 v. (London 1902–32). g. mollat, Les Papes d'Avignon (9th ed. Paris 1950), Eng. tr. j. love (New York 1963). l. pastor, History of the Popes, tr. f. i. antrobus et al., 40 v. (London 1936–61), various editions. m. creighton, A History of the Papacy from the Great Schism to the Sack of Rome, 6 v. (new ed. New York 1897), is still valuable. c. j. hefele, Histoire des conciles, ed. and tr. h. leclercq, 10 v. (Paris 1907–13), 1911 has many useful notes. Early Middle Ages. r. w. and a. j. carlyle, A History of Mediaeval Political Theory in the West, 6 v. (Edinburgh 1903–36; repr. New York 1953). l. duchesne, Les Premiers temps de l'état pontifical (3d ed. Paris 1912), Eng. tr. a. h. mathew (London 1908). e. caspar, Geschichte de Papsttums von den Anfängen bis zur Höhe der Weltherrschaft (Tübingen 1939–33). k. s. latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity (New York 1937–45) v.2. w. levison, England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (Oxford 1946). f. dvornik, The Making of Central and Eastern Europe (London 1949). h. x. arquilliÉre, L'Augustinisme politique (2d ed. Paris 1955). w. ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages (2d ed. New York 1962). Gregorian Reform. a. fliche, La Réforme grégorienne, 3 v. (Louvain 1924–37). z. n. brooke, Cambridge Medieval History (London-New York 1911–36) 5:51–166. p. fournier and g. lebras, Histoire des collections canoniques en occident depuis les fausses décretales jusq u'au Décret de Gratien (Paris 1931–32). j. p. whitney, Hildebrandine Essays (Cambridge, Eng. 1932). h. x. arquilliÉre, Saint Grégoire VII: Essai sur sa conception du pouvoir pontifical (Paris 1934). Studi gregoriani (Rome 1947–). 12th Century. e. vacandard, Vie de Saint Bernard, 2 v. (Paris 1895; 3d ed. 1902). c. h. haskins, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century (Cambridge, Mass. 1927; repr. 1933). g. parÉ et al., La Renaissance du XII e siècle: Les Écoles et l'enseignement (Paris 1933). j. guiraud, Histoire de l'Inquisition au moyen-âge, 2 v. (Paris 1935–38). h. rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, ed. f. m. powicke and a. b. emden, 3 v. (new ed. Oxford 1936). É. de moreau, Histoire de l'Église en Belgique (2d ed. Brussels 1945-). j. f. lemarignier et al., Institutions ecclésiastiques, v.3 of Histoire des institutions françaises au moyen-âge, ed. f. lot and r. fawtier (Paris 1957–). j. leclercq et al., Histoire de la spiritualité chrétienne, v.2 (Paris 1961). h. c. lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, with introd. by w. ullmann (London 1963). 13th Century. a. luchaire, Innocent III, 6 v. (Paris 1906–08), a classic, but a political, not a religious study; supplement with Fliche-Martin v.10(1950). h. grundmann, Religiöse Bewegungen im Mittelalter (2d ed. Hildesheim 1961); "Neue Beiträge zur Geschichte der religiösen Bewegungen im Mittelalter, "Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 37 (1955) 129–182. g. barraclough, Papal Provisions (Oxford 1935). m. h. vicaire, Saint Dominic and His Times, tr. k. pond (New York 1965). 14th Century. n. valois, La France et le grand schisme d'Occident, 4 v. (Paris 1896–1902). j. haller, Papsttum und Kirchenreform (Berlin 1903). j. riviÉre, Le Problème de l'église et de l'état au temps de Philippe le Bel (Paris 1926). w. e. lunt, Papal Revenues in the Middle Ages, 2 v. (New York 1934); Financial Relations of the Papacy with England, 2v. (Cambridge, Mass. 1939–62). b. tierney, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory (Cambridge, Eng. 1955). g. de lagarde, La Naissance de l'esprit laüque au déclin du moyen-âge, 5v. (new ed. Louvain 1956–63). 15th Century. p. imbart de la tour, Les Origines de la Réforme, 4 v. (Paris 1905–35) v.2, re-ed. y. lanhers (Melun 1946). n. valois, Le Pape et le Concile, 1418–1450, 2 v. (Paris 1909). v. martin, Les Origines du gallicanisme, 2 v. (Paris 1939). a. renaudet, Préréforme et humanisme à Paris (2d ed. Paris 1953). h. jedin, History of the Council of Trent, tr. e. graf (St. Louis 1957–60) v.1. j. lortz, Die Reformation in Deutschland, 2 v. (4th ed. Freiburg 1962), Fr. tr. (Paris 1956). j. gill, The Council of Florence (Cambridge, Eng. 1959).
[m. d. knowles]
"Church, History of, II (Medieval)." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 26, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-history-ii-medieval
"Church, History of, II (Medieval)." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved March 26, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-history-ii-medieval
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