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Investiture Controversy: Pope Gregory VII vs. Emperor Henry IV Case Study


The investiture controversy is acknowledged to be a conflict between the Pope’s throne and the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. Formally, it was a struggle for the right to appoint bishops. However, from a broad political viewpoint, it is assumed to be a fight for the supremacy of power, which is proven by the confrontation between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV.

The superiority of the pontificate under Gregory VII was fulfilled to the full extent. His pontificate marked the highlight in the Catholic Church development. Moreover, he laid the foundation for attaining secular power goals of the most famous Popes of the Medieval Ages. In the course of his ruling, Gregory VII applied the principle of the Pope’s supreme power over political life. Literally, it meant that the Pope was considered as Head of the Christian universe and that secular princes had to submit to Gregory VII’s concept of the implied universal (both ecclesiastical and secular) supreme power of the Pope. The program of Gregory VII’s pontificate was stated in the document that is called Dictatus papae, which dates from 1075.

As a matter of fact, it was the Great Charter of the Pontificate. Here are ten main positions and key arguments: 1) “the Roman Church was founded by God”; 2) the Pope is universal and has the right to appoint and depose bishops, as well as displace an absent person; 3) only the Pope can introduce laws, found new episcopacies, divide rich episcopacies and unite poor episcopacies; 4) only the Pope can wear imperial regalia, whereas all princes must kiss only the Pope’s foot; 5) the Pope has the right to dethrone emperors; 6) the ecumenical council must not be called without the Pope’s authorization; 7) no one is liable to change the Pope’s decision unless the Pope amends it himself; 8) No one is liable to judge the Pope; 9) the Roman Catholic Church has never made any mistakes and, thus, is infallible; and 10) if elected in accordance with the canons, the Pope will inevitably become a saint.

In the beginning, Henry IV admitted to Gregory VII’s points. However, Henry IV did not appear to have followed them. Being Emperor, he continued appointing bishops himself, which resulted in open conflict with Gregory VII. It feels like that Gregory was wiser and more cunning. Further, he tended to have more power. The outcome of the conflict was Henry’s defeat, which might have been expected. Taken into account the role that the church happened to play in Medieval society, it is possible to assert that Gregory VII’s position in this argument was stronger. This opinion is supported by Student A, who believes that “the Pope was more convincing because he states ‘”s thy representative and thy favor, has the power been granted by God of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth.’” As for Student B, he tends to believe that the Pope’s position was powerful only in terms of religious matters but not secular ones. In general, Student A’s opinion appears more reasonable, due to society’s views and beliefs of those days.

In conclusion, it is necessary to point out that in the opposition between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV, the arguments of the first should be considered more convincing due to the way of life in Medieval society. Besides, it is important to realize that the conflict is not a mere struggle to appoint bishops. It should be understood as a fight for power between the church and the emperor.

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IvyPanda. (2020, November 15). Investiture Controversy: Pope Gregory VII vs. Emperor Henry IV. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/investiture-controversy-pope-gregory-vii-vs-emperor-henry-iv/

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"Investiture Controversy: Pope Gregory VII vs. Emperor Henry IV." IvyPanda, 15 Nov. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/investiture-controversy-pope-gregory-vii-vs-emperor-henry-iv/.

1. IvyPanda. "Investiture Controversy: Pope Gregory VII vs. Emperor Henry IV." November 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/investiture-controversy-pope-gregory-vii-vs-emperor-henry-iv/.


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IvyPanda. "Investiture Controversy: Pope Gregory VII vs. Emperor Henry IV." November 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/investiture-controversy-pope-gregory-vii-vs-emperor-henry-iv/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Investiture Controversy: Pope Gregory VII vs. Emperor Henry IV." November 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/investiture-controversy-pope-gregory-vii-vs-emperor-henry-iv/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Investiture Controversy: Pope Gregory VII vs. Emperor Henry IV'. 15 November.

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