Anthony Perron

The history of the bishops of Rome in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is inseparable from their often bitter conflicts with lay rulers. The era, after all, commenced with the last phase of the Investiture Controversy and witnessed continuing quarrels with the Hohenstaufen emperors and other princes in England, Hungary, Norway, Denmark, France and Iberia, involving not only church-crown disputes, but problematic royal marriages as well. Yet, while the rhetoric of Roman supremacy over the secular state was often shrill (and never more so than in the fight with Frederick II), popes of this period were forced to accept the growing power of monarchs, whose ideological standing was considerably improved both by the study of Roman law in the twelfth century and the translation of Aristotle's Politics in the thirteenth. Despite Gregory VII's claim that kings were not latter-day Melchizedeks but merely 'men of this world ignorant of God', until Boniface VIII (c. 1294-1303) and Giles of Rome (c. 1243-1316) such strident claims were usually exchanged for compromise, a spirit already evident in the Concordat of Worms in 1122. In attempting to establish universal papal power over the regnum, the 'Gregorian' programme of the 1070s and 1080s by no means became a reality in the succeeding two centuries.

Turning to Rome's relationship with the wider sacerdotium, on the other hand, Gregory's legacy is somewhat clearer, for while the papacy was troubled by a pair of schisms in the twelfth century and two lengthy vacancies in the thirteenth, the era can justifiably be seen as the implementation of Gregory VII's vision of Petrine supremacy within the Western church. The particular ideas that lay behind his convictions were themselves old, many formulated already by the great popes of the fifth century (Innocent I, Leo the Great and Gelasius I), for example that Peter's special relationship with Jesus warranted a papal plenitudo potestatis over the wider church. But the larger programme of ecclesiastical power into which they were fitted was new and constituted a thorough revision of the early medieval church. In the imperial church organised by the Carolingians in the eighth century, under heavy Anglo-Saxon influence, Rome was the home of the apostles and the source of 'correct' law, liturgy and rule, but effective ecclesiastical jurisdiction was in the hands of bishops and their mighty archiepiscopal supervisors. The popes of the twelfth century and their supporters transformed Gregory's passionate identification with Peter, who sanctified all occupants of his cathedra, into Innocent III's vicariate of Christ, which raised the apostolic pontiffs above man, if not to God.

To assert such grand claims is a simple matter. To make good on them requires institutions, and the high-medieval papacy was especially successful in uniting ideology and practice. This chapter discusses the principal components of papal overlordship in the High Middle Ages and the criticisms levelled against overweening Roman might, and briefly considers the apostolic see's relationship with peoples on the expanding Latin-Christian periphery and beyond between 1100 and 1300.

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