History Of The Christian Church (1892) Philip Schaff

§ 7. Nicolas II. and the Cardinals. 1059–1061


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§ 7. Nicolas II. and the Cardinals. 1059–1061.

The pontificate of Nicolas II. was thoroughly under the control of Hildebrand, who became archdeacon and chancellor of the Roman Church in August or September, 1059. His enemies said that he kept Nicolas like an ass in the stable, feeding him to do his work. Peter Damiani calls him the lord of the pope, and said that he would rather obey the lord of the pope than the lord-pope himself.12  He also grimly calls Hildebrand his "holy Satan,"13 because he had sometimes to obey him against his will, as when he desired to lay down his bishopric at Ostia and retire to a convent, but was not permitted to do so. He disliked the worldly splendor which Hildebrand began to assume in dress and mode of living, contrary to his own ascetic principles.

Two important steps were made in the progress of the hierarchy,—a change in the election of the pope, and an alliance with the Normans for the temporal protection of the pope.

Nicolas convened a Lateran Council in April, 1059, the largest held in Rome down to that time. It consisted of a hundred and thirteen bishops and a multitude of clergymen; but more than two-thirds of the prelates were Italians, the rest Burgundians and Frenchmen. Germany was not represented at all. Berengar was forced at this synod to submit to a formula of recantation (which he revoked on his return to France). He calls the bishops "wild beasts," who would not listen to his idea of a spiritual communion, and insisted on a Capernaitic manducation of the body of Christ.14

A far-reaching act of this council was the transfer of the election of a pope to the "cardinal-bishops" and "cardinal-clergy."15  At the pope’s death the initiative was to be taken by the cardinal-bishops. In case they agreed they were to call in the cardinal-clergy. In case of agreement between both these classes of functionaries they were to present the candidate to the Roman clergy and people for ratification. The stress thus laid upon the cardinal-bishops is a new thing, and it is evident that the body of cardinals was accorded a place of importance and authority such as it had not enjoyed before. Its corporate history may be said to begin with these canons. The election of the pope was made its prerogative. The synod further prescribed that the pope should be chosen from the body of Roman clergy, provided a suitable candidate could be found among their number. In usual cases, Rome was designated as the place of holding the election. The cardinals, however, were granted liberty to hold it otherwheres. As for the emperor, the language of the canons leaves it uncertain whether any part was accorded to him in the ratification of the elected pope. His name is mentioned with respect, but it would seem that all that was intended was that he should receive due notification of the election of the new pontiff. The matter was, therefore, taken entirely out of the emperor’s hands and lodged in the college of cardinals.16  As Henry was still young and not yet invested with the imperial dignity, it was a favorable opportunity for the papal circle to secure the perpetual control of the papal office for the Romans and the Roman clergy. With rare exceptions, as in the case of the period of the Avignon exile, the election of the pope has remained in the hands of the Romans ever since.

The alliance which Nicolas entered into, 1059, with the Normans of Southern Italy, was the second act in the long and notable part which they played in the history of the papacy. Early in the eleventh century four brothers of the house of Hauteville, starting from Normandy, began their adventurous career in Italy and Sicily. They were welcomed as crusaders liberating the Christian population from the rule of the Saracens and its threatened extension. The kingdom their arms established was confirmed by the apostolic see, and under the original dynasty, and later under the house of Anjou, had a larger influence on the destinies of the papacy for three centuries than did Norman England and the successors of William the Conqueror. Robert Guiscard, who had defeated the army of Leo IX., and held him a prisoner for nine months, was confirmed by Nicolas as duke of Apulia and Calabria. The duchy became a fief of Rome by an obligation to pay yearly twelve dinars for every yoke of oxen and to defend the Holy See against attacks upon its authority. Robert’s brother, Roger, d. 1101, began the conquest of Sicily in earnest in 1060 by the seizure of Messina, and followed it up by the capture of Palermo, 1071, and Syracuse, 1085. He was called Prince of Sicily and perpetual legate of the Holy See. One of his successors, Roger II., 1105–1154, was crowned king of Sicily at Palermo by the authority of the anti-pope Anacletus II. A half century later the blood of this house became mingled with the blood of the house of Hohenstaufen in the person of the great Frederick II. In the prominent part they took we shall find these Norman princes now supporting the plans of the papacy, now resisting them.

About the same time the Hautevilles and other freebooting Normans were getting a foothold in Southern Italy, the Normans under William the Conqueror, in 1066, were conquering England. To them England owes her introduction into the family of European nations, and her national isolation ceases.17

§ 8. The War against Clerical Marriage.

The same Lateran Council of 1059 passed severe laws against the two heresies of simony and Nicolaitism. It threatened all priests who were unwilling to give up their wives or concubines with the loss of their benefices and the right of reading mass, and warned the laity against attending their services. "No one," says the third of the thirteen canons, "shall hear mass from a priest who to his certain knowledge keeps a concubine or a subintroducta mulier."

These severe measures led to serious disturbances in Northern Italy, especially in the diocese of Milan, where every ecclesiastical office from the lowest to the highest was for sale, and where marriage or concubinage was common among priests of all grades, not excluding the archbishop.18  Sacerdotal marriage was regarded as one of the liberties of the church of St. Ambrose, which maintained a certain independence of Rome, and had a numerous and wealthy clergy. The Milanese defended such marriage by Scripture texts and by a fictitious decision of Ambrose, who, on the contrary, was an enthusiast for celibacy. Candidates for holy orders, if unmarried, were asked if they had strength to remain so; if not, they could be legally married; but second marriages were forbidden, and the Levitical law as to the virginity of the bride was observed. Those who remained single were objects of suspicion, while those who brought up their families in the fear of God were respected and eligible to the episcopate. Concubinage was regarded as a heinous offense and a bar to promotion.19

But the Roman Church and the Hildebrandian party reversed the case, and denounced sacerdotal marriage as unlawful concubinage. The leader of this party in Lombardy was Anselm of Baggio (west of Milan), a zealous and eloquent young priest, who afterwards became bishop of Lucca and then pope (as Alexander II.). He attacked the immorality of the clergy, and was supported by the lowest populace, contemptuously called "Pataria" or "Patarines," i.e. "Ragbags."20  Violent and sanguinary tumults took place in the churches and streets. Peter Damiani, a sincere enthusiast for ascestic holiness, was sent as papal legate to Milan. He defended the Pataria at the risk of his life, proclaimed the supremacy of the Roman see, and exacted a repudiation of all heretical customs.

This victory had great influence throughout Lombardy. But the strife was renewed under the following pope and under Gregory VII., and it was not till 1093 that Urban II. achieved a permanent triumph over Nicolaitism at a great council at Piacenza.

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