The century of Salian rule from 1024 to 1125 is the crucial turning point not just for German, but for European history more generally. The Investiture Controversy pits Popes against Emperors. The dispute is nominally about the role secular powers play in the selection of bishops and abbots. But in reality, it is about much more than that. It is about whether the monarch acts as the representative of God, or as a mere mortal, subject to Papal authority. It is about whether Europe becomes a coherent political entity ruled by an all-powerful emperor or whether it becomes a system of interlocking states, cities, and lordships under a parallel church infrastructure. It is about whether Europe becomes a uniform society or the diverse structure that will give birth both to endless warfare and misery for common people, as well as to the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment (to name just a few). German History from the Coronation of King Henry the Fowler in 919 CE to German Reunification in 1990 in weekly chronological 20-30 min episodes. As Gregory of Tours (539-594) said: “A great many things keep happening, some good, some bad” .
I did promise you an episode on Matilda of Tuscany, and here it is.
But, it is not mine. This episode is from the fantastic podcast “A History of Italy” by Mike Corradi. I cam across it when I was researching the Matilda Episode and I realised in horror, that if I wee to create a Matilda Episode, it would be very much like this one, only worse. So I asked Mike whether I could borrow his work.
Listening to Mike will give you a great though different perspective of the same events and I cget teh chance to lounge about the house, watch Netflix and eat crisps…..
If you enjoy Mike’s work, why don’t you subscribe to his podcast. His website is here: https://ahistoryofitaly.com/podcast/
The music for the show is Flute Sonata in E-flat major, H.545 by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach (or some claim it as BWV 1031 Johann Sebastian Bach) performed and arranged by Michel Rondeau under Common Creative Licence 3.0.
The century of Salian rule from 1024 to 1125 is the crucial turning point not just for German, but for European history more generally. It is in this period that the Investiture Controversy pits Popes against Emperors. The dispute is nominally about the role secular powers play in the selection of bishops and abbots. But in reality, it is about much more than that. It is about whether the monarch acts as the representative of God, or as mere mortal, subject to Papal authority. It is about whether Europe becomes a coherent political entity ruled by an all-powerful emperor or whether it becomes a fragmented system of interlocking states, cities, and lordships under a parallel church infrastructure. It is about whether Europe becomes a uniform society or the diverse structure that will give birth both to endless warfare and misery as well as the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment (to name just a few). move from the unexpected election of Konrad II to his son Henry III becoming the undisputed senior ruler in Western Europe. The backlash against the emerging command monarchy culminates in Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow outside the Castle of Canossa begging Pope Gregor VII to receive him back into the mother church.
KOnrad II (1024-1039)
The founder of the Salian dynasty was an unlikely contender to become king .He had been de facto disinherited by his grandfather who passed the leadership of the family to his uncle and later his cousin. What rescued him was his marriage to the beautiful and ambitious Gisela who brought resources and connections into the marriage. He was elected against the odds in 1024 and managed to establish his rule quickly, achieving an imperial coronation in Rome in 1027. From then on he ruthlessly expanded direct royal control, not only over the imperial church, but also over duchies, counties and abbeys. He developed the concept of the res publica, the state, being separate from and above the person of the king/emperor. He led a successful foreign policy that brought the Kingdom of Burgundy into the empire and broke the threat of a powerful Poland.
Henry III (1039-1056
The second Salian ruler brings the medieval empire to its zenith in 1046. Poland, Bohemia and Hungary have to swear fealty. Internally all five duchies are either directly controlled by the Emperor or brought to submission. At the synod of Sutri he dismisses three popes is one fell swoop and puts a fourth one in place.
It is all downhill from there. The new popes are growing in stature and influence. The Saxons keep grumbling whilst Lothringia remains a source of troubles. The Hungarians throw off their chains….and then he dies leaving a 6-year old son behind
Henry IV (1056-1105)
Finding a more controversial German ruler in the Middle Ages will be difficult. His enemies called him a debauched, spoiled brat who would rape and even murder his enemies. He himself had been subject to assassination plots ever since he was a mere 7 years old.
He became king at the age of 6 and saw the central power crumbling under his mother’s ineffective rule. Age 12 he is being abducted in a coup d’etat and finds that his mother does not fight for him, even sides with his enemies. When he assumes direct rule his magnates still do as they please with the imperial purse.
When he tries to establish a new territorial power base around the silver mines in Goslar he is forced into a bloody and remorseless war against the Saxons.
Meanwhile the papacy in Rome is on the rise. Pope Gregory VII believes the emperor is no different to any other king obliged to kneel and wash the pope’s feet.
A terrible miscalculation leaves Henry IV kneeling in the snow before Pope Gregory VII. The ensuing 50 years of war change the face of Europe
Henry V (1105-1125)
Even though Henry V takes over from his father through treachery, the early years of his reign are a much needed reprieve from the turbulent reign of his father.
Things get out of hand when he accepts a proposal of Pope Paschalis II to forsake any involvement in the management of the church in exchange for receiving all of the church lands and rights back, a good third of all the assets of the empire.
Though the plan cannot be implemented against the staunch opposition of the princes, it has repercussion on the standing of the young emperor. How can the bishops and abbots, and their cousins, the dukes, counts and barons believe the emperor is a guarantor of their ancient rights, when he almost expropriated them.
Henry V finds himself quickly in a situation not dissimilar to his father. He tried to seal this can of creepy-crawlies with the Concordat of Worms…