Gregory VII, Saint

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Gregory VII, Saint,

d. 1085, pope (1073–85), an Italian (b. near Rome) named Hildebrand (Ital. Ildebrando); successor of Alexander II. He was one of the greatest popes. Feast: May 25.


Gregory was chaplain to Gregory VI and accompanied him into exile in Cologne in 1046. He returned to Rome with Leo IXLeo IX, Saint,
1002–54, pope (1049–54), a German named Bruno of Toul, b. Alsace; successor of Damasus II. A relative of Holy Roman Emperor Henry III, he was educated at Toul and was made bishop there in 1027.
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 (Bruno of Toul) and became administrator of the Patrimony of Peter (see Papal StatesPapal States,
Ital. Lo Stato della Chiesa, from 754 to 1870 an independent territory under the temporal rule of the popes, also called the States of the Church and the Pontifical States. The territory varied in size at different times; in 1859 it included c.
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). Hildebrand quickly became an important figure in reforming circles. He recovered much of the ecclesiastical property held by Italian nobles and restored the papal finances. Hildebrand was instrumental in the election of Pope Nicholas IINicholas II
(c.1010–61), pope (1058–61), a Roman named Gerard, b. Lorraine, France; successor to Pope Stephen IX. A strong proponent of papal reform, he issued (1059) the Papal Election Decree in an effort to minimize political interference in papal elections.
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 (1058) and Alexander II (1061).

As Pope Gregory VII (from 1073) he convoked reform synods and issued decrees that forbade, under pain of excommunication, clerical marriage (and concubinage) and simony. Gregory appointed legates, many from among the reforming Cluniac order, to travel throughout Europe and enforce the new laws. They met with opposition and violence almost everywhere. Gregory saw the root of all the evils afflicting the church in the practice of lay investitureinvestiture,
in feudalism, ceremony by which an overlord transferred a fief to a vassal or by which, in ecclesiastical law, an elected cleric received the pastoral ring and staff (the symbols of spiritual office) signifying the transfer of the office.
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, whereby abbacies and bishoprics became virtually the property of secular powers, who used them to their own advantage. In 1078 he condemned such investiture and anyone who practiced it. Gregory's ensuing struggles with the royal houses of Europe, who opposed the decree, dominated the remaining years of his pontificate.

In Germany, Henry IVHenry IV,
1050–1106, Holy Roman emperor (1084–1105) and German king (1056–1105), son and successor of Henry III. He was the central figure in the opening stages of the long struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy.
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 joined with the nobles against the reform, and in a dispute with Gregory he was excommunicated (1076). The excommunication cost Henry much of his popularity, and in 1077 he humbled himself before the pope at CanossaCanossa
, village, in Emilia-Romagna, N central Italy, in the Apennines. There are ruins of the 10th-century castle of the powerful feudal family that took its name from the place. In the 10th and 11th cent. they ruled over much of Tuscany and Emilia.
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. Gregory remained neutral in the civil war that followed in Germany but decreed (1079) Henry deposed when it became clear Henry would not cooperate with the forces working for peace in the empire. Henry answered by setting up an imperial antipope, Guibert of RavennaGuibert of Ravenna
, d. 1100, Italian churchman, antipope (1080–1100) Clement III, b. Parma. As imperial chancellor of Italy (1057–63), he consistently supported the Holy Roman emperor's opposition to papal reform efforts, and he led the party that repudiated Pope
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 (Clement III). When the civil war ended in Henry's favor, he marched (1081) into Italy. Gregory led the defense of Rome, but when Henry returned a second time (1083) the Romans, beguiled by Henry's generosity, betrayed Gregory. He fortified himself in the Castel Sant'Angelo until rescued by his Norman ally, Robert GuiscardRobert Guiscard
, c.1015–1085, Norman conqueror of S Italy, a son of Tancred de Hauteville (see Normans). Robert joined (c.1046) his brothers in S Italy and fought with them to expel the Byzantines.
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. The Normans plundered the city. With the antipope and Henry still in Italy, Gregory decided to join the Normans in their withdrawal south. He died a year later at Salerno, shorn of nearly all support but that of the Normans. He was succeeded by Victor III.

Contributions to the Church

Gregory's contribution to the church is very great. His reform was a turning point in the history of the church. His struggle against the sovereignties of Europe is sometimes criticized as a bid for inordinate power, but generally his efforts are recognized as a stubborn and noble defense of the liberty of the church against domination by secular powers. The cause was not won by Gregory, but he had drawn the issue clearly. After the example of his pontificate the moral level of the church rose, and his successors were inspired to carry the investiture struggle to victory at the Concordat of Worms (1122). During all his struggles Gregory kept a watchful eye on the developments of the church in Norway, Denmark, and in the new Slavic nations, and the troubles with the Saracens in the East led Gregory to conceive the first plan for a CrusadeCrusades
, series of wars undertaken by European Christians between the 11th and 14th cent. to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. First Crusade

In the 7th cent., Jerusalem was taken by the caliph Umar.
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 against the Turks.


See his Correspondence (tr. 1932, repr. 1969); S. Williams, ed., The Gregorian Epoch (1964); Gregory VII–Church Reformer or World Monarch? (1967); H. E. Cowdrey, The Cluniacs and the Gregorian Reform (1970); U.-R. Blumenthal, The Investiture Controversy (tr. 1988).

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