Pope Gregory VII 2 Stripped Essay

Submitted By jrrudolph93
Words: 2274
Pages: 10

Pope Gregory VII: A Papacy of Reform Pope Gregory the Seventh was a man with a passion for the restoration of the Catholic Church which had grown to be vastly corrupt and monetized. A man of “exceptional caliber, wisdom, vision, and single-mindedness”, Pope Gregory would rise to be one of the most influential and controversial popes of the 11 century (Carson, 492). Exercising a firm, unfaltering stand against the corruption plaguing the Church, his visage is still held in high regard as the “champion of the liberty of the Church against the secular power” (Butler, 133). Although now viewed as a rose among thorns in the sanctity of the Middle Ages, Gregory’s strict political action attracted severe opposition from those basking in the corruption against which he fought. This unfavorable attention would ultimately lead to his death in exile, leaving behind a legacy of steadfast conviction in the face of discord. Pope Gregory VII, originally named Hildebrand, is believed to have been born in southern Tuscany around AD 1025. Some sources believe that he arose from humble origins, son of a blacksmith, while others believe him to have been born into an upper-middle class household with connections to Rome. Whatever his origins may have been, Hildebrand was later sent to be educated in Rome at St. Maria in the Aventine and in the Lateral Palace under special protection of St. Peter. He was taught by John Gratian, later Pope Gregory VI, introducing him to the world of the papacy. While Hildebrand served as a chaplain under Gregory VI, he also witnessed the act of simony for which the Pope was exiled (Blumenthal). This act of simony, or the purchase of a religious office, was later to be one of the primary corruptions against which Pope Gregory VII would fight. After retiring to Cologne with the exiled Gregory VI until his death in AD 1047, Hildebrand accompanied the newly elected Pope Leo IX back to Rome. He was promoted to subdeacon and administrator of the basilica of St. Paul, and began to become increasingly active in reforming circles (“Saint Gregory VII, 1”). These activities, including frequent visits to the Salian royal house in Germany, helped him to establish connections across Europe that would eventually aide in his election as Pope. During this time, Hildebrand continued to move forward in the papal offices, gaining status as archdeacon of the Roman church around AD 1059, and rose to become the most influential figure in the papal administration. He served directly under Pope Alexander II, believed by many to be “the power behind the papal throne” (Carson, 491-2). He became very popular with the people and with the clergy while supporting Alexander, further securing his future election as Pope. Hildebrand was elected as Pope on April 22, 1073, the day of Alexander II’s death. This event is recorded in the Official Record of the Election of Gregory VII, which states that “amid the acclamations of vast crowds of both sexes and of various ranks, assembled in the church of St. Peter ad Vincula, do choose for our pastor and supreme pontiff… Archdeacon HILDEBRAND, whom we choose to be and to be called now and forever, GREGORY, Pope and Apostolicus” (Emerton, 1). Hildebrand took the name of Gregory in memory of Pope Gregory (I) the Great, whose writings had been of large impact to him (Blumenthal). While the election of Gregory VII was in some ways an easy decision given his accumulated influence within the clergy and popularity among the Roman people, a great deal of controversy and criticism surrounds it for its unorthodox occurrence. The process happened very differently than stated in the Papal Election Decree of 1059, a doctrine proclaiming the required consent of the Holy Roman Emperor in the election of a Pope. This requirement was completely ignored, as Pope Gregory VII was elected by popular acclamation and consent of the cardinals alone. This practice was in accordance with the earlier centuries of the Roman…