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Super gentes et regna: Papal ‘Empire’ in the Later Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 May 2018

Benedict G. E. Wiedemann*
Affiliation:
University College London
*
*7 Lenton Road, The Park, Nottingham; NG7 1DP. E-mail: benedict.wiedemann.09@ucl.ac.uk.

Abstract

Papal relations with monarchs in the later eleventh and twelfth centuries have often been characterized as ‘feudal’, as indicative of some sort of papal dominium mundi, or as an effort to advance papal ‘empire’ over the kingdoms of Christendom. More recent scholarship has drawn a distinction between ‘protection’ and ‘feudal’ relationships with kings. However, the supposed distinction between the papacy's temporal overlordship of rulers and its spiritual protection may have obscured more than it has revealed. It was only after the disputes over lay investiture of bishops in the period 1078–1122 that a distinctive protective relationship began to emerge. Previously, rulers had been willing to ‘accept their kingdom from the pope's hand’ or to participate in ceremonies of investiture. In the twelfth century these relationships became more codified and any suggestion that the papacy actually gave kingdoms to kings faded. Thus, the nature of papal ‘empire’ – or, at least, temporal authority over kings – changed markedly during this period.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Ecclesiastical History Society 2018 

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References

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36 ‘[E]ius regnum a rege Teutonicorum in beneficium, sicut audivimus, suscepisti . . . sceptrum regni . . . apostolice, non regie magestatis beneficium recognoscas . . . [regnum Ungarie] a rege Stephano olim beato Petro cum omni iure et potestate sua oblatum et devote traditum’: Greg. Reg. 1: 144–6 (no. 2.13; ET Register of Pope Gregory, transl. Cowdrey, 108).

37 Somerville and Kuttner, Urban II, 97–9.

38 Cowdrey, Gregory VII, 444–6.

39 Gregory's earliest surviving communication with a Hungarian was with Gesa, in March 1074: Greg. Reg., 1: 85–6 (no. 1.58).

40 As, for example, Weinfurter, ‘Die Päpste als “Lehnsherren”’, 23–4; although he only discusses the first use of it in the letter, and not Gregory's claim that the sceptre was a papal beneficium.

41 Register of Pope Gregory, transl. Cowdrey, 108.

42 Cowdrey, Gregory VII, 444.

43 Greg. Reg., 1: 218–19 (no. 2.63; ET Register of Pope Gregory, transl. Cowdrey, 157). Gregory did, in 1074, list points when, he thought, previous Hungarian kings had acknowledged that the pope was the source of royal power, but there is no reason to think that these constituted a basis for a distinct papal temporal lordship over Hungary.

44 Selected Letters of Pope Innocent III concerning England (1198–1216), ed. and transl. C. R. Cheney and W. H. Semple (London, 1953), 177–83 (no. 67).