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gate, his royal apparel laid aside, barefoot and clad in wool, and weeping abundantly, he never ceased to implore the aid and consolation of apostolic mercy, until all those present were moved with such pity and sympathy, that, interceding for him with many prayers and tears, they all marvelled at the unwonted harshness of my mind, and some even cried that it was not the dignity of apostolic severity, but the cruelty of tyrannical rage. Overcome at length by the urgency of his entreaty, and by the supplication of all those present, relaxing the bond of anathema, I received him to the favor of communion, and the bosom of holy mother Church."
The blow was struck. For the present, at least, the victory was won. The proudest earthly rival was debased and dethroned before the spiritual might of Rome. A vindictive and obstinate conflict followed. Enraged at his humiliation, and scorned by his proud nobles, Henry became revengeful, fierce, and resolute. He slew in battle the rival Emperor whom Gregory upheld. He swept his rebellious lands with sword and flame, carried his victorious armies to Rome, and was there crowned Emperor by a rival Pope. Gregory himself was only saved from destruction by Norman and Saracen allies, and at the cost of the devastation of half the capital, shown to this day in the half-mile of desolation that lies between the Lateran gate and the Coliseum; then, driven by the popular resentment, went away to die, defeated and heart-broken, in exile. But the spell of that curse, the shadow of that abasement, never departed from his victorious enemy. Twenty years later, vainly seeking mercy from his own son, the unnatural champion of the Church, vainly soliciting shelter in a monastery, claiming the humblest benefit of clergy as one who "could read and sing," Henry perished in want and misery, leaving his name to point the moral or adorn the tale of the first most momentous victory won by the Church over the powers of the world.
The great Christian enterprise of the Crusades, the league of Catholic Europe for the rescue of the Holy Land, was one of the fond hopes and dreams of Gregory. Military enthusiasm, kindled and kept up by the fervor of religious feeling, should be the most powerful motive of union to disordered
Christendom, the most powerful ally of the despotic hierarchy of Rome. His magnificent vision of a Church majestic and strong among the rude forces of the world, of the nations of Europe knit into one by a passionate and fervid zeal, and subject to the austere dominion of a power direct from God, was destined not to be realized in his lifetime. He died, an old man, defeated, broken down, with the almost despairing words on his lips, "I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile." But the spirit that animated that aged frame, worn and lean with fasting, bent under the weight of perpetual care, and scarred by a warfare of eleven years, lived after him, and became the soul of that matchless organization. The genius of Hildebrand still guided the counsels and swayed the destinies of Catholic Europe. Within fifteen years after his death, Italy, England, France, and Germany had united in that enthusiastic and brilliant league which defended the liberties of Europe on the plains of Asia. The great Crusade had been fought, and the banner of the Cross floated triumphant above the battlements of Jerusalem. Still the twofold struggle went on against corruption and insubordination in the Church's ranks, and against the powers of the world that disputed its authority.
A century passed away, and Innocent III. made the name of Papal Rome still mightier and more formidable. He occupied and governed Sicily as guardian of the young prince. He pronounced for Otho against Philip as Emperor of Germany, then turned against and excommunicated him, setting up the great Frederick as his rival. He forced Philip of France to receive back his repudiated queen, laid nearly every Catholic realm in turn under interdict, humbled the craven John of England to be Pope's vassal, and continued the holy war against the proud barons and their Magna Charta. It was in his reign that Europe first felt the full terror of those two great weapons of church power, -Excommunication, which
"He had the effrontery to demand, and King John had the meanness to consent to, a resignation of his crown to the Pope, whereby England was to become forever St. Peter's patrimony; and the dastardly monarch reaccepted his sceptre from the hands of the papal legate, to hold as the vassal of the Holy See, at the annual rent of a thousand marks."-- Blackstone, Vol. IV. p. 108.
punished the man, and Interdict, which was passed upon an entire people. Very real in that "age of faith," and very dreary, was the doom of the excommunicated man. He was shut out from all church privilege, shunned like a leper by servants, family, and friends, incapable of giving testimony or claiming any rights before a court. The very meats he had touched were thrown away or burned. A bier sometimes was set at his door and stones thrown in at his casement, and his dead body was cast out unburied, incapable (it was thought) of decay, to bear everlasting witness against his sin. Whether emperor, prince, priest, or peasant, he was met every moment on every hand by the shadow of a curse that was worse than death. During the interdict, no church might be opened, no bell tolled. The dead lay unburied; no holy rite might be performed but baptism of babes and consolation of the dying. The gloom of an awful fear haunted the silent street and the sombre home; and not till the Church's spell was taken off. were the people free from the ghastly apparitions of supernatural horror. These two were the mainspring of ecclesiastical sway: "from the moment these interdicts and excommunications had been tried, the powers of the earth may be said to have existed only by sufferance." By none other was this invisible scourge wielded with such vigor and to such effect as by Innocent. But more than all, his name looms fearful and ominous in history, as the persecutor of heretics, as the real founder of the papal Inquisition, as the instigator of the frightful crusade against the Albigenses.
Wars in the East, the trade of the Levant, the gay, luxurious culture that gathered about the feudal castles and Courts of Love in Southern France, had introduced strange beliefs, it was said, and practices that undermined the Christian truth. The Church, in her pride of victory abroad, feared for her supremacy in men's hearts at home. A mongrel faith, Manichæan, Mussulman, Jewish, Bulgarian, mocking the name and forms of Christian, had made a people of heretics, light-hearted, gay, licentious perhaps, hateful to the ascetic theory and merciless discipline of the Church. Sudden and awful was the stroke the Church dealt at this insidious foe. Its thunders, grasped and hurled by Innocent, blasted in an
hour the smiling prosperity of half a nation. Catholic Christianity stood in victory and pride on the grave of a perished people. History has few tales more pitiful. A crusading host, led by the merciless Simon de Montfort, laid waste whole towns and cities, drowning their ashes in the blood of almost the entire population. An army of fanatic monks was sent forth to do God service, by hunting out and exterminating the last relics of the dreaded heresy. The torch, fagot, rack, dungeon, the devilish enginery and ubiquitous police of the Inquisition, were brought in play. This was the second great step of papal supremacy. At such a price the Church bought one more century of unchallenged dominion. Such was the task which, with stern conviction and unflinching determination, Innocent had carried out. But a cry went up to heaven from that smoking and blood-stained soil, a wail that pierced (it was said) the ear even of the stern pontiff on his throne. He tried in vain to make some late recompense to those whom his agents had stripped to beggary, and died with the horrible doubt upon his spirit, whether he, the shepherd and guardian of Christendom, had not shed innocent blood for naught, and put on the Church the brand of a crime that long ages could not expiate.* The shadow of that guilt still haunts the gloomy halls and cells of the papal palace at Avignon, and broods upon the soil of Languedoc; and the memories of that ancient cruelty added deeper wrath to the passions of revolutionary France, and still give its sound of dread to the name of Inquisition.
A curious sequel to the half-fanatic, half-worldly policy of Innocent is found in the career of his ward and pupil, Frederick II.; — the man of genius and culture; the freethinker, far in advance of his own time; the wise legislator, giving equal justice to Jew and Saracen as to Christian; the stern persecutor, punishing heretics as disloyal to their spiritual chief; the crusading champion of the Church, and king of Jerusalem, yet accused of turning Saracen, and finally declared deposed
* Michelet, who gives from the Chronicles of Languedoc the evidence of Innocent's contrition, finds reason afterwards to withdraw his belief in it; and it is probable that the dreadful cruelties of the Albigensian crusade were inflicted with unrelenting good faith, and were unvisited by remorse.
by the Pope, with whom he maintains almost a life-long war, admonished, excommunicated, and by Dante placed, along with Farinata, in the valley of tombs, the fiery doom of heretics. He had been brought up, says Mr. Milman, "among Churchmen who conspired against or openly defied the head of the Church; taught from his earliest years by every party to mistrust the other; taught by the Sicilians to hate the Germans, by the Germans to despise the Sicilians; taught that in the Pope himself, his guardian, there was no faith or loyalty." The historian has evidently been a good deal attracted by this singular, wayward, and fascinating career, that seems two or three centuries out of place in history. It is given at full length, with very interesting detail; and a comparison is suggested between this and the pathetic and noble fidelity of Saint Louis of France, whose death in 1270, twenty years after Frederick's, is the closing scene of the Crusades.
The full noon of the "ages of faith" was already past. Now follows the dark story of infidelity and strife, chronicled in stern, brief lines by Dante's iron pen. The great poet of the Middle Age sees in the calamities of Italy in his day, not the fruit of a system wrong in its foundation, or even imperfectly divine, but only the evidence of personal guilt in the enemies of God, among whom he does not scruple to reckon the head of the Church himself. Dante's mezzo di cammin di nostra vita, wherein he finds himself in the forest of desolation and despair, is set by his biographers as the very year 1300, which witnessed the topmost height of the pride of papal Rome. It was the jubilee of the Church, the high festival that marked the close of another century. Boniface VIII. had summoned all Christendom to take part in the august ceremonial. Perpetual indulgence was promised to whoever should join in the pomp of sacrifice at Rome. "Pilgrims were reckoned by the hundred thousand, and presently could be no longer numbered. Neither houses nor churches could contain them; they camped in streets and squares, under sheds built hastily, under sheets, under tents, and under the vault of heaven"; while two priests stood with rakes in their hands, sweeping the uncounted gold and silver from the altars. And in the magnificent procession that attended the Sovereign Pon