Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




The Court and the Church: The Great Divide

An Emperor humbles himself



For three days he persevered, in pitiable attire, before the gate of the castle. He had divested himself of his royal robes and his shoes. In their stead he was clad in woollen dress. And he did not cease imploring the aid and consolation of Our Clemency with great lamentation ... until we ... persuaded by the duration of his penitence and the urgent intercession of those present, received him again in the lap of the Holy Mother Church.

Pope Gregory VII, on King Henry IV, 1077



The ruins of Canossa, destroyed m 1255, and its rocky outcrop



Formerly an impregnable mountain fortress,

Canossa loomed above the countryside like an eyrie, eighteen kilometres southwest of Reggio nell'Emilia. Here, where today geckoes can be found scurrying over its ruined walls in midday heat, an extraordinary chapter of European history was written in 1077. In this castle, which belonged to the pious and influential Countess Matilda of Tuscany, the most powerful ruler in the West fell on his knees before the Pope to beg for forgiveness. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Strife between temporal and spiritual authority had never escalated to such a degree. At that time. Henry IV, who was both the Holy Roman emperor (crowned in 1084) and German King (1056-1106), was only twenty-seven years old — half the age of his adversary, Pope Gregory VII (c. 1020—1085).These two men had heartily disliked each other for years and were locked in a power struggle, with the authority of each at stake.
Since his election in 1073, Pope Gregory VII had worked earnestly to reform the Church. He forbade priests to marry and prohibited the widespread practice of simony, the sale of lucrative ecclesiastical preferment to nobles without a vocation or theological background. In addition, Pope Gregory VII insisted that all temporal rulers were subject to him, Christ's deputy on earth, and that only he, the Pope, might determine who was to become an abbot or bishop and where such office should be held. From time immemorial, emperors, kings and dukes had appointed abbots and bishops, personally giving them their rings and croziers as the insignia of their ecclesiastical dignity. Things had progressed to such an extent that monasteries and bishoprics only existed because they had been endowed with land and wealth by the nobility. Abbots and bishops were required to place the possessions of their church at the disposal of their temporal rulers in time of war or economic necessity. As a result, the power of the rulers was based on the loyalty of their clergy. And now the pope was trying to create a clergy loyal to the ecclesiastical authorties! The enraged Emperor-King Henry IV proclaimed that Pope Gregory VII had been
deposed — and the investiture strife broke out. Investiture (from the Latin investing means the clothing of abbots and bishops signifying that they are invested with their rank and office. The Pope excommunicated Henry IV, banishing him from the Church, and absolved his subjects from their oath of allegiance to their Emperor. The pontifical acts put Henry IV in checkmate.

This was an age in which belief meant life, and life meant faith. There was no doubt that anyone who had anything at all to do with an excommunicated person under the ban of the Church had made a pact with the devil. The only way Henry IV could free himself from this predicament was to travel to Canossa as a penitent and humbly beg the Pope to lift the ban. Before going, he cast about for powerful allies who might intercede for him. His godfather, Abbot Hugh of Cluny, and the Countess Matilda of Tuscany agreed to do so. Finally, on 27 January 1077, the Papal ban on Henry IV was lifted. The quarrel over investiture, however, dragged on until 1122.


King Henry IV Begging Countess Matilda
of Tuscany and Abbot Hugh of Cluny to
Intercede for Him with Pope Gregory VII
From the Donizo manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Rome


Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy