The attempt to both define and understand reform in the later tenth and eleventh centuries is the chief ambition of this book. The book explores ecclesiastical reform as a religious idea and a movement against the backdrop of social and religious change in later tenth- and eleventh-century Europe. In so doing, it seeks, on the one hand, to place the relationship between reform and the papacy in the context of the debate about 'transformation' in its many and varied forms. At the same time, although recognizing that the reform movement had its origins as much in individuals and events far away from Rome and royal courts, it has looked to act as something of a corrective to the recent tendency among historians of emphasizing reform developments in other localities at the expense of those being undertaken in Rome. The book addresses 'the religious revolution of the eleventh century' by exploring how reform and the papacy developed in the eleventh century, and how these changes affected the rules by which medieval society functioned. Particular attention is paid to the question of whether the 'peace of God' movement was a social revolution that progressively blurred into and merged with the papal-sponsored movement for reform, which was gathering pace from the middle of the century, or whether these forces were deliberately compacted by the reformers in their efforts to promote their vision for Christian society.
Around the year 1000, the Latin Church was grappling with changing socio-political, economic and cultural realities. The Latin Church was itself to be transformed and defined in its attempts to consolidate its hold over the different peoples of western Europe. One of the problems which the Church faced in the year 1000 was that it was often organized around competing local institutions or power structures, be they rural churches, local monasteries or private chapels. In many ways the papacy around the year 1000 was just another centre of local power in a western Europe where power emanated from many localized centres. The higher orders in the Roman Church were somewhat different than those found elsewhere in western Europe. Despite centuries of political decline, the organization of the Church in Rome had nonetheless developed an immensely elaborate liturgical life with its own peculiar grades of churches and officials.
For Rodulf Glaber, spiritual reform and material renewal were the rightful accompaniments to the millennial anniversaries of Christ's birth and passion. Reform encompassed material renewal, and relied as much on the mustering of popular indignation as on the work of legates and the promulgation of canons promoting free election and clerical chastity. The practice of the lay investiture of bishops and abbots, like simony and clerical marriage, had a long history in the Western Church. As his letters after 1075 show, Gregory VII increasingly began to see lay investiture as an unwarranted intrusion of laymen into ecclesiastical affairs. Although the issue would not finally be resolved until the Concordat of Worms in 1122, lay investiture became the contentious topic around which the reformers framed and waged their campaign for a freely established clergy especially after Gregory's death.
Georges Duby argued that at the heart of changes in marriage, from the looser arrangements of the earlier middle ages to the monogamous tradition increasingly supervised by the Church, there was an important new emphasis on hierarchy. Throughout the earlier middle ages and well into the eleventh century, marriage was not considered to be a sacrament, and in fact was something over which the Church had little if any control. Multiple marriages and widespread concubinage, however much the Church might protest, were essential requirements that established and maintained social order. The reformers' rhetoric was accompanied by increasing accusations of sexual misconduct, more frequent allegations of both spiritual and genealogical incest, and at the same time an increasing exaltation of chastity, continence, asceticism and even spiritual marriage.
This chapter reviews both traditional and revisionist interpretations of the 'peace of God' movement in order to have a better understanding of its connection with eleventh-century reform as well as its repercussions for eleventh-century society. The 'peace of God' has been seen as something of a 'war on war', in other words, as a reaction to the disorder that resulted from the disintegration of the Carolingian Empire during the later ninth and tenth centuries. Among the chief difficulties in assessing both the nature and the significance of the 'peace of God' is that of the documentary evidence. In many ways what is most striking about the 'peace of God' has little do with the promotion of 'peace' at all. Rather it is the fact that churchmen were able to begin to persuade the ruling classes to accept their dictates and thereby prove their fitness to exercise power.
One of the chief factors in the seeming omnipresence of concerns about reform in the eleventh century on the part of modern historians is the increasing abundance of documentation, at least as compared with the earlier middle ages. Interpretations of the nature of the movement for Church reform, the success and failure of its objectives, and even its desirability have had a long and chequered history, beginning even as the reform movement itself was developing in the eleventh century. Various accounts of reform in the eleventh century follow the 'church-versus-state' model and focus on the power politics of the later eleventh-century papacy, the clash with Henry IV and the traditional 'political' concerns of investitures. Much reform initiatives may have been promulgated as proscriptive or normative measures, that is, as establishing uniformly binding and enforceable laws, in reality they were prescriptive measures, advocating certain standards of practice.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book addresses what some historians have called 'the religious revolution of the eleventh century'. It explores how reform and the papacy developed in the eleventh century, and how these changes affected the rules by which medieval society functioned. The book considers the role of the papacy as a social institution that articulated a distinctive ordering on earth and sanctioned the hegemony of the powerful over the poor while protesting against it. It looks to achieve two fundamental objectives: a deeper understanding of why the papacy developed in the way that it did during the eleventh century. Another objective include why the vision of reform that was adopted by popes from Leo IX onwards came to be articulated in the specific way that it was.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts covered in the preceding chapters of this book. The book explores ecclesiastical reform as a religious idea and a movement against the backdrop of social and religious change in later tenth- and eleventh-century Europe. It seeks to place the relationship between reform and the papacy in the context of the debate about 'transformation' in its many and varied forms. There has been considerable emphasis on how the papacy took an increasingly active part in shaping the direction of reform as well as shaping society. The reform movement left an indelible mark on western European society, and its repercussions would be felt for centuries. The challenge that faced the reformers of the eleventh century, to renew the Church and Christian life, was ultimately the wholesale reinvention of Latin European society.
Many elements and individuals contributed to the emergence of the papacy as the indisputable leader of the Church, and in many ways leader also of the Latin West, during the course of the eleventh century. Throughout the course of the eleventh century, the papacy underwent nothing short of a phenomenal transformation. Various developments contributed both to the elucidation and amplification of papal authority in the early middle ages. The elevation of Bishop Bruno of Toul as Pope Leo IX on 12 February 1049 has long been seen as the decisive moment in the fortunes of both the papacy and the movement for ecclesiastical reform. Just as important as the theoretical and practical articulations of papal authority during the eleventh century were the changes in administrative practices, even if it is anachronistic to speak of a 'papal government' before the twelfth century.
This chapter explores how the clergy were rhetorically persuaded to embrace reform. In many ways, it was the issue of lay investiture that made the reformers' efforts to find a clear rhetoric of purity far simpler. It would be easy to dismiss the language of bodily purity and pollution as nothing more than a convenient rhetorical strategy on the part of ecclesiastical and especially monastic writers. Apart from Humbert of Silva-Candida, the reformers continued to insist on the integrity of the sacraments of clerics compromised by simony, their rhetoric often blurred fine theological lines. In contrast to the position of contamination stood Gregory VII who, as with simony, tended to treat clerical marriage or concubinage as an issue of obedience. Clerical marriage and concubinage likewise unleashed a torrent of polemic, chiefly focusing on the perceived contamination and confusion engendered by a cleric's sexual activities.