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Internet Medieval Sourcebook

Selected Sources: Empire and Papacy


Introductory Essay

The "Empire and Papacy" has been a theme of medieval history teaching for so long that students might be forgiven for being bored out of their minds. What, they might ask,  is the possible use of studying conflicts between long dead popes and emperors. In fact this seemingly arcane dispute had major consequences for the history of Western culture:

  • Nation-States: The papal-imperial conflict lead to the weakening of the Western (Holy Roman) Empire, the first strong state with staying power after the 5th-century collapse of Roman Empire in the West. Instead a series of proto-"nation" states [France, England, Spain, Portugal] achieved great power and eventually set the "nation-state" rather than the "imperial" standard for all European states.
  • Separation of Church and State: The conflict between church and state firmly established that church and state were distinct entities. This is in dramatic contrast to Islam, which never made a distinction between "religion" and "politics"; and in contrast equally to the "Byzantine model" of "symphony" between church and state.
  • Effect on Law and Education: Because both "Papal" and "Imperial" sides in the dispute had a real basis for their power, the conflict was long-lasting. Each side, then, tried to prove its case by consulting earlier "authoritative" documents. In the short term this lead to a revival in the study of Roman Law, a legal approach which has since come to predominate in much of the world. In the longer term, the fighting lawyers had to collect information, organize it, and then work out the principles of interpretation [e.g. was a later or earlier law most authoritative]. They had to do all this while making arguments against each other. In time these procedures affected western higher education, which eschewed memory methods, and insisted that students Plearn to collect, organize and interpret material, and then defend their conclusions in argument.

The Holy Roman Empire
  • WEB REGESTA IMPERII (715-1519) [Internet Archive backup here]
    A chronologically record all activities evidenced by documents or anything else of the Roman-German kings and emperors.
  • The Politics of Germany after the Ottonians
    • Bruno of Querfurt: Letter to Henry II 1008/1009 trans William North. PDF [At Carleton] [Internet Archive version here]
      Bruno writes of German missionary and diplomatic among Slavic pagans.

Phase I: The Invesititure Controversy
Phase II: Barbarossa: The Empire at its Height
Innocent III: The Papacy at its Height
The Holy Roman Empire: Frederick II and After
The Papacy Overreaches

NOTES: Links to files at other site are indicated by [At some indication of the site name or location]. No indication means that the text file is local. WEB  indicates a link to one of small number of high quality web sites which provide either more texts or an especially valuable overview.

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is part of the Internet History Sourcebooks Project. The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.   Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 3 May 2024 [CV]