Popes vs. Emperors

The Spark of a New Era

The Church and the Holy Roman Empire

While the Church spread its influences and increased its power across Europe, monarchs also became more powerful during the early Middle Ages. By 1077, rivalries were under way between secular rulers and Church officials. The longest on-going and most cataclysmic event held popes against the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, who controlled areas ranging from Germany to Italy.

The Feud Escalates

Struggle for Power

Henry was excommunicated by Gregory in 1076 which freed his subjects of loyalty to their emperor. Afterwards, the pope headed north to crown the new emperor. Henry was then forced to make peace. In January 1077, Henry confessed to the pope that he was a remorseful sinner. Gregory was aware that Henry was only attempting to save his throne, yet he had no choice but to forgive a confessed sinner, being a priest. After lifting the excommunication, the pope was forced into exile by Henry and his army.


In the event of the treaty known as the Concordat of Worms, in 1122 the struggle of investiture that lasted for nearly 50 years was resolved. With the treaty now enforced, the Church was declared power to elect and invest bishops with spiritual authority. However, the emperor still invested them with fiefs. Even though the struggle of investiture was over, new battles raged between popes and emperors over control of Italy.