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Monday, 27 April 2015

Pope Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII was born Hildebrand Bonizi in Sovana, in the county of Grosseto, now southern Tuscany, central Italy in c1020.

The son of a blacksmith, Hildebrand was sent to study in Rome, where, among his masters was Johannes Gratianus, the future Pope Gregory VI.

When Pope Gregory VI was deposed by Holy Roman Emperor Henry III and exiled to Germany, Hildebrand followed him to Cologne.

Hildebrand moved to Cluny after Gregory's death, which occurred in 1048. He then accompanied Abbot Bruno of Toul to Rome. When Bruno was elected Pope, choosing the name Leo IX, he named Hildebrand as deacon and papal administrator.

An able and astute administrator, Hildebrand, was influential in transferring the election of the pope from the nobility and people of Rome to the College of Cardinals alone, without the intervention of either emperor or Diet..

Hildebrand became much admired in his role as adviser to successive popes. On the day of the death of Pope Alexander II on April 21, 1073, lay people and clergy alike went into the streets and proclaimed "Hildebrand, bishop!" The cardinals were called together by one of their number and they ratified the choice of the crowd and the following day Hildebrand became Pope Gregory VII.

Pope Gregory VII. : unknown 11th century manuscript

In 1075 Pope Gregory VII issued a decree, Dictatus Papae, forbidding the buying and selling of offices in the church and to promote clerical celibacy. Formally the Western emperor and royal princes had been able to install their own abbots and bishops.

The Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV was annoyed at this denial of his right to confer upon prelates the symbols of their spiritual authority. In 1076 he declared the pope deposed and attempted to get some bishops to excommunicate him. Gregory retaliated by excommunicating Henry thus losing him the support of a number of his influential subjects.

By the following year Henry IV was finding that various disgruntled princes were refusing to obey him unless he was reconciled to the pope. The Emperor decided to meet Gregory in a castle at Canossa in the Apennines where the pope was taking refuge. The chastened Henry was forced to stand outside the castle barefoot in the snow for three days begging absolution, which Gregory finally gave him.

Gregory VII was beatified by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 and canonized in 1728 by Pope Benedict XIII.

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