30th January 1164. Who Should Install a Bishop or Abbot?

Notions of medieval hierarchy put God at the apex, but was the monarch or pope to be the mediator? 

It was a problem that Henry II of England hoped to resolve when he presided at an Assembly at Clarendon Palace, Wiltshire, Today in 1164, which produced sixteen Constitutions seeking to restate the relationship between church and state. 

The battle for power, in medieval Europe, resulted in the Investiture Controversy, which centred on which authority should appoint bishops and abbots; church or state?  

The task was theoretically in the hands of the Church, but in practice held by secular leaders who conferred the religious authority of crozier and ring, as well as the supporting endowed land, which was defended by the secular lord.

This balance demonstrated a measure of mutual dependence between state and church (mundus and ecclesia), of the Holy Roman Empire, later monarchs, and the papacy, which had grown since the death of Charlemagne.

From that time, the Holy Roman Emperor would appoint the pope who in turn appointed and crowned the Emperor. Then came the Gregorian VII reforms of 1059, when the Roman Church Council declared that secular leaders who had wielded power over papal appointments, would be replaced by an independent College of Cardinals.

Then Gregory in 1075 banned Lay Investiture, with Ecclesiastical Courts judging on Church matters, with the Common Law for other concerns, moves which impacted on England which we see later in the conflict between Henry II and Archbishop Beckett.

14thc depiction of Henry II and Beckett

14thc depiction of Henry II and Beckett. Pic Ref. below.

For Beckett now sought a special status and independence for the Church and so refused to swear allegiance to the Constitutions, believing that the Church should prevail over lay administration.

Beckett also considered the Constitutions revoked King Stephen’s promise that the State should be subservient to the Pope.(1)

However previously, in the reign of Henry I, the ban on Lay Investiture (2), and the conflict between the King and Archbishop Anselm (3) was ameliorated, as the Pope cunningly knew he needed the King to counter the power of the German Emperor, and also support was needed for a projected Crusade.

Henry also had looked into the relationship between Church and State, and commissioned the Archbishop of York to collect the present relevant traditions on anointed Kingship.

The resultant ‘Norman Anonymous’ (Anonymous of York), c 1100, was a collection of treatises which set out a strongly worded definition of royal authority in relation to the Church, at a time when the Anglo-Normans were founding an administrative and legal bureaucracy.

Henry saw the Church as a God-ordained Estate, especially after The Conqueror in trying to invest bishops with a temporal seal, had seen him accept the Papal Banner and blessing of Alexander II.

Thus from the beginning, the powerful, secular and bureaucratic, Anglo-Norman Monarchy, had bowed the knee to Papal dictat, despite rebuffing a demand to pay homage to Rome for his fief, under the General Provisions of the doubtful Donation of Constantine.

(1) Becket was thus forced into exile in France from 1164-70.

(2) As written in the ‘Dictus Papae’.

(3a) When William Giffard, Bishop of Winchester nominated on the 3rd August 1100 by Henry I was refused consecration by Anselm in 1101, and who was not finally consecrated until 11.8.1107.

(3b) The conflict was also seen in the case of Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells who was twice elected Archbishop of Canterbury, but Papal confirmation was unforthcoming because of the Bishop’s keeping of mistresses. Burnell is named Archbishop for one year in 1278.

Ref: wikipedia.org/re Picture from British Library Collection, Cotton Collection MS.

Ref: wikipedia.org/constitutions_of clarendon.

Ref: the-orb.net/textbooks/nelson/investiture.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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