1517 Blogcast
Sunday, January 24, 2021 00:00:0000:00:00

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The year was 1076. Emperor Henry IV convened a synod at Worms to deal with the power-hungry pope. The reading is from John Newton, his poem, "A Thought on the Seas-Shore."

It is the 24th of January 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1076.

Well, it's not 1066 or 1054. I say this because those two years are rightly held up as watershed moments in the history of Europe, the near East, and the church. We saw recently that the year 1054 might not be as significant as it is sometimes played up to be. It marks a tense time of excommunications from the East and the West on each other. But the split started before and took a long time to work itself out. 1066 was a banner year for William the Conqueror and his Normans. Unfortunately for William, though, taking England was only the beginning. He had to deal with the Danes, who were always terrorizing the English, and the Scots who were their typical selves, causing a ruckus whenever anyone tried to get too close. William was able to sign a treaty with the Danes and the Scots by around 1070. Unfortunately, Scotland, the House of Wessex, and France would make a secret alliance to take the English throne. The French and Scottish relationship would develop into the so-called "Auld Alliance" that gave England fits for centuries.

Because it's a medieval year that ends in either an odd number or an even number, you can bet that the Turks and Byzantines were at it, fighting for control of Anatolia. The Byzantines were routed in 1071 at the Battle of Manzikert and would never be the same again. The clock was ticking on their eventual dissolution.

In 1075 the Pope, Gregory VII, was in the beginning of the so-called Gregorian Reforms. This was a reform movement dedicated to establishing the Catholic Church as a leader not just in ecclesiastical affairs but also in world affairs.

[Quick note, it's kind of weird talking about the church and state in the Medieval world. One of my areas of research is the church and state in America. We can't look at church and state relations then and assume the kind of chasm we have today between the spiritual and the secular.]

In 1075, Gregory published his Dictatus Papae. This was a collection of 27 declarations proposing Papal primacy in world affairs such that they could depose Emperors. You could assume an emperor might be offended by this claim, and you would be right. In 1076, in fact, on this day in 1076, the Emperor, Henry IV, convened a synod at Worms to deal with the power-hungry pope.

There have been over 100 synods or councils or Diets at Worms in the southwest of Germany. It had been a favorite since the time of Charlemagne. It was central and could accommodate leaders from all over Europe. And you heard it right; the Emperor called the synod because he had that authority. The authority of the Emperor had seemed to grow since the time of Charlemagne. It was one of the reasons that Gregory wrote his dictates to reaffirm the supremacy of the Pope over the Emperor.

The most pressing issue in the conflict between these two powers was the question of who could "invest" a Bishop. That is, who had the authority to give them their staff and ring? Pope Gregory had been fighting against simony, the buying and selling of church positions, but this threat to take away this power from secular authorities in investing bishops led to the council's calling. The council would call for the Pope to abdicate, and the Pope would excommunicate the Pope. The issue was resolved at the Concordat at Worms, with only the Pope having the right to invest Bishops. The Concordat left the Emperor looking weak, and soon powerful lords and dukes started to push boundaries, and civil wars would break out in Germany. The Concordat at Worms was the end of the controversy that erupted at the Synod of Worms, which was called to order on this, the 24th of January in 1076.

The last word for today comes from John Newton. This is his "A Thought on the Seas-Shore."

In ev'ry object here I see
Something, my heart, that points at thee
Hard as the rocks that bound the strand,
Unfruitful as the barren sand,
Deep and deceitful as the ocean,
And, like the tide, in constant motion.

In ev'ry object here I see
Something, O Lord, that leads to thee:
Firm as the rocks thy promise stands,
Thy mercies countless as the sands,
Thy love a sea immensely wide,
Thy grace an ever-flowing tide.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 24th of January 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who once thought he had worms, but it turned out to only be a gut feeling, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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