Henry IV: Letter to Gregory VII, Jan 24 1076


King Henry IV of Germany (1056-1106) in January 1076, condemned Gregory as a usurper.  (Tierney  no. 30, p. 59)


Letter to Gregory VII (January 24, 1076)

Henry, king not through usurpation but through the holy ordination of God, to Hildebrand, at present not pope but false monk.

You have merited such greeting as this  through your disturbances, inasmuch as there is no grade in the church which you have omitted to make a partaker not of honor but of confusion, not of benediction but of malediction. For, to mention few and especial cases out of many, not only hast thou not feared to lay hands upon the rulers of the holy church, the anointed of the Lord  the archbishops, namely, bishops and priests but thou hast trodden them under foot like slaves ignorant of what their master is doing. You have won favor from the common herd by crushing them; you have looked upon all of them as knowing nothing, upon your sole self, moreover, as knowing all things. This knowledge, however, you have used not for edification but for destruction; so that with reason we believe that St. Gregory, whose name you have usurped for yourself, was prophesying concerning you when he said: "The pride of him who is in power increases the more, the greater the number of those subject to him; and he thinks that he himself can do more than all." And we, indeed, have endured all this, being eager to guard the honor of the apostolic see; you, however, have understood our humility to be fear, and have not, accordingly, shunned to rise up against the royal power conferred upon us by God, daring to threaten to divest us of it. As if we had received our kingdom from you! As if the kingdom and the empire were in your and not in God's hands! And this although our Lord Jesus Christ did call us to the kingdom, did not, however, call thee to the priesthood. For you have ascended by the following steps. By wiles, namely, which the profession of monk abhors, you have achieved money; by money, favor; by the sword, the throne of peace. And from the throne of peace you have disturbed peace, inasmuch as thou hast armed subjects against those in authority over them; inasmuch as you, who were not called, have taught that our bishops called of God are to be despised; inasmuch as you have usurped for laymen and the ministry over their priests, allowing them to depose or condemn those whom they themselves had received as teachers from the hand of God through the laying on of hands of the bishops. On me also who, although unworthy to be among the anointed, have nevertheless been anointed to the kingdom, you have lain your hand; me who, as the tradition of the holy Fathers teaches, declaring that I am not to be deposed for any crime unless, which God forbid, I should have strayed from the faith and am subject to the judgment of God alone. For the wisdom of the holy fathers committed even Julian the apostate not to themselves, but to God alone, to be judged and to be deposed. For himself the true pope, Peter, also exclaims: "Fear God, honor the king." But you who do not fear God, do dishonor in me his appointed one. Wherefore St. Paul, when he has not spared an angel of Heaven if he shall have preached otherwise, has not excepted you also who do teach otherwise upon earth. For he says: "If any one, either I or an angel from Heaven, should preach a gospel other than that which has been preached to you, he shall be damned." Thou, therefore, damned by this curse and by the judgment of all our bishops and by our own, descend and relinquish the apostolic chair which you have usurped. Let another ascend the throne of St. Peter, who shall not practice violence under the cloak of religion, but shall teach the sound doctrine of St. Peter. I Henry, king by the grace of God, do say unto you, together with all our bishops: Descend, descend, to be damned throughout the ages.

from MG LL, folio II, pp. 47 ff; translated by Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910), pp. 372-372



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(c)Paul Halsall Jan 1996