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Pope Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII 157th Roman Catholic Pontiff from 1073 to 1085

157th Pontiff (1073-1085)

Pope Gregory VII, a remarkable man for all time, is known in Church history as one of the most enthusiastic and influential pontiffs.

Hildebrand was born in Soana, Tuscany, between 1014 and 1028, to an artisan, Bonito, and his wife Bertha, and began his religious education in Rome at a young age in his uncle’s monastery and later became a monk himself.

Cardinal Hildebrand was papal chaplain and then papal economist restoring economic order to Rome. An important figure in reform, Cardinal Hildebrand did much to recover the ecclesiastical properties held by Italian nobles and to restore papal finances.

Cardinal Hildebrand was elected pope on April 22, 1073, and became Pope Gregory VII on June 30, 1073.

With reform as the centerpiece of his pontificate, Pope Gregory VII assembled synods and issued decrees that forbade, under pain of excommunication, clerical marriage, concubinage, and simony - the buying or selling of ecclesiastical pardons and offices. He also demanded that newly-elected bishops take an oath of obedience and visit the Holy See.

In his Dictatus papae, Pope Gregory VII decreed the supremacy of the Church of Rome over other churches and over the empire; the supremacy of clerical authority over lay authority.

The new laws were met with violence. Opposition to these decrees resulted in struggles with the royal houses of Europe. These struggles dominated Pope Gregory VII’s pontificate.

King Henry IV of Germany joined forces with the nobles against reform.  In 1076, during a dispute with Pope Gregory VII, King Henry IV was excommunicated, costing him popularity with his people. The following year King Henry IV acquiesced and Pope Gregory VII lifted the excommunication.

When Pope Gregory VII refused King Henry IV's demands to crown him emperor, King Henry IV named an imperial antipope, Pope Clement III, who reciprocated by making King Henry IV emperor. Pope Gregory VII excommunicated both King Henry IV and Pope Clement III.

Pope Gregory VII remained neutral in the civil war that followed in Germany, but in 1079 Pope Gregory VII decreed that King Henry IV be deposed when it became clear that King Henry IV would not cooperate with the forces working for peace in the empire.

After King Henry IV won the German civil war in 1081, he marched on Rome.  Pope Gregory VII led Rome’s resistance, but in 1083 the Romans betrayed Pope Gregory VII.  Pope Gregory VII moved to the Castel Sant’Angelo until he was able to flee Rome with the help of the Normans.

Pope Gregory VII died in 1085 and was interred in Saint Matthew Church in Salerno.

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