Monday, Jul. 27, 2009

Emperor Henry IV

Sometimes, words aren't enough. Like when Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV trekked across the Alps in 1077 to beg for Pope Gregory VII's forgiveness. Only after three days of kneeling in the snow did the medieval ruler finally convince the Pontiff to welcome him back into the Catholic Church; Henry IV had been excommunicated for usurping the Pope's authority and appointing his own bishops. The dramatic mea culpa was a turning point in the centuries-long struggle between religious and royal leaders during the Middle Ages, and the image of Henry IV bowing before his spiritual rival is one that artists and writers later immortalized in paint and prose. But the Emperor's apology would prove hollow. Less than three years later, Henry IV deposed Pope Gregory VII, who later died in exile in 1085.