Page 1259

1259 FEUDAL ASCENDENCY-FEUDAL GERMANY.

The insurrection was of sufficient importance to demand the presence of an

Imperial army. But Count Odo was overthrown, and Conrad was crowned king of

Burgundy. Thus, in the early part of the

eleventh century was the valley of the Rhone,

including about the half of Switzerland, incorporated with the Empire. The union,

however, extended no further than the

establishment of a political bond, and not

to the institutions, language, and social customs of the Burgundians, who continued as

they had been, essentially French.

In Italy a movement was now begun which, in its result was one of the most important in

the Middle Ages. The Imperial sway over

the Italian peoples was nominal rather than

real. It afforded but little protection to society and had in itself no element of stability.

In order to continue, it had to be constantly

reestablished by force. To be sure, the papal

power never failed to uphold the authority of the Emperors; for by this means the

Popes were in turn enabled in every time of

need to call forth the secular sword in defense

of their interests.

Many of the Italian nobles and patriots,

however, perceived the hollowness of this factitious system of government. A few of the

bolder spirits grew restless under a foreign

domination which claimed every thing and

gave nothing. Chief among these brave

spirits was Heribert, archbishop of Milan.

In the year 1037 he induced the people

of his city to throw off the Imperial yoke

and assert their independence. The insurrection was organized under the leadership of Heribert, who staked all on the cast

of the die. He was deposed by the Emperor

and excommunicated by the Pope. But

he defied them both, and prepared the defense

of Milan. The fortifications of the city were

so strengthened that Conrad's army was

obliged to desist from the siege, and the

virtual independence of Milan was achieved.

Such was the beginning of that movement

which, in the following century, led to the

emancipation of the cities and the establishment of the petty but vigorous Republics of

the Middle Ages.

The career of Conrad II was already

drawing to a close. Two years after the revolt of Milan he died at the city of Utrecht,

and was succeeded by his son Henry III. The latter, now twenty-three years of age,

was a prince of the highest promise. In

talents and accomplishments he was equally

preeminent, and the condition of the Empire at the time of his accession was such

as to furnish a fair opportunity for the display of his abilities. In Germany Proper

there was a general peace. The Bohemians

and Hungarians, however, again rose against

the crown and attempted to gain their independence. In two arduous campaigns

Henry overthrew the armies of the insurgent

states and restored his authority. Duke Casimir, of Poland, and Peter, king of Hungary, were both compelled to acknowledge

their dependence upon the Imperial crown.

The Russian Czar attempted to ally his

fortunes with those of the Empire. He

offered his daughter to Henry after the

death of Queen Gunhilde, but the princess

was declined by the Emperor in favor

of Agnes of Poitiers, who became his

second queen.

A cursory view of the social condition of

Germany in the middle of the eleventh century would reveal a gloomy and forbidding

prospect. The resources of the state were

wasted in almost continual warfare. Following hard after this fact stalked ever the

specter of pestilence and famine. The ministers of the state and the dignitaries of

the Church were, for the most part, ignorant,

mercenary, corrupt. The general administration of the Church, under the auspices of

the boy Popes of Tusculum, had sunk to

the lowest level. The prostitution of the Italian clergy to the basest of motives and

practices had led to a similar defilement

through all Christendom. The year A. D. 1000 had passed without the fiery catastrophe, and the End of the World seemed

to be indefinitely postponed. Reacting from

the abject despair of the preceding century,

the leaders of the age entered upon a career

of defiance and criminal bravado; and though the End of the World was no longer

to be dreaded, the End of Humanity seemed

nigh at hand. Disappointed superstition substituted the gulf of depravity for the abyss

of fear.

It will not have escaped the attention of

any careful student of history that the human

race has in itself in the last hour of its

despair the power of sudden recovery. Just