Page 1265


potentate he hurled the bolt of excommunication.

It was now Henry's time to act on the defensive. He issued a summons for a national

Diet, but the lukewarm princes hesitated to

come to his aid. After a year of endeavor,

the assembly at last was held at Mayence

in 1076. But the nobles would not permit the Emperor to be present. He was

obliged to send a messenger and to signify

his willingness to yield the whole question

at issue between himself and the Pope to

the body for decision. In the following

year the assembly reconvened at Augsburg,

and Gregory rather than Henry was invited

to be present. The latter, now greatly

alarmed at the situation, at once set out

for Italy, in the hope of settling the controversy by a personal interview with the Pope.

On arriving in Lombardy he found the people in insurrection and might easily have led

them in triumph against his great enemy.

The latter, indeed, seeing the peril to which

he was then exposed, took counsel of his

prudence, and though already on his way to

meet the German Diet, he turned aside to

find safety in a castle of Canossa in the


Henry, however, was far from availing

himself of the possible advantage. Instead of warlike menace and flourish of the

sword, he humbly clad himself in sack cloth, went barefoot to the gate of the castle of Canossa, and sought admittance as

a penitent. There for three days in the

snow and sleet, the successor of Caesar was

allowed to stand waiting before the gate.

At last being admitted he flung himself

before the triumphant Gregory, promised

present submission and future obedience,

and was lifted up with the kiss of reconciliation.

The pardon bestowed by the Pope on the

penitent king turned many of the princes

against the powerful pontiff; for they had

hoped to see the Emperor deposed and destroyed. Many now went over to the

Imperial interest, and the Empire was rent

with strife. The anti-imperial party in

Germany proclaimed King Rudolph of Suabia as Henry's successor, and the Emperor

was supported by the Lombards. For two

years a fierce civil war left its ravages on

battlefield and in city, until 1080, Rudolph

fell in the conflict, and the power of Henry

was completely reestablished.

The victor now remembered the Pope

as the cause of all his grief. With a large

army he crossed the mountains and received

the iron crown at the hands of the nobles

of Lombardy. The Countess Matilda of

Tuscany, to whom belonged the castle of

Canossa, exerted herself to the utmost,

but in vain, to prevent the progress of the

invaders. Rome was besieged by the German army, and Gregory was obliged to take

refuge in the castle of St. Angelo. In his

extremity he issued an edict, releasing from

a previous ban Robert Guiscard, the Norman suzerain of Southern Italy, who was

now besought by the Pope to come to the

rescue and aid in the expulsion of the Germans from Italy. Guiscard hereupon led

an army of thirty thousand men, mostly

Saracens out of Sardinia and Corsica, to

the Eternal City, and the Emperor was

obliged to retire before them. The Pope

gained his release by the aid of the Normans, but his allies proved to be almost

as much to be dreaded as the enemy from

beyond the Alps. The city of Rome, the

greater part of which had already been destroyed by the Germans during the siege,

was now assailed by the friendly Saracens,

who burned what remained, sluicing the

streets with blood and carrying away thousands of the inhabitants into slavery. So

complete was the devastation of the City

of the Ages that the Pope durst not remain

with the desperate brigands who now prowled

around her ashes, but chose to retire with

the Saracens as far as Salerno. There in

1085 the greatest of the Popes of Rome

expired in exile.

The death of Gregory VII was the signal of a papal battle. The Emperor made

haste to reassert his old prerogative by

the appointment of a new Pope, who came

to the papal seat with the title of Clement III. The Norman nobles of Italy,