1902 Encyclopedia > Germany > History of Germany - Middle Mediaeval Period

(Part 22)


Middle Mediaeval Period

Keen animosity soon revealed itself between Louis and Charles the Bald, and on one occasion when the former, accepting the invitation of certain West-Frankish nobles, rashly invaded his brother’s territory, he was made prisoner. He escaped without dishonour only by the intercession of Lothair II., the emperor Lothair’s second son, who, after his father’s death, had received the greater part, and ultimately the whole, of Lothair’s kingdom to the north of Italy. When Lothair II. died in 869, Charles the Bald pounced upon his territory; but Louis the German had naturally something to say to this seizure of the whole prize, and in 870 the rival brothers signed the treaty of Mersen, by which Louis became possessed of most of Lotharingia or Lorraine. Germany at this time assumed very nearly the proportions which it maintained during the Middle Ages. On the east its boundaries were the Elbe and the Saale; to the west it reached to and included the valleys of the Meuse and the Moselle, taking in, among others, the important towns and Basel. Franconia, which reached eastward from the Rhine through the valleys of the Neckar and the Main to the Saale, and extended also a little to the west of the Rhine, occupied the central position, and, as the home of the Franks, was the most important division of the kingdom. To the north and north-east of it were Saxony and Thuringia; to the south, Alemannia, or, as it now began to be called, Swabia; and to the east of Swabia, in the valley of the Inn, Bavaria. There were five archbishoprics, those of Mainz, Treves, Cologne, Salzburg, and Bremen.

Louis, who was on the whole the worthiest of the grandsons of Charles the Great, ruled his kingdom vigorously and efficiently. During his reign the Frankish empire was vexed throughout nearly its whole extent by the Northmen, whom the fame of Charles the Great had held in awe, but who now swept the coats of northern, southern, and western Europe with persistent fury. The East-Frankish kingdom was, however, much less troubled at this time than the kingdom of the West Franks; the main evil with which Louis had to contend was the arrogate of his Slavonic neighbours. Exactly to the east of Franconia, from the Saale to the Oder, were the Sorabi, and to the north of them, between the Elbe and the Oder, and Wiltzi and Abotrites; while along the Baltic coast, as far as the Vistula, in what is now Pomerania, were the Wends. To the south of the Surabi, behind the Bohemian Forest, were the Czechs of Bohemia and Moravia. All these Slavonic tribes Charles the Great had either thoroughly subdued or made tributary; and of course Louis the German claimed supremacy over them. But it was hard to make his claims good. While he was a very young ruler, a vigorous duke—Moimir—acquired a position of great power among the Moravians. Soon after the signing of the treaty of Verdun, Louis, becoming alarmed at the growing influence of this chief, becoming alarmed at the growing influence of this chief, advanced against him, and put in his place a chief named Rastislaus, on whose allegiance he thought he could rely. But on his way back he was defeated by the Bohemians, who were on good terms with the Moravians. From this time the Moravians were a source of incessant anxiety to him. Rastislaus extended his kingdom far to the east, and formed alliances with ten Bulgarians and even with the Byzantine emperor; at the same time he stirred up the Bohemians and the Sorabi against Louis, and built strong fortresses on his western frontier. This gallant chief, after much fighting, at last fell into the hands of his enemies, who put out his eyes, and caused him to end his days in monastery. But his successor, Suatopluk, was not less energetic, and Louis was never able to overmaster him.

The emperor Lothair’s successor in the empire was his eldest son Louis II., who received as his kingdom the Frankish possessions in Italy. After his death Charles the Bald adroitly managed to secure the imperial crown. This happened in 875, almost immediately before the death of Louis the German. Having succeeded so easily in regard to the supreme title, Charles fancied he might be able to unite the whole empire under his rule. But Louis has divided Germany between his three sons, Carlman, Louis, and Charles; and the second of these met Charles the Bald on the field of Andernach, and by a decided victory convinced the West Franks that it was useless to hope for dominion east of the Rhine. The same so of Louis the German forced Charles the Bald to give up such portions of Lorraine as had been ceded to him by the treaty of Mersen, so that the right of possessing the whole of this important territory, which included the best part of what had been Austrasia, was vindicated for the Germans. The two eldest sons of Louis soon died, and the kingdom passed into the hands of the youngest, Charles the Fat, a prince of indolent habits and feeble mind. He crossed the Alps, however, and was crowned emperor; and, as the Northmen were at this time tormenting the West-Frankish kingdom, and no descendant of Charles the Bald was fit to cope with them, Charles the Fat was invited to become king of the West Franks. He thus rules, with the exception of Burgundy, which at this time became an independent state, the whole empire of Charles the Great; but the mighty fabric could not exist without the genius which had built it up. In Germany also the Northmen had made themselves more and more troublesome. Time after time their skiffs had penetrated far up the Rhine; they had plundered Cologne and Treves, and fed their horses over the grave of the great Charles himself, in his own beautiful basilica. His degenerate great-grandson adopted the policy of buying them off, and when he reached Paris, to the disgust of his subject, he pursued the same course. It happed that his brother Carlman had left an illegitimate son, Arnulf, whom he had made ruler of Carinthia, a country lying to the east of Bavaria. This young noble, who inherited the undaunted spirit of his forefathers, was indignant at the cowardice of his uncle; and when the latter, in 887, summoned an assembly in Tribur, Arnulf, instead of obeying the summons, marched at the head of a powerful army against the emperor. Deserted even by his ministers, and unable to offer the smallest resistance, Charles was dethroned, and in a week or two afterwards died; and Arnulf, notwithstanding his illegitimacy, became king. For some time after this, Germany was still called East Francia, and the western kingdom West Francia, but they never again had a common ruler; they were now in all respects separate, independent states. The empire of Charles the Great had fallen to pieces.

Arnulf, following the example of Charles the Fat, went to Rome and was made emperor. He could exercise but little authority in Italy, however, and soon returned. In 890 the Northmen desolated the valleys of the Meuse and the Moselle, and Arnulf, instead of buying them off, sent against them a powerful army. As it was defeated, he himself too the command in the following year. The Northmen occupied a strongly entrenched camp near Louvain; and Arnulf’s force, consisting mainly of cavalry, seemed to be quite powerless. Leaping from his horse, he induced his men to fight beside him on foot; and they were so stimulated by his valour that for the first time the dreaded enemy fled, leaving thousand of bodies on the field. They never returned in such numbers as to be again a national peril. The emperor had also to wage war with the Moravians, but his efforts here were not crowned with like success. By this time the fierce and warlike Magyars had become a terror to eastern Europe, and it occurred to Arnulf to ask for their alliance. They gladly assented; and with their help he overcame one of the three reigning sons of Suatopluk, and contrived to detach from Moravia the Bohemians, the Sorabi, and other Slavs whom Suatopluk had joined to his kingdom. But at the time of his death, in 899, he had not succeeded in breaking up the state established by this powerful warrior and his predecessor.

During the nominal reign of Louis the Child—the last of the Carolingian dynasty in Germany (899-911)—the German people passed through one of the darkest periods of their history; for when the Magyars heard that Arnulf had been succeeded by a child, they swept into the Germany in vast numbers, and fearful was the havoc they caused in very part of the kingdom. At such a time as this is happened that there was no leader around whom the nation could rally; it was virtually defenceless, and year after year savage hordes returned, bearing away with them as much savage hordes returned, bearing away with them as much plunder as they could carry, and driving before them as many prisoners as they could control. Where the Northmen had whipped with cords, these barbarians lashed with scorpions.

During the wars with the Magyars, the Northmen, and the Slavs, feudalism made rapid advances in Germany. Even in the days of Louis the German and Arnulf it was impossible for the sovereign to protect at all times every part of the kingdom. The people themselves were obliged to rise against their enemies, and, as in old times, they appointed herzogs or dukes for special warlike expeditions. These leaders, being chosen from the ancient ducal families, naturally began to think of restoring the power of which their fathers had been deprived; and, as there never was more urgent need of strong local rulers, they found no great difficulty in gratifying their ambition. The first reigning duke of whom we hear in Otto of Saxony, a country not only liable like the rest of Germany, to the attacks of the Magyars, but specially exposed to the Scandinavian sea-robbers and the northern Slavs. This duke ruled over both Saxony and Thuringia. Soon afterwards we hear also of dukes in Bavaria, in Swabia, in Lorraine, and last of all, in Franconia. Having unusual opportunities of acquiring new lands, the dukes increased their power by granting them as fiefs to vassals on whom they could depend; and many independent landowners were glad to obtain their protection by offering them homage. Multitudes of the humbler class of freemen either were forced to change the tenure of their possessions into a feudal tenure, or did so in order to escape from still greater evils. Thus, when Louis the Child died, the feudal tenure of land was the prevailing system in nearly all parts of the country. Even those who held their offices and lands immediately of the monarch, like the dukes themselves, might still, in theory, be deprived of both; but in reality they asserted almost complete independence, rendering only each service to their lord as he could force from them, or as suited their convenience. The royal authority, nominally great, had become but a shadow of the authority exercised by the early Carolingian kings.

Had Germany had no powerful external enemy, it is probably that it would now have lost the slight measure of unity to which it had attained. While Louis lived, the dukes were virtually kings in their duchies; and their natural tendency would have been to make themselves absolute rulers. But, threatened as they were by the Magyars, with the Slavs and Northmen always ready to take advantage of their weakness, they could not afford to do without a central government. Accordingly the nobles assembled at Forchheim, and by the advice of Otto, the aged duke of Saxony, Conrad of Franconia was raised to the throne (911-918). He had some excellent qualities, and in quieter times would have done good service to Germany; but he was rash and impulsive, and far too ready to submit to priestly influence. The dukes of Bavaria, Swabia, and Lorraine were not present at his election; and the choice displeased them probably because he was likely to prove considerably more powerful than they wised. Rather than acknowledge him, the duke of Lotharingia or Lorraine transferred his allegiance to Charles the Simple of France; and it was in vain that Conrad protestant and dispatched armies into Lorraine. With the help of the French king the duke maintained his ground, and, for the time, his country was lost to Germany. Bavaria and Swabia yielded, but, mainly through the fault of the king himself, their submission was of brief duration. The rise of the dukes had been watched with extreme jealously by the leading prelates. They saw that he independence they had hitherto enjoyed would be much more imperiled by powerful local governors than by a sovereign who necessarily regarded it as part of his duty to protect the church. Hence they had done everything they could to prevent the dukes from extending their authority, and as the government was carried on during the reign of Louis the Child mainly by Hatto, archbishop of Mainz, they had been able to throw considerable obstacles in the way of their rivals. They now induced Conrad to force a quarrel both upon Swabia and upon Bavaria, and the result was a series of wars in which he had only partial success. What was incomparably worse, his clerical advisers involved him in a struggle with Henry, duke of Saxony, son of the duke to whom he chiefly owed his crown. Henry was a man of great personal charm, a just ruler, strong, and brave. The Saxon people were devoted to him; and his influence over them was intensified by the virtues of his beautiful wife, to whom he was known to be passionately attached. Conrad committed a profound mistake in making an enemy of a man like this; and he lived to recent his error. On his death-bed he recommended the Franconia nobles to offer the crown to Henry, whom with fine generosity, he recognized as the only man in the kingdom who could cope with the anarchy by which he had himself been baffled.

The nobles of Franconia acted upon the advice of their chief and king, and the Saxons were very willing that the duke they loved so well should rise to still higher honours. Henry I. (918-936) was one of the best kings Germany ever had, a born statesman and warrior. His ambition was of the noblest order, for he sank his personal interests in the cause of his country; and he knew exactly when to attain his objects by force, and when by calmness and moderation. By wise concessions he almost immediately overcame the opposition of the dukes of Swabia and Bavaria; and some time later, taking advantage of the troubled state if France, he accepted the homage of the duke of Lorraine, which for many centuries afterwards remained a part of the German kingdom.

Having established internal order, Henry was able to turn to matters of even more pressing moment. In the very first year of his reign the terrible Magyars, who had continued to scourge Germany during the reign of Conrad, broke into Saxony and plundered the land almost without hindrance. In 924 they returned, and this time, by good fortune, one of their greatest princes fell into the hands of the Germans. Henry restored him to his countrymen condition that they should agree to a truce of nine years; and he had the courage to undertake to pay, during this period, yearly tribute. The heedless barbarians accepted his terms, and faithfully kept their word in regard to the immediate lands of Henry, although Bavaria, Swabia, and Franconia they occasionally invaded as before. He made admirable use of the opportunity he had secured, confining his efforts to Saxony and Thuringia, the only parts of Germany over which he had strong control. In the southern and western German lands, towns and fortified placed had long existed; but in the north, where Roman influence had but feebly extended, and where even the Franks had not exercised much authority until the time of Charles the Great, the people still lived as in ancient times either on solitary farms or in exposed villages. Such fortresses as Charles had built has been for the most part destroyed in the wars after his time, and almost the only attempts at fortification were to be found around the towers or castles of the great nobles, and the dwellings of the leading churchmen. Henry saw that, while this state of things lasted, the population could never be safe, and began in earnest the construction of fortresses and walled towns. Of every group of nine men one was compelled to devote himself to this work, while the remaining eight cultivated his fields, and allowed a third of their produce to be stored against times of trouble. The necessities of military discipline were next attended to. Hitherto the Germans had fought mainly on foot, and, as the Magyars came on horseback, the nation was placed at an immense disadvantage. A powerful force of cavalry was now raised, while at the same time the infantry were drilled in new and more effective modes of fighting. Although these preparations were carried on directly under Henry’s supervision only in Saxony and Thuringia, the neighbouring dukes knew what he was doing, and were stimulated to follow his example. When he concluded that he was almost ready, he made use of his new troops, before turning them against their chief enemy, the Magyars, to punish refractory Slavonic tribes; and at this time he brought under temporary subjection nearly all the Slavs between the Elbe and the Oder. He proceeded also against the Bohemians, whose duke was compelled to do homage.

At the expiry of the truce the Magyar messengers came as usual for their tribute. They were sent away empty handed, whereupon a vast body of invaders crossed as in former years the frontier of Thuringia. Henry prudently waited until dearth of provisions forced the enemy to divide into two bands. He then swept down upon the weaker force, annihilated it, and rapidly advanced against the remaining portion of the army. The second battle was more severe than the first, but not less decisive. The Magyars, unable to cope with a disciplined army, were cut down in great numbers, and those who survived rode in wild terror from the field. The exact scenes of these conflicts are not known, but few more important battles have ever been fought. The power of the Magyars was not indeed destroyed, but it was broken, and the way was prepared for the effective liberation of Germany from an intolerable plague. While the Magyars had been troubling Germany on the east and south, the Danes had been irritating her on the north. Charles the Great had established a march between the Eider and the Schlei; but in course of time the Danes had not only seized this territory, but had driven the German population beyond the Elbe. The Saxons had been slowly reconquering the lost ground, and now Henry, advancing with his victorious army into Jutland, forced Gorm, the Danish king, to become his vassal. The German lands were given back, and it is probably that the march of Schleswig was at this time instituted.

When this great king died, every inhabited by a German population formed part of the kingdom, and none of the duchies were at war either with him or among themselves. Along the northern and eastern frontier were tributary races, and the country was for the time rid of an enemy which, for nearly a generation, had kept it in perpetual fear. Vast as were these results, perhaps Henry did even greater service in beginning the growth of towns throughout north Germany. He was not content with merely making them places of defence, he decreed that they should be centres for the administration of justice, and that in them should be held all public festivities and ceremonies; he also instituted town markets, and encouraged traders to take advantage of the opportunities provided for them.

A strong check was thus imposed upon the tendency of freemen to become the vassals of great lords. This movement was made so powerful by the troubles of the epoch that had no other current of influence set in, the entire class of freemen must soon have disappeared. As they now knew that they could in the last resort find protection without looking to a superior, they had less temptation to give up their independence, and many of them settled in the towns, where they could be safe and free. Besides maintaining a manly spirit in the population, the towns rapidly added to their importance by the stimulus they gave to all kinds of industry and trade.

Before his death, Henry obtained the promise of the nobles at a national assembly or diet in Erfurt to recognize his son Otto as his successor, and the promise was kept. Otto I. (936-973) began his reign under the most favourable circumstances. He was twenty-four years of age, and to so high a pitch of honour had Henry raised the crown that, at the coronation festival, which was of unprecedented splendour, the dukes performed for the first time the nominally menial offices known as the arch offices of the German kingdom. These peaceful relations soon came to an end. It was Henry’s aim to establish the dukes in their rights, maintaining the royal authority rather by moral influence than by force. Otto, who was of haughty temper, despotic, and ambitious, seems early to have resolved that the dukes should act in the strictest sense as his vassals or lose their dignities. At the time of his coronation Germany was virtually a federal state; he wished to transform it into a firm and compact monarchy. This policy speedily led to a formidable rebellion, headed by Thankmar, the king’s half-brother, a fierce warrior,. Who fancied that he had a prior claim to the crown, and who had managed to secure a number of followers in Saxony. He was joined by the dukes of Franconia and Bavaria; and it was only by the aid of the duke of Swabia, whom the duke of Franconia had offended, that the rising was put down. A second rebellion, led by Otto’s brother Henry, was supported, among other nobles, by the dukes of Franconia and Lorraine. Otto again triumphed, and derived immense advantages from his success. The duchy of Franconia he kept in his own hands, and he granted Lorraine to Conrad, an energetic and honourable count, whom he still further attached by promising him his daughter to wife. Bavaria, on the death of its duke, was placed under Henry, who, heaving been pardoned, had become a loyal subject and friend of his brother. The duchy of Swabia was also brought into Otto’s family by the marriage of his son Ludolf with the duke’s daughter. By the means he made himself master of the kingdom, as none of his immediate predecessors had been. For the time, feudalism in truth meant that lands and offices were held on condition of service; the king was the genuine ruler, not only of freemen but of the highest vassals in the nation.

In the midst of his troubles at home Otto had brought fresh perplexities upon himself by intriguing in the West-Frankish kingdom against "Louis d’Outremer." Louis responded with unexpected vigour, giving the signal for the second rising against Otto by invading Alsace. He also asserted a claim in Lorraine. When peace had been restored by Germany, Otto penetrated far into France, and received the homage of "Hugh the Great," his son-in-law; but he soon returned, and afterwards used his great influence in favour of Louis against his rebellious nobles. Much more important than Otto’s doings in France were his wars with his northern and eastern neighbours. The duke of Bohemia, after a long struggle, was brought to submission. Among the Slavs between the Elbe and the Oder the king was represented by Margrave Gero, one of his important vassals, a warrior well fitted for the rough work he had to do, loyal to his sovereign, but capable of any treachery towards his enemies, and sometimes guilty of outrageous harshness. This remarkable man conquered most of the country north of Bohemia between the Oder and the Upper and Middle Elbe. Margrave Billung, who looked after the Abotrites at the Lower Elbe, was less fortunate, mainly because of the neighbourhood of the Danes, who, after the death of King Henry, often attacked the hated Germans. At last they made Billung prisoner, and Otto himself had to proceed against them. Their king did him homage, and he reestablished the march of Schleswig, after which the margrave made rapid way among the Abotrites and Wends. Ottom having profound faith in the power of the church to reconcile conquered peoples to his rule, provided for the benefit of the Danes the bishoprics of Schleswig, Ripen, and Aarhuus; and among those which he established for the Slavs was the important bishopric of Brandenburg. In his later years he set up the archbishopric of Magdeburg, which took in the sees of Meissen, Zeitz, and Merseburg.

Having secured peace in Germany, and begun the real conquest of the border races, Otto was by far the greatest sovereign in Europe; and, had he and his successors refused to go beyond the limits within he had hitherto acted, it is almost certain they would have established a united monarchy. But a decision to which Otto soon came deprived posterity of the results which might have sprung from the policy of his earlier years. About this time Adelaide, the young and beautiful widow of Lothair, son of King Hugh of Provence, having refused to marry the son of Berengar, king of Lombardy, was cast into prison and cruelly treated. She appealed to the mighty German sovereign, and the appeal not only touched his sympathies, but awoke an overmastering ambition, since the way was thus opened for a partial restoration of the Carolingian empire. At the head of a great force, accompanied by his som Ludolf and many of his chief nobles, he crossed the Alps in 951, and descended into Lombardy. He displaced Berengar, and was so fascinated by Queen Adelaide that within a few weeks he married her. Ludolf, who has received a promise of the German crown, saw his rights threatened by this marriage, and returned sullenly to Germany. He went to an old enemy of his father, the archbishop of Mainz, and the two plotted together against the king, who, hearing of their proceedings, hastily departed, leaving Duke Conrad of Lorraine to attend to Italy. Otto had already taken the title of king of Italy, and Duke Henry who hoped to obtain a large addition to his duchy, joined Queen Adelaide in urging him to assert the claims of the old Frankish sovereigns. Conrad, however, soon appeared with the intelligence that he had restored the Italian kingdom to Berengar, although as a fief of the German crown. This news being roughly received, Conrad took offence, and entered into the conspiracy of Ludolf and the archbishop. Otto, who did not suspect how deep were their designs, paid a visit to Mainz, and there was compelled to take certain solemn pledges which, after his escape, he repudiated. War then broke out, and the struggle was the most serious in which he had been engaged. In Lorraine, of which Otto made his brother Bruno, archbishop of Cologne, administrator, his cause was triumphant; but everywhere else dark clouds gathered over his head. Henry of Bavaria was deserted by his vassals; in Swabia, in Franconia, and even in Saxony, the native land of the king, his own duchy, the majority sided with the rebels. In is extremely remarkable that he movement acquired so quickly this force and volume. The explanation, according to some historians, is that the people looked forward with alarm to the union of Germany with Italy and the empire. There were still traditions of the hardships inflicted upon the common folk by the vast expeditions of Charles the Great, and it is supposed that they anticipated like evils in the event of his empire being once more set up. Whether or not this be the true explanation, the power of Otto was shaken to its foundations. At last he was saved by the presence of an immense external peril. The Magyars were as usual stimulated to action by the disunion of their enemies; and Conrad and Ludolf were guilty of the fatal crime and blunder of inviting their co-operation. This baseness disgusted the Germans, many of whom fell away from the enterprise, and rallied to the head and protector of the nation. In a very short time Conrad and the archbishop of Mainz submitted; and although Ludolf held out a little longer, he too broke down and entreated to be pardoned. The archbishop was ordered to be closely confined in a monastery, and soon afterwards died. Lorraine was given to Bruno; but Conrad, its former duke, although thus punished, was not disgraced, for Otto had urgent need of his services in the war with the Magyars. The great battle against them was fought in 955 at the Lechfeldm near Augsburg. They had never before appeared in such numbers, and there was a strong feeling on both sides that it was to be finally settled whether the work of King Henry should be completed or wholly overthrown. After a fierce and obstinate fight, in which Conrad with many other nobles fell, the question was decided in favour of Germany and Europe; the Magyars were ever more thoroughly scourged than in the battles in which Otto’s father had given them their first real check. The deliverance of Germany was complete, and from this time, notwithstanding certain wild raids towards the east, the Magyars began to settle in the land they still occupy, and to adapt themselves to the conditions of civilized life.

Entreated by Pope John XII., who needed a helper against King Berengar, Otto went a second time to Italy, in 962; and on this occasion he received from the pope the imperial crown. He did not return to Germany for more than two years; and in 966 he was again in Italy, where he remained six years, exercising to the full his imperial rights in regard to the papacy, but occupied mainly in an attempt to make himself master of the souther as well as of the northern half of the peninsula.

By far the most important act of Otto’s eventful life was his assumption of the Lombard and the imperial crowns. His successors so steadily followed his example that the sovereign crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle claimed as his right to be afterwards crowned in Milan and in Rome. Thus grew up the Holy Roman empire, that strange state which, directly descending, though the empire of Charles the Great, from the empire of the Caesars, contained so many elements foreign to ancient life. We are here concerned with it only in so far as it affected Germany. Germany itself never until our own day became an empire. It is true that at last the Holy Roman empire was as a matter of fact confined to Germany; but in theory it was something quite different. Like France, Germany was a kingdom, but it differed from France in this, that its king was also king in Italy and Roman emperor. As the latter title made him nominally the secular lord of the world, it might have been expected to excite the pride of his German subjects; and doubtless, after a time, they did learn to think highly of themselves as the imperial race. But the evidence tends to show that at first they had no wish for this honour, and would have much preferred had their ruler limited himself strictly to his own people. There are signs that during Otto’s reign they began to have a distinct consciousness of national life, their use of the word "deutsch" to indicate the whole people being one of these symptoms. Their common sufferings, struggles, and triumphs, however, account far more readily for this feeling than the supposition that they were elated by their king undertaking obligations which took him for years together from his native land. So solemn were the associations with the imperial title that, after acquiring it, Otto probably looked for more intimate obedience from his subjects. They were willing enough to admits its abstract claims; but in the world of feudalism there was a multitude of established customs and rights which rudely conflicted with them, and in action, remote and abstract considerations gave way before concrete and present realities. Instead of strengthening the allegiance of the Germans towards their sovereign, the imperial title was the means of steadily undermining it. To the connexion of their kingdom with the empire they owe the fact that for centuries they were the most divided of European nations, and that they have only now begun to create a genuinely united states. France was made up of a number of loosely connected lands, each with its own lord, when Germany, under Otto, was to a large extent moved by a single will, well organized, and strong. But the attention of the French kings was concentrated on their immediate interests, and in course of time they brought their unruly vassals to order. The German kings, as emperors, had duties which often took the, away for long periods from Germany. This alone would have shaken their authority, for during their absence, the great vassals seized rights which it was afterwards difficult to recover. But the emperors were not merely absent, they had to engage in struggles in which they exhausted the energies necessary to enforce obedience at home; and, in order to obtain help, they were sometimes glad to concede advantages to which, under other conditions, they would have tenaciously clung. Moreover, the greatest of all their struggles was with the papacy; so that a power outside their kingdom, but exercising immense influence within it, was in the end always prepar5ed to weaken them by exciting dissension among their people. Thus the imperial crown was the most fatal gift that could have been offered to the German kings; apparently giving them all things, it deprived them of nearly everything. And in doing this, it inflicted on many generations incalculable and needless suffering.

By the policy of his later years Otto did much to prepare the way for the process of disintegration which he rendered inevitable by restoring the empire. With the kingdom divided into five great duchies, the sovereign could always have maintained at least so much unity as King Henry secured; and, as the experience of Otto himself showed, three would have been chances of much greater centralization. Yet he threw away this advantage. Lorraine was divided into two duchies, Upper Lorraine and Lower Lorraine. In each duchy of the kingdom he appointed a palsgrace, whose duty was to maintain royal rights; and after Margrave Gero died, his territory was divided into several marches, and place under six margraves, each with the same powers as Gero, and having extensive lands. Otto gave up the practice of retaining the duchies either in his own hands or in those of relatives. Even Saxony, his native duchy, and the chief source of his strength, was given to Margrave Billung, whose family long afterwards kept it. As a set-off to the power of the princes—for the reigning immediate vassals of the crown ranked as princes—Otto, especially after he became emperor and looked upon himself as the protector of the church, immensely increased the importance of the prelates. They received great gifts of land, were endowed with the jurisdiction in criminal as well as civil cases, and obtained several other valuable sovereign rights. The emperor’s idea was that, as church lands and offices could not be hereditary, their holders would necessarily favour the crown. But he forgot that the church had a head beyond Germany, and that the passion for the rights of an order may be not less intense than that for the rights of an order may be not less intense than that for the rights of a family. While the empire was at peace with the popes, the prelates did strongly uphold it, and their influence was unquestionably, on the whole, higher than that of rude secular nobles. But with the empire and the papacy in conflict, they could not abide, as a rule, by the authority which had the most sacred claims to their loyalty. From all these circumstances it curiously happened that the sovereign who did more than almost any other to raise the royal power, was also the sovereign who, more than any other, wrought its decay.

Otto II. (973-983) had been crowned king and co-imperator in this father’s lifetime. His troubles began within a year in Bavaria, which was now a very great duchy, not only including the valley of the Inn, but reaching up along the western frontier of Bohemia and the eastern frontiers of Swabia and Franconia as far as the Bohemian Forest. Henry, the brother of Otto I., had died soon after the battle of the Lechfeld, and had been succeeded by a youn son, who, as he grew up, showed himself of so contentious of disposition that he was known as Henry the Wrangler. This young duke’s sister had married the aged duke of Swabia, over whom she had absolute control, so that the younger branch of the house of Saxony had acquired an importance which the emperor could not affect to ignore. Taking offence at some action of Otto’s, Henry the Wrangler conspired against him and rebelled. This first rebellion was easily put down, but Henry soon escaped from the imprisonment to which he was condemned, and than Bavaria was the scene of a war which gave occasion to great bloodshed. When at last Henry was overcome, his duchy was taken from him and granted to one of the emperor’s anxiety to Otto I. As this prince had already received Swabia, Otto was able, without seeming to be harsh, to deprive Bavaria of some of its importance. The southern part, Carinthia, which had hitherto been a march, was separted from it and made a duchy; and the eastern march, Austria, was also taken away, and formally made over to Liutpold, of the Babenberg family, who had already ruled it for some time, and had proved himself a faithful vassal. Another member of the same house was invested with the Nordgau, a part of Bavaria to the north of the Danube, which formed a sort of wedge between Bohemia on the one hand and Franconia and Swabia on the other. Having arrived at this settlement, Otto went to chastise the unruly Bohemians; but while he was away war was begun behind him by the new duke of Carinthia, who, forgetful of the benefits he had just received, rose to avenge the wrongs o his friend Duke Henry. The emperor hastily concluded peace with Bohemia, the duke of which did him homage; and the rising was quickly put down. Henry was made over to the keeping of the bishop of the Utrecht, and Carinthia received another duke.

In his anxiety to obtain southern Italy, Otto I. had secured, as wife for his successor, Theophano, daughter of the Byzantine emperor, to whom southern Italy belonged. Otto II., having all his father’s ambition with much of his strength and haughtiness, and being in the full flush of youth, longed to get away from Germany and to claim these remote possession. But he was detained for some time by a sudden and unscrupulous invasion of Lower Lorraine in 978 by Lothair, king of France. So stealthily did the invader advance that the emperor and empress, who happened at the time to be at Ail-la-Chapelle, had just time to escape before the town was seized. As quickly as possible Otto placed himself at the head of a great army, and marched to Paris. The approach of winter compelled him to return without taking the city, which was well fortified; but soon afterwards Lothair gave up all claim to Lorraine, and peace was restored. At this time Lower Lorraine, which Otto I. had added to the crown lands, was held as a fief of the German sovereign by King Lothair’s brother Charles, the last of the Carolings, whose claims to the French throne were afterwards put aside in favour of Hugh the Great.

At last Otto was able to fulfil the wish of his heart, and he did not again see Germany. He claims to southern Italy were vehemently opposed; and in 982 he suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Greek emperor’s subjects and their allies, the Saracens of Sicily,—saving his life by a romantic adventure. The tidings of this crushing blow cast gloom over Germany, and in the north and east the Danes and Slavs, as if the spell in which the first Otto had held them was broken, attacked the Germans with an audacity and a determination they had never before displayed. With the Danes the Saxons were able to cope; but the Slavs, who vehemently detested the German yoke, fought with such desperate courage that much of the work effected by Margraves Billung and Gero was altogether undone. They had seemed to be decisively conquered, but two centuries passed before they were beaten back to the position to which they had been reduced in the previous reign. Such were the first fruits of the assumption of the imperial title.

About a year before his sudden death in Rome, Otto held a diet in Verona which was attended by the German princes. They would not help him in his Italian enterprise, which was extremely unpopular; but they consented to recognize his infant son Otto as his successor. This child they took back with them to Germany, and after the emperor’s death he was crowned in Aix-la-Chapelle. Henry the Wrangler, as his near relative, was released form confinement and made his guardian; but as this restless prince soon showed an inclination to secure the crown for himself, the infant king was taken from him and placed under the charge of his mother Theophano. Afterwards, when she died, he lived with his grandmother, the empress Adelaide. While these two ladies acted, one after the other, as regent, the chief functions of government were discharged by Willigis, archbishop of Mainz, a vigorous prelate who had risen from a humble rank to the highest position in the German Church. He was aided by the princes of the state, each of whom claimed to have a voice in the supreme administration. Under these conditions vigorous rule was impossible; so that during the minority of Otto the royal authority was greatly weakened. In Bavaria, after the death of Henry the Wrangler, the higher vassals, without waiting for the appointment of a duke, returned to the ancient German custom, and elected Henry’s son. A similar election took place in Thuringia, and head of which although not a duke, ranked with the chief aristocracy. And along the coast of Friesland was formed a virtually free state, which was at a later time the scene of a long-continued contest between the Frieslanders and the powerful counts of Holland. At the age of fifteen Otto III. (983-102) was declared to have reached his majority. He had been so carefully trained in all the learning of the age that he was called "the wonder of the world," and a certain fascination still attached to his imaginative, although somewhat fantastic, nature. His mother having imbued him wit the extravagant conceptions of the Byzantine emperors, he introduced into his court an amount of splendour and ceremonial that had hitherto been unknown in western Europe. Most of his time he spent in Rome, and here he cherished a vast scheme by which he was to do much more than recall the empire of Charles the Great in its whole extent. As the heir of the Western emperors, and the grandson of an Eastern emperor, he fancied that he might unite the entire known world under his rule. Rome was to be its centre, and Germany but a province. In this vague design he was warmly encouraged by Gerbert, the greatest scholar of the day, whom, as Silverter II., he raised to the papal see. Silvester saw that in such an empire, with such an emperor, it would not be difficult for the papacy to become the real source of influence. Meanwhile Germany suffered severely form internal disorder and from the inroads if her rude neighbours; and when, in the year 1000—a year which Otto, with many others, feared might see the end of the world—he visited his northern kingdom, there were eager hopes that he would smite the national enemies with something of the vigour of his predecessors. But the imperial dreamer found it more interesting to go to Aix-la-Chapelle, and to descend into the tomb of the mighty Charles, beside whose gorgeously arrayed body, as it sat on its marble throne, he gave free scope to his fancy,—apparently under the strange impression that his was a spirit akin to that of the worldly and resolute conqueror. One practical step he did take, but it was in a direction contrary to that desired by his subjects. The Poles, of whom, we hear first during the reign of Otto I., and whom inhabited the country immediately to the east of the Oder, had since his time owed a vague allegiance to the Germans. They were now ruled by Boleslaus, a chief of an aggressive and determined spirit, who by ostentatious loyalty gained the goodwill of Otto III. The latter commissioned him to conquer the Pomeranians, a duty which he gladly and effectually discharged, adding to the Pomeranians the Prussians and some of the Bohemians. The large state thus formed the emperor made independent of Germany, probably in the hope that it might form the centre for a province of his future empire. Its Christian missions were severed from the church of Germany and formed into a new Polish church; and the emperor himself founded the head see at Gnesse, where his friend Adalbert had met a martyr’s death. This was done with the sanction of Pope Silvester, who are the same time established an independent national church in Hungary, and encouraged Stephen to become the first Magyar king, by sending him from Rome a golden crown.

Otto’s magnificent plans received a fatal shock from the insubordination of the Romans, for whose city he designed so much honour. When he died, perhaps by poison, there was no representative of the elder branch of the Saxon family, and several candidates came forward for the throne. HenryII. (1002-1024), son and successor of Henry the Wrangler, and therefore the great-grandson of King Henry I. by a younger line, managed to reach Aix-la-Chapelle before his chief rival, the duke of Swabia, and was there crowned. As he had not been elected, he was obliged to humble himself by going about among the princes and entreating their allegiance. His shattered health, querulous temper, and abject submission of priestly influence unfitted him to the great position to which he had raised himself, and his reign was an unfortunate one for Germany. For ten years civil war raged in Lorraine; in Saxony, too, torrents of blood were shed in petty quarrels. Hitherto it had been the right of the crown, when a duke or other prince died, to appoint his successor; and obviously no royal rights was of greater importance. In Henry’s time the principle of inheritance was virtually established in favour of the immediate vassals of the sovereign. He the more willingly made this concession because of his extravagant generosity to the church, in which, like Otto I., he looked for his main support. He had his reward in the attachment of the papacy, by which he was ultimately canonized; but he succeeded no better than his predecessors in counter balancing the secular by the spiritual princes. In his foreign wars he was as little prosperous as in his government at home. Boleslaus, who was now a powerful sovereign, had conquered Bohemia and Lusatia; and so anxious was Henry to win back these lands that, notwithstanding his Christian zeal he obtained the alliance of certain Slavonic tribes by undertaking that their religion should not be interfered with. Bohemia and Lusatia were for a time detached from the Polish kingdom, but they were reconquered, and after a war of fourteen years the Pole was a greater ruler than ever. Henry went three times to Italy, and was crowned Lombard king and emperor. Before he became emperor, in order to assert his right of sovereignty over Rome, he called himself king of the Romans; and this was the designation borne by his successors until they received the higher title from the pope. Up to this time a sovereign crowned in Aix-la-Chapelle was simply "king of the East Franks" or "king of the Franks and Saxons."

The great nobles now met at Oppenheim, and elected to the throne Conrad, a count of Franconia. The dukes of Upper and Lower Lorraine, with a number of prelates, opposed this choice; but their objections were overborne, and Conrad II. (1024-39) seemed to have no reason to dread internal enemies. Very soon, however, he had to battle with a formidable conspiracy, and during nearly his whole reign he was exposed to dangers of his kind; for he was a masterful king, looked with extreme jealously on the rights the princes had acquired, and wished his crown to be the symbol of a genuine central authority. He was remarkably successful in contending with rebellion; and the chief cause of his success was that he allied himself with a powerful force, the significance of which had not been detected by previous sovereigns. Hitherto the vassals of great lords—the mediate nobles—had been very much at the mercy of their superiors. Conrad, seeing that he and they had a common danger, made them more independent. It was famous edict in Italy, decreeing that no fief-holder should be deprived of his fief without judgment of his peers; but he carried out this policy from the beginning in Germany, and even from the judgment of a fief-holder’s peers there was a right of appeal to the royal tribunals. The result of this policy was that the inferior fief-holders were unwilling to follow their lords against the king. Thus when Duke Ernest of Swabia, his stepson, rose against him, and appealed to his men, as in old times, to make his cause their own, they refused, urging that the sovereign was the supreme protector of their liberties. Conrad soon revealed that his object was the same as that which Otto I. long pursued,—not to do away with the duchies, but to get them, if possible, under his immediate control. The principle of inheritance he extended to the throne; and in his case it was recognized, his son Henry being crowned as his successor soon after he himself became king. To young King Henry to granted Bavaria in fief, when the reigning duke, by rising against him, forfeited his title; and afterwards, despite the bitter opposition of the nobles, he invested the same prince with Swabia, the ducal family of which died out. Carinthia, being vacant, was given to Conrad’s nephew. As Franconia ever since the time of Otto had remained in the hands of the sovereign, Saxony, Thuringia, and the two Lorraines were the only duchies of which Conrad was not more or less master.

When Conrad mounted the throne, the safety of Germany was endangered from three different points. On the north Denmark was ruled by Canute, the great English sovereign; on the east was the wide Polish state, whose sovereign Boleslaus crowned himself king, and still had possession of Bohemia and Lusatia; to the south-east was Hungary, which, under Stephen I., was rapidly becoming an organized and formidable power. Conrad was prudent enough to ask in marriage for his son Henry Canute’s daughter ; and in return he ceded to Denmark the march of Schleswig. The Danes thus became the friends of the Germans, and were of service to then in keeping down the Wends. With Hungary, Conrad waged war, but not successfully, for, although a statesman, he appears to have been no great general. He was more fortunate in Poland ; Boleslaus having died, the Poles plunged into a furious civil war, and he was able to turn their disunion to his own advantage. Moreover, a youthful hero, Breteslaus, an illegitimate son of the Bohemia, having carried away from a convert a young German lady, a powerful noble’s daughter, whom he passionately loved, and who had unbounded influence over him, was was induced to place his sword at the disposal of Conrad, and by a single raid the drove the Poles from Lusatia. Lusatia and Bohemia were thus restored to Germany, and the Polish ruler, who now claimed no higher title duke, did homage to Conrad for his lands.

In Italy Conrad was ill received, for although as emperor and Lombard king he was its lawful sovereign, the Germans were still looked upon as intruders, and by force alone they could maintain their rights. The event which at the time threw most lustre on his reign was his acquisition of the kingdom of Burgundy or Arles. It was bequesthed to him by Rudolf III., whose niece Gisela was Conrad’s wife. In 1032 he was crowned, and was at once recognized by the German-speaking population. The others resisted, but in two years all opposition and been overcome, and he received in Geneva the homage of the leading southern nobles. This beautiful kingdom was full of prosperous cities, and its possession seemed to add incalculably to the power of the German kings ; but in the end it proved an occasion of humiliation rather than of strength.

Henry III. (1039-56), who had been crowned, while his father was alive, king of Burgundy as well of Germany, had none of the rudeness and reckless impulsiveness which marred Conrad’s great qualities ; but he had the same decisive jusdgment, far-reaching ambition, and irresistible will. In the later years of Conrad, Breteslaus, the young Bohemia prince who had served him so well in Lusatia, having succeeded his father as duke of Bohemia, waged war in his own interest against the disunited Poles, and easily brought their whole state into subjection. As he showed signs of wishing to become an independent sovereign, Henry invaded his territory, and so completely overcame him that he appeared before the king in Ratisbon, barefooted and in a penitent’s garb. Henry treated him generously, and was rewarded by receiving to the end of his reign the service of a loyal vassal ; and the young king also gained the good-will of the Poles by placing over them their lawful prince, Casimir, who willingly did homage for his land. The king of Denmark, too, acknowledge Henry as his feudal lord. Moreover, by several campaigns in Hungary, forced upon him by the violence of its king, Samuel, son-in-law of Stephen I., Henry brought that country for the first-time, but only temporarily, into the position of a fief of the German crown. In Germany itself he acquired, during the first ten years of his reign, an authority which had been unknown since the days of Otto I. His bitter enemy, Duke Gottfried of Upper Lorraine, who conspired against him time, and found powerful allies in certain Burgundian nobles and in the counts of Fladers and of Holland, was beaten down ; and he was able to dispense against the most powerful princes the laws of the kingdom, and to force them to maintain the public peace. Under his severe and beneficent rule Germany enjoyed a period of internal quiet such as she had probably never before experienced. But even Henry could not permanently divert from its course the central political tendency of the age. The princes, convinced that his aim was to bring the duchies under his direct authority and thus to create a monarchy which should have but one head, sullenly awaited their opportunity ; and it came when, in 1052, after a ten month’s siege of Presburg, he was obliged to retreat precipitately from Hungary. The influence of his great fame was shaken, and from this time he had to content against warlike nobles. On one occasion he found out, only through the death-bed repentance of a rebel, that he was object of a widespread conspiracy, which, had he remained in ignorance, would inevitably have succeeded. Even the mediate nobles, had stood loyally, by Conrad, were not his friends ; for his wars made serious demands upon them, and his administration of justice was often stricter in regard to their class then they quite approved. Although at the time of his death he was still one of the most powerful sovereign who ever reigned in Germany, he was obliged to adopt a conciliatory policy,—even Duke Gottfried, after all his offences, being established in his duchy.

At the beginning of Henry’s reign the church all over Europe was in a deplorable condition. Simony in its basest forms was almost universally pracitised, and morality among the clergy was at its lowest ebb. The papacy, too, had sunk into a degraded state, it authority being annihilated, not only by the character of successive popes, but by the fact that there were at the same time there claimants of the Roman see. These were regarded with sorrow by Henry, who was a man of sincere and rigorous piety. Associating himself with the reforming movement which proceeded form Cluny, he not only commanded and pleaded with his prelates to put an end to abuses, but resolved to strike the evil at its root by stern exercise of his imperial rights. In 1046 he entered Rome at the head of an army which had secured for him in northern Italy such respect as had been given to no German ruler since Charles the Great, and summarily deposed the three popes who contentions had causes scandal throughout Christendom. He then raised to the papal se the bishop of Bamberg as Clement II., who crowned him emperor ; and the after Clement, when death made fresh appointments necessary, three other German popes, Damasus II., Leo IX., and Victor II. Under these popes a new era began for the church and for the papacy. Behind the two later was the stern, unfaltering, highminded Hildebrand, who, as their adviser, silently prepared the way for his own memorable term of rule. In thus reforming the papacy, Henry III. fulfilled what was regarded as the noblest duty of his imperial office ; but he also sharpened a weapon whose keen edge was first tried against his son.

The last years of Henry III. form a turning-point in German history. Great kings and emperors came after him ; but none of them possessed the direct, absolute authority which he freely wielded ; even in the case of the strongest, the forms of feudalism more and more interposed themselves between the monarch and the nation, and at last royal authority virtually altogether disappeared. The process was hastened by the unfortunate fact that Henry III. was succeeded by a child. The infact king, Henry IV. (1056-1106), was at first in charge of his mother, the empress Agnes, a lady of excellent qualities, but too gentle for a position which demanded the exercise of stern virtues. Her rule was jealously watched by Anno, archbishop, cold to Cologne, a rigid churchman of imposing personality, cold to the ordinary interests of the world, but passionately devoted to his order. Discontented by the predominant influence of the bishop of Augsburg at court, he managed, by a clever trick, to get possession of the king and the insignia of royalty. Agnes, knowing his power, and deserted by her friends, retired from the regency ; and Anno began forthwith to rule the state. By and by he was compelled by the diet to share his duties with Adalbert, archbishop of Bremen, who was not less ambitious than Anno, but was as gay, sociable, and worldly as his rival was proud and morose. In the end Adalbert made himself complete master of Henry, who thus grew up under the most diverse influences. The young king was generous, and endowed with considerable intellectual gifts ; but, passing as he did from the gloomy place in Cologne, where he lived a monk’s life under terrible censors, to the palace in Bremen, where he was petted and flattered, he became wayward and self-willed. He assumed the duties of government at the age of fifteen, and soon made enemies of nearly all the chief princes. In Saxony, where, like his father, he held his court he, excited by a series of injudicious proceedings intense hostility. While the Ottos were in pursuit of the imperial phantom, a number of the crown lands in this duchy had been seized by nobles whose descendants now held them. Henry insisted on restoring these ; and, as Henry I. had taken possession of the domains of his Carolingian predecessors, so Henry IV. claimed the domains of his Saxon predecessors. As if this were not enough, he built a number of fortresses which the free peasantry imagined were intended for prisons ; he kept in confinement the heir to the duchy, and he persistently spoke of the Saxons in a tone of supreme contempt. All classes were thus combined against him ; and in 1073 the universal discontent found expression in a vast popular assembly, attended alike by freemen and by nobles, and in which—such was the gratitude of the church for royal favours—a leading place was taken by the archbishop of Magdeburg and by the bishop of Halbertstadt, the former the brother, the latter the nephew, of Archishop Anno. Henry was surprised by a band of rebels in his fortress of Harzburg, near Goslar. Attended by a few followers he escaped, and appealed to the princess for support ; but he could not compel their aid, and of free will they would grant him nothing. After tedious and degrading negotiations, in which he was accused of every kind of crime, he was at last obliged to yield the demands of his enemies. As these demands did not include the destruction of the fortresses, the peasants, fancying they were betrayed, refused to lay down their arms, and stormed through the duchy, not only battering down the detested buildings, but even destroying the chapel of the Harzburg fortress and committing acts of desecration with ruthless fury. This so alarmed the princes, both spiritual and secular, the Henry was able to advance with a large army into Saxony, where in 1075 he gained a decisive victory, and re-established the authority of the crown.

While Germany was in this confused state, Hildebrand had become pope, as Gregory Vii., and in 1075 he issued his famous decree against the marriage of the clergy and against their investiture by laymen,—for boldness and vastness the most magnificent policy devised, since, had it been effected, the pope must have become the secular as well as the spiritual lord of Christendom. So quickly had the reforming zeal of Henry III. made the papacy a power which treathened to overshadow the world. To the decree as to investiture it was impossible for any sovereign to submit, and in Germany there were stronger reasons than elsewhere for resistance. Half the land of the country was held by the clergy, and most of it had been granted to them because, in virtue of their feudal relation to the sovereign, it was supposed that they would be his most efficient helpers. Had the feudal relation to the sovereign, it was supposed that they would be his most efficient helpers ; had the feudal tie been broken, the crown would soon have vanished, and the constitution of mediaeval society must have undergone a radical change. Henry, who had hitherto trated the new pope with excessive respect, and was believed at the Vatican to have no strength of character, now announced his intention of going to Rome and assuming the imperial title. The pope, to whom the Saxons had been encouraged to make complaint, responded by sending back certain back messengers of Henry’s with the command that he should do penance for the crimes of which his subjects accused him. Enraged by this unlooked-for arrogance, Henry summoned a synod of German bishops, who declered Hildebrand deposed. The answer was a bull excommunicating the German king, dethroning him, and liberating his subjects from their oath of allegiance.

Never had a pope ventured to take so bold a step. It was within the memory of even young men that a German king had dismissed three popes, and raised one after another, four of his own prelates to the Roman see. And now a pope attempted to drag from his throne the successor of this very sovereign. The effect o the bull was tremendous ; no other was ever followed by equally important results. The princes had long been chafing under royal power ; they had shaken even so stern an autocrat as Henry III., and the authority of Henry IV. was already visibly lowered. At this important stage in their contest with the crown a mighty all suddenly offered himself, and, with indecent eagerness, they hastened to associate themselves with him. Their vassals and subjects, appalled by the invisible powers wielded by the head of the church, supported them in their rebelliousness. Henry had looked for no such result as this ; he had not comprehended the influences which lay beneath the surface, and was horrified by his unexpectd isolation. At a diet in Oppenheim he in vein humbled himself before the princes. They turned from him coldly, and decided that the pope should be asked to come to Germany to investigate, along themselves, the accusations brought against him ; that if, within a year, the sentence of excommunication were not removed, the king should lose his crown ; and that in the meantime he should live in retirement.

Now come the strange scene at Canossa which burned itself into the memory of Europe. For three days, in the depth of winter, the representative of the Caesars, clad in a penitent’s shirt, shivered in the outer court of the Countess Mathilda’s castle, entreating to be admitted into the pope’s presence. No other suggested itself, or was perhaps possible; but it did not save him. Although the pope in a manner forgave him, the German princes, being resolved not to miss the chance which fortune had given them, met in his absence and deposed him, electing Rudolf, duke of Swabia, as his successor. But Henry’s bitter humiliations transformed his character ; they brought out all his latent capacities of manliness. From being a wilful, thougtless lad, of his irregular training, but with a deep consciousness of his rights, and a fixed determination to maintain them.

The war that followed—the war of investitures—was the opening of that tremendous struggle between the empire and the papacy, which is the central fact of mediaeval history, and which, after two centuries of conflict, ended in the exhaustion of both powers. Its details belong more to the history of Italy than to that of Germany, but in Germany its effects were most deeply felt. It was now that the nation plucked the bitter fruits of the seeds planted by Otto I. in assuming the imperial crown, and both by Otto I. in assuming the imperial crown, and both by Otto and his predecessors and successors in lavishing worldly power upon the church. In the ambition of the spiritual and the secular princes the popes had an immense engine of offence the emperors ; and they unscrupulously turned it to the utmost it to the utmost advantage. The most loyal friends of the emperors were the cities. They had been steadily growing up, especially in the Rhine country and in southern Germany, and could not but see that they had far more to fear from the princes than from the crown. Hence, when Henry returned to Germany, Worms, Spires, and many other towns opened their gates to him, and freely contributed of their wealth ; and towards his successors they pursued a like policy.

After several indecisive battles the rival king, Rudolf, was, in 1080, defeated and slain. Henry then carried the war into Italy, where he was crowned emperor by his own antipope, and in 1085 Hildebrand died an exile from Rome, although with unbroken spirit. In Germany two other rival kings were set up, Hermann, count of Luxembourg, and Ekbert, margrave of Meissen ; but they were only partially successful, and after the death of the latter in 1089, had Germany followed her own impulses, there would have been peace. In the papacy, however, Henry had an implacable foe ; and again and again, when he seemed to be on the point of complete triumph, it kindled now anew the smouldering embers. His son Conrad was stirred up against him in Italy ; and in Germany, when he was near the end of hid days, his second Henry was induced to head a dangerous rebellion. During his reign the first crusade took place, and he suffered severely from the pious zeal which it expressed and intensified. The movement was not in the end favourable to papal supremacy, but the early crusaders, and those who sympathized with them, regarded the enemies of the pope as the enemies of religion.

Pope Pachal II. did not doubt, after the death of Henry IV., that he would immediately triumph, but he was mistaken. Henry V. (1106-25), who had promised, with unconscious irony, to treat him as a father, went on, like his predecessors, investing prelates with ring and staff, and, when expostulated with, replied, that he could not be expected to give up a right which had belonged to all previous kings. War broke out a new, and, as in the time of Henry IV., the pope found enthusiastic supporters among the princes. One of the most ardent of these wars Lothair, whom Henry V. himself had made duke of Saxony, after the enstinction of the Billung line, by which for a century and a half the duchy had been ruled. Henry’s chief friends were the two Hohenstaufen princes, Frederick and Conrad, to the former of whom Henry IV. gave the duchy of Swabia when Rudolf became his rival king, while the latter was created by Henry V. duke of Fraconia, a country which had been attached to the crown lands since the time of Otto I. These two brothers were enthusiastic imperialists, and upheld with persistent courage the cause of their sovereign on the repeated occasions on which he went to Italy to chastise the pope. At last, in 1122, peace was restored by the concordant of Worms. By this compromise, which was forced by exhaustion upon both parties, the right of electing the prelates was granted to the cleargy, and the emperor resigned the right of investing them with ring and staff. On the other hand, it was arranged that the elections should take place in the presence either of the emperor or of his representative, and that he should invest the prelates with the sceptre. The papacy was thus very far from realizing the great schmes of Hildenbrand ; still, even in regard to the particular question in dispute, it gained solid advantages, and its general authority was incomparably more important than it had been half a century before. For it had waged war on the emperor himself ; instead of acknowledging its inferiority as in old times, it had claimed to be the highest power ;it had even attempted to dispose of the imperial crown as if the empire were a fief which it granted of its good will ; and it had found out that it could at any time hamper, perhaps paralyse, imperial authority, by exciting strife in Germany.

The Franconian dynasty died out with Henry V., and Lothair, duke of Saxony, was elected to succeed him. Lothair (1125-37) excited the enmity of the Hohenstaufen princes by demanding that they should give up certain crown lands which had been incorporated with their duchies. Unable to defend himself against them without help, he secured a powerfully ally by granting his daughter in marriage to Henry the Proud, grandson of Welf, a prince whom Henry IV. had made duke of Bavaria. As this vehement noble soon succeeded to Bavaria, and was also invested with Saxony, he became by far the greatest subject in Germany. Nevertheless, the duke of Swabia withstood him, and not until within three years of the emperor’s death were they forced to crave for peace. And considerable portion of Lothair’s reign was spent in Italy : and Innocent II. claimed that when he received the imperial crown he did so as a vassal of the pope.

Nothing could indicate more clearly than this fact how much of their old power the German kings had lost. It was not past hope that even yet some of their former splendour might be restored ; and for a brief for a period monarchy did again stand high. Still, its foundations were sapped. Incessant war, bothl at home and in Italy, had deprived it of its forced ; it had lost moral influence by humiliations of which the scene at Canossa was an extreme type. Steadily, with unwearied energy, letting no opportunity escape, the princes had advanced towards independence, and they might well look forward to such a bearing in regard to the kings as the kings had formerly adopted in regard to them.

Read the rest of this article:
Germany - Table of Contents

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-21 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries