This article brought to you from the years 1073 to 1085 C.E.
Have you ever heard two people who were in charge get into a fight? Parents? Teachers? People in government? Things can get . . . uncomfortable. The whole school or house or place of work can start to feel tense. Well, imagine when two people who are in charge of an empire get into a fight. During the Middle Ages, there was a big change in power. As the Roman Catholic Church got more power, the kings had less. The church began to have some choices over what the king said or did . . . but the king did not like that at all. Get ready to plug your ears or shut your eyes as we look at one of the most uncomfortable fights in Roman history.
So how did this big fight end? The pope not only kicked the king out of the church, he also told all of the people who held land under the king that they owed the king nothing. Those people rose up and stopped paying the king. King Henry IV was so hurt by this that he had to go say sorry in person. The pope made the king wait outside in the snow for three days before he let him in. Then, when things settled down a little, the king had the pope kicked out of his place in the church . . . and later the king's son made him quit for doing such a bad job. It's uncomfortable when people in power fight . . . especially when it's the two rulers of an empire.
Fights can begin in many ways. They almost always have to do with power. For a long time, the king was free to choose church bishops that agreed with him. Things stayed that way for many, many years, until someone decided to change it. Pope Gregory VII was in charge of the church in the early 1000's and changed the power balance between the church and the king. He thought the church should hold more power than the king. The pope realized that he had the ears of all of the world's believers, so he could change how the people felt about the king at any point. . .
This was not good news for the king. Henry IV was Holy Roman Emperor in the early 1000's. He also was not a grown up. He was only fifteen when he became king of the Germans and the ruler of the empire in the year 1065. He was used to everyone doing everything he asked. And, he did not know very much about how to rule his people. Not a good combination. He wanted to be able to choose the church leaders so he could do what he wanted, like divorce his wife, whom he did not like very much. The pope wanted power. The king wanted power. This could not end well.
This all comes down to who was able to choose the church leaders. The king? Or the pope? A conflict is when people don't agree and it can lead to a fight. In this case, the pope and the king never punched each other or sent armies after each other . . . but things were still tense for a while. They argued back and forth about what was best for the country and what God would want. Meanwhile, the people sat back and listened, like children while their parents fight. Things got ugly. Who would win?
The pope had a power that the king did not have. To excommunicate someone means to no longer let them be a part of the church. This did not just mean that they could not show up and go to church on Sundays. This also meant they could not have God's forgiveness in the eyes of the church. So . . . the pope kicked Henry IV out of the church. That meant that the king lost a lot of respect in the eyes of his people.