Our Glorious Popes

Chapter VI

In the year 1073, during the Easter season, having ruled the Church faithfully for twelve years, Pope Alexander II died. On the following day his funeral Mass was celebrated and he was buried in the Basilica of the Holy Savior, in Rome. As the rites were completed and the cardinals stood in prayer before the crypt of the dead Pontiff, suddenly, without apparent cause, there welled up a great roar in the midst of the Basilica: “Let Hildebrand be Pope!” And, as if swept up in an irresistible wave, the assembled cardinals and bishops and priests answered with the shout: “Saint Peter has chosen Hildebrand!”


Thus was Pope Saint Gregory VII elected. Though not even a priest at the time of his election, but only a deacon, the monk Hildebrand was by no means unknown to the Romans. During a period covering more than twenty-five years, he had served as secretary and legate and adviser to six different Popes. He had been their support, their encouragement, their inspiration, and under them the great struggle against simony and lay investiture had begun. So evident and strong had been Hildebrand’s guiding hand during those years, that Saint Peter Damian, his brilliant ally, who would one day be proclaimed a Doctor of the Universal Church, called him, “the immovable pillar of the Apostolic See.”

At the time of Hildebrand’s elevation to the papacy, there sat on the throne of Charlemagne, ruling the Holy Roman Empire, a dissolute and unscrupulous king called Henry IV. When his father, Henry III, had died in 1056, Henry IV had been only six years old; and so, his mother, the Empress Agnes, had acted as regent until he came of age. This status was deemed to have arrived for Henry in 1063, when he was thirteen. He assumed the imperial throne and, despite his years, soon surpassed anything that had yet been seen in a Christian ruler, both in his personal depravity and in his political tampering in the affairs of the Church.

Pope Gregory VII well knew the wickedness of Henry IV. Yet he would move against him only after giving him every chance and encouragement to reform. In the very first months of his pontificate, he outlined his policy toward the King: “At the first favorable moment we mean to express to him through our legates all a father’s watchful love concerning the matters which touch the welfare of the Church and the honor of his throne. If he listens to us, we shall rejoice in his salvation as in our own, and he can certainly only work out his salvation by following our counsels in the path of justice. But if – God forbid it should happen! – he repays with contempt the great mercies God has shown him, our conscience stands clear, and the sentence ‘cursed be the man who keeps his sword from blood’ will not fall on us….”

To the amazement of all who knew him, Henry IV seemed to respond to Pope Gregory’s overtures. He wrote to the Pope offering his homage; he received the papal legates who were sent and promised both to amend his own life and to strive to rid his nation of simony, one of the abominable sins of the time – the buying and selling of what has been consecrated to God. (Simony was named for Simon Magus, who tried to buy from Saint Peter power to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation.)

The worldly-wise of Rome maintained that Henry’s new behavior was pure fraud, arising from the fact that his previous contempt for the Church and for all decency had made him very unpopular – so much so that there was imminent danger of his being deposed by his nobles. Henry’s sudden sanctimony, declared these skeptics, was just a bluff to secure his throne.

Pope Gregory, however, was willing to take Henry at face value. He would be alert, but he was willing to believe and to trust. And he began to turn his attention to the affairs of the Church outside Europe.

In 1054, when Pope Gregory was still the monk Hildebrand, the Eastern Church, having previously separated itself from the Holy See and been reunited, went into schism for the final time. The immediate promoter of the break was the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Caerularius, who offered as his main pretexts the manner of saying the Creed in the Mass (the old controversy concerning the Filioque), the use of unleavened bread in the Holy Sacrifice, the singing of the Alleluia and other minor liturgical points. The real roots of the schism, however, lay deep in the history of Constantinople, as we have seen. It was the fruit of long centuries of being buffeted by heresies and led by bishops whose loyalty was not to Christ and His Vicar but to the Emperor and his court.

And now, besides the schism, there was another catastrophe in the East. The Moslem rulers of Syria were preventing Christian pilgrims from going freely to the tomb of Christ. Pope Gregory conceived the idea that he himself would lead a great army of Christians, a Crusade, to wrest the Holy Places from infidel hands, and also win back the Church of Constantinople to the Holy See. He wrote to Henry IV, telling him of this ambition: “Fifty thousand men are pledged, if they can have me for their leader and priest, to march against the enemies of God….” And then he added, with quiet trust, “If by divine favor I go, I consign the protection of the Roman Church to you, after God, that you may guard and defend her as your Holy Mother.”

But Pope Gregory was never to lead his Crusade, nor to reconcile the Eastern Church. For his trust in Henry was to be violently betrayed; and he would spend his life fighting not against the infidels for the freedom of the Holy Land, but against his own children, for the freedom of the Church.

In 1074, Pope Gregory had issued a decree condemning simony and clerical incontinence. But he well knew that terrible though these things were, there was a deeper evil that had permitted them. And so, in February of 1075, he called a synod of his bishops in Rome and issued the following decree: “If anyone in the future accepts from the hand of a layman a bishopric or abbey, he will not be reckoned among the bishops and abbots. We withhold from him the communion of Blessed Peter and entrance into the Church until he renounces the see which he has usurped…. Moreover, if any emperor, duke, marquis, count, or any secular power whatever, dares to give investiture of a bishopric or other ecclesiastical office, let him know that the same condemnation will fall upon him.”

Everyone knew the surface iniquities of the eleventh century, but few, even of the holy, had seen their cause. Pope Gregory had not only seen the cause, he had also seen how deeply that cause was embedded in the structure of society, and with what difficulty it would be pried out. He understood that in attacking lay investiture he would be attacking the whole milieu of his age. And this is his glory: that knowing what consequences his action would bring, he acted anyway.

No sooner had the condemnation of simony, clerical incontinence and, finally, of lay investiture been issued than a storm of opposition was unleashed on Pope Gregory. He was opposed not only by laymen but, even more violently, by his clergy – and most of all, by his bishops. These latter fought against the decrees in every conceivable way. Gradually, Pope Gregory came to see the truth of what his beloved Saint Peter Damian (dead just a few months before Gregory became Pope) had once said. With characteristic incisiveness, Saint Peter had summed up the simoniacal bishops: “It would be easier to convert a Jew than to recall one of those thieving heretics to penance.”

A lesser man, seeing with what violent resistance he was met, might have drawn back. But Pope Gregory lashed out at his unfaithful clergy more strongly than ever, saying that a priest who would infringe upon the law of God out of deference to the State was an apostate. Then, in a move which was to heap still further abuse upon him, but in which he was to show the quality of his determination, Pope Gregory turned for support to the laity. Trying to arouse them to withstand the guilty clerics and to demand their deposition, Pope Gregory ordered that no bishops should be obeyed who were not themselves obedient to the Supreme Pontiff. And to certain nobles whom he particularly trusted he charged the enforcement of his edicts, which the bishops of those nobles had refused to enforce. “We exhort you,” he wrote therm, “and all good men, whatever the bishops may say or not say, to refuse, nay, if necessary to hinder by force, the ministrations of all those whom you know to be tainted with simony or clerical incontinence. If anyone should protest that you are not competent to act, send them on to Rome, to complain to us of the obedience we have laid upon you.”

But Pope Gregory did not have to rely entirely on lay allies. There was indeed one group of clergy ranged almost entirely on his side. It was the monks – and especially the sons of the great Father of Western monasticism, Saint Benedict. Pope Gregory himself, before being called to Rome to begin his long career of serving the papacy, had been a Benedictine monk at what was then the greatest monastery in the world – Cluny Abbey. Settled in one of the fertile French valleys between the Saone and Loire rivers, Cluny had been a haven against the evils that afflicted the Church and a rallying point in the battle for reform. Pope Gregory had once been subprior of Cluny, and the man who had been his superior, Saint Hugh, was now abbot of the great monastery. From Hugh, Pope Gregory requisitioned the men who served as his first line, who carried his decrees throughout Europe, and replaced simoniacal priests and bishops as they were deposed. To Saint Hugh, also, Pope Gregory could pour out his heart. Here is one of his letters to the Abbot of Cluny:

“How many times have I prayed to Jesus either to take me out of this world, or to make me of use to our common Mother…. A sea of troubles encompasses me on all sides. The Eastern Church has deserted the Catholic Faith, and the devil already punishes her for having obeyed him, by causing her children to be massacred by the barbarians, as if to prevent their repentance. If I look to the West, to the North, to the South, everywhere it is hard to find bishops . . . who are governing the Christian people out of love of Christ and not for reasons of personal ambition. Among the Christian princes, I know none who prefer God’s glory to their own, and justice to riches…. Between a sorrow which is renewed in me daily and a hope which is too often, alas! disappointed, beaten by a thousand storms, I live as if always dying. I wait for Him Who has bound me with His fetters, Who has carried me, despite myself, to this Rome, where unwillingly I have spent twenty years. I cry to Him perpetually, ‘Hasten, do not delay. Set me free for the love of the Blessed Mary and of Saint Peter….'”

After issuing his decree against lay investiture, one of Pope Gregory’s first acts was to invite King Henry IV to meet with him in order to arbitrate any difficulties that might arise out of the reform. Immediately Henry dispatched ambassadors to Rome. They had orders to arrange for the meeting, and also to discuss what was uppermost in Henry’s mind: having Pope Gregory crown him as Emperor. (Though Henry is generally referred to as “Emperor,” because he occurs in the imperial line, the title was not rightfully his; for while he was king of his own realm by right of election, he could be designated Emperor of Christendom only by the Vicar of Christ.)

Early in 1075, the German nobles had for a second time risen up against Henry, and, in October of that same crowded year, had been decisively beaten by him. From this time, there was a new arrogance and independence in Henry’s dealings with the Holy See; and it was aggravated by the fact that Pope Gregory, wary of Henry’s good intentions, had taken no notice of the petition that Henry be proclaimed Emperor. In November, 1075, Henry IV, in open defiance of the papal ban, appointed and invested three bishops – one of whom he sent to replace the canonical and still-incumbent Bishop of Milan.

Pope Gregory at once notified the suffragan bishops of Milan that they must not consecrate Henry’s appointee, and early in December wrote his last letter to the King, excoriating him for his contempt of the lay investiture decree but offering him another chance to repent and be his loyal son. Henry might still, wrote the Pope, confer with him as to how the reform might be carried out smoothly, “lest the sudden uprooting of a bad custom inconvenience you overmuch.”

Henry IV’s answer came on Christmas Eve, 1075, and was delivered by his agent in Rome, one Cencio. While Pope Gregory was saying Midnight Mass in the Church of Saint Mary Major, an armed gang entered the church, seized the Pope, struck him and stripped him of his vestments, tied his hands behind his back, and carried him, beaten and bleeding, to the tower which was Cencio’s stronghold. Because there had been a fierce storm in Rome all that Christmas Eve, only a small congregation – too small to protect the Pope – had been in the church when the outrage occurred. But soon all Rome was alerted to what had happened, and before dawn a huge crowd had gathered in front of Cencio’s tower, and, using whatever weapons they could find, had begun to assault it. An eyewitness chronicler of the event tells how one of Cencio’s gang had his sword raised to kill Pope Gregory, when a lance, thrown from outside, “cast his body to the ground, writhing in death, and sent his soul into Hell.” And Cencio himself, when he saw there was no escape, fell at the feet of Gregory and beseeched the Pope to save him from the fury of the people. This Gregory did, saying, “I forgive you from my heart whatever injuries you have done to me. But you have sinned against God’s law, insulted God’s Holy Mother, and profaned His Church, and you must atone for that by a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.” Cencio, however, taking advantage of the Pope’s protection, managed to slip away in the crowd, and next turned up as the honored guest of King Henry IV.

Meanwhile, Pope Gregory, the Pope whom the people had chosen, was carried in the midst of a vast roaring throng of his beloved Romans, back to the Church of Saint Mary Major, where he finished his interrupted Mass.

After this outrage, culminating the crimes of Henry IV, it was no longer possible to allow the King to go unpunished. He was summoned to appear before a synod to be held in Rome the beginning of Lent. Henry IV countered the summons by convening a council of the nobles and bishops of his realm, in January of 1076, one month before Pope Gregory’s announced synod was to take place. At this council, whipped into line by Henry personally, twenty-six bishops signed a formula declaring Pope Gregory VII deposed! Then the sentence of deposition was sent off to the Pope, together with an insolent letter from the King which ended with the words, “Get thee down, get thee down; get thee down, O damned forever!”

There was but one course to follow. At the Lenten synod in February, attended by 110 bishops, as well as by the Empress – Mother Agnes, and presided over by Pope Gregory, Henry IV was deposed and excommunicated. Pope Gregory issued a Bull proclaiming the fact and ordered it to be read through-out the Christian world. It was in the form of a prayer to Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles: “. . . For the honor and defense of thy Church, I take away the government of the kingdoms of Germany and Italy from King Henry, who through unparalleled pride has rebelled against thy Holy Church. I release all Christians from their oath of fidelity to him, and I forbid him to be obeyed as king…. And because he has scorned to obey as a Christian … spurning the advice I gave him for his salvation, and severing himself from thy Church in the attempt to divide it, I, in thy stead, bind him with the bond of anathema.”

The effect of this Bull was like a flash of lightning striking into Christendom. Here was the awful authority of Christ’s Vicar concentrated on the mightiest temporal ruler in the Western world. Everyone waited anxiously to see what would happen.

Twice during the next few months Henry IV ordered his nobles to convene in a national council. Both times they ignored him. Then, in September, they held a council of their own; and though Henry stood outside the doors pleading to be admitted, they refused him. Feeling was strong among the nobles that they ought to elect a new king immediately. However, Pope Gregory had stipulated in his Bull that if Henry would repent and reform within one year, he would be reinstated, and the papal legates who attended the Council prevailed on the nobles to withhold action until the expiration of that year. Accordingly, it was ordained that another council would be held in Augsburg the following February, which would be presided over by the Pope personally, and which would pass final judgment on Henry.

In December, Pope Gregory set out for Augsburg. Arriving in northern Italy in January, he found that the escort which the German nobles had promised, to take him across the Alps, had not as yet arrived. While he waited, the news reached him that Henry IV, in violation of the order given him to remain in Germany, was crossing the Alps and headed toward Rome.

Pope Gregory was reluctant to go back on his promise to attend the Council of Augsburg; yet he feared to leave Rome prey to this desperate enemy, who might succeed in arousing Italian anti-papal forces and taking the city. At this point, a solution was offered by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany – that magnificent and holy noblewoman, cousin of Henry IV, whose support and affection were Pope Gregory’s greatest earthly consolation. She suggested that the Pope come to her mountain fortress of Canossa, midway between Augsburg and Rome, and there await events.

The castle of Canossa was set on the side of a huge volcanic crag, on a promontory jutting out 1500 feet above the plain. Around the castle were three walls: the first, at the foot of the mountain, enclosed the village, where serfs of the estate found protection in time of war; the second, spiraling up the sharp slope enclosed the monastery, the soldiers’ barracks, the homes of the castle attendants; the third, on the flat of the promontory, enclosed the castle itself, the watchtower, the treasure house and courts of justice, the guest houses, the church. When Pope Gregory arrived at Canossa, it was dead winter, and all this scene was deep in snow.

Besides Pope Gregory, the Countess Matilda had as her guest at this time, Saint Hugh of Cluny. He, too, was waiting to go to Augsburg; for Henry IV, who was to be tried there, was his godson. One morning in late January, he and the Countess Matilda were notified that someone was in the village wishing urgently to speak with them. They descended, and found Henry IV. Weary and defeated, he beseeched his godfather and his cousin to intercede for him before the Pope, that he might be absolved. But though they pleaded, Pope Gregory was adamant. “It is wrong,” he said, “to judge the accused without regard to his accusers. Let Henry come to Augsburg, and there the Pope will judge him justly.” When Matilda and Hugh protested that Henry came only as a penitent, seeking absolution, Pope Gregory answered, “Let him send me up his crown and scepter then. If he be truly contrite, he must acknowledge himself unfit to wear them.”

On the morning of January 25, Henry IV took matters into his own hands. With his feet bare, and wearing the woolen robe of a penitent, he climbed the steep, icy road to the castle. Arriving before the courtyard gate, he begged for admittance; but the gate remained closed. Thus he stood all day, and at night went back down the mountain to the village. The next day he did the same thing, and the next after that. But on the evening of the third day Pope Gregory relented, and the next morning received him back into the Church. “For three days before the castle gate,” wrote the Pope in explanation to the bishops and nobles of Germany, “with every sign of royalty laid aside, worthy of pity in that he stood barefoot and clothed in wool, he ceased not to weep and to implore help and comfort from the Apostolic clemency. All who saw him or heard of his unhappy plight interceded for him with many tears and marveled at our unwonted hardness of heart. Some indeed cried out: ‘This is not the sternness of an Apostle, but rather the cruelty of a ferocious tyrant.’ At last his compunction and their warm prayers induced us to relent. We removed the anathema and received him back into the bosom of Holy Church.”

Despite Henry IV’s being canonically reinstated, Pope Gregory insisted that he must take no part in the government of the realm until the Council of Augsburg, which would decide finally on the matter of his deposition. This wise provision frustrated Henry’s whole scheme. For it became evident from the time he left Canossa that his real goal was not at all to be restored as a Catholic, but only to be restored as king. And his failure to obtain this goal only exasperated Henry’s opposition to Pope Gregory. He blamed the Pope for all the troubles that had befallen him and swore to be avenged.

Though it was now unsafe for Pope Gregory to cross the Alps, he sent legates to the German Council, which having been postponed and had a change of locale, was held in Forchheim, in March. Henry IV, probably seeing the hopelessness of his case, refused to attend. The Council, undeterred by this, heard the charges against Henry, judged him guilty, and sanctioned the election of a new king – Duke Rudolph of Swabia, who, before being crowned, took an oath against lay investiture.

For three years, while Rudolph and Henry IV contended hotly for the throne, Pope Gregory would not declare himself positively for either side. But at the end of that time, during which he had been defied and affronted by Henry almost constantly, Pope Gregory declared that incorrigible to be once again deposed and excommunicated, and Rudolph of Swabia to be the legitimate king. The Papal Bull of deposition, addressed as was the previous one, to Saint Peter, ends with these stringent words: “If the See of Blessed Peter passes judgment on things spiritual, how much more on mere earthly concerns? Let kings and princes now learn, what you are and how great is your power, and let them fear to make light of the commands of Holy Church. Exercise your justice against the aforesaid Henry so promptly that no man may attribute his misfortune to mere chance. And may it please God to lead him by means of misfortunes to repentance, so that in the day of the Lord his soul shall be saved.”

Two months after this Bull was issued, Henry IV called a council of his hirelings and once again issued a fatuous decree declaring Pope Gregory deposed (the charge: “having waged war on the body and soul of a peaceful Catholic king”). Archbishop Guibert of Ravenna was then appointed to replace Pope Gregory. Henry IV paid him his respects and announced that they two would go with an army to Rome the following spring, where the new “Pope” would bestow on Henry, at long last, the imperial crown. Meanwhile, King Rudolph had been killed in battle, and Pope Gregory, left almost defenseless against Henry IV, made terms with Duke Robert Guiscard of Nor mandy, who agreed in exchange for a portion of the papal lands to protect the Holy See.

In spring of the year 1081, true to his word, Henry IV led his army into Italy. From all sides Pope Gregory heard appeals to come to a reconciliation with Henry, while there was still time to save Rome and himself. But the Pope stood firm. “Few of us have thus far resisted the wicked to the shedding of blood,” was his reply, “and very few have died for Christ.”

Bringing with him the antipope Guibert, Henry IV pressed on toward Rome, and arrived before its walls in the middle of May. But the Roman people, rallying to the cause of their Pontiff, barricaded the gates, and after an unsuccessful siege of a few months, Henry was obliged by the summer heat to withdraw.

During the winter and most of the following year Henry was tied up by the armies of Countess Matilda and of Hermann of Luxemburg, who had been elected king to succeed Rudolph. In 1083, however, having made an alliance with the schismatic Emperor of Constantinople, Henry succeeded in capturing a portion of Rome, including the Basilica of Saint Peter. And in March of the following year he made use of the generous funds allotted him by the Emperor of Constantinople to bribe some Roman citizens who opened to him the gates of the city proper, the part which till then had been held by the Pope.

Henry entered the city in triumph, and by his largesse in distributing Constantinople gold and treasure, managed to break down the resistance of the Roman people. He had Guibert solemnly consecrated Supreme Pontiff, by three excommunicated bishops, in the Basilica of Saint Peter. And a week later Henry was crowned, by Guibert, Emperor of the West.

That long-sought glory achieved, Henry laid siege to the Castle of Sant’ Angelo, in which Pope Gregory had taken refuge. In the midst of this siege, word suddenly reached Rome that Robert Guiscard of Normandy was on his way from the south to defend his lord the Pope. Henry IV, asserting that the mild May heat was unbearable, quickly left Rome.

But though the Pope was delivered, the Roman people were to pay bitterly for having abandoned him in his time of greatest need. Taking some almost unaccountable offense at the treatment given them by the Romans, the half-civilized troops of Guiscard began to riot. For three mad days, before Pope Gregory was able to prevail, the Normans plundered Rome, burned its houses and public buildings, slaughtered thousands of its citizens, and sold other thousands into slavery. It was one of the most terrible destructions the Eternal city had ever endured.

When the fury had subsided, Guiscard decided to retire from Rome into southern Italy. This meant that Pope Gregory would be left to the mercy of Henry IV, who could swoop down on the city and make the Vicar of Christ his prisoner. And so, reluctantly, sadly, Pope Gregory accompanied his fearful protector into the south, leaving behind him the ruins of Rome.

It was in Salerno, where Guiscard had taken him, that Pope Gregory waited out the remaining months of his life. He was tired, and defeated, and sick at heart, but still he continued to fight. Appointing twelve new cardinals, whom he could trust to push the reform, he placed them in crucial posts. He wrote letters and issued decrees, praising his faithful bishops, encouraging his weak ones, and deposing his guilty ones. And finally, he chose emissaries to carry to the Universal Church what would be his last message as its Supreme Pontiff.

“The only reason,” he wrote, “why the leaders of the nations and the leaders of the priests have armed themselves and come together against Christ and His Vicar is this – that we would not keep silent as to the dangers which threatened the Holy Church, nor yield to those who would reduce the Bride of Christ to slavery…. There are in the world thousands of men who risk death every day at the summons of their lords. Yet, when the interests of the King of Heaven, our Redeemer, are at stake, how many Christians shrink, not from death only, but even from the hatred of other men. And the few – thanks be to God for those few – who dare to resist the wicked openly, and to face death, are not only unsupported by their brethren, but are accused by them of imprudence, and indiscretion, and are treated as fools….

“From the day when by the Divine Will the Church placed me upon the Apostolic throne, despite my great unworthiness, and (God is my witness) despite my own wish, the one object of all my labors has been that the Spouse of God, our Mistress and our Mother, should recover her ancient glory, and become once more free, chaste, and catholic. But because nothing is more hateful than this to our ancient Enemy, he has taken up arms. It is to me, though a sinner and unworthy, that the words of the prophet, ‘Cry aloud and spare not,’ have been spoken. Therefore, willing or unwilling, without shame and without fear, without any earthly consideration, I cry, I cry, perpetually I cry aloud, to announce that the Christian religion, the true Faith which the Son of God, come down from Heaven, has taught us by our fathers, is degenerating into mere secular customs, is being lost, falling to nothing, and becoming an object of derision not only to the demon, but also to Jews, Saracens, and pagans…. If then, like all Christians, you believe Saint Peter to be the prince and father of all the faithful, the chief shepherd after Christ, and the Holy Roman Church to be their mother, I implore and command you – I, your brother and your unworthy master – to come to the help of that father and that mother, and thus to merit the absolution of your sins, and the blessing and grace of God in this world and in the next.”

Pope Saint Gregory died at Salerno, on May 25, 1085. Just before he died he absolved all whom he had excommunicated, except Henry IV and the antipope Guibert. Then he received the Last Sacraments and Holy Viaticum, and spoke his last words: “I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile.”

He died thinking himself a failure, but it soon became gloriously clear that Pope Saint Gregory VII had saved the Church. After the short pontificate of Pope Victor III, Blessed Pope Urban II (1088-1099), listed among the bishops chosen by Gregory as his possible successor, was able to rally Europe to fight the Crusade that Pope Gregory had planned and prepared for, but never had been able to accomplish. Likewise, it was out of his suffering and trial that there arose the summit of Catholic culture which came in the pontificate of Pope Innocent III.

The full weight of Christ’s Church had been placed upon the shoulders of Pope Gregory VII. He had been obliged to fight not only against the mighty ones of the world, but against his own priests and bishops. He had been resisted and attacked and abandoned. Yet he had not relented. “The thing I fear above all else,” he had said, “is to be accused before the Supreme Judge of having neglected my charge.”

Pope Saint Gregory VII had been charged with bringing the Church through the blackest, most perilous night she had yet endured; and though he himself did not see it, by the time he died, it was dawn.

The tomb of Pope Gregorius VII in the Cathedral of Salerno (Italy). Under the tomb the last words of the pope are imprinted: “Dilexi iustitiam, odivi iniquitatem, propterea morior in esilio !” (I loved justicem and I hated iniquity, so I die in exile). By NicFer. CC BY-SA 3.0, Link