Main Altar – Pope Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII (c. 1015/1028 – May 25, 1085), born Hildebrand of Sovana (Italian: Ildebrando di Soana), was Pope from April 22, 1073 until his death. One of the great reforming popes, he is perhaps best known for the part he played in the investiture controversy and his dispute with Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, affirming the primacy of the papal authority and the new canon law governing the election of the pope by the college of cardinals. He was at the forefront of both evolutionary developments in the relationship between the emperor and the papacy during the years before becoming pope. He was beatified by Gregory XIII in 1584 and canonized in 1728 by Benedict XIII as Pope St. Gregory VII. He twice excommunicated Henry IV, who in the end appointed the Antipope Clement III to oppose him in the political power struggles between Church and Empire. Gregory was hailed as one of the greatest of the Roman pontiffs after his reforms proved successful. As a youth he was sent to Rome to study. Among his masters were the erudite Lawrence, archbishop of Amalfi and the future Pope Gregory VI. Between 1058 and 1059, he was named archdeacon of the Roman Church, becoming the most important figure in the papal administration. In his years as papal adviser, Hildebrand had an important role in the reconciliation with the Norman kingdom of southern Italy, in the anti-German alliance with the Pataria movement in northern Italy and, above all, in the introduction of a law that gave the cardinals exclusive right on the papal election. On the death of Alexander II, Hildebrand was conducted to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli and elected by the assembled cardinals, with the due consent of the Roman clergy and amid the repeated acclamations of the people. His first attempts in foreign policy were toward a reconciliation with the Normans. Gregory also summoned a council in the Lateran palace, which condemned simony and confirmed celibacy for the Church’s members. He pronounced a sentence of excommunication against the German King Henry IV, divested him of his royal dignity and absolved his subjects from the oaths they had sworn to him. Gregory was the first pope to stand up to and excommunicate a king.

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