Friday, 1 January 2010

The Deeds of Robert Guiscard: Book IV, lines 1-72

At this time Michael was cast down from his throne and became a monk.[1] He was the man who had treated the innocent Romanus so cruelly and unworthily. His brother, who was associated with him, was also driven out. [5] Robert’s daughter lamented the downfall of her spouse. This wretched man was forced into exile.

After making the towns and castra everywhere subject to him, the duke left Apulia and started to travel to Salerno. Raymond, the distinguished count who ruled over Barcelona, came to the city from Spain, seeking a daughter of the duke in marriage. [10] He was given the eldest of these. Another married a distinguished and well-born count of the French called Ebles, a man who never knew defeat by the enemy. Experienced in leading troops to battle, [15] he was also eloquent, as skilful with his tongue as with his hand.[2]

At this time Pope Gregory came to Benevento, a city that was subject to the jurisdiction of the Roman pope. The pope had taken offence because the duke had besieged the city.[3] [20] Robert hurried to the town to seek the pope’s pardon for his offence.[4] He was received (such a mighty man seemed worthy of this honour) and as a suppliant kissed the pope’s feet as he sat in judgement. They discussed matters for a long time, out of the hearing of everyone else present [25] and then the pope summoned his fideles and revealed what had been secretly discussed. A Gospel book was brought, and the duke swore to the pope that while life was left him he would observe his oath of eternal fealty to the Holy Church [30] to which all the world is subject.[5] It was said that the pope had promised him the crown of the Roman kingdom[6], since King Henry[7] had been damned by him because of the numerous sins he had committed, for he was not afraid to sell holy churches, [35] following the perverse doctrine of Simon, and he would only confer the episcopal dignity on those who had brought him large presents[8]. He had also dared to indulge in wicked incest and adultery. He led a life of [40] iniquity, sacrilege and debauchery, shunning the society of decent men, but choosing always the company of the wicked. The virtuous pope Gregory hated these vices and judged him deposed from his kingship.[9] [45] He ordered the Saxons not to obey the king further, but rather to resist him with all their might, and he sent instructions to Dukes Welf and Rudolf[10] telling them to fight Henry on behalf of [Saints] Peter and Paul, against whom another Simon had arisen. It was believed that he granted the crown to Rudolf. [50] The latter, joined by the Saxons and with a large army, declared war on the venerable pope’s enemy. Many of the people remained faithful to the damned king, remembering his hereditary right and reluctant to install anyone else as heir to the kingdom. [55] There was a great battle between the two. This race is a stern one and unwilling to give ground, [and so] mighty blows were exchanged, Lotharingarians on one side and Saxons on the other, both attacking fiercely and rendering wound for wound, standing their ground and striving to resist the other. They claim that thirty thousand men were slain here. But although neither people were defeated, both sides retired exhausted and [60] Rudolf was killed. After he had heard of Rudolf’s death, Henry rejoiced as though he had won a victory. He strove to attack the pope whom he knew to have deposed him from his kingship, and [65] marched with a huge army to besiege Rome. Learning of this, the wise pope sought aid from the duke, [asking] that the latter take up arms to assist him and destroy the forces of his enemy.[11]

After concluding their treaty of perpetual peace at Benevento, [70] Gregory had returned to Rome and the duke to Salerno. He constructed a church[12] of marvellous beauty for you, Matthew, in this city, and for himself built a magnificent palace.


[1] Michael VII was deposed by Nicephorus Bontiates in March 1078. William of Apulia does not identify the fiancĂ© of Helena with any precision. In Book III [503-4], he stated the betrothal was with the son of Michael VII though here it can be argued that he implied the betrothal was with Michael’s brother. Michael’s son Constantine Ducas was later betrothed to Anna Comnena but died in his teens.

[2] Raymond Berenger II of Barcelona married Mathilda and Ebles II, count of Roucy married Sybille. Anna Comnena stated that the double marriage took place in Salerno after the arrival of the pseudo-Michael and around of time of the interview of Guiscard with Gregory VII. This would place them in the summer of 1080.

[3] Guiscard besieged Benevento from 18th December 1077 to April 1078. Gregory VII excommunicated him in May 1078.

[4] The repeated excommunications of Guiscard by Pope Gregory VII, in 1074, 1075 and in 1078, after Robert’s attempt to seize the principality of Benevento, led to a sudden deterioration in the relations between the Normans and the papacy. During the investiture quarrels, the Pope, in serious conflict with Emperor Henry IV, who himself had been excommunicated, could not manage without Norman support. Thus in 1080, in Ceprano, Robert Guiscard, whom the Pope had called ‘a small humble Norman’, a few years earlier, solemnly swore allegiance to the Papal power, who would soon call for his help against the invading German emperor in Rome.

[5] The formal investiture by the Pope took place on 6th June 1080: Guiscard was invested with all his conquests apart from Salerno, Amalfi and the lands of St Peter. Gregory VII’s sermon of idelity followed on 29th June.

[6] Peter Crassus stated in a document written between 1080 and 1084 in defence of Henry IV that Gregory had promised the kingdom though not the empire to Guiscard.

[7] In Milan a popular party, the Patarines, dedicated to reforming the city’s corrupt higher clergy, elected its own archbishop, who was recognised by the Pope. When Henry countered by having his own nominee consecrated by the Lombard bishops, Alexander II excommunicated the bishops. Henry did not yield, and it was not until the Saxon rebellion that he was ready to negotiate. In 1073, he humbly asked the new pope, Gregory VII, to settle the Milan problem. The King having thus renounced his right of investiture, a Roman synod, called to strengthen the Patarine movement, forbade any lay investiture in Milan. After this, Gregory regarded Henry as his ally in questions of church reform. When planning a crusade, he even put the defence of the Roman Church into the King’s hands. But after defeating the Saxons, Henry considered himself strong enough to cancel his agreements with the Pope and to nominate his court chaplain as archbishop of Milan. The violation of the agreement on investiture called into question the King’s trustworthiness and the Pope sent him a letter warning him of the fate of King Saul (after breaking with his church in the person of the prophet Samuel) but offering negotiations on the investiture problem. Instead of accepting the offer, which arrived at his court on January 1st 1076, Henry, on the same day, deposed the Pope and persuaded an assembly of 26 bishops, hastily called to Worms, to refuse obedience to the Pope. By this impulsive reaction he turned the problem of investiture in Milan, which could have been solved by negotiations, into a fundamental dispute on the relations between church and state. Gregory replied by excommunicating Henry and absolving the King’s subjects from their oaths of allegiance. Such action equalled dethronement. Many bishops who had taken part in the Worms’ assembly and had subsequently been excommunicated now surrendered to the Pope, and immediately the King was also faced with the newly aroused opposition of the nobility. In October 1076, the princes discussed the election of a new king in Tribur. It was only by promising to seek absolution from the ban within a year that Henry could reach a postponement of the election. The final decision was to be taken at an assembly to be called at Augsburg to which the Pope was also invited. But Henry secretly travelled to northern Italy and in Canossa did penance before Gregory VII, whereupon he was readmitted to the church. For the moment it was a political success for the King because the opposition had been deprived of all canonical arguments. Yet, Canossa meant a change. By doing penance Henry had admitted the legality of the Pope’s measures and had given up the king’s traditional position of authority equal or even superior to that of the church. The relations between church and state were permanently changed. The princes, however, considered Canossa a breach of the original agreement providing for an assembly at Augsburg and declared Henry dethroned. In his stead, they elected Rudolf, duke of Swabia, in March 1077, whereupon Henry confiscated the duchies of Bavaria and Swabia on behalf of the crown. He received support from the peasants and citizens of these duchies, whereas Rudolf relied mainly on the Saxons.

[8] Robinson, I.S., Henry IV of Germany 1056-1106, (Cambridge University Press), 1999.

[9] At a synod in March 1080, he prohibited investiture, excommunicated and deposed Henry again, and recognised Rudolf. The reasons for this act of excommunication were not as valid as those advanced in 1077, and many nobles who had so far favoured the Pope turned against him because they thought the prohibition of investiture infringed upon their rights as patrons of churches and monasteries. Henry now succeeded in deposing Gregory and in nominating Guibert, archbishop of Ravenna, as pope at a synod in Brixen. When the opposition of the princes was crippled by the death of Rudolf in October 1080, Henry, freed of the threat of enemies to the rear, went to Italy to seek a military solution to his struggle with the church.

[10] William is referring to Welf IV, duke of Baveria and Rudolf of Saxony.

[11] Henry IV entered Italy at the end of March 1081. The previous February, Gregory VII demanded that Desiderius of Montecassino seek assurances from Guiscard that he would come to the aid of the pope after Easter is necessary.

[12] The cathedral was begun in 1080 and a letter from Gregory VII to archbishop Alfan dated 18th September 1080 urged Guiscard to honour the dignity of St Matthew.

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