The Investiture Disputes

Classic Pamphlet

C. N. L. Brooke, M.A., last updated: 4th April 2014

Church versus State

Historical labels are dictated by a wayward fashion; and the name which is still most commonly associated with the first struggle of Empire and Papacy (1076-1122). "The Investiture Disputes," is neither lucid or appropriate. It has been commoner for historians to name the great wars of history after the issues which gave the birth-"the Wars of Religion," "the War of Jenkins' Ear"-and even if the issue has sometimes been misunderstood or misapplied by the men who tied on these particular labels, they are somehow more appropriate than the titles based on the unhappy compromises with which most great conflicts end.

The issue in the eleventh century was not joined mainly on investitures; it was a settlement of the investiture question which provided the technical excuse for making peace in 1122, and this was suitable at that date, because the propaganda of either side had narrowed the issues to it. Lay investiture was a symbolic act, and as such felt to cohere with the reality it reflected with an intimacy we find it hard to appreciate we do wrong to lower its significance too radically. But even in 1122 it was not the vital issue, the relation of spiritual and temporal authority in the world, is with us still; in 1076 it was as fundamental an issue as any in European society...

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