What was the relationship between the Holy Roman Empire and the catholic papacy?

Feb 2015
8
Wisconsin
In our textbook, it states that the HRE and the papacy were often at odds with each other despite their common religion. Why was that? Was it just a power struggle? Did both groups want complete religious authority?
Thanks!
 

BenSt

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,565
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
The Holy Roman Empire did not have any spiritual authority, that derived from the Pope in Rome. The name 'Holy Roman Empire' derives from how the original dynasty was elevated. The Pope was always the highest spiritual authority in western christendom from about 800ish or so onwards, but he was often at odds with european kings over any number of different issues.

During the 10th century, the Holy Roman Emperor was at odds with the Pope for control of Northern Italy, likewise also at odds with the Pope over the control of the Kingdom of Sicily. Because the majority of Popes have been Italian, and only really a handful have been non-Italians, often the Popes favoured regional autonomy. As the Germans came south and started to lay claim and influence over the north Italian cities, the various Popes often saw to thwart the Germans influences. This was especially true during the succession issues after the death of Roger II (was it Roger, or a later one?) of Norman Sicily. His daughter Constance married the Emperor, who then laid claim to the title of King. The Pope saw this as being surrounded...and if memory serves the Pope attempted to invite other powers to take the throne.

Infact it was one of the earlier Popes who jhad defied the HRE and elevated the first Norman King of Sicily from being a mere inferior...causing animosity between the Papacy and the Emperor in the first place.
 
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Feb 2015
8
Wisconsin
OK that makes a lot of sense. Now that I think about it, my textbook mentioned that the Holy Roman Empire's name was only named "Holy" to legitimize their rule by associating with the papacy (because christianity was the most popular religion). So the HRE didn't really have much religious authority. Thanks for the speedy reply!
 

BenSt

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,565
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
OK that makes a lot of sense. Now that I think about it, my textbook mentioned that the Holy Roman Empire's name was only named "Holy" to legitimize their rule by associating with the papacy (because christianity was the most popular religion). So the HRE didn't really have much religious authority. Thanks for the speedy reply!
Its also a political thing too. My understanding is that it came about as a propoganda technique to shure up the legitimacy and so-called supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. You see, the Pope was never the central authority of Christianity, but was instead one among a group of power centres. In the east you had the Emperor of Constantinople, which was a continuation of the Eastern Roman Empire. They always had eyes to reconquer the West from the goths and franks and so forth. The Pope laid the mantle of 'Emperor of the Romans' onto the head of Charlemagne who had a vast realm in both modern day France and Germany, and with his accession became a regional power base. His Empire soon collapsed after his death, however, and the title was handed down or taken by German dynasties who owed allegiance to Rome. So in the Middle Ages there were technically two Christian Emperors.

Eventually the East looked to the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the West looked to Rome. There was a particularly ridiculous, in hindsight, situation where a Papal envoy went to Antioch during one of the temultuous schisms (if my memory serves me rightly, it may also have been directly to Constantinople), and excommunicated the Patriarch there...and that patriarch turned right around and excommunicated the Bishop of Rome.
 
Feb 2015
8
Wisconsin
OK that makes a lot of sense. I actually looked up some more info about the Patriarch and it turns out that the Eastern Orthodox Church still has a patriarch of some sort. He's not really a leader like the pope, but he is the highest ranking official in their church.
That story is kind of hilarious! Mutual excommunication would be a hard thing to sort out!

Anyway, thanks for all of the info. That was my first post on this forum and I'm looking forward to many discussions to come!
 

BenSt

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,565
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
OK that makes a lot of sense. I actually looked up some more info about the Patriarch and it turns out that the Eastern Orthodox Church still has a patriarch of some sort. He's not really a leader like the pope, but he is the highest ranking official in their church.
That story is kind of hilarious! Mutual excommunication would be a hard thing to sort out!

Anyway, thanks for all of the info. That was my first post on this forum and I'm looking forward to many discussions to come!
I do hope you ask more questions, we have a lot of very knowledgeable and well-read people on this site who can usually give you a good answer or point you in the right direction. Drop by the Lounge sometime for some fun, welcome to Historum!