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vassals; contest; In the eleventh century, the Catholic Church entered into a reform movement that sought to separate religious authority from secular power and to focus greater attention on spirituality. During the ninth and tenth centuries, high church officials had become increasingly entangled in the lord-vassal relationships of the feudal hierarchy. Bishops and abbots began to hold their offices as fiefs of feudal lords, especially of the kings of Germany whom the pope crowned as Holy Roman Emperors, rather than from the church itself. This had several consequences. Lords claimed the right to appoint their own men to these high church offices and expected them to perform administrative and even military services. As a result, the church lost control of the selection and activities of its bishops and abbots. In fact, lords often chose powerful men who cared little about their spiritual responsibilities.
This reform began as reform-minded secular lords established monasteries dedicated to the ideals of Benedictine spirituality. By the eleventh century, the ideals of spiritual reform and the separation of church and state had reached the papacy. The papal reform focused on several issues, but one of the most important was the elimination of lay investiture. Lay investiture was the practice of allowing lay people (especially feudal lords) to appoint and install clergy into their offices. Reformers believed that ending this practice would ensure the freedom and independence of the church. However, because feudal lords relied upon bishops and abbots as administrators, this reform initiative led to a great struggle (the Investiture Controversy) that pitted Pope Gregory VII against King Henry IV of Germany. This contest was not resolved until after their deaths, with the Concordat of Worms in 1122.
The Franciscan friars are the focus of this cluster. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), later canonized Saint Francis, was the son of a wealthy merchant family. But he abandoned this commercial life and embraced a life of absolute poverty, simplicity, and charity, which he preached to a growing group of followers. This vision of poverty and preaching was based on contemporary understandings of the Gospels. Jesus and the apostles had no possessions and begged for their food as they spread his message. Imitating these aspects of the lives of Jesus and the apostles became central components of Christian spirituality during this period.Upper rightThe Dominican friars are the focus of this cluster. Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221), later canonized as Saint Dominic, was an intellectual Spanish priest who dedicated himself to fighting heresy. He believed that the church needed a new religious order of well-educated preachers, dedicated to poverty, who could travel through Europe and dissuade people from heresy. He sent many of his brightest followers to universities.Lower leftRelics are the focus of this cluster. The belief in relics was closely related to the importance of the cult of saints. Relics were generally the bones of a saint or objects closely associated with a saint. During this period, people of all levels of society believed that relics possessed the power of the saint and could thus perform miracles. For example, the body of Saint Thomas a Becket, the martyred archbishop of Canterbury, was one of the most well-known relics in England and became a popular pilgrimage destination. Thousands of pilgrims came to ask the saint to cure their illnesses, and the clergy overseeing the tomb maintained a record of miracles that occurred at the shrine. The church also promoted the veneration of relics by granting indulgences (remission of time in purgatory) to people who visited and venerated relics.Lower rightThe Cistercians are the focus of this cluster. A small group of Benedictine monks founded the Cistercian order in 1098 after they had become dissatisfied with the lack of discipline at their Benedictine monastery. The name Cistercian comes from the name of their first monastery, which was founded at Citeaux in southern France. They believed that the Benedictines had strayed from the ideals embodied in the Rule of Saint Benedict. For example, these monks believed that the Benedictines spent too much of their time performing religious services and not enough time performing manual labor or in silent prayer, as Saint Benedict had written in his monastic rule.