Naturdarstellung und Frauendienst bei Konrad von Würzburg (German Edition)
But a final comment has a curiously medical ring: Diz gebet ist uilgot tagilich gelesin this prayer is very effective if read once daily. It was translated into German at Fulda, probably under the auspices of Hrabanus early in the ninth century, and the principal copy, now in St Gallen made by six different scribes with differing dialects. The manuscript has the German and the Latin in parallel columns, and the German text does not always match the Latin, nor indeed is that Latin version the same as other western European versions.
The Isidoregroup includes also parts of a sermon called De vocatione gentium, of another sermon by Augustine, of an unidentified work, and of Matthew s Gospel. In the Paris manuscript the left-hand page has the Latin text of Isidore s tract, the right the German, though the latter was not completed, and after a few blank pages the Latin fills both sides.
The translator seems actively to have avoided Latin constructions such as participial forms and tries consistently to make clear who is presenting the argument at any point. There is also a clear and consistent orthographic system. In the fragments from Monsee, the translation of the Gospel is not as free, perhaps due to the desire to keep to the sacred language once again, although it is not as literal as the Tatian version. These translations again indicate the potential of High German at an early stage.
Religious poetry: Heliand, Otfrid and later pieces 15 long-lines divided into just over seventy cantos. The work seems to show the influence of Fulda; the narrative is based on the Tatian Gospelharmony, and the poet may have used a commentary on Matthew by Hrabanus himself, written around The work presents and explains the many miracles uundarlicas filo , 36b of Christ. The epic elements strike the reader, but the interpretative parts are also important.
The exegesis is a familiar one, going back to Gregory the Great, and Otfrid himself uses it too. The effect of the whole work, though, is to stress the power of God over the attacks of the enemy, and the conclusion to the raising of Lazarus X L I X epitomises this: as Lazarus was healed, so may the mikile maht godes God s mighty power preserve any man uuid fiundo nid against the envy of the enemy.
Of course the Heliand Germanises to an extent; it employs a Germanic poetic form, and hence in its build-up of formulaic phrases, with echoes of secular heroic poetry, it can sometimes look like more an heroic epic than is justified. But Christ does not become a Germanic warrior, nor is there really evidence of supposed Germanic delights in battle. In the struggle between Malchus and Peter, for example, which is sometimes seen as evidence for such interest, the implications of the story are spelt out very clearly indeed.
Part of an Anglo-Saxon poem on Genesis now called Genesis B proved to be a translation of an Old Saxon original, of which fragments have survived. The Genesis is close to the Heliand in form, and the treatment of the two poles of man s salvation, the fall and the redemption, is understandable. Surviving fragments present the fall, Cain, and Sodom and Gomorrah, using formulas that again echo heroic poetry. Otfrid conceived the work as it appears in the principal manuscript, now in Vienna, and in simplest terms it is a German poem of over seven thousand long-lines, narrating and expounding material from the Gospels though not based, like the Heliand, on a harmony.
The German poetry is at the centre, arranged in couplets of long-lines, rhyming at caesura and cadence, and with the second line indented, the work is divided into five books, the books into chapters, and there are introductory and concluding chapters in each. But the chapters have Latin titles in red , and tables of these titles are prefaced to each book. A German dedicatory poem to Lewis the German opens the work, and a prose letter in Latin to Liutbert, archbishop of Mainz and Otfrid s ecclesiastical superior, comes next.
These poems have Latin titles which are spelt out as acrostics and telestichs by the first and last letters of the German strophes. That the title is also spelt out by the last letters of the third half-line is not always clear in modern editions, however. The capital letters that begin each strophe are red, and they vary in size Otfrid used this as a further structuring element and there are also Latin marginal indications which tend to become submerged in the apparatus to modern editions in red, pointing to biblical passages. The Vienna manuscript has three coloured illustrations the entry into Jerusalem, last supper, crucifixion , and the cover has an image of a labyrinth.
But another copy was made without the dedicatory poems at the Bavarian monastery of Freising and the dialect is Bavarian, rather than Otfrid s South Rhenish Franconian. There are several distinct differences from the Heliand, and it has been argued both that Otfrid used, and that he deliberately avoided similarities with that work. Both works present Gospel material in the vernacular, of course, and both mix narrative and interpretation, but the form is different, archaic alliterative line against rhymed long-line couplets, as is the artistic complexity of Otfrid s work.
Religious poetry: Heliand, Otfrid and later pieces 17 WeiEenburg he became magister scholiae , played a major role in the building up of the now dispersed library, and may have been involved with glossing. His name is on a WeiEenburg document dated , and he probably died in about , although there is no record of his death.
The dedications indicate that the Evangelienbuch was completed between , when Liutbert became archbishop, and , when Salomo of Constance died. In the letter to Liutbert Otfrid gives a number of reasons for writing the poem. One is to counter German secular songs cantus obscenus , but he refers also to the encouragement of friends, and to the inspiration of Latin Christian writers. This invites us to make comparisons, and of those Otfrid names, Juvencus fourth century produced a largely narrative Gospel poem in four books rather than five , while Arator fifth century combined commentary and narrative in his metrical version of the Acts of the Apostles.
Otfrid s five books represent, he tells us, our five imperfect senses to be countered by the four Gospels, and contain 28, 24, 26, 37 and 25 chapters respectively, few having more than a hundred long-lines. Book , chapter 20 on the man born blind in John ix, 1 has nearly two hundred plus an additional chapter offering a spiritual interpretation , and one v, 23 , contrasting heaven and earth, has nearly three hundred.
The books deal with the prophecies about and nativity of Christ 1 , the ministry, teaching and miracles 11 and in , the passion iv and the resurrection, ascension and last judgement v. It remains unclear whether Otfrid is selecting Gospel passages from memory, or using either a lectionary or a Vulgate marked with pericopes for reading. His technique, however, is to integrate narrative augmented according to the literal sense with interpretation, and this integration can be subtle.
The contrast betweeen the misery of the world and the delights of paradise is a repeated motif. There are in the Evangelienbuch striking lyrical passages and refrains, but the meat of the work is in passages like these, or the chapters dealing with the wedding feast at Cana 11, , where a spiritual interpretation is followed by a consideration of why Christ turned water into wine rather than creating it from nothing. So, too, the story of the man born blind in, is again seen as referring to sinful humanity, and the relevant chapter is in the form of a prayer ending with an amen that man s inner eyes might be opened.
Otfrid shares with other Old High German poets a vivid image of the day of judgement, and stresses the impossibility of escape from a justice which is no respecter of persons in his apocalyptic description in v, 19, where a refrain underlines the good fortune of anyone who can face that doom with equanimity. Further chapters continue the theme down to the longest and most complex chapter of all v, 23 , contrasting heaven and earth, and containing prayers for mercy, just before the conclusion of the whole work.
To refer to the Evangelienbuch as a biblical epic is misleading, as it places too great an emphasis on the narrative aspects. It is a teaching work for use with the Vulgate, and the marginal indicators refer the reader to given verses. Religious poetry: Heliand, Otfrid and later pieces 19 preacher, however, and the interpretations are frequently homiletic. The work is intended presumably both for a listening audience, as reinforced by the frequent interpolated comments referring backwards and forwards in the text as I have said and as a reading or study text, as when Otfrid tells the audience Lis selbo, theih thir redion Go and read for yourself what I am telling you , 11, 9, The Evangelienbuch is polyfunctional, narrating, teaching and commentating, and the stylistic tension between his use of voices - ih and uuir T and you - is that between the teacher and the preacher.
Otfrid s work is the first major German text to use rhymed verse, and he was aware of the novelty. His rhymes are sometimes on unstressed final vowels, or are assonantic, though only two lines are unrhymed. The origin of rhyme in German has occasioned much debate, and possible influences include the colometric style found in the Vulgate Psalter as well as in Latin prose, where recurring sequences cola can demonstrate omoioteleuton , the word Otfrid uses for end-rhyme.
He clearly knew formal works on grammar and metre and he plays on metrical terms. The Latin rhythmi known as Ambrosian hymns developed rhymed short lines especially in England and Ireland, possibly influenced by native Irish verse , while the Leonine hexameter is a longer rhymed Latin form. In one major respect, Otfrid is a revolutionary: in his choice of German. This cannot be overstated, and he justifies it in the first chapter of the first book, headed in Latin why the writer wrote this book in German.
Although he is less apologetic about the barbaric nature of German by which he means that it is unlike Latin in orthography and grammar here than in his letter to Liutbert, there is a nationalistic note in both. To Liutbert he complains that the Franks use the languages of other peoples. In 1,1 he stresses that the Franks are just as good as the Romans and Greeks, and should not be inhibited from writing God s praise in their own language.
Otfrid s desire to replace secular vernacular poetry may be in line with the cultural policy of Charlemagne s successors, but there are echoes of the nationalism implicit in the translatio imperii. The Conclusio voluminis totius The conclusion of the whole volume, v, 25 picks up the idea, calling for the eternal singing of God s praises by all men and angels, placing the Franks into a scheme that is not only world-wide, but eternal. Composed perhaps at the Reichenau and written down in the tenth century, it breaks off at the end of a manuscript page.
There is a homely feel about the dialogue, and the Samaritana exclaims uuizze Christ , Christ knows on one occasion. It ends at John iv, 20, leaving us the question of why this somewhat unpretentious fragment was written, although the pericope one of the readings for Lent , was adapted separately later in the Middle Ages in English.
The purpose may have been to stress that those who are not Jews can believe in Christ. At the end of the Freising manuscript of the Evangelienbuch, following an indication in Latin that the copy was done at the behest of Bishop Waldo by the unworthy scribe Sigihard, comes Sigihard s prayer St. Another Rhenish Franconian rhymed prayer, probably made in the late ninth century, renders into four lines of German verse the Latin prose collect Deus qui proprium. O God, whose nature. One, in a Trier manuscript in an eleventh-century hand uses the crude code sometimes found in glosses St.
L X X X , and another, from a different monastery in Trier and written rather earlier, has two longlines adapted from Gregory the Great St. The rhymed Zurich house-blessing St. L X X V is the bluntest attempt to keep away devils, however, challenging any demon to pronounce the word chnospinci. Specific rhymed prayers ask that bees might not swarm elsewhere, or that valuable dogs might not run away St.
Religious poetry: Heliand, Otfrid and later pieces 21 aid in gaining the kingdom of heaven, is a hymn rather than a prayer. That St Peter, as keeper of the gate of heaven, can intercede for the sinner is familiar enough, and is echoed closely in a Latin hymn, albeit not a rhymed or rhythmic one. The real interest of the work lies in the implicit sense of community: God is unsar trohtin , our Lord , and the prayer concludes pittemes. The hymnic feel is unmistakable, and the text is provided in the manuscript with musical notation.
The work is less easy to associate with the dedication of a specific church than with St Peter s See in Rome, something voiced long ago by Hoffmann von Fallersleben, who noted in a description of the coronation there of Henry IV in a reference to the singing by the clergy of the parallel Latin hymn, and by the laity of a German song to St Peter with the kyrie. It is more difficult to categorise another work, again almost certainly composed under the influence of the Freising Otfrid.
The final long-line of this group is repeated in the same way to begin a concluding six lines. The first part follows the Vulgate fairly closely and concludes with an idea that comes later in the Psalm, that of shunning those who do murder. The section concludes, however, with an idea from the first part of the Vulgate text: the impossibility of escaping from God.
This becomes the theme of the six-line concluding prayer for God to preserve the speaker. This time the precise year of composition is known, but the work raises an odd question: why is it in German at all? The poem was written down in France by a French scribe, from the look of his errors , probably in the monastery of St Amand, near Valenciennes. Next to it in the otherwise Latin manuscript is an Old French hagiographic poem in the same hand. Lewis came to the throne in his teens in , and shared the West Frank territories at the Agreement of Amiens in with his brother, Carloman.
Lewis III was faced with various real problems: he needed to establish his throne, and his accession coincided with a series of attacks on northern France by the Vikings. From contemporary chronicles we know that Lewis and Carloman together defeated a would-be usurper, Boso, Duke of Provence, after which Lewis rode north and defeated a Viking force at Saucourt in Picardy in August , a victory that was bound to be the subject of immediate acclaim, but was of limited significance, since Lewis died almost exactly a year later. In his dedicatory poem to Lewis the German, Otfrid, too, made references to God s aid in victory, to the loyal followers, to the king s ability to withstand suffering, his service of God, and to the hope of long life, all of which are echoed here.
The Ludwigslied is consistently theocentric in its approach, however. The Vikings are sent by God for two reasons: to test the young king whose premature loss of a father, we are told, has been compensated for by his adoption by God ; and to punish the Franks for their sins. The Vikings themselves are not characterised at all, because they are simply instruments, and there is none of the vivid presentation of these feared invaders found in some of the annals.
The notion of a divine scourge goes back to the Old Testament and continues well beyond the ninth century; Alcuin wrote to Ethelred of Northumbria interpreting the Viking raids on Lindisfarne in June, as a punishment against fornication, avarice, robbery , precisely the sins mentioned here. God commands Lewis we are told simply that he was away, not where he was to avenge my people, a significant formulation, and Lewis rallies his troops, joins battle and is victorious.
Religious poetry: Heliand, Otfrid and later pieces 23 special knowledge. Lewis is not told that victory will be his, and in an address to his troops not unlike those found in Germanic heroic poetry points out that men s lives are in God s hands. They ride into battle after singing the kyrie , submissive to God s mercy, then, rather than confident of victory or of heaven.
A somewhat repetitious amount of critical attention has been paid to the historical context of the poem, rather than its approach to history. Certainly it may be seen as propaganda for a young king under threat, and his birthright is underscored, but to seek specific connections with events outside the poem is of dubious relevance. Why, however, is the poem in German and not in Old French or Latin? St Amand, where the poem was probably written, had a celebrated school, attracting men from abroad, including probably this Rhenish poet.
The poem may have been intended for German speakers amongst the West Franks, but the interesting suggestion has been made that it was designed as propaganda on a broader scale. The king s German counterpart, Lewis the Younger, died in January , leaving no absolutely clear successor. Perhaps the poem was intended to make a case to a lay nobility in Germany for the West Frank king as overall ruler?
While there was an extensive tradition of Latin hagiography in prose and verse by German writers such as Walahfrid, we know of only two saints lives in German, one of which survives only in a later adaptation, so that Ratpert s life of St Gall must be considered under Ottonian Latin. The poem was added to the Heidelberg Otfrid-manuscript by a scribe called Wisolf, who seems to have given up in mid-narrative though he still had space available with the word nequeo , I can t manage.
The text is garbled, the orthography eccentric looking occasionally like dyslexia , and there are copy errors. A Latin Vita like one in St Gallen may be the source, and the dragon-slaying episode, incidentally, was not associated with the saint until far later. Galerius of Dacia who may have had the real St George killed and who appears here as Dacianus tries to kill him in the poem, but whenever he tries to do so, we are told in a repeated line that George rose up again. This is the alliterative poem known as Muspilli St.
Although the basis is the alliterative long-line, there are also rhymes. The work has three themes: first, the battle between the forces of heaven and hell for the individual soul after death, with the implications for the afterlife of misdeeds on earth; then doomsday itself, brought about by victory of Antichrist over Elijah and the spilling of Elijah s blood, with the inescapability of the judgement stressed, and also that things will go badly for anyone who has not judged honestly; and the summoning of the quick and the dead, when Christ will appear in majesty. At this point the poem breaks off.
The theme of the work as we have it is judgement after death, of the individual soul and of the world, and the message is clear enough: right behaviour is needed during man s earthly life. Whether Muspilli came before or after Otfrid s Gospel-book is hard to determine, and the fact that both share an alliterative line describing paradise dar ist lip ano tod lioht ano finstri there is life without death, light without darkness , need imply no more than that both writers drew on a tradition which is well attested in Latin too.
There is no evidence that either poet knew the other s work, but both had a clear idea of doomsday, and we shall encounter again homiletic poems on the same theme. The Germanic hero: the Hildebrandslied and Waltharius The Germanic hero: the Hildebrandslied and Waltharius The secular songs to which Otfrid objected doubtless included heroic poems, of which only one early German example survives. But it is less than useful to try to discuss in detail what we do not have, and our sole written example is a poem of sixty-nine lines in a mixture of High and Low German, preserved, though we have no idea why, in a theological document.
The work is important because it is unique, but in spite of problems it is still clearly of literary value. A description early in the work of the two central figures putting on their armour can be matched phrase-for-phrase in Anglo-Saxon, and other formulas are repeated within the work. Nevertheless, our manuscript is a late copy there are mistakes in it that can only have come from a written source and it is impossible to guess how many written stages preceded it.
Preserved on the front and back pages of a manuscript, it is incomplete, though only a few lines seem to be missing. Its language, though, is impossible; an attempt has been made to render a work written in the Bavarian dialect the alliteration only works in High German into Low German, but with such lack of success that false forms appear. This version was copied using some Anglo-Saxon characters probably early in the ninth century at Fulda, but when the poem was composed can only be guessed at. The poem deals with a battle between a father and a son set within a distorted but recognisable context, namely the east-west division of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths.
From what is now south-west Russia, the Visigoths moved in the fifth century westwards to Rome and then to Burgundy and Spain, while the Ostrogoths remained in the east. The Ostrogoths under Theoderic known in German as Dietrich took Rome in from Odoacer, but the poem and later German writings assume that Odoacer had driven Theoderic out of his rightful kingdom, after which he spent time as an exile at the court of Attila Theoderic s father had been an ally of the Huns , returning to regain his lands.
In our poem, Hildebrand is one of Theoderic s men, who had fled with him into exile, and, having returned, has to face in single combat the son he left behind. The story might well have passed thence to Bavaria, and then northwards. Two champions are picked to fight in single combat before their respective forces, and we are told at the outset that they are father and son.
Repetition of their names and patronymics underscores a relationship of which the father becomes aware, though the son never believes it. Much of the work is in dialogue. Hildebrand was a brave warrior, but Hadubrand supposes, since he was always in the forefront of battle, that he must be dead.
Old men, who are now dead and cannot bear witness, have told him so. There is no question of actual recognition, and the leaving of a bride means that this is an only son. When Hildebrand now states that he is the closest of relatives, the son understands, but does not believe him. Hildebrand, furthermore, makes a mistake when he offers the son a conciliatory gift, a gold arm-ring that the narrator tells us came from Attila. To us, the ring identifies Hildebrand as a great and therefore well-rewarded warrior, albeit with some connection with the Huns.
To Hadubrand, the ring identifies Hildebrand as a Hun. He has no reason to believe this man, and his supposition that Hildebrand is dead becomes definite when he tells us that he has heard from sailors also unavailable witnesses that his father was killed in battle. The arm-ring also reintroduces the idea of inheritance. Hadubrand has clearly inherited from his father the abilities of a great warrior, but if this gold is to be his inheritance he can gain it only by earning it, that is, by defeating and killing his father.
At this point there seems to be some textual corruption, but if we accept a small amount of editing, the son now denies that his adversary was ever the exile he claims to be. Hildebrand himself realises at this point that battle is inevitable, that wewurt skihit cruel fate will take its course.
We do not have the ending, but the battle is brief, and it does not seem as if much is missing. The Germanic hero: the Hildebrandslied and Waltharius the tragedy is that Hildebrand destroys his own posterity. And yet the true inheritance of Hildebrand is the song itself; he could neither cheat fate nor prove his own identity, but the song preserves his fame.
The only comparable long work in our period written by a German is a Latin poem of over 1, Vergilian hexameters with a large number of actual quotations from Vergil. The superficial Christianity of the Hildebrandslied, however, is much strengthened here. There is no agreement on when, where or by whom the work was written.
It has been placed in the Carolingian period and in the eleventh century, and even its ascription to Ekkehard I of St Gallen in the early tenth century is now considered unsafe. In some of the manuscripts there is a prologue by a monk who names himself as Geraldus, but since nothing is known about him, this is unhelpful. Waltharius was composed by a young monk he tells us so in an epilogue whose native language, German, is clear from his word-plays, but who might have been writing any time between the early ninth and the end of the tenth century.
Waltharius is a prince of Aquitaine, taken as hostage and brought up by Attila, together with Hiltgund, princess of the Burgundians, and Hagano, a noble youth given as hostage by the Franks in place of their prince, Guntharius. Attila did, of course, rule the Huns, and Waltharius may be identified with a fifth-century Visigoth from Toulouse.
The historical Gundahari was a Burgundian, but his seat at Worms had become Frankish by the time of the poem, so that he has become a Frank, while a fictitious princess represents Burgundy. Tribute is also paid, and the hostages are brought up at the court of Attila. When Guntharius grows up, however, he revokes the tribute, causing Hagano to flee. Attila tries to marry Waltharius to a Hun princess ensuring political stability , but Waltharius plans an escape with Hiltgund, whom he loves.
They arrange for Attila and his warriors to get drunk at a feast, escape with a great amount of treasure, and Attila, waking with a hangover, can persuade no one to pursue them. Hagano is torn between a reluctance to attack his old friend also on grounds of prudence, since Waltharius is a great warrior and loyalty to his king. The last battle is with Hagano, but after Waltharius loses a hand, Hagano an eye and some teeth, a truce is called, and a settlement made, after which Waltharius returns to his kingdom, marries Hiltgund and rules for many years.
The fighting is more vivid than in the Hildebrandslied, if some of the plot is a little contrived, including the abrupt ending. The role of Hiltgund is slight, although Waltharius s chaste behaviour towards her on their flight is noteworthy. Yet in spite of the language the work is a German heroic poem, in which loyalty, reputation, and the rightful possession of specific wealth here the tribute paid originally to the Huns , as well as prowess in combat all play a part. The avoidance of tragedy in particular betrays church influence, though primitive elements are still present in Waltharius s beheading of his victims.
The story was well known, and now-lost versions may have had a tragic ending, loyalty forcing Hagano to kill his friend. What we actually possess, however, is a Latin poem told thus Geraldus s preface for entertainment, but with pace and charm. The division of Charlemagne s empire by the middle of the ninth century separated Germany and France, and Charlemagne s own line in Germany came to end with the disastrous rule of Lewis the Child , who was still in his teens when he died. Salomo III, abbot of St Gallen, wrote in about a Latin poem lamenting the misfortunes of a country under attack from the Magyars and torn internally as well.
Nor was stability restored by the election of a firm military leader, the Frankish nobleman Conrad I, who died in Ottonian Latin literature As regards literature in German, the tenth century is often viewed as a kind of wasteland. Ottonian Latin literature 29 sparse in any case, and several of the works we do have were copied at that time. The Latin literary traditions established in Germany under the Carolingians, however, continued vigorously under the Saxons and the Salians, especially biblical commentary and religious poetry, including sequences and hymns by Notker s followers at St Gallen.
Existing annals were continued and new ones begun, some on the Saxons, such as the prose Res gestae Saxonicae of Widukind of Corvey, or the Historia Ononis of Liutprand of Cremona c. Of special interest, though, is a collection of short Latin poems in a manuscript copied probably in Canterbury in the eleventh century, but compiled earlier in the Rhineland, and now in Cambridge, whence the title for the nearly fifty Cambridge songs.
They include rhymed poems and several sequence-like modi, the most impressive of which, the Modus Ottinc, celebrates Otto I and his defeat of the Magyars, though it is also intended to honour his successors. The collection contains other panegyrics and coronation-poems, and there is one sequence on the life of Christ. He takes the child and sells it, claiming that it melted.
Sacerdos et lupus Priest and wolf , which is described as a iocularis cantio humorous narrative , is a quasi-Aesopian fable of a priest s failure to catch a wolf, whilst the tale of Unibos, the farmer who only has a single ox, is a framework for several comic anecdotes. A much-translated poem about Heriger, archbishop of Mainz, recounts his punishment of a traveller who claimed to have visited Heaven, and one about Proterius and his daughter is a moralising piece on the avoidance of despair, a recurrent theme in later literature.
Especially effective is that about Johannes, a short but over-ambitious hermit, who wants to live like an angel, but has to learn to be a good man instead. Two poems stand out because they are macaronic, their rhymed longlines being half Latin and then half German. Suavissima nonna Sweetest of nuns is apparently a dialogue between a nun and a man not necessarily a priest, as used to be assumed , who urges the nun to come with him. She resists, but may have changed her mind at the end of the work; we can no longer tell. The twenty-seven lines in eight strophes of two or three longlines give an account of an incident in which Henry, Duke of Bavaria, is received by the emperor Otto, after a messenger has instructed him to do so.
Otto did not become emperor until , however, and the two Henrys passage is a problem, so that the poem may be about Henry s son, the equally rebellious Henry the Quarrelsome, who was reconciled with the child emperor Otto III in and a child could have been told to receive the Duke as in the poem. But there are too many possibilities for the content to be clear.
It is hard to assess the literary importance of the nun Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim a Saxon house in the Harz, closely associated with the Ottonian royal family , who was born about and died in the s. She wrote a series of eight saints lives and legends in Latin metrical verse, one of them about Theophilus an early analogue of the Faust-legend , and also panegyrics on Otto I, but is best known for her dramatic writings.
Yet to locate the beginnings of drama in Germany in the Ottonian period is at best misleading. Hrotsvitha s Latin plays may never have been performed, and they certainly had no successors. In a preface to her collection of six short theological dialogues, all about pious ladies who either convert pagans or are themselves converted, she explains that she is imitating the comedies of the Roman dramatist Terence, and indeed, when in her Dulcitius the eponymous central figure tries to seduce three Christian women, he becomes mad and embraces pots and pans instead.
The church throughout the Middle Ages objected regularly to what we have to call histrionic entertainment.
13th-century German writers
In the development of an officially sanctioned drama it is not Hrotsvitha who attracts our interest, but a tiny piece of dialogue once thought to have been composed at St Gallen specifically by a monk called Tutilo at the start of the tenth century , and certainly known there: the so-called Quern quceritis trope. Tropes were a dramatic embellishment to the Mass, developed especially at St Gallen, although also at the French monastery of St Martial in Limoges, and there is debate as to which was the home of this dialogue between the angel and the Maries at the sepulchre.
The angel asks whom do you seek , and then announces that Christ has risen. Notker 3i writing in German. Notker c. He favoured what has been called a Mischsprache , in which the Latin is accompanied sentence by sentence by a German version, plus a commentary in Latin and then German, with some Latin words untranslated as a prompt for the learner to assimilate them.
Thus at the beginning of Boethius s Consolation, Lady Philosophy is described as having eyes that see beyond those of ordinary men. Notker translates literally durhnohtor sehenten. Notker s coinages and his consistent rendering of the sense are striking, and he also developed a coherent orthography for his Alemannic dialect. Notker s works were much copied especially the Psalter , and his Mischsprache recurs later in the eleventh century in the writings of Williram and continues well into the twelfth see N.
Palmer s edition of the Klosterneuburger BuSpredigten , Preserved within Notker s writings, finally, are a few brief German poems and some proverbs. Of the former, one describes the clash of warriors and the other a monstrous boar; both illustrate rhetorical devices, and are probably of classical rather than Germanic origin. Notker was aware, finally, of an historical end that could be near. The German preface to his Boethius-translation opens with a reference to St Paul s prophecy that the day of judgement will not come until the fall of Rome, and Notker links this with Theoderic, who, as ruler of Rome, had Boethius killed.
Theoderic, too, died, and the Goths were driven out, and then came the Lombards, who ruled for more than two centuries, and nah langobardis franci. So ist nu zegangen romanvm imperivm. Beside the scraps of German in the works of Notker are others which, while evidence of a sort for vernacular literary activity, cannot be afforded much prominence St.
They are usually so opaque that the over-interpretation to which they are often subjected must be viewed as suspect. Thus the nine-word Hirsch und Hinde Hart and hind, St. The piece has been connected with folk-plays and fertility festivals, without substantial conclusions. Similarly cautious comments must be made about a number of little verses from manuscripts in St Gallen, including one that appears to be a lampoon, telling how Starzfldere returned a wife to Liubwin St. There are also some proverbs St. One final small rhymed poem is now lost, but was once carved over a school or library, probably in the late ninth century.
It was copied by the map-maker Mercator to decorate his town plan of Cologne in ; the Cologne inscription Lb. Latin literature in the eleventh century With some Latin texts we can be fairly sure that a German original lies behind them. An identifiable historical event lies behind this, but since the Latin prose suggests a rhyme in German, scholars have reconstructed an original in Old High German, though it would be an early instance of end-rhyme indeed MSD vin. His carmen barbaricum German song was translated into the more acceptable medium of Latin by Ekkehart IV of St Gall, who was born towards the end of the tenth and died in the mid eleventh century.
Three versions, in Ekkehart s own hand, of an accented metrical Latin poem of seventeen strophes of five long-lines each survive. Ekkehart mentions the melody of the original, so that the two forms may have matched, but deducing a German original is difficult. Latin literature in the eleventh century 33 by St Michael, as well as the story of the chain he wore about his body as a penance.
Latin writings in Germany in the eleventh century include the muchread commentaries of the aristocratic Bruno of Wurzburg d. Two scholars deserve special mention. The first, Otloh of St Emmeram c. He wrote on world history, astronomy, mathematics and music, and his complex and linguistically inventive sequences are typified by the use of adapted Greek words. An interesting pendant to the hagiography of this later period is the De Mahumete by Embricho of Mainz who became bishop of Augsburg in , which presents in verse various legends of Mohammed from a Christian point of view.
He wrote a eulogy for Conrad s predecessor, Henry the Saint, and his Gesta Chuonradi remains the principal source for Conrad s reign, although he is still known for the famous Easter sequence Victimae paschalis. Later still come chroniclers like Adam of Bremen, who wrote around a detailed history of the archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen with a wealth of comments on the Vikings.
Religious and other poetry continued to flourish in Latin. Sextus Amarcius described later as satiricus, amator honestatis a satirist and lover of the truth wrote four books of Sermones a title he borrowed from Horace , directly spoken verses and dialogues, dealing satirically with sins and virtues. In one poem, three songs sung by a minstrel are identifiable as from the Cambridge songs, including that on the snow-baby.
Two final Latin poems of the eleventh century demand attention: the romance of Ruodlieb, and the beast-narrative known as the Ecbasis cuiusdam captivi per tropologiam The escape of a certain prisoner, moralised. The first is a series of eighteen fragments about 2, partly damaged lines from Tegernsee of an extended version of the folk-tale usually known as the three points of wisdom. In its basic form it is found in the medieval collection of anecdotes known as the Gesta Romanorum and in languages as diverse as Irish and Cornish , a servant is given pieces of advice in lieu of payment; he is not to leave an old road for a new one, not to lodge where an old man has a young wife, and not to act in anger.
His real payment is baked into a cake. The last fragments we have are concerned with Ruodlieb s search for a wife, and as far as can be made out, the wife suggested for him has had a previous affair with a cleric. Ruodlieb sends her a messenger with a love-declaration which contains four words of Old High German but also with evidence of her previous indiscretions. An outer plot tells how a runaway calf falls into the clutches of a wolf, who feeds it well for one night, prior to eating it. The wolf s account of his hatred of the fox now forms the content of the Aesopian inner fable used again later in German in the writing of Heinrich der Glichezare , in which the fox finds a cure for the sick lion which involves flaying a wolf.
Meanwhile a dog has raised the alarm with the other animals, and brings them to the wolf s lair. When we return to the outer story, the wolf is tricked into emerging, and is gored by the bull, so that the calf escapes and returns home. The promised allegorical implications are made clear: the wolf represents the wiles of the world. Late Old High German prose 35 in after thirty-seven years as abbot of the small monastery of Ebersberg. In around he produced an exposition of the biblical Song of Songs that remained influential, with one manuscript copy as late as , not much more than a century before it became the object of philological study by the Dutch scholar Francis Junius in Williram s Expositio in Cantica Canticorum is formally unfamiliar, and its German component is limited.
The major manuscripts have three sometimes ornately separated columns, the central one containing in large script the Vulgate text. The left-hand column has a Latin paraphrase in hexameters, while on the right is a prose commentary in a mixture of German and Latin. Trudperter Hohelied, and was sometimes though not often copied independently. However, on other occasions even the German parts were translated into Latin. Williram s work is a late example of the opus geminatum, each part having a separate function, the hexameters enhancing and explaining, the Mischsprache clarifying the text for a different audience.
Its content is not original: much derives from Latin commentaries which allegorise the Song of Songs as a dialogue between Christ and the Church. Indeed, Williram claims in his preface that de meo nihil addidi I have added nothing of my own , and he is studiedly conservative, complaining that an excess of dialectic has obscured biblical interpretation. More clearly literary is the brief text known as Himmel und Holle Heaven and hell, St.
What lies behind the composition is unclear, although it may have some link with the Bamberg confession St. One late translation into Old High German is of intrinsic interest. The Physiologus St. Its single horn indicates the unity of the Father and the Son, and its capture the Virgin Birth. These are still, like the few earlier pieces, largely from patristic sources. Of the three groups distinguished, the first has three fragments of sermons by Augustine, the second four from Gregory the Great on the Gospels, and the third some Lenten material largely from Bede.
The sermons were intended either for preaching in the language, or for reading. Associated with them, and specifically with the first group, since the scribe appears to be the same, is a collection of Geistliche Ratschlage Spiritual precepts, St. Not until well into the twelfth century do we find more complete vernacular sermon collections, again designed either for reading or as handbooks for preaching. A Benediktbeuern collection from the mid twelfth century, for example, known as the Speculum Ecclesiae Mirror of the Church , contains sermons of varying lengths, not in strict liturgical order, and sometimes with more than one for a given feast.
However, the Speculum Ecclesiae and the influence of the French schoolmen take us beyond our limits. Although attempts were made to identify these language changes with a new spirit in German literature, there is no basis for doing so. There is a gradual increase in the amount of German written, but its status is still low. The period was one of monastic reforms including that associated with the monastery of Cluny, in France , but there are no real effects upon German literature.
Early Middle High German religious literature 37 vernacular writing from the monasteries to the schools associated with the cathedrals. Where writers like Otloh and Williram were monks, named writers are now described often as secular priests or canons. Early Middle High German religious literature Virtually all of the German material in the Salian period is religious, and most of it develops from what has gone before.
Thus the essential mixture in Otfrid of narrative and often homiletic commentary is found in the second part of the eleventh century in metrical adaptations of Genesis and Exodus. A twelfth-century all-German codex now in Vienna whence the names Wiener Genesis and Exodus contains the two biblical poems written out consecutively, with rhyme-points , and between them an assonantic prose version of the Physiologus which is longer than the Old High German version.
There has been some discussion over the form of the poems, although a short couplet style seems already to be replacing Otfrid s rhymed long-line. In content, the poems draw on the authorities just as much as Otfrid did, however. Thus the creation of Adam is expanded on the basis of medieval encyclopaedias to a detailed physical description considering even the function of his little finger for digging in the ear to enable him to hear clearly, and the poet attaches to the promise made to Eve that she will bruise the serpent s head Genesis iii,i5 a homiletic excursus derived from Carolingian Latin commentaries of nearly a hundred lines on the theme of stopping sin as soon as it begins.
If the Genesis-poet was a secular canon as is possible , the implied audience might, however, be a lay one. The eleventh-century material of the Vienna manuscript was reworked towards the end of the twelfth century. The new version, the Millstatt codex, has the Physiologus in rhymed form, and a very large number of illustrations, while a further German collective codex from Vorau in Styria which also contains the Kaiserchronik has a rather different adaptation of the first part of the Old Testament in the Vorauer Bucher Mosis although the Joseph-narrative overlaps with the Vienna version , plus a number of shorter religious poems.
Shorter religious poems maintain the conservative-homiletic tone, and the year can only be an arbitrary cut-off point. The work is known as Memento mori there is no title in the original and capitals indicate nineteen strophes of four long-lines each, though a few lines are missing in the middle. The work is perhaps by Noker the name appears in the last line , abbot of Zwiefalten d. Like Muspilli, this poem stresses that no one however rich can avoid the final judgement, and again an aristocratic lay audience seems to be implied. Another space-filler in the same manuscript is Ezzos Gesang Ezzo s hymn.
Only seven strophes were written here, but in the Vorau codex is a twelfth-century augmented reworking of it. One of the additions is a prefatory verse telling how this song of the miracles of Christ , was written at the behest of Bishop Gunther of Bamberg d. The earlier version is addressed to iv herron my lords , which is changed in the Vorau text to iv. A far later fragmentary poem, the Scopf von dem lone Poem of reward , written probably in the late twelfth century by a secular canon at the Cathedral of St Martin in Colmar points out, with reference to the tax-gatherer Zachaeus and to St Martin, that the rich can also enter the kingdom of heaven in spite of Luke xviii, 24 if they lead proper lives.
The motif is unsurprising with literature aimed at a particular class, that for which Muspilli or Memento Mori was intended. Reimpredigt rhymed sermon is a term of slightly dubious validity, but the direct homiletic tone remains a key feature of early German poetry. Some vernacular poems are problematic. That known as Merigarto The world , from the last part of the eleventh century is in places now extremely hard even to decipher. The first part of this strophic poem which has some Latin headings describes seas, real and otherwise, and after another heading which refers to an unidentifiable Bishop Reginbert, goes on to say how a wise man in Utrecht had told the poet who seems to have fled there from Bavaria in time of war about a visit to Iceland and of its geography.
Frankly, very little can be made of this hydrographic enigma, although it does demonstrate the continuity of Carolingian learning. Anno II, the extremely powerful though not always entirely scrupulous archbishop of Cologne and regent for Henry IV, died in and was canonised in , although the poem the date of which is fixed by a reworked section in the Kaiserchronik , refers to him as a saint already. Nearly nine hundred rhymed lines in couplets, divided into forty-nine strophes, present first a brief history of the world from Adam to Anno , making clear once more the contrast between Adam s fall and the incarnation before moving on to the saints of Cologne and then to Anno, the latest saint given to the Franks.
The second section describes the four ages of the world based on interpretations of the dream in Daniel vii,, taking us down to Rome, and then looking at the histories of various German tribes, Swabians, Bavarians, Saxons and Franks. The latter are the inheritors of the Trojans, since the mythical eponym Franko builds eini luzzele Troie a litle Troy , on the Rhine, and of the Romans, who built Colonia Cologne. The poem now moves rapidly from the earliest stages of Christianity, and again to the Franks and Anno.
The final strophes 34—49 are hagiographic, presenting Anno as the vatir aller weisin father of orphans , founder of monasteries including Siegburg , and stressing his political role. After his death, healing miracles are associated with him. The Annolied has some relationship with Latin genres: chronicles, hagiographic vitae and local historical writing. Its mixture of theological and secular harks back to the Ludwigslied in some respects, and there are echoes, too, of Otfrid, in the linking of the Franks with the ancient world. Otfrid simply stated that the Franks were as good as the Romans or Greeks, but the Annolied places them more firmly into an historical context which is, unlike Notker s, onward-looking.
The divine economy of fall and redemption is present in the poem as well, however, as is the parenetic didacticism of so much early Middle High German writing; Anno entered the heavenly paradise and we should keep his example in mind. The theology is hardly new. What is different is this combination of genres in a German-language poem celebrating both a German saint and at the same time his people. It is a nice historical accident that the work was discovered by Martin Opitz, the author of Das Buch von der deutschen Poeterey Let us take just one area as an example.
The new German vernacular biblical epic in couplet verse begins in the second half of the eleventh century with the Altdeutsche Genesis also known as the Vienna Genesis, most likely c. Verfasserlexikon, 2nd revised edn by Kurt Ruh et al. Introduction 41 shorter Old High German poems. Lay brothers and those monks who had entered the order later in life, rather than as child oblates, were as a rule illiterate and could only understand readings in German.
It could develop its own conventions of poetic form, tonality, affective engagement with an audience and literary structure in response to the needs of a specific historical situation. The materials presented in the works named had all been gathered from authoritative Latin sources, but these works are for the most part not simply translated from Latin. The world of oral poetry is recalled for a moment in the Annolied. The empire gained a dominant position in Western Europe, and a sense of national pride was awakened in the Germans that opened the way for a national spirit.
But the aim of these national aspirations, the hegemony in Western Europe, was a mere phantom. Each time an emperor went to Italy to be crowned that country had to be reconquered. Even at this very time the imperial supremacy was in great danger from the threatened conflict between the imperial and the sacerdotal power, between Church and State. The Church, the only guide on earth to salvation, had attained dominion over mankind, whom it strove to wean from the earthly and to lead to the spiritual.
The glaring contrast between the ideal and the reality awoke in thousands the desire to leave the world. A spirit of asceticism, which first appeared in France, took possession of many hearts. As early as the era of the first Saxon emperors the attempt was made to introduce the reform movement of Cluny into Germany, and in the reign of Henry III this reform had become powerful. Henry himself laid much more stress than his predecessors on the ecclesiastical side of his royal position. His religious views led him to side with the men of Cluny. The great mistake of his ecclesiastical policy was the belief that it was possible to promote this reform of the Church by laying stress on his suzerain authority.
He repeatedly called and presided over synods and issued many decisions in Church affairs. His fundamental mistake, the thought that he could transform the Church in the manner desired by the party of reform and at the same time maintain his dominion over it, was also evident in his relations with the papacy. He sought to put an end to the disorder at Rome, caused by the unfortunate schism, by the energetic measure of deposing the three contending popes and raising Clement II to the Apostolic See.
Clement crowned him emperor and made him Patrician of Rome. Thus Henry seemed to have regained the same control over the Church that Otto had exercised. But the papacy, purified by the elevated conceptions of the party of reform and freed by Henry from the influence of the degenerate Roman aristocracy, strove to be absolutely independent. The Church was now to be released from all human bonds. The chief aims of the papal policy were the celibacy of the clergy, the presentation of ecclesiastical offices by the Church alone, and the attainment by these means of as great a centralization as possible.
Henry had acted with absolute honesty in raising the papacy, but he did not intend that it should outgrow his control. Sincerely pious, he was convinced of the possibility and necessity of complete accord between empire and papacy. His fanciful policy became an unpractical idealism. Consequently the monarchical power began rapidly to decline in strength. Hungary regained freedom, the southern part of Italy was held by the Normans, and the Duchy of Lorraine, already long a source of trouble, maintained its hostility to the king.
By the close of the reign of Henry III discontent was universal in the empire, thus permitting a growth of the particularistic powers, especially of the dukes. His wife Agnes assumed the regency for their four-year-old son, Henry IV , and at once showed her incompetence for the position by granting the great duchies to opponents of the crown.
She also sought the support of the lesser nobility and thus excited the hatred of the great princes. A conspiracy of the more powerful nobles, led by Archbishop Anno Hanno of Cologne, obtained possession of the royal child by a stratagem at Kaiserswert and took control of the imperial power. Henry IV, however, preferred the guidance of Adalbert, Archbishop of Bremen, who was able for the moment to give the governmental policy a more national character.
Thus in he restored German influence over Hungary, and the aim of his internal policy was to strengthen the central power. At the Diet of Tribur, , however, he was overthrown by the particularists, but the king by now was able to assume control for himself. In the meantime the papacy had been rapidly advancing towards absolute independence. The Curia now extended the meaning of simony to the granting of an ecclesiastical office by a layman and thus demanded an entire change in the conditions of the empire and placed itself in opposition to the imperial power.
The ordinances passed in for the regulation of the papal elections excluded all imperial rights in the same. Conditions in Italy grew continually more unfavourable for the empire. The chief supporters of the papal policy were the Normans, over whom the pope claimed feudal suzerainty. The German bishops also yielded more and more to the authority of Rome; the Ottonian theory of government was already undermined. The question was now raised: In the Kingdom of God on earth who is to rule, the emperor or the pope? In Rome this question had long been settled.
The powerful opponent of Henry, Gregory VII, claimed that the princes should acknowledge the supremacy of the Kingdom of God, and that the laws of God should be everywhere obeyed and carried out. The struggle which now broke out was in principle a conflict concerning the respective rights of the empire and the papacy. But the conflict soon shifted from the spiritual to the secular domain; at last it became a conflict for the possession of Italy, and during the struggle the spiritual and the secular were often confounded. Henry was not a match for the genius of Gregory. He was courageous and intelligent and, though of a passionate nature, fought with dogged obstinacy for the rights of his monarchical power.
But Gregory as the representative of the reform movement in the Church, demanding complete liberty for the Church, was too powerful for him. Aided by the inferior nobility, Henry sought to make himself absolute. The particularistic powers, however, insisted upon the maintenance of the constitutional limits of the monarchy. The revolt of the Saxons against the royal authority was led both by spiritual and secular princes, and it was not until after many humiliations that Henry was able to conquer them in the battle on the Unstrut Directly after this began his conflict with the papacy.
The occasion was the appointment of an Archbishop of Milan by the emperor without regard to the election already held by the ecclesiastical party. Gregory VII at once sent a threatening letter to Henry. Angry at this, Henry had the deposition of the pope declared at the Synod of Worms, 24 January, Gregory now felt himself released from all restraint and excommunicated the emperor. On 16 October, , the German princes decided that the pope should pronounce judgment on the king and that unless Henry were released from excommunication within a year and a day he should lose his crown.
Henry now sought to break the alliance between the particularists and the pope by a clever stroke. The German princes he could not win back to his cause, but he might gain over the pope. By a penitential pilgrimage he forced the pope to grant him absolution. Henry appealed to the priest, and Gregory showed his greatness. He released the king from the ban, although by so doing he injured his own interests, which required that he should keep his agreement to act in union with the German princes.
Thus the day of Canossa 2 and 3 February, was a victory for Henry. It did not, however, mean the coming of peace, for the German confederates of the pope did not recognize the reconciliation at Canossa, and elected Duke Rudolf of Swabia as king at Forchheim, 13 March, A civil war now broke out in Germany. After long hesitation Gregory finally took the side of Rudolf and once more excommunicated Henry.
Soon after this however, Rudolf lost both throne and life in the battle of Hohenmoelsen not far from Merseburg. Henry now abandoned his policy of absolutism, recognizing its impracticability. He returned to the Ottonian theory of government, and the German episcopate, which was embittered by the severity of the ecclesiastical administration of Rome, now came over to the side of the king. Accompanied by this pope, he went to Rome and was crowned emperor there in Love for the rights of the Church drove the great Gregory into exile where he soon after died.
After the death of his mighty opponent Henry was more powerful than the particularists who had elected a new rival king, Herman of Luxembourg. In Henry went again to Italy to defend his rights against the two powerful allies of the papacy, the Normans in the south and the Countess Matilda of Tuscany in the north. While he was in Italy his own son Conrad declared himself king in opposition to him. Overwhelmed by this blow, Henry remained inactive in Italy, and it was not until that he returned to Germany.
No reconciliation had been effected between him and Pope Urban II. In Germany Henry sought to restore internal peace, and this popular policy intensified the particularism of the princes. In union with these the king's son, young Henry, rebelled against his father. The pope supported the revolt, and the emperor was unable to cope with so many opponents. In he abdicated. After this he once more asserted his rights, but death soon closed this troubled life filled with so many thrilling and tragic events.
To Henry should be ascribed the credit of saving the monarchy from the threatened collapse. He has been called the most brilliant representative of the German laity in the early Middle Ages. During his reign began the development, so fruitful in results, of the German cities. Henry V also adopted the policy of the Ottos. In the numerous discussions of the right of investiture men of sober judgment insisted, as did the emperor, that the latter could not give up the right of the investiture of his vassal bishops with the regalia, that a distinction must be made between the spiritual and secular power of the bishops.
The pope now made the strange proposal that the emperor should give up the investiture and the pope the regalia. This proposal to strip the Church of secular power would have led to a revolution in Germany. Not only would the bishops have been unwilling to give up their position as ruling princes, but many nobles, as well as vassals of the Church, would have rebelled. The storm of dissatisfaction which in broke out in Rome obliged the pope to annul the prohibition of investiture.
It was soon seen to be impossible to carry out the permission so granted, and the conflict regarding investitures began again. The ecclesiastical party was again joined by the German princes antagonistic to the emperor, and the imperial forces soon suffered defeats on the Rhine and in Saxony. Consequently the papal party gained ground again in Germany, and the majority of the bishops fell away from Henry.
Notwithstanding this he went, in , to Italy to claim the imperial feudal estates of the Countess Matilda, who had died, and to confiscate her freehold property. This action naturally made more difficult the relations between pope and emperor, and in spite of the universal weariness the conflict began anew. The influence of the German secular princes had now to be reckoned with, for at this time certain families of the secular nobility commenced to claim hereditary power and appeared as hereditary dynasties with distinct family names and residences.
It was in the age of the Franconian emperors that the dynastic families of the German principalities were founded. These princes acted as an independent power in settling the disagreement between emperor and pope. Callistus II was ready for peace; in an agreement was reached and the concordat was proclaimed at the Synod of Worms.
In this the pope agreed that in Germany the election of bishops should take place according to canonical procedure in the presence of the king or his representative, and that the bishop-elect should then be invested by the king with the sceptre as a symbol of the regalia. In Germany this investiture was to precede the ecclesiastical consecration, in Italy and Burgundy it was to follow it. The emperor therefore retained all his influence in the appointment to vacant dioceses, and as secular princes the bishops were responsible to him.
Not withstanding this the Concordat of Worms was a defeat for the imperial claims, for the papacy that had been hitherto a subordinate power had now become a power of at least equal rank. It was now entirely free from the control of the German Crown and held an independent position, deriving its dignity wholly from God. The emperor, on the contrary, received his dignity from the papacy.
The talented, but intriguing and deceitful, king had greatly strengthened the anti-imperial tendency in all Western Europe. During the great investiture conflict the other kings had freed themselves completely from the suzerainty of the emperor. The pope was the guarantee of their independence, and he had become the representative of the whole of Christendom, while the imperial dignity had lost the attribute of universality. The way was now open to the pope to become the umpire over kings and nations.
There was now a truce in the conflict between pope and emperor. Only a minor question had been settled, but the conflict had awakened the intellects of men, and on both sides a voluminous controversial literature appeared. The assertion was now made that the Christian conception of the papacy was not realized by existing conditions. There were also other manifestations of independent thought. The Crusades opened a new world of ideas; historical writing made rapid progress, and art ventured upon new forms in architecture.
Commerce and travel increased through the active intercourse with Italy, a state of affairs beneficial to the growth of the cities. Germany grew in civilization although it did not reach the same level of culture which Italy and France had then attained. Henry V died childless, and his nephew, Duke Frederick of Swabia, the representative of the most powerful ruling family in the empire, hoped to be his successor.
The clergy, led by Archbishop Adalbert of Mainz, however, feared that Frederick would continue the ecclesiastical policy of the Franconian emperors, and they succeeded in defeating him as a candidate. At Mainz the majority of the princes voted for Lothair of Supplinburg ; thus the electors disregarded any hereditary right to the throne. The Hohenstaufen brothers, Frederick and Conrad, did not yield the crown to Lothair without a struggle.
The Hohenstaufen family was in possession of the crownlands belonging to the inheritance of the Franconian emperors, and a long struggle ensued over these territories. Lothair's suzerainty was for a while in a very critical position; the Hohenstaufen power increased to such an extent that in its abettors ventured to proclaim Conrad king. In the end, however, Lothair conquered. A courageous man, but one somewhat inclined to hasty action, he was able to maintain the claims of the empire against Bohemia, Poland, and Denmark.
As a statesman, however, Conrad was less aggressive. He allowed the schism of , when Innocent II and Anacletus Il contended for the Holy See, to pass by without turning the temporal weakness of the papacy to the benefit of the empire. After a delay Lothair finally recognized Innocent as pope and brought him to Rome.
Here Lothir was crowned emperor in ; but the Curia did not agree to his demand for the restoration of the old right of investiture. However, he received the domains of the Countess Matilda as a fief from the pope and thus laid the foundation of the strong position of the house of Welf Guelph in Central Europe. In the meantime the two Hohenstaufen brothers were defeated, and Lothair was now able , without fear of an uprising in Germany, to go to Rome for a second time.
The object of this further campaign in Italy was to defeat King Roger of Sicily, the protector of the antipope, but the success of the imperial army was only temporary. Differences of opinion as to imperial and papal rights in lower Italy and Sicily endangered at times the good understanding between the two great powers. The emperor grew ill and died on the way home, and after his death the vigorous Roger united all lower Italy, with the exception of Benevento, into a kingdom that held an unrivalled position in Europe for its brilliant and strangely mixed culture.
In the struggle between the papacy and the empire this Sicilian kingdom was before long to take an important part. The political policy of the Church was directed by its distrust of the aims of the Saxon dynasty in lower Italy; consequently by a bold stroke it brought about the election of Conrad III , the Hohenstaufen Duke of Franconia, passing over Duke Henry the Proud, ruler of Saxony and Bavaria, and a descendant of Duke Welf Guelph. The new king demanded from Henry the surrender of the Saxon duchy. Although after a long struggle the double Duchy of Bavaria-Saxony was dissolved, yet the Saxon duchy that was given by the treaty of to young Henry the Lion, son of Henry the Proud, continued a menace to the Hohenstaufen rule.
Conrad was not able to put an end to the disorders in his realm, and the respect felt for the empire on the eastern frontier declined; neither was he able to assert his power in Italy. Yet all these troubles did not prevent his yielding to the fiery eloquence of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and joining the Second Crusade. This crusade, the success of which had been promised by St. Bernard and the pope, failed completely. When Conrad returned home, broken in spirit, he was confronted by the danger of a formidable rising of the Welfs. In he died.
During his reign the intellectual results of the Crusades began to show themselves. Men's imaginations had been stimulated and led them away from traditional medieval sentiment. The world was seized by a romantic impulse and the conception of the Crusades, developed first among the Romanic nations, gave a Romanic colouring to the civilization and morals of the age. For a long time German knighthood, in particular, was characterized by Romanic ideas and manners. When the new king, Frederick I Barbarossa , ascended the throne his German kingdom seemed on the verge of disintegration, and he sought to strengthen his power by a journey through all parts of his realms.
Contrary to the policy pursued by his predecessor, he exerted himself to settle the strife between the Welf Guelph and Hohenstaufen parties. He wanted to strengthen the Welf power to such extent as to make it evident that this party's interests coincided with those of the Crown.
As secular protector of the Church, Frederick came to an agreement with the pope in regard to the latter's adversaries, the citizens of Rome and King Roger of Sicily. The imperial policy of Frederick was one of vast schemes which he could only carry out when he had a firm footing in Italy.
But in Italy the city republics had arisen, and these had entirely cast off his suzerainty. Not realizing the power of resistance of the free communities, Frederick wanted to force the cities to recognize the supremacy of the empire. In case the pope should interfere in the dispute, Frederick was resolved not to permit his intervention in secular affairs.
Frederick was filled with an ideal conception of his position as emperor. He believed that the Germans were destined in the history of the world to exercise universal rule.
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It was this idea, however, that exasperated the Italians and aroused their hatred. Frederick could only carry out this universal policy if Italy were his, and the question of its possession led to renewed struggles between Church and State. When Frederick went to Rome to be crowned emperor in , most of the Italian cities paid their homage to him.
On his return home Bavaria was restored in fief to Henry the Lion, the East Mark later Austria being first detached from the duchy. This led in the course of time to a development of the mark that proved of great importance for the future history of the empire. Frederick's policy was, in the main, not to interfere with the rights of the German princes as long as they obeyed the laws of the empire. The spiritual princes he attached closely to himself. The most powerful bishops of this period, Rainald of Cologne, Christian of Mainz, and Wichmann of Magdeburg, supported the imperial party.
The majority of the bishops looked upon Frederick as a protection against the encroachments of Rome and of the secular rulers. The emperor sought, by strengthening his dynastic power, to make himself independent of both the ecclesiastical and temporal princes; to carry out this policy he depended on his inferior civil officials Ministerialen , who were still serfs, and from whom was hereafter to come the important military nobility.
Thus Frederick prepared the way for the flourishing period of chivalry, which was to give its signature to the time now at hand. A romantic, knightly culture arose; poetry flourished; yet the love lyrics of the age often expounded unhealthy views of morals and marriage. Nevertheless, the movement did not penetrate very deep, and the common people remained uncorrupted. Moreover, poetry was not wasted on artificial love songs; Wolfram von Eschenbach had the courage to attempt great problems; Walther von der Vogelweide was the herald of German imperialism.
Art undertook to solve great questions, and began to draw its themes from life. Scientific learning, however, had not made equal progress; the time of apprenticeship was not yet passed, while in France and Italy Scholasticism had already shown itself creative. When, however, the rest of Europe sided with the lawful pope, the defeat of the emperor was assured, for the papacy, when supported by all other countries, could not be coerced by Frederick.
The emperor's third campaign in Italy ended in the failure of his lower Italian policy, and the outbreak of the plague destroyed the more promising prospects of the fourth expedition. In the fifth campaign occurred the memorable defeat near Legnano which opened the eyes of the emperor to the necessity of a treaty of peace. In he made peace with the pope at Venice, and recognized Alexander III, whom he had so obstinately opposed. The papacy had victoriously defended its equality with the empire.
In Germany Frederick was obliged to take steps against the violent proceedings of Henry the Lion. The insubordinate Guelph was deposed and his fiefs divided, Bavaria being given to Otto of Wittelsbach. By the repeated allotment of these lands Frederick in reality helped to break up the empire, and when in he betrothed his son Henry to Constance, the heiress of the Norman kingdom, he prepared the way for new complications. Frederick took part in the Third Crusade in order that the highest power of Christendom might actively fight against the infidel.
He was drowned in Asia Minor, 10 June, ; and was, at his death, a popular hero. He had greatly strengthened the feeling of the Germans that they were one great people, though a really national empire was at the time quite out of the question; the achievement of unity was prevented by the international character of intellectual, and partly of social, life. Frederick's son, Henry VI , meant to establish a world power along the Mediterranean. His schemes were opposed by a Saxon-Guelphic combination headed by Richard the Lion-Hearted of England, and also by the German princes, who strove to hinder the increase of the royal power aimed at by Henry.
The capture of Richard in dissolved the league of princes and led to peace with the House of Guelph. In Henry succeeded in conquering Sicily, and it now seemed as though his imperialistic schemes would gain the day; nevertheless they failed owing to the opposition of the German princes and the pope.
When Henry died in the countries of Western Europe had already taken a stand against the all-embracing schemes of the German emperor. Germany was threatened by the horrors of a civil war. All the anti-national forces were active.
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Instead of the crown going to Frederick, son of Henry, who was at Naples, Archbishop Adolph of Cologne sought, by means of the electoral rights of the princes, to obtain it for the son of Henry the Lion, Otto IV But the Hohenstaufen party anticipated this scheme by securing the election of the popular Duke Philip of Swabia For the first time the question now arose, which of the princes have the right to vote? The number of electors had not, so far, been defined, yet as early as the election of Lothair and Conrad only the princes had voted, and the right of the Archbishops of Mainz to preside at the election was clearly admitted.
Not much later the opinion prevailed that only six ruling princes were entitled to act as electors: the three Rhenish Archbishops, the Rhenish Palsgrave, the Duke of Saxony, and the Margrave of Brandenburg; to these was added in the course of time the King of Bohemia. The "Sachsenspiegel" compilation of Saxon law, c. At the time of the double election of Otto and Philip the policy pursued by the German princes was a purely selfish one. The energetic Innocent III, who was then pope, claimed the right of deciding the dispute and adjudged the crown to Otto. Thus the latter for a time gained the advantage over Philip.
In this conflict the German princes changed sides whenever it seemed to their interest. Archbishop Adolph of Cologne, who had carried the election of Otto, finally fell away from him. Philip gained in authority, and after the successful battle near Wassenberg in he would have overcome Otto and his ally the papacy, had he not been murdered at Bamberg in by Otto of Wittelsbach.
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Otto IV was now universally acknowledged king. He had promised the pope to give up his claim to the domains of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany and to grant the free election of bishops. But when at Rome he refused to carry out these promises. However, the pope, though displeased, crowned him emperor in But when Otto after this wished to revive the imperial claims to Naples, the pope excommunicated him In the meantime the supreme position of the empire had become so important a matter that foreign princes meddled in German politics.
The coalition of the English and the Guelphs was broken by the French at the battle of Bouvines , yet Otto kept up the struggle for his rights until his death in The long conflict had greatly impaired the strength of the Hohenstaufen line; both the imperial and the Hohenstaufen domains had been squandered, and the German princes had become conscious of their power.
Like his father, Frederick II made Italy the centre of his policy; but at the same time he intended to keep the control of Germany in his own hands, as the imperial power was connected with this country and he must draw the soldiers needed for his Italian projects from Germany. In order to maintain peace in Germany and to secure the aid of the German princes for his Italian policy Frederick made great concessions to the ecclesiastical princes in the "Confoederatio cum principibus ecclesiasticis" and to the secular princes in the "Statutum in favorem principum" These two laws became the basis of an aristocratic constitution for the German Empire.
They both contained a large number of separate ordinances, which taken together might serve as a secure basis for the future sovereignty of the local princes. In these statutes the expression landesherr lord of the land occurs for the first time. In this era Germany was cut up into a large number of territorial sovereignties, consisting of the ecclesiastical territories, the duchies, which, however, were no longer tribal duchies, the margravates, among which the North Mark ruled by Albert the Bear was one of the most important, the palatinates, the countships, and the independent domains of those who had risen from landed proprietors to landed sovereigns.
In addition to these were the districts ruled directly by the king through imperial wardens. What Frederick sought to get by favouring the princes he obtained. He had no real interest in Germany, which was at first ruled by the energetic Engelbert, Archbishop of Cologne; after he visited it only once.
It was to him an appendage of Sicily. Frederick's Italian policy threatened the papacy, and he strove by concessions to avert a conflict with the pope. The highly talented, almost learned, emperor was far in advance of his age; an autocratic ruler, he created in lower Italy the first modern state; but by his care for Italy he overstrained the resources of the empire.
This brought advantages to the neighbouring Kingdoms of France, and England, now long independent powers, as well as to Hungary, Poland, and the Scandinavian countries. The conflict between the sacerdotal power and the empire had aided the independent development of the states of Western Europe. The possession of Italy and the vow to go on a crusade regulated Frederick's relations with the Curia. In he was crowned emperor. Repeatedly urged to undertake the promised crusade, and finally excommunicated because he failed to do so, the emperor obtained successes in the East in , contrary to the wishes of the pope.
The silent acknowledgment of these successes by the Curia was a victory for Frederick. A rebellion headed by his son Henry was quickly crushed, but the confederates of Henry, the Lombards, assumed a threatening attitude. The emperor was able to bring order out of the confusion in Germany by the policy of yielding to the princes. The German princes loyally upheld the emperor, consequently, upon the pope's death, the victory seemed to belong to the imperial party. Innocent IV , however, renewed the struggle and from Lyons excommunicated the emperor, whose position now became a serious one.
In Italy, though, conditions seemed favourable, but just at this juncture Frederick died 13 December, , and with his death ended the struggle for the world sovereignty. The year marks an era of extraordinary change in Germany. The romance of chivalry passed away, and new forces directed the life of the nation. On account of the extraordinary economic changes the population rapidly increased; the majority of the people were peasants, and this class was rising, but compared with nobles and ecclesiastics the peasants had no weight politically. The important factor of the new era was the municipality, and its development was the beginning of a purely German policy.
The glamour of the imperial idea had vanished, men now took their stand on facts and realities. Education found its way among laymen, and it developed with trade. New markets were opened for commerce. The new commercial settlements received "city charters" under the royal cross. The merchants in these settlements needed craftsmen, and these latter from the twelfth century formed themselves into guilds, thus making a new political unit. Councils elected by the cities strove to set aside the former lords of the cities, especially the bishops on the Rhine.
In vain the Hohenstaufen rulers supported the bishops against the independence of the towns, but the government in the cities could no longer be put down. In order to protect their rights some of the cities formed alliances, such as the confederation of the Rhenish towns, that was formed as early as the period of the Great Interregnum in order to guard the public peace. These confederations promised to become dangerous opponents of the territorial lords, but such alliances did not become general and, divided among themselves without mutual support, the smaller confederations of towns succumbed to the united princely power.
The growth of the towns brought about the ruin of the system of trade by barter or in kind; the rise of the capitalistic system of commerce at once affected German views of life. Up to this time almost wholly absorbed in the supernatural, henceforth the Germans took more interest in worldly things. Unconditional renunciation of the world came to an end, and men grew more matter-of-fact and practical. This change in the German way of thinking was aided by the opposition that sprang up in the towns between the citizens and the former lords of the territory, often the bishops and their clergy.
Here and there the influence of the city on the views of the clergy manifested itself. The Dominicans and Franciscans, at least, taught their doctrines in language quite intelligible to the people. The rise of the cities was also of importance in the social life of the day, for the principle, "City air gives freedom" Stadtluft macht frei , created an entirely new class of freemen. Under the last of the Hohenstaufens the beginnings of a national culture began to appear. Latin had fallen into disuse, and German become the prevailing written language.
For the first time Germany felt that she was a nation. This soon brought many Germans into opposition to the Church. In the conflict between the papacy and the empire the former often seemed the opponent of nationalism, and bitterness was felt, not against the idea of the Church, but against its representative.
The Germans still remained deeply religious, as was made evident by the German mystics. The most valuable result of this strengthening of the national feeling was the conquest of what is now the eastern part of the present German Empire. Henry I had sought to attain this end, but it was not until the thirteenth century that it was accomplished, largely by the energy of the Teutonic Order. The Marks of Brandenburg, Pomerania, Prussia, and Silesia were colonized by Germans in a manner that challenges admiration, and German influence advanced as far as the Gulf of Finland.
The centres of German civilization in these districts were the Premonstratensian and Cistercian monasteries. This extraordinary success was won by Germans in an era when the imperial government seemed ready to go to pieces. It was the period of the Great Interregnum We find traces of internal chaos as early as the reign of Frederick's son, Conrad IV , and the confusion grew worse in the reign of William of Holland, and after him during the nominal reigns of Richard of Cornwall and Alfonso of Castile.
At the same time Bohemia rapidly advanced in power under Ottocar II and became a dangerous element for the domestic and foreign policy of Germany. It was Pope Gregory X who restored order in Germany. To carry out his projects in the Holy Land peace must be secured in Western Europe. He therefore commissioned the electoral princes, who now appear for the first time, to elect a new king. In the princes chose Rudolf of Hapsburg , a man of no great family resources. Meantime the imperial power had fallen into decay; the imperial estates had been squandered; there were no imperial taxes; and the old method of obtaining soldiers for the service of the empire had broken down.
Rudolf saw how necessary the possession of crown-lands was for the imperial authority, his aim being to create a dynastic force. Ottocar II, King of Bohemia, sought to induce the Curia to object to the election of Rudolf, but the Curia had quickly come to terms with Rudolf concerning conditions in Italy.
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After his election he demanded from Ottocar the return of the imperial fiefs, and the refusal of the latter led to a war in which, on the plain called the Marchfeld, Ottocar lost both life and crown. This victory gave Rudolf secure possession of the Austrian provinces. As the German king was not permitted to retain vacant fiefs, he evaded this law by granting Austria, Styria, Carniola, and Lusatia in fief to his sons Albert and Rudolf; in this way the power of the family was greatly increased.
Not even Rudolf thought of strengthening the kingly power by constitutional means. He decided to protect the public peace but did not entirely succeed in this. His policy was always influenced by the circumstances of the moment: at one time he favoured the princes, at another the cities; consequently he was never more than half successful. His only great achievement was that he secured for his family a position in Eastern Europe that was destined to give it importance in the future.
Rudolf's successor was Adolf of Nassau , not his son Albert, as he had desired. The policy of the new sovereign was to weaken Austria, his natural opponent. Like Rudolf he recognized the necessity of obtaining possessions for his family, for which he tried to lay a foundation in Thuringia. Adolf's success against Frederick the Degenerate of Thuringia caused the electoral princes to incline to Albert. In a battle near Goellheim, fought between Albert and Adolf, Albert, aided by Adolf's numerous enemies, defeated the king, who was killed.
Albert I of Austria, a very able but morose man , was filled with a boundless ambition for power. Without regard for the rights of others, he enforced the recognition of his own rights in his duchy. He desired to preserve the public peace in Germany and opposed the cruel persecution of the Jews customary at this time. He also wished to reorganize the imperial lands, which were to be regained in such a way as to provide a connecting link between the territories of the Hapsburgs in the east and those in the west.
If his lands were thus united he would be a match for the strongest of the territorial princes; but the latter opposed this scheme. Boniface now declared his intention of summoning Albert before his tribunal for the murder of Adolf. Supported by the cities, Albert contended successfully with the Rhenish electors, but after a while, in order to carry out his plans for the aggrandizement of his family, he came to terms with the pope, and this put an end to the opposition of these electors.
The only opponent of his dynastic schemes now to be dreaded was Wenceslaus II of Bohemia; but the Przemysl line soon died out, and Albert at once claimed their lands and gave them to his son Rudolf as a fief. Before he could carry out his designs on Thuringia he was murdered by John of Swabia, called Johannes Parricida. According to legend, the tyranny of his rule in Switzerland led to a great struggle for freedom on the part of the confederated Swiss.
The aim pursued by Albert was always the same: by making Austria powerful to force the other sovereign princes to acknowledge his suzerainty and thus to make the crown hereditary in his family. It is, therefore, not a matter of surprise that after his death the electors decided to select a less mighty prince. A man of gentle, amiable character, Henry was full of visionary enthusiasm, but withal he was a man of energy; consequently he was soon very popular. By birth he was in sympathy with the French.
German interests concerned him less. Italy had a great fascination for him; he was ambitious to receive the imperial crown, to be the first after a long interregnum. Clement V had recognized him. The Ghibelline party in Italy greeted him with joy. At first he sought to hold a neutral position in the quarrels of the Italian parties, but this proved to be impossible.
The Guelphs, led by King Robert of Naples, began to oppose him. When Henry thereupon wished to attack Naples, the old conflict with the Church again broke out, but death suddenly ended his imperial dreams. Henry's only successful act was the marriage of his son John with the heiress of Bohemia, Elizabeth, the sister of Wenceslaus III; for Germany his reign proved of no advantage. The election of his son John to succeed him was impossible, and the Luxembourg party chose Louis the Bavarian in opposition to Frederick the Fair There was a double election, each of the candidates being elected by one party, and a civil war broke out, confined, however, mainly to the partisans of the two Houses of Wittelsbach and Hapsburg.
While this conflict was going on the old strife between Church and State again broke out. He asserted that no king chosen by the electors could exercise authority before the pope had given his approval. This over-straining of the papal claims roused a dissatisfaction which continually grew and to which were already added complaints of the worldliness of the Church. The Minorites placed at the disposal of the king eloquent preachers to denounce the worldliness of the papacy, which had rejected as heretical the Franciscan teaching concerning the poverty of Christ and the Apostles.
In Louis was excommunicated because he had not obeyed the papal command to lay down his authority. To this Louis made a sharp reply in the proclamation of Sachsenhausen, in which he denied the claims of the pope and at the same time defended the teaching concerning poverty upheld by the Franciscans. In the conflict with the pope, who supported the candidature of Charles IV of France for the imperial throne, the German cities and the German episcopate, the latter led by Baldwin of Trier, were virtually a unit on the side of Louis.
Even the death of Frederick the Fair did not produce a reconciliation with the Curia. It was at this juncture that the writings of the Franciscans, Michael of Cesena and William of Occam began to exert their influence. In this the medieval papal ecclesiastical system is attacked. The intellectual ferment enabled Louis to undertake an expedition to Rome.
He had been invited to enter Italy by the magnates of northern Italy, especially by the Visconti of Milan and the Scala of Verona. The city of Rome received him with joy, and he was the first German king to receive the imperial crown from the Roman commonwealth which had always regarded itself as the source of all sovereignty. But the fickle populace soon drove him away; the means at his command were too small to carry out the old imperial policy. Again Italy was lost. Notwithstanding the lack of success in Italy, Germany in the main held to Louis, who had been excommunicated again.
It was now evident that papal interdicts had largely lost their terrors; the civil communities frequently paid no attention to them, and in some places ecclesiastics were forced, notwithstanding the prohibition, to say Mass. The growth of a worldly spirit in the Church began to undermine respect for it, and Germany was the first country to turn against the ideals of the Middle Ages. Sects opposed to sacerdotalism appeared; mysticism tended to make the soul independent in its progress towards God, without, however, rejecting the sacraments, as was done by some in this era.
Yet, unintentionally, mysticism strengthened the tendency to deny the absolute necessity of the intercessory office of the Church. Moreover, mysticism gave a national cast to German religious life, for the intellectual leaders of mysticism, Ekkehard, Suso, and Tauler, wrote and preached in German.
The chief strength of this religious movement was among the citizens of the towns.
In the conflict between Church and State the cities sided with the emperor, but they were not yet strong enough without assistance to maintain the authority of a German emperor. Consequently, the position taken by the German princes was decisive for Louis. As he meant to carry on a dynastic policy, as his predecessors had done, he soon came into conflict with these princes, and, in order to be stronger than his opponents, he sought to establish friendly relations with the pope.
But although Louis could resolve on vigorous action, yet he lacked the necessary persistence. He was not an able man, nor one of much intellectual power. He tried to make a good impression on every one; as a consequence, he failed with all parties. He opened negotiations with the Curia, but the intrigues of Philip VI of France kept the two parties from concluding peace. This stand won more general sympathy for Louis in Germany. The electors were also influenced by public opinion when they declared at Rense in that a legitimate German emperor could be created only by their votes; a king so chosen needed no papal recognition, and the pope, by crowning the German king, only gave him the imperial title.
Louis was also declared to be entirely without blame in the dispute with the Curia. When Edward III appeared before Louis at Coblenz and the latter appointed him imperial vicar for the territories beyond the Rhine, the emperor had reached the zenith of his power. Nevertheless the fickle Louis, because he hoped, through the mediation of the King of France, to be reconciled with the Curia and to secure the support of the latter for his schemes to aggrandize his family, allied himself with the French in Instead of peace a worse estrangement with the papal court was the result.
The Luxembourg party at once had recourse to Clement VI. Louis was excommunicated in , and Charles IV of Moravia was, with the help of the pope, chosen German king by five of the electors under humiliating conditions. At first Louis had strong support from the German cities, but his unexpected death secured universal recognition for Charles.
Henceforth for nearly a hundred years the Luxembourg-Bohemian dynasty held the throne. The king set up by the Wittelsbach party, Guenther of Schwarzburg, could make no headway against the adroit policy of Charles IV. In Germany was ravaged by the Black Death; the Jews were immediately accused of poisoning the wells, and a frightful persecution followed. In the midst of the confusion the country was traversed by bands of Flagellants, and these "penitents" were often full of hostility to the Church. The Italians said that he went to Rome to secure the imperial crown like a merchant going to a fair.
In Germany Charles sought to settle the election to the crown at the Diets of Nuremberg and Metz in , and he issued the Golden Bull, which was the first attempt to put into writing the more important stipulations of the imperial constitution. Above all, the Bull was intended to regulate the election of the king, and defined what princes should have the electoral vote. The electors were granted special privileges; besides the royal rights regalia and those of taxation and coinage, they received the privilegium de non evocando , that is, their subjects could not be summoned before the court of another jurisdiction, not even before an imperial one.
The royal authority was to find in the electors who were scattered throughout the empire a support against the many petty princes. Other articles of the Golden Bull were to guard the rights of the local princes against their vassals and subjects, especially against the cities. Nothing is said of the share of the pope in the election of the king; the one chosen by the majority of the electors was to be the king.
Only the coronation as emperor was left to the pope. Learning flourished under the rule of Charles, who was a scholar among his contemporaries. He was surrounded by highly educated men, one of whom was John of Neumarkt, the head of his chancelry. His interest being almost entirely in Bohemia, he showed his care for the advancement of learning chiefly in this country and founded there, 7 April, , the University of Prague.
Charles held steadfastly to Catholicism and Christian Scholasticism. But this did not prevent him from carrying on policies independent of the pope. In reorganizing the imperial chancelry he encouraged the use of German in the imperial documents and thus assured the victory of the national tongue over Latin. By this action he gave German learning an independent standing.
Charles also furthered the interests of the empire in various other directions. He did not, indeed, overthrow the power of the princes, which had grown strong during the several hundred years of its existence, but he sought by the maintenance of internal peace to preserve his supreme power. To promote the foreign interests of Germany he desired to liberate the papacy from its connexion with France and to persuade the pope to return from Avignon to Rome. In the meantime, Charles had largely increased the territorial possession of his family; the Marks of Brandenburg, Lusatia, and Silesia came into his hands.
By marriage he hoped to obtain for his son, and thus for his dynasty, both Hungary and Poland.
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Thus for a time the House of Luxembourg threatened to crash out the Hapsburgs. In two directions only Charles's adroit agreements and diplomatic skill failed of success. The Swiss Confederation seceded more and more completely from the empire, and the cities by their leagues established for themselves an independent position in the empire. Towards the end of his life he secured the election of his son Wenceslaus as German king.