Key to Umbria

Umbria in the 11th Century

Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact 


Emperor Henry II (1004-24)

When Otto III, died without issue, his cousin was elected as King Henry II of Germany.  Arduin of Ivrea took the opportunity to seize the Kingdom of Italy, and Henry marched on Italy to redeem it.  After a riot in which German soldiers sacked Pavia, Arduin yielded and Archbishop Arnolfo II of Milan crowned Henry as King Henry II of Italy in 1004.  Henry II had to suppress a revolt at Pavia before returning to Germany.

Imperial power in Italy was circumscribed, not least because the anti-German Crescenti ruled in Rome.  The situation changed in 1012 when the Tusculans deposed the Crescenti, killing John II Crescentius and Pope Sergius IV (1009-12).  Henry II recognised the new Pope Benedict VIII, the Tusculans’ candidate for the papacy.

Arduin rebelled again in 1013 and Henry II returned to Italy.  He defeated Arduin, who abdicated and died in 1015.  Meanwhile, Henry II travelled to Rome where Benedict VIII crowned him as the Emperor Henry II (1014).  He then returned once more to Germany.

Henry II returned to Italy in 1022, at the behest of Benedict VIII, to restrain Byzantine power in the south (see below).  He confirmed the donation to the papacy that the Emperor Otto I had made in 962, and added Terre Arnolfe (see below) in return for some papal lands in Carinthia.  On his return journey, he attended a synod at Pavia where he advocated Church reform. 

Henry II died without issue at Bamberg in 1024.  [His religious scruples caused him to practice celibacy, even though he was married.  He was canonised in 1152.]

Pope Benedict VIII (1012-24)

Since Henry II could not involve himself in Italian affairs, Benedict VIII moved into the vacuum. 

  1. He used armed force to restore to the Abbazia di Farfa certain possessions that the Crescenti had stolen. 

  2. He also formed an alliance with Genoa and Pisa and took part in the sea battle in 1016 in which the allies destroyed Saracen invaders in northern Italy. 

  3. His most pressing problem arose in the south of Italy, where the Byzantines under the great military leader, Basil Boioannes had scored a resounding victory at the Battle of Cannae (1018).   Duke Pandolfo III of Capua, Duke Gaimar III of Salerno and the Abbot of Monte Cassino now declared their allegiance to Byzantium, and there was a real danger that the Byzantines would march on the Papal States.  He persuaded Henry II to return to Italy with a large army with which to confront the Byzantines.  These forces captured Capua and took Duke Pandolfo prisoner and sent him to Germany in chains.  They then besieged Basil Boioannes in Apulia but were forced to withdraw.  Despite this setback, they had done enough to avert the danger of a Byzantine advance into the Papal States.

Benedict VIII died in 1024, soon after Henry II.

Terre Arnolfe

This feudal territory between Spoleto and the river Nera was centred on Cesi and included Acquasparta and Sangemini. Its origins are uncertain: one tradition has Arnolfo as the son of a Lombard Duke of Spoleto, while another has him as a courtier of the Emperor Otto I who had received the land in feud in 966.  It was first documented in 1022 when Henry II granted it to Benedict VIII and it thus became a papal island within the Duchy of Spoleto.

Emperor Conrad II (1024-39)

Conrad’s election os King of Germany on the death of Henry II marked the start of the Salian dynasty. 

  1. Archbishop Aribert of Milan crowned him as King of Italy in 1026; and

  2. Pope John XIX (1024-32), crowned him as the Emperor Conrad II a year later.

Conrad II showed little interest in Italian affairs and Alberic III, the brother of John XIX, had little difficulty in achieving Tusculan dominance in Rome.  Thus, when John XIX died, Alberic III was able to secure the election of their nephew as Pope Benedict IX (1032-48). 

Conrad arranged for his eleven year old son Henry to be crowned in Aachen in 1028, as King of the Germans.  As he grew up, Henry became his father’s closest adviser.  By 1036, Conrad II was able to leave German affairs in Henry’s hands and to return to Italy 

His first task was to quell civic disruption in Milan.  When Archbishop Aribert rejected his intervention, Conrad II had him arrested.  Benedict IX somewhat reluctantly excommunicated Aribert in 1037 and recognised the replacement that Conrad II had imposed. 

Conrad now had to face the consequences of his release some years before of Duke Pandolfo III of Capua.  Pandolfo III had used the recall of Basil Boioannes to Constantinople as an opportunity to extend his territory at the expense of his neighbours.  He used land stolen from Monte Cassino to finance his ambitions and to bribe his allies, and now threatened the young Duke Gaimar IV of Salerno.  Conrad II could not ignore the complaints of the monks of Monte Cassino and of Duke Gaimar, particularly since the latter had also appealed for help to the Emperor in Constantinople.  Thus, in 1038, he marched south to restore order.  Aided by Norman mercenaries, he was entirely successful.  Pandolfo fled to Constantinople and Duke Gaimar added Capua to his duchy. 

Emperor Henry III (1039-56)

When Henry III arrived in Rome for his coronation in 1046, he found that there were three contenders for the papacy:

  1. the incumbent, Benedict IX (at St Peter’s);

  2. a usurper who had been installed by the Crescenti in 1045 as Pope Silvester III (at St John Lateran); and

  3. Pope Gregory VI (at Santa Maria Maggiore), a worthy man who had nevertheless paid Benedict IX to abdicate, a decision that Benedict IX had subsequently rescinded. 

Henry III deposed all three and appointed Bishop Suidger of Bamberg as Pope Clement II (1046-7).  On the same day, the new pope crowned the imperial couple.  Henry III then returned to Germany.  Unfortunately, Clement II died after only eight months in office and Benedict IX seized the papal throne once more. 

The powerful Margrave Boniface III of Tuscany (see below) originally supported him and blocked the passage of the Imperial candidate, Bishop Poppo of Brixen from Germany to Rome.  However, he was soon forced to relent: he deposed Benedict IX by force and installed Poppo as Pope Damasus II (1048).  Unfortunately, the new pope died only days after his consecration.

The German and Italian bishops were determined to restore the prestige of the papacy, and they unanimously accepted the respected Bishop Bruno of Toul, a second cousin of Henry III, as Pope Leo IX (1049-54).  Leo IX, the first of the great reforming popes, entered Rome on foot and was elected by popular acclaim.  However, things started to go wrong for him in 1053 when he led a campaign against the Normans of southern Italy.  He was captured and held prisoner for nine months and died soon after.  His intervention in what the Byzantines regarded as their sphere of influence led to the final separation of the churches of the east and west.

Margrave Boniface III of Tuscany

Boniface III of Tuscany, Count of Parma, Modena, Reggio, Mantua, Brescia and Ferrara, the most important of the vassals of Henry III in Italy, controlled a vast rural territory from his ancestral castle at Canossa.  In 1043, Henry III transferred the Duchy of Spoleto to his control.  When Henry III travelled to Italy for his coronation in 1046, Boniface he stayed with Boniface III at Piacenza on the way to Rome and at Mantua during the return journey. 

However, relations between Henry III and Boniface III soon deteriorated.  As noted above, Boniface tried to block the election of the Imperially supported Pope Damasus II in 1048.  He was murdered in 1052, perhaps at the behest of Henry III.

Duke Godfrey III of Loraine

Beatrice, the widow of Boniface III, acted as regent in Tuscany until 1054, when she married Duke Godfrey of Lorraine.  To consolidate this alliance, her daughter Matilda married Godfrey’s son from his previous marriage.  Godfrey was already in rebellion against Henry III, and this new development, together with the death in the same year of Leo IX seriously undermined the position of Henry III in Italy. 

Henry III appointed another German bishop as Pope Victor II (1055-7), naming him additionally as Duke of Spoleto and Count of Fermo in order to contain the power base of Godfrey III.  When Henry III returned to Italy in 1055, Godfrey III fled to Germany, where he continued to stir up rebellion.  His blameless brother Frederick, a prominent and reform-minded cleric, found it expedient to take refuge at Monte Cassino.  However, Henry III captured Beatrice and Matilda, and sent them as hostages to Germany.

When Henry III died soon after, Victor II decided to placate Godfrey III.  He secured the release of Beatrice and Matilda and returned to Godfrey III his lands in Tuscany.  He also made Frederick a cardinal and secured his election as Abbot of Monte Cassino.   When Victor II died in 1057, Frederick succeeded him as Pope Stephen IX (1057-8), while Godfrey III regained the title of Duke of Spoleto. 


Noted reformers among the Umbrian bishops were: St Bonfilius of Foligno (1078-94); and Bishop Rufinus II of Assisi (ca. 1079-86).

Emperor Henry IV (1084-1105)

Inter-regnum (1056-75)

Henry IV was only a child when his father died, and he was not able to exercise power until about 1070.  It then took some five years for him to establish his position in Germany.  Thus, Godfrey of Lorraine, the brother of Pope Stephen IX, became the most powerful man in Italy.  When Stephen IX died in 1058, Godfrey honoured his wishes by deposing the anti-reform candidate whom the nobles of Rome had named as Pope Benedict X, and securing instead the election of a leading reformer as Pope Nicholas II (1058-61).  Only after this election was the young Henry IV asked for his consent.

Nicholas II’s main political initiative was to recognise the position of the Normans in southern Italy, and to invest Richard of Aversa as Prince of Capua and Robert Guiscard as Duke of Apulia and Calabria, both as papal vassals.  This gave the papacy a power base that could be balanced against that of the Empire.  He added to the injury by his decree (ostensibly aimed at avoiding simony) that only the cardinal bishops could elect a pope.  Finally, he toyed with the idea of crowning Godfrey of Lorraine as Emperor instead of the young Henry IV.  Indeed, he was in Florence for discussions with Godfrey in 1061 when he died.

The Empress Agnes, as regent for the young Henry IV, now approved the election of the anti-reform candidate as Pope Honorius II, while the cardinal bishops in Rome, following the decree of Nicholas II, refrained from consulting the Emperor and elected the reform candidate as Pope Alexander II (1061-1073).  Honorius II, backed by Imperial troops, descended on Rome, and Alexander II was only saved when Godfrey of Lorraine arrived with superior forces and persuaded the candidates to retire to their respective episcopal sees (Honorius II to Parma and Alexander II to Lucca). In 1064, the reform-minded Anno, Archbishop of Cologne (by then regent for Henry IV) recognised Alexander II as the legitimate pope and the remainder of the inter-regnum passed in comparative peace until Alexander II died in 1073.

Investiture Crisis

The Romans acclaimed the great reformer Hildebrand as Pope Gregory VII (1073-85) during the funeral of Alexander II, and the cardinal bishops immediately ratified the decision.  Henry IV (who was now of age) was in no position to object, since he was embroiled in civil war in Germany.  However, when he established his position there in 1075, the stage was set for the battle between Pope and Emperor for the right to invest religious appointees with the regalia of office. 

Matters first came to a head in 1075 , when Henry III appointed a new Archbishop of Milan and new bishops in Spoleto and Fermo.  He also insisted that he had the right to appoint bishops in the other diocese of the Duchy of Spoleto, which included Assisi and Foligno.  (There was no dispute about the papal prerogative in the other Umbrian diocese: Gubbio, Amelia, Città di Castello, Narni, Nocera (which had absorbed Gualdo Tadino in 1007), Perugia and Todi.)

Gregory VII threatened Henry IV with deposition; Henry IV summoned a council at Worms that declared Gregory VII deposed; and (in what proved to be a decisive move) Gregory VII excommunicated Henry IV (1076).  A powerful coalition of German nobles insisted that Henry IV should seek absolution, and he was forced to comply.  He arrived at Canossa, the home of Matilda of Tuscany in 1077 and famously did penance before Gregory VII reluctantly absolved him.  Henry IV then returned to Germany to deal with the civil war there.

Gregory VII excommunicated Henry IV again in 1080.  Henry IV consequently declared Gregory VII deposed and named Guibert of Ravenna as Pope Clement III (1080-1100).  In 1081, with the German revolt broken, Henry IV carried the war into Italy.  He occupied Rome in 1084, formally installed Clement III as pope, and was crowned emperor. 

The Norman, Robert Guiscard drove Henry IV and Clement III from Rome and rescued Gregory VII, but he earned the hatred of the Romans for both of them when his soldiers ransacked the city.  Gregory VII died soon after in exile at Salerno, a broken man.

Matilda of Tuscany (1076-1115)

The Countess Matilda had inherited her vast estates in 1076, only a year before she hosted the famous confrontation between Pope Gregory VII and the Emperor Henry IV at her castle at Canossa.  She was to remain a staunch ally of Gregory VII and his canonically elected successors until her death, thereby earning the enmity of Henry IV.

When Gregory VII died, the cardinal bishops elected the Abbot of Monte Cassino as Pope Victor III (1086-7), recognising the support that he enjoyed from the Norman rulers of southern Italy.  However, even before Victor III could be consecrated, the Imperial candidate, Clement III returned from Ravenna and drove him from Rome.  Matilda advanced on Rome with an army and occupied part of the city, including the Castel Sant' Angelo, allowing Victor III to return.  However, the Romans soon deserted him and he was obliged to flee once more.  Although canonically elected, he never managed to establish himself in Rome, and he died in exile at Monte Casino.

The reform-minded cardinal bishops were now barred from Rome, so they met at Terracina to elect Pope Urban II (1088-99).  In 1089, at his insistence, Matilda married Welf, the son of Duke Welf I of Bavaria, whose father had recently rebelled against Henry IV.  (He was some 25 years her junior).  In 1090, Henry IV descended on Italy and confronted Matilda, who was aided now by a league of the Lombard cities.   He had already deprived her of estates in Lorraine, and he now conquered her principal stronghold at Mantua, along with Lucca, Pisa and other possessions.  However, events then conspired against him. 

  1. As he moved on Canossa in 1092, he suffered a decisive defeat at Matilda’s hands. 

  2. His son Conrad defected was crowned as king of Italy. 

  3. In Germany, the bishops began to desert him.

In 1093, Urban II was able to move to St John Lateran in Rome, although Clement III still held the Castel Sant’ Angelo and much of the rest of the city.  During all of these events, Henry found himself penned in the northeast of Italy, and Matilda recovered all of the land that she had lost. 

In 1093, Henry IV awarded the Duchy of Spoleto to his ally, Werner of Urslingen, Margraves of Ancona, as an act of revenge against Matilda.  In 1105, he marched on Rome and secured the coronation of the anti-pope Silvester IV (1105-11), who seems to have been the candidate of a pro-Imperial faction in the city.  Silvester IV was however soon driven from Rome and  lived under Werner’s protection near Ancona until he was persuaded to renounce his papal claims in 1111.  Duke Werner died in 1119. 

In 1095, Welf deserted Matilda on the understanding that his father, Duke Welf I, was allowed to return to his Bavarian lands.  This eased the situation, and Henry IV was able to return to Germany in 1097.  Matters improved further when Urban II died in 1099 and Clement III in 1100. 

However, Henry IV would not recognise the new Pope Paschal II (1099-1118).  His second son, the future Henry V rebelled in 1104, released by Paschal II from his oath of loyalty.  Henry IV was deposed and died two years later.

Monastic Orders in the 11th Century

The 11th century saw the first proliferation of new or reformed monastic orders. 

In France, the Cluniac houses became extraordinarily rich towards the end of the 11th century and developed a way of life that revolved around the demands of the liturgy.  This prompted the formation of a number of new foundations that sought to return to the primitive Benedictine Rule.   One of the most important of these was at Cîteaux (Roman Cistercium), south of Dijon, which was founded in 1098 and which went on to be the mother -house of the Cistercians.  They sought to avoid any and all involvement with secular life and founded monasteries only in remote and uncultivated locations.

In Italy, a number of monks rejected the lure of political involvement and sought refuge in hermitages that owed more to the desert fathers than to the Benedictine tradition.  The upshot was to be the foundation of the Camaldolesian and Vallambrosian Orders.  

St John Gualbert (died 1073)

This Florentine noble belonged to the Abbey of San Miniato in Florence but was dissatisfied by the regime there and moved to the hermitage at Camaldoli sometime around 1039.  However, he did not take to the eremetical life, and left to found a small community at a place near Fiesole, east of Florence that became known as Vallombrosa.   This community followed the Benedictine Rule in every detail, and preserved its isolation by using lay brothers as an interface with the outside world.  Pope Victor II confirmed the order in 1055.  John Gualbert founded a number of similar communities before his death in 1073.  He was canonised in 1193. 

St Peter Damian (died 1072)

Peter Damian joined the hermitage of Fonte Avellana in 1035 after a chance encounter with two of its hermits.  He was a noted Latin writer, and his works include the life of St Romuald, which he wrote in ca. 1042.  As prior of Fonte Avellana from 1043, he modified the severity of the rule and founded a number of dependent hermitages in what became known as the Order of Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana. 

Peter Damian was also extremely active in reforming the Church and the monastic orders.  In 1057, he was forced to accept appointment as Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia and administrator of the Diocese of Gubbio

When he died at Faenza on his way back to Gubbio from Ravenna, the authorities there refused to release his relics.  They remain in a chapel dedicated to him in the Duomo of Faenza.  No formal canonisation ever took place, but in 1823 Pope Leo XII extended his feast (23rd February) to the whole Church and pronounced him a Doctor of the Church.

Abbazia di Farfa and the Investiture Crisis

The Imperial Abbazia di Farfa inevitably became involved in the investiture crisis.  In 1065, the young Henry IV reaffirmed that Farfa was solely responsible to him.  His mother, the Empress Agnes, visited Farfa in 1072 and gave it lavish gifts.  Meanwhile, the efforts of Abbot Berardus I to maintain good relations with the papacy failed to the extent that Gregory VII threatened him with excommunication in 1078.  In 1082, at the height of the crisis, Henry IV himself visited the abbey.  By the time that Berardus I died in 1089, Farfa was dangerously isolated from the papacy and the local nobility.

In 1091, Henry IV imposed a new abbot, Berardus II (the nephew of his predeccessor) on the monks by force.   Bishop Rodolfo of Narni conceded the Abbazzia di San Cassiano to the Abbazia di Farfa at this time.

The monks were riven by faction and it was fortunate that Berardus II died in 1099.  The new abbot, Berardus III was an able military leader who succeeded in recovering territory lost to the local nobility.  His pro-imperial activities continued into the following century.

Return to the home page on Umbria.

Return to the page on the History of Umbria

Continue to the page on Umbria in the 12th Century.