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The Mortgage of the PastReshaping the Ancient Political Inheritance (1050-1300)$
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Francis Oakley

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780300176339

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300176339.001.0001

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The Christian Commonwealth (i)

The Christian Commonwealth (i)

Regnum vs. Sacerdotium—the Struggle for Control

(p.15) 2. The Christian Commonwealth (i)
The Mortgage of the Past

Francis Oakley

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses the nineteenth century name “Canossa” and how it became synonymous, for Germans of strong nationalistic disposition, with the abject humiliation of a German emperor and the German national spirit at the arrogant hands of a foreign religious potentate. It is argued here that it is only via a casual anachronism that one could assume a convincing symmetry to exist between the events of 1872 and those of 1076. In 1872, Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of the newly unified German Reich, proclaimed to the Reichstag that “we will not go to Canossa.” This proclamation was made during the launch of the so-called May laws aimed at asserting state control over Roman Catholic schools, and over the education and appointment of Catholic priests. The events of 1076 involved the humiliation at Canossa of the emperor Henry IV. The humiliation may have been a small price to pay, however, since it became a tactical strategy that threatened to sunder the alliance which had arrayed against him.

Keywords:   nationalistic disposition, Canossa, Germans, abject humiliation, Otto von Bismarck, unified German Reich, May laws, Henry IV

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