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3. History of Civilization (3.15-3.15.5)
Written by Messiah   
Thursday, 06 July 2006

3.15    Holy Roman Empire (1st Reich)

3.15.1    An Empire without boarders?

The Holy Roman Empire, existing between around year 800 and 1800, was a unique and a very frightening Empire. It was unique in the sense that it was no real nation state. It had no real territorial boarders of its own, but it was more than a confederation of territories ruled by numerous secular and ecclesiastical princes, prelates, counts and imperial knights. Thereby it can be hard to understand its entity. The Empire was frightening because of its fuzzy leadership and what it was capable of. The Empire was ruled mainly by German kings who were not considered Emperors until crowned by the Pope. The relation between territorial leaders and the Pope was unique during the middle Ages.

3.15.2    Raise of the Papal States

Some say the parts of Rome were the Vatican is located was considered sacred even before the arrival of Christianity. The first church, The Basilica, was built on the supposed tomb of Saint Peter in the year 326, by Constantine. This was just before he moved to Byzantium which he renamed to “Constantinople”. From then on the area started to become more populated. Popes in their secular role increased their control over the regions, through the so called Papal States. While the Byzantine Empire slowly declined, the Papal States gained both power and influence.

3.15.3    Were the Popes the real Emperors of the Holy Reich?

The title Papa ("Pope") or Pater Patrum ("Father of Fathers") wasn’t officially used until year 384 when Siricius became Pope. The list of Popes, or heads of the church, goes back all the way to Saint Peter, year 30 – 67. He was the disciple of Jesus from whom according to Matthew 16:18:19: “he received the keys to the kingdom of heaven”.

It must also be said that elections of Popes has in many cases been surrounded with internal conflicts, which time to time resulted in so called antipopes. Some Popes have been banished and even some Emperors have been excommunicated over the years. I must say that the Catholic Church’s history itself is very interesting.

The Pope who is the head of the Catholic Church also carries many other titles, which give a hint of his importance:

  • Bishop of Rome
  • Vicar of Jesus Christ
  • Successor of St. Peter
  • Prince of the Apostles
  • Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church
  • Patriarch of the West
  • Primate of Italy
  • Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province
  • The Servant of the Servants of God.

3.15.4    Upraise of a New Empire

As people united themselves under Christianity, the power of the Papal States grew. After the first Crusade in year 1095 the Papal States became aware of the peoples will to leave homes to help the Church, which of course also increased the papal power.

3.15.5    The Inquisitions and the Crusades

The Empire has been accused for many horrific events in history; most of them are related to the Inquisitions and the Crusades. The so called “Crusades” initially was created when the Pope asked the people to help the Church. They became series of several military campaigns sanctioned by the Papacy between the 11th and the 13th centuries. Originally, the aims were to re-capture the Holy Land from the Muslims, but later on they was directed to other targets also. Some of the Crusades are even by historians compared to the Nazi’s persecution of Jews during World War II. At least nine larger crusades are known to be sanctioned by the Papacy and a set of smaller one’s.

The inquisitions, however, were permanent institutions within the Catholic Church. In fact there were four known Inquisitions, who acted like courts upon faith and devotion. Two of them below:

The Cathar Inquisition

The Cathar Inquisition was established in 1229 by Pope Gregory IX to root out the Cathars in southern France. On March 16, 1244 a large and symbolically important execution took place, where leaders of Catharism together with more than 200 Cathar laity were thrown into an enormous fire. The Cathar Inquisition continued into 14th century and exterminated hundred thousands of Cathar’s which thereby almost totally wiped out Catharism. The Survivors of Catharism is believed to have been involved in the early movement of Protestantism.

The Spanish Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition, which is the most known Inquisition, was founded 1478 by Pope Sixtus IV on demands from King Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. It was the Spanish Abbott Torquemada who needed a more effective tool to expose and eliminate false Jews and Moors (who hadn’t fully converted to Christianity). The Moors in Spain was the remaining Muslims since King Boabdil (Last king of the Moors) was defeated. The Spanish inquisition is by many agreed to be one of the bloodiest manhunts in history. It was a catholic success and its methods were also copied to many none Spanish areas of the world. Even if the Spanish Inquisition is seen as one the worst parts of catholic history, areas were the Inquisition didn’t reach was in many cases even worse. Inquisition had a working structure of high juridical and theological judges. Even if their methods were bloody it couldn’t be compared with the cruelty in situations were the Inquisition wasn’t in control. The ideals were most often the same, but methods were a lot worse when others took work in their own hands and burned and tortured Jews, witches, homosexuals, Protestants etc. In these cases even a disliked neighbor could be burned if back talked to the ones who acted as judges. Many died in cases were the even the Inquisition would have freed. But it was the Inquisition who was the reference that allowed this to take place. The formal Spanish Inquisition was ended in 1834.

In our modern time, there are controversial historians who relate the Holocaust to Inquisitional acts undertaken by the Nazi’s. This thought really creates the shivers and frankly, isn’t the reason to that even more frightening than a possible relation between the Catholic Church and the Nazi’s during World War II?



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