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Henry V

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German King and Roman Emperor, son of Henry IV; b. in 1081; d. at Utrecht, 23 May, 1125.

He was a crafty, sullen man, of far from blameless morals; but he defended tenaciously the rights of the Crown and, by his qualities as a ruler, the most conspicuous of which were prudence and energy, he achieved important results. His harshness and want of consideration for others made him numerous enemies.

Henry V ascended the throne under a compact with the papacy and the territorial princes, that is, with his father's bitterest opponents. Yet he had scarcely taken up the reins of government when he forthwith adopted the very policy which his father had pursued. It is true that he saw fit to preserve toward Rome a semblance of ready submission, but he was by no means disposed to give up the royal prerogatives over the German Church, least of all the right of investiture. All negotiations opened to this end by Paschal II, who was too sanguine of results, remained barren failures.

In 1110, Henry, accompanied by a numerous army, set out for the imperial coronation in Rome. The pope, though rather aggressive in temperament, was quick to lose heart, and deemed that a new conflict with this German king, who now appeared with such imposing array, would be fraught with the most serious danger. Disregarding totally the lessons of history, he suggested a radical measure, the aim of which was to end once for all the great strife between pope and emperor. He determined to realize the monastic ideal of a Church free from all worldly entanglements. Therefore bishops and abbots, the entire German Church, were to surrender to the king all their worldly possessions and rights. The king was to abandon in return the right of investiture, henceforth worthless. The latter, who saw nothing but gain in this proposal, accepted the offer. He was too shrewd not to realize that the pope's plan was impossible of execution. It is true that he had no serious intention of depriving of their possessions the ecclesiastical lords and their vassals, while he attached much importance to the unequivocal way in which the king's rights to the temporal possessions of the Church were to be recognized. However, no actual agreement was ever reached.

The German princes in Rome, on reading the papal proposition, openly proclaimed their disapproval. Henry, after this vehement protest, demanded of the pope the right of investiture and the imperial crown. As the latter refused both, he carried him off a prisoner. Yielding to force, the pope agreed to Henry's demands, and at the same time swore that he would never excommunicate him. Henry, after this success, returned to Germany. He stopped on the way back, to visit Countess Matilda of Tuscany, who made him the heir of all her estates.

Meanwhile the followers of the pope resumed their activity. The weakness of Paschal was loudly denounced. The Burgundian archbishop, Guido of Vienne, declared investiture a heresy and excommunicated the king. And as had happened in the days of the latter's father, this attack of the reform party on Henry found support in the opposition of the German princes. As so often in the past, Saxon particularism again manifested itself. In Saxony, the last male heir of the House of Billung had died. The new duke, Lothair of Supplinberg, placed himself at the head of a strong movement against the king, who did not meet this attack with equal vigour.

The years 1114 and 1115 brought the uprising to a critical phase for Henry, who was defeated at Welfesholze, near Mansfeld, whereupon the traditional thirst for independence reasserted itself on many sides. First one and then another of the German ecclesiastical princes excommunicated the king. A papal envoy made his appearance in Saxony. Henry, despite the seriousness of this situation, hastened to Italy on learning the death of Countess Matilda in 1116, and led his army towards Rome. The pope fled and sought refuge among his friends, the Normans. The German ruler was favourably received by the Romans, had himself crowned emperor at St. Peter's (1117), and at once set out to restore order in Upper Italy. The prudent endowment of cities with privileges, coupled with his gifts to the Italian nobles, enabled him to carry out his plans. He took possession of the hereditary lands of Countess Matilda, and thus strengthened his power in Italy.

In 1119, Henry's most outspoken adversary, Guido of Vienne, ascended the papal throne as Callistus II. The emperor perceived that the conflict was to begin anew with fresh violence, and in order the better to protect himself, determined to put an end to internal dissensions in his empire by a treaty of peace. But he failed to achieve this until the Diet of Würzburg, in 1121. Preliminary negotiations here resulted in an agreement that final peace should depend on a treaty between pope and emperor. Thus was the way prepared for the important Diet of Worms, which assembled in September, 1122. The distinction between the conferring of an ecclesiastical office and the conferring of temporal possessions was relied on at Worms to bring about peace.

Henry's skill as a diplomat proved particularly notable at this juncture, and was not the least influential factor in bringing about the concordat of 23 September, 1122 (see CALLISTUS II). This famous agreement provided that the emperor should surrender his right to the selection of bishops and abbots in the empire, but that he should be authorized to send a representative to the ecclesiastical elections. Accordingly, the German sovereign was furthermore to abandon the symbolical ring and crosier at an investiture; but he retained the right to confer their temporal possessions on the ecclesiastical princes by investing them with a sceptre, and this was to be done before the bishop-elect received the papal consecration. In Burgundy and in Italy alone was this investiture to follow within six weeks of the consecration. This just and natural solution of the great controversy could, with the proper good will, have been brought about at a much earlier date.

Like all compromises it had its defects, and was obscure in certain respects. To this day, the learned do not agree as to the important question whether or not the concordat was a personal agreement with Henry or with the empire as such. It is assumed, however, that the rights which it created were to be permanent. Was it a victory for the papacy or for the empire? To answer this question one must bear in mind, so far as the empire is concerned, that the Ottonic system of government, a principle of which was the dependency of the German episcopate on the Crown, and which made use of the German Church in striving to keep down the particularistic elements, was now seriously undermined. The subordination of the princes was already virtually done away with, and could only be enforced with difficulty.

It is well to consider that in these protracted struggles between Church and State, in which rebellion often assumed the garb of religion, the power of the German princes was vitally strengthened. It was also significant that the bishops were henceforth no longer to be named by the king, whose relations with the episcopate had hitherto been almost those of lord and vassals. A new community of interests bound together for the future the ecclesiastical and temporal princes. The crown found itself face to face with a closed phalanx of territorial magnates, so that the termination of the controversy brought no advantage to the German imperial power. Henry, nevertheless, secured all that was possible under the circumstances, and he saved for the royal power the possibility of future recovery.

The Concordat of Worms did not eliminate altogether the differences existing between the empire and the territorial princes. King Henry's marriage had brought him no issue, and the German princes now claimed their right to elect his successor. How they would use this right could not be foretold. In 1123, Henry was compelled once more to enter the lists against Lothair and the Saxons. The emperor's capacity as a ruler again appeared when, towards the close of his reign, he laid bare the weakest point in the constitution of the Empire, and earnestly tried to heal it by perfecting a plan for levying necessary taxes. But any effort to improve the finances of the central royal authority was opposed by the territorial princes. Henry was the last of the Salic kings.


Cf. literature on HENRY III; HENRY IV; PASCHAL II; INVESTITURES, CONFLICT OF. GULEKE, Deutschlands innere Kirchenpolitik von 1105-1111 (Dorpat Dissertation, 1882); PEISER, Der deutsche Investiturstreit unter K. Heinr. V. bis zu dem päpstlichen Privileg vom 13. April 1111 (Berlin, 1883); GERNANDT, Die erste Romfahrt Heinrichs V. (Heidelberg Dissertation, 1890); BERNHEIM, Zur Geschichte des Wormser Konkordats (Göttingen, 1878); SCHAEFER, Zur Beurteilung des Wormser Konkordats in Abhandlungen der Berl. Akademie (1905). BERNHEIM, Das Wormser Konkordat und seine Vorurkunden (1906), and RUDORFF, Zur Erklärung des Wormser Konkordats (1906), take issue with the last mentioned work.

About this page

APA citation. Kampers, F. (1910). Henry V. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Kampers, Franz. "Henry V." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gerald Rossi.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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