Investiture Controversy

Myers, Philip Van Ness (1905), A medieval king investing a bishop with the symbols of office

The Investiture Controversy or Investiture Contest was a conflict between church and state in medieval Europe over the ability to install high church officials through investiture.[1] By undercutting imperial power, the controversy led to nearly 50 years of civil war in Germany. According to historian Norman Cantor, the Investiture Controversy was "the turning-point in medieval civilization", marking the end of the Early Middle Ages with the Germanic peoples' "final and decisive" acceptance of Christianity. More importantly, it set the stage for the religious and political system of the High Middle Ages.[1]

It began as a power struggle between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV in 1076.[2] There was also a brief but significant investiture struggle between Pope Paschal II and King Henry I of England from 1103 to 1107. The conflict ended in 1122, when Pope Callixtus II and Emperor Henry V agreed on the Concordat of Worms, which differentiated between the royal and spiritual powers and gave the emperors a limited role in selecting bishops. The outcome was largely a papal victory, but the Emperor still retained considerable power.


In the 11th and 12th centuries, a series of popes challenged the authority of European monarchies about who had the authority to appoint ("invest") local church officials such as bishops of cities and abbots of monasteries.

After the decline of the Western Roman Empire, investiture was performed by members of the ruling nobility despite theoretically being a task of the church.[3] Many bishops and abbots were themselves usually part of the ruling nobility. Given that most members of the European nobility practiced primogeniture, and willed their titles of nobility to the eldest surviving male heir, surplus male siblings often sought careers in the upper levels of the church hierarchy. This was particularly true where the family may have established a proprietary church or abbey on their estate. Since Otto the Great (936–72) the bishops had been princes of the empire, had secured many privileges, and had become to a great extent feudal lords over great districts of the imperial territory. The control of these great units of economic and military power was for the king a question of primary importance due to its effect on imperial authority.[4] It was essential for a ruler or nobleman to appoint (or sell the office to) someone who would remain loyal.[3]

Since a substantial amount of wealth and land was usually associated with the office of a bishop or abbot, the sale of church offices—a practice known as "simony"—was an important source of income for leaders among the nobility, who themselves owned the land and by charity allowed the building of churches.[citation needed]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Investituurstryd
Alemannisch: Investiturstreit
العربية: نزاع التنصيب
한국어: 서임권 투쟁
Bahasa Indonesia: Kontroversi Penobatan
Nederlands: Investituurstrijd
日本語: 叙任権闘争
norsk nynorsk: Investiturstriden
Simple English: Investiture Controversy
slovenčina: Boj o investitúru
slovenščina: Investiturni boj
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Borba za investituru