Illustration of men standing around a robed figure at the top of an outdoor stairway, as a man in humble clothing walks up the stairs in the snow.

Pope Gregory VII stands above Henry IV, who is wearing the clothing of a penitent and humbling himself in the snow before the pope.

The Concordat of Worms

The struggle over investiture dragged on for almost 50 years. Finally, in 1122, both sides accepted a treaty known as the Concordat of Worms (vawrmz). This treaty declared that the Church had the sole power to elect and invest bishops with spiritual authority. The emperor, however, still invested them with fiefs. Although this compromise ended the investiture struggle, new battles were soon raging between popes and emperors.

The Battle for Italy

The struggle between popes and emperors moved from the battle over investiture to a battle for Italy. During the 1100s and 1200s, ambitious German emperors sought to control Italy. As they headed south across the Alps, they came into conflict not only with the pope but also with the wealthy cities of northern Italy.

German Emperors In Italy

The Holy Roman emperor Frederick I, called Frederick Barbarossa, or “Red Beard,” dreamed of building an empire from the Baltic to the Adriatic. For years, he fought to bring the wealthy cities of northern Italy under his control. With equal energy, they resisted. By joining forces with the pope in the Lombard League, they finally managed to defeat Barbarossa's armies.

Barbarossa did succeed, however, in arranging a marriage between his son Henry and Constance, the heiress to Sicily and southern Italy. That move entangled German emperors even more deeply in Italian affairs.

Frederick II

Barbarossa's grandson, Frederick II, was raised in Sicily, a rich island kingdom in the Mediterranean. Frederick was bright and well educated. An able but arrogant leader, he was willing to use any means to achieve his ends.

As Holy Roman emperor, Frederick spent little time in Germany. Instead, he pursued his ambitions in Italy, clashing repeatedly and unsuccessfully with several popes. Like his grandfather, Frederick also tried but failed to subdue the cities of northern Italy.

Illustration of a man on horseback in armor holding a sword in battle in front of a burning fort.

Frederick Barbarossa, or Frederick Red-Beard, leads soldiers in battle against the Seljuk Turks.

Effects of the Struggle

While Frederick II was occupied in Italy, German nobles grew more independent. The Holy Roman Empire survived, but remained a patchwork of feudal states. Unlike France and England, Germany would not become a nation-state for another 600 years.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments