A map of the Holy Roman Empire, from 1300 to 1400.
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Frederick II spent much of his rule fighting for territory around the Kingdom of Sicily.

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Why do you think that the barons and nobility of areas such as Saxony and Bavaria were successful in breaking into independent states?

Southern Italy and Sicily also faced centuries of upheaval. There, popes turned to the French to overthrow Frederick's heirs.

A local uprising against French rule in Sicily led to 200 years of chaos as French and Spanish rivals battled for power. The region that had once been a thriving center of culture was left in ruins.

Church Power Reaches Its Peak

In the 1200s, the Roman Catholic Church reached the height of its political power. Reforming popes like Gregory VII claimed the right to depose kings and emperors. Gregory's successors greatly expanded papal power. In addition, a more powerful Church was able to spread its influence to new areas, increasing religious unity in Europe.

Popes Assert Their Power

Pope Innocent III, who took office in 1198, embodied the triumph of the Church. As head of the Church, Innocent III claimed supremacy over all other rulers. The pope, he said, stands “between God and man, lower than God but higher than men, who judges all and is judged by no one.”

Innocent III clashed with all the powerful rulers of his day, and he usually won. As you have read, when King John of England dared to appoint an archbishop of Canterbury without the pope's approval, Innocent excommunicated the king and placed his kingdom under interdict. Innocent ordered the same punishment for France when Philip II tried unlawfully to annul, or invalidate, his marriage. The Holy Roman emperor Frederick II also felt the wrath of the powerful pope.

In 1209, Innocent, aided by Philip II, launched a brutal crusade against the Albigensians in southern France. The Albigensians wanted to purify the Church and return to the simpler ways of early Christianity. The Church saw them as heretics because they rejected Catholic beliefs and rituals. Knights from all over western Europe took part in the fighting. Tens of thousands of people were slaughtered in the Albigensian Crusade.

Innocent strengthened papal power within the Church as well. He extended the Papal States, reformed the Church courts, and changed the way that Church officials were chosen. Finally, he called a council that issued decrees that justified the pope's new power.

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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