The reign of Pope Gregory VII (1073-85), who gave his name to an era of Church reform, is critically important in the history of the medieval church and papacy. Thus it is surprising that this is the first comprehensive biography to appear in any language for over fifty years. H. E. J. Cowdrey presents Gregory's life and work in their entirety, tracing his career from early days as a clerk of the Roman Church, through his political negotiations, ecclesiastical governance, and final exile at Salerno. Full account is taken of his turbulent relations with King Henry IV of Germany, from his first deposition and excommunication in 1076, to the absolution at
Canossa and the imposition of a second sentence in 1080. Pope Gregory was also a contemporary of William the Conqueror, and, as the author shows, fully supported his conquest of England. Gregory VII is presented as an individual whose deep inner belief in iustitia (righteousness) did not waver in the face of new circumstances, although his broad outlook underwent changes. Deeply committed to the traditions of the past and especially to those of Pope Gregory the Great, his reign prepared the way for an age of strong papal monarchy in the western Church.
Readership: Scholars and students of
medieval European history, especially those interested in the history of the Church and the Papacy.
H. E. J. Cowdrey, Emeritus Fellow, St Edmund Hall, Oxford
"No one has treated the famous Dictatus papae more convincingly than Cowdrey, to whom they mark an early and undeveloped stage in the Pope's thinking ... Gregory's personality was so towering, many of his acts so dramatic and the reactions to him so complex that writing his biography is like climbing an academic Everest. Everything Cowdrey has done in a very distinguished career has been leading up to this. It is the culmination of a life's work, and in my view it is a masterpiece." - Jonathan Riley-Smith, Times Literary Supplement 14/05/99
"since the 1930s there has been no major monograph to gather together new knowledge and
new points of view. The present volume fills that need. Its author, the Reverend H. E. J. Cowdrey, is amon g the two or three living scholars mostly qualified to write it, his publications in the field having begun thirty years ago and remained standard ... The appearance of his Gregory VII is therefore itself a historical event, likely to establish a canon for m any years ahead ... a substantial read ... What drives the reader on is not only the intrinsic interest of the subject-matter but admiration for the book's all-but-perfect degree of organization ..." - Alexander Murray, Reviews in History
"This thorough re-examination of the sources will leave even Gregory
aficionados abuzz with new ideas ... It is, in fact, a pe arl of great price. What the reader gets for his modicum of industry is a picture of finer resolution than any other available, or indeed that could be available without Cowdrey's patient method and acquaintance with secondary scholarship. The outcome i s like a magnified scientific photograph, which reveals at a glance the lineaments of an otherwise mysterious and invisible natural process" - Alexander Murray, Reviews in History
"Gregory's challenge to Henry and the status quo was compared by a contemporary to an earthquake. Cowdrey's fine-resolution picture - a moving picture, registering subtleties of
change - allows the observer to watch the geological processes behind that earthquake, as the elusive tectonic plates creaked into their new positions, in those critical twelve years, to form the foundations of subsequent European politics and culture." - Alexander Murray, Reviews in History