The Slavs: Their Early History and Civilization

Francis Dvornik


10. The Slavs, The Empire, and The Papacy


1. The Contest between Empire and Papacy

2. The Popes seek allies among the Slav princes

3. Boleslas II of Poland, the Pope’s agent in Hungary and Russia

4. Zvonimir of Croatia pays with his life for supporting the papal policy

5. The Papacy and the Serbs

6. The Czech Duke, a staunch supporter of the Emperor

7. Reversal in Poland in favor of the Emperor

8. The Czech Dukes vain hope of obtaining a foothold in Lusatia and Austria (Ostmark)





With the abortive attempt at the formation of a great Slavic state in Central Europe, an important, though little known, period in Slavic history and in the development of Slavic civilization comes to an end. Up to this time, the Western and Southern Slavs had been able to preserve some of the cultural inheritance which they had obtained from Byzantium through the intermediary of Byzantine missionaries led by SS. Cyril and Methodius. Then when the Magyar invasions cut off the Western Slavs from the source of this culture, other possibilities opened up in the newly converted Kievan Russia. It has been seen how intimate the contacts were between the Slavic clergy of Bohemia and that of Kiev, and there were fresh chances of a close relationship between Byzantium and the West during the reign of Otto III.


But the change of policy effected by Henry II and the ensuing victory which the Germans had won dashed all those hopes to the ground. Henceforward, the Czechs, the Poles, the Slovenes and, to a large extent, the Croats also had to turn towards the West, and only from there could they receive the cultural inspiration they needed. In theory they could obtain this inspiration from any Western nation, and in particular from Italy and France where culture had started to expand and rise to even higher levels; but in practice political considerations ensured that almost all cultural influences reached the Slavs through the





intermediary of Germany, whose kings claimed the heritage of the Roman emperors.


The Papacy, an important factor in the spread of Western medieval civilization, was bound both by tradition and the policy inaugurated by Charlemagne to accept, or at least to respect, the principal claims of the new Roman emperors.


It was thus inevitable that the Slavs should become entangled in the struggle between these two powers — the Empire and the Papacy, the Imperium and the Sacerdotium — which, from the eleventh century onwards, directed the destiny of the Western Christian world. This struggle — called by historians the Investiture Contest — had arisen as a result of the introduction of a Germanic principle into Church practice. This principle was the ownership of places of worship, not by the Church or its representatives, but by the founders, who also reserved to themselves the right to appoint the ministers charged with the practice of worship. This system became the backbone of the whole political structure of the new German Reich, and in the tenth and eleventh centuries the bishops and abbots appointed by the emperors became the main buttress of the imperial power. The whole system of the Reichskirche was further elaborated under Henry II and Conrad II (1024-1039), while Henry III (1039-1056) introduced it into Lombardy. There was a danger that the German practice would also be introduced into Rome, for, with the object of raising the prestige of the Papacy, which had again become a pawn of the Roman aristocracy, Henry III appointed two German bishops as popes.


Violent opposition on the part of a reformist movement originating in Lorraine arose against the German practice, which if applied universally in detail would have split the Church into national religious bodies governed by the laity. The reformists wanted to reintroduce the former practice, according to which the bishops appointed the clergy and also took charge of the direction of religious affairs. [1] The movement penetrated Rome



1. This reformist movement used to be wrongly identified with the reform of monasticism which originated in the famous French Abbey of Cluny. In fact the monks of Cluny were mainly concerned with monastic reforms and had little in common with the reformists of Lorraine.





under the last Pope to be appointed by the Emperor, Leo IX (1049-1054), who was Henry Ill’s uncle and brought some of the reformists with him from Lorraine to fill important posts in the papal Curia. When one of the most active reformists, Hildebrand, became Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), the differences between the new German and the old Roman practices came to a head. Gregory VII went much further than many of the reformists and in his famous Dictatus Papae set down the principles of a new theory, which henceforth dominated the history of the medieval Papacy — the superiority of the ecclesiastical over the secular power.


Henry IV (1056-1106) was determined to defend his rights as they were defined by the German practice. Thus in 1075 the great Investiture struggle started. It was settled in 1122 after many vicissitudes and the appointment of anti-emperors and anti-popes, long after the death of Henry IV and Gregory VII. The so-called Concordat of Worms, which was then concluded, was a compromise between the two practices. The emperor and the nobles were left free to confer upon bishops and other prelates, who had been elected and ordained, the investiture of their dignity and endowment by presenting them with a scepter and a ring.





The new, Western Slavic, states had naturally also accepted the German practice; but during the struggle between the Emperor and the Pope, they were given the chance to play an important role, as their support was coveted by both sides.


It should be recalled that something similar happened in the ninth century when Nicholas I launched his claim to world dominion. This Pontiff, and his successors, Hadrian II and John VIII, also paid special attention to the emergence of the new Slavic states in Central and Southeastern Europe, and they





strove to tighten the bonds of devotion and protection which brought Boris of Bulgaria, Svatopluk of Moravia and Domagoj of Croatia under the tutelage of St. Peter. The ninth-century Papacy was merely aiming at the recognition of its spiritual supremacy over the Christian Churches and at stopping the threat of a dangerous expansion of the East Frankish (German) Church.


It was thus to be expected that when the Papacy of the eleventh century threw out its challenge, not to the German Church, but to the emperor, the Empire and its imperial ideology, Gregory VII and his successors would take special notice of the new states in Central and Eastern Europe, whether they were inside or outside the boundaries of the Empire, looking upon them as a providential means of checkmating Germany’s expansion and of bringing the emperor to heel.


Indeed, the Papacy had already been looking towards these states for some time before the reign of Gregory VII, and the example of eleventh-century Poland indicated that the states would welcome the opportunity to side with the spiritual power against Germany. Such an attitude on the part of these states seemed to be dictated by the instincts of self-preservation, self-defense and independence.


The Popes seemed particularly to appreciate the importance of Bohemia in an eventual struggle with the emperors and they tried to bring its dukes into the orbit of their policy. This is the explanation for the special privilege granted by Rome to the Duke Spytihněv (1055-1061) and his successor Vratislav II (1061-1092) of wearing a miter and clerical tunic, a privilege which was restricted to bishops and abbots in the second half of the twelfth century. From that time on, only the emperors were allowed to wear these marks of distinction during the coronation ceremony. It is justifiable to see in this move the first step towards the claim, made later by the Papacy on the strength of the new ideology, that they could confer the royal dignity and title upon the world’s secular rulers. The Czechs appreciated the privilege and gladly paid one hundred marks a year for it.







When Gregory VII had fully developed the new theory of the superiority of the spiritual over the temporal power, he found his most enthusiastic supporter not in the Czech Duke but in Boleslas II the Bold (1058-1079), the Duke of Poland. Thanks to the efforts of his father, Casimir the Restorer, Poland was again a mighty state when Boleslas II ascended the throne. He was determined to go further than his father and to reaffirm the independence of his country. He refused to pay the tribute for Silesia to Bohemia, and when the Emperor Henry IV summoned him to appear at his court, he ignored the summons and attacked Henry’s protégé, the Czech Duke Vratislav.


Boleslas II was quick to perceive that the new papal ideology was less dangerous to him than the imperial ideology, and he threw in his lot with Gregory VII, supporting him with all his strength and influence. He was the main agent in organizing a kind of anti-imperial coalition in Central Europe. He started in Hungary, where he sided with the anti-imperial party and helped the Hungarians to repel the pro-German King Solomon. When this event took place, Gregory VII declared that Hungary was a fief of the Papacy. This was the first case of the practical application of the new theory.


Boleslas II also took action on behalf of the new idea in Russia. When Izjaslav, Prince of Kiev, was dethroned by Svjatoslav in 1068, he looked to the Pole for help. Boleslas II restored him to the throne of Kiev in 1069, but when Izjaslav was expelled from Kiev for the second time in 1073, he got a very cold reception in Poland. Boleslas II not only refused him his help, but concluded an alliance with Svjatoslav, the new ruler in Kiev. Izjaslav then approached the Emperor Henry IV but the latter also preferred to be on good terms with Svjatoslav. The Russian Primary Chronicle speaks of German ambassadors in Kiev in 1074 to whom Svjatoslav “in his pride” showed his riches — “innumerable quantity of his gold, silver and silks.”


Izjaslav then addressed himself to Henry’s adversary, Pope





Gregory VII. A letter sent in 1075 by Gregory VII to Izjaslav is extant in which the Pope mentions a request submitted to him by Izjaslav s son for the recovery of his father’s dukedom from the hands of St. Peter. After acknowledging Izjaslav s homage, the Pope conferred the dukedom upon him, and at the same time he asked Boleslas II to change his unfriendly attitude towards Izjaslav.


Boleslas II was at first unwilling to do anything in Izjaslav s favor, and his new ally Svjatoslav sent him in 1076 a detachment of the Russian army to fight the Czech Duke. The Pope’s attitude apparently wrought a change in Boleslas II; for he also shared the Pope’s apprehension concerning the rapprochement between Henry IV and Svjatoslav. The Russian Primary Chronicle says that after the unexpected death of Svjatoslav (1076), his brother Vsevolod “succeeded to his throne”. Then “Izjaslav advanced with Polish support and Vsevolod went forth against him”. The brothers came to an agreement, however, and Izjaslav returned to Kiev.


The Pope’s initiative, although successful, thanks to the military support of Boleslas II, brought no lasting results for the Papacy. Once Izjaslav came to a friendly agreement with his brother, he needed no foreign support, and the promises given to the Pope were soon forgotten. Izjaslav fell in battle in 1078 when helping his brother Vsevolod to regain Černigov from the hands of their nephews and was succeeded in Kiev not by his son, who had been his ambassador in Rome, but by his brother Vsevolod, who had no obligations towards the Pope. Boleslas II rewarded himself for his help by keeping the Red cities with Přemysl which he had already occupied in 1068. Although the Russian adventure did not succeed as the Pope had hoped, it is interesting to note that the new papal ideology struck an echo as far away as Kiev.


Poland was also the first country to which the new papal claims were fully applied. In 1076 Boleslas received the royal dignity and title at the hands of the Pope and was crowned by the Archbishop of Gniezno (Gnesen) in the Popes name. This





was an unmistakable challenge to the old theory that the imperial dignity was the one and only source of all political power in Christendom.





The new political theory on the supremacy of the spiritual power also penetrated to the Croats. It proved to be very useful to King Zvonimir, who in 1076 founded a new Croat dynasty. As he had no legal right to the succession, he needed the moral support of the Pope to buttress the dynasty and to bring the Dalmatian cities into closer union with Croatia. The text of the oath of allegiance to the Holy See is still extant, in which the King acknowledges that he had received the royal crown, scepter and sword from the Pope, to whom he promises obedience and fidelity. [1]


There was something deliberate and logical about all these moves which betrayed a carefully laid plan. It is noteworthy that Zvonimir was the brother-in-law of Kings Geiza (1074-1077) and St. Ladislas I (1077-1095) of Hungary, who were both openly anti-imperial and were supported by Boleslas II of Poland. This circumstance, together with Zvonimir s pro-papal policy, became in the end fatal to the national dynasty of the Croats. In 1089, Zvonimir convoked a national diet at Nin and tried to persuade his nobles to launch a crusade against the Pechenegs in order to help the Byzantine Empire. The King took this action at the request of the Pope Urban II (1088-1099), to whom the Emperor Alexis I Commenos (1081-1118) had



1. As a token of his fealty, Zvonimir declared his willingness to pay a tribute of 200 Byzantine gold coins to the Pope. Gregory’s action, taken quite independently of the emperor and intended to invest the Papacy with exclusive authority in all affairs relating to human society, contrasted strongly with the policy of Sylvester II. That Pope, the collaborator of Otto III, also took a lively interest in the same comer of Europe — Dalmatia. Hungary and Poland. But he always acted in concert with the Emperor, leaving all worldly affairs to Otto III and reserving to himself a substantial share in all decisions, whether religious or political, which concerned the welfare of Christendom.





appealed, promising in return to work for the reunion of the Churches, but the Croats did not relish the idea. Dissatisfaction with the King’s foreign policy reached a climax; rioting broke out and Zvonimir was assassinated.


The only survivor of the old dynasty of Trpimir, Stephen II, who was then elected King, died soon afterwards, and there was no representative of the national dynasty left to follow him on the throne. Zvonimir’s widow won the support of the majority of the nobles for the candidature of her brother, Ladislas of Hungary. As Zvonimir s next-of-kin, Ladislas accepted the invitation and he crossed the Drava in 1091 to take possession of Pannonian Croatia and Bosnia. In spite of opposition from some of the nobles, from the Pope, the Venetians, and from the Byzantines who had for some time been occupying Dalmatia with the help of petty national kings, Ladislas’s brother, Koloman (1095-1114), the greatest ruler of the Arpad dynasty, succeeded (1097-1102) in securing the Croatian throne for the kings of Hungary.


The Act of 1102, by which Koloman promised on oath to respect the rights of Croatia and Dalmatia and to submit all important decisions concerning them to the national assembly, proved momentous for Croat history. Although the Croats had lost their national kings, at least they kept their kingdom. From that time onwards, the king of Hungary was recognized also as the king of Croatia and was represented in Croatia by a ban. The Croats were thus brought into ever closer contact with Central and Western Europe and became more and more estranged from their racial brothers, the Serbs. Here lie the roots of the differences between Croats and Serbs which have been so apparent in modern times.


The Croat case illustrates the great extent to which comparatively unimportant events can influence the future of a nation. Zvonimir s pro-papal policy was the innocent cause of profound changes in the history of the Croats.







New possibilities opened for the reformed Papacy in Serbia. It will be recalled that the Slavs of Dioclea were Christianized mostly by missionaries coming from the Byzantine metropolis of Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), which claimed jurisdiction over the whole coastal region. But claims were also put forward by the metropolitan of Spalato to whom the bishopric of Cattaro, within easy distance of Dioclea, was subject. The new bishopric of Stagno was founded on the initiative of Spalato while Ragusa was also rapidly gaining in importance. All these cities — Ragusa, Cattaro, Stagno, Antibari, Ulcinium, Scadra — were Latin although under Byzantine political supremacy, and Latin culture still flourished inside their walls in the eleventh century. It was natural that these cultural centers should exert influence over their Slavic neighbors and that the Slavic chieftains should be anxious to possess them. All this was an important asset for the Papacy and allowed Rome to play a prominent role in the evolution of medieval Serbia.


The first favorable occasion presented itself when the political situation among the Slavs of these regions had changed. During the wars with the Bulgarians, these Slavs looked to Byzantium for help; but when Bulgaria became a Byzantine province, a new era opened in the relations between the Serbian Slavs and the Byzantines. The Slavs of modern Serbia, finding Byzantine domination more and more oppressive, started a campaign for their own political independence.


The first center of political independence was formed not in the interior, in Serbia proper, but in the south, near the Adriatic, and comprised the land of Dioclea, Tribunje and Zachlumje. Vojislav is the first of its rulers to enter into the annals of history (about 1040). Vojislav was lucky enough in 1042 to succeed by a clever stratagem in destroying a Byzantine army which had been sent to punish him for his sympathetic attitude towards the unsuccessful Bulgarian revolt in 1040-1041. After that he was left alone, though it is probable that he had been able to acquire





for his new realm two of the old Latin cities, Cattaro and Antibari.


Political independence from Byzantium also resulted in a change in the ecclesiastical orientation of the new state. The ecclesiastical supremacy of Dyrrhachium (Durazzo) ceased, and the new ruler was anxious to affirm his independence of Byzantium also in the ecclesiastical sphere. So it came about that the rising prestige of Rome was felt even in this distant country, on the confines of two civilizations.


The consequences of this new situation became fully apparent under Vojislav’s son and successor, Michael. He was able to come to an understanding with the Byzantines (about 1052), who had to acknowledge the changed situation. Among the bishops established on the territory of the new political unit was the Bishop of Antibari, who gave evidence of great zeal and won the sympathies of the new ruler. Claiming to be the heir of the former metropolis of Dioclea, Bishop Peter addressed a request to the Pope Alexander II asking for the promotion of his see to the metropolitan status. The Pope granted the request (in 1067), confirming the jurisdiction of Antibari over the bishoprics of Dioclea, Cattaro, Palech (probably Dulcigno), Suacia (Svac), Scodra, Drivasto, Pulati, Serbia, Bosnia, and Trebinje. The Pope added the privilege that the archbishop should have a cross carried before him upon all solemn occasions, throughout the whole territory of his metropolis.


The catalogue of the bishoprics enumerated in the letter is very interesting for it shows the progress of evangelization among the Southern Slavs. To the bishoprics already founded from Dyrrhachium, two new Slavic foundations were added, those of Bosnia and Trebinje, but it is interesting to note that the bishopric of Serbia, which was definitely of the Byzantine rite and which had hitherto been subject to Ochrida, was thus subordinated to a Latin archbishop. The Pope must have been fully conscious of the special conditions prevailing in this territory; he stressed in his letter that Antibari should be the metropolis of all Latin, Greek and Slavic monasteries and institutions, because, he said, “they all belong to one Church.”





It was a great success for the Papacy and its prestige among the Serbian Slavs was growing. Michael assumed the title of King, and is called by his contemporaries Slavorum Rex, but, impressed by the prestige of the reformed Papacy, he desired to have this dignity confirmed by Pope Gregory VII. This seems to be indicated in a letter written by Gregory on January 2, 1078, in which he replies to Michael’s request that the Pope should send him a banner. There is a remarkable parallel in a similar petition presented by the Croat ruler Zvonimir. It is interesting to see how far the echo of the new order inaugurated by Gregory VII had penetrated and how eager the new Slavic rulers were to find in the new spiritual power protection against the political pretensions of the emperors of both East and West.


It appears also from Gregory’s letter that Ragusa, which had been elevated to an archbishopric by Benedict VIII in 1022, had contested Antibari’s claims to jurisdiction over the whole new state and that King Michael was supporting Antibari. The case was put to Rome again by Michael’s son and successor, Constantine Bodin, in 1088. It did not appear to have troubled him at all that he had addressed himself to the wrong Pope — Clement III, who was Emperor Henry IV’s creature set up in opposition to Urban II. Clement III saw the importance of the request and even showed himself eager to confirm the metropolitan status of Antibari, subordinating to its archbishop the nine bishoprics and “all monasteries, whether of the Dalmatians, Greeks or Slavs”. The bishopric of Serbia (Rascia) had been under the independent Archbishop of Ochrida ever since 1020, and some ecclesiastical institutions now made subject to a Latin archbishop were dependent on Byzantium. So the initiative of the two rulers presents an interesting attempt — in disregard of the official schism existing between Rome and Byzantium since 1054 — at the creation of a new ecclesiastical body in which Latin, Greek and Slavic elements would be blended together under Roman supremacy through the intermediary of the archbishop of Antibari.


Constantine Bodin was an interesting figure. His anti-Byzantine sentiments were revealed by the fact that as a young prince





he joined the Bulgars with his father’s consent in their insurrection against Byzantium in 1073. He suffered defeat with the Bulgars, who had greeted him as their tsar, and spent a considerable time in Byzantine captivity; but later Venetian sailors hired by his father helped him to escape from Antioch, where he was incarcerated. He became co-regent with his father, whom he succeeded, and, although he had to recognize Byzantine supremacy, he made contact with the Normans, who were then occupying Apulia. While Byzantium under Alexius I was battling against new invaders, the Pechenegs, who brought the Empire to the brink of destruction, Bodin was quietly extending his sway over the provinces of Rascia and Bosnia and some other places belonging to the Byzantine theme or province of Dyrrhachium, as far as the river Drin (See map on p. 144).


But all was in vain. The success of the Dioclean kings and of the Popes was to be of short duration. Once Alexius I had settled his score with the Normans and the Pechenegs, he turned his attention to Bodin, defeated his army and made him captive. This was the end of Bod in’s independent political career, although his dynasty continued to govern in Dioclea. The leadership of the Slavic tribes shifted towards the northeast to the province called Rascia or Rasa, which had been conquered by Bodin and placed under the care of his own Župan Vlkan. This ruler set about extending his dominions, but Alexius I reduced him to subjection in 1094, and once more the Serbs became Byzantine subjects.


At that moment Hungary emerged as a new actor upon the Balkan scene. There was a time in early Hungarian history when the newly converted nation was about to enter, at least partly, into the sphere of the Byzantine Church and civilization. Byzantine missionaries had been quite successful in the southern part of the country, but, owing to the activities of St. Adalbert, Bishop of Prague, to his companion Radla-Astericus, the first Hungarian Archbishop, and to German missionaries, Hungary was definitely won for the Latin Church and civilization. This situation, again imperilled after the conquest of Bulgaria, when Hungary became





a neighbor of Byzantium, was to be more solidly defined in the second half of the eleventh century thanks to the intervention of the reformed Papacy in Hungarian affairs. Rome could thus hope to find in Hungary a protagonist of Latin interests on the confines of the Latin and Byzantine civilizations.


In actual fact, after securing Croatia against Byzantine attempts to regain Dalmatia, Hungary was able to play a very important part, even among the Serbian Slavs. This was made clear in 1120 when Bosnia, once annexed by Constantine Bodin and afterwards placed under Byzantine sovereignty, followed the example of Croatia — to which it had belonged before Bodin’s annexation — and freely joined Hungary. Its national princes carried on as bans, governing in the name of the King of Hungary, who styled himself Rex Ramae, after a river in Bosnia, and in 1137, King Bela II (1131-1141) conferred the title of Duke of Bosnia upon his son Ladislas.


Hungary soon secured a foothold in Rascia when the daughter of the Župan Uroš I married the Hungarian King Bela II. This was confirmed when Uroš II lent a sympathetic ear to the pressing invitations from the Hungarians and the Normans who had invaded Greece. The Emperor Manuel Comnenus (1143-1180) drove the invaders out, crushed all the rebels in the two expeditions of 1149 and 1150, took the capital of Rascia and sent the Župan packing. In the words of the imperial poet Theodore Prodromus, the Emperor swooped — “like a golden-winged eagle upon the forests that sheltered Uroš, who fled with the swiftness of a deer and scurried to his hole like a rabbit.”


Hungarian help was useless; for the Emperor, himself a doughty knight, defeated the Hungarian commander in single combat and took him prisoner. The Grand Župan Uroš II was forced to throw himself at the Emperor’s feet and promise obedience, and Manuel held even the successors of Uroš firmly in his grip. The Grand Župan Stephen Nemanja (ca. 1167-1196) was obliged to abandon an attack which he undertook in company with the Venetians against Byzantine possessions in Dalmatia and Croatia. He was brought to Constantinople, where his martial bearing





created a notable sensation and proved to be a most popular attraction in Manuel’s triumphant procession through the city.


As long as Manuel Comnenus lived, the Serbs had no chance of achieving self-government. This great warrior and diplomat made a final daring bid from Constantinople to revive the Roman Empire. He not only recovered territories in the Balkans which Byzantium had lost, but also in 1164 he won back Dalmatia, with the exception of Zara and part of Croatia, and he turned Spalato into the temporary seat of a Byzantine Dux Dalmatiae et Croatiae. He intervened in Hungary, where he reduced King Bela III (1172-1196) practically to vassalage, and he was at one time also in touch with Vladislav II, King of Bohemia. He was the last Byzantine Emperor to adorn his name by adding to it, in the true Roman fashion, the pompous title of Ruler of Dalmatia, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Hungary.


Thus the ambitions of the popes to establish their supremacy over the Slavs of Serbia and of the coastal region were frustrated, for the time being at least. New possibilities were to be offered to Rome only after Manuel’s death when Hungary was able to regain possession of Dalmatia and Croatia and when Stephen Nemanja, after occupying the former Dioclean kingdom, had become the real founder of medieval Serbia.





In support of the new political order he had inaugurated, Pope Gregory VII was pursuing a policy of encirclement against the emperor Henry IV. He enjoyed the support of the Polish King, but success depended on his ability to win over the Czech Duke, which he tried hard to do on several occasions. He first confirmed the coveted privilege of wearing the miter and clerical tunic which had been granted to the Duke’s predecessor and he thanked the Duke most warmly for the regular payment of the hundred marks. It happened that Vratislav II was very proud of this particular privilege, because he had a good deal of trouble with his brother Jaromir, Bishop of Prague, whom he liked to





annoy by parading in his vestments and miter during ecclesiastical ceremonies. The Pope tried to be agreeable to the Duke in his disputes with his brother, the Bishop; but it was not easy, for Jaromir completely ignored the new diocese which Vratislav had created in Olomouc (Moravia) in 1063 and took arms to win back for the diocese of Prague those of its possessions in Moravia which had been alienated in favor of the new foundation.


All the Pope’s efforts to win over Vratislav were in vain; for the Czech Duke had made up his mind and he gave wholehearted support to Henry IV. When the Saxons revolted against Henry and ruined his projected expedition against Poland, with the result that the Polish Duke started intriguing with the rebels, Vratislav II came to Henry’s aid with powerful forces and displayed exceptional bravery at the battle of Unstrut. Lambert of Hersfeld’s chronicle echoes the Saxons’ bitter feelings against the Czechs, who after defeating them did not even have the decency to desist from the collection of booty after nightfall. The Czech chronicler Cosmas (II, Chap. 35) also stresses that the Czechs distinguished themselves by their bravery in this campaign, and as for Vratislav II, he remained faithful to Henry IV even after Canossa.


Henry IV went to the length of making Jaromir, Bishop of Prague, his Chancellor, to the great joy of the Duke, who thereby got rid of his episcopal brother, at least for the time being. At the battle of Flarchheim Vratislav’s Czechs fought so tenaciously that they saved, if not the defeated imperial army’s laurels, at least its honor. They even captured the golden spear carried by Rudolph, the papal candidate for the imperial throne, and for long afterwards this was the trophy which was proudly borne before the Czech duke on all special occasions. When Henry IV besieged Rome in 1083, the Czechs in his army were the first to enter the Eternal City — but not as pious pilgrims.


Up to now, Gregory had failed completely to draw the Czech Duke to his side, and even the Bishop of Prague went over to Henry IV. But worse was in store. After his great victory over the Pope, Henry IV held a Reichstag at Mainz in April, 1085;





with great pomp and ceremony, in the presence of all the princes of the Empire, he conferred the royal title on the Duke of Bohemia and with his own hands placed the crown upon his head as a fitting reward to his most faithful vassal for all the services he had rendered.


But the ceremony was more than that; it was a public challenge flung at the new ideology preached by Gregory VII and the reformists. Henry IV, the chief protagonist of the old order that rested upon a century-old tradition, was determined to proclaim that the Papacy was not the sole source of all spiritual and temporal power, but that temporal power issued from the Imperium, which God had predestined to govern the world. The right to confer a royal title upon prince or duke belonged, he argued, not to the pope, but to the emperor.


This becomes even more evident in view of the fact that, according to Cosmas (II, Chap. 37), the title conferred upon Vratislav II, was “King of Bohemia and Poland.” The significance of this is still mooted among specialists; but the true explanation can be found only if the conflict between the Empire and the reformed Papacy on the problem of creating the right world order be taken into consideration. Henry IV chose this way of protesting against the Polish Duke’s acceptance of this royal title from the Pope, with its consequent implicit denial of the right of the Emperor to interfere in the affairs of Poland. For a misdemeanor so detrimental to the imperial dignity, the Poles were not only deprived of their royal crown, but they lost it to the Duke of Bohemia, who took precedence over the Polish Duke as a reward for his loyalty to the Emperor.


Another benefit accruing to the new King of Bohemia lay in the fact that his claim against Poland over the Silesian tribute received imperial sanction, and Bohemia became the authorized trustee for the Empire’s interests in the East.


As a reward for the services rendered by the Chancellor Jaromir — better known to the Germans by his other name of Gebhard — the Emperor suppressed, at the same Reichstag, the bishopric of Olomouc and replaced the whole Přemyslide territory





under the sole jurisdiction of Prague. It was on this occasion also that the famous charter was issued in Mainz which was destined to become a most controversial and hotly contested document, as it is the only piece of evidence giving precise details about the foundation and extent of the bishopric of Prague and the policy of Otto I.





Henry IV could risk taking these steps without fearing any reaction from Polish quarters, as, in 1085, when he honored Vratislav with the Polish title, the situation in Poland had changed completely. Boleslas II had been displaced on the throne by his brother Władisław (Ladislas) Herman (1079-1102). One of the main reasons that led to Boleslas’s downfall was his quarrel with Stanislas, Bishop of Cracow. The grounds for this are not precisely known, as Stanislas’s martyrdom was later romanticized out of all recognition. The only tangible statement about him is given by the first Polish chronicler, Anonymus Gallus (I, Chaps. 27, 28), who reports that the Bishop was quartered — a punishment inflicted upon traitors — for his treasonable attitude towards the King; but he adds that while he has no wish to exculpate the treacherous Bishop, yet Boleslas II had no right, as an anointed ruler, to inflict such a punishment upon another of the Lord’s anointed.


This statement seems to imply that Boleslas believed, rightly or wrongly, that the Bishop had been implicated in a conspiracy against him. Subsequent events were to prove abundantly that a conspiracy did take place with the object of overthrowing Boleslas in favor of his brother Władisław (Ladislas) Herman. [1]



1. The plot was apparently hatched by some Polish aristocrats, probably headed by Sieciech, whose influence became paramount under the new ruler. Of course it enjoyed the full support of Henry IV, whose Chancellor Jaromir-Gebhard had spent some time in Poland in his youth and had many influential friends there. The Czech Duke Vratislav would also have welcomed a change upon the Polish throne. It is not impossible, therefore, that the Bishop of Cracow either made common cause with the conspirators or, at least, expressed himself too freely in favor of the King’s brother.





Although it is impossible to say to what extent the accusations against the Bishop were well founded, his execution did Boleslas no good. The conspirators seized Cracow (1079) and the King had to seek refuge in Hungary, where he died in the following year under mysterious circumstances. A similar fate overtook his son, who was invited by his uncle in 1086 to return to Poland.


The story of the quarrel between the Bishop and the King was embellished by succeeding generations and surrounded by a dazzling halo of a religious and moral complexion, which made Stanislas of Cracow grow to the legendary stature of a martyr for Church reform and the gallant protagonist of the Gregorian ideology against an impious king. At the time when this legend reached its zenith, Stanislas was canonized (1253) and became the first Polish saint and the national hero. His relics were considered all the more valuable, as the Poles had previously lost the treasures which the Czechs had stolen from Gniezno — above all the body of St. Adalbert. By this time, Cracow had long outstripped Gniezno in the political sphere, and the canonization of its Bishop naturally raised it to further prominence in the religious and cultural life of Poland. The pious Bishop no doubt deserved supreme honors for his saintly life and terrible end; but it is a curious instance of the irony of fate that the King, who had been the warmest supporter of the Gregorian new order and the key collaborator of the Pope in his policy of the "encirclement” of the Emperor, should be relegated by the worshippers of his victim to a place among the most bitter opponents of the Gregorian reform! [1]



1. It seems, however, that the original tradition concerning Boleslas must have survived to the fourteenth century. According to a popular legend Boleslas returned home from his exile and lived in secret as a monk doing penance for his sins. He was regarded as a saint. For more details on his cult see the study by J. Zathey quoted above (p. 172) on "Remnants of some lost MSS. in the Warsaw National Library," pp. 78-81. Cf. also P. David. “Casimir le moine et Boleslas le pénitent,” Études histor. et litt, sur la Pologne medievale, V (Paris, 1932), pp. 28-38. H. Paszkiewicz (The Origin of Russia, pp. 394-404) advanced the theory that “the conflict between the King and Bishop arose from the rivalry and antagonism between two rites in Poland, the Latin and the Slavonic one." Boleslas is supposed to have favored the latter. Unfortunately, the evidence for such a supposition is very slight and doubtful.





It was not the only mystery in the history of Boleslas Us end, for it is not known exactly what parts were played in this drama by Henry IV and his faithful ally, Vratislav II of Bohemia. The scarcity of historical sources does not permit any further assertion than that both of them not only welcomed, but supported the change, and the policy of the new Polish ruler amply bears this out. Władisław Herman gave up his royal title and contented himself with that of a duke. The Duke of Bohemia gave him his daughter in marriage; Herman completely abandoned his predecessor’s line of action and became a warm supporter of the imperial order, even going so far as to rally to Henry’s anti-Pope.


So the policy of “encirclement” from the East, devised by Gregory VII with such good prospects of success in order to check a refractory Emperor, broke down completely in the end. Obviously, without the participation of the ruler of Bohemia, nothing solid and lasting could be achieved in this part of Europe, and once again the central position of Bohemia, making it a link between the Empire, Poland and Hungary, proved to be an indispensable factor in any manoeuvring against Germany, or from Germany against her eastern and southeastern neighbors. Henry IV’s discovery of a faithful vassal and ally in Vratislav II was another turning point in the development of Central and Southeastern Europe, and it raised a barrier against which all the schemes of the reformed Papacy were shattered.


It is therefore justifiable to say that the help which Vratislav II was able to lend to Henry IV has not been sufficiently valued by historians of this period. At the same time, Vratislav himself must have been a shrewd politician since despite his championship of an excommunicated Emperor, he managed to remain on the best of terms with Gregory VII, who never dared to subject him to anything worse than a fatherly admonition. There may be an additional reason for Vratislav’s dislike of Gregory VII. There is in Gregory’s register (Book VII, Letter II) a letter in which the Pope emphatically refuses to grant the Czechs the privilege of





having the liturgy said in the Slavonic language. The Pope invokes the authority of St. Peter in admonishing the Duke severely to desist from such “vain temerity.” It is important to note that in spite of his sympathies with Henry IV, the Duke was an ardent Czech patriot and anxious to have the Slavonic liturgy once more confirmed by the Pope. This shows that the Slavonic liturgy was still used in Bohemia in 1079 after a short interruption. The Curia’s unfavorable attitude explains at the same time why it disappeared from Bohemia soon afterwards.


In spite of this disappointment, Vratislav II did not throw in his lot with the Emperor’s anti-Pope until after Gregory’s death and even then, with an eye to business, he asked to be excused his yearly payment for the miter privilege, a request which the anti-Pope did not in the least relish.





It may be asked why the Czech Duke was so eager to join Henry and to identify the fate of his country with that of Henry’s Germany. Some historians have painted the Czech Duke as impelled by a lofty conception of a vassal’s duty to his supreme liege lord and have extolled him as one of the noblest characters of his day. There may have been a good deal of noblemindedness in his attitude; but he certainly had other motives as well. The policy of sacro egoismo, so often cherished by the Přemyslide dynasty in the past, seems to have had something to do with his behavior. The geographical position of their country naturally made the Bohemian rulers think twice before making any decision which was not likely to be countenanced by Germany. Vratislav II decided to make the best of his unfavorable position, to extend the dominion of his House within the Empire as much as he could, and to pay for this by rendering to the Emperor such services as he would be likely to appreciate most. Throughout the period of his close association with Henry IV, Vratislav seems to have coveted the Marks of Meissen and Lusatia — countries inhabited by the Sorbian tribes — and of the Austrian Mark. As Boleslas





the Brave entertained similar aspirations, these ambitious plans were naturally a source of rivalry between Vratislav and Poland.


However, in spite of the Emperor’s promises and a successful termination of his struggle against the anti-imperial margraves of those territories, Vratislav II did not succeed in the end. When the dangers threatening from Poland and from the rebellious margraves were over, he was ordered by the Emperor to return the territories to their original German overlords. He kept a few possessions in the Mark of Meissen and hoped that the Emperor would finally let him have the territory as a fief of the Empire; but in 1088, to his utter disgust, Meissen was presented to Henry of Ostmark. This considerably cooled the King’s ardor for Henry IV s cause, and although he did not leave the Emperor’s service, he abstained thenceforth from giving him military aid. Not even the reversal of the Mainz decision concerning the bishopric of Olomouc, Vratislav’s pet foundation, succeeded in reviving his zeal for the Emperor’s cause.


Thus, Vratislav’s policy towards the Empire did not bring to Bohemia all the advantages that had been expected. It is true that the prestige of Bohemia within the Empire benefited considerably; but it is also true that by identifying his own interests so closely with those of the Empire, the ruler of Bohemia lost the opportunity of pursuing a foreign policy of his own, for his neighbors regarded him as nothing more than the local representative of the Empire and a champion of imperial interests. The same factors also ruined every effort made by Poland and Hungary to create an anti-imperial and anti-German coalition. If the opportunity to do this had arisen and been seized, the support of the reformed Papacy would have made this coalition a valuable factor in arresting or retarding the eastward penetration of German influence for a long time to come.


It is particularly interesting to study the Emperor’s reluctance either to establish or to further Czech influence in the Slavic marches on the middle Elbe. Was it just blind chance or the instinctive feeling of a German that these territories should be saved for Germany by being kept secure from any Czech or





Polish influences? But Vratislav s ambition to gain possession of the Bavarian Ostmark — the future Austria — inaugurated a tradition in the Přemyslide policy which was to haunt many of his successors. In the end, under Přemysl II Ottokar, it resulted in the formation of a vast realm which was destined to be the foundation of Habsburgian power.


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