Today in World History: January 28th

The Walk to Canossa, in which Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV tried to lift his excommunication, ended on this day in 1077. After refusing to change the investiture laws, which decide if the State or the Church decide who is appointed to bishopric, the new pope, Pope Gregory VII excommunicated him. He walked, allegedly barefoot, through the Alps to try to plead to the Pope. He arrived at the castle of Matilda of Canossa, an Italian duchess who ruled Florence and much of Northern Italy during his reign on the 25 of January, 1077. After pleading at her doors for three days and three nights, the Pope, who was residing there at the time, allowed Henry communion again. Although Henry returned quickly, to stop any further violence and political intrigue over his crown, which had been in jeopardy due to his excommunication, Pope Gregory stayed with Matilda for two more years, making some Protestant leaders claim that they had an affair. The Walk to Canossa had a large impact, although at the time it was rather small. Matilda di Canossa is regarded as the first Italian to lead them to a victory since the Roman Empire, and thus taking the first step to freeing Italy from the Holy Roman Empire. Martin Luther, the man who founded Protestantism in Europe by publishing his 95 Theses and reprinting the Bible in German, saw Henry IV as the first Protestant.


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