Changing attitudes to the authority of the Holy Roman emperors in the later Middle Ages (c. 1273 - c. 1519)

Ben Fuller

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated] This thesis examines the different and changing ideas about the authority of the Holy Roman Emperors during the later middle ages, with particular reference to the belief that the emperors were the temporal heads of Christendom, constituted by God as the defenders of the universal Church, and rightfully possessing an authority (of some sort) beyond their own territorial borders, over Christendom, or even over the world, as a whole.

The thesis argues that ideas of a unique imperial authority continued to be developed and refined throughout the later middle ages: indeed, it was in this period that they found their clearest expositors. Nor were such ideas marginal or lacking in intellectual force: imperialist thought was maintained and defended, often with considerable subtlety, by some of the most important thinkers of their day, such as Dante, Marsilius of Padua, William of Ockham, Petrarch, Nicholas Cusanus, and Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini.

This thesis identifies several distinct conceptions of imperial authority, maintained by different groups of people for different purposes. It examines each in detail, and explains how they were related to the political circumstances and events of the time. A close analysis of specific crucial events and theoretical texts is set in a narrative account which provides the historical context.

The thesis begins with an account of imperial ideas and institutions from antiquity to the central middle ages, with a particularly close treatment of the Hohenstaufen period (1138-1250), including analysis of the revival of Roman law, the rediscovery of Aristotle, and the development of theories of sovereignty in other states.

This analysis begins with the period in which it seemed that the Papacy had completely triumphed over the Empire (c. 1273 – 1303), making particular reference to what might be called the ‘high papalist’ conception of the Empire expressed by Boniface VIII.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMasters
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

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