In 1076, Henry IV, King of Germany (1056-1106), convened a synod of bishops with the intention of denouncing and deposing Pope Gregory VII (1073-85) in response to the latter’s actions after the Lenten Synod of 1075. A majority of the German bishops present, allied with Henry, produced a letter to Gregory in which they renounced the method of his ascension to the papacy, as well as the methods he employed to achieve the reform he sought. In one passage, they particularly renounced Gregory’s well-known close relationships with several powerful women. The complaints of the bishops revolve around the belief that these women exerted an inordinate amount of influence in service of Gregory’s pontificate. They stated, "In this affair, our sense of decency is affected ... although the general complaint is sounded everywhere, that all judgments and all decrees are enacted by women in the Apostolic see, and ultimately that the whole orb of the Church is administered by this new senate of women." While this remonstrance of Gregory’s friendships with women follows the generally misogynist views common during the period, there is evidence that the clergy of the Middle Ages were more aware of the power held by many of the noble laywomen of Europe than they perhaps would have wanted to admit. Evidence to this effect can be found in the many extant letters from high ranking clergymen, primarily bishops and popes, to a variety of noble women, in which these women are regularly called upon to support the Church in many ways. Joan Ferrante found "the letters show that women’s authority, political and intellectual, is recognized by the men who work with them, that women collaborate and cooperate with men in politics, religion, and scholarship as colleagues, that their friendship and support is valued and trusted." What will be examined here are the ways in which several members of the clergy of the eleventh and twelfth centuries not only recognized that women had access to power and influence, but that these bishops commonly worked to access this power for the support of the political agenda of the Church.
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"Girl Power: The Episcopate and Female Agency in the Central Middle Ages,"
1, Article 13.