Who were the winners from the interdict dispute of 1206-1214, and who were the losers?

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Who were the winners from the interdict dispute of 1206-1214, and who were the losers?


A papal interdiction was placed on England in 1208, this was due to the frictions between the papacy held by Pope Innocent III and the King of England, John. The issue stemmed from the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury Hubert Walter in July 1205. It began with the Popes rejection of both the English King’s choice of replacement John De Gray, who was the bishop of Norwich at the time of Hubert‘s death, and also the English bishops ideal candidate for the role, Reginald when they went to Rome for approval. Pope Innocent instead chose to elect Stephen Langton to the role of Archbishop of Canterbury. This incident gave a prime example of how “Pope Innocent III was clearly convinced of his right to decide essentially political issues”. Langton’s appointment was refused by King John and customarily he had every right to dispute such an election, as previously the Leader of England had made the decision rather than the Pope. This led to the imposition of an interdict being placed upon England in March 1208.

        An interdict from an spiritual point of view is “to cut off authoritatively from certain ecclesiastical functions and privileges”. In terms of the interdict dispute that took place between  1206 and 1214 many different functions and privileges were rescinded an example of one of these functions is the development of churches, any construction was crushed under the influence of the interdict. In order to counter this “disgrace”, John retaliated by punishing any clergyman who rejected the celebration of divine service by confiscating their possessions, John was then excommunicated in November 1209. Whilst this feud took place Stephen Langton and the other bishops under threat moved to France to seek refuge.

        Pope Innocent III is a renowned papal leader who was not only a powerful spiritual influence on world history  but also a well practised lawyer and a exemplary political tactician, he was certainly not an opponent to be taken lightly. The reasons behind the involvement of  church in temporal matters must be considered when deciding who benefited most from the papal interdict. By becoming involved in disputes with King John and other leaders such as Philip of France it could be considered that that he had his own ideas to become “Lord of the World”. This idea is disputed by many renowned historians such as Powicke, Tillman, Kempf and Maccarrone who all suggest that Pope Innocents actions were all spiritually orientated with the best interests of the Church in mind. This offers a strong argument to suggest that the interdict dispute struck a blow against the Church by not being a presence within England to support followers of the Roman Catholic Church during the church prohibition.

        In this essay many sources will be considered in order to justify the successes and failures that both the actions of the interdict dispute and its resolution contributed to. Some of the factors that help separate the victorious from the defeated include the increased wealth and public support for the Church, the benefit to King John of Stephen Langton as an extremely capable Archbishop of Canterbury and many more contributory factors that offer insight in regards to the papal interdict on England. Both parties involved have successes and failures, however it is evident that the severity of these losses is extremely different on both sides.

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        The Treaty of 1213 is extremely significant when trying to decipher the winners and losers of the papal interdict. The treaty essentially made John, England’s tenant as oppose to its owner. He was forced to recognise the pope as the “Vicar of Christ”, which he had not done previously. This also made John, Pope Innocent’s loyal follower and for that reason he would have the Pope’s blessing and support. The Treaty of 1213 shows that John was surrendering his stance against the Church and consequently losing the battle for power that was the interdict. Although this is clear, John’s hands ...

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