Norman Italy Kingdom and Municipalities Part II

By | February 19, 2022

Meanwhile, the municipal movement was progressing; the new institutional order was consolidated; new lower classes were urged to come forward and the liberation of the serfs, peasants or artisans, whatever they were, was accelerated; the countryside was also beginning to take on a new face; rural municipalities by the thousands; valvassori and cattani and also powerful lords, forced to swear the  sequimentum communis; many castles demolished. According to THEFREEGEOGRAPHY.COM, the contrasts between the neighboring cities worsened: and already the largest, due to new or ancient size, now restored, tended to circumvent and absorb the smaller ones ecclesiastically, economically, politically. Relations with the bishops were also turning for the worse. The ancient solidarity in the face of the extra-urban feudal world was replaced by dissidents, as the bishops were concessionaires of rights, public jurisdictions, gifts, castles, to which the ancient vassals now demanded, as individuals and as a municipality. They are, strictly speaking, disagreements between municipalities and kingdom or empire, from which the bishops repeated those rights, and not of municipalities and Church, of State and Church. But since people and church goods and interests were at stake, which the curialist doctrine placed on a high pedestal as a sacred and inviolable thing, thus it could happen that the political event led to religious complications or fueled pre-existing religious oppositions. The popular, ultra-reformist agitations that had accompanied the reform were recent. And again the mystics, those infatuated with the primitive Church and the Gospel, the intolerant of every hierarchy, etc., were waiting, indeed they continued to scion from the rich underground of the Church, indeed of the Italian medieval society; the handpieces of the “Cathars” or puri became more numerous, an old sect that came from the East with a varied and consolidated dogmatic baggage, with full denial of the world, with ferocious hatred for the Roman Church and for every earthly power of her. There is no doubt that contact with these sectaries could also stimulate others to give some dogmatic elaboration to their own vague aspirations for church reform and purer Christianity. And no doubt, equally, that the political agitation, in some places very heated and obstinate, in Cremona, Piacenza, Brescia, Parma, Reggio, Vercelli, etc., against the bishops counts, the warrior bishops and judges, bishops, great lords, to claim to the common independence and jurisdictions and gifts and castles and money, met here and there with the petty propaganda of the mystics and heretics or was spontaneously pervaded and animated by certain needs of theirs; in the same way that mystics and heretics, operating in environments rich in anticlerical political motifs, could absorb them and merge them with their own religious motives, rekindling their passion. All this is Catholic fact: but more especially of the countries of greater social and intellectual progress and of the most vehement contrasts and of the richest city life, from the Netherlands to Provence, from the Rhineland to the Po Valley, to Tuscany, to Umbria, which are precisely the regions where in the century. XII, the new heresies spread more, with a practical and sentimental background at the beginning, then also dogmatic, which became a vast and serious movement in the first half of the 13th century. And in Italy, in fact, we are presented with some singular figure of church reformer who frames his action and his religious hopes within the new society and tries to promote it politically: Arnaldo da Brescia.

In Arnaldo, it would not be possible to say whether the evangelical ideal was more represented, which also responds to the needs of lay society and the state; or lay society and the state which, working to elevate themselves, feel in solidarity with spiritually religious men and women and want to help the Church free itself from too many temporal burdens. Of course, he had before him the fantastic vision of a primitive church and, at the same time, the example of ancient Rome and the new experience of the city state: for which he mixed with the city revolution of Rome, which in 1144 he created from nothing (according to some) or on surviving leftovers (according to others) the municipality, against the pope and the nobility, and took possession of the Capitol, wanting  antiquam renovare dignitatem; proclaimed the city “seat of the empire, source of freedom, master of the world”. Agitated by this double passion merged into one, Arnaldo is a representative man in the history of the Italian people, who has always felt and practiced religion more as an action than as a contemplation or theological problem, and when he turned his thoughts to a reform of the church, he also conceived it as a means to increase the dignity of the state; and he fought the Church, not with an anti-religious spirit and not even an anti-church spirit, but an anti-clerical one. Second, then, the aspirations of the Romans to give itself, under the solemn name of the Roman republic, a municipal order of its own, Arnaldo contributed to bringing Rome closer to the new history of Italy, which was the history of autonomous cities.

Norman Italy Kingdom 2