Gregory VII, Pope (ca. 1023–1085)
A pope of the eleventh century against whom a charge of
necromancy was brought. Gregory was chiefly noted for his bitter
and prolonged struggle with Henry IV, emperor of Germany.
A quarrel arose between them regarding a gift by Henry of
ecclesiastical dignities. Henry was summoned before Gregory
to account for the gifts. He refused to appear, was excommunicated,
and, in return, had the pope kidnapped by brigands.
Gregory, however, was rescued by the people of Rome and
on his release commanded the Germans to elect a new emperor,
Rudolph, duke of Swabia. Henry, attended by a very small
retinue, went to Canossa, where Gregory resided, to arrange
for terms of peace. He was treated with such severity and neglect
that he lost his desire to come to terms with the pope, and
on his return he elected an antipope, Clement III. In the struggle
that ensued, Henry defeated Rudolph in battle and Gregory
was sentenced as a sorcerer. He died in exile at Salerno.
Gregory’s fame rests not in magic but chiefly on a prophecy
he made publicly that Rudolph would be victorious ‘‘before St.
Peter’s day,’’ a statement on which he staked his papal crown.
The unfortunate Rudolph, entirely trusting Gregory’s prediction,
renewed the battle six times and finally died without having
obtained the promised victory.
Other stories credit Gregory with the power of making lightning
with a motion of his hand and causing thunder to dart
from his sleeve. It was related by Benno that on one occasion
he left his magic book behind him at his villa. Entrusting two
of his servants with the task of returning for it, he warned them
not to look into it on pain of the most awful punishment. Curiosity
overcame the fears of one of them, and, opening the book,
he pronounced some words. Immediately a band of imps appeared
and asked what they commanded. The terrified servants
begged the demons to cast down as much of the city wall
as lay in their way; thus they escaped punishment for their disobedience.
Notwithstanding such folklore, there is no real evidence
that Gregory practiced sorcery