INVESTITURE: The Earlier Practice. In ecclesiastical language, the ceremony of inducting an abbot or bishop into his office. The subject is interesting mainly in connection with a long controversy between the papacy and secular rulers over the right of investiture, which constitutes an important chapter of medieval history. Even before the fall of the Roman Empire there are evidences of imperial influence upon the nomination of bishops, going in some cases as far as direct nomination. In the Frankish kingdoms both the Merovingian and Carolingian rulers repeatedly named the bishops in their territories; and even when the election was made by the clergy and people, they either designated the acceptable candidate beforehand, or claimed the right to confirm the election. The influence of the secular power was still more distinctly felt in the case of abbeys erected after the Roman period; the idea of the jurisdiction of a landowner, raised to a higher power in the case of abbeys on royal land, brought it to pass that royal nomination of the abbots was the rule, election by the chapter the exception. To these powers the Othos and the Franconian dynasty held fast. The acquisition by bishops and abbots of large territories and extensive political rights, which reached its height in the tenth and eleventh centuries, created a spiritual aristocracy not less important than the secular, which it was necessary for the kings to keep in hand by retaining the decisive voice in the filling of the offices—a claim which was not then felt to involve any invasion of the essential rights of the Church. In older times the nomination and confirmation had been made by a royal edict; but under the later Carolingians, whether an election had taken place or not, the actual installation was made by a solemn and formal ceremony, including the giving of the sovereign’s hand and the taking of an oath by the candidate. After Otho I. the most usual form was the giving to the new bishop or abbot of his predecessor's pastoral staff, to which Henry III. added the delivery of the episcopal ring. The whole ceremony resembled the investiture of a temporal vassal; and since it conveyed not only spiritual, but temporal, jurisdiction, it began in the eleventh century to be designated by the term investitura.

The Contest in Germany. The first determined opposition to the system came from the ecclesiastical reformers of the eleventh century. It was directed primarily against simoniacal bargains, but soon went further. Cardinal Humbert, in his treatise Adversus simoniacos (1057-58), came out decisively against lay investiture. In 1059 and 1063 two Roman synods condemned the bestowal of the minor ecclesiastical offices by laymen; in 1060 synods at Vienne and Tours took the same position in regard to bishoprics and abbeys; and in 1068 the filling of the see of Milan gave occasion for these principles to be put into practise. But the first actual clash came when Gregory VII., in the Lent synod of 1075, directly denied the right of the German king to grant investiture, and enforced his denial so vigorously that Henry IV. was obliged to take up the challenge by the attempt to depose Gregory at the Synod of Worms in 1076, thus opening a struggle which lasted for forty-six years. Gregory and his successors maintained their position. The Roman synod of 1080 laid down positive regulations, based upon primitive Christian practise, for the election of bishops by the clergy and people, giving the pope a deciding voice as to the validity of the election. Victor III., Urban II., and Paschal II. reiterated the same views, but had no better success than Gregory in enforcing them against Henry IV. and V. The ultimate solution of the difficulty was prepared rather by the literary discussions, in which a gradual perception appeared of the distinction between the spiritual office and the secular rights. This opened the way to attempts at accommodation. After some failures, efforts led in 1122 to the Concordat of Worms between Henry V. and Calixtus II., which ended the struggle and formed the basis of the later practise until the downfall of the German empire (for provisions see CONCORDATS AND DELIMITING BULLS, I.). Episcopal and abbatial elections were to be conducted in Italy and Burgundy without any royal interference, in Germany in the presence of the king, and with provision for his advisory assistance in contested elections. The agreement was not an unqualified victory for either side, but the papacy in the end profited most by it. After the contested imperial election of 1198 (see INNOCENT III.), the influence of the emperor on elections rapidly declined, while that of the popes, especially under the skilful management of Innocent III., increased in the same proportion.

France. In France during the eleventh century much the same conditions existed as in Germany; but when the conflict arose it was not made so much a question of principle or conducted with so much bitterness. The French bishops had not so much secular power, nor did they to the same extent constitute a spiritual aristocracy. Again, the king claimed to invest only a part of the bishops and abbots, while the majority were nominated and installed by the great vassals. Speaking generally, the right of nomination was abolished by the beginning of the twelfth century, and free election became the rule; but until the end of the century, and even longer, the kings and some of the local magnates still maintained the right of permitting and of confirming the election, and the kings and some great nobles still conferred secular rights and claimed the revenues of these temporalities during a vacancy.

England. The reforming party had less success in England. Under the Anglo-Saxon and Danish kings the appointment to bishoprics and the great abbeys was in the king’s hands; the Normans introduced investiture and the oath of allegiance. The prohibition of lay investiture by Gregory VII. was inoperative here. It was not until Anselm, in 1101, came back to England a confirmed Gregorian and refused the oath of allegiance that there was any real investiture controversy there. It ended in 1107 by the king’s renouncing the formality of investiture with ring and staff, but retaining the oath of allegiance and the other rights of his predecessors. In spite of Stephen’s promise that bishops and abbots should be canonically elected, the assent of the English kings continued the decisive factor. The English clergy did not win the right of absolutely free election even at a later period, while Innocent III. (q.v.) forced King John to allow the papacy to share the royal influence.