Sunday Webquest: Canossa

My ninth graders will be learning about Canossa this week — the Emperor Henry IV’s pilgrimage to the side of Pope Gregory VII, who was hiding at the castle of Canossa in northern Italy. Henry wanted to show atonement for crossing Pope Gregory VII on the matter of the Investiture Controversy. Gregory made him stand in the snow for three days before forgiving him. The Sunday Project is to find ten web links that aren’t Wikipedia to help students better understand Canossa and the events leading up to it and following it. Here’s what I found:

  • 1)One of the first things was an image of a painting painted in 1862 of Henry IV, standing outside the castle. I like starting with Image search in Google, because it gives me instant access to a picture that a student can associate in his or her mind with an event. Here, Henry IV is penitent and… wait a minute! He doesn’t look penitent at all. A student can get the idea that in the 1860s, Germans wanted a strong German history — so this painting is propaganda for that strong Germany. Henry is dressed as a penitent, but he wasn’t really penitent. Interestingly enough, Adolf Hitler forced German churches in the 1930s to join a unified structure under the authority of his own Reichsbishop. Talk about lay investiture! 
  • 2)I found this simple cartoon of Henry IV at Canossa, which I quite like. It’s relatively neutral, in that Henry’s face doesn’t show, and you’re left with an image of a monk at a castle door. This is a good image for introducing younger students to the concept of Canossa. 
  • 3)Here’s a later image, of Henry with a bunch of friends at Canossa. Again, ties into the idea of German nationalism, because the Church’s account is that he went alone; here, though, he’s visiting with a bunch of friends and boon companions. Pope Gregory VII had excommunicated Henry IV; he shouldn’t have had any friends at all. Yet here he does have friends; ergo, Germans are stronger when they stand together. Nationalist, but not as strongly as the painting. 
  • 4)Here’s a medieval image of him, that shows Henry IV as the king. This is important, because until now we’ve only seen him actually AT Canossa. Now we can know that he and his successors were royal patrons of the arts, and they had no problem depicting Henry as the Holy Roman Emperor. 
  • 5)Now we need to show the other player: Pope Gregory VII. Here he is from the Saints’ Directory, in a stained glass window. The Church still thinks highly enough of Pope Gregory, that they make his image into large and expensive stained glass windows. Do we do the same for Henry IV? 
  • 6)Having a primary source or two is always helpful. Here’s Henry IV’s letter to Gregory, written a year or so before the excommunication. 
  • 7)And here is Pope Gregory’s response. 
  • 8)Here’s a quick discussion of the Investiture Controversy in general, so that a student who doesn’t understand the textbook has another source to look at. 
  • 9)Did you know that it’s possible to do a timeline search in Google News? Here’s a whole bunch of Investiture Controversy links scattered right through the first few centuries of the first millennium
  • 10)And here’s the resolution to the conflict: the Concordat of Worms. It’s a pair of joint decrees by Pope Callixtus II, and Emperor Henry VEduc. So the matter of Canossa wasn’t really settled for fifty years, and a generation after Canossa.

So. There’s enough here in this list that a student could get a sense of what Canossa was about, but probably not learn the material without the help of a teacher to explain and guide him or her through it. A good start, but probably not enough to explain it thoroughly, or do it independently. This week’s grade: B-

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