Pope Leo IX 1049-1054: a study of his Pontificate

Smith, Andrew Philip (2018) Pope Leo IX 1049-1054: a study of his Pontificate. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3327192


This thesis poses a simple but intriguing and powerful question. Can Pope Leo IX (1049-1054) continue to be described as a reforming or reform-minded pope? The approach taken rethinks Leo and rethinks reform and the analysis of each, taken together, leads to a fresh evaluation of what Leo did and how he went about it. This thesis focusses on his pontificate and is not a full life biographical portrait.

The historiographical background of the last one hundred and thirty years is comprehensively analysed. This analysis shows that the descriptor of reform has been applied to Leo consistently over that period but that only one attempt has been made to define reform. This thesis puts forward a new definition of reform which is used to provide a framework for evaluation and for clarifying the answer to the thesis question. Leo’s extant papal letters and other sources provide the basis for a new and full analysis of what Leo actually did in his Synods. This analysis shows that Leo used his Synods for complex and multi-faceted purposes. These purposes were not so much to push a reform agenda but more to resolve disputes, to deal with simony and to deal with very many issues related to Church governance. Leo’s letters are also used to analyse afresh the reasons for his many journeys. The analysis shows that Leo’s journeys were undertaken for multiple reasons and were not specifically related to the long standing view that the journeys relate to Leo’s attempt to Europeanise the papacy. Finally the letters are utilised to ask questions of Leo’s overall policy approach to papal governance. This analysis puts forward new ideas about the team in the papal office and reveals a complex landscape of influences. Taken together these strands of analysis show a complex picture and highlight a new perception of Leo and that the long held premise of seeing Leo through the single prism of reform confuses and obscures the real nature of his policy approach and his pontificate.

The conclusion of this thesis is that Leo can no longer be accurately described as a reforming pope but rather as an important one who was both a conservative and traditionalist. The implications of this for the grand narrative of the history of eleventh century Europe are considerable. The roles of the other principal actors need to be thought out afresh; the notion of reform itself needs to be reconsidered and the antecedents of the so-called Gregorian reform fall to be re-evaluated.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: pope, Leo, IX, papacy, reform, 1049, 1054, medieval.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DC France
D History General and Old World > DD Germany
D History General and Old World > DG Italy
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Marritt, Dr. Stephen and Airlie, Dr. Stuart
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Dr Andrew Philip Smith
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30786
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2018 14:58
Last Modified: 11 May 2022 13:28
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.30786
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/30786
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