Compendium of Church History - Notre Dame

Tenth Century
The Century of the Servitude of the Popes

The period between 888 and 1046 is the darkest in the history of the Papacy. It was a period of enslavement, when the Church had little or no freedom in the selection of her rulers, but was forced to accept the nominees of the different factions that happened for the time to hold sway in Rome. The natural result of such a state of things was that some of the popes thus appointed were unworthy of their exalted office, and that others, personally good, were prevented from exercising influence over the Church.

Causes that Led to the Enslavement of the Papacy.

  1. Power of the nobles.
  2. Rivalry between different factions.
  3. Civil wars.

Notwithstanding the deplorable condition of the Holy See during this period, the number of unworthy popes was far less than we would naturally expect; there are but three of whose depravity no doubt exists.

The Order of Cluny.
In the year 911 a Benedictine monastery was founded at Cluny which was destined to play an important part in the revival of monasticism and the spread of civilization through Europe during the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. The monastery became a center of religious fervor.

Most of the abbeys of France, Italy, and Spain submitted themselves to the abbots of Cluny, of whom the first six were raised to the altar as canonized saints.

Conversions of the Tenth Century

Hungary was brought under the sway of the Church by the monk Hierotheus, who became its first bishop in 950. Two holy bishops, Pilgrim of Passau and Adelbert of Prague, together with the King St. Stephen, completed the conversion of this warlike nation in the year 1000.

At this same period Iceland was also evangelized by missionaries from Scandinavia. From Iceland, Greenland was settled and converted.

The conversion of Iceland was brought about after long and laborious efforts and the careful instruction of the people. In 1056 an episcopal see was erected at Skalholt. During the sixteenth century, Lutheranism was introduced into Iceland. At present the Catholic community is small, although missionary labors were resumed in 1895.

There are two periods of religious history in Greenland, namely, the Catholic from 1000 to 1450, and the Protestant period since 1721, but all missionary activity has ceased since 1900.