|Italy at the beginning of the 11th century|
The papacy and the Terra Sancti Benedicti
Having just emerged from a serious crisis in the 10th century, when the papal seat had become a victim of rival infighting between different aristocratic factions, the papacy had to address the internal reforms of the Church. During the second half of the 11th century an important period of Gregorian reform began. A long struggle followed between Rome and the German Empire, concerning the subject of the control of the ecclesiastic hierarchy, the question of the appointment of bishops, the quarrel about investiture – which was finally concluded favourably for the Church, at the beginning of the 12th century. Rome and the German Empire also claimed the legacy of the Roman Empire, and political supremacy over the Italian peninsula.
Confronted with the Norman presence, the papacy adopted, successively, two different manners of facing this problem: firstly demonstrating great hostility towards a single Italian state in the Mediterranean region under Norman control, and secondly, after the battle of Civitate (1053), a rapprochement and even an alliance with the Normans.
The monastery of Montecassino was the most important and powerful religious institution in Italy, playing a dominant role in the relations between the Church and the Normans. The Terra Sancti Benedicti (Land of Saint-Benoit) was a compact seigniory extending from one sole tenant to an immense landed patrimony; in 1057 its power became even stronger when Pope Victor II, decreed that the abbot of Montecassino was to be pre-eminent over all the other abbots. Montecassino took a very cautious stance with regard to the Normans, yet on several occasions the abbots intervened as mediators in conflicts between the papacy and the Normans.