la Querelle des investitures

A chess setup worth playing..

I sometimes wonder about the modern way of playing chess. It is more a competition for glory where even a soulless computer can aspire to be a grand master. Even the often-presented sport of knocking over your opponent's king when checkmated. Poor sport indeed and really, why cannot a king be killed in chess? Seems no longer to matter.

In my researches into the House of Eguisheim, a find example of a chess match presented itself. I give this here.

The period: High middle Ages around the year 1100

The conflict: The right to select and invest bishops to their diocese chairs.

This conflict was a true power game of geo-politics between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy of the Catholic Church. It played out in any number of provinces across Italy and what is today Germany and parts of France. The principals in the conflict are the political interests of Church and Empire. These interests may be checked but can never be killed.
Itís a game of chess.

On one side of the board we have the Salian Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Raised to the throne at age 6 and ruling from age 20, he is a strong ruler with a clear understanding of his prerogatives. Selecting and investing bishops is critical to the functioning of his realm. Bishops at that time were important secular feudal lords in their own right. By their nature their rule was non-hereditary as they did not, officially at least, have heirs. This was particularly interesting for the emperor who was able to invest men loyal to himself thus providing the needed administrative glue to hold the empire together. These advantages the emperors held for hundreds of years and were not to let go lightly.

On the side of the universal church, the Pope held that the selection and investment was a sacred and holy duty that could only be performed by consecrated men of God. The political selection had resulted in a church filled with corruption, simony (selling of offices and rites), and nicolaism (concubinage and marriage in the clergy). Only by returning the church to its origins could reform be brought forward. Pope Gregory VII was born Hildebrand of Sovana and was an early disciple of the reforming Pope Leo IX (born Bruno of Eguisheim). Gregory continued Leo's reforms and extended them to include the question of investiture.

The Pieces, side one:
On one side we have Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV
Championing him we find Frederic of Swabia, House of Hohenstaufen, Swabia. Henry elevated Frederic to Duke of Swabia AND Alsace, and sent him to deal with the den of papists in Alsace.
On each side we have the Bishops of Strasbourg and Basel, loyal subjects of the emperor. Outside of them were Hohenstaufen vassals, I have chosen the Lords of Fleckstein and Lords of Balbronn although there were others as well. Finally we complete the lineup with castles Haut-Koenigsbourg, Frederic's crown jewel in Alsace and Castel Pfalz in Haguenau, his riyal residence.

The Pieces, side two:
the other side is Pope Gregory VII
His champion in Alsace is Hughes V of the House of Eguisheim, Count of Nordgau and defacto Duke of Alsace.
Flanking the principals we have the Archbishop of Mainz and the Bishop of Metz, both enemies of the Emperor and loyal to Rome. Then the vassals, Lords of Herrenstein and Knights of Wineck and castles Eguisheim and Guirbaden. The pawns are represented on each side as the village peasants. These are the proximate source of wealth and ultimate source of power for the nobility. They are always the first to die, their villages the first to burn when noble conflicts begin.

The chessboard: Alsace.

So: What actually happened?

Well, history is never really cut and dried. The Hohenstaufen were a rising power in Swabia and had the full backing of the emperor including the legal status of Duke of Alsace. They were allied with the powerful Bishop of Strasbourg. The Eguisheim never really had a chance and could not prevent Hohenstaufen entry. Check. Yet they were powerful enough to survive and maintained an uneasy and occasionally hostile relationship until 1225 when Gertrude of Eguisheim the last heir dies without children in Herrenstein castle. Check.

The Hohenstaufen went on to greatness with Frederic Barbarossa being elected Holy Roman Emperor. The line lasted only until 1268 with the decapitation of Conrad IV in Naples. Check. An interesting aside is that Frederic's mother was Hildegard of Eguisheim. So, Eguisheim blood flowed even in Hohenstaufen veins. Check.

The controversy officially ended with the Concordat of Worms where political and spiritual roles were separated and the emperor acknowledged a limited right in the selection of bishops. Check. Naturally, emperors largely ignored this accord in practice, but the legal rights of the church to invest bishops became established from that time on. It is long since now that any western state has interfered with the church hierarchy. Check.

One other interesting aside (there are just SO many) is that one son of Hughes I Count of Eguisheim, Gontran "der riche" was able to establish great wealth and a family dynasty of his own. While actual proof is lacking, most historians accept the Muri Abbay chronology showing the line started by Gontran (of Eguisheim) leading to the Habsburgs. Thus, Eguisheim blood flowed in imperial veins all the way to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Check. Furthermore, in the person of Archduke Karl von Habsbourg the line continues to this day. Check and Mate.


Below is the actual chessboard highlighting the Eguisheim power at its height and its standoff against the Hohenstaufen. I have sought to include, where I have positive evidence, those castles which existed in the 11th century, either siding with the Eguisheim (in blue) or with the Hohenstaufen (in brown) or I do not know (in grey). Castles in outline form were built later. Cheers!

Carte des Eguisheim en Alsace

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