Before he was Pope,Gregory VII(born Hildebrand of Sovana)was a major player behind the scenes of several Popes and in how they would be elected for the rest of time. When he became Pope he was a force to be reckoned with,asserting his supremacy over both Church and state matters. The majority of his Papacy was actually spent in a running feud with Holy Roman emperor Henry IV,who Gregory excommunicated three times. One of those times Henry appeared before the Pope in a hairshirt begging and crying for forgiveness……..then a few years later to turn around and try to remove Gregory by force and install his own Pope. Their major issue was known as The Investiture Controversy. This was a fight over whether secular rulers,such as Henry,had the right to install their own Bishops and Abbots in their own lands,which is something the Pope felt that they had no authority to do. The back and forth between Gregory and Henry peaked when Henry invaded Rome only to be forced back by Normans loyal to Gregory……and these guys unfortunately then sacked the city. The Romans felt betrayed by the Pope and ran him out of town,where he died in exile.
Pope Alexander II continued to push the powerful reforms to the Church started by his predecessors. The first Pope elected under the new rules made by Pope Nicholas(only Cardinals elect the Pope),Alexander didn’t waste any time going to work on cleaning up his Church. He cleaned out corrupt clergy and supported moves to push out Muslims in Sicily and Spain. Alexander moved his Catholic chess pieces into far-ranging positions,the results of which are still felt today. He appointed a priest named Stanislaus to be the new Bishop of Krakow,Poland. This new Bishop made his name standing up to the King of Poland,being martyred in the process,cementing his Sainthood. Saint Stanislaus is one of the beloved patron saints of Poland,with much of that Deeply Catholic country devoted to him and grateful for his intercession of their prayers. Next,Pope Alexander granted his blessing to French William the Conqueror in his quest to invade England. Alexander favored William over the current King due to William’s vow to help clean up the English Church. William’s invasion,and victory,changed the course of English history(language,art,architecture and we’re probably all related to him in some way or another)
On a smaller scale that is felt at every Mass during Lent is Alexander’s decision to not sing the “Alleluia” before the Gospel reading. The “Alleluia” is pretty joyful song and for Lent we are supposed to be preparing ourselves for the coming death,and resurrection,of our Lord.