The Situation of the Papacy in the Thirteenth Century 2. The Papal Policy II. THE PAPACY, ITALY, AND GERMANY
From the 11th century onwards the mercantile and industrial class which was in process of formation took advantage as we have seen, of the conflict between the Pope and the Emperor to rebel against the bishops, and to wrest from them the administration of the cities. The first Italian communes were sworn by the “Pataienes”2 in the midst of the turmoil of the War of Investitures: a time of mystical exaltation. Their origin was purely revolutionary, and from the time of their birth they contracted a habit of violence that was to characterize them to the end. By force or by agreement, the commune imposed itself, in each city, on the mass of the population, and its elective consuls, like the aldermen of the Belgian cities, exercised both the judical and the administrative power. But as the bourgeoisie developed the social contrasts in its ranks were accentuated, and parties were formed in support of various conflicting interests. The names by which they were known are sufficiently eloquent of their nature. The party of the grandi was composed of the urban nobility, with whom were associated a good many enriched merchants; the party of
the piccoli comprised the corporations or guilds of artisans of every kind, whose numbers multiplied as prosperity increased. The absence of a princely power, above the parties and capable of moderating their quarrels, gave the conflicts between the two groups, arising from questions of taxation and the organization of municipal power, a bitterness and severity unequalled elsewhere. From the middle of the 12th century civil war became a chronic epidemic. The grandi had the best of it; the piccoli were pitilessly massacred; if they surrendered they were driven out of the city; their houses or palaces were destroyed, and while waiting for the moment when they could avenge themselves they lived on the adjacent countryside, pillaging and harassing their compatriots.