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Because Nicholas could not look to either Emperor for help in securing his election, and also because he realized that the Papacy could now no longer afford to have the Normans as enemies, he sought an alliance with them. This alliance was embodied in Richard of Aversa's and Robert Guiscard's submission to the Pope and agreement to become his vassals--so once they had proven themselves to be the most powerful military force in Italy, they realized that they could make the fruits of their conquests permanent and legitimate by yielding to the Pope's sovereignty. Robert promised, "I will support the Holy Roman Church in holding and acquiring the temporalities and possessions of St. Peter everywhere and against all men, and I will help you hold the Roman papacy securely and honorably."20 Robert swore, moreover, to safeguard Papal elections and make sure that no one challenged the properly elected Pope. This facet of the agreement shows that the Papacy wanted to use the Normans to gain a measure of independence from the German Emperors. The paradox is obvious: the reform Papacy wanted freedom from lay intervention in ecclesiastical matters, but it needed lay protection from the Normans in order to preserve this freedom. Nicholas did not want the Emperors to be able to appoint Popes, and instead he wanted the terms of his decree on canonical Papal elections to be enforced. This decree, which Nicholas also issued in 1059, stated that only the consent of "the cardinal bishops…the other cardinal clergy, and then the rest of the clergy and the people" could determine who would become Pope.21 The Normans thus assumed the grave responsibility of protecting the sanctity of Papal elections, and, paradoxically, they became champions of the reform movement that was aimed at freeing the Church from the control of laymen.


20. Oath of Robert Guiscard to Pope Nicholas II (August 1059), ed. P Fabre and L. Duchesne, Le Liber Censuum de l'eglise romaine (Paris, 1910), 422, trans. in Tierney, 44.
21. Decree on papal election (April 1059), trans. in ibid. 42f.
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