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Sep 19, 2023

[Answer] What does the phrase "going to Canossa" mean?

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The Road to Canossa, sometimes called the Walk to Canossa or Humiliation of Canossa, refers to Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV's trek to Canossa Castle, Italy, where Pope Gregory VII was staying as the guest of Margravine Matilda of Tuscany, at the height of the investiture controversy in January 1077 to seek absolution of his excommunication.

According to contemporary sources, he was forced to humiliate himself on his knees waiting for three days and three nights before the entrance gate of the castle, while a blizzard raged. Indeed, the episode has been described as "one of the most dramatic moments of the Middle Ages". It has also spurred a lot of debate among medieval chroniclers as well as modern historians, who argue about whether the walk was a "brilliant masterstroke" or an embarrassing humiliation.

In modern usage, "going to Canossa" refers to an act of penance or submission. To "go to Canossa" is an expression that describes doing penance, often with the connotation that it is unwilling or coerced. For example, Adolf Hitler used the expression to describe his meetings with Bavarian Minister President Heinrich Held after being released from Landsberg Prison, in his bid to have the ban on the Nazi Party lifted.

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