Before we continue with the story, it's necessary to backtrack a little, to the time of the eleventh century.
As the TimeMachine(tm) settles, please look out of the windows. The buildings you can see through the windows of the TimeMachine are fortifications of the feuding families on the Tiber River.
Why come now? Because here and nowis the time to best explain what the position of "pope" had become; a mere title, a piece of property to be passed back and forth between the scheming and feuding families of the Roman nobility: "... the House of Alberic, the Crescentii from the Sabine Hills, and later, the counts of Tusculum..." (Barraclough, 63) all of whom sought to establish themselves as hereditary rulers over Rome, and the surrounding lands.
As early as 962, this problem had been recognized--first by Otto I, then by Otto II, who appointed John XIV, a non-Roman. Later, this trend was continued with Gregory V and Sylvester II.
So, what rescued the papacy? Obviously, the above appointments did not work very well if in 1046, Henry III had to step in to sort out the squalid mess that the papacy had become. What rescued the papacy? Religious reform movements from the outside--particularly the Cluniacs, but also Brogne and Gladbach, (plus the inimitable Henry III.)
What was Henry III, a temporal ruler, doing when he interfered in Church matters in 1046? Shouldn't he, a temporal ruler, have deferred to the wishes of the Church? Yes, Henry III should have deferred to the wishes of the church, but due to extraordinary circumstances, he could not and did not. Why? This was because the Latin Church had become politically unreliable, and rather than saving souls, it was concentrating more on its own advancement and expansion. As stated before, by 1046, after a quick series of successions and abdications by popes because of corruption, Henry III finally dared intervene--"...to lift the papacy out of the field of Roman politics." (Barraclough, 64)
Giving himself the right to control elections of the popes, Henry III quickly raised four German bishops to the papacy, since he realized that Roman bishops were too likely to submerge the papacy into Roman politics again. The ones that Henry III appointed were Clement II, Damascus II, Victor II, and Leo IX.
All of these four were zealous reformers, but three, (Clement II, Damascus II, and Victor II), died too soon to really make a difference. In the end, it was Leo IX who lived long enough to make a decisive mark: in both the annals of the church and history.
As mentioned previously, Leo IX was a reformer. With him to Rome he brought Humbert of Moyenmoutier, and surrounded himself with advisors and men remote from the Roman nobility; among them was Hildebrand, later to become Pope Gregory VII.
From the beginning, Leo IX wisely refused to become quagmired in Roman politics. Indeed, during his five-year pontificate, he hardly spent more than six months total in Rome, and issued most of his reform-minded decrees against clerical marriage, simony, and the like outside of Rome.
All of his and his collaborators' hard work began to pay off. The papacy, formerly an item of shame and scandal, won the backing of the reform movement, most notably the Cluniacs.
At last, everything seemed to be going well. That is, until Henry III had not only the temerity to die! but to also leave behind a mere child, (Henry IV), as the heir.
Despite Hollister's novel interpretation of events, Henry III's regent and consort, the Empress Agnes, was a weak ruler. Through her regency, much of the prestige and power the Holy Roman Emperor had formerly enjoyed disappeared.
Because of Agnes' lack of leadership, the leaders of the reform movement feared all of their progress would be lost. Because of her, and because the reform-minded leaders did not want the monarchy to interfere in papal matters again, no matter what the intent was, in 1073, Hildebrand, dubbed a 'Holy Satan' by St. Peter Damiani, was elected to the papacy.