Passengers may unbuckle their seat belts now that the TimeMachine has stopped moving. Please refer to the brochures in front of you to find out some of the events that were occuring in the Year of Our Lord, 1073 AD. For us, that would be 1073 CE.
Who was Hildebrand when he was elected to the papacy in 1076? And why was he elected, and not someone like Humbert of Moyenmoutier or St. Peter Damiani?
First of all, who was Hildebrand? Hildebrand had been born a son of poor Tusculum peasants. His father had dedicated him to the local Benedictine monastery, and when Hildebrand was old enough, he was sent there.
In 1046, when Gregory VI was sent into exile, Hildebrand went with him as his personal chaplain.
Later, when Leo IX became pope, he sent for Hildebrand to join his administration, even though Hildebrand was a Roman. Hildebrand quickly and efficiently took charge of the papal estates; to guard them from the ever-scheming nobility and to restore capital in the papal coffers. However in 1049, Hildebrand was still a sub-deacon, a small figure.
Why was Hildebrand elected? Hildebrand was elected probably because he was a Roman--(thus pleasing the Roman nobility), and because he was a reformer--(thus pleasing the German-originating reform movement.)
Hildebrand's election was a tumultous one, and contrary to what the decree of 1059 ordered. What did the decree of 1059 ordain? The decree of 1059 held that only the cardinal-bishops could elect a pope; Roman clergy and nobility could only give assent to the results. The reason behind this was to prevent the papacy from becoming a plaything for the Roman aristocracy again. How then was the decree violated? Well, Henry III had made it an immutable right of Holy Roman Emperors to choose a pope; Hildebrand was not chosen by Henry IV. And the Roman clergy and nobility, wanting a Roman candidate for the papacy, did not give their assent to the results of the election. But this really didn't matter much, because once elected by the College of Cardinals, Hildebrand informed all of the relevant parties of the election, and then in earnest began to seriously attempt to reform the Church.
Hildebrand selected the name Gregory VII, which he chose to honor Gregory the Great. The new Pope not only wanted to reform the Church, he wanted to be able to directly choose the Holy Roman Emperor. Many, such as Humbert of Moyenmoutier and St. Peter Damiani, had their doubts about the direction Gregory's reign was taking. Towards the end of Gregory's pontificate, many accused Gregory of attempting to dismantle and overthrow the Great Chain of Being; i.e. Gregory's power was spiritual, and Henry IV's power was temporal. What Gregory, by attempting to have the right to appoint Holy Roman Emperors to fulfill specific duties, was doing, his opponents believed, was trying to take temporal power for his own. This, to many, was unconscionable, and later would tip confidence over to Henry IV, who would send Gregory into exile. Gregory VII died in Salerno, a year after being freed by Robert Guiscard at Castel Sant'Angelo, where he had had to hide out while Henry IV sacked Rome.