Wikipedia has a list of people excommunicated by the Catholic Church, with a little explanation of the causes for each case, but (understandably) none of the effects.

I'm curious if this measure has caused the downfall of any ruler, specially in the Middle Ages, when the power and influence of the Catholic Church was most strong.

  • 1
    Interesting question - I think it is unlikely since there were few rulers on that list prior to the investiture controversy, and subsequent to that controversy the legal and religious powers were ... more distinct.
    – MCW
    Dec 1, 2016 at 19:30
  • Dethroned by whom? For example, in 1209 Pope Innocent III excommunicated King John of England, and it was rumored in 1211 that the Pope also declared him deposed.
    – Geremia
    Dec 1, 2016 at 20:35
  • Perhaps you mean: Has an excommunication caused the deposition of a king and the re-election of his successor during his lifetime?
    – Geremia
    Dec 1, 2016 at 20:54
  • 2
    @Geremia, can't really see much difference between your wording and mine. Obviously if a king is deposed, another king will be chosen. And if the king is dead, what's the need to depose him? If it helps, I'm interested in the power of excommunication in the Middle Ages, but I narrowed the question to be acceptable for SE.
    – Brasidas
    Dec 1, 2016 at 21:16
  • 2
    I believe what @Geremia is saying is that it is one thing for the pope, or anyone else for that matter, to claim the monarch deposed but it is something else entirely for that to be the truth in practice. The clarification is, Has that dethroning gone into effect and is there now someone else in power?
    – Unrelated
    Dec 2, 2016 at 4:38

1 Answer 1


Yes, in some sense. The Holy Roman emperor Henry IV was excommunicated and essentially dethroned as a result. He had to come barefoot (in January!) and wait outside three days, repenting and asking for forgiveness of the pope. See Wikipedia, Road to Canossa.

After this he was forgiven, and remained (or became again) the emperor.

  • 2
    Heh, I was totally expecting a Holy Roman Emperor :D. Although Henry IV was not exactly deposed, he was heavily contested by an anti-king and faced some serious rebellions. +1!
    – Brasidas
    Dec 1, 2016 at 23:01
  • 2Alex Emperor Henry IV was not "essentially dethroned" as a result of his excommunication 22 Feb. 1076. Henry waited for 3 days in January 1077 at Canossa before his excommunication was lifted 28 January. In March 1077, a group of nobles opposed to Henry declared Henry deposed and chose Rudolf of Rheinfelden king of the Romans in his place. There were 3 anti kings from 1077 to 1090, but Henry continued to be Emperor until 1105.
    – MAGolding
    Sep 26, 2018 at 19:44

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