Jean-Paul Laurens: The Excommunication of Robert the Pious (1875)


(Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France)

A painting by the French artist Jean-Paul Laurens (1838 – 1921). This historical piece shows marital problems of king Robert II 'the Pious' of the Franks (reign 987 – 996). Having divorced from his first wife Rozala of Italy, Robert II married in A.D. 996 Bertha of Burgundy, daughter of king Conrad I of Burgundy. However Bertha of Burgundy was the niece of Robert II in the 6th degree and for that reason the church was against the marriage (Robert II also hadn't requested a dispensation from the church so he could marry his niece). Pope Gregory V considered the marriage of Robert with Bertha and the divorce of Robert with his first wife 
Rozala of Italy illegal and ordered Robert and Bertha to divorce. Robert refused and in retaliation Pope Gregory V excommunicated Robert (in the catholic church a person who is excommunicated is forbidden from engaging in certain religious activities such as celebrating or receiving the sacraments, mass etc). Robert started long negotiations with the pope and reach an agreement with the successor of Gregory V, Pope Sylvester II: the marriage was annulled in A.D. 1003 and Robert finally married with Constance of Arles but kept an affair with Bertha of Burgundy. The painting shows the aftermath of this excommunication: pope Gregory V is leaving the court room, leaving the distraught Robert and Bertha behind. painting from 1875.

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