Canossa (känôsˈsä) [key], village, in Emilia-Romagna, N central Italy, in the Apennines. There are ruins of the 10th-century castle of the powerful feudal family that took its name from the place. In the 10th and 11th cent. they ruled over much of Tuscany and Emilia. Matilda, countess of Tuscany, was the last of the family. In Jan., 1077, the castle was the scene of penance done by Emperor Henry IV to obtain from Pope Gregory VII the withdrawal of the excommunication against him. The pope was Matilda's guest at the castle, and Henry is said to have stood three days barefoot in the snow before being admitted to the pope's presence. Henry was absolved, but the peace between him and the pope was short-lived. The political implications of this episode inspired Bismarck to coin the phrase "to go to Canossa" (i.e., to submit to the demands of the Roman Catholic Church) in the Kulturkampf.
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