Investiture, the public delivery of a feud or fief by a lord to his vassal. Blackstone says: " Investitures, in their original rise, were probably intended to demonstrate, in conquered countries, the actual possession of the lord, and that he did not grant a bare litigious right, but a peaceable and firm possession. At a time when writing was seldom practised, a mere oral gift, at a distance from the spot that was given, was not likely to be long or accurately retained in the memory of bystanders who were very little interested in the grant." Investiture was performed by the presentation to the person invested of some symbol of authority and possession. Thus, when lands were transferred, it was customary for the grantor to give the grantee a turf as bearing resemblance to the property transferred. - In ecclesiastical history, by the right of investiture was meant that claimed by the temporal lord of presenting a prelate with the ring and crosier, the acknowledged emblems of episcopal and abbatial jurisdiction. Before the invasion of the barbarians the election of bishops depended on the voice of the clergy and people and the suffrage of the provincial prelates.

In feudal times the tenure of church property was likened to that of lay fiefs; bishops and abbots, like barons and knights, had to swear fealty and do homage to their lord paramount. The sovereign, to prevent the temporalities of an episcopal see or of an abbey from falling into the hands of his enemies, reserved to himself the right of nomination, as well as that of confirmation by investiture. These claims were resisted by churchmen as encroachments on their privileges. The general councils of Nice in 787 and of Constantinople in 869 condemned the nomination of bishops by lay authority. This condemnation was renewed in 1076 and 1080 by Gregory VII., and by Victor III. in 1087 at the council of Beneven-to, the latter placing under the ban of excommunication both the laymen who exercised the right of investiture and the clerics who submitted to it. But in spite of the decisions of popes and councils, the practice of investiture was continued by sovereigns. It was introduced into France and Germany by Charlemagne. The emperor Henry III. repeatedly enforced the right; and its exercise by the emperor Henry IV. was a chief ground of his quarrel with Gregory VII. The contest on this question between the popes and the emperors continued into the succeeding century, when, by a concordat agreed upon at Worms between Calixtus II. and the emperor Henry V., the latter renounced for ever his claim to invest bishops with the ring and crosier.

The French kings, however, long continued to exercise a similar power, and the contests between them and the popes on the subject at length resulted in a compromise by which the monarch relinquished the presentation of the symbols, but retained the right to confer investiture by a written instrument. In England the controversy ended in a similar compromise between Paschal II. and Henry I.