Charlemagne - HISTORY
As a way to acknowledge Charlemagne's power and reinforce his relationship with the church, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans on. What was the relationship between Charlemagne and the pope like? Do you think conflict with the kings strengthened or weakened medieval popes? Why?. Pope Gregory IV didn't get along at all with King Henry IV. They did not approve of each others ways of ruling and religious teaching styles.
Having been crowned by the pope, Charlemagne chose to interpret his imperial title in the way delineated by Alcuin.
Pope Leo III
He refused to think of himself as a Roman emperor, ignored the sanctions that were implied in his coronation by the pope, continued to call himself king of the Franks and Lombards, and regarded the title of emperor as the expression of his position as Christian war hero, theocratic monarch, and leader of the Frankish church.
The imperial ideal played a much more important role in the policies of Charles' son and grandson, Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald, and it became a concept whose content was much more heavily influenced by the original papal ideology.
The ninth-century Carolingian churchmen moved away from the Christian empire of Charlemagne and in the direction of a political antiquarianism that sought the full revival of Roman imperial ideas by imitating the ornate court ceremony of the Byzantine emperors and by using the full title, emperor of the Romans.
Already in Louis the Pious allowed himself to be anointed by the pope with this title. To the ninth-century Carolingian rulers and their ecclesiastical supporters, emphasis on the imperial title and the association of the Carolingian ruler with the Roman emperors were a buttress against the progressive decline of royal power after Charlemagne's death.
Ideology became a substitute for Charlemagne's fame as a Germanic war leader.
But ideology could do nothing to stem the advancing tide of localism and the rise of feudal lordship. The ninth-century bishops composed treatises on the glories of empire and kingship and the Carolingian emperors elaborated their court ceremonial, but they were unable to maintain effective leadership in their kingdom.
The papacy, over the long run, gained no more than the Carolingians from the revival of the imperial title in the West and from the acceptance by the Carolingians of the Romanist ideology. The mid-ninth-century pope Nicholas I aggressively asserted the radical doctrine of the Donation of Constantine, and the popes were adept at using their control over the imperial title to harass the later Carolingians, but this did not save the papacy from disaster in the late ninth century.
For the popes needed a strong Carolingian ruler to protect them from the gangster Roman nobility. With the decline of Carolingian power, the papacy entered one of its darkest periods, in the late ninth and first half of the tenth century, in which it became the puppet of the ruling Roman nobility and completely lost its position as a leader in European society.
He's a legend, really, Charlemagne.
In fact, historians struggle because there are so few fragments of information. This is so long ago.
We're talking about the late eighth and ninth century. This is a really long time ago. This is a huge deal. The Roman emperors in the ancient world had ruled from Rome until Constantine moved the empire to Constantinople, what is now Istanbul.
Charlemagne: an introduction
So the center of power had shifted to the East and now, inyears after Constantine, we have now an emperor in the West. But there's still an emperor in the East who has moral authority.Catholic History in Less Than Five Minutes: (8) The Age of Charlemagne
People still look to that emperor in the East in the Byzantine Empire. Let's think about what happened in Western Europe that allowed for Charlemagne to become the new emperor. The first thing that's important to understand, the Western Roman Empire basically fell apart.
What we see beginning especially in the fifth century is the dissolution of the institutions of the Roman Empire. The idea of the Roman Empire hangs on, but its ability to govern comes apart. In order to understand what happened in the Roman Empire in the West, you have to recognize the pressure from a series of invasions from people that the Romans thought of as barbarians.
These are a people who migrated into the lands that were part of the Roman Empire. You might know them as the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths and the Huns. One of those peoples were the Franks. This is not Franks as in France.
Charlemagne: an introduction (video) | Khan Academy
These are people that actually settled in what is now Germany, what is now France. Charlemagne was a Frank and if we go back several centuries, we can see the beginning of the kingdom of the Franks.
In addition to the Franks, there were also the Lombards. This was another Germanic people, another group who the Romans would have considered barbarians, who had conquered Northern Italy. They were often threatening what was the heart of the old Roman Empire, and that was Rome, the Papal States.
We think about the Pope as a spiritual leader, but back in the ninth century and actually for many centuries, the Pope was also a political leader.
Pope Leo III - Wikipedia
What's so interesting is that the Pope, the papacy, would have traditionally looked to the Byzantine emperor for protection from people like the Lombards, but by the time the Lombards were threatening Rome, the Byzantine Empire was not strong enough to defend Rome.
So instead, the papacy looked North to the kingdom of the Franks. Charlemagne, early in his career, had been called on by the Pope at the time, Pope Hadrian, to protect him and the papal lands.
Charlemagne was successful and actually Charlemagne became king of the Lombards. This dependence between the papacy and the king of the Franks started with Charlemagne's father, Pepin, who was given the authority to rule by the Pope. There's this really interesting reciprocal relationship between the Pope in Rome and this Frankish king, Charlemagne, and his father, and that is that the Pope is getting military protection, and at the same time he's offering a kind of legitimacy.
What ends up happening is that you have two very powerful figures in Western Europe, and there will be a contest between these two offices; later what will become the Holy Roman emperor and the Pope, actually for centuries to come.
But back to the story. We have the Byzantine Empire in the East.