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The Reappearance of The Empire Among The Carolingians

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The kingdom of Charles had turned a world-empire. Since 774 A.D., Charlemagne had turned the allmighty arbitrator of the West and looked like the sole holder of real power in the Christian world. That was consolidated further as the Byzantines had been weakened due to the reign of usurper Impresse Irena since 797. The advent of the Empire also emphasized the refocusing of the evangelization efforts of Rome in direction of northern Christianity. The coronation, generally, like the one in St-Denis, France, came from the Visigoths, or from the one of bishops -which made the Frankish king 'bishop from the outside,' and from the Old Testament. The empire to which Franks referred was the 4th century A.D. Christian Roman empire, that of Contantine and Theodosius. Charles, a German king, gives its preference to practice, order and Christendom. More punctually, there had been a coup in Byzantium by 800 and there was no emperor in the East anymore. Charles then was 58 years old as pope Leo III had a bad reputation. That is then that Alcuin grabbed the chance to propose the imperial coronation. The pope however inverted the situation as he imposed the crown himself. He also changed the ceremony's development as the took the main role. After 800, there was more religion in the Frankish world with Charles God's Lieutenant on Earth like emperors Constantine and Theodosus had been. The Franks had turned the new Chosen people in charge of establishing the terrestrial Jerusalem as, as soon as before, Rome already considered the Franks like those who had wrapped with gold the corpses of the martyrs Romans had persecuted. With papacy, Carolingians reestablished the Empire in its western part. Such a political move of importance marked the birth of the West and took place inside miscellaneous logics. The collapse of Rome had been the one of the cities and of the political institutions to the benefit of the country and the private life, with family groups, vengeance, violence, pleasure, body, etc.). Southern Gaul was to preserve the Roman spirit unti into the 9th century A.D. and once the end of Rome was definitive, some already had braced themselves to the evangelisation of the Barbarians. By some aspects, Charlemagne kept being a 'heer-könig", a German chieftain, loyalties to whom based upon booty as the Treaty of Verdun eventually came back to the division of the king's wealth between his heirs. Being back to a abstract conception of politics did not return before the Capetians, under the clerics' influence. Since the Merovingians thus, the law turned the Germanic laws as private cases outclassed law and the courts (questions of inheritance, terrain's limits, sales, etc.) as, about 800 A.D., stealing one of those movable properties German prized was always more punished than murder. As they were not paid by freemen -the Franks that is- taxes disappeared and even the army got privatized and let room to warriors comradeship or that main civil servants at the court are performing private functions, or the 'nutriti' chosen for the confidence they inspirted and not their skills. All that 'privatization' eventually was to bring the feudal world, in terms of money and roads included. It was the groups of primitive vassals which allowed the Carolingian takeover. As the concept of the common wealth, of the 'res publica' had disappeared under the Merovingians, one sees, under the Carolingians and albeit without theoricians, the one, at least, of a unity of interest between the ruler and his peoples. And even whether there was embryoes of a theory, the practice hampered such a renaissance of political concepts. The real world kept the links from man to man and relations of strength. The 'Reichsaristokratie' was composed with 30 families which monopolized being counts and ecclesiastical functions. That aristocratie's faithfulness had to be maintained. Those families originated from the time of the Great Invasions as they sprang from a merger between the Germans and the Gallo-roman nobility. Vassality (of which both forms with vassal's hands joined into senior's and the senior giving the vassal a symbol of the benefit given), the oath of faithfulness, Church, weights and measurements, a unique monney, a kind of harmonisation of the national 'laws,' the judiciary system or the yearly assembly were to try to put order in the Frankish world and to prevent the natural trend of the Frankish empire to dissociate itself. As soon as under, Louis the Pious, for example, they found back only 27 from the capitularies of Charlemagne

Church's Unity and Identity of The West

The antique Roman Empire, practically, since it had passed to Church and because Rome had turned the seat of Peter, had become the empire wished by God to carry the Gospel onto the world. Church, generally, favoured the concept of empire for cause of universalism. Pope Leo the Great, by 450 A.D. spoke to Rome that way: 'You became the saint nation, the elected people, the priestly and royal city...' As the Augustinism, like a thought, was dominating in the West at the time, it posited a balance between the spiritual, and wordly power, not taking in account a tendency which already existed, that some popes were wishing the superiority of the first one. As papacy prized the unity between of the eastern and western parts of Christendom, it shilly-shallied with the Byzantines until into the 8th century A.D. when they saw that Byzantium, which was a Greek empire, definitively could not act in the West anymore. Clerics in Rome thus established the forgery of the Donation of Constantine, in the 750's, a document which claimed the papal theocracy as the Roman emperor was said to have given the pope imperial regalia, with the imperial power too. Rome further, the popes were claiming, was now depending upon God only as Rome was lying in the West and not in Byzantium anymore. The West, by that same time, on a other hand, through the miscellaneous endeavours of local Churches (through culture, teaching, etc. check with our tutorial 'Evolution of Culture Between Rome and The Carolingians') had turned a entity by itself, a European one, which was not the former Rome anymore. Councils of the Eastern Church did not apply in the West as western Churches moreover had lived a long time away from Rome. Of note at that point too, that, generally, the institutions of Rome, despite their eclipse from the 5th to the 9th century A.D., had remained into collective memory -that of clerics above all- with the 'Res publica' (which had been born from the passage from the old Roman Republic to the Principate), and the lay, rational and clear roman law. Charles was termed David as soon as by 794 -and still will be by Alcuin in 799- at the council of Frankfurt and he turned Constantine in 796 A.D. by the will of the new pope, Leo III, the position of who in Rome was ill-established. Charles had responded with a role sharing. For him the fights and defending the orthodoxy, and to the pope praying only (which were the views of Theodulf: Heavens' keys are to the pope's jurisdiction and governing the people and clerics the king's, the pope holding his power from the king). Alcuin, as far as he was concerned, with Arn, was the proponent to a two-headed Christendom, with the pope and the emperor mutually supporting each other; for them 'empire,' 'Frankish," or 'Christian,' are intermingling (for Alcuin too, four great empires had come before the Christian one, with Babylonia, the Persians, Greco-Macedonians and Rome). Paulinus felt that Charles had reach to the maximum of where kingship might reach. Against such balanced views from the litterate milieu, Charles knew that the relations between Rome and himself could only be based upon strength. The pope, as far as he was concerned, based upon tradition which was that Barbarians in the West allowed papacy, as soon as by 500 A.D., to assert a theory of powers other than the one the Eastern emperor used. Against the latter's cesaropapism, with the emperor both a temporal and religious leader, the pope, working with St. Ambrosius and St. Augustine, was a proponent of theocracy. The empire, for which he is the bailee for the West, is confusing empire and Christian people as the emperor is not above the Church but a part of It. The political body even is confused with the mystical body of Christ, that allowing for the concept of both the temporal, and spiritual powers. That subordinates the temporal to the spiritual for the aim of carrying out of the 'passing Church' on that Earth. For performing that ideal however, papacy had, since long, to find a Barbaric king which would participate into. Since about 500 A.D., popes had not satisfied themselves with their relationship with the Eastern emperor. With their complicated ceremonials, which further divinized their person, they were cesaropapists. For the emperor, popes were just a bishop like the Patriarch was. Popes thus had well understood that against the East (which maintained the imperial unity's fiction despite they could not actually rule in the West anymore), Germans were representing the opportunity for Rome to assert papacy like the holder of authority, the imperial one included, in the West. That constituted the beginnings of the papal theocracy. The concept of a Christian empire was to reunite the Roman tradition of the empire to the Frankish one of a people and a king. All that however kept in motion during Carolingian times. It is not obvious that the papal theory of both temporal and spiritual swords be clear in the mind, on a other hand, of Charlemagne's theoreticians. For those, the king is 'pastor and preacher,' 'rex et sacerdos,' as such ideas were found by St. Augustine, Gelasius (late 5th century A.D.), Gregory the Great (early 7th century A.D.), or from St. Isidore. In any case, according to Alcuin, God had given the power to the emperor so he governs wisely to the benefit of people as, once the time of war passed, the imperial title was to bring other submissions with the ruler just to be ordering. In the Ingelheim palace, some twenty years before the one in Aachen, frescoes are showing Ninus, the founder of the city of Niniva and the Assyrian power, loved by Semiramis, Phalaris, the tyran of Agrigento, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, which is are other hints about the world's vision of Charlemagne, Ninus and Phalaris seeming unusual choices

Frankish Power and Cesaropapist Lobbies

Whatever the opinion, one has to admit that, as soon as under pope Paul I (757-767), the Frankish king turned the new Constantine and the pope the new Sylvester. As seen from a Frankish point of view, Franks were well conscious that their power had increased since the times of Pippin the Short as that also had asserted the West in itself. Charles since was ruling from a Frankish and Germanic continuum. And, above all, it is not impossible that Charlemagne be under the influence of a Byzantine lobby (likely a Iconoclastic one, which had displayed a false version of the Council of Nicea to the Franks) which was pushing him in the direction of cesaropapism, which was exactly a characteristic of Byzantium. A Frankish lobby was maybe too at work, which was cesaropapist also or maybe more likely gallican as it was sending back further to the Frankish claim made by about 600 A.D. that Franks had a Trojan origin. Those times too was contemplating Franks like a elected people, and their king a more important king than other ones, and a Christian king. As the projects about Aachen, the new Carolingian capital city, began by 790 A.D., one may wonder whether the imperial idea did not began at that time. By that date, Charles was still considered Salomon. That was among such a litterate milieu that the passage to a Carolingian Empire was eventually started as, by 799 A.D., on a other hand, Charles had presided the Council of Aachen about the Adoptionnist heresy, and had thus met with the whole clerical elite, of which Alcuin, who had came back from Tours. Those scholars only were knowing that the Greek 'basileus' was holding its imperial title from the ancient Rome as for the general public, as far as it was concerned, Empire meant Byzantium, Byzantium meant Greeks and that the Greek lands were far away and lying in the East. They also saw the conjonctural weakness of the Byzantine empire as Franks, generally, were despising Byzantines for cause of their morals, that Impress Irene had overthrown her son like a emperor, had itself been overthrown, or the Iconoclasm crisis had weakened Byzantium. Frankish clerics then also knew that Charlemagne, because he was the king to two kingdoms, the ones of the Franks and the one of the Lombards, such a situation could be termed 'imperium,' like that had already been done by scholars in some other cases. That was a attack against the Pope by 799 A.D. by a clan in Rome which eventually came to seal the reapparition of the Empire in the West. Charles, like the Patrician of the Romans, came to Rome to arbitrate between the pope and the factions, and even his own envoys as he was to impose on the pope a purgatory oath in the Germanic fashion. The pope, as far as he was concerned, was concerned of not accepting completely the burden of such a Frankish cesaropapism -after the Byzantine one- and he was to accomplish the deed of coronating Charles emperor by Christmas 800 A.D. That marked the beginnings of the medieval theocracy. He coronated the Frankish king first and had the usual people's acclamation done second, which was a reversal of the Byzantine rites. The coronation, as seen by Charles, likely was seen like a perpetuation of the sacred unction awared to Pippin by the pope by 752 A.D. Of note, at last, is that the Frankish queen Liutgard died in the year 800. Byzantines opponents to Irene were ready to offer the imperial title to Charles as Byzantine chroniclers, generally, deem that it is why Charles rescued the pope and place him under his supervision that the latter coronated him

The Carolingian Empire

The ideal brought by the Empire was that of the Kingdom of God on Earth, in which the emperor by Divine appointment was God's viceroy in order to lead and rule all races as divided into nations, classes, and distinctions of rank according to Divine will. Charlemagne was not to have truly assimilated his imperial title, like he was to share his territories between his three sons as the share did not mention the imperial function then. Louis' coronation by September 813, sole heir to Charles due to the death of his brothers, as it occurred outside pope's presence, seemed to hint that Charlemagne eventually to appropriate the concept of empire, now turning a Frankish one, which could have been encouraged by that Michael I, emperor of the East, had eventually conceded by 812 A.D. that two empires then were extant, that of the East and that of the West. The imperial idea was prized by papacy and the Carolingian scholars. The coronation allowed Charles to rule all of his domains as a emperor was more than a king, and he was now able to reign over conquested countries. He too requested a oath of faithfulness from all the inhabitants of his empire and the emperor turned the patron of Church. They extended down to churches of bishopric groups, in the field of mural paintings, the figuration of the respectful silence, a prerogative of the sacred imperial palace. Since 801 A.D. Charles was termed 'Serenissime Augustus, crown by God, great and peaceful Emperor ruling the Roman Empire and, by the mercy of God, King of Franks and the Lombards.' As soon as since the Empire's advent, they had, among the Franks wanderings from the part of clerics concerning a exhilaration of Charles with the use of a terminology which they were criticizing when used for the Byzantine emperor. Charles new titles was reminding that of the Byzantine emperors. Albeit now the vicar of Christ on the Earth and ruler of a new Europe, or 'Christendom,' such wishes of a renewed power were hard to effectively translate into a new way of ruling and mostly were a mere dilatation of how the Frankish kingdom had been. It is obvious that the return of the concept of Empire in the West, whatever the debates about the reality of it, brought a rebirth the concept of power like a abstract one, and independent from the person of whom exerting it. That power, now, had to be acknolewdged by all as its main function further was to protect the Church. The Frankish king turned emperor kept holding the former powers of the Merovingian king, namely the 'bannus' -the right to command- the military power and the one of administering justice. But, in the same time, a new power appeared, a 'legislative' one, the power of edicting general decisions, imperative to all the inhabitants of the Empire. That took the form of the varied types of 'capitularies,' as those settled under Louis the Pious. Such that legislative power, on a other hand, tended to have the 'personnalité des lois' to move backwards, that fact that everyone had the right to be judged according to the laws of his people, which had been born with the Great Invasions. The move to the rebirth of the Empire in the West also impacted the rules of how to hand down the crown among the Franks. Those rules until then, under the Merovingians, had mostly remained those of Germanic kingship, with the kingly power, of a personal type, based upon the property of lands, shared among the heirs to the king. With the Carolingians, the Carolingians had turned the kingly family among which the heir to the crown had to be mandatorily chosen. The Greats further, both lay and clerircs, now had to give their consent to the new ruler. And in case when not asked, their sole choice turned a rule to the Emperor included). The heir to the Empire, at last, had to be agreed by the pope, who eventually consecrated him. Such those views obviously constituted the influence of Rome, the warden to the Empire, for which the latter had to be confered by the people and the Church according to a tradition worked out from Rome. Some clerics at the time already understood that Europe had indeed replaced the ancient Roman empire as that concept of Europe was to become common by about 880 A.D. only. Franks, on a other hand, did not consider to turn themselves 'Romans.' The imperial coronation also was to have won a permanent capital-city to the Franks, with Aachen, and a court there, as both however had been settled at the heart of the old Austrasian lands. All that, finally, was what likely what seen daily by the elites and peoples: a Frankish people, a Christian people, and a more asserted government. They understood that, by Christmas 800 A.D., they had restored -or even created- the Empire of the West, the Empire of the Franks, a European empire and even a Christian empire. Relationships with the Byzantine empire, or the pope, and the increasing age of Charles however brought other questions. Function of how the balance of strength between the Franks and Byzantines was, Byzantium eventually accepted that Charlemagne could be termed 'imperator' and 'basileus,' as they themselves kept for them the reference to Rome, a continuity they could not assert anymore however. During such struggles, Charles went up to assert himself like the 'Emperor of the Romans' and to claim that that Roman continuity was with him instead. Popes, as far as they were concerned, early tended to claim back their independance from the Frankish cesaropapism. At last the ruling elites in the Carolingian empire worried about how to perpetuate that empire, which was Frankish above all and withdrawn into continental Europe. They endeavoured to conceive the sharing of the kingdom a different way of like it had been performed until then to keep any kingly son his rights. The 'Ordination imperii,' by 806 A.D. brought to 'one kingdom into three kingdoms,' as that was indeed turned away, in reality, when Louis remained the sole heir to Charles by 811 A.D. Charles conferred the imperial title to Louis by 813 A.D.

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 7/9/2018. contact us at
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