2 Terrell, David G When Charlemagne became king in 768, he proved to be a strong, pious leader having good relations with the Church. The papacy soon drew upon his goodwill and desire for expanding his domain when it asked him to remove the threat posed by the Lombards, to the Italian peninsula. After subduing Lombardy, Charlemagne began a three decade campaign towards the east, eventually subduing Saxony and ensuring its conversion to Christianity.
Here, the Church again provided a stabilizing influence upon the conquered people. Their adoption of Christianity provided them an essential citizenship that reduced the normal stigmata that marks the difference between conquerors and conquered. In 800, as Charlemagne neared the final defeat of the Saxons, Pope Leo III formalized the relationship between the Church and Imperium
by making him “Emperor of the Romans”. Leo III may
have intended this act to reestablish a superior position with regard to a very successful king. However, the sanctity granted by the coronation provided Charlemagne with a priestly quality that gave him substantial spiritual authority. The move to reestablish imperial rule resulted in more tension between Church and Crown in subsequ
ent years, as Pope and Emperor each saw the other’s institution as
subordinate to, and supportive of, their own.
Early on, the papacy did not exercise much authority outside Rome and its
environs. “But their claims to greater authority k
ept alive the ideal of a single and unified Church,
governed from Rome.”
Through these times, the Church provided an overarching identity that prevented the many tribal groupings within the Empire from using their differences in language and tradition as a basis for serious misunderstanding and violence. Christianity became the dominant religion, over other religions of eastern origin (Isis, Cybele, Mithras) and of the Roman state religion, possibly due to two equally attractive characteristics. First, Christianity paid particular attention to the needs of the poor
through a emphasis on equality of class,
Bennett and Hollister, 106-107.
Bennett and Hollister, 107-110.
Bennett and Hollister, 6.