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THE significance of great personalities is nowhere in all history more evident than in the Carolingian age. Without the work of the great men of the eighth century it is impossible to explain the shaping of the Middle Ages and the theocratic and imperial ideas that governed life in every department. It was Charles the Great, above all, who for centuries gave the direction to the historic development. It is true that imperialism and theocracy in the State were required on general considerations. But their particular form in the West depended very largely on particular individuals. Charles was born 2 April, probably in the year 742, at some place unknown, and was the eldest son of Pepin the Mayor of the Palace (and afterwards king) and of his wife Bertrada. Shortly before his death in September 768, Pepin had divided the kingdom between his two sons. Charles received Austrasia, Neustria, and half of Aquitania, while Carloman had Burgundy, Provence, Gothia, Alsace, Alemannia, and the other half of Aquitania. The young kings were solemnly enthroned and anointed (9 Oct.) in their respective halves of the kingdom.

We soon hear of disputes between them. We need not assume that Carloman wished to supplant his brother because Charles was born before the marriage of his parents. There is no doubt that Charles was born in lawful wedlock. Unknown personal grounds caused the dispute. When the Aquitanians under Hunald rose against the Frankish rule in the first year of his reign, Carloman refused to help his brother, and Charles reduced the rising by his own power. Bertrada acted as peace­maker, and succeeded in reconciling the brothers. She did more. She passed through Bavaria into Italy to win over the two opponents of the Frankish kingdom, the Bavarian duke Tassilo and the Lombard king Desiderius. The daughter of Desiderius was to be married to Charles, and Gisela the sister of the Frankish kings to the son of the Lombard king. And as Tassilo had married another daughter of Desiderius, and as Frankish emissaries of Sturm, the abbot of Fulda, were working in Bavaria on behalf of peace, there seemed to be a real bond of union between Francia, Bavaria, and Lombardy.

The old traditions of Frankish policy before the alliance with the Curia seemed to revive. The Pope however had considerable cause for anxiety. When he heard rumours of the proposed marriages he addressed to the two Frankish kings a letter full of passionate hatred against the Lombards and of consternation at a change of Frankish policy. He warned the Franks against an alliance with the Lombards, that stinking people, the source of leprosy, a people that were not recognised amongst civilized nations; and he threatened anathemas if the Papal warnings were disregarded. But when Charles nevertheless brought home his Lombard bride, the Pope accommodated himself to circumstances. He was mollified by the restoration of Patrimonies and in overflowing words besought the blessing of heaven on Charles. Soon the Lombard party even obtained the upper hand in Rome. Desiderius appeared in Rome as the friend of the Pope and overthrew the party that was opposed to the Lombards and friendly to Carloman. In a letter sent to France, Stephen praised the Lombard king as his saviour, “his most illustrious son”, who at last had restored all the prerogatives of St Peter.

Even if Charles was but little offended at the Pope’s opposition to Carloman, such intimate friendship with the Lombards cannot have seemed desirable to him. But all these circumstances were soon radically changed. After a union of one year Charles divorced his Lombard wife. Policy had brought about the marriage, personal wishes of the king, we may surmise, rent the union sharply asunder. Friendship for the Lombards was followed by the bitterest enmity.

There was a further cause. The opposition in Rome increased the estrangement of the royal brothers. Other personal motives may have co-operated. The alienation was so great that Carloman’s people urged war. But the sudden death of Carloman (4 Dec. 771) made a complete change in the political situation. Charles seized his brother’s portion of the kingdom. There were, it is true, children of Carloman, especially a son, Pepin, who had indisputable rights to the inheritance; but might prevailed over right, and though the enthroning and anointing of Charles took place “with the consent of all the Franks”, while the court historians praised the Grace of God because Charles’ authority was extended over the whole kingdom without shedding of blood, his disregard of right cannot be denied. Carloman’s widow Gerberga had fled with her children and found refuge with Desiderius, now Charles' mortal enemy.

The union of the Frankish dominions under one authority was indispensable for their further development. Not till then did Charles' independent rule begin. The preeminence, and at the same time the ruthlessness, of the great ruler had already manifested themselves, but until 771 the softening and restraining influence of his mother had prevailed with him.

Now began the period of vigorous conquest. An empire was founded that embraced all the West German races and extended over wide Romance and Slavic regions and Avar territory — an empire that in consideration and extent might be compared with the West Roman Empire. The real motive in the advance of Carolingian authority was certainly not religion. It is the secular ideal and the struggle for power which dominate men and nations. The Christian idea was but subordinate. It frequently ennobled, frequently veiled, the desire for power. Later on it had an essential part in the founding of the Empire that brought to a close the development of a universal authority in the West.

The first advance accompanied by immediate success was directed towards Italy for the subjection of the Lombard kingdom. A second was against the Arabs of the Pyrenean Peninsula. This aimed only at an unimportant extension of the Empire on the Spanish border and a closer union of Southern Gaul with the Empire. A third was on the East, in Bavaria and the territory of the Avars. A fourth was on the North and North-east in the territory of the Saxons, the Slays, and the Danes.

752-7721. Donation of Constantine

The political state of Italy was far from settled in the eighth century. After the collapse of the rule of the Eastern Goths the country had been a province of East Rome, then conquered from the North by the Lombards, and the part lying north-west of the Exarchate of Ravenna and Tuscany was left in possession of the Lombards, and was opposed to the Respublica Romana, as Lombard Italy to the Province of Italy. When the vigorous Lombard kingdom, after the time of Liutprand (712-744), aimed at sole rule over all Italy, winning Ravenna with the Exarchate, and the Duchies of Spoleto and Benevento were made dependent, this was regarded as an injury to the Respublica Romana. As holder of this political power for the Exarchate of Ravenna and for the people of the whole province of Italy appeared the Roman Bishop. According to law the Eastern Emperor was still lord of the Roman province, he was still (until 772) honoured as sovereign in the Papal documents, and so late as 752 Stephen II had turned to him for help against the Lombards. But political and ecclesiastical circumstances had led more and more to estrangement, and when the Roman Duchy and Rome itself were likely to fall before the advance of Aistulf, Stephen turned to the first Catholic power of the West, to the Frankish king Pepin.

The donation ascribed to Constantine must have been forged in Rome at this time, when the Curia was freeing itself politically from East Rome and as representative of the Respublica Romana in the West was desirous of winning what had formerly belonged to the Eastern Empire, and when for this purpose the Curia was obliged to summon the aid of the Franks. Thus old tendencies and views of the Roman Curia were invested with the authority of the Great Emperor Constantine. St Peter is represented as the Vicar of Christ in the world and the Roman bishops as the representatives of the Prince of the Apostles; therefore the Emperor is made to exalt the Chair of Peter above his own secular throne, and in order that the Papal dignity may be honoured with power and glory far above the secular empire, Constantine is made to have conferred upon the Roman bishop the City of Rome and all the provinces, places, and towns of Italy and of the West, while he himself removed his capital to the East and erected a residence in Byzantium “because it is not right that the secular Emperor should have authority where the Principality of Priests and the Head of the Christian Religion were established by the Heavenly Emperor”.

In the eighth century the Curia put forward for the first time this claim of political sovereignty for the highest office in the Church; and this claim has never since been completely forgotten, though often greatly modified. Pepin satisfied the Curia when Pope Stephen came in person to visit him in France in 754. Pepin presented him with a certain document and promised to procure for him the States of the Church. He twice took the field against the Lombards and won Lombard districts for the Pope. What he promised to bestow we do not know, because the document has not been preserved, and subsequent accounts are not sufficiently circumstantial; but we know that in 754 and 756 Pepin secured for the Curia the possession of the Roman Duchy of Pentapolis and the Exarchate of Ravenna, and that he regarded his promise as thus fulfilled. Pepin was appointed Patricius by the Pope and declared Protector of the Church and her territory. From his Roman Patriciate Pepin inferred a duty to protect, but not a right to rule. His son Charles, on the contrary, managed to change the relation and to transform the obligation of protection into a suzerainty.

After a short vacillation during the first years of the reign of Charles, the Papal policy, under Hadrian (774), the successor of Stephen IV, naturally took its former course of alliance with the Franks and opposition to the Lombards. Circumstances soon became exceedingly threaten­ing. The Pope demanded restoration of church property, but Desiderius marched against Rome, and legates from the Pope hastened over the Alps to implore Frankish help.

Charles acted cautiously. He sent messengers into Italy to ascertain the exact position of affairs, and he made reasonable proposals to Desiderius in order to avoid war. Only when these failed he summoned an Assembly to Geneva, resolved on war and marched over Mont Cenis into Italy, while a second division of his army led by his uncle Bernard chose the road over the Great St Bernard. The defiles of the Italian side had been strongly fortified by Desiderius. Later legends tell of a Lombard minstrel who guided the Franks over the mountains into Italy by secret paths. It is historically certain that Charles caused part of his army to take a cir­cuitous route, while negotiations with Desiderius were renewed, and that this caused Desiderius to give up his position in the defile and withdraw to Pavia, while his son Adalgis with Carloman’s widow Gerberga and Charles’ nephews sought refuge in the fortress of Verona. Probably about the end of September 773 Charles began the siege of Pavia. An expedition sent thence against Verona obtained the surrender of Gerberga and her sons, of whom no more is heard. Adalgis fled to Constantinople. But Pavia itself held out till the beginning of June 774. The town was ravaged by disease and obliged to surrender. Desiderius with his wife and daughter were taken prisoners, the royal treasure was confiscated, and the Lombard kingdom was at an end.

Before this, however, while the Franks were still besieging Pavia, Charles had taken a journey to Rome. He reached the Eternal City (2 April) and made such an entry as was usually granted to the Greek Exarch and Patrician. The Pope awaited the king in the entrance of St Peter's. Charles approached on foot, kissed each of the steps which led up to the church, embraced the Pope, and entered the church on his right. Together they descended to the grave of St Peter and took an oath of mutual fidelity. After that came an entry into the city itself. On the succeeding days various solemnities were celebrated, and (6 April) the important discussion took place in St Peter's. According to the contemporary Life of Hadrian, the Pope begged and warned Charles to fulfill the promise that had once been given by King Pepin, Charles, Carloman, and the Frankish nobles, on the occasion of the Papal visit to Francia, concerning the bestowal of different towns and districts of the province of Italy. Hereupon Charles caused the document drawn up at Quierzy to be read. He and his nobles assented to everything that was recorded therein and voluntarily and gladly ordered a new document to be drawn up by his chaplain and notary Hitherius, according to the pattern of the former one, and in it he promised to confer on St Peter the same towns and districts within certain limits as described in the document. The boundary begins at Luni, so that Corsica is included. It goes on to Suriano, to Mons Bardone, Parma, Reggio, Mantua, and Monselice. Thus according to the Papal biographer the donation was the Exarchate of Ravenna in its ancient extent, the provinces of Venetia and Istria, and the Duchies of Spoleto and Benevento. The document itself, as he further reports, was attested by Charles with his own hand, and the names of the nobles present were added. Then Charles and his nobles laid the deed first upon the altar, then upon the sepulchre of St Peter, and delivered it to the Pope, taking an oath that they would fulfill all its conditions. A second copy, also written by Hitherius, the king laid with his own hands upon the body of St Peter under the Gospels. A third copy, prepared by the Roman Chancery, Charles took with him.

There can no longer be any doubt that the detailed account in the Vita Hadriani of the events of 6 April 774 is correct in the essential particulars. In the most solemn manner Charles then renewed his father’s promise. But it is not likely that the contents of the document are always correctly quoted by the biographer of Hadrian, or that Charles bestowed such extensive territories. We hear indeed that the Curia was afterwards not quite satisfied with the performance of the promise of 774, but we never find the Pope asking for so much territory, though we see his utmost hopes quite clearly in the extant Papal correspondence. The Popes had no reason modestly to lay aside demands which in point of law would have had such an excellent foundation as that indicated in the Vita Hadriani. Again, the later forged donations by the Frankish rulers in favour of the Curia know absolutely nothing of the immense extent of the promise of the Vita Hadriani, nor is there ground for assuming that Charles made a new treaty with the Pope somewhere about 781 and altered the promise of the document of 774 because it was too burdensome. The conclusion therefore seems inevitable that Charles the Great never issued a document of such contents as the Papal book asserts. We must suppose there has been distortion or falsification. Whether the author made these erroneous statements consciously or only through misunderstanding or whether the document was interpolated at the time, is quite unknown. But it seems certain that the donation made in the document which Charles deposited in 774 was not so comprehensive as we read in the Life of Pope Hadrian.

The political conditions of Italy were not finally settled by the conquest of Lombardy. Many difficulties had to be overcome. As early as the end of 775, the Lombard duke Hrodgaud of Friuli rose. A conspiracy of wide ramifications, involving Hildebrand of Spoleto, Arichis of Benevento, and Reginbald of Chiusi, seems to have been threatening. A Greek army under the leadership of Adalgis, the son of Desiderius, was, as some hoped and others feared, to master Rome and restore the ancient Lombard kingdom. But Hrodgaud remained isolated. A quick campaign of Charles in the winter months of 775-6 crushed the rising, and Hrodgaud fell in battle.

Charles’ sojourn in the winter of 780-1 simplified the situation in Italy. Charles’ second son Pepin was anointed as King of Italy by the Pope, and at the same time Ludwig (Lewis), his four-year-old third son, as King of Aquitania. This step by no means indicates that Charles renounced his own share in the rule of Italy. On the contrary, it was merely a formal concession to the special political needs of Italy, with a view to a stricter control and a closer approximation of the Italian to the Frankish government. The separate kingdom of Italy was not limited to the former Lombard kingdom, for districts were added to it. Such were Istria, which had been conquered by the Franks before 790, and Venetia and Dalmatia, which surrendered towards the end of 805 and belonged to the Empire of Charles the Great till 810, and also Corsica, which was repeatedly defended by the Frankish power against the Saracens in the first twenty years of the ninth century. Outside the Italian kingdom lay the possessions of the Roman Church, Romania as they were officially called.

Much remained unsettled—the position of the powerful Duchy of Benevento, and above all the relations with the Greeks, who, pushed aside by the events of 774, still plotted against the States of the Church and against the kingdom of the Franks. Sicily, where a Greek Patricius was in residence, and South Italy, where their possessions were gradually melting away, gave them a base of operations. Threatened hostilities might still be avoided. The Emperor Leo IV had died suddenly in 780, leaving the Empire to his son Constantine VI, Porphyrogenitus, who was a minor, and for whom the widowed Empress Irene undertook the regency. Irene wished to restore image-worship, and thus come nearer to the Roman Church and to western politics generally. By her command an embassy appeared before Charles to seek the hand of the king's daughter Rotrud for the young Emperor of the East. The betrothal does not seem to have led to any distinct settlement in Italy: on the contrary, the existing conditions were tacitly recognised.

But the continued uncertainty, especially as concerning Benevento, at last made necessary a definite adjustment. Since 758 Arichis, the son-in-law of the dethroned Desiderius, had ruled here, and continued to do so in complete independence after the fall of the Lombard kingdom. With his highly cultured and ambitious consort he desired to make Benevento the centre of an advanced civilization. He called himself Prince of Benevento, and had himself anointed by the Bishops and set a crown upon his own head, thus seeking to emphasize his sovereign position. The Pope was naturally opposed to this proceeding, for the prosperity and independence of Benevento were a continual danger to him. Charles also, the heir of the Lombard kingdom, could not suffer the rise of a great power in South Italy. The so-called Annales Einhardi credibly reports that Charles on his journey to Italy, 786-7, contemplated from the first an attack on Benevento, because he wished to gain the remainder of the Lombard kingdom.

At the beginning of 787, while Charles was waiting in Rome, Romuald the eldest son of Arichis appeared with presents and assurances of peace, hoping to hinder the advance of the Franks towards the South. But the Pope and the Frankish nobles who were present pre­vailed upon Charles to advance as far as Capua. Arichis, who had shut himself up in the fortress of Salerno, sent a further embassy to make new proposals—that Arichis might be excused from appearing before Charles in person, but that he should give hostages, among them his second son Grimoald, send rich presents and profess his subjection. These proposals were accepted, and Arichis as well as his eldest son Romuald, who had been set at liberty, and the Beneventines took their oath of allegiance before the plenipotentiaries.

This was doubtless a great success, not lessened by the rupture with the Greeks that followed and the breaking off of the betrothal of 781. But difficulties arose when Arichis died (26 Aug. 787) after the death of his eldest son and heir. Then the Beneventines asked for Grimoald the second son of Arichis, whom Charles held as a hostage. But the king hesitated to comply with their wish. Pope Hadrian especially had a share in this decision, for he had informed Charles of the plans of the Greeks to conquer Italy and appoint the duke of Benevento as the Greek Patricius, accusing Arichis of treachery and hinting at continued conspiracies of the Beneventines. As a matter of fact there was a Greek embassy at Benevento at the end of 787, trying to effect a great alliance. At different ends of the Empire the forces of opposition were thus arising against Charles at that time. But they did not take concerted action. For there is no evidence that the Beneventines entered into alliance with Tassilo of Bavaria or even with the Avars and Saxons, and indeed it is quite improbable, for otherwise Charles could not so easily have overcome his difficulties.

In the spring of 788, in spite of Papal opposition, Charles at last complied with the wish of the Beneventines and appointed Grimoald duke, first requiring of him a solemn oath to recognise the Frankish supremacy, to place Charles' name in decrees and on coins, and to forbid the Lombards to wear beards. When a Greek army landed in Lower Italy under the Sicilian Patricius, perhaps bringing with him Adalgis, son of Desiderius, who had been chosen as a Byzantine vassal prince, the Lombard dukes of Benevento and Spoleto remained faithful to the Frankish cause, joining a small Frankish army and inflicting on the Greeks a decisive defeat in Calabria. The Greek danger was finally removed. No further restoration of Greek rule in Italy was attempted, and from that time Adalgis lived peaceably in Constantinople as a Greek Patricius. But the supremacy over Benevento could not be fully maintained. Grimoald soon made himself independent, and later attacks by the Franks had no lasting success.

Through the fall of the Lombard kingdom and the subjugation of Italy by the Franks, the relations of Charles with the Pope necessarily underwent an essential change. On his Easter visit, 774, Charles had given the Pope the solemn assurance that he had not come with his army to Italy to win treasures and make conquests, but to help St Peter to his rights, to exalt the Church of God, and to make sure the position of the Pope. But the result of the journey to Rome was that Charles himself laid claim to the rule of the Lombard kingdom. When, after the fall of Pavia, he assumed the title of king of the Lombards and added it to that of king of the Franks, he assumed also the obligations which belonged to his new office. His policy in Italy was the same as that of the Lombard kings before him and of all great rulers of Italy after him — the vigorous ruler of a part striving for the possession of the whole. It was on account of this that the Lombards fell into opposition to the Pope. Though Charles and the Pope avoided serious conflicts and always worked harmoniously in their endeavour to reduce the Lombard Duchies and to drive the Greek power out of Italy, this was due to the peculiar position of the Frankish king. Charles was not only king of the Lombards but, as Patricius, was protector of the Church and her possessions.

Hadrian often reminded Charles of his promise of 774 and demanded its full performance. The Papal claims were only partially satisfied. Thus in 781 Charles promised to see to the restoration of the Patrimonies in the Sabina, but the Pope afterwards demanded in vain the evacuation of the whole territory. So again in 787 a donation of Beneventine towns was promised, also of several Tuscan towns, especially Populonia and Rosellae, but the fulfillment did not perfectly correspond with the Pope’s wishes. For when the royal plenipotentiaries handed over to him the episcopal buildings, the monasteries and fiscal estates, and also the keys of the towns, but not sovereign power over the inhabitants, Hadrian complained bitterly. Of what use to him, he asked, was the possession of the town unless he had power over the inhabitants? “He must rule them by royal dispensation, and he was willing to leave them their freedom”.

Without doubt all these acquisitions meant for the Roman Curia more than the mere gain of profitable rights. Political rule would secure constitutional privileges. What clearly appears as the leading thought in the forged Donation of Constantine was aimed at by the Popes of the eighth century on a more limited scale—an ecclesiastical State freed from all secular interference. Hadrian and his successors never forgot the thought that no earthly power might govern where the spiritual Head of Christendom had received his seat from the Heavenly Ruler.

Charles was not only king of the Franks and Lombards but he was at the same time, as Patricius, protector of the Respublica Romana. As successor of the Lombard kings he had to accept somewhat narrower limits, and above all to set absolutely free the districts belonging to the Pope. But as Patricius he was entitled to exercise a suzerainty over those territories too. This meant for the Pope and his deputies the enjoyment of profitable rights and immediate authority over the subjects, but for himself the supreme political control.

This was not a process of right but of might. The relations changed gradually. On his first visit in 774, the king asked permission to visit the city of Rome. Later on, such a request was needless. In matters of state, Charles felt himself supreme lord of the Pope and of all Papal possessions. If he asked the Pope to remove abuses which came to light in the Papal territories, or if he laid upon him a command to expel from the Exarchate and Pentapolis the Venetians who carried on trade in men, it was only an application of generally recognised principles. Protection implies sovereignty, and the Protector of the Church became sovereign of the protected territory.

Thus did Charles found a lordship over Italy. The different legal titles which had created it fell more and more into the background, and even the political prerogatives of the Pope became more like the secular authority of other great Churches in Gaul and Italy, which received con­firmations of privileges from the State. The Roman Church appears endowed with rich possessions, with great revenues, with important state prerogatives. But over them stood Charles as supreme lord, as the sole true sovereign.

Charles' power meanwhile stretched further beyond France and Italy and became more absolute. The patriciate raised the protector of the Church to the position of lord of Christendom and absolute master of the West. That is of course the patriciate not as the Pope bestowed it, but as Charles made it. Later on we shall see how the Frankish monarchy assumed universal and theocratic elements. The Christian theocratic ideas were to justify as it were the violent conquests of Charles. The important point was the acquirement of real power. The great conquests were necessary, if the theocratic Frankish monarchy was to become the Empire of the West.

778-793] Roncevalles 

It was not the relief of the oppressed Christian Spain or the support of political allies but the spread of his power which guided Charles in his wars against the Arabs. At the Diet at Paderborn in 777, Ibn al Arabi, apparently governor of Barcelona and Gerona, asked help from Charles against the Umayyad Caliph of Cordova. The Arabian governor of Barcelona had already in 759 offered to Pepin to recognize Frankish supremacy, and Pepin had formed alliances with the Abbasids the enemies of the Umayyads, and in 765 he had sent ambassadors to Bagdad. The subjugation of Aquitania and Vasconia in the last years of Pepin's reign afforded the basis for further extension of Frankish dominion towards the South.

In the spring of 778 an army summoned from all parts of the Empire marched in two divisions across the Eastern and Western Pyrenees into Spain. It is significant that Charles' first achievement was the siege and capture of Pampeluna, which was inhabited by Christians and belonged to the Christian kingdom of Asturias. No great military successes were gained. Many fortified places recognised Charles' supremacy, but the expected great movement against the Umayyad Abd-ar-Rahman did not take place. Among the Arab opponents of the Caliph of Cordova there was no unanimity. Charles saw that he had been deceived. He advanced as far as Saragossa on the Ebro, and perhaps took temporary possession of the town. Then he turned northwards, and Ibn al Arabi, who bore the blame of the failure of the expedition, was taken back with the army as prisoner. The Christian Basques of Spain were treated as enemies, and the fortifications of Pampeluna were razed. And as the great army passed through the defiles of the Pyrenees in long columns, unable to open out for any military manoeuvres, the rearguard was attacked by the hosts of the Basques and destroyed. In later legends the place is called Roncevalles. Even if the reverse was not in itself important, it was regarded as serious that the attack could not be avenged. And certain heroes among Charles' friends had fallen, the Palgrave Anselm, the Seneschal Eggihard, and above all, Hruodland the Praefect of the Britannic March. Legend however seized upon this event of 15 August 778, and wove around the whole Spanish expedition of Charles, but especially this surprise of Roncevalles, the halo of Christian glory. It exalted the defeat into a catastrophe and made the death of Hruodland the martyrdom of the heroic soldier of God. In the eleventh century these legends took their poetic form in the Chanson de Roland, their final form in the pseudo­Turpin, and in the Rolandslied of the Pfaffe Conrad of the twelfth century, the most popular form in which they spread over Germany.

The expedition of 778 had completely failed, but the project of a conquest in the South was by no means given up. In the first place, it was necessary to settle the position of Aquitania, which though it was finally conquered, yet had not become Frank. In 781 Charles raised this land with Septimania to a kingdom, and had his son Louis (Ludwig), who was born during the expedition of 778, anointed king of it by the Pope. On the border the boy was invested with arms and placed upon a horse, to hold his solemn entry into his kingdom. Charles wished his son to be brought up as an Aquitanian. He rejoiced later on when the seven-year-old boy appeared at the Diet of Paderborn in the dress of Aquitania with his little mantle and padded hose. But it was not intended that the grave Frankish character should be obliterated or the Frankish dominion over Aquitania in any way shaken. The regents whom Charles appointed in 781, and later Louis himself, only had influence so far as Charles liked. He remained the supreme head, and gave orders in all important matters and even in unimportant matters. It was a political system that answered perfectly. The people of Aquitania, proud of their kingdom, willingly complied with the arrangements of the Empire, and even proved themselves the readiest to fight the Arabs. In 785 Gerona placed itself voluntarily under Frankish rule. The coast district was won in addition. In 793 there was another advance on the part of the Arabs. It was at that time that the distant enemies of the Franks combined, and political intrigue stretched from Spain to the land of the Saxons and to the Avars. Hisham I, Emir of Cordova, the son of Abd-ar-Rahman, arranged an invasion. Gerona was taken, the Pyrenees were crossed, and the Arabian army advanced as far as Narbonne and Carcassonne. A bloody battle was fought against the Margrave William on the river Orbieu, and the Arabs marched back laden with booty.

Soon however the Franks were in a position to make a victorious advance. From Gerona westwards the territory south of the Pyrenees was gradually won and a series of places fortified. In 795 the Spanish March was established. Dissensions among the Muslims and private undertakings of daring adventurers prepared the way for further conquests. In 801 Barcelona was compelled to surrender, and Louis, the king of Aquitania, was hurriedly summoned at the decisive moment, that he might have the credit of taking the proud city. In 806 Pampeluna and Novara acknowledged the Frankish dominion. Tortosa also, after a long siege, surrendered its keys to Louis in 811, although neither here nor at Saragossa or Huesca was Frankish dominion regularly established. The Spanish March did not reach so far as the Ebro, but only to a line drawn N.N.W. from Barcelona and parallel to the Pyrenees. In 799 the Balearic Islands, which in the spring had been ravaged by the Moors, put themselves under Frankish rule, and from that time enjoyed at any rate occasional protection by the Franks.

Bavaria was almost an independent State at the beginning of Charles' reign. After Duke Tassilo had faithlessly deserted the Frankish army in 763, in the middle of the war against Aquitania, the connection of Bavaria with the Frankish power became looser. It was not that Frankish supremacy was completely renounced. Charles even appears to have exercised influence in the appointment to Bavarian bishoprics. But Tassilo nevertheless acted quite independently, and it is certain that Bavaria did not regularly take part in Charles' warlike undertakings, even if we assume the co-operation of the Bavarian army in the Pyrenean campaign of 778, which is doubtful. When the king and the Pope in 781 demanded that the duke should return to his former allegiance and Tassilo found himself compelled to comply with the demand, his independence was assured, and it was not till his personal safety had been guaranteed by hostages that he appeared at the Mayfield of Worms in 781, to renew the oaths and promises he had formerly made to Pepin, giving twelve nobles as hostages.

This did not bring about good relations. There was soon friction. After 784 there were manifest differences concerning rights in the Etsch districts, but most serious were the different conceptions of the conditions of dependency. Charles deduced from the oath of fidelity an obligation of obedience and services such as the provincial officials of his kingdom were accustomed to render. Tassilo on the other hand understood the subordination as more indefinite, and thought he was not bound to surrender his independence. In 787 the Bavarian duke sought the intervention of the Pope with a view to the restoration of peace with King Charles. Negotiations were opened but came to nothing, because views differed as to the degree of obligations involved in the oaths of fidelity. The Pope, who was entirely the tool of the powerful king, threatened anathemas in case Tassilo did not fulfill Charles' demands. As these were not satisfied, the Franks invaded Bavaria from three sides with an overwhelming force. Tassilo dared not venture a battle. He met the king (3 Oct.) on the plain of the Lech, acknowledged himself vassal, and placed the duchy in the hand of the king to receive it back from Charles as a Frankish fief. The Bavarian people were obliged to take an oath of allegiance, and Tassilo had to give as hostages twelve nobles and his own son.

Why the end came nevertheless the next year is not rightly understood. Our information is drawn entirely from Frankish sources. What is reported in the official Annals is not conclusive without confirmation. From them we learn That Tassilo afterwards confessed that he had incited the Avars to make war against the Franks, that he had attempted the lives of the king's vassals in Bavaria, that he had recommended his own people to make secret reservations in taking the oath of allegiance to the king, and had even said that he would rather lose ten sons if he had them than hold to the treaties, that he would rather die than live under them.

The decision came at the Meeting of the Empire which was held at Ingelheim in the summer of 788. Tassilo, who had been invited like other nobles of the Empire, had appeared. He seems to have had no suspicion of what threatened him, and this unsuspecting appearance certainly does not look like guilt. He was immediately arrested, while royal messengers departed for Bavaria to seize the wife, the children, the treasures, and the household of the duke. Then Bavarians appeared as accusers and proved Tassilo’s disloyalty. But the charges could not have been very serious, for they had to go back to the Herisliz of 763 — an incident which must have been regarded as long previously pardoned by the royal declarations of grace in 781 and 787. The meeting, however, so it is reported, unanimously pronounced sentence of death on Tassilo, and only the intervention of Charles procured a mitigation of the sentence. Tassilo was shorn and sent into a monastery as a monk, he and his two sons. His wife also was compelled to take the veil, and they were all immured in different cloisters. But the ceremony of deposition was not yet completed. Six years later, at the Synod of Frankfort of 794, the deposed duke was made to appear, to acknowledge his guilt publicly in the assembly, and to renounce all rights for himself and his successors, in order to obtain the king's pardon and to be received back into his favour and protection. Of this event a report was made in three copies, one for the Palace, one for Tassilo, and one for the Court Chapel.

When we consider all the steps of Tassilo’s fall, we easily recognize that he was sacrificed to the policy of the great king of the Franks. They were not acts of justice, they were acts of violence, which were only in appearance connected with any definite process of law.

Suspicious is the use made of the Herisliz of 763, which legally must have long been regarded as done with, and even more so is the solemn renunciation before the Synod of 794. Any breach of faith by Tassilo after his homage at the Lech cannot have been very serious.

But even if in his treatment of Tassilo Charles appears to us less as a just judge than as a strong statesman — the part which the last independent duke of Bavaria played in this drama remains pitiful. His deceit and bad faith are only known to us from the official history, but his weakness and political incapacity are shown by the facts themselves. He did not understand the tasks of his age. During his long rule he favoured and enriched the churches like any Christian prince. But while he furthered the monasteries, he showed but little understanding for the episcopal organisation with which lay the future. It was precisely this circumstance that immediately sent the leaders of the Church, the Bavarian bishops, over to the enemy when conflict broke out with the powerful Frank. Brave to fight for his hereditary rights and for the political independence of his race, he did not dare, or rather he was unable, to take a comprehensive view of the political situation, and he went unsuspectingly to Ingelheim to be taken prisoner, to be condemned to death, commuted for the life of a monk. Perhaps the result answered to the man's personal wishes, for his hopes and fears were set upon the other world.

Properly speaking, the wide district of Bavaria was not won for the empire of the Franks till 788. After the subjection of the Saxons it was the second great conquest of German territory—a conquest without bloodshed or struggle. This was a fact of immense international importance. It decided that the Bavarian race should share the destinies of the West-German peoples, just as the wars with the Saxons decided those of the North-eastern West-Germans.

The borders of the Frankish kingdom extended over the middle Danube district as far as the Enns, and at the same time over a district of the Slavs already conquered by Tassilo, over Carantania (Carinthia). Before long they were extended still further. For the subjection of the Bavarian kingdom was naturally followed by the struggle against the Avars and the Slavs, the Eastern neighbours of the Bavarians.

The Avars [763-794

The Avars, confused by the Franks with the Huns, to whom they were related as belonging to the Ural-Altaic family, had for some centuries come in contact with the Byzantines and Franks. About the end of the sixth century, as we have seen, they held a great dominion: but by the end of the eighth century the period of their greatest power was past. They had never risen above the level of barbarian nomads, and the Slays of the south-east had long thrown off their yoke, and even their own sense of unity was gone. It was remarkable how this uncivilized people sought to make use of the civilized labour of other peoples. Agriculture, like all other productive labour, was unknown to them. In the plain between the Danube and the Theiss were situated the “Rings”— the strong circular walls round extensive dwelling-places. According to the assertion of a Frankish warrior—quoted by the Monk of St Gall—the Rings extended as far "as from Zurich to Constance" (therefore about 60 kilometres or nearly 38 miles) and embraced several districts. In these Rings, of which, according to the Monk of St Gall, there were nine, the Avars had heaped their plunder of two centuries.

In 788 the Avars had advanced westward in two divisions, but had been completely defeated near the Danube and in Friuli. In 791 Charles had taken the offensive, not only to acquire rich treasures or to punish the invaders of 788, but to obtain a natural closed frontier towards the East. The Franks advanced as far as the Raab without making a permanent conquest. Their important task in Saxony for a long time hindered new and decisive action. Political alliances began to be formed among those who were at that time threatened by the Frankish sword. The Saracens, the Saxons, and the Avars knew of each other, and Charles' enemies in the north and south counted especially on a successful advance of the Avars. But the Avars lacked endurance. In the year 795 the Margrave Erich of Friuli, supported by the Slav prince Woinimir, advanced over the Danube and took the principal Ring. Large treasures of gold made their way to the Franks, and even if the opinion is scarcely tenable that great changes in prices in the Frankish Empire were the result, still his success was great. In the following year Charles' son Pepin completed the work of conquest. He destroyed the Ring, subdued the Avars, and opened large districts to the preaching of Christianity. In later years small risings had still to be put down, and Frankish blood still flowed in battle against the barbarians. In 811 a Frankish army was sent against Pannonia. But these were only echoes of the past. The Avars themselves are men­tioned for the last time in 822. Even in the last years of the eighth century Christianity and colonization had been introduced among them. The Christian mission was entrusted to the Dioceses of Aquileia, Salzburg, and Passau. The settlement of the middle Danube district began under Charles, that extension of the Germans, i.e. of the Bavarian, later also of the Frankish race, which finally embraced the present German Austria and the western districts of Hungary. Under Charles the Danube district about as far as the Leitha and the district of the upper Drave and the Save — the latter as Carantania — were reckoned politically as part of the Empire. The more eastern district, Pannonia, only belonged loosely to the Carlovingian Empire, and in consequence of the long wars it was greatly depopulated.

The Saxon Wars [631-775

With Charles ambition and religion worked together. Successes in arms were for him at the same time successes for Christianity.

The ecclesiastical motive was specially strong in the Saxon wars. And the Saxons resisted ecclesiastical subjection as much as political. They struggled with their utmost strength against the Franks for their political freedom and for the imaginary blessings of their national religion.

The Franks had fought against the Saxons even in the sixth century. Chlotar I is said to have laid upon them a tribute of 500 cows, from which Dagobert freed them in 631. In the eighth century, profiting by the weakness of the royal authority, they repeatedly ravaged Frankish territory. The Mayors of the Palace, Charles Martel and his sons, were the first to fight successfully against them. They brought the tribes on the Frankish border into some kind of subjection, and under Pepin the payment of the old annual tribute of 500 cows was regularly demanded. But Christian teaching found no soil. The two Hewalds had paid with their lives for their first attempt to convert their kinsmen. The mission of Willehad was fruitless. The noble work of Utrecht and its school of missions failed in the case of the Saxons.

At the beginning of the reign of Charles the Saxons were in the same state as they are said to have been at the beginning of our era—small independent political communities, which only combined temporarily in time of war. The three greater sub-tribes, the Westphalians, the Engers, and the Eastphalians, were not regular political units. The pure morals of the uncorrupted natural peoples still prevailed, but also all the brutality and cruelty of barbarism. The unconditional reverence for the gods and the blind obedience due to supposed utterances of the Divine Will exercised a fatalistic and fanatical influence.

Whether Charles had from the first intended the complete conquest of the whole Saxon territory, or whether he was led to it by the force of circumstances, cannot be determined. It is certain that from 775 he aimed at the unconditional surrender of the Saxons.

The first campaign was decided on at the Assembly of the Empire at Worms in the summer of 772. In the territory of the Engers Charles, advancing from the south, took the Eresburg, marched northwards, destroyed the Irminsul, a tall column of wood erected on the Holy Heath which was honoured as the symbolic bearer of the Universe, and finally reached the Weser, where the Engers professed their submission and gave hostages as guarantees of peace. During Charles' absence in Italy in 774 the Saxons made an incursion into Hesse and destroyed Fritzlar, but were quickly driven back. Charles on his return planned radical measures. According to the Annales Einhardi, as they are called, he resolved to fight and ravage the faithless Saxons till they accepted Christianity or were utterly destroyed. The Frankish army in 775 marched from the West through the Westphalian country, took the fortress of Sigiburg, and advanced as far as Brunisberg on the Weser. The three Saxon tribes seemed to be entirely conquered, and an unsuccessful rising in 776 only completed the work of conquest. The Eresburg and the Sigiburg were made strong centres of the Frankish power. Carlsburg on the Lippe was built, the people were compelled to accept Christianity, and their hostages were trained for Christian propaganda.

From that time Saxony was looked upon as part of the Frankish kingdom, and Charles no longer treated the people as enemies but as rebels. The Westphalian Widukind, the head of the national resistance, had fled to Denmark. In the summer of 777 the annual Assembly was held at Paderborn in the land of the Engers, and the first foundation was laid for the lasting nurture and maintenance of the Christian life, the land being divided into missionary districts and entrusted to the neigh­bouring bishoprics and great monasteries. Though in the time of the great Spanish campaign in 778, the Saxons made another plundering expedition to the Rhine and as far as Ehrenbreitstein, a detachment of the army that had returned from Spain quickly drove back the rebels, and in the summer campaign of 779 Charles reached the Weser and subdued the three tribes. In the summer of 780 an Assembly was held at Lippspringe at the source of the Lippe, an advance was made to the Elbe, and again a new important permanent ecclesiastical arrangement was made. Two years later the Frankish Assembly was again held at Lippspringe. All the Saxons appeared, say the Frankish Annals, only the chief rebel, Widukind, remained away. Charles now went a step further — Saxon nobles were made Frankish counts and the land joined politically to his empire. And at that time apparently those regulations were made which were intended to prevent any rising and to ensure the full acceptance of Christianity under threat of the severest punishment.

Any who broke into, robbed, or set fire to a church was to be punished with death. Any who from contempt of Christianity ate meat in Lent, any who killed a bishop, priest, or deacon, any who according to heathen custom burnt men as wizards or ate men, any who after heathen rites burned the dead, any who offered human sacrifices, or even any who omitted to be baptised and remained heathen, were to be put to death. Many other ordinances for the maintenance of Christianity and the political authority of the Frankish power were made, and also for the material foundation of Christian churches (surrender of the ownership of land and tithes). Even if there was a mitigation of this unusually severe legislation in the ordinance that the death penalty was to be remitted for those who had fled to a priest and after confession were ready to do penance, yet the law must have been found harsh, and the final Frankish ordinances of the year 782 must have incited to the utmost resistance those who looked on the conquest as only temporary.

When Charles had left the Saxons and had sent a Frankish army to the east in order that with a Saxon levy it might fight against the Sorbs, a general rising broke out under the leadership of Widukind, and when the Frankish army marched against the rebels, it was defeated on the Stintel Hill on the right bank of the Weser. Thereupon Charles himself immediately hastened to Saxony. His appearance gave the upper hand to the party among the Saxons friendly to the Franks and to the Christians. Widukind fled, and the chiefs obeyed the order to deliver up those who had taken part in the rising. Charles however held a strict inquiry, and had 4500 Saxons beheaded on one day at Verden on the Aller — a cruel deed for which we have sufficient historical attestation, though it has been wrongly disputed by some modern authorities.

But Charles had deceived himself as to the effect of these punishments. A general rising of the Saxon people was the result. The campaign of 783, which procured Charles the two victories at Detmold and on the Hase and brought him to the Elbe, was only a passing success. The Frisians also rose. The year 784 was taken up with the warlike undertakings of Charles and his son of the same name. The king remained with his army in Saxony through the winter also in order to undertake raids from the Eresburg, the head-quarters of himself and of his family, and to quell every attempt at a new rising. In the early summer of 785 he marched northwards to Paderborn, held the Frankish Assembly there, and then pressed on into the Bardengau on the left bank of the lower Elbe. All resistance was broken. Friendly overtures were made to Widukind and the other Saxon nobles who had hitherto fought stubbornly against the Franks. At Christmas 785 Widukind with his men appeared at Attigny, was baptised, and allowed to depart as a loyal subject, loaded with rich presents.

The event was looked upon as an important success. A special embassy announced to the Pope the victory of the Christian cause, and by Papal ordinance thanksgivings were offered all over Christendom to celebrate the fortunate ending of the thirteen years' war. But Widukind, the great hero, the most mighty personality in the older Saxon history, lived on in the memory of his people and became the subject of numerous legends. History tells us nothing of his later life, but legend has much to say. The most powerful Saxon families sought to honour him as their ancestor, and the Church and ecclesiastic literature made use of him. His bones worked miracles, his day was celebrated in later centuries, and he was even honoured as a saint.

The year 785 was an epoch in the history of the Saxon wars. Years of peaceful Christianisation followed. And a beginning was made with the episcopal organisation that was still wanting. The Northumbrian Willehad, who had been long working successfully among the Frisians and Saxons as a missionary, was consecrated Bishop of Worms (17 July 787), and the northern districts between the Elbe, the Weser, and Ems were given to him as his diocese. In Bremen he built St Peter's church, which was consecrated (1 Nov. 789) as the see of the first Saxon bishopric. The bishoprics of Verden and Minden must likewise have been founded then or soon afterwards.

The terrible Saxon wars of the first period of Charles' reign had their sequence. In the summer of 792 the Saxon people rose once more against God, the king, and the Christians. This was a national heathen reaction. Perhaps the heavy taxation of which the Church was the cause aroused the wrath of the lower elements of the population. If the easy yoke and the light burden of Christ had been preached to the obstinate Saxons with the same persistence as tithes and hard penances for light sins were exacted, they would not perhaps have shunned baptism — so wrote Alcuin at the time, not without irony. The Saxons sought to enter into alliance with the surrounding heathen, and they turned to the distant Avars. A new period of the struggle began, and at the same time a period of further violent measures to master this obstinate people. In the year 795 Charles for the first time had crowds of hostages sent to Francia. The third part of the population was forcibly deported, reports one group of sources, and the number of exiles is given as 7070. In the years 797, 798, 799 similar measures were taken and at the same time Franks were settled on Saxon soil. In 804 in particular, whole districts of Northern Saxony and Nordalbingia were robbed of their population, i.e. the Saxons were dragged away with wives and children. It is certain that no small portion of the Saxon race was at that time removed from its native soil—traces of them are still to be found in later centuries in Frankish and Alemannic regions.

At last the war, which with interruptions had lasted thirty-two years, could be regarded as ended, and the wide German territory as far as the Elbe and further was incorporated permanently into the Frankish Empire. Charles carried out his purpose of either subduing or destroying the Saxons, with wonderful persistence, but at the same time with brutal severity. The Saxons are certainly not to be regarded as stubborn heathens who resisted the blessings of Christian civilization, but are to be admired as a people of strong purpose defending their national characteristics. But the unavoidable demands of the world's progress could not be resisted. The future belonged, not to the small German states which remained politically isolated : the Saxons had to fall a sacrifice to the great central development which was at that time the ruling factor in the political shaping of the West.

The extension of Frankish rule over Saxony was followed by connections with the Danes and the Northern Slays. The court of the Danish king Sigfried was for a long time the centre of Saxon resistance to Charles' Christian propaganda, and it was there that Widukind had always taken refuge. But in 782 the heathen king had sent a friendly embassy to the Franks, though without any wish to make concessions to Christianity. Later also friendly relations are mentioned. In 807 a Danish chieftain submitted. But in 808 King Göttrik marched against the Obodrites who were in alliance with Charles, and when the younger Charles tried to interfere to punish and to help, though he was only able to lay waste districts on the right bank of the Elbe, King Göttrik had a strong wall of defence built, it is supposed from the Treene to the Schlei. In the following year, however, after the failure of attempts at a treaty, Charles caused the fortress of Itzehoe to be built.

The Danes [782-812

In 810 the Danish power seemed to be making a dangerous effort. A Danish fleet of two hundred ships ravaged the Frisian coasts and islands, tribute was laid upon the subjects of the Empire, and King Göttrik, who had remained at home, boasted that he would defeat Charles in open battle and make his entry into Aachen. Charles hastened eastwards with a strong force and took up his headquarters at Verden, but he had no need to interfere, for Göttrik was assassinated by a follower, and his nephew and successor Hemming quickly made peace. In 811 twelve deputies from the Danes and as many from the Franks met on the Eider, and solemnly swore to keep the agreements that had been made.

Of the Slavs of the north-east, the Obodrites on the lower Elbe, who were nearest to the Franks, always stood on good terms with Charles, while the Wiltzi on the Baltic always remained hostile, and the Sorbs between the Elbe and the Saale were variable. There is evidence of friendly relations with the Obodrites after 780. They probably by that time recognised Charles' suzerainty, but were disinclined to Christianity. They repeatedly took part in the Frankish campaigns, and in 810 Charles appointed their chieftain. In 782 the Sorbs made an unimportant attack on Thuringian territory, in 806 they were defeated by the younger Charles and compelled to submit. But the subsequent building of two fortresses on the right bank of the Elbe, at Magdeburg and at Halle on the Saale, shows that there was no incorporation of the territory of the Sorbs into the Empire. Still less is that the case with the Wiltzi. In 789 Charles undertook a great campaign of conquest. He crossed the Elbe and advanced ravaging as far as the Peene, and the chief Dragowit and the other leaders of the people even took an oath of fidelity, but we can find no trace of permanent subjection or toll, such as Einhard records.

Again there were struggles afterwards. In 806 fortresses were erected against them, and even the submission of 812 was only nominal and transitory. The proper boundary of the Empire on the east, apart from the district of the Nordalbingians, was the Elbe, more to the south the Saale, then the Bohmerwald. For even the land of the Chekhs may not be reckoned as part of the Empire. The passage of Frankish armies did not trouble the Chekhs, who were only loosely organized, and the campaigns of the younger Charles in the years 805 and 806 certainly laid the land waste, but there was no lasting submission.

It was a proud Empire, that of the great Charles. From the Pyrenees and the north-eastern part of Spain it stretched to the Eider and the Schlei on the north, from the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea on the west to the Elbe, the Bohmerwald to the Leitha, the upper Save, and the Adriatic Sea on the east. Further, the whole of North and Central Italy and the greater part of South Italy belonged to him. But his influence extended beyond this. The Slavs and the Avars who dwelt on the east were even reckoned as his and certainly belonged to the sphere of his interests. It is true that the Christian states in Spain and in the British Isles were independent, but even they recognised his friendly superiority. With the Abbasids in Bagdad Charles united against the Umayyads of Spain and against Byzantium. The Caliph is even said to have agreed that the place of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem should be under Charles’ authority. Even in the East Charles began to be regarded as the representative of Christian power.

Thus the Frankish king had raised himself above the narrow limits of his nation. His authority had taken a theocratic and universal element. While in the age of Pepin the ecclesiastical idea with its tendencies to universal authority had strengthened the Papacy, and had sought to give the Pope the position of the Roman Emperor in the West, under the reign of Charles all the elements of authority connected with the Church had been serviceable to the Frankish king. The patricius, the protector of the Papal possessions, became the protector and patron of the Church generally, and moreover the representative and leader of the spread of Christianity.

This was the necessary result of the forces developed by the needs of the Church itself. If the Christian teaching was to conquer the world, political power must be aimed at along with the spread of the faith. It was precisely in those times of active Christian propaganda that the need of political power was especially felt. The realization of the theocratic ideal required a dualism: ecclesiastics for the spread of the holy doctrine, laymen to fight for the Faith — at the head of the former, the Pope according to the hierarchical view that had prevailed for centuries, and at the head of the others, the king of the Franks. But the privileges of the actual political power answered the needs of the theocratic idea of that age.

Towards the end of the eighth century a mosaic was placed in the refectory of the Lateran. In it we see St Peter sitting on the throne with the keys in his bosom; on the right and left kneel Pope Leo and King Charles, to the one Peter hands the pallium, to the other the banner of the city, of Rome, and the legend runs: “Holy Peter, thou bestowest life on Pope Leo, and victory on King Charles”. So was the relation understood in Rome at that time. Two central forces prevailed in Christendom, a spiritual and a secular, the one by spiritual means, the other by might. But how far did the power extend that Peter bestowed with the banner, and how far the power conferred with the pallium? As a matter of fact, the relation of spiritual and secular powers turned out very much to the disadvantage of the former.

Ecclesiastical Affairs [787-794

The government of Charles did not limit itself to secular matters. Just as the Frankish kings had long been rulers of their Church and as the work of Boniface had done little to alter this, so it was under Charles. The position of governor of the Frankish Church Charles extended over the Church of the West generally. Charles felt himself called to care not only for the external maintenance of Church order, but also for the purity of the faith. Numberless are his measures for the supervision of Church life and the ecclesiastical ordinances. But he also took an active part in the settlement of purely dogmatic questions. As the holy Josiah (so it runs in one capitular) endeavoured to bring back to the service of God the kingdom bestowed upon him by God, so Charles would follow his example. But it is not the Pope who decides what is right and Christian, and then informs Charles. The Pope was not allowed the leading part even in matters of doctrine. On the contrary, Charles took the initiative repeatedly, consulted with his bishops, and demanded from the Pope acceptance and execution. His treatment of two questions is specially characteristic.

To deal with Adoptianism, which originated in Spain and greatly stirred the Western Church, Charles caused Synods to be held and to decide under his own presidency. At the Assembly of Frankfort in 794, Elipandus of Toledo and Felix of Urgel were condemned. Charles took a personal interest also in the matter of image-worship. When a council of Nicaea in 787, by the influence of the Empress Irene, re-introduced the worship of images and condemned those who taught otherwise —threatening ecclesiastics with deposition and laymen with outlawry, Charles offered strong opposition to the heretical teaching of Greeks, as he considered it, and caused a learned and comprehensive work, the Caroline Books to be prepared, perhaps by Alcuin. It is of no further present interest to us that to a great extent the matter dealt with misunderstandings caused by unfortunate renderings of decisions of 787, composed in the Greek language. It is enough that the doctrine of the Greeks was rejected in the sharpest manner and the Pope was required, though he was entirely on the side of the Greeks, to take the side of the Franks and to excommunicate the Greek Emperor as a heretic. Hadrian did not dare directly to repudiate the king's interference in the settlement of questions of doctrine, although he prudently appealed to his primacy, opposed the royal opinion point by point, and defended the Greek view as the orthodox one. Finally, however, he declared himself ready to fulfill the king’s wish and to excommunicate the Greek Emperor. He would demand of Constantine the restitution of the Patrimony of Peter, and if the Emperor refused, he would exclude him as an obstinate heretic from Church fellowship. Charles seems to have left this very remarkable proposal unanswered. He simply caused the pseudo-council of Nicaea to be repudiated — and the Pope said nothing.

“This do we praise as a wonderful and special Divine gift”, writes Alcuin to Charles, “that thou dost endeavour to keep the Church of Christ inwardly pure and to protect it with as great devotion from the doctrine of the faithless as to defend it outwardly against the plundering of the heathen and to extend it. With these two swords has God's power armed thy right hand and thy left”. In the Caroline Books it is declared that by the gift of God he had taken the helm of the Church throughout his dominions, and that the Church had been entrusted to him to steer through the stormy waves of this world. The first letter of Charles to Leo III contains a formal programme of the relation of Pope and king: It is the king’s business to defend the Holy Church of God outwardly with arms and inwardly to maintain the Catholic Faith, and it is the business of the Holy Father to support the royal work by his prayers. The “Representative of God who has to protect and govern all the members of God”—so is Charles called—“Lord and Father, King and Priest, the Leader and Guide of all Christians.”

These are courtly expressions, but they agree perfectly with the facts. The Frankish kingdom had become a world-empire, the Christian Empire of the West. And yet the old fundamental political ideas were still in force—the supreme lord of this power still called himself “King of the Franks and Lombards and patricius of the Romans”. Must there not be a change in this respect, must not the increased power find expression in a new title?

It does not appear that Charles definitely sought this, nor does it appear that tendencies of this kind prevailed about Charles. Even in the year 800 Alcuin explained that three powers were the highest in the world — the Papacy in Rome, the Empire in the Second Rome, and the royal dignity of Charles. And the last precedes the others. Charles surpasses all men in power, in wisdom, in dignity, he is appointed by Jesus Christ as Leader of the Christian people. If Alcuin does not wish thereby to set the title of King above that of Emperor, but only to estimate the royal dignity of Charles as higher than that of the Emperor of East Rome, yet so much is clear, that in the eyes of Charles’ contemporaries claims to the highest earthly power were compatible with the title of king, and that the monarch in Byzantium, in spite of his title of Emperor, was to be regarded as of less importance than the King Charles. With proud self-consciousness the Franks set themselves on occasion in opposition to the Roman idea of the State. Thus the Prologue to the Lex Salica, composed in the eighth century, spoke of the glorious Frankish race that after a victorious struggle had thrown off the hard yoke of the Romans, and after their acceptance of Christianity had enshrined in buildings decked with gold the bodies of the martyrs, burnt and mutilated by the Romans. And in the last decade of the eighth century expressions directly hostile to the Roman Empire were uttered by the confidential friends of Charles. In the Caroline Books the Imperium Romanum is characterised as heathen and idolatrous. Here speaks hatred for the East Roman Empire of Constantine and of Irene; but in it there is also seen Augustine’s conception of the Roman world-empire as one of the great civitates terrenae, and further the idea which the Christian writers had spread, using the interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar by the Prophet Daniel, the idea that four empires follow one another and that the Roman Empire is the fourth, upon which follows the setting up of the Heavenly Empire, i.e. the end of the world. Four civitates terrenae and the last of them the Roman Imperium stand in characteristic contrast to the Civitas Dei — truly a conception which could hardly lead to the assumption of the Roman Imperial dignity by the Franks.

But on the other hand the Roman Imperial dignity still lived as a universal power in the historical life even of the West. And Byzantium was still looked upon as the head of one Roman Empire. It is true that the development of civilization had brought about a separation of the Christian East and Christian West, complete political separation, and made desirable the limitation of the universal Roman Empire to the West. These were social exigencies which help us to understand the efforts of the Italian Exarchs of the great Emperors for emancipation, including that of the eunuch Eleutherius who in the year 619 marched to Rome to set the West Roman Empire up again and wished to be crowned by the Pope. And then the Pope himself had taken up the idea of Roman Universalism and regarded himself as the sovereign representative of the Respublica Romana between Byzantium and the Lombards. Finally the supreme power of Charles had arisen and he had united in himself the power of the kings of the Franks, of the Lombard kings, and of the lord of the Respublica Romana and the universalist tendencies which were peculiar to Rome and the Christian Church of the West.

There was great need in the eighth century for a political union of the Christian West. In the Empire of Charles these tendencies were eventually satisfied. But the way to the re-erection of the Western Empire of the Romans was not yet clear, for it contradicted the still recognised position of the Byzantine Emperor as the supreme head of the Imperium Romanum. Also in contradiction to it was a deep-seated opposition of the friends of Charles to the Roman imperial idea itself, against the Imperium Romanum, the fourth and last of the great world-empires that were founded on the power of the Evil One, and stood in opposition to the Kingdom of God on earth.

There is no doubt that at the end of the eighth century the development of affairs in the West pressed for a certain formal recognition of the universal power of the Frankish king which had prevailed, but the friends of the great monarch did not seek the settlement and could not seek it in the assumption of the Imperial dignity by Charles. The position was still obscure, when the solution came through a spontaneous act of the Pope.

795-799] Pope Leo III 

Pope Hadrian I died on Christmas Day 795. The Roman Leo III was elected on the following day, and consecrated on the day after. He did homage to Charles as his overlord. He sent to him the decree of the election with the assurance of fidelity, the keys of the grave of St Peter and the banner of the City of Rome, and he asked for envoys before whom the Romans could take the oath of allegiance. Formerly the Popes had given in their documents the years of the reigns of the Eastern Emperors. Since 772 Hadrian had omitted this, and Leo III reckoned the years of “the Lord Charles, the illustrious King of the Franks and of the Lombards and Patricius of the Romans since he has conquered Italy”. Charles answered the Papal message in a manner which expressed the exalted position of the king. Through Angilbert he gave the new spiritual ruler a strict warning to lead an honourable life and to observe the decrees of the Church.

Leo III was hard and cruel, and soon forfeited the sympathies of the Romans. On 25 Apr. 799, when he was taking part in an ordinary procession, a conspiracy broke out. Leo was attacked, torn from his horse, severely treated, and sent to the monastery of St Erasmus. During the night he escaped with the help of his chamberlain, being let down the wall by a rope, and hurried to St Peter's, where the two Frankish envoys, the Abbot of Stablo and the Duke of Spoleto, were staying. These on news of the movement in Rome had hastened there with an army. Leo was brought to Spoleto. Soon he was extolled as a martyr on whom the grace of God had wrought miracles. His enemies were said to have destroyed his eyes and torn out his tongue when they attacked him, but during his imprisonment his sight and speech were restored by miracle. And when the two envoys brought him to the land of the Franks to seek help, his triumph was worthy of one on whom the grace of God had so wonderfully lighted, and the people hastened to kiss the feet of the Holy Father. In Paderborn Charles prepared a brilliant reception for the Pope, and Leo was received by the king with kind embraces. But when his Roman opponents, “accursed sons of the devil”, also sent messengers to Charles and raised the gravest charges against the Holy Father, accusing him of adultery and perjury, there were not wanting voices round Charles, that Leo should either clear himself by an oath or renounce the Papal dignity. Others, among them especially Abbot Alcuin of Tours, saw in such demands a serious blow to the Papal office itself. This opinion Charles shared. He sent Leo to Rome accompanied by royal envoys, and on 29 Nov. 799 there was a brilliant entry into the City. Then Charles' envoys brought the conspirators to trial. As the serious accusations against Leo could not be proved, the opponents of the Pope were sent as prisoners to France; but the investigation caused the Pope many anxious moments, as may be seen from the letters of Angilbert. Rome was not yet pacified, and Charles himself wished to set things in order permanently. In the autumn of 800 he went to Italy, and (24 Nov.) held his solemn entry into Rome. Seven days later the great assembly of Franks and Romans was held in St Peter's to consider the charges brought against the Pope. They agreed to leave it to the Pope to clear himself by an oath voluntarily and without compulsion. It was in that manner they found a way out of the difficulty. No trial of the Pope was to be held, for this must inflict the gravest injury on the Papal office, but yet the suspicions which remained were to be removed. Leo agreed to the proposal, and (23 Dec.) holding the Book of the Gospels, he solemnly declared in the Assembly, that the most gracious and exalted King Charles had come to Rome with his priests and nobles to investigate the charges, and that he himself of his own free will, condemned and compelled by none, at length cleared himself before God of every suspicion.

Never had Charles appeared so manifestly the Lord of Christendom. And just at that time came the legates of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, bringing the keys of the Holy Sepulchre, of the Hill of Calvary and of the City, as well as a banner to testify to the suzerainty of the mighty Charles. Was the ruler of orthodox Christendom to hold for the future only the title of king?

On Christmas Day, as the king rose from prayer before the Confession of St Peter, Pope Leo set a crown upon his head and the whole Roman people there assembled joined in the cry “Hail to Charles the Augustus, crowned of God, the great and peace-bringing Emperor of the Romans”. After this cry of homage, the Pope offered him the adoration due to the Byzantine Emperors, and laying aside the title of patricius, he was called Emperor and Augustus.

Such is the brief report of the official Frankish Annals. With it agree the statements of the Papal Book, only that there is no mention of the adoration, and a thrice-repeated cry of homage is spoken of.

Another account (Annales Laureshamenses) tells of deliberations of the Pope, of the assembled Clergy, and of the other Christian people, of deliberations that the Empire was then in the possession of a woman (Irene) at Constantinople, that Charles ought to be called Emperor because he held Rome, the seat of the Emperors, and that Charles had yielded to the request of the priests and the whole Christian people and had accepted the title of Emperor with the coronation by Pope Leo. Many modern historians have thought that this account makes it necessary to suppose a previous election by the Roman people. But the story is worthy of little credit. It abounds in words but is poor in facts and cannot be set against the harmonious and clear accounts of the Imperial Annals and of the Papal Book.

The whole proceeding of the Pope, which took Charles entirely by surprise, is so surely attested that all doubts must be silenced. Even the question how the people without premeditation could have broken out into the cries of homage, finds its answer in the fact that the same Laudes were offered to the patricius and hence the cry, only slightly changed, could very well have been raised on Christmas Day 800, without previous practice. Einhard however relates in his Life of Charles, that the new title was at first very unwelcome to the monarch, and that Charles even said that on this day, although it was a high Festival, he would not have entered the Church if he had known the Pope's intention.

Thus we have on the whole a trustworthy account of the proceedings on Christmas Day 800. From the assured facts we must proceed to the meaning of the coronation as a matter of law and of general history.

The spontaneous action of the Pope created the office of Emperor, and the coronation was looked upon as the decisive act. There was no election by the people: even the joyous cry offered to the newly crowned Emperor is not to be regarded as an act of election. The Laudes were only joyful assent to the act which was of itself legally valid. But the Pope acted as a suddenly inspired organ of God. God Himself crowned Charles as Emperor through the Pope. This view comes out clearly in the Laudes offered to Charles and it expresses the meaning of the title of Emperor. The theocratic origin of the office is certain. And this theocratic element remained. On this basis Charles took his ground when he himself provided for the succession in 813 and commanded his son Louis to take the Imperial crown that was resting on the altar and to put it upon his head—God spoke not through the Pope but through the Emperor.

It is certain that on the occasion of the coronation of 800 Byzantine precedents played a leading part. The coronation, hitherto unknown in the West, was due to the fact that since the middle of the fifth century the Patriarch of Constantinople had been wont to deck the new Emperor with the crown. The cry of homage goes back to an older Litany for the patricius in connexion with the Byzantine usage, and in the same way the title of Emperor finds a Byzantine precedent. But the proceeding of 800 was not an act in accordance with the Byzantine constitution. In spite of its resemblances to Greek usages, it was essentially something new. Historical forces, due to developments in the West and even contrary to Eastern ideas, led to the Western Empire. The foundation of the Empire in the year 800 sprang not from the soil of the Byzantine constitution, but from disregard of it, and meant a complete break with it.

We must suppose that the thought of the coronation was due to Leo himself or to someone closely connected with him. At all events this act was, in a certain sense, in sharpest contrast with the Papal ideas of the Donation of Constantine. For in the latter the most important feature was an Italy independent of the Emperor, but in 800 the Pope himself set the Emperor as the highest secular Lord over his Rome. He must have been conscious of this difference himself. But the Pope may have considered that as patricius Charles was already supreme, and that his absolute position was already established. And since the generally prevailing ideas pointed clearly towards the Empire, it might have been regarded as an advantage for the Roman Curia if this last development was due to itself.

No doubt the coronation was intended to express the strongest feeling of gratitude to the powerful King. But in this Leo deceived himself. According to accounts which are trustworthy, Charles was displeased at the unexpected event. It is not easy to understand the reason of his displeasure. Did he not wish for the crown because he felt himself a German ruler and put the German idea of the State in conscious opposition to Roman absolutism? Or was it that he did not desire it just at that time because he feared a collision with the Eastern Empire? Or did he not wish for the crown from the hand of the Pope because he foresaw the latter might build on it a right to crown, and so deduce claims to supremacy? The later policy of Charles gives many hints for the answer to these questions. We know that Charles for a long time combined no actual political authority with his position as Emperor, and that he ignored the office in his first division of the Empire in 806. We also know that he laid the greatest weight on an alliance with Byzantium, and finally that in 813 when he had to arrange for the succession, he allowed no repetition of the precedent of 800, but rejected all co-operation of the Pope. We must therefore conclude that Charles did not indeed wish to set up the idea of a Germanic priestly kingship against that of the Roman Empire, but that he held fast in 800 to that conception of a Frankish power which had raised him so high. He was not moved by fear of complications with the East, but he saw that they would arise through this step of the Pope's. He did not dream of the far-reaching Papal pretensions of a later age, but he did not wish that so important an event as that of 800 should rest on foreign interference. At the end of the eighth century he had not himself weighed the significance of the change, he had not thought things were ripe for it, he saw in it something inexplicable, something indefinite, which was ground enough for uneasiness and hesitation. Charles certainly did not despise gifts which came to him from heaven, but he wished to ask for them himself, not to receive them unexpectedly through outside intervention.

The coronation came in 800 as a surprise but not as a chance. It sprang entirely from the initiative of the Pope, but it was not a chance idea of Leo's which might as well not have occurred to him. It was rather the outcome of a long chain of events, the result of ordinary historical factors. It had to come, but that it came actually on that Christmas Day and in the manner in which it did, depended on mere chance, purely individual circumstances. Hence the Western Empire did not suddenly bring new elements into the political life of the West. When a modern constitutional historian sees in it a radical constitutional upheaval, when he finds the kingdoms of Charles combined into the united empire and taking their historical form, and yet considers all this to be without constitutional importance, it seems to accord little with the actual circumstances, and even to contradict the clearest assertions of our authorities. We see quite plainly that the new title of Emperor at once took the place of the title of patricius which disappeared, while the old title of king on the contrary remained. We must therefore conclude that those offices which before the coronation were connected with the Patriciate are to be looked upon as imperial offices. Even as Charles as patricius had been protector of the Respublica Romana and supreme in Christendom so was he as Emperor, only that now the monarchical elements were of more significance. As he had been king of the Franks and of the Lombards before 800, so he remained after 800. It is true that the relations of the imperial and the kingly authority were not clearly defined. There was no need, from this point of view, to distinguish the offices which were united in the person of the great monarch. It would not have been possible to draw a sharp line of distinction. Even the duties and rights which originally had certainly belonged to the Patriciate and therefore now belonged to the ruler as Emperor and not as king, were soon combined with the Frankish monarchy.

As “Emperor of the Romans” Charles was crowned, and as master of the Imperium Romanum he regarded himself from that time. But was not the seat of the Empire Byzantium? Could two Emperors act side by side? Men asked themselves these questions at the time and the Annals of Lorsch sought to answer them by explaining that the Greeks had no Emperor but only an Empress over them and that therefore the Imperial rank belonged to Charles, the ruler of Rome, the old seat of the Caesars. Charles had taken the office of Roman Emperor in its unlimited universal extent, but he was from the first inclined to allow a limitation. He negotiated with Byzantium and earnestly sought a good understanding. According to the account of a Greek historian, Charles planned a betrothal with the Empress Irene, but the plan fell through owing to the opposition of the powerful patricius Arius, and during the negotiations the Empress Irene was overthrown in 802.

Relations with the East [802-813

Charles eagerly sought recognition of his Imperial rank from Irene’s successors—from Nicephorus, then from Michael (after 811) and from Leo V (after 813). He went upon the assumption of a division of the Imperium, of a peaceful and independent coexistence of the Imperium Orientale and of the Imperium Occidentale. Not till 810 did he come to a preliminary agreement with Greek agents, whereby he gave up claim to Venice and the towns on the Dalmatian coast, which were even at the beginning of the ninth century occasionally under Frankish rule, and in return was recognised as Emperor by the Greeks. Michael, the successor of Nicephorus, was ready to conclude the treaty, and in the church of Aachen in 812 the Greek ambassadors solemnly saluted Charles as Emperor. But Leo V first drew up the Greek document of the treaty and sent envoys with it to Aachen where after Charles' death it was solemnly delivered to Louis. This was the formal step in the creation of the Empire of the West.

The coronation of 800 gave neither a new basis for the monarchical authority nor a new direction for the obligations of the State. In the year 8M an order was issued for a universal renewal of the oath of allegiance, and the religious side of the obligation was emphasized more than before. The theocratic element of the great monarchy was brought to the front. Yet this was nothing new in principle. When in 809 Charles ordered the retention of the Filioque in the Creed, in opposition to the action of the Pope, and when the Frankish use as a matter of fact supplanted the Roman, this influence of Charles upon doctrine was not a mere consequence of the coronation. The office of Emperor only became gradually a definite political power, summing up as it were the separate powers of the Frankish ruler and also giving a legal basis for the relation of this absolute authority to the Church of the Pope. When on 6 Feb. 806, to avoid wars of succession, a division of the Empire among the three sons of Charles was arranged in case of his death, the document was sent to the Pope for his signature, and care for the Roman Church was enjoined upon the sons, but nothing was decided about the office of Emperor. A few years later it was looked upon as an office which conferred actual authority and must be reserved for the house of Charles. In September of the year 813 an Assembly was held at Aachen and Charles with his nobles resolved to raise Louis, his only surviving son, to the position of Emperor, while a grandson Bernard, the son of his dead son Pepin, was to be appointed under-king of Italy. In his robes as Emperor, Charles advanced to the altar, knelt in prayer, addressed warning words to his son, caused him to promise fulfilment of all commands, and finally bade Louis take a second crown that was lying upon the altar and place it himself upon his head.

814] Death of Charles 

The reign of Charles as Emperor was a period of quiet improvement , of great acquisitions. The wars of the earlier period had come to an end, and conquest was over. His magnificent efforts to raise the conditions of social and religious life became apparent. The world power was universally recognised. Far beyond the Christian peoples of the West, Charles enjoyed unconditional respect. In East and West he was looked upon as the head of the Christian Empire, to the Slavs he was so absolutely the ruler that his name served as an expression for royal authority, just as formerly in the West those of Caesar and Augustus had been chosen to express supreme monarchical power.

On 28 Jan. 814, at 9 o'clock in the morning, Charles died, after an illness of a few days' duration at Aachen, where he had resided by preference during the last years of his reign. He was buried the same day in the Basilica there, and in the manner customary in the West, lying in a closed coffin. Only a later fanciful writer was able to distort this well-attested simple fact. Count Otto of Lomello, one of those who accompanied Otto III on his remarkable visit to the grave of Charles in the year 1000, related, according to the Chronicum Novaliciense, that Charles was found sitting on a throne like a living man, with his crown upon his head and his sceptre in his hands, the nails of which had grown through the gloves. Otto III, according to this account, had the robes set in order, the lost portion of the nose replaced by gold, and a tooth of the great Dead brought away. It may well be supposed that the awful moment in which the fanciful Otto wished to greet his mighty predecessor in person dazzled the senses of the Count, whose imagination and perhaps the desire for sensation have led astray much learned investigation and popular ideas.

The significance of Charles for the history of the world lies in this, that he transferred the theocratic idea of absolute sovereignty, which had begun to work as a great historical factor in Western history, from the sphere of the Roman Curia to the Frankish State. He prepared the way for the social institutions peculiar to the Middle Ages and at the same time opened the source of unavoidable wars. Of course there were general antecedents for this in the political life of the Franks and of the other Western peoples. But yet it was here that this mighty personality was an independent force.