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A History of Diplomacy in the International Development of Europe: Vol I The Struggle for Universal Empire
- Rise of the Empire of Charles the Great
by David Jayne Hill, LL.D.


The death of Pope Gregory III, the Emperor Leo, and Charles Martel in the year 741, opened a new period in the papal diplomacy; for the new Pope, Zacharias, was of Greek origin, a man of unusual talent as a peacemaker, and gifted with a power of persuasion whose charm melted away all opposition and subdued all wills to his own.

When Zacharias became Pope, Liutprand had resolved not only to punish the Duke of Spoleto for his rebellion, but to inflict chastisement upon Rome for the conduct of Gregory III; but the new Pope promptly opened negotiations with the Lombard king, with the result that Liutprand promised to restore the four cities which he had taken, and Zacharias agreed to abandon Trasamund, - who had already broken the treaty by his selfish cowardice, - and even to lend the services of the Roman army to subdue him.

The Duke of Spoleto was soon humbled, but Liutprand showed no inclination to restore the four cities. Knowing the character of the aged king, Zacharias, leaving Rome, in 742, proceeded in person to the camp of Liutprand, where he was most cordially received, and by his gentle speech and adroit appeal to the King's conscience obtained the surrender of the cities, - not, however, to the Empire, to which they belonged, but to himself. In order to impress upon this transaction the seal of sanctity, Zacharias caused the King to confirm his gift by a deed afterward deposited in the Oratory of the Saviour in St. Peter's Church; then, at a love feast in celebration of a treaty of peace for forty years between the Lombard kingdom and the Roman duchy, Zacharias induced Liutprand to restore to the Papacy several valuable properties which had been taken from the Church in former years. When the King rose from the table he wittily remarked that it was the most expensive meal of which he had ever partaken.

The return of Zacharias to Rome was in every sense triumphal Liutprand is said to have accompanied the Pope for half a mile on his journey, holding the stirrup of his palfrey, and one after another the four cities were handed over to the Pope in his homeward march. The people of Rome received him with an ecstasy of rejoicing at the city gates, and the peace was further celebrated by a discourse in St. Peter's and a procession on the following day.

Having thus reconciled the Lombard monarchy to the Papacy, Zacharias continued his policy of conciliation by personally interceding with the King at Pavia in behalf of the new Emperor, Constantine V, when a year later his possessions were threatened anew by the Lombards. The aged King, moved by the skilful persuasion of the Holy Father, yielded once more to his wishes and ceased his depredations. It was, however, his last surrender; for in 744 Liutprand died, and a new dynasty ascended the throne of the Lombards.

New victories, accompanied by new dangers, were in store for the Papacy; but the time had come when its entente with the Frankish monarchy was to prove, as Boniface had always believed, the salvation of its independence. It was the Franks, however, who were to gather the first fruits of the plans of Boniface. After the death of Charles Martel, his sons, Carloman and Pippin, continued their father's policy, making war on the Bavarians, the Saxons, and the Slavs, and pushing forward the frontiers of the kingdom where the work of the missionaries had prepared the way. But Carloman, the elder of the brothers, after winning decisive victories in the field, in 747 renounced his royal office, commended his sons to Pippin, and, proceeding with costly gifts to Rome, begged and received the papal approval of his abdication, consecrating himself thenceforth to a monastic life.

Thus, as it is believed, by the influence of Boniface,1 a step was taken which resulted in the complete unification of the Frankish power in the hands of Pippin; who, in return for the papal alliance, was disposed to confer upon the Papacy that temporal protection of which it stood in need. Left free to concentrate the entire kingdom in his own hands, Pippin moved boldly forward to the consummation of his plans. Even in the time of Charles Martel, it was to him, the Mayor of the Palace, rather than to the nominal king, that Gregory III had sent the keys of the Apostolic tomb. Childeric III, in whose name Carloman and Pippin had held their power, was now doomed to be the last of the Merovingian kings; but the elective character of the kingship had been so long forgotten that Pippin felt the need of a high sanction for the act of usurpation he was about to perpetrate. Zacharias, content with the results of his conciliatory policy in Italy, had not repeated the appeal of Gregory III, but Boniface remained unshaken in his firm conviction that the hour was approaching when the Frankish alliance would be required. When all his plans were ripe, and only the papal sanction was wanting to appease the conscience of the Frankish nobles, in 751 Pippin sent an embassy, composed of the Bishop of Würzburg and the Abbot of St. Denis, to inquire of the Pope if a king had the right to rule when he had not the power to enforce the laws. Not indisposed to be made the arbiter of so great a question, Zacharias replied that he might with better right be called king who really possessed the royal power.2

Having thus secured the approval of the Pope, Pippin convoked a general assembly of the nobility and of the people, and caused himself to be elected king. Childeric was shorn of his long hair, the sign of royalty among the Franks, and with his son Theodoric confined in a convent. Pippin ascended the throne as king "by election of the Franks;" but there was one significant circumstance in the ceremonies of coronation, - the new king was anointed by the hand of St. Boniface.

By his unification of the Church under the primacy of Rome, and the alliance of the Papacy with the Frankish monarchy, Boniface had laid the corner-stone of a new empire. The retirement of Carloman, who would have shrunk from the bold deed of Pippin, the coronation of Pippin as the anointed of God, and the defence of the Papacy which was afterward exacted of him, - are all connected links forged into one compact chain by the hand of Boniface. The scope of his plans and the cogency of his methods mark him as the most consummate diplomatist that Europe had produced for many centuries; but his work was done in a spirit of absolute devotion to an ideal which he felt to be greater than himself, - the building of an earthly empire in which peace and righteousness should dwell together under the protection of consecrated force.

Before his death in 752, Pope Zacharias had won another signal victory over the Lombards; but his triumph proved the cause of a new calamity. The Lombards, dissatisfied with the feebleness of Hildebrand, who succeeded Liutprand as king, deposed him from the throne and chose Ratchis, Duke of Friuli, in his place. In 749, Ratchis attacked Perugia, and was beginning a war of conquest upon the Eastern Empire, when Zacharias visited his camp and laid siege to his conscience. As Liutprand had bowed before the accusations of Gregory III, Ratchis, overwhelmed with penitence, renounced his royal crown and title in the presence of the Holy Father, and deeming himself no longer worthy to be called a king, retired to the seclusion of Monte Casino. His brother, Astolf, however, possessed a different temper, and having been elevated to the throne, determined to expel the imperial power from Italy and dominate the whole peninsula.

When, in 752, Stephen II succeeded Zacharias in the papal chair, and, resorting to the policy of his predecessor, endeavored to dissuade Astolf from his purpose, he found that all his arts of persuasion were wasted upon the incorrigible Lombard. Ravenna, the Ezarchate, and Pentapolis were already in the conqueror's hands; and, in June, 752, Stephen, only with the greatest difficulty, by means of prayers and presents, prevailed upon him to respect the freedom of Rome. After concluding a treaty of peace with the Pope for forty years, the young barbarian demanded heavy tribute from Rome and declared his intention of annexing its territory to the Lombard kingdom.

An embassy to Astolf having failed to appease his ambition, Stephen turned toward the Emperor for aid; but his appeal was not only fruitless, it embittered Astolf the more. Deserted by men, Stephen made his appeal to heaven. Before the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, the population of Rome was summoned to behold the treaty of peace to which Astolf had subscribed attached to a cross, while the Holy Father, barefooted, led the litany, bearing the sacred image of the Saviour which, according to the legend, had been carved by the hands of the angels. Amid fasting and prayer, all Rome sent up its cry for rescue.

But Stephen, in his desperate distress, did not cease his negotiations. Recalling the entente which had long existed with the Franks, and which the coronation of Pippin had fortified, he began his secret communications with the Frankish king. By the hand of a pilgrim letters were sent disclosing the great peril of the Papacy and invoking aid. Pippin, seeing his opportunity, received the message with a glad heart, and promptly despatched an envoy to Rome, soon followed by Duke Autharis and the Abbot of Görtz to conduct the Pope safely to the Frankish kingdom.

While Stephen was still planning his bold journey over the Alps an embassy arrived from the Emperor; not, as might have been expected, promising aid, but feebly demanding of the Pope to go as mediator to the court of Astolf and recover for the Empire its lost territories. If doubt had lingered in the mind of Stephen regarding the adventurous step he was about to take, this embassy must have totally dispelled it. Thenceforth, all hope for the Papacy lay in the West. The East had abdicated.

Faithful to his orders from the Emperor, Stephen, in company with the imperial ambassadors and the envoys of Pippin, on October 14, 753, set out on his mission to Astolf. Before he reached Pavia, Astolf sent him word that it would be useless to ask for the restitution of the conquered territory, but Stephen continued on his way. When his efforts as mediator had completely failed, departing from Pavia on November 15, Stephen boldly turned his face toward the Alps. It was a journey fraught with the most far reaching consequences for the Papacy, the dynasty of Pippin, and the future of all Europe.

The reception accorded to Stephen in the realm of the Franks was one of the greatest honor. Charles, the eleven-year-old son of Pippin, afterward to become king and emperor, was sent out with an escort to meet the papal cortége at a distance of a hundred miles from Ponthion, near Bar-le-Duc, where Pippin was to receive him. Three miles from the journey's end, on January 6, 754, Pippin himself appeared, to welcome his venerable guest. Dismounting from his horse, and having first paid homage by kneeling in the snow, it is said, the King led by the bridle the palfrey of the Holy Father in the manner of a simple squire. At Ponthion in the chapel of the royal palace, Stephen besought the King with tears to restore to St. Peter his rights in Italy.

The Treaty of Carisiacus, of April 14, ratified by a general assembly of the Franks, provided for the restoration of the papal possessions when retaken from the Lombards, but the solemn compact between the Pope and the Frankish king was of far wider scope and significance. Pippin became the defender of the Church, and the Pope in return promised to the house of Pippin perpetual confirmation in the kingship of the Franks.3

At Paris, in the Church of St. Denis, on July 28, imposing ceremonies were held by which the new dynasty, the first to receive this distinction, was solemnly consecrated by the Pope. The Franks, whose imagination was deeply impressed by this unprecedented act, thenceforth regarded their monarch as chosen by heaven to rule over them. A new element was thus brought into the constitution of the Frankish state; for, although the new royalty was based upon election, it now seemed to possess also a divine authority. The conflict with the Lombards, therefore, assumed the character of a holy war, and made of the Frankish king the champion of Christendom.

With a view to breaking up the alliance which had been formed against him, Astolf drew the monk Carloman out of his cell at Monte Casino and sent him as an ambassador to his brother Pippin. It was in vain however, that the monk pleaded with the King not to bring down the horrors of war upon Italy. Treated as if he were a sentimental imbecile, or a terrorized tool of Asto1f he was sent away to a monastery at Vienne in Burgundy, where he soon afterward died.

Pippin, in turn, sent envoys to the Lombard king, offering him a large reward if he would abandon his designs; but Astolf, whose unbending nature yielded neither to threats nor persuasion, remained as obstinate as before.

Returning to Rome with a strong Frankish escort, Stephen re-entered the city amid the jubilations of the people, who hailed him as their deliverer. On his journey the news had reached him of the death of Boniface. The aged archbishop had started on a journey into East Friesland, the very heart of paganism, and there, at Dokkum, a wild host had fallen upon him and his companions, and the great apostle to the Germans had been slain. Buried at Fulda, his tomb became a sacred shrine in the splendid abbey that was built over it,from whose cloisters went forth a vast army of monks to carry on his work.

Pippin, following his promise with prompt execution, in July, 754, led his army over the Alps, and Astolf, unable to resist him, promised to surrender Ravenna and the other imperial cities. In the treaty signed by Astolf it was the "Republic of the Romans" which was to be the beneficiary of his restitution; but whether this expression was intended to mean the Eastern Empire or the Duchy of Rome was left in obscurity. No sooner had Pippin's army disappeared over the Alps, however, than the faithless Lombard, repenting of his promise, not only refused to deliver the territory he had taken, but marched directly upon Rome, demanding the surrender of the Pope into his hands.

Loyal to their bishop, who was now the only head of the Roman government, the Romans bravely withstood the long and trying siege. But all the old barbarian instincts of the Lombards were aroused, and not only was the campagna ruthlessly plundered, even the churches outside the walls were both robbed and desecrated. Gregory III had prudently renewed the walls of Rome, and for more than three months Astolf's fierce army was held at bay. In the meantime, Stephen, sending his messengers by sea, wrote urgent letters Lo the King of the Franks, plying him with every form of inducement, - blessings, reproaches, appeals, and fears for his salvation, - to come immediately to the relief of the beleaguered city. At the height of his mental exaltation, Stephen imagines himself the mere amanuensis of St. Peter, through whom the Holy Apostle, in his own name, and in the name of the Mother of God and of all saints, martyrs, and angels, dictates his invitation and command to the King to fulfil his pledges without delay, and march to the rescue of the holy city.

However Pippin may have regarded these pathetic importunities, he had the strongest reasons for taking them to heart. His kingship was, in a certain sense, the result of the papal sanction, and his solemn pledge had been given to defend the Papacy. He could not, therefore, without humiliation and self-reproach permit the Vicar of God, whose sanctity was the very foundation of his throne, to suffer violence at the hands of the barbarian king who was threatening him with destruction. Hearing of Pippin's approach over the Alps, in March, 755, Astolf suddenly raised the siege of Rome, to march against the Frankish army in the North.

The obscurity in which the Eastern Emperor was groping in the midst of these events, is shown by the appearance of three imperial ambassadors at Rome, at the time when Pippin's army was marching to its rescue. Without even suspecting the policy of Stephen, the Emperor had conceived the idea that he could use Pippin against Astolf for the restoration of his Italian possessions; and with that end in view, the embassy, on its mission to the King of the Franks, had passed by way of Rome, in order to obtain the support and assistance of the Pope.

At Rome, the astonished envoys discovered with alarm that Pippin was on his way to invade Italy, and hastened to go by sea to find him, taking with them an envoy of Stephen's, who was sent as if to aid them. Arriving at Marseilles, they learned that Pippin had already crossed the Alps at the solicitation of the Pope. Thrown into consternation by the sudden revelation of the papal policy, the misguided embassy endeavored to detain the Pope's envoy, while one of their number made haste to reach the King.

Overtaken in the course of his victorious march to Pavia, Pippin, when urged to restore to the Emperor his lost cities, announced to the imperial envoy that he was bound by a solemn oath to Stephen, and that he had not come to Italy to do the will of men but for the love of the Holy Apostle, to whom alone he would restore them.

In what precise form the donation of Pippin was made, we have no records to testify; but it is certain that the transaction laid the foundation of the temporal sovereignty of the Papacy in Italy.4 The keys of twenty-four cities were solemnly laid upon the tomb of St. Peter, and Stephen, as head of the "Republic of the Romans," became the virtual ruler over the greater part of the duchy of Rome, the Exarchate, and Pentapolis. Thus, the project for a territorial basis for the dominion of the Papacy suddenly became a reality, and the Pope a temporal sovereign. His relation to the Eastern Emperor was left vague and undefined, for it was a part of the papal policy not to destroy the idea of the Empire, from which the new theocracy of Rome was to profit in the future. The heart of Italy was now in the possession of the Pope, and the gradual annexation of the entire peninsula appeared more than probable. The Lombards, confined to the valley of the Po, seemed powerless to prevent the papal absorption of the duchies of Spoleto and Benevento, with whose dukes negotiations were promptly opened.

An unexpected event soon occurred to favor the plans of Stephen. Astolf having died, and Desiderius, Duke of Tuscany, having been chosen King of the Lombards, the monk Ratchis came forth from his cell at Monte Casino, as one risen from the dead, to contest his possession of the throne. By a liberal concession of territory to the "Republic of the Romans," Desiderius purchased an alliance with the Pope; who quickly suppressed the ambition of the vacillating monk and sent him back to his cell, to do penance for his temerity.

When, in 757, Stephen II died and was succeeded by his brother, Paul I, as Pope, the Papacy appeared to have attained not only its spiritual freedom, but the political leadership of Italy; for the Emperor,- whose suzerainty was still recognized in the dating of documents and the inscription of coins, - and the Frankish protector of the Church, were too far away and too much preoccupied to interfere with the cares of government in Italy. Paul continued with Pippin the close relations which Stephen had established, but the extensive correspondence between them which has come down to us discloses the extent to which the Roman government had been transformed. While Pippen is always addressed in terms of docility, and even of flattery, the Frankish king figures in these letters only as the recognized and valued "protector" of the Papacy; but it is the Pope who stands out as the head of the "Republic of the Romans," now distinctly assuming the character of an independent state.5

With the kingship of the Lombards safely in his own possession, Desiderius, perceiving bis opportunity, repented of his liberal concessions to the Pope, and, instead of delivering the cities he had promised as the price of his crown, laid waste Pentapolis and punished the dukes of Spoleto and Benevento for their entente with Stephen. In his letters to Pippin, Paul bitterly complained of the conduct of Desiderius; but when, in 759, the Lombard king came to Rome to negotiate with Paul, the frightened Pope made a formal surrender of his claims, and a letter was written to Pippin in which it was declared that this renunciation was freely made.

The evil which had come upon the Church through the assumption of temporal power by the Papacy - an evil to be so tragically exhibited in later times - bore its first fruits in the humiliating expedient to which the Holy Father was reduced. Too timid to support his claims, and too much imbued with the worldly spirit to renounce them, Paul sent to Pippin a secret contradiction of his open letter, in which he complained of the greed and faithlessness of the perfidious Lombard. Pippin, surprised and puzzled by this duplicity, did not come to the Pope's assistance. By the mediation of the Frankish ambassador, Remigius, a treaty was, however, concluded in March, 760, in which Desiderius agreed to deliver the cities he had promised to the Pope, and a period of peace was thus secured.

With the Eastern Emperor sleeping on his rights, Desiderius pacified, and a strong protector on the other side of the Alps, the Papacy seemed for a moment to have established that independence for which it had so desperately struggled. But a new enemy was soon to arise to awaken the Church from these dreams of peace. The papal office, originally a curacy of souls, during the period when its functions were purely spiritual had been filled by devout and benevolent bishops, whose chief ambition was to be of use to their fellow men. With the assumption of temporal sovereignty, however, undertaken at first because it had seemed necessary to secure its spiritual freedom, the Papacy had become an attractive prize. In an age of brutal force and greedy appetite, the temptation to seize its power was too strong for the passions of rude ambition to resist. The Church had, therefore, escaped the dictation of the Emperor and the depredations of the Lombard, only to fall a victim to the Roman aristocracy.

Paul I, dying of fever, in June, 767, had scarcely drawn his last breath, when one Toto, the head of a powerful Roman family of Lombard origin, with his three brothers, accompanied by an armed band, broke into the city, terrorized the population, and having chosen one of the brothers, Constantine, as Pope, proceeded to install him in the Lateran palace. A frightened bishop was compelled to ordain this layman, who was in a few hours passed on through a series of ecclesiastical grades, and, finally, protected by Toto's armed men, consecrated Pope in St. Peter's Church.

The activity of Christophorus, the Primicerius, or Secretary of State, of Paul I, who considered it his duty to secure a legitimate succession, brought the Lombards to the rescue; but the representative of Desiderius attempted to set up another illegal pope in the Lombard interest. After nearly two years of tragedy and terror, Stephen III was legally chosen and the usurpers were severely punished. A general council held in the Lateran, in April, 769, revoked all their acts, and provided that, in future, only duly ordained ecclesiastics, chosen after a prescribed method, should be eligible to the papal office. Rome was thus once more brought under the rule of a duly authorized pope, but encroachments on the papal office by the powerful families of Rome were to have a far more serious influence upon the future of the Papacy.

The death of Pippin in September, 768, left the Frankish kingdom in the hands of his two sons, Charles and Carloman, as joint kings. The division of the kingdom, the open opposition between the two brothers, and the intrigues with Carloman carried on by Christophorus and his brother Sergius, who by their rescue of the Papacy had become powerful at Rome, placed Stephen III in a position of extreme embarrassment. Deprived of the Frankish protection, subordinated at Rome by the brothers who had been instrumental in his election, and surrounded by a plotting aristocracy who saw their ambitions threatened by the papal supremacy, Stephen had entered upon an era of tragic peril.

Resolved to master the situation, the Pope now turned toward Desiderius as his most available ally. The Lombard king threatened Rome with an army, suppressed the opposition, and having captured and blinded Christophorus and Sergius, established Stephen in full control of the city. Having done this, Desiderius considered bis obligations to the Pope fully discharged, and felt free to pursue his own ambitious plans for the control of Italy.

Fearing the effects of the Lombard supremacy, Stephen now turned anxiously toward Charles and Carloman for protection. In the midst of his negotiations, the venerable Queen Mother of the Frankish kings, Bertha, hoping to effect a reconciliation between her sons, made a pilgrimage to Rome. Stephen welcomed her presence as a good omen for his designs, but much to his distress the Queen suddenly conceived the idea of arranging marriages for her sons, Charles and Carloman, with the daughters of Desiderius.

Disgusted with a project which seemed to threaten the independence of the Papacy by destroying the basis on which its protection had rested, Stephen bitterly and violently opposed the marriages. No sooner had Queen Bertha set out for a visit to the Lombard court, than the Pope, having written a letter of fierce denunciation against the whole Lombard race, which was characterized as "a fetid and godless nation," solemnly laid the furious diatribe upon the tomb of St. Peter, to receive therefrom a transfusion of miraculous influence; then, having indorsed this fact upon it, he sent it to the Frankish kings accompanied with the Apostolic curse and anathema in case his advice was disregarded. For this or some other reason, Carloman abstained from the marriage his mother had proposed; but Charles, unmoved by the papal malediction, married Desiderata, and thus concluded a family alliance between the Lombards and the Franks.

The troubled reign of Stephen III came to an end in 772, and a Roman prelate of noble family became Pope as Adrian I. Hostile to the Lombard influence, and zealous for the political independence of Rome, Adrian bravely demanded of Desiderius the delivery of the cities he had promised to the Holy See. Furious at the insistence of Adrian, the Lombard king not only refused to comply with the papal demand, but began a series of violent aggressions upon peaceable territory, and finally invaded and laid waste the Duchy of Rome.

In the spring of 772, Carloman having died, his widow and little sons had sought refuge with Desiderius, in quest of his aid in securing their right to their father's throne. In the meantime, Charles, who claimed the throne for himself, had put away his Lombard wife, Desiderata, with whom he had found the unhappiness which the Pope had predicted, and had come into full sympathy with the views expressed by Stephen III regarding the Lombards.

When, therefore, Desiderius proposed to Adrian I that he would cease his attacks on the Roman territory on condition that the Pope would consecrate the son of Carloman as a king of the Franks, Adrian was quick to see that he could now appeal to Charles for aid on the ground that the territories of the Holy See were being ravaged by the Lombards because the Pope had refused to yield to the demands of Desiderius directed against Charles himself.

Having despatched an embassy to Charles by sea, Adrian assembled all the forces he could gather, closed and even walled up the gates of Rome, strengthened its fortifications, and prepared to defend the city to the death. Then, while awaiting the reply of Charles, he endeavored to temporize with the enemy. Sending three of the most venerable bishops to treat with Desiderius, he armed them with the excommunication and malediction of St. Peter, to be used against the Lombards if they did not withdraw. Overcome by the spiritual powers of the bishops, the barbarian king quailed before them; and, to save his soul from perdition, sounded a retreat.

Soon after the withdrawal of the Lombard army, envoys from Charles arrived at Rome. They had come to inquire into and report upon the condition of affairs in Italy; and, hastening back, after a rebuff at Pavia, they informed Charles that his presence was demanded there.

In May, 773, therefore, after having vainly offered a large sum of money if Desiderius would fulfil his obligations to the Pope, an assembly of the Franks was convoked at Geneva, war was decided upon, and in the following September Charles descended into Italy with two armies.

Forcing the Lombards to take refuge in Pavia, the King of the Franks laid siege to the city, and during its progress visited Rome in person. There, after celebrating the Easter festivities with elaborate ceremonies as the guest of Adrian, he promised to confirm to the Papacy all that his father Pippin had bestowed. 6

When Pavia fell, the Lombard king was sent to die in a Frankish monastery, and his treasure was distributed among the Frankish soldiers. Having thus extinguished the Lombard dynasty, Charles was proclaimed master of Italy with the title, "King of the Franks and Lombards, and Roman Patrician." In him the Papacy had at last found an efficient protector, under the shadow of whose sword it had nothing to fear in Italy.

But this first visit to Rome opened a new epoch also in the life of the great monarch; for it filled his mighty spirit with a new reverence for the power of the invisible world, and a new conception of his office as a king. The fine Roman culture of Adrian I and the great monuments of Rome appealed to his imagination with the force and fertility of a new revelation. Already a great ruler through his power as a military chief, he was to become the greatest organizer and administrator of the Middle Ages.

The battles in whose fiery heat the Frankish king forged the chain of his dominions, extending from Northern Spain to the shores of the Baltic, and from the Atlantic to the Oder and eastward far into the land of the Avars, do not concern us here; but it must not be overlooked that it was by the power of the Church that he tamed these wild pagans and finally subdued them to his rule. Nine times the fierce Saxons had defied the power of his armies, and nine times he returned to sweep their forest fastnesses with fire and sword. It was only when he had forced them into the towns which he built to garrison their country, and set bishops over them and missionaries among them, to break their spirit of resistance by the influence of religion, that he finally was able to hold them in obedience to his will. By the imposing pageantry of the Roman ritual, the solemnities of baptism and the sacrament, and the terrors of the unseen world he uprooted the native savagery which derided his victories, and cemented his conquests by those moral forces which vanquished the barbarian population from within.

In order to comprehend the full significance of the great movements which have been described, whose entire meaning is in danger of being lost in the multiplicity of details, it is necessary to remember that, at the moment when the Western Empire fell in 476, there were in reality two empires in the West, - an empire of the civil order maintained by military force, and an empire of the spiritual order established in the inner life of the people. With the invasion of the barbarians the physical empire was swept away, but the ideal empire, the empire whose forms still persisted in the hierarchy of the Church, continued to exist. Communities of the faithful in every part of the old imperial dominion continued to look to their bishops, these to be guided by their metropolitans, and these in turn to feel their subordination to the ancient patriarchate at Rome. Heresy threatened to disrupt the Church, but it tended even more powerfully to alienate the old Roman population from its heretical conquerors and to give it a sense of solidarity with the champion of the orthodox faith. Local independence was manifested by many bishops, but others looked with reverence to the Pope; and the missionary movement, radiating out from Rome, resulted in a general recognition of his primacy.

Thus the moral unity of the old Empire, in spite of its political disruption, prolonged the existence of its traditions and ideals and made it live on in the minds of men long after its civil authority had disappeared. When, finally, the heresies of the East and the fluctuating authority of the emperors at Constantinople - too remote from Western Europe to command its respect or render their rule effective - had proved the pretensions of the Eastern Empire empty and unfruitful, the time had come when all that was wanting to revive the imperial power at Rome was a military chief strong enough to hold local rivalries in subjection, and that power had now appeared in the person of the Frankish king. Having unified Gaul, conquered Germany, subdued the Saxons, incorporated Bavaria and redeemed Italy from the Lombard, the Frankish monarchy had expanded to the limits of Western Christendom, and was carrying the faith of Rome to the Slav and the Avar. It was neither so remote from Italy as to render it ineffective as a protector of the Pope, nor so near as to menace his independence. In all its great work of conquest and organization, it was the Papacy which had prepared the way for the advance of its armies, and had spread the influences which tamed and restrained the conquered peoples. The dynasty had been consecrated at its birth with the papal blessing. In return, it had laid the fruits of its war with the Lombards upon the tomb of St. Peter as a voluntary offering to his successor. To sustain the temporal authority of the Pope, Charles had assumed a protectorate over the papal territory as King of the Lombards. Already the almost universal sovereign of Western Europe, but one step was yet to be taken to consummate in his person the logical result of all these events by the revival of the Empire in the West.

When, in 795, Adrian I ended his long and active reign, and Leo III, a devoted Roman, succeeded him, the city of Rome, to all outward appearances, was completely in the power of the Papacy. Beneath the surface there was, however, some cause for anxiety in the mind of the new Pope; for, when he sent to the King of the Franks the keys of the Apostolic tomb, soon after his election, he presented also the banner of Rome, accompanied by the request that Charles would send a representative to receive the oath of fidelity of the Roman people, - a step expressive of his strong desire to emphasize the Frankish protectorate.

The fact that Charles promptly selected for this mission so important a personage as his trusted and experienced Angilbert, implies that the letter of the Pope - now unhappily lost - contained some communication of unusual significance. The events which followed are, however, sufficient to reveal the existence of a hostile party at Rome which sought the overthrow of the Pope. On April 25, 799, relatives of the late Pope Adrian I, led by his nephew, Paschal, seeking to grasp the temporal power, attacked the person of Leo III near the monastery of Saints Stephen and Sylvester, as he rode in a procession, dragged him from his horse, stabbed him with daggers, attempted to put out his eyes and cut out his tongue, and flung him almost lifeless before the altar of the church.

Concealed by some pious monks, Leo was able to escape to the Duchy of Spoleto, whose Frankish duke came to his rescue. Thence he was escorted to the presence of Charles, who had interrupted his war against the Saxons, in order to meet him at Paderborn. The great warrior is said to have shed tears as he gathered in his arms the broken body and kissed the bruised face of the Holy Father, whose eyes and tongue were believed to have been miraculously restored.

The re-establishment of the Pope in his authority at Rome presented a delicate problem; for the brutal conspirators had not only had the shamelessness to try to destroy his influence with Charles by sending accusers to confront him with infamous charges before the King, but it was thought at the time that the Eastern Empire might lend support to his overthrow, as a Greek envoy was also present at Paderborn. Upon the advice of the learned Alcuin, therefore, Charles sent Leo back to Rome under the protection of a numerous armed escort, and attended by noted dignitaries of the Church, with the announcement that the King would soon come to Rome in person.

As the long train of soldiers and ecclesiastics approached the city, on November 29, 799, nearly the entire population-the clergy, the nobility, the militia, and the foreign colony as well as the common people - came forth to welcome the returning pontiff. In the triclinium of the Lateran palace a prolonged inquest was held, at which Paschal and his fellow-conspirators did not hesitate to appear as accusers of the Pope; but, convinced of his innocence and of their guilt, the tribunal sent them into exile. Unwilling to judge the Holy Father, the Frankish and Roman dignitaries then awaited the appearance of Charles at Rome.

Almost a year later, on November 24, 800, the King entered the city, having been received by Leo III "with great humility" some fourteen miles from the city gates. On December 1 a convocation of the higher clergy and the Frankish nobility was called, to meet in St. Peter's Church; and on December 23, Leo III, with great solemnity, holding the Holy Gospel in his hands, in the presence of the assembly, declared with an oath his innocence of the charges brought against him.

Two days after his acquittal, on Christmas day, when the Church of St. Peter was thronged with worshippers celebrating the festival, Leo silently approached the King, who was kneeling before the high altar in the act of prayer, and placed upon his bowed head an imperial crown, while the Roman people acclaimed: "To Charles, the Augustus, crowned by God, great and pacific Emperor of the Romans, life and victory!" 7

Not only the court and the clergy within, but the Frankish soldiers without the wails, took up the cry; while the Pope, performing the act of "adoration," reverently knelt to touch and kiss the garment of the praying monarch.8 As if by a sudden inspiration, he had, with a single touch, crystallized the greatest memories of the past and the deepest aspirations of his time into the most conspicuous institution of the Middle Ages.

The two figures before the high altar of St. Peter's on that Christmas day form a symbolical picture of the whole course of history since the time of the Caesars. The Roman and the German, the overshadowing past and the potential present, the universal and the individual, the majesty of law and the vigor of liberty, the world of the spirit and the world of actuality, imperial right and barbarian energy, - all these are present, and all are henceforth to be combined as if swallowed up in one new creation. But it is the German who kneels in pious devotion, the present which humbles itself before the past, the individual who feels the power of the universal, the vigor of liberty which yields to the majesty of law, the actual which seeks strength from the spiritual, and the barbarian who has been conquered by the Empire. It is the Roman who bestows the crown, the Roman who speaks in the name of the divinity, the Roman whose transfigured republic is to profit by Rome's latest conquest; for after centuries of suffering, toil, and tragedy, it is the triumph of Rome's work which is before us.




1. See Gregorovius, Geschichte, II, p. 747.

2. See the form of the messages exchaaged and comments on the authorities in Richter, Annalen, I, p. 215.

3. If the so-called "Fragmentum Fantuzzianum" is a genuine document, the Treaty of Carisiacus ceded to the Papacy all the cities, duchies, and castles in the Exarchate of Ravenna which Pippin might be able to take from the Lombards. This document is, therefore, considered by Catholic writers to be of great importance. See on this point, Brunengo, Le origini, p. 143 et seq. The fragment in question was published for the first time by Count Mareo Fantuzzi, in 1804, in his Monumenti Ravennati, vol. VI, pp. 264, 267; and was afterward reprinted by Troya in his Codex Diplomaticus, No. DCLXXXI. The text, copied also by Brunengo, Le origini, pp. 144, 145, who regards it as genuine, is as follows: "Statuimus cum consensu et clamore omnium, ut tertio Kalendas Maiarum in Christi nomine hostilitatem Longombardiam adissemus; sub hoc, quod pro pactionis foedere per quod pollicimus et spondemus tibi Beatissimo Petro Clavigero Regni Coelestis et Principi Apostolorum, et pro te huic almo Vicario tuo Stephano, egregioque Papae Summoque Pontifici, eiusque precibus, successoribus usque in finem saeculi, per consensum et voluntatem omnium infrascriptorum Abbatum, Ducum, Comitum Francorum, quod si Dominus Deus noster pro suis meritis sacrisque precibus Victores nos in gente et regno Longombardorum esse constituerit, omnes Civitates, atque Ducata seu Castra, sicque insimul cum Exarchatu Ravennatum neo non et omnia quae pridem tot per Imperatorum largitionem subsistebant ditioni, quod specialiter inferius per adnotatos fines fuerit declaratum, omnia quae infra ipsos fines fuerint ullo modo constituta, vel reperta, quae iniquissima Longombardorum generatione devastata, invasa, subtracta ullatenus alienata sunt, tibi tuisque Vicariis sub omni integritate aeternaliter concedimus, nullam nobis nostrisque successoribus infra ipsas terminationes potestatem reservatum, nisi solummodo ut orationibus et animae requiem profiteamur, et a Vobis populoque vestro Patritii Romanorum vocemur."
W. Martens, Beleuchtung, p. 143, rejects as unauthentic the "Fragmentum Fantuzzianum."
The obligations incurred by the Treaty of Carisiacus are thus described by W. Sickel: "Das Fränkische Reich war verpflichtet, das Land der Römischen Kirche zu vertheidigen, eine Pflicht, die sich nicht sut bestimmte Ansprüche und bestimmte Gegner beschränkte, sondern ant jeweiligen Besitz sich erstreckte und sich richtete gegen jeden, der ihn angriff. Es bedurfte nur des Nachweises, dass ein Gebiet dar Römischen Kirche verloren oder gefährdet sei urn den Rechtsanspruch sut Hilfeleistung zu begründen." Die Verträge der Päpste mit den Karolingern; in the Deutsche Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, Band XI, 1894, p. 333.
It was as "papal possessions" that the Exarchate of Ravenna and other imperial territories were to be reclaimed and restored; although, in fact, most of them had never been ruled by the Pope. This was Pippin's understanding in his treaty with Stephen II, and he faithfully kept his word. On the ambiguity of the transaction, see W. Sickel, as cited above, pp. 322-324. On the form and terms of the treaty, see also Jaffé, Codex Carolinus, p. 497 et seq., especially pp. 525, 534, 715.

4. On the donations of Pippin, see Richter, Annalen, II, p. 674 et seq., who cites all the principal authorities. On the extent and legitimacy of the donations, see also Brunengo, Le origini.

5. In 754, Pippin was made "Patrician of the Romans" by Stephen II. On the nature of this office, see the luminous account given by W. Sickel in the work already cited, pp. 340-351. "Pippin hat von seinem Patriciat während der anderthalb Jahrzehnte, die er ihn inne hatte, einen spärlichen Gebrauch gemacht. Aber auch er zweiflete nicht, dass er als Patricius unmittelbare Gewalt über die Römer habe: sie waren ihm zu Treue verpflichtet" (p. 349).

6. For the details see Richter, Annalen, II, p. 681 et seq.

7. The Latin formula, Augusto a deo coronato magno et pacifico imperatori Romanorum vita et victoria , used by the Roman people in acclaiming Charles the Great, was part of an ancient hymn of salutation well known and often used at Rome, with slight modifications. See W. Ohr, Die Kaiserkrönung Karls des Grossen, pp. 63, 72.

8. The act of "adoration" is explained in Godofred's note to the Codex Theodosianus, VI, 8. It merely implied the honor due to an emperor, and was not in any sense a sign of vassalage.

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