A History of the Church in the Middle Ages

By F. Donald Logan | Go to book overview

6

THE CHURCH IN DISARRAY, c.850-c.1050

The disintegration of the Carolingian Empire had serious consequences for the church. When the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious (d. 840) divided the so-called empire—it never did have a unified imperial structure—into three parts, it presaged further divisions. The holdings of one of these sons were soon divided into three parts, and so it went on. Internecine rivalries, outright civil war, Frankish inheritance customs—all contributed to the centrifugal force that destroyed the Carolingian political structure. Whatever there was of central government died with Louis the Pious. The title ‘emperor’ continued to be used by men with less and less power until it was held by such deservedly obscure petty Italian kings as Wido (891-94) and Berengar (915-24). With the death of the latter, the title ceased to be used, and almost no one noticed. The Carolingian dynasty that had produced great leaders such as Pepin, Charlemagne and even Louis the Pious was reduced to small men with embarrassing sobriquets: the Bald, the Stammerer, the Fat, the Simple and the Child, to which one is tempted to add ‘the Irrelevant’. In what was to become Germany real power rested in the duchies. In what was to become France real power was in the hands of local strongmen.

This atomization of political power was true not only in the Carolingian orbit but even beyond. England was little more than a geographical expression to describe where the Anglo-Saxons lived, themselves organized into many kingdoms, and the man called Alfred the Great (d. 899) was great only in the kingdom of Wessex, although it is true to add that by the 950s England appears as a fledgling political unit. Ireland, Scotland and the British parts of Britain continued to have tribal structures of government. Personal safety and security were not to be had from far-away men with titles but, rather, from local lords with local interest and, above all, with effective power. Europe was in pieces.

Local, too, was the governance of the Christian church. The overarching jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome as pope was not consciously challenged by local bishops. Yet, in the environment which saw the weakening of the power of the kings, the stressing of local connections and, indeed, the difficulties encountered in communications, the papacy, particularly after the death of Nicholas (d. 867),

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A History of the Church in the Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates xi
  • Maps xii
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Pre-Medieval Church 3
  • 2 - The Beginning of the Middle Ages 13
  • 3 - Justinian and Mohammed 30
  • 5 - Church, Carolingians and Vikings 71
  • 6 - The Church in Disarray, C.850-C.1050 90
  • 7 - Reform, the East, Crusade 105
  • 8 - The Twelfth Century 131
  • 9 - Three Twelfth-Century Profiles 152
  • 10 - The Age of Innocent III 184
  • 11 - The Emergence of Dissent and the Rise of the Friars 202
  • 14 - Death and Purgatory 275
  • 15 - Exile in Avignon and Aftermath 297
  • 16 - The Great Schism 315
  • 17 - The Fifteenth Century 332
  • List of Popes, 500-1500 354
  • Index 357
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