The History of Medieval Europe

By Lynn Thorndike; James T. Shotwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE GROWTH OF THE MEDIEVAL CHURCH

CHARLEMAGNE had ruled Church as well as State, but the popes rather turned the tables upon Louis the Pious and other later Carolingians. While local magnates increased their power at the expense of the central government, the Church gained independence too. The Church, however, also ran the risk of dismemberment and local isolation. Bishops were revolting from the control of their archbishops just as dukes and counts were throwing off the royal yoke. During the first half of the tenth century the Papacy fell into the hands of local factions at Rome, and exerted little or no influence outside Italy. Once a boy of sixteen was made pope and dishonored the office by his wild life and neglect of duty. When Otto became emperor he found it necessary to intervene and put candidates of his own in the papal chair. He also issued a decree that henceforth a pope should not be consecrated until he had taken an oath of fealty to the emperor. None the less the German churches recognized the pope's spiritual supremacy, asking his consent for the creation of new bishops, his confirmation for ecclesiastical charters, and welcoming the presence of his legate at their councils.

The Papacy after Charlemagne

About the middle of the ninth century were composed the False Decretals, purporting to have been collected from the documents of early popes. These forgeries were probably not made at Rome, like the Donation of Constantine, but at Le Mans in France, with the object of freeing bishops from the control of their archbishops by magnifying the authority of the Papacy, which the bishops seem to have hoped would not press upon them so much. These Pseudo-Isidorian decretals, with their theories of

The False Decretals

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