The Birth of the Middle Ages, 395-814

By H. St. L. B. Moss | Go to book overview

XIV
CHARLEMAGNE

ON Christmas Day, 800, as Charlemagne, during the celebration of the Mass, rose from his knees before the shrine of St. Peter at Rome, the Pope placed a crown upon his head, and the Roman people saluted him with tumultuous cries: 'To Charles Augustus crowned of God, great and pacific Emperor of the Romans, long life and victory!' The scene has kindled the imagination of historians. In the ancient basilica, glowing with candlelight and jewelled vestments, the foremost warrior of Europe, conqueror of Saracens, Avars, and. Saxons, whose realm stretched from the Baltic to the Adriatic shore, from Northern Spain to the Middle Danube, seals his protective mandate over Western Christianity by the solemn ritual of Imperial Rome, and 'in the union of the Roman and the Teuton, of the memories and the civilization of the South with the fresh energy of the North . . . modern history begins'.1

It was, unquestionably, one of the most picturesque moments in the history of the Papacy, comparable only, perhaps, for dramatic effect, with that other wintry scene in the snowy, windswept courtyard of Canossa, where a suppliant Emperor waited for three days to obtain forgiveness of the Pope. Yet its significance, like that of Hildebrand's triumph, does not lie on the surface. The ceremony in St. Peter's was not a constitutional solution of the difficulties inherent in Charles's relation to the Papacy. It changed nothing in the actual situation and settled nothing for the future.2 But it is, nevertheless, as Bryce showed, the beginning of a new age, in that it determined the lines of the unending struggle between Papacy and Empire which constitutes the background of medieval European politics.

Since the days of Theodosius, when Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, no permanent reconciliation had been possible between the claims of Church and

____________________
1
J. Bryce, The Holy Roman Empire, p. 49 ( 8th ed. London, 1892).
2
For recent views concerning the significance of Charlemagne's coronation, see K. Heldmann, Das Kaisertum Karls des Grossen ( Weimar, 1928).

-222-

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The Birth of the Middle Ages, 395-814
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Description of Illustrations xvi
  • Part I- Romans and Barbarians 1
  • I- The Roman World 1
  • II- The Barbarian World 38
  • III- The Clash of Cultures 57
  • Part II- The Triumph of Justinian 79
  • IV- Constantinople *
  • V- Justinian and the West 95
  • VI- Justinian and the East 108
  • VII- The Aftermath 125
  • Part III- The Onslaught of Islam 143
  • VIII- The Faith 143
  • IX- The Conquest 149
  • X- The Culture 159
  • Part IV- The Age of Charlemagne 175
  • XI- The European Background 175
  • XII- The Franks 193
  • XIII- The Papacy 222
  • Appendix A 266
  • Appendix B 270
  • Chronological Table 275
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 288
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