Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lesson 10* - Charlemagne and the Founding of the Western Empire

The word  “Franks” may literally mean two things: “javelin” or “throwing axe”. So, it is a  weapon-based tribal name. They did not migrate only after the Fall of the Roman Empire. As early as the 3rd century, the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (331/332-363) had accepted them as Foederati[1] or allies. Unlike the other tribes who wandered all over Europe, they just went down from their point of origin and established a territory in the region of former Roman Empire of what is now know as modern France.

There were two major subgroups of Franks:
  1. Salians – Franks of the salty sea; seacoast dwelling people; They settled near the North Sea.
  2. Riparians – from the latin “ripa, -ae” (riverbank); River-dwelling people; They settled near the Rhine river.

Of these two subgroups, the Salians were the dominant ones. By the end of the 5th century, the Salian Franks had largely moved onto Roman soil to a territory now comprising the Netherlands south of the Rhine, Belgium and Northwestern Gaul where, during the chaos of the migration period, they formed a kingdom, eventually giving rise to the Merovingian dynasty.

Franks = tribe
Salians = subgroup of the Franks
Merovingian dynasty = a Salian Frankish dynasty
The Franks, the people with the greatest future and the people who would have the greatest relation with the Church, were the ones to embrace Catholicism and never to abandon it. All the other barbarians were first Arians because of their contact with the Visigoths who, through Wulfila's work, embraced Arianism; the Franks had contacts with Christianity even before they crossed into the Roman Empire due to the influence of Roman Christian soldiers.

Of all the barbarian kingdoms, the kingdom of the Franks survived, and it gave their name to the vast Roman territory where they established it. The Vandals in Africa lasted until 535, the Ostrogoths in Italy until 555, the Visigoths in Spain until 711. But under the Franks, Gaul became France, the fruit of the union between Frank and Gallo-Roman based on their common acceptance of the Catholic faith. Of all the barbarian invaders only the Franks survived to be a permanent dominating influence in Europe and in the world.

Charles Martel went on to found a new line of the family, which historians named the Carolingian dynasty after Martel. Later, his son, Pepin III (the short), became the sole ruler of Austrasia and Neustria of the Merovingian Frankish Kingdom, he establish the line of Carolingian kings. The Carolingians were initially “Mayors of the palace” under the Merovingian kings[2], first in Austrasia and later in Neustria and Burgundy. In time, a Carolingian King named Charles (768-814) had the title “the Great” affixed to his name as he rose to become one of the most prominent figures in European history.


Charlemagne (768-814) was the son of King Pepin the Short and Berthrada, a Frankish queen, he succeeded his father in 768 and was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I whose sudden death in 771 made him the sole ruler of the Frankish Kingdom. He was the most powerful ruler of the Middle Ages uniting the Frankish kingdom to Rome. He expanded his empire over almost all of Europe and had numerous military campaigns to strengthen it internally and externally.

In order to foster peace, Charles’ mother, Berthrada, insisted his marriage to Desideria, daughter of Desiderius (+ca.786), the last king of the Lombard Kingdom of northern Italy (died c. 786). When for unknown reasons, Charles returned his wife to her father, war was inevitable.

Desiderius attempted to form an alliance with Pope Adrian (772-795) against Charles but failed. When the pope refused the offer, Desiderius’ Lombardic troop marched toward Rome but soon, Charles army heeded to the pope’s cry for help. The Lombards were defeated. At Easter 774, while the Siege of Pavia was still going on, Charles visited Rome. The king of the Franks and the Pope and swore an oath of eternal friendship at the grave of St. Peter. The role and the task of Charlemagne became very clear. He was considered Patricius Romanorum who served military protection of Rome and his task was Defensio ecclesiae Romanae. He continued the policy of his father towards the papacy and became its protector and renewed the promise of Pepin the Short’s donation to the pope at the same event (Easter 774).

After defeating the Lombards, he became the king of the Lombards while still holding the crown as king of the Franks. He had his personal interest over Italy and only returned Rome, Ravenna, Pentapolis, the Sabina, southern Tuscany and few other smaller territories to the Papacy. These became the nuclei of the Papal States that existed until 1870. For himself, Charles retained Istria, Venetia, Spoleto and Benevento to assure his domination over Italy.


The model of Charlemagne was the realization of the “Civitas Dei” of St. Augustine. St. Augustine (354-430) was the most influential Father of the Church in the West whose work, “ The City of God profoundly shaped Western civilization. So, it is not surprising that Charlemagne took it as a model. It is a book written in Latin of the early 5th century AD, dealing with issues concerning God, martyrdom, Jews, and other aspects of Christian philosophy. 

Augustine wrote the treatise to explain Christianity's relationship with competing religions and philosophies, and to the Roman government with which it was increasingly intertwined. It was written soon after Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. This event left Romans in a deep state of shock, and many saw it as punishment for abandoning traditional Roman religion for Catholic Christianity. It was in this atmosphere that Augustine set out to console Christians, writing that, even if the earthly rule of the empire was imperiled, it was the City of God that would ultimately triumph — Augustine's eyes were fixed on Heaven, a theme of many Christian works of Late Antiquity.

Despite Christianity's designation as the official religion of the empire, Augustine declared its message to be spiritual rather than political. Christianity, he argued, should be concerned with the mystical, heavenly city the New Jerusalem — rather than with earthly politics.

The book presented human history as being a conflict between what Augustine calls the City of Man and the City of God (a conflict that is destined to end in victory of the latter). The City of God is marked by people who forgot earthly pleasure to dedicate themselves to the eternal truths of Christian faith.

The City of Man, on the other hand, consists of people who have immersed themselves in the cares and pleasures of the present, passing world. The two cities are not meant to represent any actual places or organizations.


The first ten years of Charlemagne was focused in the protection and security of the boundaries of his empire. Inspired by Augustine’s Civitas Dei and mandated by the Pope himself, Charles’ campaigns were directed solely against the pagans who remained as threats in his empire’s borders. Therefore, his campaigns had both ecclesiastico-religious and politico-military characteristics.

He fought against the Arabs in Spain (778); the Slavs (789 and 791); the Avars (795 and 797); the Bohemians (805-806) in the north and east of the empire; and the Danes (808-811). Politics and Religion became one: subjection was coupled with the Christian mission, and conversion of these people meant for them also subjection to the sovereignty of the Frankish empire.

The campaigns against the Saxons was the longest and the most bitter of all of Charles’ campaigns. It lasted from 772 to 804. Saxony was not headed by a single ruler but of different tribes so year after year, Charles needed to launch a campaign until the whole of Saxony was conquered.

In 777, Charles held the Diet of Paderborn which ordered the conversion of all Saxons to Christianity and divided the territory into missionary districts. A great rebellion was initiated by Widukind while Charles was in Spain which lasted from 782-785, known in history as the Saxon Wars. Widukind became a symbol of Saxon independence and a figure of legend. In 785, the Saxons were decisively defeated and Widukind himself was baptized in Attingny (France). New bishoprics and monasteries were founded and Saxony was integrated with the Frankish Kingdom in the process of episcopal organization. By forcibly Christianizing the Saxons and banning on penalty of death their native Germanic paganism, he integrated them into his realm and thus paved the way for the later Ottonian dynasty which established the concept of a Christian German empire.

Christianity took root rapidly in Saxony after the wars. An unknown poet composed the Heliand. It is an epic poem in Old Saxon, written in the first half of the 9th century. The title means “Savior” in Old Saxon, and the poem is a Biblical paraphrase that recounts the life of Jesus in the alliterative verse style of a Germanic saga. It described the passion as though it happened in Saxony and as though Christ had been a Saxon duke to whom the Saxons had sworn loyalty.  Heliand is the largest known work of written Old Saxon.


As discussed earlier, Charles understood his royal leadership completely in the Christian spirit. His ideal was the realization of the Civitas Dei. He firmly believed that he had to train and educate all his subjects before he could unify them as a strong Christian Imperial people. So there were:
  1. Scholarly efforts
  2. Carolingian Art
  3. Carolingian Architecture
  4. Carolingian Music
  5. Economic and Legal Reforms
This gives rise to a period in Art History as The Carolingian Renaissance. After the Fall of Rome, there was a decline in the interest for arts and academic endeavors, so through Charlemagne, he was able to revive it. Renaissance means “rebirth” or “revival”. It is period of intellectual and cultural revival in Europe occurring from the late 8th century to the 9th century with the peak of the activities coordinated during the reigns of the Carolingian rulers Charlemagne and Louis the Pious.

It is related but is different from the Renaissance of the 12th century centered in Florence which was more extensive as it encompassed a flowering of literature, science, art, religion, and politics, and a resurgence of learning based on classical sources, the development of linear perspective in painting, and gradual but widespread educational reform. During this Carolingian Renaissance, there was an increase of literature, writing, the arts, architecture, jurisprudence, liturgical reforms and scriptural studies in the Frankish Kingdom which comprised the greater part of Europe. 

A. Scholarly Efforts

There was a need for an academic reform with the difficult scenario the Frankish Kingdom of Charlemagne was facing after his successful military campaigns. There were many illiterate persons that could not even read, write nor do basic mathematical operations. This posed a concern since it severely limited the number of people capable of serving as court scribes. It was indeed an even greater concern to know that not all parish priests possessed the skill to read the Vulgate Bible. An additional problem was that the Vulgar Latin (a non-standard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed) of the later Western Roman Empire had begun to diverge into the regional dialects that were becoming mutually unintelligible and preventing scholars from one part of Europe being able to communicate with persons from another part of Europe.

Carolingian Scholars

To address these problems, Charlemagne ordered the creation of schools. A major part of his program of reform was to attract many of the leading scholars of his day to his court. Among the first called to court were Italians: 
a.     Peter of Pisa (744-799) was a grammarian of the early middle ages. He originally taught at Pavia. In 776, after the conquest of the Lombard Kingdom, Charlemagne summoned him to his court to teach him Latin.

b.     Paulinus of Aquileia (ca.730/740-802) was also invited to the Carolingian court to be the royal "master of grammar “(grammaticus magister). Charlemagne nominated him as Patriarch of Aquileia in 787.

c.     The Lombard Paul the Deacon (ca.720-799) was a Benedictine monk and historian of the Lombards. He was brought to court in 782 and remained until 787, when Charles nominated him abbot of Montecassino.

d.     Theodulf of Orléans (750/760-821) was a Spanish Goth who served at court from 782 to 797 when nominated as Bishop of Orléans. He was a key member of the Carolingian Renaissance and an important figure during the many reforms of the Church under Charlemagne, as well as almost certainly the author of the Libri Carolini which are the work in four books composed on the command of Charlemagne, around 790, to refute the supposed conclusions of the Byzantine Second Council of Nicaea (787), particularly as regards its acts and decrees in the matter of sacred images. (More of this in the succeeding discussions.) He had also been in friendly competition over the standardization of the Vulgate with the chief among Charlemagne's scholars, Alcuin of York.

e.     Alcuin of York (+804) was a Northumbrian monk (Anglo-Saxon) and deacon who served as head of the Palace School from 782 to 796, except for the years 790 to 793 when he returned to England. After 796, he continued his scholarly work as abbot of St. Martin's Monastery in Tours.

f.      Among those to follow Alcuin across the Channel to the Frankish court was Joseph Scottus (+791/804), an Irishman who left some original biblical commentary and acrostic experiments.

g.     After this first generation of non-Frankish scholars, their Frankish pupils, such as Angilbert (+814), would make their own mark. He was a Frank who served Charlemagne as a diplomat, abbot and poet. 

Curriculum Standardization

One of the primary efforts was the creation of a standardized curriculum to be used at the recently created schools. Alcuin led this effort and was responsible for the writing of textbooks, creation of word lists, and establishing the trivium[3] and quadrivium[4] as the basis for education Together, the trivium and the quadrivium comprised the seven Liberal arts. After the quadrivium was the serious study of Philosophy and Theology.

Carolingian Minuscule
The Carolingian Minusculus was a system of four lines which joined capital and small letters in well-arranged and clear word forms. It is a script developed as a writing standard in Europe so that the Roman alphabet could be easily recognized by the literate class from one region to another. It was used in Charlemagne's empire between approximately 800 and 1200. Codices, pagan and Christian texts, and educational material were written in Carolingian minuscule throughout the Carolingian Renaissance.

The photo on the right is a page of the text  from a Carolingian Gospel Book. 

Carolingian minuscule was uniform, with rounded shapes in clearly distinguishable glyphs (an individual mark on a written medium that contributes to the meaning of what is written), disciplined and above all, legible. Clear capital letters and spaces between words—norms we take for granted—became standard in Carolingian minuscule, which was one result of a campaign to achieve a culturally unifying standardization across the Carolingian Empire.It became the basis of medieval calligraphy. It was used in the “Latin” script.

Unique book art was developed with magnificent miniatures with carved out of ivory and particularly beautiful lettering. Ex. Viennese Evangelistary, Godescale Evangelistary, Ada-Manuscript in Trier

Science and Art
Science and Art blossomed at the royal court and also in famous monasteries and numerous cathedral schools based on inherited ancient body of knowledge.

Sacred Scriptures and Liturgical Books
The Holy Scriptures and Liturgical Books were developed while improved edition of the Latin Vulgate by Alcuin (Anglo-Saxon) and Theodulf of Orleans (Visigoth) was made.

The Sacramentary is a book of the Middle Ages containing the words spoken by the priest celebrating a Mass and other liturgies of the Church. The books were usually in fact written for bishops or other higher clergy such as abbots, and many lavishly decorated illuminated manuscript sacramentaries have survived. Charles sent for a copy of the Gregorian Sacramentary from Rome

Charles asked Pope Adrian for the expanded collection of canons and decretals by Dionysiius Exiguus which was used in Rome, so that it might form the basis for the canons of the Frankish church.

Charles obtained from Montecassino a copy of the original Benedictine rule with its balanced sober language and its prudent rule of life. The Rule of Saint Benedict (Regula Benedicti) is a book of precepts written by St. Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot. Since about the 7th century,  it has also been adopted by communities of women. The spirit of St Benedict's Rule is summed up in the motto of the Benedictines: pax ("peace") and the traditional ora et labora ("pray and work"). Benedict's concerns were the needs of monks in a community environment: namely, to establish due order, to foster an understanding of the relational nature of human beings, and to provide a spiritual father to support and strengthen the individual's ascetic effort and the spiritual growth that is required for the fulfillment of the human vocation. The Rule of Saint Benedict has been used by Benedictines for 15 centuries, and thus St. Benedict is sometimes regarded as the founder of Western monasticism. 

The monastery in Kornelimünster near Aachen became the center of reform entrusted to abbot Benedict  of Aniane (+821). The Rule of St. Benedict became obligatory to all Frankish monasteries.

B. Carolingian Art

Carolingian art spans the roughly 100-year period from about 800–900. Although brief, it was an influential period: northern Europe embraced classical Mediterranean Roman art forms for the first time, setting the stage for the rise of Romanesque art and eventually Gothic art in the West. Illuminated manuscripts, metalwork, small-scale sculpture, mosaics and frescos survive from the period.

An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders (marginalia) and miniature illustrations. In the strictest definition of the term, an illuminated manuscript only refers to manuscripts decorated with gold or silver, but in both common usage and modern scholarship, the term is now used to refer to any decorated or illustrated manuscript from the Western traditions. 

C. Carolingian Architecture
It was a conscious attempt to emulate Roman architecture and to that end it borrowed heavily from Early Christian and Byzantine architecture, though there are nonetheless innovations of its own, resulting in a unique character.

The gatehouse of the monastery at Lorsch, built around 800, exemplifies classical inspiration for Carolingian architecture, built as a triple-arched hall dominating the gateway, with the arched facade interspersed with attached classical columns and pilasters above.

Another example: The Palatine Chapel in Aachen  constructed between 792 - 805 was inspired by the octagonal Justinian church of San Vitale in Ravenna, built in the 6th century.

D. Carolingian Music

In Western culture, there had been an unbroken tradition in musical practice and theory from the earliest written records of the Sumerians (c. 2500 BC) through the Babylonians and Persians down to ancient Greece and Rome. However, the Germanic migrations of the 5th century brought about a break with this tradition.

Most in Western Europe for the next few centuries did not understand the Greek language, and thus the works of Boethius, who saw what was happening and translated ancient Greek treatises into Latin, became the foundation of learning during this period. The advent of scholarly reforms by Charlemagne, who was particularly interested in music, began a period of intense activity in the monasteries of the writing and copying of treatises in music theory — the Musica enchiriadis[5] is one of the earliest and most interesting of these.

Charlemagne sought to unify the practice of church music by eliminating regional stylistic differences. Charlemagne desired for Frankish church musicians to retain the performance nuances used by the Roman singers. Western musical practice and theory of today can be traced in an unbroken line from this time to the present, thus it had its beginnings with Charlemagne.

E. Economic and Legal Reforms

Charlemagne was faced with a variety of currencies at the start of his reign. To correct problems these various currencies caused, he standardized a system based on a pound of silver (Livre tournois). Deniers were minted with a value of 240 deniers to a pound of silver. A second value, the solidus, was also created as an accounting device with a value of twelve deniers or one twentieth of a pound of silver. The solidus was not minted but was instead used to record values such as a "solidus of grain" which was equal to the amount of grain that twelve deniers could purchase.


Aachen in Germany, constructed in 786, became the favorite court of Charlemagne. It developed into the center for those who sought justice, help and intellectual training. Hence, the administrative, judicial and academic capital of Charlemagne. It developed into a superior intellectual center for the entire Frankish state. Ecclesiastical synods were held there. The Aachen Palace Chapel became the absolute symbol of the Christian western empire and emperor. The Aachen cathedral became the depository of Carolingian relics and imperial jewels.


-       Theocratic
-       It is influenced by the Old Testament concept: in his circle of friends, Charles would like to be called King David and he performed his function as divinely sent and divinely consecrated leader who is the protector of Christianity and of the people of God.
-       In 794, at the Frankfurt Synod, he addressed himself as Rex et Sacerdos.
-       In 796, in a letter to Pope Leo III, he summarized his royal task: “It is our task to protect by force of arms Christ’s Holy Church externally everywhere against the attacks of the pagans and devastation of the infidels, and to safeguard it internally by general acceptance of the Catholic faith. It is your task to support our campaigns like Moses with hands lifted up to god so that a result of your intercession the Christian people may everywhere win victory over its enemies.” Clearly, he underscored his task as the Patricius Romanorum.
-       He viewed himself as the Guardian of Orthodoxy and therefore claimed the right to convoke imperial synods and to interfere with the discipline and the doctrine of the Church
-       He regarded himself as the Supreme head of the Frankish church.
-       He decreed imperial laws for the rejuvenation of ecclesiastical life
-       He administered ecclesiastical property like secular royal property. Royal officials (missi dominici) supervise not only governmental but ecclesiastical affairs.
-       He appointed men of his choice to bishoprics and monasteries.
-       Bishops and abbots became spiritual officials of the state.
-       Bishops became accustomed to receive secular directives and preferred to rely on the support of the state (brachium saeculare) in the execution of their spiritual duties.
-       Bishops headed armed troops in the imperial army (secularization).
-       There was a strong emphasis on the cultural mission of the church that obscured the primary religious duty.


The kingdom of Charlemagne became at par with that of the Byzantines and the Arabs. He had diplomatic relationship the Caliph of Baghdad and he contested the claims of East Rome (Byzantium).

A. Political and Military Conflict

Remember that Charles gave a territory to the Pope to become the Papal States while maintaining territories for himself to assure his Italian domination. But these territories were part of the Byzantine empire prior to the Lombardic invasion. Conflict with Byzantium was inevitable. Charles was not threatened militarily by the weak presence of the Byzantine emperors of the Isaurian dynasty. However, he struggled for the title emperor and thus, world recognition of his power became his concern. Initially, it was Charles’ intention to take away the title of emperor away from Byzantium. He merely desired to be recognized as an equal.

In 781, Empress Irene (752-803), the regent and Queen-mother of Constantinople, asked the hands of Charles’ daughter Rotrud for her minor son Constantine VI (780-797). Charles saw the marriage as recognition of equality between the Frankish and Byzantine Empire and agreed. Irene, in return, hoped for the return of their former Byzantine territories and protection against the further conquests by the Franks. The marriage did not push through upon Charles’ realization that he was not treated as equal. The political move was blocked by a dogmatic question.

B. Dogmatic Question

The Old Testament stated that “Thou shalt not make graven images...”(Ex 20:4; Lev 26:1; Dt 4:16) to safeguard the Israelite from idolatry. In the New Testament, when God “...became flesh” and took the visible form of Jesus Christ, the prohibition of images could no longer have the same meaning as in the OT.

The early Church became cautious and used only signs and symbols such as the cross. However, pictorial representation remained valuable for the illiterate people.

The iconodulist[6] Council “Trullanum II” of Constantinople (692) was a church council held at Constantinople under the Byzantine emperor Justinian II (705-711). It was attended by 215 bishops, all from the Eastern Roman Empire. Among the many decrees was the decision in favor of images of Christ.

Byzantine Emperor Leo III (717-741) initiated the Byzantine iconoclasm[7].He decreed the prohibition of image worship in East. The people were divided. The monks were in favor of the use of images. Eventually, Pope Gregory III (731-741) spoke against such prohibition and the conflict between the West and East intensified.

The iconoclast Council of Hieria (754) was summoned by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine V (741-775). The council supported the iconoclast position of the emperors of this period. It ordered the destruction of all religious pictures causing bloody persecutions and executions especially of monks.

Empress Irene convened the 2nd Council of Nicaea (787) which supported the veneration of icons. The pope recognized the council and sent two legates. The council clarified the distinction between adoration and veneration. Adoration is given only to God alone (Latreia); veneration (proscynesis) can also be given to creatures. St. John Damascene (+ca.754) and Basil the Great (+379) declared that “the honor given to the picture reflects the honor given to the model.” The value of the holy picture rests not in itself, but in its reference to the portrayed saint or to Christ. “Whoever venerates a picture, honors the one who was painted.”


Byzantium overlooked Charlemagne. The empress called for a general council and deciding on matters of faith without even consulting Charlemagne who was seeking for equality with the East eversince. Consequently, the politically motivated marriage with Rotrud was cancelled.  


The Libri Carolini is a work in four books (120 or 121 chapters), purporting to be the composition of Charlemagne, and written at around 790. It is a very severe critique of the Seventh General Council, held at Nicaea in 787, particularly as regards its acts and decrees in the matter of sacred images. In fact, it is a grave theological treatise in which both the Iconoclastic council of 754 and its opponent, the aforesaid Second Nicene of 787, are brought before the bar of Frankish criticism and judged equally erroneous, the former for excluding all images from the churches as sheer idolatry, the latter for advocating an absolute adoration of images. Though launched under the royal name, the theological, philosophical, and philological learning displayed far surpass the known powers of Charlemagne. The author may be Alcuin or more probably Theodulf of Orleans.

The author (Alcuin or Theodulf) did not know Greek, and the Latin translation for Proscynesis and Latreia gave only the one word adoratio. Consequently, he did not grasp the distinction between veneration and adoration and unjustly criticized against the alleged adoration of images in the East. Actually, the Libri Carolini was the protest of the Frankish empire against the Byzantine claim to power in the dogmatic, ecclesiastical and political realm.

[1] A foederatus is a one of the tribes bound by treaty (foedus), who were neither Roman colonies nor had they been granted Roman citizenship (civitas) but were expected to provide a contingent of fighting men when trouble arose, thus were allies.
[2] The Merovingian dynasty owes its name to the semi-legendary Merovech (also called Meroveus or Merovius or merovingius), leader of the Salian Franks. He is semi-legendary because not all of the stories attributed to him can be attested in history. There is little information about him in the later histories of the Franks. 

According to a legend, Merovech was conceived when Pharamond's wife encountered a Quinotaur, a sea monster which could change shapes, while swimming. Though never stated, it is implied that she was impregnated by it. This legend was related by Fredegar in the 7th century and may have been known earlier. The legend is probably a folk etymology used to explain the Salian Franks' origin as a sea coast dwelling people and was based on the name itself. The term "Mero-" or "Mer-" element in the name suggests a sea or ocean (ie  "mermaid", etc.).

Such legend could also be explained easily in this way: The sea monster could have been a foreign conqueror, coming from the sea, taking the dead king's (ie Pharamond[2]) wife to legitimize his rule. There is no historical basis to this legend.


The Frankfurt Synod (794), like the Libri Carolini, was a direct Frankish opposition against the Byzantines. It was a Frankish imperial synod (not an ‘ecumenical’ synod) which dealt with the following issues:
  1. The condemnation of the heresy of Adoptionism[1] of two Spanish bishops (Elipandus of Toledo and Felix of Urgel).
  2.  The rejection of the decrees regarding the holy icons which were established Second Council of Nicaea (797). The Council condemned both iconodulism (in favor of idols) and iconoclasm (against icons), allowing that images could be useful educational devices, but denying that they were worthy of veneration.
  3. The condemnation of the persecution of alleged witches and wizards and ordered the death penalty for those who presume to burn witches.
  4. The regulation of weights and measures.
  5. Set the directives on ecclesiastical discipline and lay religious observance.


Literally, translatio imperiii is the Latin term for "transfer of rule" which describes history as a linear succession of transfers of imperium (the supreme power of the emperor) in the Middle ages. Basically, it is the reassignment of the legitimate leadership of the known world.
After the direct line of Western Roman Emperors ended in 476, at first the role of the Eastern Emperor was recognized over Rome and other western areas, both indirectly as with Theodoric the Great and then directly after Justinian's reconquest until the 700s. However this was followed by the Carolingian revival of the Western title (800s) and then the Ottonian revival (900s), now commonly called the "Holy Roman" instead of Western Roman Empire.

TRANSLATIO IMPERII (from East to West)

When Constantine VI resumed relations with Charlemagne, his mother Irene, who was anxious that she might loss her rule, had seized her son and blinded him in order to remove him in the political scene in 797. Consequently, Irene claimed sole leadership of the West. This was legally dubious, questionable and was regarded as an innovation for a woman to claim the Roman imperial throne.

Pope Leo III (795-816) replaced the name of the Byzantine Emperor in the liturgical prayers with that of Charlemagne. The pope also invited Charlemagne to have him receive the homage of the Romans. Clearly, the pope played an important role in this translatio imperii from East to West. For the Pope and the Roman people, the imperial dignity of the Imperium Romanum had been returned to Rome by translatio imperii and therefore could be awarded by them to Charlemagne.

In the year 800, the pope surprised Charlemagne by placing a crown on his head during the Christmas mass and proclaiming him as Emperor. The Roman people enthusiastically concurred. This was only recognized in the East by the year 812 after the fall of Irene in 802. This step revived the Western Empire again (Carolingian Revival)


The rule of Charlemagne as the emperor is associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped define both Western Europe and the European Middle Ages. Today, he is regarded not only as the founding father of both French and German monarchies, but also as Pater Europae (father of Europe): his empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Romans, and the Carolingian renaissance encouraged the formation of a common European identity.

In 813, Charlemagne called his only surviving son, Louis the Pious (814-840), king of Aquitaine to his court. There Charlemagne crowned his son with his own hands as co-emperor and sent him back to Aquitaine. He then spent the autumn hunting before returning to Aachen on 1 November. In January, he fell ill with pleurisy (inflammation of the linings of the lungs). He died January 28, 814, the 7th day from the time that he took to his bed, at 9:00 am, after partaking of the Holy Communion, in the 72nd year of his age and the 47th of his reign. He died and was buried at Aachen.

[1] Adoptionism is a heretical Christian belief that Jesus was adopted as God's son (Son of God) at his baptism. They believed that Jesus was chosen because of his sinless devotion to the will of God. It was declared a heresy at the end of the 2nd century, and was rejected by the First Council of Nicaea, which held to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, identifying Jesus as eternally begotten of God.
[3] The Trivium comprised the three subjects that were taught first: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.
[4] The Quadrivium consisted of Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy.
[5] Musica enchiriadis is an anonymous musical treatise from the 9th century. It is the first surviving attempt to establish a system of rules for polyphony in classical music. 
[6] An  iconodule is someone who supports or is in favor of religious images or icons and their veneration, and is in opposition to an iconoclast, someone against the use of religious images.
[7] Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually for religious or political motives.

No comments:

Post a Comment