The first Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) formalized Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire, and Rome became the center of Christianity. When Rome was sacked by the Germanic tribes in 410 A.D, though the Papacy remained in Rome, Constantinople became predominant.
In 800 A.D. Pope Leo III crowned Charles I, king of the Franks (Charlemagne) as Holy Roman Emperor (even though there was already a Roman Emperor in Constantinople). Under the protection of the Frankish Emperors, the Pope was once again able to exert authority.
The Frankish Realm or occasionally Frankland, was the territory inhabited and ruled by the Franks from the 3rd to the 10th century. Under the nearly continuous campaigns of Charles Martel, Pepin the Short, and Charlemagne—father, son, grandson—the greatest expansion of the Frankish empire was secured by the early 9th century.
The Holy Roman Emperor: 800 A.D.
It is now 799 A.D, and for the third time in half a century, a Pope is in need of help from the Frankish kings. After being physically attacked by his enemies in the streets of Rome (their stated intention is to blind him and cut out his tongue, to make him incapable of office), Pope Leo III makes his way through the Alps to visit the king of the Franks Charles I at Paderborn. Left Charles I, king of the Franks (Charlemagne) Holy Roman Emperor, on the right of the image wearing his crown.
It is not known what is agreed, but Charles I travels to Rome in 800 to support the pope. In a ceremony in St Peter's, on Christmas Day, Leo is due to anoint Charles I's son as his heir. But unexpectedly (it is maintained), as Charles I rises from prayer, the pope places a crown on his head and acclaims him emperor.
Charles I (Charlemagne - Charles the great) expresses displeasure but accepts the honour. The displeasure is probably diplomatic, for the legal emperor is undoubtedly the one in Constantinople. Nevertheless this public alliance between the pope and the ruler of a confederation of Black tribes now reflects the reality of political power in the west. And it launches the concept of the new Holy Roman Empire, which will play an important role throughout the Middle Ages.
The Holy Roman Empire only becomes formally established in the next century. But it is implicit in the title adopted by Charlemagne in 800: 'Charles, most serene Augustus, crowned by God, great and pacific emperor, governing the Roman empire.' Above left Ludwik I of Hungary.
The Franks and the Byzantine War
In (801-810) Charlemagne and the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus I waged war on both land and sea for control of Venetia and the Dalmatian coast (modern-day northern Italy, Slovenia and Croatia).
The war progressed well for the Franks, additionally, beginning in 809, Nicephorus was distracted by a new war with the Bulgars. Therefore, the Byzantines began negotiations with the Franks, and peace was agreed upon in which Charlemagne gave up most of the Dalmatian coast (which he had conquered), in exchange for the Byzantine Emperor recognizing him as Emperor of the West.
The Istrian Peninsula remained a part of the Frankish Empire. Then Charlemagne busied himself with driving the Albinos back to the east. Between 802 and 812, Charlemagne fought the Saxons tribes, located to the north.
In the beginning of this war, Charlemagne gained his reputation as a ruthless warrior when he massacred over 4,000 Saxons. Still, the warfare with the Saxons continued on. Charlemagne fought the Saxons for thirty years. Finally, he brought Saxony to his kingdom. In (808-810) Charlamagne settled accounts with the Danes, who had given aid and asylum to the Saxon leader Widukind in the Saxon Wars. In (805-806) Charlemagne's forces subdued the Slavic region of Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic). Above left Emperor Charles the Bald.
Charlemagne was a ruthless warrior, but he had other achievements as well.
He provided a good government for his kingdom in which he had outdoor meetings. In these meetings, the mass could vote by shouting out their agreement or disagreement with his offered laws.
He charged property taxations, called tithes, so that there would be money to pay for improvements like the five hundred foot bridge up the Rhine River and the cathedral at Ravenna. He raised education too, He brought in teachers from other lands to restore schools. He even started out a school at his palace, Aachen castle. He had monks copy books in the scholarly language of Latin, in order to maintain them. Charlemagne ruled for about forty seven years. He provided a prosperous and stable country for his people during an era of uncertainty in Europe.
He died at the age of seventy two, ruler of a kingdom that included what is now modern France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, half of Italy, half of Germany, part of Austria, and the Spanish border area.
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Louis the Pious (778 – 20 June 840), also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781.
He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor (as Louis I) with his father, Charlemagne, from 813.
As the only surviving adult son of Charlemagne and Hildegard, he became the sole ruler of the Franks after his father's death in 814, a position which he held until his death, save for the period 833–34, during which he was deposed.
During his reign in Aquitaine, Louis was charged with the defence of the Empire's southwestern frontier.
He conquered Barcelona from the Muslims in 801 and asserted Frankish authority over Pamplona and the Basques south of the Pyrenees in 812.
As emperor he included his adult sons, Lothair, Pepin, and Louis, in the government and sought to establish a suitable division of the realm among them.
The first decade of his reign was characterised by several tragedies and embarrassments, notably the brutal treatment of his nephew Bernard of Italy, for which Louis atoned in a public act of self-debasement.
In the 830s his empire was torn by civil war between his sons, only exacerbated by Louis's attempts to include his son Charles by his second wife in the succession plans.
Though his reign ended on a high note, with order largely restored to his empire, it was followed by three years of civil war.
Charles the Bald (823 – 877), was Holy Roman Emperor (875–877, as Charles II) and King of West Francia as Charles II.
He was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith. In 875, after the death of the Emperor Louis II (son of his half-brother Lothair):
Charles the Bald, supported by Pope John VIII, traveled to Italy, receiving the royal crown at Pavia and the imperial insignia in Rome on 29 December.
Louis the German, also a candidate for the succession of Louis II, revenged himself by invading and devastating Charles' dominions, and Charles had to return hastily to Francia.
After the death of Louis the German, Charles in his turn attempted to seize Louis's kingdom, but was decisively beaten at Andernach on 8 October 876.
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