Charlemagne and His Relationship With the Catholic Church

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Charlemagne was the ruler of the frankish Empire from 771 to 814, during the carolingian Dynasty, which lasted from the early 8th century into the late 9th century. While Charlemagne was ruler, he substanitally expanded the territory occupied by the franks, stretching it from parts of modern Spain, all the way into modern Germany and Italy. Charlemagne is considered to be the greatest ruler of the Carolingian Dynasty because of the achievements he made at what seemed like the very middle of the Dark Ages.
The extent of Charlemagne's empire, and the split among his three sons.
The extent of Charlemagne's empire, and the split among his three sons.


Charlemagne was born in 742. Growing up, he and his brother, Carloman, were sons of the Frankish kind Pepin. When Pepin died, Carloman and Charlemagne became kings, but after Carloman mysteriously died in 771, the throne became solely Charlemagne's. During his reign, he conducted several campaigns that led to conquest of much of Western Europe, and he gave the conquered people two choices: become Christian, or die. Because of the newly converted Saxons that he conquered, Charlemagne thought of himself as "defender of the faith" (this title holds today for the king or queen of England). He also defeated the Lombards, who attacked Rome and threatened the papacy in 772. This put Charlemagne and the church in very close relations. Even more, Charlemagne gave extremely generous amounts of money to the Catholic Church, which only improved their relations.

On top of converting people to Christianity and protecting the church, Charlemagne also did a lot to promote church-based education in his empire, and Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as the Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in 800, making him the first emperor in Western Europe since the fall of Rome over three centuries earlier! This crowning was a very important even that established the belief that church approval and cooperation was vital to a successful empire. And until the end of Charlemagne's reign, that belief held true.

The End of Charlemagne's Reign

As Charlemagne grew older, he continued to give to the church and promote education, and he made laws that were in favor of spreading the Christian faith and supporting Christian morals and ethics. It was beginning to look like Western Europe was going to recover from the fall of Rome, but Charlemagne fell sick in 814 and died. His empire was split among his three sons, who eventually engaged in civil war, splitting their empires into small, feudal states.

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