The Coronation Of Charlemagne Essay, Research Paper
Through out history rulers and those in power have often sought greater control and attempted to secure more authority. During the Middle Ages power was usually obtained by either being victorious in battle, inheritance, or by entering in some sort of contract. One of the most powerful of all rulers during the Middle Ages was Charlemagne other wise know as Charles the Great . With the start of Charlemagne s rule he was constantly engaged in military campaigns creating a vast empire and rapidly becoming one of the most powerful men of his time. However it is not his military rise to power that historians question rather it is acceptance of secular coronation and taking on the role of Roman Emperor . The fundamental question of Did Charlemagne desire to be crowned by Pope Leo III? or Was he merely caught by surprise as he would like history to believe? arises. If one were to believe what Einhard reported Charlemagne as saying That he would not have come into the church had he known the Pope’s plan then the answer to the earlier question would be No . After further research of the question one can see that Charlemagne had much to gain from this new title and the benefits vastly outweighed any ill sentiments in his Carolingian kingdom. He was too powerful of a leader not to have known Pope Leo III plans a head of time an too intelligent not to have seen the benefits of this act. His acceptance of the crown and title Roman Emperor was significant in strengthening his leadership on two major points. First the coronation solidified Charlemagne as the most powerful leader of Western Europe and second it united the Roman Catholic Church with Charlemagne s Carolingian empire.
Charlemagne had accomplished more that any other one person in Western Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire. Charlemagne came from a long line of powerful leaders; he was the son of Pepin the Short, and the grandson of Charles Martel. In 771 at the age of 29 Charlemagne became sole ruler of the Franks. He built his new Carolingian kingdom from the backbone developed by his father and grandfather. In 772 he launched a 30 year campaign to conquer his hostile pagan neighbors. Charlemagne gained praise throughout Europe for his exceptional military ability, determination, and success. He engaged in more than 50 military campaigns against neighboring Germanic peoples including the Avars, Slavs, Byzantines, and the Moors. When possible Charlemagne attempted to settle disputes peacefully; however, he was quick to crush any opposition by force if necessary. Such was the case when he made an effort to pay Desiderius, the Lombard king, to return lands to the papacy. Desiderius rejected Charlemagne s offer and in 774 Charlemagne crushed the Lombards and assumed for himself the Lombard crown.
Charlemagne s quest for ultimate power and control over new lands rapidly expanded until around the year 800 when his outward development could no longer advance beyond his kingdom s borders. The possession of land during Charlemagne s time equaled power and as the conquerable land resources dried up so did some of his influence. Charlemagne s empire had also reached a level in which it economic and technical resources had not progressed enough to control the lands that had already been conquered and more importantly to defend it against possible enemies. Charlemagne s empire lacked the resources which the Romans had utilized to preserve their empire: a money economy, a paid civil service, a standing army, a properly maintained network of roads and communications, and a navy for coastal defense. By accepting the title of Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800 Charlemagne firmly placed himself as the most powerful person in Western Europe not only for his cunning and military prowess, but also because he was now backed by the an even more powerful force the church and God.
By allying with the church Charlemagne now possessed both the secular and political support he needed to strengthen his realm. The coronation marked the beginning of an amalgamation between the Roman Mediterranean and the German civilizations. Being crowned Roman Emperor made Charlemagne more appealing to others in European powers, such as the Byzantines, who may have not agreed with his political and military tactics, but honored the church and Christianity. One has to remember that Christianity played an intricate role in most of the lives of the European people and now that he had been anointed by the church Roman Emperor his influence stretched far past where his military might could have taken it. Charlemagne was an intelligent man and he understood that if he were to continue on his quest for power that he would need the church on his side and by accepting the crown people could see his rule as a matter of faith rather than by fear alone.