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Did Pope Leo Save the Church?

Did Pope Leo Save the Church?

On Christmas Day of 800, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Charlemagne (742-814), King of the Franks, was crowned as Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III (750-816), reviving a title that had disappeared from the Western half of the Mediterranean world since the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, in 476. The people of Rome, the Italian clergy and Frankish knights cheered at the historical moment which marked the return to an admired past.

What exactly was this coronation all about? What kind of relationship did it represent between the secular and religious realms? Charlemagne was clearly concerned about the matter, as he refused to crown his son Louis by a bishop from Rome. He crowned Louis himself in Aachen, the Frankish capital (now a German city near the Belgian border). His most important biographer, Einhard (c.770-840) later went as far as claiming that Charlemagne had not been aware of the Pope’s intention to crown him. Historians determined that the story was not true. Then why was Charlemagne unhappy?

Leo’s and the papal courts interpretation of this event was the problem, not that he had been crowned by the Pope. Order…

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