Einhard's The Life of Charlemagne

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The Relationship of Political and Religious Societies in the Age of Charlemagne, Based of Einhard's The life of Charlemagne sections 15-33

Matt Diggs III

"He was especially concerned that everything in the church be carried out with the greatest possible dignity."

Einhard, in his The Life of Charlemagne, makes clear the fundamental integration of politics and religion during the reign of his king. Throughout his life, Charles the Great endeavored to acquire and use religious power to his desired ends. But, if Charlemagne was the premiere monarch of the western world, why was religious sanction and influence necessary to achieve his goals? In an age when military power was the primary means of expanding one's empire, why did the most powerful military force in Europe go to such great lengths to ensure a benevolent relationship with the church? One possibility may be found in the tremendous social and political influence of Rome and her papacy upon the whole of the continent. Rather than a force to be opposed, Charlemagne viewed the church as a potential source of political power to be gained through negotiation and alliance. The relationship was one of great symbiosis, and both componants not only survived but prospered to eventually dominate western Europe. For the King of the Franks, the church provided the means to accomplish the expansion and reformation of his empire. For the Holy Roman Church, Charles provided protection from invaders and new possibilities for missionary work.
The blessing of the church helped to unify and strengthen the resolve of the Frankish people as they withstood or conquered the heathen Viking and eastern Germanic tribes. The fact that Charles was Christian and was backed by the Catholic church must have certainly helped keep other christian powers from allying with these barbarians. For Rome, there were suddenly new peoples to convert, and keep from direct opposition to the The Great Christian Emperor.
Additionally, Charlemagne provided Rome with badly needed protection from Islamic invaders. Indeed, Charles saved most of Italy from Muslim piracy. When Rome became one with Carolingian empire, he "Defended and made it beautiful (page 285).&...

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... The church too performed many personal functions for Charlemagne of a less-than-political nature, including his last rites, the care of his sister in her convent, and his own burial. The church also acted as a kind of legal authority, witnessing his inheritance arrangements.
The relationship between politics and faith in the age of Charlemagne would not have been possible or necessary without the people's true belief in their religion. Einhard himself reveals the depth of his faith when he sites the numerous omens foretelling Charles' death, as well as speaking of the "Divine ordination, (page295)" of Louis. The business of religion was taken seriously by all parties mentioned in Einhard's Life, and the church, being an integral part of the western world, could thus hardly have been ignored. In addition, the strong forces of competing religions made the question of faith one of great import in the West, making a solid Catholic union absolutely necessary. The alliance of Rome and the Frankish Empire was not entirely without its drawbacks, but its rewards are seen in the survival of Charlemagne's name into the present.
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