Written by Vladimir Moss



     For centuries, and in spite of the intermittent expression of papist ideas, the Roman Papacy had seen itself as part of the Eastern Empire and a vital link with the other four patriarchates of the East. This position was reinforced in a cultural sense during the period of the “Byzantine papacy” of the seventh and early eight centuries, when several of the Popes were Greek or Syrian in origin, and many eastern monks fled to Rome to escape persecution by Monothelite or Iconoclast emperors. Even when the Emperor Leo deprived the papacy of its lands in Southern Italy and the Balkans, the Popes still looked to New Rome as the capital of the Christian oikoumene. They still commemorated the eastern emperors at the Liturgy, and still used the emperors’ coinage. East and West still constituted one Christian world… 

     However, the relationship began to undergo increasing strain when the Lombards penetrated further south into Italy, and Leo, occupied with his Muslim enemies in the East, could offer the papacy no military support. The Popes in desperation looked for other defenders, and found them, eventually, in – the Franks…

     The first act that “brought the Franks into Italy” was the blessing by Pope Zachariah of a dynastic coup d’état in Francia. The last Merovingian rulers were weak and ineffective: real power was concentrated in the hands of their “mayors” or prime ministers. Pope Zachariah – the last of the Greek popes[1] – had already been heavily engaged in the reorganization of the Frankish Church through his legate in Francia, St. Boniface, the English Apostle of Germany. In 751 the Frankish mayor, Peppin III, Charles Martel’s grandson, sent envoys to him to ask “whether it was just for one to reign and for another to rule”. Zachariah took the hint and blessed the deposition of Childeric III and the anointing of Peppin by St. Boniface in his place. 

     We may wonder whether Zachariah was right to interfere in the politics of the West in this way: removing legitimate dynasties and putting upstarts in their place is not usually considered the business of churchmen... Be that as it may, his successor, Stephen II, a Roman aristocrat, greatly increased the links with “the most Christian king of the Franks”. Having been deserted by the Emperor Leo at a moment when Rome was in great peril from the Lombards, he crossed the Alps and in the summer of 754 gave Peppin the title of “patrician”, reconsecrated him and his queen and blessed him and his successors to rule in perpetuity. Perhaps Peppin’s first consecration was deemed to have been illegitimate in that the last Merovingian king, Childeric, was still alive. Or perhaps this second anointing had a deeper significance. Whether Stephen already had this in mind or not, it came to signify the re-establishment of the Western Roman Empire, with its political capital north of the Alps, but its spiritual capital, as always, in Rome. For in exchange, the Franks became the official protectors of Rome instead of the Eastern emperors, whose subjects the Popes now ceased to be.[2]  Moreover, from this time the popes stopped dating their documents from the emperor’s regnal year, and began to issue their own coins.[3] 

     Peppin more than fulfilled his side of the bargain: he defeated the Lombards, restored the Pope to Rome and gave him the former Byzantine exarchate of Ravenna, thereby laying the foundation for the Papal States and the role of the Popes as secular as well as spiritual rulers.

     At about this time the forgery known as The Donation of Constantine was concocted by someone in the papal chancellery. This alleged that Constantine the Great had given his throne to Pope Sylvester and his successors because “it is not right that an earthly emperor should have power in a place where the government of priests and the head of the Christian religion has been established by the heavenly Emperor”. For this reason he moved his capital to the New Rome, Constantinople. “And we ordain and decree that he [the Roman Pope] shall have rule as well over the four principal sees, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, as also over the Churches of God in all the world. And the pontiff who for the time being shall preside over the most holy Roman Church shall be the highest and chief of all priests in the whole world, and according to his decision shall all matters be settled.”[4]

     Now Fr. John Romanides argues that the purpose of this forgery was to prevent the Franks from establishing their capital in Rome. Much more likely, however, is that its immediate purpose was directed, not against the Franks, - who, after all, were Orthodox and great benefactors of the papacy, - but against the heretical emperor in Constantinople, being meant to provide a justification for the papacy’s stealing of the exarchate of Ravenna from the emperor in exchange for Leo III’s earlier depradations. But in the long term its significance was deeper: it represented a quite new theory of the relationship between the secular and the ecclesiastical powers. For contrary to the doctrine of the “symphony” of the two powers which prevailed in the East and the Byzantine West, the theory encapsulated in the Donation essentially asserted that the head of the Roman Church had a higher authority, not only than any other bishop, but also than the head of the Empire; so that the Emperor could only exert his authority as a kind of vassal of the Pope...

     Of course, there is an inherent contradiction in this theory. If it was St. Constantine who gave the authority to St. Sylvester, then the ultimate authority in the Christian commonwealth rested, not with the Pope, but with the Emperor.But this consequence was ignored in the face of the urgent necessity of finding some justification for the papacy’s expansionist plans. [5] 

     In 768, King Pepin’s son, Charles, later known as Charlemagne, ascended the throne. He destroyed the power of the Lombards and vigorously expanded the boundaries of his kingdom from the Elbe to the borders of Byzantine Italy and Hungary. In Western Europe, only the British Isles, Brittany, Scandinavia and some parts of Spain remained beyond his grasp. Nor were his achievements limited to the military and the secular. He promoted education and art, held twice-yearly Synods of his bishops and nobles, suppressed heresy and did his best to weld the very varied peoples and customs of his far-flung realm into a multi-national whole.

     Charlemagne’s empire was seen by the Franks as a resurrection of the Western Roman Empire. According to his English adviser, Deacon Alcuin of York, Charlemagne, like King David, combined the functions of royal leadership and priestly teaching in order to guide his people to salvation.[6] As early as 775 Cathwulf wrote to Charlemagne, comparing his role to that of the Father, and that of the bishop to the Son: “Always remember, my king, with fear and love for God your King, that you are in His place to look after and rule over all His members and to give account on judgement day even for yourself. And a bishop is in second place: he is only in Christ’s place. Ponder, therefore, within yourself how diligently to establish God’s law over the people of God.”[7] Again, in 794 Paulinus of Aquileia called him “king and priest”.

     Charlemagne dominated the Church in his empire. As D.E. Luscombe writes, “Among the principal tasks of a Carolingian monarch were the convening of church councils, the nomination of bishops, the maintenance of clerical discipline and public morality, and the promulgation of sound religious doctrine. Carolingian monarchy was theocratic; it intervened extensively in church affairs...”[8] And so, at the very moment that the Seventh Ecumenical Council was decreeing the proper spheres of Church and State in the East, Caesaropapism was threatening to undermine that decree and re-establish itself in the West…



     By the 790s Charlemagne was already not just a king, but de facto emperor. But the resurrection of the Western Empire needed a special sanction that only the Church could give. The opportunity to gain this came with the election of a new Pope, Leo III. Leo was no supporter of the idea of caesaropapism, the “king-priest” idea. Thus when, in 796, Eadbert Praen, an English priest, assumed the crown of the sub-kingdom of Kent for himself, he was immediately rejected by the Archbishop of Canterbury and later anathematised by Leo. Such a priest-king, he wrote, was like Julian the Apostate…[9] Nevertheless, he needed the support of Charlemagne; and to that end he was prepared to make compromises…

     For “even though his election had been unanimous,” writes Tom Holland, “Leo had enemies: for the papal office, which until recently had brought its holder only bills and overdrafts, was now capable of exciting the envious cupidity of the Roman aristocracy. On 25 April, as the heir of St. Peter rode in splendid procession to Mass, he was set upon by a gang of heavies. Bundled off into a monastery, Leo succeeded in escaping before his enemies, as had been their intention, could blind him and cut out his tongue. Lacking any other recourse, he resolved upon the desperate expedient of fleeing to the King of the Franks. The journey was a long and perilous one – for Charlemagne, that summer, was in Saxony, on the very outer reaches of Christendom. Wild rumours preceded the Pope, grisly reports that he had indeed been mutilated. When he finally arrived in the presence of Charlemagne, and it was discovered… that he still had his eyes and tongue, Leo solemnly asserted that they had been restored to him by St. Peter, sure evidence of the apostle’s outrage at the affront to his vicar. And then, embracing ‘the King, the father of Europe’, Leo summoned Charlemagne to his duty: to stir himself in defence of the Pope, ‘chief pastor of the world’, and to march on Rome.

     “And to Rome the king duly came. Not in any hurry, however, and certainly not so as to suggest that he was doing his suppliant’s bidding. Indeed, for the fugitive Pope, humiliation had followed upon humiliation. His enemies, arriving in Charlemagne’s presence only days after Leo, had publicly accused him of a series of extravagant sexual abuses. Commissioners, sent by Charlemagne to escort the Pope back to Rome and investigate the charges against him, drew up a report so damning that Alcuin preferred to burn it rather than be sullied by keeping it in his possession. When Charlemagne himself, in the early winter of 800, more than a year after Leo’s arrival in Saxony, finally approached the gates of Rome, the Pope humbly rode out to greet him twelve miles from the city. Even the ancient emperors had only required their servants to ride out six.

     “But Leo, a born fighter, was still resolved to salvage something from the wreckage. Blackened though his name had certainly been, he remained the Pope, St. Peter’s heir, the holder of an office that had been instituted of Christ Himself. It was not lightly to be given to any mortal, not even Charlemagne, to sit in judgement on Rome’s bishop. In token of this, when the proceedings against Leo formally opened on 1 December, they did so, not within the ancient limits of the city, but in the Vatican, on the far side of the Tiber, in implicit acknowledgement of the rights of the Pope, and the Pope alone, to rule in Rome. Papal officials, displaying their accustomed talent for uncovering ancient documents just when they were most needed, presented to Charlemagne papers which appeared conclusively to prove that their master could in fact only be judged by God. Charlemagne, accepting this submission, duly pronounced the Pope acquitted. Leo, placing his hand on a copy of the New Testament, then swore a flamboyant oath that he had been innocent all along.

     “And now, having triumphed over his enemies in Rome, he prepared to snatch an even more dramatic victory from the jaws of all his travails. Two days after the Pope’s acquittal, Charlemagne attended Christmas Mass in the shrine of St. Peter in the Vatican. He did so humbly, without any insignia of royalty, praying on his knees. As he rose, however, Leo stepped forward into the golden light cast by the altar candles, and placed a crown on his bare head. Simultaneously, the whole cathedral echoed to the ecstatic cries of the congregation, who hailed the Frankish king as ‘Augustus’ – the honorific of the ancient Caesars. Leo, never knowingly less than dramatic, then prostrated himself before Charlemagne’s feet, head down, arms outstretched. By venerable tradition, such obeisance had properly been performed only for one man: the emperor in Constantinople.

     “But now, following the events of that momentous Christmas Day, the West once again had an emperor of its own.

     “And it was the Pope, and no one else, who had granted him his crown…”[10]

     Now Charlemagne’s biographer Einhard claims that he would never have entered the church if he had known what the Pope was intending to do. This is difficult to believe. Everything suggests that the events leading up to the coronation were carefully stage-managed by the two men, each of whom possessed something that only the other could give.[11]

     However, there is evidence that in later years Charlemagne drew back from the confrontation with Constantinople that his new title of “Emperor of the Romans” threatened. He dropped the phrase “of the Romans” while retaining the title “Emperor”. Moreover, he dropped his idea of attacking the Byzantine province of Sicily. Instead he proposed marriage to the Byzantine Empress Irene (or perhaps it was her idea[12]). In this way he hoped “to unite the Eastern and Western provinces”, as the Theophanes put it[13] - not under his sole rule, for he must have realised that that was impossible, but perhaps on the model of the dual monarchy of the fifth-century Roman empire.

     In any case, all these plans collapsed with Irene’s overthrow in 802…

     The Byzantines at first treated Charlemagne as yet another impudent usurper; for, as a chronicler of Salerno put it, "The men about the court of Charles the Great called him Emperor because he wore a precious crown upon his head. But in truth, no one should be called Emperor save the man who presides over the Roman - that is, the Constantinopolitan kingdom.”[14]

     As Russell Chamberlin writes: “The Byzantines derided the coronation of Charlemagne. To them he was simply another barbarian general with ideas above his station. Indeed, he took care never to style himself Imperator Romanorum. His jurists, dredging through the detritus of empire, came up with a title which me with his approval: Romanum gubernans imperium ‘Governing the Roman Empire’. The resounding title of this first of the post-classical Western Emperors was ‘Charles, Most Serene Augustus, crowned by God, great and merciful Emperor, governing the Roman Empire and by the mercy of God, King of the Lombards and the Franks’.”[15] Alcuin even supported the idea that Charlemagne was greater than both the Pope in Rome and the Emperor in Constantinople: "There have hitherto been three persons of greatest eminence in the world, namely the Pope, who rules the see of St. Peter, the chief of apostles, as his successor…; the second is the Emperor who holds sway over the second Rome…; the third is the throne on which our Lord Jesus Christ has placed you to rule over our Christian people, with greater power, clearer insight and more exalted royalty than the afore-mentioned dignitaries. On you alone the whole safety of the churches of Christ depends."[16]

     Whatever Charlemagne’s real intentions in 800, by the mid-ninth century it was clear that for the West the only Orthodox Roman Emperor was the Emperor of the Franks. Thus whereas Alcuin in the previous century still followed the convention of calling Constantinople the second Rome, for a later Latin eulogist the second Rome was Charlemagne’s capital, Aachen: “Most worthy Charles, my voice is too small for your works, king, love and jewel of the Franks, head of the world, the summit of Europe, caring father and hero, Augustus! You yourself can command cities: see how the Second Rome, new in its flowering and might extent, rise and grows; with the domes which crown its walls, it touches the stars!”[17]

     And yet there is good reason to suppose that the ultimate gainer from Charlemagne’s coronation was not the emperor, but the Pope. Judith Herrin writes that his “acclamation as imperator et augustus only partly answered Alcuin’s proposals for a grander title and did not please the Frankish theologians. They did not consider that the Bishop of Rome had any right to bestow an imperial title and thus assume a crucial role in the ceremony. The Franks did not conceive of Roman ecclesiastical authority as something overarching which covered the whole of Charles’s territories. Within northern Europe, papal authority was hedged by the claims of many archbishops to an equal power…

     “Of the three powers involved in the coronation event of 800, the Roman pontiff emerges as the clear winner in the triangular contest over imperial authority. By seizing the initiative and crowning Charles in his own way, Pope Leo claimed the superior authority to anoint an imperial ruler of the West, which established an important precedent… Later Charles would insist on crowning his own son Louis as emperor, without papal intervention. He thus designated his successor and, in due course, Louis inherited his father’s authority. But the notion that a western rule could not be a real emperor without a papal coronation and acclamation in ancient Rome grew out of the ceremonial devised by Leo III in 800.”[18]

     Andrew Louth confirms that the real winner was the Pope: “The Constitutio Romana sought to establish a bond between the Frankish Empire and the Republic of St. Peter, but it was a very different relationship from that which had formerly held between the pope and the Byzantine emperor. The Frankish emperor undertook to protect the legitimacy of the electoral process, but claimed no right, as the Byzantine emperor had done, to confirm the election itself. What we see here, in inchoate form, is a way of protecting the legitimacy and independence of the pope…”[19 

     So the foundations were laid for the growth of papal power in the political as well as the ecclesiastical spheres…



     But if Charlemagne’s empire was meant to be a restoration of the Western Roman Empire, it must be judged to have failed; for it disintegrated after his death and the death of his son Louis the Pious into three separate kingdoms (roughly co-terminous with modern France, Germany and Northern Italy), and continued to disintegrate in the tenth century. One reason for this was that he failed to create the political bureaucracy and tax collection systems which were so important in preserving the Roman Empire.[20] Another reason was the fact that the dukes and counts upon whom his administration critically depended expected to be paid in land for the services they rendered, so that the kingdom was stable just so long as it was expanding – and the expansionist phase of its history was already over by the 810s.[21]

     For the idea of selfless service to the king just because he was the king, the Lord’s anointed, had to compete with the idea of the aristocratic band of warriors whose leader was elected because of his military prowess and because he promised greater success in war and therefore more plunder than any other leader. The state was not yet fully a res publica, a public thing or possession, in the Frankish consciousness; it was rather the private demesne of the king and those of his nobles who had earned a part of the spoils through their service to him. As Tacitus had written centuries before of the pagan Germans in his Germania: “You cannot keep up a great retinue except by war and violence, for it is to the free-handed chief that they look for the war horse, for the murderous and masterful sphere: banquetings and a certain rude but lavish outfit take the place of salary. The material for this open-handedness comes from war and foray.”

     However, the real weakness of Charlemagne’s kingdom was more spiritual than institutional. For he took his own achievements, and the weakness of the Eastern Empire (which, since it was ruled at the time by a woman, Irene, was technically vacant according to Frankish law), as sufficient reason to usurp the place of the Basileus in the political sphere. Still more seriously, Charlemagne usurped the place of the Church in the ecclesiastical sphere. As long as the Eastern Emperors had been iconoclast, while Charlemagne himself remained Orthodox, he could have had some justification for claiming the leadership of the Christian world. But since 787 the Eastern Empire had returned to Orthodoxy, whereas in 794 Charlemagne convened a false council at Frankfurt which, without consulting the Pope, condemned the Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council on icon-veneration and introduced the Filioque – the statement that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son – into the Creed.

     This rejection of the Acts of the Seventh Council has been ascribed to a mistranslation. [22] But we may suspect that the mis-translation was not entirely fortuitous (was there really nobody at the court who read Greek?), and that Charlemagne was actually looking for an excuse to reject the Eastern Empire as idol-worshipping and heterodox and put himself forward as the one true and Orthodox Christian Emperor. Be that as it may, his adoption of the Filioque made him a heretic rather than his eastern rivals because: (a) it contradicted the words of Christ about the procession of the Spirit from the Father alone (John 15.26), (b) it involved a change in the Creed, which was forbidden by the Third Ecumenical Council, and (c) it was objectively false, as destroying the monarchy of the Father and introducing a second principle into the life of the Holy Trinity.[23] The Filioque immediately produced conflict between Frankish and Greek monks in Jerusalem. And within the Frankish camp itself; for Alcuin rejected the innovation in a letter to the monks of Lyons, and Pope Leo III had have the Creed without the Filioque inscribed in Greek and Latin on silver shields placed outside St. Peter’s. But Charlemagne did not back down: in a council in Aachen in 809 he decreed that the innovation was a dogma necessary for salvation. 

     The iconoclast Emperor Leo the Isaurian had undermined the “symphonic” principle of Church-State relations when he had declared that he was “both king and priest”. But now Charlemagne was showing himself to be no less of a caesaropapist than Leo by his imposition of heretical innovations on the Church. Indeed, the former champion of Orthodoxy and Romanity against the heretical and despotic iconoclast emperors was now well on the way to becoming the chief enemy of Orthodoxy and Romanity through his heresy and despotism, considering, as Romanides puts it, "that the East Romans were neither Orthodox nor Roman"![24]And yet the grandiose claims of the Frankish empire were soon humbled by harsh political reality. For while the Eastern Empire recovered its strength after the Triumph of Orthodoxy in 843, the Frankish Empire began, after the battle of Fontenoy in 841 between Charlemagne’s three grandsons, to disintegrate into three parts.



     The East decisively rejected the claims of the West, both in the political and in the dogmatic spheres. Thus in 867 and again in 879-80, St. Photius the Great convened Councils in Constantinople that condemned Pope Nicolas I, who introduced the Filioque for the first time into the Roman Creed, as a heretic. Significantly, the Acts of the 879 Council were signed by the legates of Pope John VIII. Thus both the Eastern and the Western Churches agreed that it was the Western, Frankish empire that was not Orthodox. And since both Greeks and Romans and Franks agreed that there could be only one Christian Roman Empire, this meant that the Frankish attempt to usurp the Empire had been defeated – for the time being... 

     In spite of this, the Franks did not give up their claims. Thus, as Romanides writes, the Frankish position “was clearly spelled out in a letter of Emperor Louis II (855-875) to Emperor Basil I (867-886) in 871. Louis calls himself ‘Emperor Augustus of the Romans’ and demotes Basil to ‘Emperor of New Rome’. Basil had poked fun at Louis, insisting that he was not even emperor in all of Francia, since he ruled only a small part of it, and certainly was not emperor of the Romans, but of the Franks. Louis argued that he was emperor in all of Francia because the other Frankish kings were his kinsmen by blood. He makes the same claim as that found in the Annals of Lorsch: he who holds the city of Old Rome is entitled to the name ‘Emperor of the Romans’. Louis claimed that: ‘We received from heaven this people and city to guide and (we received) the mother of all the churches of God to defend and exalt… We have received the government of the Roman Empire for our Orthodoxy. The Greeks have ceased to be emperors of the Romans for their cacodoxy. Not only have they deserted the city (of Rome) and the capital of the Empire, but they have also abandoned Roman nationality and even the Latin language. They have migrated to another capital city and taken up a completely different nationality and language.’”[25]

     However, the truth was that the Carolingian empire was in schism from the true Christian Empire, much as the ten tribes of Israel had been in schism from the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Moreover, in its false doctrines, and the violence of its missionary work[26], it laid the foundations of the Roman Catholic heresy. Roman Catholicism began when the Popes, instead of resisting the heresies of Charlemagne, adopted those heresies themselves – and then proclaimed themselves to be Emperors as well as Priests.

     In the political and cultural sphere the Carolingian empire laid the foundations of the modern West. As K.N. Leontiev writes: “It was precisely after the fall of the artificial empire of Charles that the signs which constitute, taken as a whole, a picture of a special European culture, a new universal civilization, become clearer and clearer.The future bounds of the most recent western States and particular cultures of Italy, France and Germany also begin to become clearer. The Crusades come closer, as does the flourishing age of knighthood and of German feudalism, which laid the foundations of the exceptional self-respect of the person (a self-respect which, passing first by means of envy and imitation into the bourgeoisie, produced the democratic revolution and engendered all these modern phrases about the boundless rights of the person, and then, penetrating to the lower levels of western society, made of every simple day-time worker and cobbler an existence corrupted by a nervous feeling of his own worth). Soon after this we hear the first sounds of Romantic poetry. Then Gothic architecture develops, and soon Dante’s Catholic epic poem will be created, etc. Papal power grows from this time. And so the reign of Charles the Great (9th century) is approximately the watershed after which the West begins more and more to bring its own civilization and its own statehood into prominence. From this century Byzantine civilisation loses from its sphere of influence all the large and well-populated countries of the West. On the other hand, it acquires for its genius the Southern Slavs…., and then… Russia.”[27]


[1] Andrew Louth writes: “From 680 to 751, or more precisely from the accession of Agatho in 678 until Zacharias’ death in 751 – the popes, with two exceptions, Benedict II and Gregory II, were Greek in background and speakers of Greek, which has led some scholars to speak of a ‘Byzantine captivity’ of the papacy. This is quite misleading: most of the ‘Greek’ popes were southern Italian or Sicilian, where Greek was still the vernacular, and virtually all of them, seem to have made their career among the Roman clergy, so, whatever their background, their experience and sympathies would have been thoroughly Roman” (Greek East and Latin West, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007, p. 79).

[2]Norman Davies, Europe, London: Pimlico, 1996, pp. 288-290.

[3] Judith Herrin, Women in Purple, London: Phoenix Press, 2002, p. 47.

[4] Henry Bettenson and Christopher Maunder, Documents of the Christian Church, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 52.

[5] Centuries later, in 1242, a pamphlet attributed to Pope Innocent IV corrected this flaw in the theory of papism by declaring that the Donation was not a gift, but a restitution (Charles Davis, “The Middle Ages”, in Richard Jenkyns (ed.), The Legacy of Rome, Oxford University Press, 1992, p.  86.)

[6] Joseph Canning, A History of Medieval Political Thought, 300-1450, London: Routledge, 1996, p. 50.

[7] Canning, op. cit., p. 49.

[8] Luscombe, “Introduction: the Formation of Political Thought in the West”, The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought, c. 350 - c. 1450, Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 166.

[9] A.W. Haddan & W. Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Great Britain and Ireland, Oxford: Clarendon, 1869, 1964, vol. III, p. 524.

[10] Holland, Millenium, London: Abacus Books, 2009, pp. 30-32.

[11] Peter Heather, The Restoration of Rome, London: Pan Books, 2013, chapter 5.

[12] Herrin, op. cit., pp. 117-118.

[13] Theophanes, in A.A. Vasiliev, A History of the Byzantine Empire, Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin Press, 1958, p. 268.

[14] Quoted in Richard Chamberlin, Charlemagne, Emperor of the Western World, London: Grafton books, 1986, p. 52.

[15] Chamberlin, “The Ideal of Unity”, History Today, vol. 53 (11), November, 2003, p. 57. And yet in 812 the legates of Emperor Michael I saluted Charles in Aachen with the title “emperor”. So from 812, as A. Vasiliev says, “there were two Roman emperors, in spite of the fact that in theory there was still only one Roman empire”(op. cit., p. 268). There is an interesting parallel to this in the theory of the One Christian Empire in contemporary China. Thus when the Chinese empire actually split between the Khitans and the Sung in 1004, “to preserve the myth of indivisibility the relationship between the two emperors was henceforth expressed in the language of a fictional blood relationship” (“China in the year 1000”, History for All, vol. 2, issue 6, December / January, 2000, p. 37).

[16] Alcuin, in Stephen Allott, Alcuin of York, York: Sessions Book Trust, 1974, p. 111.

[17] In Wil van den Bercken, Holy Russia and Christian Europe, London: SCM Press, 1999, p. 148.

[18] Herrin, op. cit., pp. 124, 128.

[19] Louth, op. cit., p. 81.

[20] Heather writes: “Fundamentally, the early Middle Ages saw the emergence of a new smaller type of state structure. With no state-run professional army, no large-scale systematic taxation of agriculture, and no developed central bureaucratic structure, the early medieval state swallowed up a much smaller percentage of GDP than had its Roman predecessor. As far as we can tell, this had nothing to do with right-wing ideologies and everything to do with a basic renegotiation of centre-local relations around the brute fact that landowning elites now owed their ruler actual military service, which put their own very physical bodies on the line. Equally important, all the changes conspired together… to make it much more difficult for early medieval rulers to hold together large geographical areas over the longer term.

     “There was also the further, critical difference in the type of economic assets that the ruler of a smaller early medieval state structure had at his disposal. Although late Roman emperors were landowners in their own right, like their Carolingian successors, they drew the majority of their much larger overall income from tax revenues. And tax revenues were entirely renewable…” (op. cit., p.279)

[21] However, see the life of St. William of Toulouse (+812), for an example of a completely non-acquisitive warrior lord (Living Orthodoxy, vol. V, N 2, March-April, 1983, pp. 3-5).

[22] Louth writes: “The Frankish court received a Latin version of the decrees of Nicaea II in which a central point was misrepresented: instead of an assertion that icons are not venerated with the worship owed to God, the Latin version seems to have asserted exactly the opposite, that icons are indeed venerated with the worship due to God alone. There is certainly scope for misunderstanding here, especially when dealing with a translated text, for the distinction that the iconodules had painstakingly drawn between a form of veneration expressing honour [proskynesis] and a form of veneration expressing worship [latreia] has no natural lexical equivalent [in Latin]” (op. cit., pp. 86-87).

     When, in 792, Charlemagne sent the Acts of the Seventh Council in this inaccurate translation to the kings and bishops of Britain, it was supposed that the Fathers of the Council had asserted, in the words of Symeon of Durham, “that icons are to be adored, which is altogether condemned by the Church of God”; and the reader Alcuin brought back to the continent the negative opinion of the British Church (Haddan & Stubbs, op. cit., pp. 468-469).

[23]See St. Photius the Great, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, translated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Studion Publishers, 1983; “The Filioque: Truth or Trivia?”, Orthodox Christian Witness, March 21 / April 3, 1983.

[24]J. Romanides, Franks, Romans, Feudalism and Doctrine, Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1981, p. 31.

[25] Romanides, op. cit., p. 18.

[26] Cf. Charlemagne’s Capitulary on Saxony dating to about 785: “Anyone who, in contempt of Christianity, refuses to respect the holy fast of Lent and eats meat shall be put to death… Any unbaptized Saxon who tries to conceal the fact from his fellows and refuses to accept baptism shall be put to death…“ (in Jean Comby, How to Read Church History, London: SCM Press, 1985, vol. 1, p. 123).

[27] Leontiev, “Vizantinizm i Slavianstvo” (“Byzantinism and Slavism”), in Vostok, Rossia i Slavianstvo (The East, Russia and Slavism), Moscow, 1996, pp. 94-95.


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