(No, my choice of words is not in error.)
Picking up where we left off….
In a single act, Pope Leo’s coronation of Charlemagne changed all of that. Christendom still may have possessed only one Church, but now there were two Roman Empires to claim her.
The Age of Paradise: Christendom from Pentecost to the First Millennium, by John Strickland
Charlemagne was crowned emperor by the pope. This created two Roman Empires. Until now, there was one empire, with its seat of power in the East: the New Rome of Constantinople. But Charlemagne was not of the East, not recognized as Emperor of any regions in the East. Hence, a second Roman Empire, headed by Charlemagne, and located…well, we will come to this.
As a result of the pope’s action, the door was now open to a wholesale reconfiguration of Western Christian romanitas.
The term “romanitas” is used to describe the Roman-ness of Christian civilization. This identity spanned East and West, dating back to the conversion of Constantine. Strickland offers:
The loss of western territories to the barbarian invasions of the fifth century had not greatly undermined romanitas, despite claims by modern historians since the time of the so-called Enlightenment.
This is a very interesting statement, and one that should have been obvious to me had I put the two-plus-two together of that which I already knew of history. After all, Constantinople remained, whatever happened in the West; Constantinople was Roman; Constantinople was Christian. There were no “Dark Ages” in the East, at least not at this time. (Of course, to refer to the period as “Dark Ages” in either East or West was an error, at best.)
However, the East was not directly influenced by the Germanic (barbarian) tribes, and it was through these tribes that differences in East and West – theologically, politically, and culturally – would become apparent. Looking back through history, it is clear how these differences played out regarding government and liberty.
The root of this appears to be the differences in the tribal customs that separated East and West, and, perhaps, the relatively more important and longer lasting role of Islam in the East. Perhaps as I get into further volumes of Strickland’s works, this issue will become more clear.
I have previously focused solely on the meaning of Charlemagne’s crowning within the context of the Western Empire: Charlemagne’s annual wars used to consolidate his authority over various recalcitrant European tribes, most famously the Saxons. Strickland will tell the story of the time through the eyes of wider Christendom.
Charlemagne’s central project was to establish a Christian state, defined by a culture that was Frankish – and definitely not “Greek,” a term used pejoratively, as those in the East considered themselves as Roman, not Greek.
At the heart if this movement was a principle Charlemagne called “correction” (correctio).
It was an act of reformation, growing out of the conviction that it was the duty of a Christian ruler to supervise the religious life of his subjects – and to intervene when necessary. For Charlemagne, this meant dealing with the ignorance of many of his subjects.
Outside of the monastic centers, in the vast swaths of rural territories, little Christian instruction occurred. The illiterate parish clergy offered little help. Christians were still offering to the pagan god Thor; children were baptized in the name of the Fatherland, and of the daughter, and of the Holy Spirit – an issue of incorrect Latin grammar, yet still an issue.
Such ambitions required a new capital. This would eventually be Aachen, the Future Rome (ventura Roma). Old Rome was no longer the capital, New Rome was not under Charlemagne’s domain – in any case, from the view of the West, it was corrupted beyond hope; even now, a woman was sitting on the throne, the Empress Irene.