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to whom she gave and of whom she took a crown, was a man of no mean might and no small nobleness. Charles the Great was in truth the mighty monarch and the mighty man of the middle ages. The greatness before which all his contemporaries bowed haunted the imagination of after ages, and has cleaved inseparably to the name of Charlemagne. The Germans who overthrew the Roman Empire and allied themselves with the Roman Church produced in him their supreme and most glorious personage. He gathered all the Teutonic nations, either by inheritance or conquest, under his dominion, and welded the West into one vast empire. Hereditary king of the Franks, conqueror of the Lombards, subjugator of the Saxons and the Moors, master of France, Germany, Italy, and Hungary, potent in Spain, and influential in England, he was in very deed and truth the lord of Western Christendom. A great conqueror, he was not a mere vulgar conqueror, but uplifted the nations whom he subdued, and carried along with him in his victorious march such civilisation and Christianity as the age was capable of. A valiant warrior, an open-eyed and wide-minded statesman and large-hearted man, a true German prince and patriot, a sincere but not a fanatical Christian, eloquent in utterance as well as great in action, a lover of learning and learned men, he represented and commanded his age; overtopped, subjected, or attracted all its mighty men; participated, appropriated, and furthered all its chief feelings, influences, and movements. He vanquished and brought under the yoke Saxon chieftains, Lombard dukes, Avar chagans, and Arab emirs. He had Offa of Mercia for his subordinate ally and Egbert of Wessex for his guest and nurseling; protected the Roman pontiffs, and had friendly dealings with the Khalifs of Bagdad; held Adrian I. personally dear as well as politically near, and exchanged presents and good offices with Haroun al Rashid. He secured the respect and alliance, in spite of the jealousy, of those Byzantine Cæsars whose imperial honours he divided, and held in check the fierce and restless Northmen. He gathered around him the chief intellects of the time; was the pupil of Alcuin and the patron of Eginhard. He loved German songs, respected classical antiquity, and built handsome churches. He enjoyed the Fathers of the Church, especially Augustine. His personal greatness transcended his widespread sway; nor is the great
ness of his work to be measured by the permanence of his empire or the endurance of his dynasty. His dominion erelong fell into pieces in the hands of his degenerate descendants, who at the end of a century and a half disappeared from the high places of the world. The Empire of the West which Charlemagne in reality revived, and over which he in truth ruled, scarcely outlived him. It was the happy portion of Western Christendom to unfold itself not under a single sceptre, but as a company of states. But the nations which Charles the Great subdued and brought together bore permanent witness to the dominion of their mighty master; they parted company not without gifts from their great uniter, and not without furtherance from their short-lived union; each nation, France, Germany, Italy, held the memory of Charlemagne in grateful veneration, and claimed a part and lot in his greatness and glory. The national hero both of France and Germany, he has become a hero of romance. Happy in a most loving and yet most discerning biographer, the great German warrior, statesman, monarch, patriot, and Christian, whom his friend Eginhard has so vividly set forth and so faithfully preserved, was singularly enough appropriated and metamorphosed by the medieval poets and romancers.6 Allured by the dim prominence of Charlemagne in the memory of mankind, they flung around the great Teuton king the ideas and fancies of their own age, the thoughts and feelings of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, made him the morning star of knighthood and the central figure of Western romance, just as his contemporary and friend, the Khalif Haroun al Rashid, became the central figure of Eastern romance, and still walks and glitters through the marvels of the Arabian Nights.
But monks as well as romancers laid hold on Charlemagne. He became a saint as well as a knight. Just as the glories of chivalry were laid upon a very practical statesman, so a sincere but by no means world-renouncing or flesh-defying Christian was steeped in the odour of sanctity. The first Holy Roman Emperor must needs take rank as an imperial saint. The politic
6 It is difficult to overpraise the masterpiece of Eginhard, a work admirable in any age and marvellous for the dark ages, a work wherein the biographer shows himself at once a tender friend, a statesman, a scholar, and a master of composition. He wields the Latin tongue well and vigorously, knows what to leave out and what to bring in, and can paint a picture by a few strokes. Eginhard excels all mediæval biographers just as Charlemagne transcends all medieval sovereigns. If not very detailed, the work is most complete, and may well keep company with the Agricola of Tacitus.
protector of the popes passed for a papal devotee. His relics attained considerable sacredness, and hymns were written in honour of St. Charles. He has won the inferior honour of beatification, and the name of Charlemagne occupies a secondrate place in the Romish heaven.7 His place and portion in ecclesiastical history are very memorable, though, without much fault of his own, not very enviable. He contributed to the degeneracy of the Christian Church into a secular power, and assisted at one of the great crises and transformations of the popedom by exchanging with it worldly gifts and services, by confirming to it an Italian principality, and by receiving from it an imperial crown. Charlemagne helped to make the bishop of Rome an Italian prince, and the bishop of Rome crowned the Teuton king Holy Roman Emperor. That Italian principality which Pepin bestowed and which Charlemagne confirmed, which the popes so eagerly caught at and so passionately clung to, though they did not secure its complete possession and immediate sovereignty till seven centuries afterwards, is now falling away from them under the eye, if not by the very hand, of another French monarch. The Holy Roman Empire, set up in his behalf, remained for centuries a name not without power, and had a nominal existence of a thousand years.
In these dealings with the Papacy, Charles the Great unconsciously sinned against true Christianity, and innocently assisted the worldly development of the kingdom not of this world. By his territorial grant he meant to honour the Church which he helped to corrupt. Far from coveting the imperial crown, he rather recoiled from the papal gift, and, in common with his contemporaries, set little store upon it. Charlemagne was in nowise a dependant of the papacy. The principality which he rebestowed was the grant of a sovereign to a subject; he was
Hymnus de Sancto Carolo, apud Eginhardum, ed. 1845. Charlemagne did in fact. obtain the highest rank there, but was considered to have got it unlawfully. Frederick Redbeard, eager for the honour of that Holy Roman Empire wherein he was an earnest believer and whereof he was the mightiest wielder, wished for a heavenly patron and intercessor in the first Holy Roman Emperor, and procured the canonisation of Charlemagne from the antipope Pascal. The legitimate popes neither cancelled nor confirmed the appointment; and uncancelled, unconfirmed canonisation is allowed to pass for beatification (Pagi, Critica in Baronium, an. 1166; Butler's Lives of the Saints, Jan. 28). Knight, saint, mighty king, and first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne has been indeed a power among men; he still grandly abides in the memory of mankind, and still glorifies that noble cathedral of Aachen, of which he was the builder, in which is the tomb so simply yet so greatly inscribed 'Carolo Magno,' and the chair wherein his crumbling frame rested for ages.
the real ruler of Rome, and the veritable master of the priest who had crowned him Cæsar. He brooked no independent power in the vast dominion which his genius and valour had gathered together; he did not even render to the pontiff absolute spiritual obedience. He and his Franks shrank from the idolatry patronised by the popes and restored in the East by his contemporary Irene, the monstrous mother who dethroned, blinded, and did to death her only son Constantine Porphyrogenitus, but whose crime was forgotten and forgiven in the champion of images. The second council of Nicæa, whereof Irene was the convener and the heroine, undid the work of the great Isaurian iconoclasts, and reestablished image-worship (787); while the council of Frankfort, holden by the authority of Charlemagne, forbade the adoration, while tolerating the presence, of images. This great German prince, with that earnest zeal for furthering the spiritual and intellectual welfare of his people, so characteristic of the Teutonic mind, and so manifest in that most illustrious of Teutonic kings, our own Alfred, set the most learned and accomplished of his clergy to prepare works for the religious instruction of his subjects, without reference to Rome or authority therefrom.10
8 Paulus Diaconus in his general history (1. xxiii.) rejoices over 'piissima Irene.' The lust of reigning has too often sundered very close ties even in the heart of woman; but scarcely ever, except in the restorer of image-worship, has it quenched that strongest of all instincts, maternal love. Legend makes Semiramis the murderess of her husband Ninus, Clytemnestra the murderess of her husband Agamemnon, the wife of Candaules the murderess of her husband, and Tullia a rejoicing accessory to the murder of her father Servius Tullius. Athaliah, the Baal-worshipper, was unnaturally bloody, but, unlike this later idolatress, killed not the fruit of her own womb. When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal' (2 Kings xi. 1). Agrippina poisoned her husband Claudius, to make room on the throne of the world for her son Nero, who rewarded her with assassination. Cwendred, to get the kingdom of Mercia, had her little brother king Kenelm taken off at Clent. Elfrida had her step-son Edward the Martyr murdered at Corfe Castle, that her own son Ethelred might reign in his stead. The ambitious adulteress, Isabella of France, compassed the dethronement and assassination of her consort Edward II., but seated their son Edward III. on the throne. Joanna of Naples and Mary Queen of Scots were almost certainly privy to the murder of their husbands, Andrew of Hungary and Henry Darnley. Catherine II. effected the destruction of her consort Peter III., but spared her son Paul. The son-destroying Irene has no fellow in crime except Drahomira, the heathen princess of Bohemia, who got one son Boleslas to murder another son, Duke and Saint Wenceslas, on account of his zeal for Christianity (938). It is pleasant to know that the monstrous mother was hurled by an ungrateful favourite from the throne so horribly acquired, and died in exile and indigence.
But, notwithstanding these isolated manifestations of independence, the spiritual power of the popes advanced, and was greatly furthered by that supreme of pious frauds and forgeries, the Pseudo-Decretals of Isidore, which appeared early in the ninth century. This collection, falsely ascribed to the famous bishop of Seville, and consisting of decrees falsely ascribed to the early bishops of Rome, loudly proclaimed the power of the priesthood, and elaborately asserted the monarchy of the popes. Enormous assumptions were thrust into the mouths of venerable saints, simple pastors were made to prate about pontifical omnipotence, and the companion of St. Paul was made to talk like the crowner of Charlemagne. The forgery was clumsy and stupid as it was audacious, amusingly defied history, recklessly set at nought chronology, and unblushingly garbled and misquoted Scripture; " but it came out in a congenial time; though not altogether unchallenged and unassailed, it prevailed with the darkness and grossness of the age, and accomplished its purpose of aggrandising the papacy. This production, in admirable harmony with the presidency of Peter and the donation of Constantine, completed the fortification of falsehood and forgery in which the popedom had intrenched itself, drawing its temporal power from a donation never made, grounding its spiritual power on a presidency never exercised, and supporting the same by decrees whereof their alleged authors were altogether innocent, and their alleged collector utterly unconscious.
The practice of Charlemagne was not according to the theory of the Decretals. He dealt with the popes as with personal friends, political instruments, princely subjects, and influential spiritual directors, not as with independent princes or absolute spiritual lords. The imperial coronation, while it wrought no change in his dealings and demeanour towards the pontiffs, yet rendered him the direct and legitimate sovereign of the Roman bishops, whose protector he had heretofore been. Throughout
"Clement is made to tell a huge lie, and to put one into St. Peter's mouth, when he says (Decretales, Paris, 1609, p. 7): 'Omnes principes terræ et homines cunctis episcopis obedire beatus Petrus præcipiebat '-'Blessed Peter commanded all princes of the earth and all men to be obedient to all bishops'—that very Peter who especially proclaimed the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. ii. 4, 5, 9), and who earnestly enjoined obedience to heathen rulers (ver. 13-17). Stephen I. and Sixtus I. talk glibly about papal authority and appeals. Sixtus describes himself as 'universalis apostolicæ ecclesiæ papam,' and claims the headship of the Church: Memor sum me sub illius nomine ecclesiæ præsidere, cujus a domino Jesu Christo est glorificata confessio (Epistola Decretales veterum Pontificum Romanorum).