Catholic Christendom Charlemagne # 16

While Charlemagne was in Rome, on Christmas day 800, at the pontifical Mass, Pope Leo III surprised him by anointing him and placing upon his head the imperial crown.  He proclaimed him Emperor and Augustus, while the Romans shouted out three times; ‘Carolo, piisimo Augusto a Deo coronato, magno et pacificio Imperatori, vita et vicotria’; (To Carolus Augustus crowned by God, mighty and pacific emperor, be life and victory).Charlemagne-coronation-1024x683Spot in St. Peter’s Basilica where Charlemagne was coronated by Pope Leo III.

Charlemagne humbly recongnized that he had received this great power from the hands of God through the Pope who exercised the moral supremacy of Western Christendom.  And Charles constantly attributed his imperial dignity to this act of God through his agent, the Vicar of Christ.  His son Charles was anointed on the same day too.

On this great day, Charles was also lifted to the dignity of supreme temporal protector of Western Christendom.  He passed this on to his son Charles, and the two others, with the obligation to defend and protect the Roman Church.  Not only was he the protector of the welfare of the papacy and the Patrimony of Peter, but he also understood that it meant a religious responsibility too and showed it by:

  • protecting and encouraging missionary work,
  • advancing Catholic culture,
  • working to reform the clergy, both secular and monastic,
  • enforcing Catholic discipline on the life of the average person,
  • introducing Catholic canon laws into government, (Collectio Dionysian-Hadriana),
  • shared governmental power with popes and local bishops, (civil and ecclesiastical),
  • took advice from the pope and bishops on how to rule,
  • and worked for the earthly glory of God.

From that day on, and through the middle ages, no Western Emperor was considered legitimate unless he had been anointed and crowned by the successor of St. Peter in Rome.

450px-Charlemagne_Agostino_Cornacchini_VaticanHis statue at St. Peter’s Basilica In Rome.

Charles had a personal devotion to the Apostolic See and a special love for the Basilica of St. Peter’s.  He enriched it above all other churches and wanted to see Rome regain its ancient splendor and authority.  Again he called himself the ‘devoted defender and humble helper of Holy Church’.

He was also very concerned with liturgical rites and ceremonies of the Church.  Taxes were levied to support the dignity of public worship.  He introduced the ‘Gregorian Sacramentally’ of Rome into the Frankish church.  Gregorian Chant was also instituted and he even chanted with the choir, but in a ‘subdued voice’.   He started schools to improve church music and to educate seminarians.

The Patriarch of Jerusalem gave him the keys to the Holy Sepulchre and asked for his protection of the holiest place in Christendom.  He built a monastery and hospital in Jerusalem.

But in the rest of the new Byzantine Eastern Rome, things were very different.  They were jealous of him and did not support him because they felt that the authority of the Roman Empire rested with them.  Throughout his reign there were many attempts by them to sabotage his plans.

In a manner of purely practical things he also accomplished the;

  • developed Agriculture,
  • the growth of trade,
  • organized and codified Frankish laws,
  • protected the liberty and life of free men.

Throne-of-Charlemagne-in-Aachen-GermanyOne of the thrones of Charlemagne

In spite of his irregular marriages, he was a loving father to his children.  He joined them in their sports, swimming and relaxations.  Like his father, in his will of 806, he divided his kingdom amongst his three sons.

  • France went to go to his son Louis the Pious,
  • Frisia, Saxony, Hesse, and Franconia were to go to Charles the Young,
  • and Pepin was to to have Italy, Bavaria and Southern Alemannia, (but he died before his dad did).

After 47 years of reigning and in his 72nd year, he died.  He was buried at Aachen in an octagonal Byzantine-Romanesque church.  In 1000, Otto III opened his tomb and found his body seated on a marble throne, robed, crowned and with the book of the Gospels opened on his knees.

We are so blessed to be traditional Catholics and to know about what God has done in the past for his glory in heaven, but also on earth.  May we continue to do what we can to extend His Kingdom and Christendom today.