History of Europe

Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire was actually an attempt to revive the Western Roman Empire.

In the 11th century it was called the Roman Empire and in the 12th century, the Holy Empire. The name Holy Roman Empire was adopted in the 13th century. Although its borders have expanded remarkably throughout its history, the Germanic states have always been its main core. Since the 10th century, its rulers have been elected kings of Germany, and they usually intended the popes to crown them in Rome as emperors, although they did not always succeed.

The Holy Roman Empire was actually an attempt to revive the Western Roman Empire, whose political and legal structure collapsed during the 5th and 6th centuries to be replaced by independent kingdoms ruled by Germanic nobles. The imperial throne of Rome was left vacant after Romulus Augustulus was deposed in 476. During the turbulent early Middle Ages, the traditional concept of a temporal kingdom coexisting with the spiritual kingdom of the Church was encouraged by the Papacy. The Byzantine Empire, with its capital in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), which controlled the provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire, nominally retained sovereignty over territories that were formerly possessions of the Western Empire. Many Germanic tribes who had conquered these territories formally recognized the Emperor of Byzantium as their lord. Due in part to this situation and also to other reasons, including dependency derived from Byzantine protection against the Lombards, the popes recognized the authority of the Eastern Empire for a long period of time after the forced abdication of Romulus Augustus.

After the fusion of the Germanic tribes, which led to the creation of a series of independent Christian states in the 6th and 7th centuries, the political authority of the Byzantine emperors practically disappeared in the West. At the same time, the religious consequences of the division of the Western Church were felt, particularly during the pontificate (590-604) of Gregory I. As the political prestige of the Byzantine Empire declined, the Papacy was increasingly resentful of the interference of the Constantinople's civil and ecclesiastical authorities in the affairs and activities of the Western Church. The ensuing enmity between the branches of the Church reached its critical point during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian, (717-741) who tried to abolish the use of images in Christian ceremonies.

The Papacy's resistance to Leo's decree culminated (730-732) with the break with Constantinople. The Papacy then nourished the dream of resurrecting the Western Empire. Some popes have considered the possibility of embarking on the project and assuming the leadership of this future state. Without any military force or de facto administration, and in a situation of great danger due to the hostility of the Lombards in Italy, the ecclesiastical hierarchy abandoned the idea of ​​a temporal kingdom united with the spiritual kingdom and decided to grant the imperial title to the dominant political power in Western Europe. at the moment:the kingdom of the Franks. Some of the Frankish rulers had already proved their allegiance to the Church; Charlemagne, who ascended the Frankish throne in 768, had demonstrated a great capacity for such a high office, especially by conquering Lombardy in 773 and expanding his domains to imperial proportions.

On December 25, 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor. This act set a precedent and created a political structure that was destined to play a decisive role in Central European affairs. The precedent established the papal claim to elect, crown and also depose the emperors, a right that he enforced, at least in theory, for almost 700 years.

Roman Civilization

Take the opportunity to check out our video lessons related to the subject: