Charlemagne or otherwise referred to as Charles was one of the greatest kings of Franks from 768 a tribe from Germany, present-day Belgium, France, king of Italy from 774 and later the first emperor of western Europe from the year 800. He was the first born son of Bertrada of Laon and Pepin the Short and was born before their marriage. He succeeded his father into leadership.
Charles Martel, the father to Pepin the Short and Carloman, governed the Franks as mayor and declined to be called king. He was succeeded by his two sons since the kingdom was divided and both kings ruled in separate jurisdictions. The office of the mayor was treated as a joint property but held by the two siblings equally. However, the two kings placed their brother Childeric III in the throne to curb division of the people in 743. The pope, however declared that Childeric III was a false king and named Pepin as the true king as his powers were compared to those of a Mayor in the time which was the most powerful position. Carloman had stepped down at that time and preferred to be a monk when entering the church. Pepin was then elected by the assembly of Franks anointed by the archbishop into his kingship reign. Pepin then ruled following the office of the pope. Pepin died in 768 and, therefore, Charlemagne became the only remaining king after the unexplained death of Carloman as well. Charlemagne followed in his father's legacy of adhering to the office of the pope and being a protector of his people, led an attack in Spain where Muslims were, campaigned against Saxons in the East, Christianizing other people on a death penalty if they refused and reached his full potential when he was crowned Emperor of the Romans. He thus rose to his power.
Impact of Charlemagne's rule
Charlemagne is known for his numerous reforms including the economy, education, administrative, cultural, and monetary as well as the church. He stood out due to these reforms and initiated the Carolingian Renaissance one of the three medieval renaissance. The impacts are as follows:
Charlemagne admired learning and education. His reign ushered in the Carolingian Renaissance as it was attributed with scholarships, art, literature, and architecture. As he was conquering many regions, he came across different cultures, modes of learning especially in Anglo-Saxon England, Moorish Spain as well. He increased the provision of monastic schools as well as scriptoria. Scholarships, promoting liberal arts in courts, and ensured that his children and grandchildren were well educated and studied as well were one of his interests. He studied grammar, logic, astronomy, and arithmetic.
He was determined to impact in the economic future of his kingdom. He followed his father's footsteps and abolished the monetary system of gold and replaced it with the Pepin's set system. The shortage of gold was one of the main reasons for abolishing the monetary system as peace was restored and they lost their trade routes with Africa. This standardized the economy and simplified trade and commerce with other countries. Charlemagne established a modern pound made of silver which was a unit of money and weight.
Charlemagne strictly set principles on how income and expenses were to be noted down. He allowed Jews to lend money for interest, but the church was against it. He thus prohibited and banned them from money lending since it was against the values and rules of the church. He enforced microeconomic reforms like direct control of prices and levies on specific goods.
Charlemagne extended the reform of the church unlike his father and uncle, Pepin and Carloman respectively. With the spiritual life increasing, this acted as the connection between the royal government and the public. He aimed at strengthening the structure of the church's power, advancing the clergies skills and morals, improving basic principles of faith and morals as well as standardizing liturgical practices and removing paganism. His authority grew over the country and the church as he controlled many properties, defined orthodox doctrine and was in a position to discipline the clergy. Through these reforms, he gained support from the clergy who approved morals required of Christians.
These reforms had a major impact on political Western Europe. He improved the old mechanisms of Merovingian governance for improved central control. , accountability, cultural renaissance, and effective bureaucracy. Since the fall of Rome, the Carolingian Empire was the largest as Charlemagne exercised the proper command and ruled over all his conquered territories. He led the army, had overall jurisdiction, and he protected the poor and the church. His effective administration of his territories depended on support, loyalty, and efficiency from his subjects as he wanted to organize the church and kingdom.
He changed the local administrative justice and came up with professional experts on law who were supposed to know all the national laws for men to be judged on its merits. These judges were banned from being corrupt and taking bribes as they were sworn to serve the people in justice. This was all jotted down and was subject to amendments.
For easier administration, the Frankish kingdom was divided into three, i.e. Australia, Burgandy, and Neustria. Administrators, powerful governors ruled these areas. The areas were further subdivided, and his children headed some.
Charlemagne's reign gave rise to many scripts as he was very interested in education. Through this minuscule scripts emerged that helped the people.
His greatest failure was his inability to write. However, he tried to practice the formation of letters in his old age during his free time while in bed. This effort was long delayed and was not very successful.
He lost his close relationships with Jews after he banned them from lending money for interest. He, however, tried to regain it by employing Jews for his diplomatic missions
He was very strict to the clergy as he could discipline them and made vast and sudden changes in the church.
He created a forum for men to meet for work to be efficient, but it turned into a discussion forum and nobles were able to express themselves.
The connection of the church-state issues
Charlemagne through his reforms brought the church and the state together which brought a series of problems, especially to the subjects. These issues are mainly related as the church brought people together in harmony. However, the church began to dominate people, and this led to the fall of the empire. The issues are as follows;
The church had power over the people
The church had power over its people as it required earnings from them whether rich or poor. The peasants, however, were at the receiving end since they were required to give up a portion of their weekly jobs to work on the land of the church for free. This reduced their earning days. Also, they were expected to give a tithe of 10% of their earnings to the church as a tax. The amount was a lot for peasants, and it was a constant struggle for them. Many times they could not attain it. They thus sought to pay it in the grain which was stored in the tithe barns.
Obeying the church lead one to heaven
Everyone believed and wanted to go to heaven thus leading righteous lives in fear of going to hell. The church, however, took advantage of this fact and looked for endless means to charge the people. One had to pay to be baptized, if not baptized one was not buried in the land of the church. This meant that one could not enter heaven.
The church had power over the rich
The church accumulated a lot of wealth, and they did not pay taxes thus gaining economic power over the rulers. The bishops and clergy were loyal to the pope and not the king who brought conflict. The monarchs were also meant to be loyal to the pope or be at risk of the church's wrath.
The church had one ruler
Everyone was supposed to be loyal to the church which was one denomination. The pope, however, was not obliged to be loyal to the king thus bringing conflict on whether the people should be loyal to the king or the pope.
Impact of the new unified Europe
Tyranny - since Charlemagne was a ruler who made decisions and implemented them with use of harshness and strictly demanding loyalty from his subject.
Division of subjects- people will be torn apart on either to be loyal to the king or the church.
Poverty-especially to the peasants since they are forced to pay taxes from their minimum waged jobs.
Conflict- since the subjects are divided thus conflicts will emerge amongst them as well as the leaders.
Literacy - due to his educational reforms the subjects will be educated and will lead good lives to even further their education.
Economic growth- this will increase due to his well-established economic reforms of no gold monetary value, strict principles on income and expenses, etc.
Barbero, Allessandro. Charlemagne: Father of a Continent. Berkely: University of California Press. 2010
Charles, L Wells. Ten Epochs of Church History: The Age of Charlemagne. New York. The Christian Literature.1898. Retrieved on August 2012.
Sarti, Laury. Frankish Romanness and Charlemagne's Empire. Speculum 2016.
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