The Emperor Henry III

Peter Munz finds that the eleventh-century Holy Roman Emperor was one of those rare rulers who took the ethics of their calling literally.

Henry with the symbols of rulership attending the consecration of the Stavelot monastery church on 5 June 1040, mid-11th century miniature
Henry with the symbols of rulership attending the consecration of the Stavelot monastery church on 5 June 1040, mid-11th century miniature

Charlemagne’s conception of the Christian religion had been simple and politically fruitful. He considered himself, under God, as King and Emperor, charged with the government and protection of the Christian people. The Bishops as well as the Pope were his foremost helpers in this task.

There was no distinction between Church and State, between secular and spiritual authority. This scheme of government, though more perfect in conception than in execution, provided the pattern of politico-theological thinking for centuries to come.

Under Charlemagne, the lay magnates of his kingdom and Empire-Church were, for the most part, docile and co-operative. If Charlemagne leant increasingly on the support of the clergy, it was mainly because he could rely on their being somewhat more educated than his magnates and nobles.

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