Medieval Kings and Popes

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The Pope was the title give to the head of the church, to which he was changed with the religious care taking of the clergy and other believers. For military aid and expansion, early popes looked to medieval kings like Clovis of the Franks, but by the time of Charlemagne’s coronation by Pope Leo III, it became questionable whether the pope or the king was the higher authority. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was decentralized with the development of feudalism, and this allowed the only unifying establishment, the Church, to become more powerful. Though the Pope and medieval kings originally held separate roles, with the rise of feudalism the popes gained greater political power despite challenges from kings and lay investiture.

Early medieval popes and kings held separate, mutually beneficial roles. Popes were religious leaders of the Church who drew their power from the Europeans’ desire for salvation. Medieval kings were secular leaders the people looked to for physical protection. Beginning with the baptism of Clovis, King of the Franks starting in 481 AD, there was a link between the two powers that lasted for hundreds of years. The Pope and Church gained military aid and more followers from the help of kings, while the king gained greater support from the Christians in his kingdom and benefited from the already vast power of the papacy. This alliance helped both individuals as leaders of their people, but the Pope was still a religious power separate from the King’s secular reign.

Due to the ongoing support of Frankish Kings, the papacy and Church grw in influence and their congregation of followers increased in size. Kings like Pepin the Short, who defended the papacy, began to gain power not because they were royal, but because they were recognized and honored by the pope. By the time Charlemagne, Pepin’s son and a strong King of the Franks, was coronated in 800 AD by Pope Leo III, it became questionable whether popes and kings were...
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