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between the ancient Roman world and the modern world between the ancient Roman emperors and Napoleon there was really only one ruler that controlled most of Western Europe and the person you're referring to is Charlemagne or Charles the great or careless Magnus he's a legend really Charlemagne and in fact historians struggle because there are so few fragments of information this is so long ago well we're talking about the late 8th and 9th century this is a really long time ago on Christmas Day in the year 800 exactly Charlemagne is crowned Emperor by the Pope in Rome this is a huge deal well the Roman emperors in the ancient world had ruled from Rome until constantine moved the Empire to Constantinople what is now Istanbul and so the center of power had shifted to the east and now in eight hundred five hundred years after Constantine we have now an emperor in the West there's still an emperor in the East who has moral authority then people still look to that emperor in the East and the Byzantine Empire so let's think about what happened in Western Europe that allowed for Charlemagne to become the new emperor well the first thing that's important to understand the Western Roman Empire basically fell apart what we see beginning especially in the fifth century is the dissolution of the institutions of the Roman Empire the idea of the Roman Empire hangs on but its ability to govern comes apart so in order to understand what happened in the Roman Empire in the West you have to recognize the pressure from a series of invasions from people that the Romans thought of as barbarians these are people who migrated into the lands that were part of the Roman Empire you might know them as the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths and the Huns and one of those peoples were the Franks now this is not Franks as in France these are people who actually settled in what is now Germany what is now France Charlemagne was a franc and if we go back several centuries we can see the beginning the kingdom of the Franks but in addition to the Franks there were also for the Lombards this was another dramatic people another group who the Romans would have considered barbarians who had conquered northern Italy they were often threatening what was the heart of the old Roman Empire and that was Rome the papal States now when I say papal States I mean the areas governed by the Pope we think about the Pope as a spiritual leader but back in the ninth century and actually for many centuries the Pope was also a political leader know what's so interesting is the Pope the papacy would have traditionally looked to the Byzantine Emperor for protection from people like the lombards but by the time the Lombards were threatening Rome the Byzantine Empire was not strong enough to defend Rome so instead the papacy looked north to the kingdom of the Franks and Charlemagne early in his career hadn't called on by the Pope at the time Pope Adrian to protect him in the papal lands Charlemagne was successful and actually Charlemagne became king of the Lombards so this dependence between the papacy and the king of the Franks started with Charlemagne's father Pepin who was given the authority to rule by the Pope so there's this really interesting reciprocal relationship between the Pope in Rome and this Frankish king Charlemagne and his father and that is that the Pope is getting military protection and at the same time he's offering a kind of legitimacy but what ends up happening is that you have two very powerful figures in Western Europe and there will be a contest between these two offices later what will become the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope actually for centuries to come but back to the story okay so to recap we have the byzantine empire in the east we have the Pope ruling from Rome over the papal States in central Italy we have Charlemagne who is the king of the Franks ruling over a very large area encompassing largely what is now France what is now Germany and northern Italy but then surrounding all of these players in the East in with Africa to the south and even in the majority of Spain you have Islam which is advancing quickly so in order to understand how it is that this Barbaria this king of the Franks Charlemagne is crowned as the emperor in 800 we have to go back one year earlier back to 799 in 799 the Pope in Rome was Leo the third and he was not a particularly strong Pope part of the problem was that he did not come from one of the traditional powerful aristocratic families in Rome to men officials in the church accused Pope Leo the third of very serious charges and they ambushed him and had the intention of actually hurting him they were going to gouge out his eyes and cut off his tongue in fact according to some accounts they did and somehow they were miraculously restored so there is a question how would this issue of the Pope being accused of these serious crimes be resolved the way to do that was to go to Charlemagne right remember Charlemagne was the real power in the region he had out stood the Lombards and he was in control of northern Italy in order for them to put another Pope on the throne of st. Peter they needed Charlemagne's agreement so we're not quite sure how this happens but it seems likely that some of Charlemagne's emissaries in Rome made it possible for the Pope to be released and to have an audience with Charlemagne in the north interestingly Charlemagne he was a brilliant politician sent everybody back to Rome for a kind of hearing Pope Leo the 3rd declared his innocence on oath and the people who accused him were exiled and Leo the 3rd was established legitimately on the throne of st. Peter's as Pope so when Charlemagne enters into st. Peter's Basilica on Christmas Day in the year 800 and Pope Leo the 3rd puts the crown of the Emperor on his head we know that everybody is getting a good deal the king of the Franks has become an emperor and of course leo is cementing his bond with his protector obviously the two men needed each other and in fact Leo the 3rd when he was first made Pope a few years earlier sent Charlemagne the keys to the relics of st. Peter and the the city of Rome all of Europe was being realigned now the capital of the Empire was not a Mediterranean city it was now in the north it was now in the city of Aachen and so we see this important shift as focus moves from the eastern Mediterranean to the north of Europe and we begin to see the outlines of the modern Europe that we know today now Charlemagne was not just a brilliant warrior and politician but also was a very serious reformer and began with some historians call the Carolingian Renaissance third Carolingian refers to the reign of Charlemagne and his successors this is no renaissance on the scale of the Renaissance that will happen in the 1400s in Italy and northern Europe but it is a small flowering a renewal of looking back to the traditions of ancient Rome particularly looking back to the time of Constantine the first Christian Roman Emperor the West now had a Christian Emperor who in the West was establishing a Christian Empire you