2) Christendom challenged immediately
a) Weak Emperors—the internal challenge
Charlemagne was committed to the ideals of Christendom. He protected the Church and promoted learning under the tutelage of the monks.
After his death, his only son and grandsons were unable to match his skill.
- His son Louis the Pious was good but weak.
- His grandsons fought over the empire; Lothair remained emperor, but his brothers took chunks out of it to rule themselves as kings.
The Holy Roman Empire weakened, to the point that there were years without an Emperor at all.
This was the perfect opportunity for a new wave of invaders.
b) The New Barbarians: the Vikings—the external
These invaders came from the North: Denmark, Sweden, & Norway.
The main difference is that previous barbarians invaded by horseback; Vikings invaded by sea and raided the coastlines.
Because the Holy Roman Emperor and the various kings were weak, the Vikings looted at will.
A familiar pattern developed:
- Vikings raided, looted, raped, and pillaged.
- Once they were done, they packed their boats and went home or raid another town.
- Panic and chaos sprang up when Viking boats were seen in a distance.
- Monasteries still preserve knowledge and culture;they often become targets of these raids because of the art and treasures they preserved.
- Kings, emperors, and popes can’t stop them.
- The Church tries to convert the Vikings.
It wasn’t until about the AD 1000s that Irish monks were finally able to convert the Vikings to Christianity.
Also, by the 11th century, the Holy Roman Empire had strong emperors who had political and military clout, and the Church had capable Popes.
It was only then that the Viking raids stopped, and Christendom was able to meet these internal and external tests.
Christendom, however, had an even more difficult trial to face.
Weak and even evil men became popes and monks, and the emperor often tried to take advantage of this instead of helping.
This period in history (885-1049) would be known by some historians as the “Iron Age of the Papacy.”
- Explain the threats that Christendom faced almost immediately after it was established.
- With what you know about Charlemagne’s rule compared to Louis the Pious’ and Lothair’s, do you think a strong emperor is needed for the idea of Christendom to work, and if so, is having a strong emperor always a good idea (hint: remember Constantine).