PEPIN THE SHORT STRENGTHENS THE PAPAL POWER
Guizot, Francois P. G.
By Francois P. G. Guizot
751 - 756
The Merovingians, the first dynasty of the Frankish kings in Gaul was founded by the greatest of their kings, Clovis, who in 486 overthrew the Gallo-Roman sway under Syagrius, near Soiss ons. After his death in 511 his kingdom was divided among four sons who were mere boys ranging from twelve to eighteen years of age. The last survivor of the brother-kings was Clotaire I . Under his rule the whole Frankish empire had been united in one; but on his decease it was again divided among sons. Power slipped fast from the feeble representatives of the Meroving ian race, and the mayor of the palace (major-domus) began to exercise an authority which in time resulted in supremacy. When Pepin of Heristal, the greatest territorial lord of Austrasia , took upon himself the office of major-domus, he compelled the Merovingian King, at the battle of Testry in 687, to invest him with the powers of that office in all the Frankish states . This being accomplished Pepin was practically dictator, and the Merovingians, though allowed to remain on the throne, were simply figure-heads from that time forth.
Pepin of Heristal was succeeded by his mighty son Charles Martel, who won the great victory of Tours. Then came the son of Charles, another Pepin, called Pepin the Short. This notable member of a noted race removed the puppet kings from the throne and founded the celebrated dynasty of Charlemagne. Pepin the Short also extended and consolidated the Frankish empire, and by his alliance with the Roman Popes vastly increased their power. He strengthened, if he did not found, the temporal kingdom of the popes. The divergence of views upon this point makes it necessary to supplement Guizot with a Roman Catholic account.
Charles Martel died October 22, 741, at Kiersey-sur-Oise, aged fifty-two years, and his last act was the least wise of his life. He had spent it entirely in two great works: the reestablishment throughout the whole of Gaul of the Franco-Gallo-Roman Empire, and the driving back, from the frontiers of his empire, of the Germans in the North and the Arabs in the South. The consequence, as also the condition, of this double success was the victory of Christianity over paganism and Islamism.
Charles Martel endangered these results by falling back into the groove of those Merovingian kings whose shadow he had allowed to remain on the throne. He divided between his two legitimate sons, Pepin, called the Short, from his small stature, and Carloman, this sole dominion which he had with so much toil reconstituted and defended. Pepin had Neustria, Burgundy, Provence , and the suzerainty of Aquitaine; Carloman, Austrasia, Thuringia, and Alemannia. They both, at their father's death, took only the title of mayor of the palace, and, perhaps, of duke. The last but one of the Merovingians, Thierry IV, had died in 737. For four years there had been no king at all.
But when the works of men are wise and true, that is, in conformity with the lasting wants of peoples and the natural tendency of social facts, they get over even the mistakes of their authors. Immediately after the death of Charles Martel, the consequences of dividing his empire became manifest. In the North, the Saxons, the Bavarians, and the Alamannians renewed their insurrections. In the South, the Arabs of Septimania recovered their hopes of effecting an invasion; and Hunald, duke of Aquitaine, who had succeeded his father Eudes after his death i n 735, made a fresh attempt to break away from Frankish sovereignty and win his independence. Charles Martel had left a young son, Grippo, whose legitimacy had been disputed, but who was not slow to set up pretensions and to commence intriguing against his brothers.
Everywhere there burst out that reactionary movement which arises against grand and difficult works when the strong hand that undertook them is no longer by to maintain them; but this movement was of short duration and to little purpose. Brought up in the school and in the fear of their father, his two sons, Pepin and Carloman, were inoculated with his ideas and example ; they remained united in spite of the division of dominions, and labored together, successfully, to keep down, in the North the Saxons and Bavarians, in the South the Arabs and Aquitanians, supplying want of unity by union, and pursuing with one accord the constant aim of Charles Martel - abroad the security and grandeur of the Frankish dominion, at home the cohesion of all its parts and the efficacy of its government.
Events came to the aid of this wise conduct. Five years after the death of Charles Martel, in 746 in fact, Carloman, already weary of the burden of power, and seized with a fit of religious zeal, abdicated his share of sovereignty, left his dominions to his brother Pepin, had himself shorn by the hands of Pope Zachary, and withdrew into Italy to the monastery of Monte Cassino. The preceding year, in 745, Hunald, duke of Aquitaine, with more patriotic and equally pious views, also abdicated in favor of his son Waifre, whom he thought more capable than himself of winning the independence of Aquitaine, and went and shut himself up in a monastery in the island of Rhe, where was the tomb of his father Eudes. In the course of divers attempts at conspiracy and insurrection, the Frankish princes' young brother, Grippo, was killed in combat while crossing the Alps. The furious internal dissensions among the Arabs of Spain, and the irincessant wars with the Berbers, did not allow them to pursue any great enterprise in Gaul. Thanks to all these circumstances, Pepin found himself, in 747, sole master of the heritage of Clovis, and with the sole charge of pursuing, in state and church, his father's work, which was the unity and grandeur of Christian France.
Pepin, less enterprising than his father, but judicious, persevering, and capable of discerning what was at the same time necessary and possible, was well fitted to continue and consolidat e what he would, probably, never have begun and created. Like his father, he, on arriving at power, showed pretensions to moderation or, it might be said, modesty. He did not take the title of king; and, in concert with his brother Carloman, he went to seek, heaven knows in what obscure asylum, a forgotten Merovingian, son of Childeric II, the last but one of the sluggard kings, and made him king, the last of his line, with the title of Childeric III, himself, as well as his brother, taking only the style of mayor of the palace. But at the end of ten years, and when he saw himself alone at the head of the Frankish dominion, Pepin considered the moment arrived for putting an end to this fiction. In 751 he sent to Pope Zachary at Rome Burchard, bishop of Wuerzburg, and Fulrad, abbot of St. Denis, "to consult the pontiff," says Eginhard, "on the subject of the kings then existing among the Franks, and who bore only the name of king without enjoying a tittle of royal authority."
The Pope, whom St. Boniface, the great missionary of Germany, had prepared for the question, answered that "it was better to give the title of king to him who exercised the sovereign power"; and next year, in March, 752, in the presence and with the assent of the general assembly of "leudes" and bishops gathered together at Soissons, Pepin was proclaimed king of the Franks , and received from the hand of St. Boniface the sacred anointment. They cut off the hair of the last Merovingian phantom, Childeric III, and put him away in the monastery of St. Sithiu, at St. Omer. Two years later, July 28, 754, Pope Stephen II, having come to France to claim Pepin's support against the Lombards, after receiving from him assurance of it, "anointed him afresh with the holy oil in the church of St. Denis, to do honor in his person to the dignity of royalty," and conferred the same honor on the king's two sons, Charles and Carloman. The new Gallo-Frankish kingship and the papacy, in the name of their commonfaith and common interests, thus contracted an intimate alliance. The young Charles was hereafter to become Charlemagne.
The same year, Boniface, whom six years before Pope Zachary had made archbishop of Mayence, gave up one day the episcopal dignity to his disciple Lullus, charging him to carry on the different works himself had commenced among the churches of Germany, and to uphold the faith of the people. "As for me," he added, "I will put myself on my road, for the time of my passing away approacheth. I have longed for this departure, and none can turn me from it; wherefore, my son, get all things ready, and place in the chest with my books the winding-sheet to wrap up my old body." And so he departed with some of his priest sand servants to go and evangelize the Frisons, the majority of whom were still pagans and barbarians. He pitched his tent on their territory, and was arranging to celebrate their Lord's supper, when a band of natives came down and rushed upon the archbishop's retinue .The servitors surrounded him, to defend him and themselves, and a battle began.
"Hold, hold, my children!" cried the archbishop; "Scripture biddeth us return good for evil . This is the day I have long desired, and the hour of our deliverance is at hand. Be strong in the Lord: hope in him, and he will save your souls." The barbarians slew the holy man and the majority of his company. A little while after, the Christians of the neighborhood came in arms and recovered the body of St. Boniface. Near him was a book which was stained with blood and seemed to have dropped from his hands; it contained several works of the fathers, and among others a writing of St. Ambrose, On the Blessing of Death. The death of the pious missionary was as powerful as his preaching in converting Friesland. It was a mode of conquest worthy of the Christian faith, and one of which the history of Christianity had already proved the effectiveness.
St. Boniface did not confine himself to the evangelization of the pagans; he labored ardently in the Christian Gallo-Frankish Church to reform the manners and ecclesiastical discipline, and to assure, while justifying, the moral influence of the clergy by example as well asprecept. The councils, which had almost fallen into desuetude in Gaul, became once more frequent and active there: from 742 to 753 there may be counted seven, presided over by St. Boniface, which exercised within the Church a salutary action. King Pepin, recognizing the services which the archbishop of Mayence had rendered him, seconded his reformatory efforts at one time by giving the support of his royal authority to the canons of the councils, held often simultaneously with and almost confounded with the laic assemblies of the Franks; at another by doing justice to the protests of the churches against the violence and spoliation to which they were subjected.
"There was an important point," says M. Fauriel, "in respect of which the position of Charle s Martel's sons turned out to be pretty nearly the same as that of their father: it was touchi ng the necessity of assigning warriors a portion of the ecclesiastical revenues. But they, bei ng more religious, perhaps, than Charles Martel, or more impressed with the importance of humo ring the priestly power, were more vexed and more anxious about the necessity under which the y found themselves of continuing to despoil the churches and of persisting in a system which wa s putting the finishing stroke to the ruin of all ecclesiastical discipline. They were more e ager to mitigate the evil and to offer the Church compensation for their share in this evil to which it was not in their power to put a stop. Accordingly, at the March parade, held at Lept ines in 743, it was decided, in reference to ecclesiastical lands applied to the military serv ice: Ist, that the churches having the ownership of those lands should share the revenue with the lay holder; 2d, that on the death of a warrior in enjoyment of an ecclesiastical benefice , the benefice should revert to the Church; 3d, that every benefice, by deprivation whereof any church would be reduced to poverty, should be at once restored to her.
"That this capitular was carried out, or even capable of being carried out, is very doubtful ; but the less Carloman and Pepin succeeded in repairing the material losses incurred by the Church since the accession of the Carlovingians, the more zealous they were in promoting the growth of her moral power and the restoration of her discipline.... That was the time at which there began to be seen the spectacle of the national assemblies of the Franks, the gatherings at the March parades transformed into ecclesiastical synods under the presidency of the titular legate of the Roman pontiff, and dictating, by the mouth of the political authority, regulations and laws with the direct and formal aim of restoring divine worship and ecclesiastical discipline, and of assuring the spiritual welfare of the people."
Pepin, after he had been proclaimed king and had settled matters with the Church as well as the warlike questions remaining for him to solve permitted, directed all his efforts toward the two countries which, after his father's example, he longed to reunite to the Gallo-Frankish monarchy, that is Septimania, still occupied by the Arabs, and Aquitaine, the independence of which was stoutly and ably defended by Duke Eudes' grandson, Duke Waifre. The conquest of Septimania was rather tedious than difficult. The Franks, after having victoriously scoured the open country of the district, kept invested during three years its capital, Narbonne, where the Arabs of Spain, much weakened by their dissensions, vainly tried to throw in reinforcements. In 759, after forty years of Arab rule, Narbonne passed definitively under the Franks, who guaranteed to the inhabitants free enjoyment of their Gothic or Roman law and of their local institutions. It even appears that, in the province of Spain bordering on Septimania, an Arab chief ,who was in command at Barcelona, submitted to Pepin. This was an important event, indeed, for here was the point at which Islamism, but lately aggressive and victorious in Southern Europe, began to feel definitively beaten and to recoil before Christianity.
The conquest of Aquitaine and Vasconia was much more keenly disputed and for a much longer time uncertain. It was only after nine years' war and seven campaigns full of vicissitudes that Pepin succeeded, not in conquering his enemy in a decisive battle, but in gaining over some servants who betrayed their master. In the month of July, 759, "Duke Waifre was slain by his own folk, by the King's advice," says Fredegaire, and the conquest of all Southern Gaul carried the extent and power of the Gallo-Frankish monarchy farther and higher than it had ever yet been, even under Clovis.
Exactly at this epoch Pepin was engaging in a matter which did not allow him to scatter his forces hither and thither. It has been stated already, that in 741 Pope Gregory III had asked aid of the Franks against the Lombards who were threatening Rome, and that, while fully entertaining the Pope's wishes, Charles Martel had been in no hurry to interfere by deed in the quarrel. Twelve years later, in 753, Pope Stephen, in his turn threatened by Astolphus, King of the Lombards, after vain attempts to obtain guarantees of peace, repaired to Paris, and renewed to Pepin the entreaties used by Zachary.
Stephen passed the winter at St. Denis, and gained the favor of the people as well as that of the King. Astolphus peremptorily refused to listen to the remonstrances of Pepin, who called upon him to evacuate the towns in the exarchate of Ravenna, and to leave the Pope unmolested in the environs of Rome as well as in Rome itself. At the March parade held at Braine, in the spring of 754, the Franks approved of the war against the Lombards; and at the end of the summer Pepinand his army descended into Italy by Mount Cenis, the Lombards trying in vain to stop them as they debouched into the valley of Suza. Astolphus, beaten, and, before long, shut up in Pavia, promised all that was demanded of him; and Pepin and his warriors, laden with booty, returned to France, leaving at Rome the Pope, who conjured them to remain awhile in Italy, for to a certainty, he said, King Astolphus would not keep his promises. The Pope was right. So soon as the Franks had gone, the King of the Lombards continued occupying the places in the exarchate and molesting the neighborhood of Rome.
The Pope, in despair and doubtful of his auxiliaries' return, conceived the idea of sending "to the King, the chiefs, and the people of the Franks, a letter written," he said, "by Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, to announce to them that, if they came in haste , he would aid them as if he were alive according to the flesh among them, that they would conquer all their enemies and make themselves sure of eternal life!" The plan was perfectly successful: the Franks once more crossed the Alps with enthusiasm, and once more succeeded in beating the Lombards. Pepin, regarding the disputed lands as his own direct conquest, the fruit of victory, disposed of them forthwith in favor of the popes, by that famous deed of gift which comprehended pretty nearly what has since formed the Roman States, and which founded the temporal independence of the papacy, the guarantee of its independence in the exercise of the spiritual power.
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