Louis the Pious: In 813 CE, Charlemagne
was over seventy years old. It was Frankish custom for the king to
divide his empire equally between his sons.
Charlemagne had three sons, but two had died. He
decided his son Louis might as well be crowned Emperor. But he
wanted Louis to be crowned by his own hand. He wanted to make sure that
everyone clearly understood that Frankish kings were more powerful than
Charlemagne put together a big celebration. Pope
Leo was still the pope, but Charlemagne did not invite him to the
Pope Leo did not dare to object. Leo was not
popular. Charlemagne was loved. With his father pushing him to do
so, Louis crowned himself emperor. For the next year, father and son -
Charlemagne and Louis - ruled the Frankish Empire together.
Louis was a good father, a good husband, and good
son. He was also deeply religious. The year after his father, the great
Charlemagne, died, Pope Leo died. A new pope took charge.
If possible, the people hated the new pope even
more than they had hated Pope Leo. The new pope knew he needed the
backing of Frankish Empire if he wished to remain pope. He also knew
that Charlemagne's son, Louis, was deeply religious. He called on Louis
Louis was thrilled that the new pope had asked for
his help. Charlemagne would have recognized that the pope was weak, and
would have asked for concessions. But Louis, who was already emperor,
fell to his knees before the new pope.
Seeing an opportunity he had not expected, the new
pope quickly crowned Louis emperor - a title he already had. Louis was
thrilled. For the first time, Louis felt like a monarch. In that one
act, he threw away everything his father had worked so hard to gain for
him. Once again, the church had positioned itself as more powerful than
any secular leader simply by bestowing a crown.
From that time on, all the nobles in the Frankish
Empire called Louis by a nickname - Louis the Pious. Louis found the
name flattering. He seemed to have no idea that his actions had cost him
the respect of the Frankish military, the Frankish secular leaders, the
respect of the Roman nobles, and the respect of his father's friends in
the Muslim kingdoms. Louis allowed his local counts to rule for
him. Louis spent his time with his family and in prayer. Because they
could, the counts began to rule their individual regions as if they
Grandsons: In the Frankish way, Louis divided his kingdom
into pieces, giving each of his sons a section. Louis spent a great deal
of time trying to divide the kingdom up fairly. He could have saved
himself the effort. After his death, his sons fought constantly amongst
themselves. They each wanted more. They paid little attention to the
needs of their respective kingdoms. This left the counts - the local
administrators - even more freedom to gain power regionally. The counts
began to call themselves kings.
The counts had gained so much power over the years,
running their individual regions, that it was easy for them to take
over. They were the leaders people knew. Once again, Europe fell into
warring pieces. That left them vulnerable to attack from each other, as
well as from other barbarians tribes.
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