When Pope Adrian died in 795 CE, a new pope (Leo
III) took over. Leo III wanted the church to be in charge of the lives
of the people of Europe, not the king.
Pope Leo was not sure how he was going to take
power from Charlemagne, but he knew he wanted to try. It was
nothing personal. He simply believed that the church was in a better
position to rule than any king. He wanted taxes to come to the church
and not to the secular leaders. He wanted land to be controlled by the
church, and not the secular leaders. Most importantly, he wanted the
church to have absolute power, including the power to give and to take
away power from others.
In pursuit of these goals, Leo had been nibbling
away at the estates and pocketbooks of the nobles in Rome. In 799 CE,
there was an uprising in Rome. Many nobles were not happy with the way
Leo had been handling things. Leo had to flee the city to save his own
Leo did not want to ask Charlemagne
for help, but he had no where else to turn. The Frankish governor of the
city of Rome would not even take him in. He had to re-enter Rome. He was
pope, the head of the church.
Charlemagne loved it, of course. The
"church" had sought protection from him.
It was obvious to Charlemagne what had happened.
The nobles would never have attempted a takeover if Adrian had still
been pope. Charlemagne would have rushed troops to Adrian's side.
Everyone knew that. But Leo was different. Nobody liked Leo very much.
Charlemagne did not like Leo either. Just the same,
he assigned troops to escort Leo safely back to Rome. Being Charlemagne,
he decided to tag along.
When Charlemagne entered Rome, the nobles rushed to
defend their actions. Charlemagne could have said, "Nonsense."
He knew the stories he was hearing were not true. Charlemagne could have
stopped things right there. But he did not.
Two days before Christmas in the year 800 CE,
Charlemagne assembled a gathering of high-church officials, and
appointed himself as judge of the inquiry. He heard testimony. Then
he dismissed the charges, and returned Leo to his position as
This made Charlemagne very happy. It clearly
established that he was in charge, not the church.
Pope Leo was furious. More than ever before, Leo
wanted desperately to position the church as more powerful than any
secular leader, especially the secular leader, Charlemagne. And now, it
was personal. But how to do it? The people loved Charlemagne. Pope Leo
had to think of something the people would support. He thought and
thought - he had an idea! He began to prepare.
here to find out what happens next - Pope Leo Gets Even
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