Paper on The Uneasy Relationship between Church and State

The Uneasy Relationship between Church and State; the Holy Roman Empire and the Pope.

Throughout the history of Rulers, Lords, kings and Dynasties it is hard to skip the significance and the power held by the Holy Roman Empire. As cited by Heer the strength of the Holy Roman Empire was placed on two pillars the Crown and the Church (24). It is argued that Pepin III (Pepin the Short) was the front-runner in setting up what was letter identified as the Holy Roman Empire in A.D. 747, when became the sole ruler of the Franks due to the death of his brother Carloman (27). Pepin III faced significant revolts to his assentation to power from his half-brother Grifo and Carloman’s son, Drogo: nevertheless, these insurgencies ended after he sort the help of Pope Zachary in A.D. 751 (28). The pope used his influence on the people to give Pepin III the much recognition he needed as a rightful king. According to Wilson this was the first time the Church and the Crown came up with a relationship that would see the Roman Empire grow to its historical strength (117). After securing his Kingship Pepin III embarked on a mission to increase his power over other territories particularly in Italy. Through his missions, Pepin III used his connections with the Catholic Church to win favor of the Papacy of Stephen II in order to defeat the Lombards (Heer 35). As a sign of homage, he secured several cities, which he placed under the dominion of the Pope through what he termed as ‘the Donation of Pepin”. This was the formation of the legal precedence for the Papal States through The Middle Ages.

After the Death of Pepin III, his Son Charlemagne took over the Holy Roman Empire A.D. 800. Like his father before him, he had inaugurated the tradition of imperial coronation by the Pope of the Catholic Church particularly winning the favor of then Pope Leo III (McKitterick 167). The crowning of Charlemagne gave new life to the relationship and indicated the reason the two entities had such a good rapport with each other. According to Wilson the close alliance between the Church and the Crown then was compared to a marriage (186). On one hand the church at the Italian capital was represented the spiritual authority over the realms of men as the Crown was the head of the political organization to which all submitted to. As cited by Fleenor this was the primary factor that led to the good relationship between a church that taught its followers to obey their emperor, while the rulers enforced the Church’s authority to the people on spiritual issues (85). According to McKitterick, the emperor’s use necessary force towards affirming religious conformity as well as unity of the faith (211). So strong was the bond existed between the two that Pope Leo XIII, during a sermon in the 19th century, indicated that it was the will of God to appoint the crown and the church as the keepers of human race. He indicated, “Church and State are like soul and body and both must be united in order to live and function rightly” (212). Nevertheless, the relationship only lasted to 1073.

Pope Gregory VII is credited with being the pioneer of the controversies between emperors when after he was ordained as the Pope in 1073. According to him “the Pope is the master of Emperors” and not the contrary (Moore 117). As indicated by Heer, Pope Gregory VII saw the strength in political authority of the church through increased cities offered to bishops through ‘the Donation of Pepin’ (93). Emperor Henry IV (1056-1106) took offence with the Pope and begun offering his own appointments of the clergy. For years, the emperor only appointed secular leaders as bishops as well as abbots a factor that go him back political authority (103). The pope felt he was the one to appoint such leaders and in retaliation, he offered leaders of the same positions; however, mot ended up assassinated. His brutal actions led to the emperor’s excommunicated by the pope. This then meant that Emperor Henry IV subjects were released from their loyalty to the Crown by the Pope consequent of which the emperor faced multiple revolts by his barons. In order to save his reign Emperor Henry IV went to seek for forgiveness from the Pope. After three days of humiliation the emperor was granted with absolution and reconciled to the church bringing peace to the Crown (Moore 210). However, this was a sign of the coming hostilities that finally saw the Holy Roman Empire crumble as the Church remained strong. According to Wilson the bond between the two entities that saw them last for ages is known to be the end of Holy Roman Empire reign (117).



The rise of the strongest empire in European history saw its roots rest through the relationship between the kings and the church. From the text provided it could be argued that the personal relationships between Pepin III, Pope Zachary and Pope Stephen II saw the beginning of the special relationship between rulers and clergy. This was the foundation that saw Emperor Charlemagne and Pope Leo III form what came to be known as Holy Roman Empire. Nevertheless, the hostilities between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV saw the downfall the Holy Roman Empire and the end of a fruitful relationship that involved a state and church.


Work Cited

Fleenor, Virgil. Revelation Is History Foretold. Place of publication not identified: Lulu Com, 2010. Print.

Heer, Friedrich. The Holy Roman Empire. London: Phoenix Giants, 1995. Print.

McKitterick, Rosamond. Charlemagne: The formation of a European identity. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Moore, John, ed. Pope Innocent III and his world. Routledge, 2016.

Wilson, Peter H. Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire. , 2016. Print.