The Pope was the title give to the head of the church, to which he was changed with the religious care taking of the clergy and other believers. For military aid and expansion, early popes looked to medieval kings like Clovis of the Franks, but by the time of Charlemagne’s coronation by Pope Leo III, it became questionable whether the pope or the king was the higher authority. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was decentralized with the development of feudalism, and this allowed the only unifying establishment, the Church, to become more powerful.
Though the Pope and medieval kings originally held separate roles, with the rise of feudalism the popes gained greater political power despite challenges from kings and lay investiture. Early medieval popes and kings held separate, mutually beneficial roles. Popes were religious leaders of the Church who drew their power from the Europeans’ desire for salvation. Medieval kings were secular leaders the people looked to for physical protection. Beginning with the baptism of Clovis, King of the Franks starting in 481 AD, there was a link between the two powers that lasted for hundreds of years.
The Pope and Church gained military aid and more followers from the help of kings, while the king gained greater support from the Christians in his kingdom and benefited from the already vast power of the papacy. This alliance helped both individuals as leaders of their people, but the Pope was still a religious power separate from the King’s secular reign. Due to the ongoing support of Frankish Kings, the papacy and Church grw in influence and their congregation of followers increased in size.
Kings like Pepin the Short, who defended the papacy, began to gain power not because they were royal, but because they were recognized and honored by the pope. By the time Charlemagne, Pepin’s son and a strong King of the Franks, was coronated in 800 AD by Pope Leo III, it became questionable whether popes and kings were separate leaders or if the pope’s divine power and influence surpassed that of the king’s royal blood. After Charlemagne’s empire crumbled into the hands of numerous strong nobles, Medieval Europe became decentralized, kings help little power, and he pope led the only unified establishment—the Church. During this time, feudalism developed. In the feudal system, weak kings granted lands to greater lords in return for military aid. Greater lords in turn granted lands to lesser lords below them. These nobles governed all people, including clergyman to whom they granted a ‘fief” of land. When a clergyman, who were to pay their loyalty to the pope, became a vassal, or under the charge of a lord who granted him land, it gave the nobles and kings power.
But because the papacy had the unified support of the larger peasant class and there were no strong kings to challenge him, the pope gained greater secular power than the nobility in addition to religious influence. Not only could he banish people from the Church through religious excommunication, but he could establish secular decrees like the Peace and Truce of God, which limited the appropriate locations and days for war. Secular powers such as these were previously reserved to kings, and illustrate that the pope due to the weakening of kings in the feudal system, held greater authority.
Originally medieval popes and kings held separate roles: the pope was a religious caretaker and the king was a secular head. Beginning with the baptism of Clovis of the Franks in 481 A. D. , a mutual alliance grew between the two powers, and through the recognitions of Pepin the Short and Charlemagne, popes began to increase their influence. By the time the Roman empire fell and the feudal system developed, kings held little power, and the pope was both a religious and secular leader.