02: Carolingians and the Republic of the Romans

Transformations: from ancient Mediterranean to medieval Europe

Pope as religious leader of “Latin Europe;” political leader of central Italy

Noble’s argument

2 big transitions with 2 corollaries

  1. Central Italy: from Byzantine region to independent entity under pope
  2. Franks establish major power center north of Alps (along with n. Italy)

Beginning of the end of Byzantine control west of the Adriatic

Papacy had key role in legitimizing (some) rulers

800 (Christmas, Vatican) Leo III (795-816) crowns Charlemagne Emperor of the West

Political narrative: formation of papal states, rise of Franks


Papal States King’s College

Rome ca 680

With countryside, a Byzantine duchy (dux: military leader); under Ravenna, under  Constantinople

Lombards (arrived 568) to north and south, kingdom to north (Pavia)

Military defense:   local wealthy people

Growing regional diversity

Rome’s countryside: church (all institutions) single landowner

Emphyteusis rent payments in kind (Church: charity)

720s-50s: papal control, label “republic”

  • Rome: pope and officials already in charge (little Byzantine presence)
  • Enemies: Lombards, Byzantines
  • Byzantine goal: enforce iconoclasm
  • Lombards goal extend control to make one contiguous regime
  • Pope Zachary (741-52) negotiates with Lombards in his own name
  • 751 Lombards capture Ravenna. End of exarchate



Merovingian dynasty; Pepin, mayor of the palace, requests recognition as king of Franks from Zachary

Pope Stephen II (752-57)

  • 754   Pavia (Aistulf; unsuccessful);
  • Paris: requests aid from Pepin, re-consecrates him as king
  • Boniface: organizing church in Francia
  • 755 Pepin defends Rome against Lombards; first treaty signed
  • 756 Aistulf besieges Rome; Stephen  requests aid; Pepin returns, defeats Aistulf again; Aistulf  pays tribute, hands over cities
  • “republica romanorum”
  • 757 Stephen supports of Desiderius as king of Lombards, who promises to return some cities but goes to war instead; death of Stephen II followed by instability

768 death of Pepin; realm divided between sons Carloman (d. 771; regions near Italy) and Charles

Intrigue on all sides

757-67 Paul I (brother of Stephen II)

768-72 Stephen III

Hadrian I (772-795)


774 Charles defeats Desiderius at Pavia: exile (Corbie Abbey); Charles king of Italy

780s-90s Charles makes several visits to Italy; expands papal lands

799 Leo III attacked in Rome, requests aid from Charles

800 Charles travels to Rome, crowned;   condemns Leo’s attackers

“Donation of Constantine”


Cathedra Petri (Throne of St. Peter) Charles II the Bald, 823-877. Rome, St. Peter, Vatican
Made for Carolingian monarch Charles the Bald; probably donated on his coronation, Christmas Day, 875