The Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire existed from 962 to 1806. Otto the Great reunited most of the lands of Charlemagne’s empire.

So, after Charlemagne died and his empire was split up among his three grandsons, the lands weren’t going to be all under one ruler again until Otto the Great was able to do that, or at least reunite most of those lands.


The transcript is for your convenience
When Otto was crowned emperor by the Pope in 962, the lands under his control became known as the Holy Roman Empire. Otto’s crowning marked the beginning of a succession of emperors that would continue unbroken for over eight centuries, and that period would be when the Holy Roman Empire existed. Now, for Otto be a Holy Roman emperor, he had to be crowned by the Pope. So, Charlemagne was also crowned by the Pope and was the first Holy Roman Emperor, but the Holy Roman Empire isn’t considered to exist until 962 when Otto the Great is crowned emperor. And from then on, there is an unbroken line of succession of emperors for over eight centuries.

Now, Otto involved the Church in his government. The Church helped put him in power, the Church crowned him emperor, and so, in turn, he was involving the Church in his government. But he tried to limit its power. He still wanted to be able to have a lot of the control of his empire, but the Church was very powerful, and the Church leaders slowly but steadily acquired power until they had great control over even the everyday activities of most citizens. So, Otto was still the emperor, but the Church leaders had a lot of the power, and they were the ones making a lot of the rules.

All of that power corrupted many of the Church leaders. So, where the Church is supposed to be the example for people to follow, and they’re supposed to be following all the rules in the Bible, they’re supposed to be Christians, they’re supposed to be doing the right things, many of them were corrupted by the power. And an example of that is that many Church officials practiced simony, which is the buying and selling of important positions. So, Church leaders may have gotten in power by buying themselves that position.

They could’ve said, “Oh, I really want to be a Church leader because they have so much power. Well, I’ve got this money, I’ll give it to the Church and they’ll make me one of their leaders.” Or a Church leader may say,  “Oh, well, we need some more money,” or “We need that plot of land. If we make the owner of that land one of our leaders,  then we can have that land, and do with it as we want to.” So, the buying and selling of these important Church positions was a very common practice during this time because the Church had become corrupt.

One of Otto’s legacies was the rivalry between the Church and the state. So, this is going to continue throughout the whole of the Holy Roman Empire, where the Church is corrupt, the Church has a lot of power, and whoever the emperor is, is going to be fighting to keep his government in control,  or at least to have a good portion of the control, which is not easy to do since the Church had already become so powerful. And the Holy Roman Empire was going to consist of emperors that had been crowned by the Church, so there was always going to be this relationship between  the emperor and the Church.

ext Lesson: The Middle Ages