III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > F. Europe, 461–1500 > 1. Western Europe in the Early Middle Ages, 461–1000 > f. The Lombards and the Popes
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 440–61)
f. The Lombards and the Popes
For a complete list of the Roman popes, see Appendix IV.  1
Under Emperor Augustus, the Lombards were still established on the lower Elbe (Bardengau) and were defeated (5 C.E.) by the Romans. Their history for the next 400 years is confused. They were members of the Hunnic Empire and were probably Arians. They were given land by Justinian in Noricum and Pannonia, and they aided (553) the imperial attacks on the Ostrogoths. The Lombards took part in Belisarius's conquest, and soon they began to move south toward Italy.  2
The Lombard conquest of Italy. Italy, worn out by the Gothic wars, famine, and disease, offered little resistance. Constantinople was indifferent, and the conquest was easy. The Lombards, always few in number, had associated other peoples (including Saxons and some Slavs) in their invasion, but even then they were not numerous enough to occupy the whole peninsula. Rome and Naples were never held, and Ravenna only briefly. The coast was not really mastered. The Lombards did not enter into a compact with the empire, and Italian feeling against them was bitter. Pavia became the capital (Italy, until 774, always had two and usually three capitals: Rome, the papal capital; Ravenna, the Byzantine capital; and Pavia, the Lombardian capital after 573), and the peninsula was a mosaic of Byzantine, papal, and Lombardian jurisdictions.  3
Lombard occupation (virtually military rule at first) covered inland Liguria, inland Tuscany, inland Venetia, the duchy of Spoleto and the duchy of Benevento. Imperial Italy comprised Venice and the land from north of Ravenna to the south of Ancona, and included the duchy of Rome and the duchy of Naples, as well as the toe and heel of Italy. Hospitalitas was revived, and one third of the produce of the land (not one third of the land) was given to the Lombards. Lombards also took the lands of the dead and the exiled.  4
The Lombards took Roman titles and names, and in the end accepted Roman Catholicism. Legally there was a dual system of private law, and in Lombard territories there was a dual episcopal system (i.e., Arian and Roman).  5
A period of anarchy and private war under a loose federation of dukes (some 36 in number). Roman Catholic opposition and papal negotiations with the Franks alarmed the Lombards, and led to the election of King Authari in 584.  6
King Authari was endowed with half the baronial lands as royal domain. The dukedoms were gradually absorbed (the marches, like Fruili, Trent, Turin, survived longest).  7
Authari's widow, Theodolinda, a devoted Roman Catholic, bidden to choose a husband who should also be king, selected a Thuringian.  8
Gregory the Great. His family was a rich senatorial house, and Gregory was prefect of Rome (573). He founded (c. 574) six monasteries in Sicily and one at Rome (St. Andrews) into which he immediately retired as a monk. Embassy to Constantinople (c. 579–86). Elected pope (590) against his will, he began a vigorous administration. Discipline within his patriarchate was rigorous (stress on celibacy, close watch on elections, insistence on exclusive clerical jurisdiction over clerical offenders). Church revenue was divided into four shares, for the bishop, the clergy, the poor, and church buildings. His administration of the wide estates of the Church was honest, and the revenue was expanded to meet the tremendous demands on Rome for charity. The pope continued the old imperial grain doles in Rome and elsewhere, aqueducts were repaired, urban administration, especially in Rome, was reformed.  9
Outside his immediate patriarchal jurisdiction, Gregory expanded the influence and prestige of the pope, maintaining that the pope was by divine designation head of all churches. Appeals to Rome were heard even against the patriarch of Constantinople, whose claim to the title of universal bishop was denied. Without secular authority, Gregory assumed the powers of a temporal prince, counterbalancing the prestige of Constantinople. Gregory was the real leader against the Lombards, appointing governors of cities, directing the generals in war, and receiving from Constantinople pay for the army.  10
The first monk to become pope, Gregory made a close alliance between the Benedictines and the papacy (at the expense of the bishops). The monks were given charters and protected from the bishops, the Benedictine Rule was imposed, and a great missionary campaign was begun with monastic aid: the mission to Britain (596) under Augustine of Canterbury and the conversion of England provided a base from which the Frankish Church was later reformed and the German people converted; and campaigns were waged against paganism in Gaul, Italy, and Sicily, and against heresy in Africa and Sicily.  11
Gregory was the last of the four great Latin Fathers, and first of the medieval prelates, a link between the classical Greco-Roman tradition and the medieval Romano-German one. Not a great scholar, he was a great popularizer, and he spread the doctrines of Augustine of Hippo throughout the West. At the same time he gave wide currency through his Dialogues to the popular (often originally pagan) ideas of angels, demons, devils, relic worship, miracles, the doctrine of purgatory, and the use of allegory. His Book of Pastoral Care remained for centuries an essential in the education of the clergy. There was a school of music at Rome, but how much Gregory had to do with it, and how much with the introduction of the Gregorian chant, is uncertain. Gregory introduced the papal style, Servus Servorum Dei.  12
Duke Agilulf of Turin was friendly to the Roman Church and was the true founder of the Lombard state. Gregory the Great blocked an Italian conspiracy against the Lombards. Rothari (636–52) became a Roman Catholic. He collected Lombard customary law in Latin and began the consolidation of Lombard power. Eventually Roman law triumphed and Lombard law survived only in the schools (e.g., Pavia).  13
The Italian bishops since 476 had been the leaders of the peaceful civilians in the cities, the protectors of the oppressed, and the dispensers of charity. Under the Lombards, a system of episcopal immunities emerged that made the bishops virtually local temporal sovereigns and enabled them to preserve the local spirit of municipal independence and organization (e.g., consuls, guilds). The urban population was free, and the town walls (often built by the bishops) were refuges. Milan resumed her greatness and almost equaled Rome. These developments prepared the way for the assertion of Italian town independence against Roman clerical and German feudal encroachments. Paul the Deacon (c. 720–c. 800), the first important medieval historian, wrote theHistoria gentis Langobardorum.Martianus Capella (fl. c. 600), encyclopedist, formulated the seven arts (grammar, logic, rhetoric, geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, music), which were to guide education down to the Renaissance.  14
Continued alienation of Italy from the East. Arrest (653), by the exarch, of Pope Martin I (649–55), who died in exile in the East. The Council of Constantinople (692) reasserted the equality of the patriarchates of Constantinople and Rome.  15
Emperor Leo III the Isaurican (717–41) attempted to bring Italy back to obedience: heavy taxation to reduce the great landowners angered Pope Gregory II (the largest landowner in Italy) and Leo's iconoclastic decree (726) aroused all Italy. Gregory III excommunicated all Iconoclasts (731). Gregory's defeat and final humiliation weakened the pope and opened the way for the final Lombard advance.  16
Destruction of the Lombard Kingdom. Liutprand, king of the Lombards (712–44), extended his rule over the duchies of Benevento and Spoleto. Ravenna was taken temporarily. During the Iconoclastic controversy, Liutprand's sincere efforts at rapprochement with the papacy met a brief success.  17
Aistulf continued Liutprand's policy of consolidation. The pope, alarmed at Lombard progress, had already (741) made overtures to Charles Martel. Martel, busy with the Muslims, remained faithful to his alliance with the Lombards, but Aistulf's continued advance brought a visit (753) from Pope Stephen II. Stephen had already begun negotiations with Pepin III, king of the Franks, and the mutual needs of the rising papacy and the upstart Carolingian dynasty drew them into alliance.  18
754, 756
Pepin, in two expeditions, forced Aistulf to abandon the Pentapolis and Ravenna (bringing the Lombards virtually to their holdings of 681). Legally the lands involved in the Donation of Pepin (756) belonged to the Eastern Empire. The Donation was a tacit recognition of implicit claims of the popes to be the heirs of the empire in Italy. Most important from the papal point of view was the fact that the Church had won a powerful military ally outside Italy. Henceforth the Carolingians maintained a protectorate over the papacy in Italy.  19
Charlemagne, heir to the traditions of Pepin, having repudiated the daughter of the Lombard king, Desiderius, appeared in Italy to protect the pope. After a nine-month siege, Pavia was taken, Spoleto and Benevento were conquered, and Charlemagne (Charles the Great) absorbed the Lombard Kingdom into the rising Frankish Empire and assumed the crown of the Lombards. On a visit to Rome (774), Charlemagne confirmed the Donation of Pepin but made it plain that he was sovereign even in the papal lands. At no time did Charlemagne allow the pope any but a primacy in honor (in this respect, following the strict Byzantine tradition). The Donation of Pepin was the foundation of the Papal States and the true beginning of the temporal power of the papacy. Henceforth there was neither a Lombard menace nor the overlordship of the exarch to interfere with the rising papal monarchy. In this sense the fall of the Lombard Kingdom was decisive in papal history. It was equally decisive in Italian history, for the papal victory over the Lombards terminated the last effective effort to establish unity and a centralized government until the end of the 19th century. For the Carolingian monarchy, the episode was equally significant.  20
Under the successors of Charlemagne, the emperors continued to participate in the papal elections and did what they could to protect Italy against the attacks of the Muslims from Africa.  21
The Muslims conquered Sicily.  22
Muslims attacked Naples, pillaged Ancona (839), and captured Bari (840).  23
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.