Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/63

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47
THE MAKING OF EUROPE

family held the mayorship repeatedly, and finally Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, gained permanent possession of the office in 717. His son, Pippin, succeeded him as mayor, and in 751 felt strong enough to depose the nominal king and take the crown for himself. The dynasty thus established ruled Western Europe until the end of the ninth century and during its two hundred years of power established a common civilization for the peoples of the West.

What were the objectives of this remarkable family? The basic plan seems to have been to unite all the peoples of the West into a single Christian kingdom. Force had to be used to overcome immediate opposition, but the Carolingians were wise enough to realize that force alone would never give them a secure position. They had to gain the loyalty of their subjects by giving them a common set of ideals, and the only ideals which could be accepted by all the inhabitants of the West were those of Christianity. Therefore, the Carolingians consistently and energetically supported missions to the pagans and reform movements among the nominally Christian inhabitants of their empire. They used the Church for their own purposes, but they gave the Church more influence over the peoples of the West than it had ever had before. With the moral authority and the universally accepted ideals of the Church behind them, they found it possible to override many regional and racial differences and to legislate for Europe as a whole.

This policy was foreshadowed by Charles Martel, who encouraged missionary work in Frisia and central Germany. Pippin made the idea clearer by creating what was practically an alliance between his family and the Church. He requested papal approval for his assumption of the kingship and strengthened his position even more by having himself anointed king when the pope visited Gaul a few years later. He was the first Western ruler to receive this unction, and the ceremony greatly increased the prestige of his family. Pippin was now the Lord's anointed, the officially