Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/64

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48
WESTERN EUROPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES

recognized lieutenant of God on earth. He had become a semi-ecclesiastical personage and rebellion against him was not only a crime, but also a sin. In return he protected the pope against the Lombards and fought successfully against them in Italy. In his own dominions he continued his father's policy of protecting missionaries and reformers. Greatest of these was the Anglo-Saxon Boniface, who spent almost forty years in converting the eastern Germans and reorganizing the Frankish Church. The first task was easier than the second, for most of the Germans across the Rhine were either nominal Christians or lukewarm pagans and were quite willing to follow a man who spoke with authority. The real difficulty was to build a centralized system of church government which would ensure co-operation among Christians of the Frankish Empire and subordinate local bishops to the pope. Charles Martel and Pippin gave Boniface steady support in this effort, which smoothed the path for their own policy of centralization, and by the end of his life Boniface had improved the discipline of the clergy and greatly increased papal authority in both Gaul and Germany.

Charlemagne added little that was new to the basic family policy, but he continued it in such an intensive form that it began to yield striking results during his reign. He did not merely support the pope against the Lombards; he annihilated the Lombard kingdom and annexed two-thirds of Italy to the Frankish domains. He was not satisfied with the slow progress of missions among the remaining heathen east of the Rhine; he made relentless war on Saxons, Slavs, and Avars until they accepted the Christian faith and Frankish government. He used all his authority to preserve discipline among the clergy, and he tried to raise a new generation of churchmen who would accept discipline through conviction rather than through coercion. His rough and ready methods did not always bring immediate success, but Charles showed that he deserved his name of the Great by adhering steadfastly to his ends while modifying his means. When penal laws and military force