chapter  6
The Church in Disarray, c.850–c.1050
Pages 15

The disintegration of the Carolingian Empire had serious consequences for the church. When the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious (d. 840) divided the so-called empire – it never did have a unified imperial structure – into three parts, it presaged further divisions. The holdings of one of these sons were soon divided into three parts, and so it went on. Internecine rivalries, outright civil war, Frankish inheritance customs – all contributed to the centrifugal force that destroyed the Carolingian political structure. Whatever there was of central government died with Louis the Pious. The title ‘emperor’ continued to be used by men with less and less power until it was held by such deservedly obscure petty Italian kings as Wido (891-94) and Berengar (915-24). With the death of the latter, the title ceased to be used, and almost no one noticed. The Carolingian dynasty that had produced great leaders such as Pepin, Charlemagne and even Louis the Pious was reduced to small men with embarrassing sobriquets: the Bald, the Stammerer, the Fat, the Simple and the Child, to which one is tempted to add ‘the Irrelevant’. In what was to become Germany real power rested in the duchies. In what was to become France real power was in the hands of local strongmen.