RELIGION AND CULTURE FOLLOW THE SWORD

IN the east the Franks moved slowly but surely into the congeries of pagan tribes of more than one race which inhabited what is geographically known as Germany. They conquered Saxony and Bavaria and pushed on towards the Oder and the Baltic ; in the south-east their empire absorbed Lombardy and established at least nominal domination over Italy. Moving down the Danube it defeated the Hunnic Avars and the Slavs who had been conquered by them, and pushed on as far as the Save. Except for the Moslems in Spain, for the British Islands, and the northern fringes of Germany with their Scandinavian hinterlands, Western Europe was a unity, threatening Asia, carrying the Cross and culture along with the sword, settling and civilising the land as well as devastating it. Aachen, the equal of Bagdad and Byzantium, and recognised by both as the seat of a third and equal power, was a centre of civilisation as well as of government, of a genuinely organised empire such as had not been seen since the Roman Empire perished. It was in admission of that fact, as well as to serve the Papacy's political ends, that Leo III. crowned Charles in Rome as Emperor of the Romans (A.D. 800). The Holy Roman Empire succeeded to the Rome of the Caesars, but it was a divided imperium. Charles's empire, though it was of mushroom growth and depended for cohesion too much on the strength of its ruler, was none the less a tangible empire with defined frontiers, a political organisation of very definite significance. But it was also a mystical unity, a vision soaring above geographical space, the political counterpart of the universal Church. The one guaranteed the other. The Empire guaranteed the Pope's possession of Rome and supported his universal spiritual claims ; the Pope conferred on the Empire the honour of being the Church's secular arm, the instrument of its spiritual domination. The political influences at work are easy to see, as are the inevitable grounds of conflict in a sphere where the limits of the two authorities were not easy to define. Yet, none the less, the Holy Roman Empire was a triumph of mystical imagination over reality, a triumph that has never ceased to impress the minds of men. To-day, centuries after it has been proved a political chimera, its dream still haunts the mind of the visionary. Charles the Great died in 814, leaving his empire to his son, Louis, whose three sons, a bickering brood, divided the possessions of their grandfather by the Treaty of Verdun (843). The partition was arbitrary, but it corresponded none the less to new groupings of peoples. Lothair got Lotharingia, the west bank of the Rhine, and Italy; Louis got Germany, the lands across the Rhine and all that he could add to them; Charles the Bald got France. These kings quarrelled instead of trying to meet new challenges of paganism. The kingdoms divided, reunited, and divided again. For two brief years (884-887) Charles the Fat restored the Carolingian empire, but the movement towards disintegration on the one hand, and an embryo national reintegration on the other, had gone much too far, and in 887 the empire of the great Charles finally sundered, never to be united again.