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The Rise of Papacy

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The rise of the papacy came at a time when the Roman Empire collapsed and there was chaos as it related to the bishops who held office in Rome and what religion would be at the forefront of the representation of the west or east of Rome since its demise. The term “papacy” (papatus), meant to distinguish the Roman bishop’s office from all bishoprics (episcopatus), and The Head of the Roman Catholic Church the pope is considered the successor of Peter and the vicar of Christ (Elwell, p. 888). The “pope” is a terms of endearment which means “father” and this was the title of the most important and influential bishops in the early church. The church at Rome nevertheless enjoyed and wanted to preserve the original apostolic faith and the prominence, and they as bishops also owned its apostolic “founders” and to its political setting, and this led to the inspiration of these bishops to exercise greater leadership in Rome and abroad (Elwell, p. 888).

Most emperors and patriarchs of Constantinople, challenged the bishops and their beliefs by saying that the church in Rome is new and improved but that they are still believe in the old Roman church. The popes or bishops were not moved by their words and they knew that they were not living up to the apostolic ways of the founding fathers who came before them and that their primacy was derived from Peter and not from their political setting which in turn made their claim to fame to be truly based upon the “apostolic”(Elwell, p. 888). The Apostle Peter was sent to Rome by Jesus to build God’s Church. In Matthew 16:18, NLT, says 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’),[a] and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell[b] will not conquer it.”

By Peter being the Apostle and was sent by God and that any bishops that came after Peter in Rome would in turn receive the Apostolic Power that God gave to Peter. By the fifth century, Jerome did claim that the church was founded by Peter whom he calls “the prince of the apostles”. Roman pontiff to power and prominence happened by natural circumstances rather than divine appointment. The Catholic C1hurch has inverted these facts by suggesting that apostolic power and authority, indeed, Peter’s preeminent power and authority, established the Roman bishop whereas, in fact, the Roman bishoprics growing ecclesiastical prestige derived, not from Peter, but from the church in Rome. Leo I “The Great” is considered to be the “First Pope” or “Bishop” of Rome. Leo was the first to state the Petrine doctrine outright, saying that he was the “heir” of St. Peter and that Christ had appointed Peter as the head of His church.

He said that all bishops were heirs to the apostles (this was a general belief at the time), and that Peter was the chief of the apostles. The Bishop of Rome was the chief of all the bishops. In the sixth century papacy hit a low point with Bishop Silverius (536-37) who was taken by force and died in a penal colony. Bishop Pelagius I (556-561) was unworthy but was forced by the Church by Justinian. The Church of Rome was in desperate need of a strong Papacy Leader who could rise up against emperors and imperial authority. Pope Gregory I answered the call for the Roman Church in Rome. He can from a wealthy and Roman noble family. He had a political career in Rome first and then he entered into monastery in 574. In 579 he was serving in diplomatic missions to Constantinople. In 590 he was elected Pope in Rome and it was not his intentions to become a pope.

Rome during the 590’s was in ruins the buildings were falling down and there was a great famine in the land and people were hungry and starving to death and the Roman administration had fallen apart. Not to mention the Lombards were trying to attack Rome and there was no military to protect them. Through it all Pope Gregory was primed and trained for the task at hand. He gathered resources from the Church and he had organized the church lands in southern Italy to feed and assist the people in the city of Rome. He used the income from various estates to pay the barbarians and he gave the churches, hospitals and schools. Pope Gregory I actively intervened in the affairs of other bishops by settling disputes which help elevate the Church of Rome back into the divine order and prestige of Papacy as the ruler of the city Rome. Pope Gregory had a heart of humility because he saw so Barbarian slaves in the Roman market and he sent Augustine Hippo to England to help them from bondage.

By him sending Augustine it broke the chains and traditions of most popes in office and this was another way that the Papacy’s authority had increased in power and direct authority over missionaries and their territories. He is counted as one of the Church Fathers like Jerome, Augustine, an Ambrose. He has written books and a Gregorian chant. He is the epitome of what leadership in Rome and abroad looks like. Charlemagne and the Carolingians inherited land that retained some of the attributes of Roman administration, specifically laws and systems of taxation. The Frankish culture was not urban and as a result in the early Middle Ages we see a general decline of urban life. The reign of Charlemagne (742-814) was that of a transition from classical to medieval civilization. Charlemagne ruled the Frankish kingdom from 771-814 which is and was a forty years span because of the European expansion and the growth of people living in this area. His stability had staying power because he ran a stable kingdom.

His reign and rule was based on 2harmony which was developed between three elements: the Roman Past, the Germanic way of life, Christianity. This sustained the growth and unity of Europe during this time. The Frankish society was based upon rural conditions and was made up of three classes: the peasants who work and the nobility those who fight and the clergy those who prayed. They all shared something in common they all suffered hardship and poverty. The lower class could not understand the bible because of illiteracy but the wealthy people were smart and had bibles. Charlemagne implemented two major policies: the first policy was to expand and unite the Germanic people into one kingdom. Second policy was religious in the sense that he wanted to convert all of the Frankish kingdom and the lands he conquered, to Christianity. The downside to this was that it created wars among his armies.

In spite of all that he conquered most of all of Western Europe. Pope Leo III asked Charlemagne to come to Rome in the year 800. He attended mass and he prayed at St. Peters in Rome and he was crowned by Pope Leo III and he became the first Roman Emperor of Rome since the year 476 and this took place on the day of Christmas. Pope Leo III did the coronation of Charlemagne on purpose to try to tie in Papacy and Christendom to a high power status again. Charlemagne did not was not in fond of being a part of Rome or the Roman Empire.

He never went back to Rome and he returned to France and it was there where he had an effective and innovative system of rule and he had messengers and lay persons to report all church affairs to him. He created minting coins as currency and he created scriptoria which is a form of writing. He was smart and diligent as it related to his church and kingdom affairs. Charlemagne believed and had a zeal for promoting education, agriculture, and the arts. The rise and the fall of Papacy during this time frame was interesting and it applies to the world that we live in now with various religions and beliefs. I am grateful for the truth which is the Word of God.


KREIS, STEVEN. “THE HISTORY GUIDE .” CHARLEMAGNE AND THE CAROLINGIAN RENAISSANACE. TheHoly Bible New Living Translation. Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers , 2007. (accessed February 28, 2014). ELWELL, WALTER A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001. (accessed February 28, 2014). Wells, David. “The Rise of the Papacy.” Theological Views, Roman Catholicism, Ancient Church , 08 01, 2005, www.ligonier.org/tabletalk (accessed February 28, 2014).

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