PODCAST: Charlemagne’s Reign, Part 1 (History of Christianity #202 with Daniel Whyte III)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #202, titled, “Imperial Restoration and Continuing Decay: Charlemagne’s Reign, Part 1.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Ephesians 2:8-9 which reads: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Hincmar of Reims [INK-MAHR of RANSE]. He said: “Let the powerful beware…of taking to their own condemnation that which belongs to the church,…knowing that ecclesiastical properties are the promises of the faithful, the patrimony of the poor, the price for the remission of sin.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Imperial Restoration and Continuing Decay: Charlemagne’s Reign, Part 1” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

On Christmas Day 800 in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, three hundred and four years after the baptism of Clovis, Pope Leo III took a crown in his hands, approached Charles, king of the Franks, and placing the crown on his head exclaimed: “May God grant life to the great and pacific emperor!” Three hundred and twenty-four years earlier, the last emperor of the West had been deposed. In crowning Charles–or Charlemagne, as he came to be called–Leo revived the ancient Roman Empire, now reborn under the aegis [ee·juhs] of the church.

When Leo crowned Charlemagne, almost all of Western Christendom was under the emperor’s rule. The main exception was the British Isles. But even before being crowned emperor, while he was only king of the Franks, Charlemagne had extended his domains beyond the borders of the ancient Roman Empire. This he did through a series of campaigns against the Saxons and their Frisian allies, on the Eastern borders of his empire.

The campaigns against the Frisians [FREE-ZHNZ] and Saxons were long and bloody. Repeatedly, Charlemagne invaded their territory and forced them to submit, only to have them rebel again as soon as he was away. Charlemagne resolved to drown the rebellion in blood and in the waters of baptism. Those who proved intractable were slaughtered. The rest were forced to accept baptism. By 784, the Frisians [FREE-ZHNZ] gave up the struggle; a year later, the final resistance of the Saxons was broken, and thousands were forcibly baptized. This was an important step, for many Saxons seem to have believed that in accepting baptism they were forsaking their gods, who in turn would forsake them. Thus, once baptized, one had no god to turn to but the Christian God. In any case, these forced baptisms had such results that soon there were Christian leaders among the Saxons, who then employed similar methods for the conversion of their neighbors.

Charlemagne also extended his power to the west. His first campaign into Spain was a disaster. He invaded the peninsula because he had been assured of support from some Muslim leaders, and that support never materialized. On the way back, his rearguard was ambushed, probably by Basques [BASKS], at Roncesvalles [RON-SES-VAH-JES]–an event that inspired the earliest existing major work in French, the Chanson de Roland [SHAHN-SAWN DUH ROH-LAHN], and left its mark on later literature on medieval chivalry. Later, Charlemagne’s armies did establish a foothold in Spain, conquering the land as far as the river Ebro [EE-BROH], and establishing there the province known as the Spanish March. Also, Charlemagne supported the efforts of Alfonso II of Asturias [AS-TOOR-EE-UHS], who was beginning the long process of reconquering the peninsula from the Moors.

Next time, we will continue looking at “Imperial Restoration and Continuing Decay.”

Let’s pray.


Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.