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§ 54. From Gregory II to Zacharias. a.d. 715–741.

Gregory II. (715–731) marks the transition to this new state of things. He quarreled with the iconoclastic emperor, Leo the Isaurian, about the worship of images. Under his pontificate, Liutprand,231231    Or Luitprand, born about 690, died 744. There is also a Lombard historian of that name, a deacon of the cathedral of Pavia, afterwards bishop of Cremona, died 972. the ablest and mightiest king of the Lombards, conquered the Exarchate of Ravenna, and became master of Italy.

But the sovereignty of a barbarian and once Arian power was more odious and dangerous to the popes than that of distant Constantinople. Placed between the heretical emperor and the barbarian robber, they looked henceforth to a young and rising power beyond the Alps for deliverance and protection. The Franks were Catholics from the time of their conversion under Clovis, and achieved under Charles Martel (the Hammer) a mighty victory over the Saracens (732), which saved Christian Europe against the invasion and tyranny of Islâm. They had thus become the protectors of Latin Christianity. They also lent their aid to Boniface in the conversion of Germany.

Gregory, III. (731–741) renewed the negotiations with the Franks, begun by his predecessor. When the Lombards again invaded the territory, of Rome, and were ravaging by fire and sword the last remains of the property of the church, he appealed in piteous and threatening tone to Charles Martel, who had inherited from his father, Pepin of Herstal, the mayoralty of France, and was the virtual ruler of the realm. “Close not your ears,” he says, “against our supplications, lest St. Peter close against you the gates of heaven.” He sent him the keys of the tomb of St. Peter as a symbol of allegiance, and offered him the titles of Patrician and Consul of Rome.232232    Gibbon actually attributes these titles to Charles Martel; while Bryce (p. 40) thinks that they were first given to Pepin. Gregory II. had already (724) addressed Charles Martel as ”Patricius“ (see Migne, Opera Caroli M. II. 69). Gregory III. sent him in 739 ipsas sacratissimas claves confessionis beati Petri quas vobus ad regnum dimisimus (ib. p. 66), which implies the transfer of civil authority over Rome. This was virtually a declaration of independence from Constantinople. Charles Martel returned a courteous answer, and sent presents to Rome, but did not cross the Alps. He was abhorred by the clergy of his own country as a sacrilegious spoiler of the property of the church and disposer of bishoprics to his counts and dukes in the place of rightful incumbents.233233    Milman (Book IV., ch. 9) says that Dante, the faithful recorder of popular Catholic tradition, adopts the condemnatory legend which puts Charles “in the lowest pit of hell.” But I can find no mention of him in Dante. The Charles Martel of Parad. VIII. and IX. is a very, different person, a king of Hungary, who died 1301. See Witte’s Dante, p. 667, and Carey’s note on Par. VIII. 53. On the relations of Charles Martel to Boniface see Rettberg, Kirchengesch. Deutschlands, I. 306 sqq.

The negotiations were interrupted by the death of Charles Martel Oct. 21, 741, followed by that of Gregory III., Nov. 27 of the same year.

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