Holy Roman Empire: power politics papacy

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Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, famously said that ‘the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman nor an Empire’. Taken at face value this is probably right. If we dig a little deeper, however, we may discover how and why, this entity came to be so named.

The foundation of the Holy Roman Empire is traditionally dated from the coronation of Otto the Great in AD 962. However, the reign of Charles I, otherwise known as ‘the Great’ or Charlemagne, who was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day AD 800, is usually considered to be the first Emperor of the Empire.