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Carolingian dynasty Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books)

Christianity’s criminal history, 181

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The Slavic worm and the Frankish people of God

The 46 years of Charlemagne’s reign were an almost uninterrupted war with nearly fifty military campaigns. To mention only the Saxons, the ‘super-pagans’, he fought them mortally for thirty-three years! So what was happening on the periphery of the great and ever-expanding predatory empire was not something that affected the internal ‘peace.’ Quite the contrary. The more ‘peace and order’ there was within, the better the slaughter, enslavement and annexations outside the borders worked. However, the ‘everywhere abundance and joy’ didn’t exist even in the interior of the kingdom. It was enjoyed only by the ridiculously small stratum of the possessors, the nobility and the clergy, who swam in the blood-soaked riches of others, while chronic malnutrition ravaged the ignominiously deprived people themselves. Misery and famine wiped out a third of the population of Gaul and Germania in 784.

Under Charlemagne’s grandsons, foreign war was simply replaced by internal war, by the so-called civil war.

Perhaps the Treaty of Verdun wasn’t yet, as some early historians (Waitz, Droysen, Giesebrecht) believed, a kind of ‘birth date’ of the German and French nationalities, of two peoples in whose interests it was certainly not agreed. But a German history and a French history are emerging: nations are beginning to emerge from older tribes, from the populations of certain countries, and the pre-national consciousness of the tribes will eventually become the national consciousness.

In addition, the emergence of other national kingdoms, for example in England, Spain, Scandinavia, Poland, Bohemia and Hungary, marked the early Middle Ages politically. Certainly, throughout the whole of the 9th century, there was still no thought of nationalist categories, no people still felt themselves to be a ‘national unit’ and no one felt themselves to be ‘German’ or ‘French’; perhaps not even in the 10th century, although this was the immediate transitional phase.

That division of the Carolingian empire, which was followed by further divisions and reunifications in the 9th century, was a compromise imposed by circumstances. For the time being, it certainly put an end to the tradition of rushing against each other; but it also meant that the empire gradually lost its pre-eminent position vis-à-vis the papacy, that the triple division of Germany, France and Italy was prepared, and that the old unity never reappeared, if we leave aside the episode of Charles the Fat.

The Slavs were pagans, and even in Christian countries such as Thuringia, Hessen and the East-Franconian cantons they remained ‘infidels’ for longer than the rest of the population. Their culture was demonstrably higher than is sometimes assumed. We must bear in mind that for a long time, from the 7th to the 11th century, Franco-German accounts of the Slavs came almost without exception from Christian priests, who moreover were often not eyewitnesses but had second- or third-hand accounts. And, as was almost always the case, the Christians were at war with the Slavs and mocked them. But when they were regarded as allies, they were suddenly well-liked and sometimes even remarked that they were ‘wonderfully worthy’ of any sympathy.

The Carolingian and Ottonian historiographies also differ in their judgement, although a certain popular hatred, if not hereditary hostility, has long prevailed, due in large part to religious motives, to the opposition of pagans and Christians. This had been the case since Merovingian times. Later, the Slavs were willingly condemned across the board. The more Christian the world becomes, the worse the others become. They are all ‘evil’, i.e. people separated from God; they are all ‘infidels’, which in the medieval view derived from Augustine is equivalent to ‘minions of the devil, who must be annihilated by all means if they do not convert to the cause of God’ (Lubenow).

In the eyes of the Christians, the Slavs were useful only as slaves: a word derived directly from slavus or as pure targets of death; people who were mocked as ‘worms’ and ‘mowed down like the grass of the meadow’ by pious Catholics, for whom they were just that, subhuman beings, animals. ‘What do you want with those toads? Seven, eight, even nine of them I used to skewer on my spear and shake them around, muttering something to myself.’ The Slavs were also radically false and treacherous. ‘The Wendos broke their word in their usual disloyalty to Louis’, comments not only the Annales Bertiniani.

According to the ecclesiastical conception, every Christian prince had to fight the pagans within the country and on the borders. Indeed, according to the dominant Augustinian doctrine concerning the expansion of the kingdom of God on earth, it was necessary to conquer the Slavic East to ‘convert’ it. It is no coincidence that Charlemagne’s favourite reading was Augustine’s magnum opus, The City of God. And Charles himself, the Carolingians, the Frankish aristocracy at one with the other classes of landowners, all without exception, were all the more interested in the ‘plunder’, robbery and tribute of the East when in their own country the agricultural productivity was low and the prospects of increasing land and estates insignificant. The Slavic territories were also always a breeding ground for auxiliary troops and slaves.

The Christian nobility didn’t always view the Slavic mission with unreserved joy; and naturally for a very selfish reason. With the acceptance of Christianity by the pagans, at least as far as the Saxon noble class bordering directly on Christian territories was concerned, a pretext for attack, subjugation and plunder disappeared. ‘Although the Christianisation of the Slavs didn’t entail the complete depletion of an important source of income, it certainly at least made it more difficult for the Saxons to plunder their neighbours’ (Donnert). And of course for the Christians their bloodletting was always more important than the gospel; the Catholic princes were concerned above all with power, greed, the increase of their agrarian possessions and feudal rents, for as Abbot Reginus said ‘the hearts of kings are greedy and always insatiable.’ Archbishop William of Mainz said that the claim of his father Otto ‘the Great,’ that it was about the spread of Christianity, was an excuse. And in the Slavonic chronicle of Helmhold, referring to Henry the Lion, it is later stated in no uncertain terms: ‘There was never any talk of Christianity, but only of money.’

The Temple of a Slavic god (painting in oil by V. Ivanov).

But it is not simply ‘that Christianity first gained a foothold beyond the Elbe and the Saale in connection with the war’ (Fleckenstein). No, the Christian Church, and of course, the German Church, was also a ‘driving force’ in this highly aggressive eastward expansion: a force for which faith was also a means to an end; a force, writes Kosminski, that

was on the hunt for tithes, goods and personal services and saw the conversion of the heathen as a highly profitable business. It was most energetically aided in this by the papacy, which was one of the main organisers of the military campaigns against Eastern Europe, hoping to extend its sphere of influence and increase its income.

An independent ecclesiastical mission, such as that of Bishop Ansgar, bought boys in Denmark and Sweden to make clerics of them: the mission of Bishop Adalbert of Prague at the end of the 10th century or that of Günther of Magdeburg among the Luthites at the beginning of the 11th century. As these attempts at conversion met with little success, the Church opted for a second way: spreading the Good News through state armies, by blood and fire or by bribery. In any case, acceptance of Christianity was for the Slavs ‘tantamount to slavery’ (Herrmann), and acceptance would be all the easier the more effective weapons could demonstrate the power of the God of the Christians and the impotence of the old gods.

Carolingian dynasty Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books) Vikings

Christianity’s criminal history, 180

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The men of the Aquilon

The Normans, also called Vikings and Northmen, were known in the Middle Ages as ‘men of the Aquilon’, the Scandinavians. From the end of the 8th to the 11th century, while still pagan at first, they invaded other lands out of a desire for adventure and plunder and driven by dissatisfaction with their living conditions, eventually settling here and there in Friesland, at the mouth of the Loire and other bridgeheads.

Their highly mobile and reputedly diabolical tactics were full of trickery, with a particular preference for lightning attacks. Suddenly their sails would appear on the horizon, and before the coastal watch could intervene, they had already departed with their booty. On the Christian side, moreover, the civil and ecclesiastical leaders were ‘often the first’ to flee in disarray (Riché). Hincmar of Rheims, the famous archbishop, had forbidden the retreat of the priests, ‘who have neither wife nor children to feed,’ but in 882 he fled in haste, escaping the invaders.

The Norman plundering began in 793 with a surprise raid on the monastery on the island of Lindisfarne (later known as Holy Island). The monastery had been founded in the 7th century by Irish and Scottish monks, off the northern English coast of Northumberland, a very wealthy abbey. It managed to survive and acquired more and more land on the continent, but was abandoned again in 850. The Norwegian Vikings, who usually stayed at sea for weeks at a time, needed timely supplies, so they cut the monastery’s cattle’s throats and brought them aboard their ships in dragon form, stealing all the treasures and murdering the monks.

The Northerners invaded Ireland, upon which the catastrophe was unleashed in 820. ‘The sea threw up waves of strangers upon Erin, and there was no port or place or fortification or burgh or haven without fleets of Vikings and pirates,’ report the annals of Ulster. The northerners fell upon England and from there increasingly invaded the Frankish empire, especially western Franconia with its long and attractive coastline; and from 799 they also attacked Frisian territory. They seized valuables and took hostages for ransom money. And not only did they ravage the coastal places, but with their swift sailing ships they sailed up the rivers, burning cities such as York, Canterbury, Chartres, Nantes, Paris, Tours, Bordeaux and Hamburg, where they reduced the episcopal see to ashes. They gladly attacked the monasteries, as they did, for example, those of Jumiéges and Saint-Wandrille. On the Atlantic coast, in 836, the monks had to abandon the monastery of Noirmoutier, which had been under attack since 820.

It is hardly coincidental that Norman attacks began to become alarmingly frequent at a time when Carolingian family feuds were at their fiercest and when the defensive strength of the empire was at its weakest externally, i.e. in the mid-thirties of the 9th century. Nor is it a coincidence that the Nordic pirates, especially the Danes, then the most formidable enemies, returned year after year. From then on and throughout the century the Norman tide invaded the Christian world.

In 834 and 835 the Danish Vikings fell upon the most important trading centre in the north, ‘the famous Wijk of Duurstede, and devastated it with unheard-of cruelty’. But of ‘the pagans,’ men who were still fervently attached to their old gods, ‘no small number fell’ (Annales Xantenses). Also between 834 and 837 Dorestad, an important trading centre in the Netherlands was abandoned (near the mouth of the Rhine and south of today’s Wijk bij Duurstede): the temporary or permanent seat of the Bishop of Utrecht, it was sacked four times and partly burned.

In 836 the Normans fired on Antwerp and the port town of Witla at the mouth of the Meuse River. In 837 they made a surprise attack on the island of Walcheren, ‘killed many and completely stripped an even greater number of inhabitants of their goods; after settling there for some time and having collected an arbitrary tribute from the inhabitants, they continued on their raid towards Dorestad and there exacted tribute in the same way’ (Annales Bertiniani). In 838 a storm prevented a new attack, but in 839 they ravaged Frisia again. They also devastated the territories of the Loire as far as Nantes: a ‘scourge of God’ of which monastic writers still lamented, perhaps also exaggerating: ‘Pirates, murderers, robbers, profaners, devastators, bloodthirsty, diabolical and, in a word, heathens…’

Ah, how much better the Christians were in their military expeditions!

But why did the Vikings also devastate in this way? Wielant Hopfner writes: ‘They had had their first experiences with Christianity. Their contemporary Charlemagne had issued the Saxon Laws to impose forced conversion on the Saxons. The most frequent expressions in them sound like this: “He shall be punished by death…, he shall be put to death…, it is forbidden on pain of death…, it belongs to the property of the Church…, he shall be put to death”…’ Charles’ bloodthirsty laws, which could be described as a derivation of the Good News, threatened with a stereotypical morte moriatur everything that was intended to be extirpated among the Saxons. Of the fourteen provisions of the Capitulate imposing the death penalty, ten refer exclusively to crimes against Christianity.

The Normans knew that the Carolingians ‘had enriched the Church beyond measure’ with treasures that came ‘primarily’ from the plundered ‘pagan places of worship’. The Christian chroniclers reveal that monasteries and churches ‘had been magnificently built’ or ‘wonderfully decorated’. They also wrote: ‘Where could these riches have come from, if not from the property and the personal provision of the Germanic population?’

Carolingian dynasty Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books)

Christianity’s criminal history, 179

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The conscienceless episcopal mob once again changed sides

After Louis’s deposition in 833, long years of bitter struggles ensued not only between father and son but also between the brothers, with frequent changes of sides. The desire to dominate various portions of sovereignty led to shifting coalitions according to the expected advantages. This was the strongest political principle, the punctum saliens par excellence. In the beginning, it is clear that the three brothers were looking for ways to increase their power: Pippin of Aquitaine and Louis the Germanic against Lothair, and Lothair against both of them.

In the meantime, in November 834, at the imperial diet of Attigny, the general bad situation had again been mentioned, and again a promise had been made to remedy it. But all that happened was Louis the Pious’ command to return as soon as possible the ecclesiastical goods alienated in Aquitaine. The misery of the people remained unchanged.

At an imperial assembly convened on 2 February 835 in the palace of Diedenhofen, which was above all an ecclesiastical assembly, Louis demanded that the declaration of the nullity of his deposition and canonical penitence, which had already been made at Saint-Denis, be repeated explicitly and more solemnly. And, naturally, the venerable prelates now agreed. ‘A great assembly of almost all the bishops and abbots of the whole empire’ naturally declared ‘unworthy’ the resolution of Compiègne—which was theirs—and declared the machinations of the imperial enemies and the ‘disloyalty of the wicked and enemies of God’ to be annulled by a new ‘sentence of God’.

Thus, just one year after Louis’ release, those always repugnant opportunists again proceeded most solemnly to the reinstatement of the sovereign within the imperial assembly held in the cathedral of Metz on 28 February 835. It is true that Louis’ confidence in the ecclesiastical leaders may have been somewhat shaken. In any case, he remained deaf to their complaints and entreaties, apart from the fact that he had to return the stolen ecclesiastical property.

Louis the Pious, whose lungs had become obstructed, whose chest had weakened and who had aged prematurely, and who was also afflicted by an incurable ulcer, perhaps pulmonary emphysema, began to languish with frequent chest tightness, nausea and a total refusal of food. After passing through the royal palace of Salz in the Frankish Saale and after having arrived by boat on the Main to Frankfurt, Louis I died on Sunday, 20 June 840, in a ‘tent-like summer dwelling’ on a small island in the Rhine downstream from Mainz. The island was opposite Ingelheim and was the sumptuous Carolingian palace where his father had once subjected the Bavarian Duke Tassilo and his family to a notorious trial; later Charles IV converted it into a monastery and it was finally demolished during the Peasants’ War and the Thirty Years’ War.

Louis had been King of Aquitaine for 37 years and Emperor for 27. Those closest to him, his wife Judith and his son Charles were far from him in Aquitaine. Instead, several prelates, including his former jailer Otgar of Mainz, surrounded his deathbed. As long as he could, the emperor made the sign of the cross on his forehead and chest. He also had a splinter of the (claimed) cross of Christ placed on his chest.

Burial in Saint Arbnulf Abbey in Metz.

The body of Louis the Pious was taken to Metz, and there, in the old family pantheon of the Carolingians, he was laid to rest ‘with all honour’ next to his mother Hildegard—although all the children were absent—by his half-brother Drogo. At the time of the French Revolution, the body was removed from the sarcophagus.

Carolingian dynasty Catholic Church Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books)

Christianity’s criminal history, 178

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Frankish bishops humiliate the emperor

The bishops strove to subjugate the state and in 829 in Paris, going back to the arrogant teachings of Pope Gelasius I, they demanded that no one could judge them, that they would be responsible only to God and that the other great ones, on the other hand, would be subject to them: the bishops. Indeed, their auctoritas was even above the potestas of the king and the emperor, who would otherwise become a tyrant and any moral right would disappear with his rule.

Their arrogance, sometimes clothed in the rhetoric of apparent modesty and false humility—the notorious sanctimonious hypocrisy—could hardly be greater. They praised, and rightly so, the humility of the emperors, because they always found humility in others very praiseworthy. But they always presented themselves as those on whom the Lord bestowed the power to bind and unbind, and recalled the supposed words of Emperor Constantine to the bishops (according to Rufinus’ ominous history of the Church): ‘God has made you priests and has given you the power to judge us also. Therefore we shall be rightly judged by you, whereas you cannot be judged by men.’

Too beautiful to be true.

The Empress Ermengarde had borne three sons to the sovereign: Lothair (795), Pippin (797) and Louis (806). When she died on 3 October 818 in Angers after about twenty years of marriage, it was feared that the pious widower would shut himself away in a monastery. And, naturally, for the clergy, it was preferable to have ‘a monastic mentality on the throne… rather than an emperor in monastic habit within the walls of a monastery’ (Luden).

The first uprising of 830 against the sovereign opened a decade of continuous palace rebellions and civil wars in the pious and family-friendly West. Understandably, the emperor’s eldest sons were irritated by the course of events. Especially Lothair, whose kingdom was seriously diminished in favour of Charles, and who saw his future supremacy in jeopardy. But also the younger couple of Pippin and Louis were threatened by another loss of territory. The ecclesiastical hierarchy, concerned about the unity of the empire, also feared its idea of unity.

Bernard, a descendant of the high Frankish nobility and son of William—Count of Toulouse, who was highly regarded under Charles I and who, on the advice of his friend Benedict of Aniane, became a monk of great asceticism—had little inclination for the Emperor’s tastes. It seems that he was much more attracted, according to especially episcopalian gossip, to the bed of the young empress. And Louis the Pious had protected the man from an early age, had him baptised at his baptism and later made him Count of Barcelona.

At the head of the conspiracy were former supporters of the emperor, some of his advisors, the then chancellor Elisachar, the arch-chancellor and abbot Hilduin of Saint-Denis, Bishop Jesse of Amiens and, above all, Abbot Wala, the spiritual leader of the uprising and Louis’ most dangerous enemy. He coined the slogan Pro principe contra principem and his monastery in Corbie became the de facto centre and headquarters (Weinrich) of the rebels. (Over the centuries, some Catholic monasteries became the headquarters of conspirators, as happened for example during the Second World War.)

The rebels wanted not only to drive away Bernard and the young empress and her entourage, but also the old emperor, and if possible to put Lothair in his place. After various tortures Judith, the second wife of Louis the Pious, was even threatened with death and a promise was extracted from her that she would force the emperor to have her hair tonsured and enter the monastery, and she had to shave her hair and go into seclusion among the nuns of the Holy Cross (Sainte-Croix) in Poitiers.

Lothair, who was viciously persecuting the supporters of the reclusive princess, avoided depriving her father of all power at the Imperial Diet of Compiégne (May 830). He contented himself with annulling his dispositions of the last year, or that he had the upper hand. But while the great men became more and more at odds with each other, each seeking his advantage, far from improving the situation distrust of the new government grew, and the emperor succeeded in setting his two younger sons against the elder. He offered Louis and Pippin an extension of their kingdoms, which quickly attracted them to his side and divided the allies, especially since the brothers felt that the supremacy of Lothair was no less oppressive than that of their father. For all these reasons the coup d’état failed.

Since Lothair was now confined to Italy, the emperor assigned in February 831 roughly equal kingdoms (regna) to his other sons Pippin, Louis and Charles.

But in early 833 the three elder brothers allied to attack their father with greater military force, trampling on their oaths of vassalage and filial duties. They appealed to the people ‘to establish a just government.’ For even Louis the Germanic (who had already risen again and again in 838 and 839) and Pippin of Aquitaine felt themselves to be under attack and threat. With a hastily mobilised army, Lothair marched into Burgundy together with Pope Gregory IV (827-844), who had tried to win over the Frankish clergy even from Italy. The archbishops of the region, Bernard of Vienne and Agobard of Lyon, immediately went over to his camp. The latter was the rabid enemy of the Jews, who now, disregarding also the fourth commandment, published a manifesto advocating the right of the children against the father.

Lothair re-joined his brothers and once again took the lead of the rebels.

As Louis was in danger of defeat, fewer and fewer prelates stood by his side. The pope mocked his haughty and foolish writings, and especially disputed the reproach which the imperialists had everywhere levelled at him, saying that he had become a mere instrument of the sons to launch the excommunication against their enemies.

The pope had to justify the uprising in the eyes of the masses and win over the rest of the wavering rebels to his side. Just after his return to the brothers’ camp almost the whole of Louis’ army (despite his additional oath of loyalty to fight against his sons as against the enemy) treacherously switched to the latter’s side ‘like an impetuous torrent,’ writes the Astronomer, ‘partly seduced by the gifts and partly terrified by the threats.’ The clergy on Lothair’s side recognised this as a divine miracle. And then almost all the bishops, who had previously threatened Gregory IV with deposition, also changed front so that the pope, who had fulfilled his obligation, was able to return to Rome with Lothair’s approval.

But the old emperor had to surrender unconditionally that summer. He was then regarded as overthrown by the hand of God, as a ‘non-king’, as a second Saul, and the bishops and others ‘did him much harm’, as Thegan puts it.

To begin with, Lothair had taken him through the Vosges, via Metz and Verdun, to Soissons, where Louis was imprisoned in the monastery of Saint-Médard. Prince Charles, who was barely ten years old, was taken from him and placed in the monastery of Prüm in the Eifel region under a severe prison regime as if he were a great criminal, as Charles would later say, although he was not made a monk. But the brothers of the empress were tonsured and sent to Aquitaine, Pippin’s territory, while she was immediately taken with Gregory to Italy and banished to Tortona.

With papal approval, the transfer of the empire from the hands of the old emperor—now designated by the bishops as ‘the old emperor’, ‘the venerable man’ and also ‘Lord Louis’—to those of Lothair was decreed.

Stained glass depiction of
Lothair, Strasbourg Cathedral

For his part, Rabanus Maurus, abbot of Fulda and one of the champions of the unity of the empire, embraced the party of Louis the Pious and in a treatise dedicated to him wrote that it was ‘totally inadmissible for sons to rebel against their father and subjects against their sovereign’. Rabanus showed the injustice of the plot against Louis. Neither Lothair was authorised to dethrone his father, nor could the episcopate condemn and excommunicate him.

But how was Louis’ defeat interpreted by the prelates gathered at Compiègne, who with all the grandees had sworn an oath of loyalty to Lothair? The say him as a consequence, of course, of his disobedience to the exhortations of the priests. He had committed many evils against God and man and had brought his subjects to the brink of catastrophe. And so he was declared ‘tyrant,’ while his victorious son and successor was proclaimed ‘friend of Christ the Lord’. They, the ‘representatives of Christ,’ the ‘bearers of the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ demanded from the old ruler a general confession of his sins: a renunciation of the world and presented him with a document of his crimes, so that ‘as in a mirror he might behold the abominable deeds’.

In his recent History of the Councils, Wilfried Hartmann observes: ‘Such procedures were only possible because the Frankish episcopate had already formulated certain theses in Paris in 829 which envisaged a kind of control of the political sovereign by the bishops.’ Thus, canon 55 proclaimed: ‘If someone governs with piety, justice and clemency, he is deservedly called a king; but those who govern in an impious, unjust and cruel manner are not called kings but tyrants.’ But whether a king is to be called just or unjust is naturally determined by… the prelates.

Louis must have been deeply humiliated at the Abbey of Saint-Médard de Soissons, where the prelates read him the card again, having to prostrate himself three or more times before the bishops and a multitude of other clerics, having to confess all that they had instilled in him with precise words—what is still called brainwashing today—and having to ask for their forgiveness.

To savour his wickedness, the hierarchs had staged this spectacle before the altar of the monastery’s St. Mary’s Church. In the presence of a large crowd of the people, they had the confession of his sins, which they had drawn up, read three or four times to the emperor ‘aloud and amidst a copious stream of tears,’ lying in a penitential garment of manes.

The whole process was, on the one hand, intended to morally annihilate the emperor and render him incapable of returning to the throne and even of bearing arms: canon law excluded him, as Louis knew very well, after a public canonical penance. On the other hand, the unbelievable degradation had to demonstrate the total superiority of the bishops.

It was 33 years since Charlemagne had judged Pope Leo III. Now the Frankish episcopate was judging the emperor! With the deplorable ceremony, the greatest opprobrium in Louis’ life and one of the deepest humiliations that any prince could have suffered, far worse than that of Canossa, Louis the Pious was also excluded from ecclesiastical communion and henceforth could only treat and speak with a few chosen persons.

Archbishop Otgar of Mainz acted as the jailer of the deposed Louis.

The leading role in this tragedy, which triggered a series of civil wars between 833 and 843, was played by Archbishop Ebon of Rheims, a close friend of Agobard of Lyons and a true prototype of ecclesiastical ingratitude and perfidy, as well as a man of notable missionary success. Years earlier, in fact, ‘on the advice of the emperor and with the authorisation of the pope, he left for the country of the Danes to preach the gospel, having converted and baptised many.’ This prelate, appointed by Pope Paschal I as the legate of the north in the framework of the Scandinavian policy of the Carolingians, is considered to be the initiator of the Nordic mission.

Carolingian dynasty Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books) Roman Catholic popes

Christianity’s criminal history, 177

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Pope Paschal, who gouges out eyes and cuts off heads, is declared a saint

Why did Leo III enter the Roman martyrology in the 17th century? Why was this monstrous murderer declared a saint?

He wasn’t canonised for his brutality, nor for his liquidations, and still less for his genuflection before Charles ‘the Great’ to whom alone he owed his survival. He was canonised because at Christmas 800 he had placed the crown on Charles’ head; because he had so impressively forced the passion for domination, the never-satiated desire for supremacy of the popes; because, with that radiant sign through the ages, with that ‘trait of genius’ (de Rosa), he had inscribed once and for all in the sad book of history the aspiration of the popes for absolute leadership. This is also the reason why Franz Xaver Seppelt, the Catholic historian of the popes, sees the name of Leo III shining in the ‘catalogue of saints,’ despite all the fatalities of his long pontificate and all the corpses that litter his path: ‘Saint, saint, saint’ (his feast day, 12 June).

His successor Stephen IV, a Roman nobleman educated from boyhood at the Lateran, elected pope after ten days without consulting the emperor, ruled only a few months; but his illustrious family provided in the century two other popes.

Paschal I (817-824), Stephen’s successor, immediately had the Pactum Hludowicianum established with his predecessor confirmed by the emperor, i.e. the full extent of the promises of donation and the actual donations made by Pippin and Charlemagne, grandfather and father respectively of Louis, as well as the autonomy of the state from the Church, the papal rights of sovereignty and above all the free election of the pope.

Two of the highest papal officials, Theodore, belonging to the high nobility (and still in 821 a pope ambassador at the Frankish court) and his son-in-law the nomenclator Leo ‘because of his loyalty to Lothar’ (Astronomus); because, according to the Imperial Annals, ‘they remained loyal to the young emperor Lothar’, were blinded and beheaded by the pope’s servants in the Lateran Palace without any legal process. Everything was attributed to the pope or ‘to his approval’, says Astronomer.

Mosaic of Paschal at Santa Prassede.

The whole affair is somewhat reminiscent of the bloody proceedings of St. Leo III in 815. But in 823 the monarch also sent his judges to Rome, retiring for the rest of the summer and in the autumn to the district of Worms to hunt in the Eifel region. Paschal, however—so beloved of the Romans that at the very burial of his corpse they provoked a riot—, refused any complicity and escaped the trial, perhaps with good reason, by publicly taking the oath of cleansing in the presence of thirty-four bishops and five priests and deacons. This was a ‘means of proof’, already used by St. Leo III in December 800, and especially frequent among ecclesiastical officials. At the same time, he anathematized the murdered men as high treason, declared their death an act of justice since they had received their due as criminals of lèse majesté, and took the assassins as servants of St. Peter (of the family Sancti Petri), granting them ‘his most resolute protection’ (Annales regni Francorum).

Emperor Louis resigned himself. And Pope Paschal I died in 824 amid the family Sancti Petri. The man was cunning while Ludwig was superior and tough. When Paschal I was alive and the monks of Fulda brought him unpleasant news, he had them imprisoned without delay and threatened their abbot Mauro with excommunication. In Rome itself, they abhorred his rigorous rule which completely disrupted the state. And since not only his planned burial but also the subsequent papal election were under the sign of serious turmoil, Paschal’s body remained unburied for a long time until his successor could give him a burial, although not in St. Peter’s.

Much later, however, at the end of the 16th century, Paschal’s name managed to enter the saints’ calendar of the Catholic Church (his feast day, 14 May) through the work of the historian Caesar Baronius, an Italian cardinal of the Catholic Church.

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Christianity’s criminal history, 176

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Louis the Pious and the death
of the king of Brittany.

Foreign policy

Louis the Pious waged war almost year after year, as befitted a Christian and believing ruler, mainly because of dynastic conflicts and internal political problems. But again and again, he also crossed the frontiers or had them crossed: as a universal ruler, he hardly ever took part in the campaigns himself but had others fight for him. This had long been the method of all rulers in the biggest massacres of the time. Pacts were scarcely of any interest any more.

In 815 a Saxon-Obotrite army attacked the Danes; but, after a series of devastations everywhere, it returned with forty hostages without having achieved anything. In 816 Louis sent his troops against the Sorbs. This time they ‘efficiently carried out’ (strenue compleverunt, Imperial Annals) the emperor’s orders and attacked them, as the sources say, ‘as swiftly as easily with the help of Christ’, and ‘with the help of God they gained the victory.’ The emperor, however, ‘gave himself up to hunting in the Vosges forest.’ At the other end of the empire, on the northern slopes of the Pyrenees, the Basques revolted and were ‘completely subdued’ (Annales regni Francorum).

Louis repeatedly waged devastating campaigns against the Breton Levantines, whose princes claimed the title of king at various times. On several occasions, he attacked the ‘mendacious, proud and rebellious people’, whom even his father hadn’t managed to subdue completely and whom the Merovingians, before Charles and Pippin, had repeatedly tried to subdue. In the summer of 818, he marched in person—almost his only military campaign as emperor—with an army of Franks, Burgundians, Alamans, Saxons and Thuringians against the ‘Breton rebels, who in their audacity dared to name one of their own, named Morman, king, refusing all obedience’ (Anonymous).

The pious sovereign, of whom his contemporary Bishop Thegan carefully exalts that ‘he progressed from day to day in sacred virtues, the enumeration of which would lead too far’, crushed the Bretons with his arrogance. He reduced to ashes all the buildings except the churches, and amid all the fires and murders he had the monasticism of the country widely reported by the Abbot of Landévennec. To kill and to pray, to pray and to kill; so everything went well and everything was permitted, at least in the war, as long as it was in favour of the ‘orthodox’ side.

A great multitude was taken prisoner, plentiful cattle were taken from them, and the Bretons submitted ‘to the conditions imposed by the emperor, whatever they were… And such hostages were selected and taken as he ordered, and the whole territory was organised at his will’, writes Astronomus.

In 819 Louis sent an army across the Elbe against the Obotrites. Their deserting prince Sclaomir (809-819) was captured and taken to Aachen, his territory occupied and he was exiled. Shortly afterwards they defeated him again, but while still in Saxony he succumbed to an illness and in the meantime received the sacrament of baptism. The Slavic people on the banks of the Elbe were still totally pagan, and the supremacy of Louis was still exposed to serious uprisings in the years 838 and 839.

On the other side of his borders, the counts of the Spanish March penetrated across the Segre ‘as far as the interior of Spain’ and ‘from there happily returned with a great booty’, having ‘ravaged and burned everything’, as Astronomus writes. The imperial analyst also notes the devastation of fields, the burning of villages and ‘no small booty’, adding: ‘In the same way, after the autumn equinox the counts of the Breton Mark raided the possessions of a rebellious Breton named Wihomarc and devastated everything with blood and fire.’

In 824 the monarch marched again with three army groups—he personally commanded one—against the Bretons and their prince Wihomarc, Morman’s successor.

In forty days, according to Frankish sources, Louis the Pious ravaged ‘the whole country with blood and fire’, ‘punished it with a great devastation’ (magna plague). He was ‘the most pious of emperors’, as the chorepiscopus Thegan praises him, ‘for even before he respected his enemies, fulfilling the word of the evangelist who says ‘Forgive and you will be forgiven.’ Louis destroyed fields and forests, annihilated a good part of the flocks, killed many Bretons, took many prisoners and returned with hostages ‘of the disloyal people.’ King Wihomarc was soon afterwards surrounded in his own house by the people of Count Lambert of Nantes, who beat him to death.

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Christianity’s criminal history, 174

– For the context of these translations click here


The emperor, the clergy and the imperial unity

Louis the Pious was even more accommodating to the clergy than his father, and the many historians who call him devout, clerical and prudish are quite right. Already at the beginning of his reign, the young monarch renewed all the ordinances that had been issued in the time of his predecessors in favour of the Church of God. For this, he relied almost exclusively on clerics, mostly ‘Aquitanians’, of whom Bishop Thegan, a personage well acquainted with the emperor, said that ‘he trusted his counsellors more than necessary’.

The one who probably became the emperor’s most important adviser was the Visigoth Witiza, whom he greatly revered, with his programmatic monastic name of Second Benedict, and who was the son of the Count of Maguelonne, one of the dreaded swordsmen. In any case, this Benedict educated in the courts of Pippin III and Charles I (his feast is celebrated on 11 February), took part as a good Christian—a ‘good Christian’ certainly, as well as a ‘great soldier’—in the military campaigns of Pippin and Charles, before the tragic death of his brother pushed him to wear the monastic cowl. But he failed again and again in his ascetic career. He left the monastery of Saint-Seine in Dijon because he found it too lax. Then, at his father’s estate of Aniane in Montpellier, he drove away his first disciples with his rigorism. He then professed the monastic rules of Pachomius and Basil, because he found the Rule of Benedict of Nursia useful only ‘for weaklings and beginners’. But when he again entered into a vocational crisis, he extolled the Rule of Benedict of Nursia, which he reviled as the only valid norm for a monastic existence.

But one can hardly speak of weakness in the Benedictine Rule. When monks were rebuked by a prelate, they had to prostrate themselves at his feet until he permitted them to rise. And if a monk ran away, Benedict ordered him to be dragged back with his legs locked and whipped. The saint also ordered to have a prison in every monastery, and the monastic prisons of the Middle Ages were barbarous, and the conditions of existence in them were extremely harsh, for imprisonment ‘was equivalent in its consequences to corporal punishment’. (Schild). Moreover, this monastic reform ‘always contained a touch of bitterness against human science and culture’ (Fried).

Abbot Benedict of Aniane—to whom Louis first entrusted the Marmoutier Abbey in Alsace and then, very close to Aachen, the monastery of Inden (Kornelimünster), a new foundation generously endowed with crown goods, a kind of model abbey in the whole empire—spent much more time at court than at his monastery. The sovereign went there frequently anyway, and so he was given the name of ‘the Monk’. Benedict, who ruled over all the Frankish abbeys, remained until his death (821) the key man at court, where he dealt with trifles, memorials and complaints as well as important and serious matters, advising the emperor above all on the vast politico-ecclesiastical reform begun in 816.

The reform movement of the abbot, inspired by the Rule of Benedict of Nursia, aimed at the formation of a single Christian people out of the numerous peoples of the empire—which corresponded exactly to state policy. It sought to make Christianity the basis of all public life; moreover, it wanted to establish the Civitas Dei on earth: one God, one Church, one emperor, whose office always counted within the Church more than any ministry conferred by God. The prelates were therefore strongly interested in the unity of the empire, and their leaders passionately defended the idea of such unity. But they were in no way primarily interested in the empire, but in the Church, with the benefit of the Church foremost in their minds.

Benedict’s monastic reform, his ‘principle of one rule,’ affected not only monastic life, the so-called spiritual affairs. At least as important, if not more so, was the ecclesiastical patrimony. The emperor did not want it to be divided or diminished either in his reign or in that of his successors. He also forbade the already long flourishing soul-hunting, the luring of children into the monastery with flattery to gain their fortune, thus prohibiting a practice which had been in vogue since ancient times and which is still practised today, namely the disinheritance of relatives in favour of the churches.

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Christianity’s criminal history, 173

– For the context of these translations click here

Charlemagne crowns Louis the Pious.

Louis I the Pious (814-840)

‘Ludwig’s empire was in fact to be an empire of peace… This, however, did not exclude wars against the pagans, but demanded them precisely, since they were regarded as allies of Satan.’ —Heinrich Fichtenau

Charlemagne, the saint, was not only active on the battlefields. As far as we know, he also had nineteen children, eight sons and eleven daughters, and of course with nine different wives (still an almost modest figure compared to the 61 children of Bishop Henry of Lüttich, that tireless worker in the vineyard of the Lord, or Pope Gregory X of the 13th century, who had ‘14 children in 22 months’).

But despite the Carolingian blessing of the sons, there was no problem in the matter of succession. In case of death, Charlemagne divided the empire among his three sons through the so-called Divisio regnorum. In addition, each was to assume the Defensio Sancti Petri, the protection of the Roman Church.

But quite unexpectedly the father saw the two eldest sons go to their graves: in 810 Pippin and the following year Charles, to whom the imperial crown had long been assigned as the main heir. All this affected the ruler to such an extent that he even considered becoming a monk. Of his ‘legitimate’ sons, only the youngest remained, and, as he was well aware, the one least suited to the throne: Louis, born in 778 in Chasseneuil near Poitiers. He would be enthroned emperor at the age of thirty-six, only to be deposed and enthroned again, losing the throne once more and regaining it later.

In any case, Louis the Pious had what it takes: even as a child ‘he had learned to fear and love God always’, as one of his contemporary biographers reports around 837. Charles exhorted his son and successor to love and fear the Almighty especially, to keep his commandments in all things, to rule his churches, to honour priests as fathers and to love the people as his children. He was to force proud and wicked men to enter the way of salvation, help the monasteries and procure God-fearing servants.

From that coronation onwards Charles, who was already quite decrepit and limping on one foot, did nothing—if we are to believe Bishop Thegan—but pray, give alms and ‘improve’ or ‘correct magnificently’ (optime correxerat), as Thegan himself says, the four gospels, the infallible word of God, before he died on 28 January 814. He left his son a gigantic empire, almost entirely the fruit of the plundering that he and his illustrious predecessors and ancestors had carried out, and consisting of four strong units: France, the centre of the state with the royal courts and the great abbeys; Germania, Aquitaine and Italy.

Killing and praying

Two fields that had long defined every Christian ruler, and would continue to define them decisively for many centuries, also marked the life of the young Ludwig: war and the Church. All Christian nobles had to learn the profession of war from an early age. As a rule, they had to be trained in equestrian combat even before puberty, and at the age of fourteen or fifteen, and sometimes even earlier they had to be able to handle weapons. And naturally, ‘the nobles were burning with the desire to go into battle’ (Riché).

Louis, too, who had a vigorous body and strong arms, and who in the art of riding, drawing the bow and throwing the spear ‘had no equal’, but who, according to the results of research, was a peaceful man, accompanied his father in his desire to annihilate the Avars at least as far as the Viennese forest. Shortly afterwards, in 793, again on his father’s orders, he supported his brother Pippin in a punitive campaign in southern Italy.

And yet Ludwig was a particularly good Christian, even better than his saintly father. On Charles’s orders, the pious and peaceful son also broke into Spain. He subdued and destroyed Lerida. ‘From there,’ writes the Astronomus, ‘and after having devastated and burned the other cities, he advanced as far as Huesca. The territory of the city, abundant in fields of fruit trees, was razed, devastated and burnt by the troops and everything that was found outside the city was annihilated by the devastating action of the fire.’

As was almost always the case at the time, only winter prevented the young Louis from pursuing the actions typical of Christian culture. For the rest, the Catholic hero not only set fire to cities, but sometimes also burned men, but only ‘according to the law of retaliation’ (Anonymi vita Hludovici). All very biblical: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. And, according to the same source, as soon as ‘this was done, the king and his advisors felt it necessary to begin the attack on Barcelona’. And after the besieged, starving for weeks had devoured the old hides that served as curtains at the forty-one gates and others, driven by the desperation and misery of war, had thrown themselves headlong from the walls, the evil enemy surrendered. And Louis celebrated ‘with a feast of thanksgiving worthy of God’, marched with the priests, ‘who preceded him and the army, in a solemn procession and amid songs of praise, entered the city gate and made his way to the church of the holy and victorious Cross.’

Genuine Christianity.

In this connection we read of Ludwig in an old Catholic standard work that ‘he was always in good spirits’, that his spirit was ‘noble’ and his heart was ‘adorned with all good habits’ (Wetzer/Welte). A bloody sword and a heart of gold is something that fits perfectly into this religion. Was it not even a distant and modest reflection of the good God and his handling of hellfire? This is how the doctor of the Church and Pope Gregory I ‘the Great’ expresses himself with his knife-sharp theology: ‘The omnipotent God, as a kindly God, takes no pleasure in the torment of the wretched; but as a just God he defines himself as uncompassionate by punishing the wicked for all eternity’.

A comfortable religion: something that works for all cases.

It was precisely with this God, kind but ‘not compassionate for all eternity’ towards the wicked—and all enemies are wicked—that all kinds of robberies and murders took place, as was already the case in the time of the Merovingians and the Pippinids, and was constantly repeated in the Christian West. And again we read:

But trusting in God’s help, our people, though greatly outnumbered, forced the enemies to flee and filled the path of the fugitives with many dead, and their hands did not cease in slaughter (et eo usque manus ab eorum caede non continuerunt) until the sun disappeared and with it the light of day and the shadows covered the earth and the bright stars appeared to illuminate the night. With the assistance of Christ, they departed from there with great joy and bringing many treasures to their own.

With Louis I (Ludwig or Ludovico Pio i.e., the Pious) ‘the Christian doctrine reached the lowest strata’ and is becoming more and more firmly established. In order that the blood of all those barbarously murdered should not splash too much, that this chronicle of cruelty should not overflow to the brim, the spiritual and divine are always emphasised with greater emphasis, only to be smeared with blood in a dignified manner later on. That is why in the same context the chorepiscopus Thegan says: ‘He never raised his voice to laughter’. And likewise: ‘When he went to church every morning to pray, he always bent his knees and touched the ground with his forehead, praying humbly for a long time and sometimes with tears.’

Louis the Pious was influenced by the clergy from his childhood. For this reason he was so early subject to the Church that, had his father not prevented him, he would have become a monk. And, as the Astronomus also celebrates after his death, ‘he was so solicitous for the divine service and the exaltation of the holy Church, that judging by his works he might be called a priest rather than a king’. Pious, super-clerical and even rather hostile to the culture imposed by his father, Ludwig not only replaced the sensual courtiers in Aachen with clerics but also expelled all prostitutes and locked his sister in a monastery.

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The Holy Hook, 1

Editor’s note: With the subtitle of ‘Yahweh’s Trojan Horse into the Gentile City’, this essay by Laurent Guyénot was published, complete, on May 8, 2019, in The Unz Review.

Is the Church the whore of Yahweh?

I concluded an earlier article [‘Zionism, Crypto-Judaism, and the Biblical Hoax’ —Ed.] by what I regard as the most important ‘revelation’ of modern biblical scholarship, one that has the potential to free the Western world from a two-thousand-year-old psychopathic bond: the jealous Yahweh was originally just the national god of Israel, repackaged into ‘the God of Heaven and Earth’ during the Babylonian Exile, as part of a public relations campaign aimed at Persians, then Greeks and ultimately Romans. The resulting biblical notion that the universal Creator became Israel’s national god at the time of Moses, is thus exposed as a fictitious inversion of the historical process: in reality, it is the national god of Israel who, so to speak, impersonated the universal Creator at the time of Ezra—while remaining intensely ethnocentric.

The Book of Joshua is a good eye-opener to the biblical hoax, because its pre-exilic author never refers to Yahweh simply as ‘God,’ and never implies that he is anything but ‘the god of Israel,’ that is, ‘our god’ for the Israelites, and ‘your god’ for their enemies (25 times). Yahweh shows no interest in converting Canaanite peoples, whom he regards as worthless than their livestock. He doesn’t instruct Joshua to even try to convert them, but simply to exterminate them, in keeping with the war code he gave Moses in Deuteronomy 20.

However, we find in the Book of Joshua one isolated statement by a Canaanite woman that ‘Yahweh your god is God both in Heaven above and on Earth beneath’ (2:11). Rahab, a prostitute in Jericho, makes that statement to two Israeli spies who spend the night with her, and whom she hides in exchange for being spared, together with her family, when the Israelites will take over the city and slaughter everyone, ‘men and women, young and old’ (6:21). Rahab’s ‘profession of faith’ is probably a post-exilic insertion, because it doesn’t fit well with her other claim that she is motivated by fear, not by faith: ‘we are afraid of you and everyone living in this country has been seized with terror at your approach’ (2:9). Nevertheless, the combination of fear and faith is consistent with Yahweh’s ways.

The French Catholic Bible de Jérusalem—a scholarly translation by the Dominicans of the École Biblique, which served as guideline for the English Jerusalem Bible—adds a following footnote to Rahab’s ‘profession of faith to the God of Israel’, saying it ‘made Rahab, in the eyes of more than one Church Father, a figure of the Gentile Church, saved by her faith.’

I find this footnote emblematic of the role of Christianity in propagating among Gentiles the Israelites’ outrageous metaphysical claim, that great deception that has remained, to this day, a source of tremendous symbolic power. By recognizing her own image in the prostitute of Jericho, the Church claims for herself the role that is exactly hers in history, while radically misleading Christians about the historical significance of that role. It is indeed the Church who, having acknowledged the god of Israel as the universal God, introduced the Jews into the heart of the Gentile city and, over the centuries, allowed them to seize power over Christendom. [Red emphasis by Ed.]

This thesis, which I am going to develop here, may seem fanciful, because we have been taught that Christianity was strongly Judeophobic from the start. And that’s true. For example, John Chrysostom, perhaps the most influential Greek theologian of the crucial 4th century, wrote several homilies ‘Against the Jews’. But what he is concerned about, precisely, is the nefarious influence of the Jews over Christians. Many Christians, he complains, ‘join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts’ and even believe that ‘they think as we do’ (First homily, I,5).

‘Is it not strange that those who worship the Crucified keep common festival with those who crucified him? Is it not a sign of folly and the worst madness?… For when they see that you, who worship the Christ whom they crucified, are reverently following their rituals, how can they fail to think that the rites they have performed are the best and that our ceremonies are worthless?’ (First Homily, V,1-7).

To John’s horror, some Christians even get circumcised. ‘Do not tell me,’ he warns them, ‘that circumcision is just a single command; it is that very command which imposes on you the entire yoke of the Law’ (Second Homily, II,4). And so, with all its Judeophobia (anachronistically renamed ‘anti-Semitism’ today), John Chrysostom’s homilies are a testimony to the strong influence that Jews have exerted on Gentile Christians in the early days of the triumphant, imperial Church. And no matter how much the Greek and Latin Fathers have tried to protect their flock from the influence of Jews, it has persisted as the Church expanded. It can even be argued that the history of Christianity is the history of its Judaization, from Constantinople to Rome, then from Rome to Amsterdam and to the New World.

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Note of the Editor: This is exactly what apologists of Christianity, like the secular Kevin MacDonald, fail to understand (see e.g., how he misunderstands John Chrysostom in his preface to Giles Corey’s The Sword of Christ).

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We commonly admit that the Church has always oppressed the Jews and prevented their integration unless they convert. Were they not expelled from one Christian kingdom after another in the Middle Ages? Again, this is true, but we must distinguish between the cause and the effect. Each of these expulsions has been a reaction to a situation unknown in pre-Christian Antiquity: Jewish communities gaining inordinate economic power, under the protection of a royal administration (Jews served as the kings’ tax collectors and moneylenders, and were particularly indispensable in times of war), until this economic power, yielding political power, reaches a point of saturation, causes pogroms and forces the king into taking measures.

Let us consider for example the influence of the Jews in Western Europe under the Carolingians. It reaches a climax under Charlemagne’s son, Louis the Pious. The bishop of Lyon Agobard (c. 769-840) left us five letters or treatises written to protest against the power granted to the Jews at the detriment of Christians. In On the insolence of the Jews, addressed to Louis the Pious in 826, Agobard complains that the Jews produce ‘signed ordinances of your name with golden seals’ guaranteeing them outrageous advantages, and that the envoys of the Emperor are ‘terrible towards Christians and gentle towards Jews.’ Agobard even complains of an imperial edict imposing Sunday rather than Saturday as market day, in order to please the Jews. In another letter, he complains of an edict forbidding anyone to baptize the slaves of the Jews without the permission of their masters.[1]

Louis the Pious was said to be under the influence of his wife, Queen Judith—a name that simply means ‘Jewess’. She was so friendly to Jews that the Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz hypothesizes that she was a secret Jewess, in the manner of the biblical Esther. Graetz describes the reign of Louis and Judith (and ‘the treasurer Bernhard, the real ruler of the kingdom’ according to him) as a golden age for the Jews, and points out that in the emperor’s court, many regarded Judaism as the true religion. This is illustrated by the resounding conversion of Louis’ confessor, Bishop Bodo, who took the name of Eleazar, had himself circumcised, and married a Jewess. ‘Cultured Christians,’ writes Graetz, ‘refreshed themselves with the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus and the Jewish philosopher Philo, and read their works in preference to those of the apostles.’[2]

The Judaization of the Roman Church at this time is appropriately symbolized by the adoption of unleavened bread for communion, with no justification in the Gospel. I say ‘the Roman Church’, but perhaps it should be called the Frankish Church because, from the time of Charlemagne, it was taken over by ethnic Franks with geopolitical designs on Byzantium, as Orthodox theologian John Romanides has convincingly argued.[3]

The Old Testament was especially influential in the Frankish spheres of power. Popular piety focused on the Gospel narratives (canonical gospels, but also apocryphal ones like the immensely popular Gospel of Nicodemus), the worship of Mary, and the ubiquitous cults of the saints, but kings and popes relied on a political theology drawn from the Tanakh.

The Hebrew Bible had been a major part of Frankish propaganda from the late sixth century. Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks, the primary—and mostly legendary—source for Merovingian history, is framed on the providential ideology of the Books of Kings: the good kings are those who support the Catholic Church, and the bad kings those who resist the growth of its power. Under Louis the Pious, the rite of anointment of the Frankish kings was designed after the model of the prophet Samuel’s anointment of King David in 1 Samuel 16.


[1] Adrien Bressolles, ‘La question juive au temps de Louis le Pieux,’ in Revue d’histoire de l’Église de France, tome 28, n°113, 1942. pp. 51-64, on https://www.persee.fr

[2] Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1891 (archive.org), vol. III, ch. VI, p. 162.

[3] John Romanides, Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine: An Interplay Between Theology and Society, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1981.

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Christianity’s Criminal History, 164

The Christian banners enter Saxony

Charles’ armies—which in the larger campaigns consisted of just 3,000 horsemen and between 6,000 and 10,000-foot soldiers—sometimes numbered more than 5,000 or 6,000 warriors. Unlike in the time of his grandfather Charles Martell, the core of the army was made up of heavy cavalry. The horsemen were armed with chain mail, helmet, shield and shin guards, with lance and battle-axe (worth approximately 18 to 20 oxen). And all this for Jesus Christ. The foot companies, still numerous, fought with mace and bow. (Only from 866, under Charles the Bald, was every Frank who owned a horse obliged to military service so that the infantry ceased to play an important role in the army.) Moreover, in the Carolingian wars, no soldiers were paid: the spoils of plunder were shared out.

The Christian butchery (‘mission by the sword’), with which Charles continued his father’s Saxon wars, began in 772. The ‘gentle king’, as he is repeatedly called in contemporary royal annals, then conquered the frontier fortress of Eresburg (today’s Obermarsberg, next to the Diemel), an important starting point of his military operations during the first half of the Saxon wars. And he destroyed (probably there) the Irminsul, the Saxon national shrine, consisting of an extraordinarily large tree trunk, which the Saxons venerated as ‘the pillar supporting the Universe’ in a sacred grove in the open air. Later Charles entrusted Abbot Sturmi of Fulda with the command of the fortress of Eresburg, which had been recaptured, again and again, lost, destroyed and rebuilt.

But other bishops and abbots also provided Charles with military services. Like the counts, they were also obliged to maintain a camp, an obligation which was also incumbent on the abbesses. Even at that time, clerical troops accompanied the Frankish army, so that, according to Sturmi’s biographer, ‘through sacred instruction in the faith, they might subject the people, bound from the beginning of the world with the chains of demons to the gentle and light yoke of Christ’. Exactly from that year onwards, Charles used a seal with the inscription: ‘Christ protects Charles, King of the Franks’.

After the Christians had completely plundered the place of worship, set fire to the sacred grove and destroyed the pillar, they left with the sacred offerings piled up there and with abundant treasures of gold and silver, ‘the gentle King Charles took the gold and silver he found there’, as the Royal Annals succinctly state. And soon after, on top of the plundered and destroyed gentile sanctuary, a church was built ‘under the patronage of Peter’ (Karpf), the gatekeeper of heaven, displacing the Saxon god Irmin (probably identical to the Germanic god Saxnoth / Tiwas). What progress!

Heinrich Leutemann’s Destruction of
the Irmin Column by Charlemagne

In the following years, ‘the gentle king’ fought mainly in Italy. Through the emissary Peter (that was the name of the envoy), Pope Adrian had invited him ‘for the love of God and in favour of the right of St Peter and the Church to help him against King Desiderius’ (Annales Regni Francorum). But already in 774, barely back from the plunder of the Longobard kingdom, the good King Charles sent four army corps against the Saxons: three of them ‘were victorious with the help of God’, as the royal analyst once again reports, while the contingent corps returned without even having fought, but ‘with great booty and without loss’ to the sweet home.

And then Charles himself somehow introduced ‘Christian banners into Saxony’ (Groszmann), with the result that ‘the war became more and more the war of faith’, as Canon Adolf Bertram acknowledged in 1899.

Concerned about the further course of the war, Charles had consulted an expert by courier if there was any sign that Mars had accelerated his career and had already reached the constellation Cancer. He conquered Sigibur on the Ruhr and crossed the Weser, ‘many of the Saxons being slain there’, advancing towards Ostfalia, intending ‘not to give up until the defeated Saxons had either submitted to the Christian religion or had been completely exterminated’. It was the programme of a thirty-three-year war ‘with an increasingly religious motivation’ (Haendier). Indeed, in its planning, it represented something new in the history of the Church, ‘a direct missionary war, which is not a preparation for missionary work but is itself a missionary instrument’ (H.D. Kahl).

This was precisely the decade in which the prayer of a sacramentary (a missal) openly called the Franks the chosen people. Charles’ wars against the Saxons were already regarded as wars against the heathen and were therefore considered just. ‘Rise, thou chosen man of God, and defend the Bride of God, the Bride of thy Lord’, the Anglo-Saxon Alcuin, one of his closest advisors, urged him. And later the monk Widukind of Corbey wrote: ‘And when he saw how his noble neighbouring people, the Saxons, were imprisoned in vain heresy, he strove by all means to lead them to the true way of salvation’.

By all means. As far as the year 765 is concerned, the royal Annals make it lapidary clear: ‘After having taken hostages, seizing abundant booty and three times provoking a bloodbath among the Saxons, the aforementioned King Charles returned to France with the help of God (auxiliante Domino)’.

Booty, bloodbaths and God’s help are things that keep coming back, and the good God is always on the side of the strongest. In 776, ‘God’s strength justly overcame theirs… and the whole multitude of them, who in panic had fled one after another, killing one another… succumbed to the mutual blows, and so were surprised by God’s punishment. And how great was the power of God for the salvation of the Christians no one can say’. In 778, ‘A battle began there, which had a very good end. With God’s help the Franks were victorious and a great multitude of Saxons were slaughtered’. In 779, ‘with the help of God’, etc. And between the regular mass murders in the summers, sometimes in this palace estate and sometimes in that city, the so-called peaceful king celebrated Christmas…

The heathen were being fought, and that justified everything. Groups of clergymen accompanied the beheader. Miracles of all kinds took place. And after each campaign, they returned with abundant booty. In the principality of Lippe, there were mass baptisms, especially of nobles: the Saxons came with women and children in countless numbers (inumerabilis multitudo) and had themselves baptised and left as many hostages as the king demanded.

And at the brilliant national assembly, held at Paderborn in 777 they again thronged and solemnly abjured ‘Donar, Wotan and Saxnot and all evil spirits: their companions’ and pledged faith and allegiance ‘to God the Father almighty, to Christ the Son of God and the Holy Spirit’.

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Editor’s Note: Can you see why WDH is the only worthwhile site among our forums? So-called anti-Semitic racialists are unable to see that overthrowing the Aryan Gods and putting the Jewish god in their place is the ultimate treason!