web analytics
Daybreak Publishing Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books)

Christianity’s Criminal History II

The abridged translation of our second volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Christianity’s Criminal History is complete (volume I is available in the featured post).

I insist that these books should also be available in printed form, and if any visitors are interested in contributing a donation so that I can request the services of a technician to learn how to use IngramSpark’s software, in the hope that they will not cancel my account for political incorrectness (as the printer who published our books cancelled me last year), I would appreciate it.

The data Deschner collects is fundamental to curing the Aryan man of his ethnosuicidal passion, as can be glimpsed in the final section of this book, which for the moment will only be available in PDF.

Daybreak Publishing Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books)

Deschner, book 2

Imperial silver denarius of Charlemagne
inspired by Roman models. This representation
is the closest thing to a contemporary
portrait of the Imperator.

I have decided to discontinue the translations of Deschner’s monumental work that I started doing for this site in August 2013, ten years ago.

The reason is simple, as I explain in the forthcoming preface to the second abridged book, people know about the Christian crimes of the second millennium but hardly anyone knows about the crimes of the first millennium:

Editor’s foreword

The two-book abridgement of the contents of the first volumes of Karlheinz Deschner’s Criminal History of Christianity, originally published in German, is intended for white nationalists. Both nationalists and historically literate people are unaware that Christianity was not imposed on the white man by preaching but by imperial violence. I chose the images for the covers of these two books, Constantine and Charlemagne because they seem to me to represent not only how a cult of Semitic origin was imposed on the whites of the Mediterranean by order of the Roman Empire, but a few centuries later on the Northmen through genocidal wars.

The historical material collected by Deschner is very different from the psycho-historical material collected by Tom Holland in his 2019 book Dominion (page 3 of this book which the reader holds in his hands mentions an abridged version of Dominion available on my website The West’s Darkest Hour). Holland discusses the traces that Christian morality, from its origins, caused the rampant egalitarianism that burns the West today. On the other hand, Deschner collects the cases of Christian crimes hardly known to Christians and non-Christians alike, as it is the winners who write history; and since Constantine the imperial church was particularly successful in destroying the books of its critics (in the case of the Saxons annihilated by Charlemagne, they did not possess a culture as advanced as that of the Greco-Romans).

We have all heard of the crimes of the Catholic Church in the second millennium of Christianity: the Inquisition for dissenting men and the burning at the stake of innocent women labelled witches. But the crimes of the first Christian millennium are virtually unknown: a blind spot that this two-volume translation of a fraction of Deschner’s work aims to cure. As I have stated on my website, to save the white man from the coming extinction it is necessary to become aware of both sides of the coin: the crimes of first-millennium Christianity (Deschner) and how Christian morality permeates today’s secular world (Holland).

Last month I finished abridging Tom Holland’s book to popularise it through PDF abridgement. Now it is the turn of Karlheinz Deschner’s book.

César Tort
July 2023

If there is little point in continuing to translate other Deschner books on, say, the Inquisition in the second millennium of Christianity (as it is well-known history), the discontinuation of these translations with Charlemagne’s immediate successors seems pertinent to me.

The entries published in this site from the 1st instalment of the Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums series to instalment 100 constitute the first book, Christianity’s Criminal History Vol. I, which can be read through the featured post. In the following days, I will review the syntax of Christianity’s Criminal History Vol. II (entries 101-183), which will have the cover of Charlemagne. Therefore, I will upload a few posts here while I am busy with the next PDF which will also be available for free to the visitors of this site.

We would appreciate your support in this venture, especially monthly donations, even if it is a modest amount so that we can continue in this endeavour. Thank you.

Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books) Roman Catholic popes

Christianity’s criminal history, 183

– For the context of these translations click here

Miniature in the
Grandes Chroniques de France.

John VIII (872-882), a pope in his own right

Inspired by Gregory I and Nicholas I, his models, he took the directional role of the popes to an extreme. Just as Leo IV transformed St Peter’s, the Vatican quarter, the ‘Leonine City’, into a fortification, so John VIII walled up St Paul’s Basilica and the entire annexed suburb, which he called ‘Johannipolis’. And just as his predecessor—after having generously released Louis II from an oath issued through Duke Adelchis of Benevento in 871—had urged the emperor ‘to resume the struggle’ (Regino of Prüm), so also Pope John accompanied Louis’ war against the Saracens with vigorous biblical sentences and, as did Leo IV, absolved from their sins all those who ‘fall with Catholic piety against pagans and infidels’ and promised them the peace ‘of eternal life.’

This representative of Christ also recruited soldiers, obtained a Moorish cavalry from the King of Galicia, probably founded the office of president of the shipyards and probably in a ‘fresh initiative’ (Seppelt, Catholic) founded the first papal navy: ships occupied by troops, equipped with catapult machines capable of throwing stones, spears and hooks for boarding and moved by slave oarsmen. He was the first pope-admiral to go on the hunt for Saracens, managing to kill many of those ‘wild animals’—as he called them with the language of a true saintly father—and seize eighteen ships from Cape Circe. A ‘heroic deed,’ according to the Catholic Daniel-Rops. He was also determined to prevent any serious collaborationist contagion by threatening Christians who negotiated with the Saracens with ecclesiastical ex-communication.

John VIII worked to destroy the empire and the kingdom of Italy to increase the power of his see, to dominate bishops and princes alike, and to direct Italy politically. ‘He who is to be raised by Us to the imperial dignity must first and foremost also be called and chosen by Us,’ he declared with astonishing boldness, while dazzling with the imperial crown, sometimes simultaneously, almost all possible candidates such as Boson of Vienne, the king of Provence, the sons of Louis the Germanic, Carloman and Louis III, and above all the West Frank Louis the Stammerer, son of Charles the Bald. And to each, he promised all exaltation, glory and salvation in this world and the next, all the kingdoms of the world. And to each he inculcated that he was the only candidate, claiming that in no other had he sought help and assistance! And when at last it was clear to him that he could not expect much from the Franks, he turned to Byzantium.

On 16 December 882, in a palace riot, a pious relative, who himself wanted to be pope and rich, poisoned him; but as the poison did not act quickly enough as the Annales Fuldenses report in brief but impressive words: ‘He struck him with a hammer until it stuck in his brain’ (malleolo, dum usque in cerebro constabat, percusus est, expiravit). It was the first papal assassination. And the example created a school.

While the Christians were thus attacking one another, not only in the narrow circle of the popes and not only in Italy, while their great ones were extorting money from one another, and while in the south they were robbing, killing and burning the Saracens, in the north the Normans were still present. Indeed, the Norman danger had grown worse. Even the Frankish king Carloman II asked in 884: ‘Is it any wonder that pagans and foreign peoples lord it over us and take away our temporal goods when each of us violently deprives his neighbour of the necessities of life? How can we fight with confidence against our enemies and those of the Church, when in our own house we keep the spoils stolen from the poor and when we go on a campaign to fill our bellies with stolen goods?’

Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books) Roman Catholic popes

Christianity’s criminal history, 182

– For the context of these translations click here


The papacy in the middle of the 9th century

The Vatican becomes a castle and a holy pope a fortification builder

When in August 846 seventy-five Saracen ships appeared at the mouth of the Tiber, around 11,000 men and 500 horses fell on the districts of Rome on the right bank of the Tiber, eleven thousand men and five hundred horses fell on the districts of Rome to the right of the Tiber, completely sacking the church of St Peter outside the wall of Aurelius as well as the basilica of St Paul and taking prisoner all those who had not fled, ‘including the inhabitants of the monasteries, men and women’ (Annales Xantenses), the contemporaries saw it as a punishment of Providence against the corruption that was invading Rome.

After the surprise attack, it was the defeat, the disgrace provoked by Saracens and pagans, which inflamed the faithful. Why had Saint Peter not been better defended? A capitulary blames the sins of Christianity and points out the remedies: to fight against one’s wickedness, against the sins of the flesh and the theft of the ecclesiastical patrimony! In addition, Lothair I ordered alms to be collected throughout the empire and imposed a special tax for the reconstruction of the church of St Peter and its protection, to which the emperor and his brothers contributed ‘not a few pounds of silver’.

In the meantime, Pope Sergius II had died. And on the very day of his death, his successor was elected: a Roman, educated from childhood in the Benedictine monastery of St Martin and an ‘exemplary religious’ (Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche). It was Leo IV (847-855), who after a six-week interpontificium was consecrated pope, and again without imperial approval, which had been necessary since 824. It seems that the crisis caused by the Arab pirates didn’t permit any delay, although the oath of allegiance to the emperor was subsequently demanded of him.

Pope Leo IV and the Fire in the Borgo. The fresco is believed
to have been designed by Raphael, but was likely painted
by Giulio Romano and others in Raphael’s workshop
between 1514 and 1517 when Pope Leo X was pontiff—Ed.

This saintly father achieved a reputation as a master builder of fortifications that can be said to have lasted until the present day. He transformed the suburbs of Rome on the right bank of the Tiber, the entire neighbourhood of the Vatican, into a castle in an undertaking that was important for centuries. It was a plan that Leo III had already been contemplating, but which only Leo IV brought to fruition. In a work of years, personally inspected by him on foot or horseback, he reinforced the old city walls, created new fortifications and thus became the creator of the civitas leonina, to which he modestly gave his name ‘city of Leon’. Between 848 and 852 he built a wall almost forty feet high and as many feet thick, reinforced with 44 towers.

The work of fortifying required abundant materials and numerous workers, who had to contribute to cities and monasteries of the Papal State, dominions and militias. But the papal stronghold also cost large sums of money, which came mainly from the Frankish Empire—something the papal biographer completely omits—on the orders of the very obliging Lothair,  with the strange effect that it was due to the pope and his position vis-à-vis the emperor!

The devastated St Peter’s was again lavishly decorated. On the high altar were placed sheets of gold enamelled with precious stones, each weighing 216 pounds; a gold cross, embossed with pearls and emeralds, weighed 1,000 pounds, and a silver ciborium or baldachin over the altar weighed 1,606 pounds. As St Paul’s and many temples, even in the provinces, were also expensively decorated, it could be seen how immensely rich the Church was, for which collections were already being made everywhere because of its ‘poverty’ (as they still are today).

It is understandable that the ‘sons of Satan’, who came from Sardinia, appeared at the mouth of the Tiber as early as 849, long before the fortification of Leon was erected. At last, they had seen what was hidden in those Christian temples and what was piled up at St Peter’s. ‘The imagination cannot comprehend the richness of the treasures piled up there’ (Gregorovius).

Carolingian dynasty Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books)

Christianity’s criminal history, 181

– For the context of these translations click here


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

– For the context of these translations click here

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

– For the context of these translations click here


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

– For the context of these translations click here
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

– For the context of these translations click here

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.

Carolingian dynasty Karlheinz Deschner Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (books)

Christianity’s criminal history, 176

– For the context of these translations click here

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.