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The Development of Feudalism in Western Europe

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After ruling the Franks for more than 40 years,
Charlemagne, called the "King Father of
Europe," has passed away. A six-foot-four-inch
giant, he loved having scholarly works read to
him and made his court a center of culture.
Most importantly, he unified most Christian
lands of Europe into a single empire. Crowned
as the Holy Roman emperor in 800 C.E. by
Pope Leo III, this great king will be sorely
missed. Charlemagne unified nearly all the Christian lands of Europe into a single empire. Pope Leo III helped him by giving him the blessing of the church (the church was a central part of society) and by crowning him Holy Roman emperor in 800 C.E. The most important leader of the Franks was Charlemagne (SHAR-luh-main), which means "Charles the Great." This impressive king ruled for over 40 years, from 768 to 814. Writings from that period say that he was six feet four inches tall—extremely tall for his time—and "always stately and dignified." Legend has it that he read very little and couldn't write, yet he loved to have scholarly works read to him. He encouraged education and scholarship, making his court a center of culture. Most important, he unified nearly all the Christian lands of Europe into a single empire. One of the poets at his court called him the "King Father of Europe."
Charlemagne built his empire with the help of a pope—Leo III, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. For Charlemagne, the blessing of the Church sent the message, "God is on my side." For his part, Leo needed the support of someone with an army. In return for Charlemagne's help, the pope crowned him Holy Roman emperor in 800 C.E.
Charlemagne's empire survived many attacks. After his death in 814, however, it quickly fell apart. The weak rulers who followed him could not defend the empire against new waves of invasions. Still, these kings helped prepare the way for the system of feudalism by following Charlemagne's example of rewarding knights with land and privileges in return for military service.