Leo III was Pope at the time of Charlemagne and seems from the first to have resolved to make Charlemagne emperor. Hitherto the court at Byzantium had possessed a certain indefinite authority over the Pope. Strong emperors like Justinian had bullied the Popes and obliged them to come to Constantinople; weak emperors had annoyed them ineffectively. So at his accession Leo III sent the keys of the tomb of St. Peter and a banner to Charlemagne as a symbol of his sovereignty in Rome as King of Italy.

The Pope had his own reasons for taking this historic step. No longer able to depend on the Byzantine Emperor for help, he needed a strong protector in Italy. By setting himself up as donor he secured the superior position of putting the emperor under obligation to the Papacy.

Charlemagne's empire was held together chiefly by the strength of his personality. Soon after his death in 814, the empire disintegrated - leaving but a fiction of unity and an ideal. The devastations of the Saxons, which recalled Charlemagne from Spain, exceeded anything which Europe had witnessed since the days of Attila.

A new menace had come to threaten to security of the Bishop of Rome, namely the Roman nobility, who struggled to secure the election of one their scions to the throne of Peter. As a consequence of this internal squabble Leo was assailed by a faction of the Romans during a solemn pontifical procession and charged by his enemies in the Roman nobility with moral turpitude. His assailants knocked him down and attempted to blind him and cut out his tongue. The sorely wounded Pope was rescued at length by his own partisans. When he had recovered sufficiently he fled across the Alps to the court of the Frankish king to secure the assistance of the official "protector of the Romans" at war with the Saxons and called upon Charlemagne for help. Charlemagne sent the Pope back to Rome under guard and kept him in protective custody until he himself could cross the Alps toward the end of 800. On Dec. 23, at a trial which Charlemagne presided, Leo purged himself of the accusations against him in the German manner and the Roman Pontiff was restored to his proper authority. The Pope was restored to Rome under the protection of Frankish troops. To Pope Leo it must have come as an irresistible conclusion that one who had the power and the will to act the part of the Christian emperor should have the title.

In 808 Pope Leo wrote in a letter to Charlemagne that, although he himself believed the filoque doctrine to be sound, yet he considered it a mistake to tamper with the wording of the Creed. It was not until 850 that the Greeks paid much attention to the filoque, but once they did so, their reaction was sharply critical. Orthodoxy objected, and still objects to this addition to the Creed, for two reasons, First the Ecumenical Council forbade any changes, and if any changes were to be made only a 2nd Council would be competent to make it. The Creed is the common possession of the whole Church, and a part of the Church has no right to tamper with it. In the second place the Orthodox Church believe the filoque doctrine to be theologically untrue. They hold that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, and consider it a heresy to say that he proceeds from the Son as well.
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