Notes: Episode 28, Charlemagne (Part 2)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


2:26 – I was right! We’re on our third pope now.

4:29 – If you want the long version of this story, I get into some more detail in last month’s episode about the Knights Templar, which you can find here.

12:22 – You know, the Ten Commandments as a monolith is a funny thing. Ask most people if they’ve heard of them and they’ll say yes; ask most people if they can name them, and they’ll give you a few “thou shalt not”s and something about coveting before stalling out. Those particular features aren’t really that unusual in this day and age, but there’s one more extremely fascinating thing about the Ten Commandments in particular: there are thirteen of them. The grouping into ten is likely for ease of memorization as much as anything. What this means, however, is that the order of the commandments, if remembered perfectly, would actually give you a clue as to what faith tradition a person followed, as they do differ somewhat. The Lutheran tradition actually omits the prohibition against graven images, which is an interesting topic as well, but as Martin Luther wouldn’t be tacking his 95 theses to the door of a church for another 700 years, we can safely omit them for the time being. The injunction against graven images violated the first commandment (if you were in Europe) or the second commandment (if you were in the Byzantine Empire). It wasn’t an issue of whether that was a commandment, but what exactly that commandment meant. While the Byzantine patriarch took it quite literally, Western theologists asserted that the commandment was (firstly) mistranslated and referred to physically sculpted idols in the true sense of the word, not simply all images; and (seondly) that the injunction was part of God’s statement that “thou shalt have no other gods before me”, meaning that God didn’t care if you drew an apple or whatever, as long as you didn’t worship it. The Eastern Church responded by accusing the Western Catholics of doing exactly that – worshipping images of saints, the apostles, and even Christ rather than directing their adoration to Christ himself. It’s a fine distinction, I know. As I describe in the show, the differences in interpretation here end up being somewhat cultural in nature and for such small distinctions end up driving a sizable wedge between the East and West that still hasn’t been reconciled.

15:55 – This isn’t a correction so much as a comment, but I’ve done enough episodes now dealing with the medieval church that I’m starting to feel like filioque is the new Treaty of Westphalia for this show. I’ve just begun dropping it in with a one sentence explanation like it’s a nice simple concept, and not one that is full of far more nuance than I could ever do justice. I gave it a go one time in the notes for the witch trials show, if you’re looking for more information on it; you can find those notes here.

26:26 – The imperial title I found for Charlemagne is “Charles, most serene Augustus crowned by God, the great, peaceful emperor ruling the Roman empire”. Not quite as indirect as I remembered while recording the show, but still notably skirts around the issue – it does not actually state that he is the Roman Emperor, but merely that he is an emperor and he does rule over the Roman empire. It’s a small distinction, but as I go on to mention, semantics are extremely important when it comes to royal and imperial titles.

58:48 – Why not have a link to the German Unification show?

1:04:36 – Interestingly enough, as much talk as there was by the Nazis about their rule being the “thousand-year reich”, the first reich nearly got there, clocking in at 843 years, depending on where you measure from. It was certainly the closest of the three.

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