By Thomas Foerster
Carnival: Journal of the International Students of History Association, Vol.10 (2003)
Introduction: Rome’s importance for the medieval order has always been looked at in the early and in the high Middle Ages. Especially the important role it played for the emperors throughout the centuries until the decline of the concept of an universal emperor after 1250 has always found big interest. In the time after that, there have also been attempts by the emperors to refer to this concepts. The reign of Lewis the Bavarian is a very good example for one of those attempts, but also with very individual concepts.
The town of Rome has had a huge importance within the medieval world. Besides Jerusalem it has always been seen as one centre place in medieval philosophy. This position comes from different origins. The medieval concept of the world order thinks of two heads: Empire and papacy which have both sacred and secular dimensions. Also do both have a connection with the town of Rome. For the popes, for example, being the bishops of the town, it is their seat, of course. For them, Rome is the place where St. Peter and St. Paul suffered their martyrdom, which also gives it a sacred position, and claiming their tradition back to St. Peter, the rock upon which Christ wanted to build his church, they fought for a supremacy of the Roma aeterna towards other Episcopal sees throughout the ages. So, it is important to distinguish ideal concepts of Rome and the real town.
In imperial concepts it have always been rather ideas of Rome that determined with other factors the whole concept of the emperor, of his power and of his position. Not only because the imperial coronation always had to be in this town and was executed by the pope with his own relation to Rome, also the emperors claimed to continue the ancient Roman empire on a Christian basis, often referring to the first Christian emperor Constantine the great, but in the most cases the Roman empire and not one ruler in particular has been in the centre. A similar thought was maintained by the emperors of Byzantium, what caused different conflicts between the two empires, but the focus of this article shall be on the western emperors who called themselves Imperator Romanorum – emperor of the Romans. The title of the German ruler, who was the future emperor, has never been King of the Germans, but always Rex Romanorum – King of the Romans, too.