Kings and Popes

Essential Question

What happened when European Kings and the Pope cooperated and fought?

Kings and Popes

In the early Middle Ages, great nobles and their knights held most of the political power. As time passed this power began to shift to two types of leaders, popes and kings. The pope had great spiritual power. The kings had political power.

Together, the pope and the kings controlled most of European society. The pope was the head of the Christian Church. Since nearly everyone in the Middle Ages belonged to this church, the pope had great power. Christians believed that the pope was God’s representative on earth. Because the pope was seen as God’s representative, it was his duty to decide what the church would teach. From time to time, a pope would write a letter called a bull to explain religious teaching or outline a church policy. It was also the pope’s duty to decide when someone was acting against the church. For the most serious offenses, the pope could choose to excommunicate or cast out, an offender from the church. This much power often put the pope in direct conflict with the kings.

In 1000 Europe was divided into many states that were ruled by kings. Many of the kings did not have much power. But the kings of England, France, and the Holy Roman Empire held a lot of power. In France and England, the throne was inherited through family. The Holy Roman Empire got its name because the empire existed with the pope’s approval. In the Holy Roman Empire, the nobles elected the emperor. The pope settled any disagreements among the nobles.

Popes and Kings.pdf

Kings vs. Popes

Activity 1: Popes vs. Kings

In this grudge match, you will determine a winner of each round by placing a check in the box of the leader who had more power. At the end, your selections will provide evidence, supporting who ultimately had the most power!


Discussion Questions

  • What were the advantages to Charlemagne cooperating with the pope?

  • Why did the Popes believe they had more power?

  • Why did the kings believe they had more power?

  • What happened when Pope Gregory's challenged the authority of Henry IV?

Activity 2: How would you classify the cooperation and conflicts between the popes and kings?

Using the information from this lesson, answer the questions in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activities