Pepin, king of the Franks from 751 to 768, helped the papacy to obtain independent territories in central Italy by fighting the Lombards, who were threatening Rome. The Franks were Germanic peoples who occupied much of France and western Germany from the sixth century onward. When Pope Leo III (795-815) conferred the imperial crown on Pepin's son, Charlemagne (800-14), thereby declaring him emperor of the Romans, he made the church independent of Constantinople and the Eastern Empire. Gregory VII (1073-85) established a system of church laws and revised papal administration so that the papacy entered upon the path of effective rulership by means of law.
Charlemagne was crowned emperor of what became known as the Holy Roman Empire by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day 800. His name means Charles the Great and he reunited much of western Europe for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century.
When the first universities began as centers of Christian learning, the Franciscans and Dominicans also became strong participants in the intellectual life there. Among the most famous thinkers of the Middle Ages were Albert the Great (ca. 1200-80) and Thomas Aquinas (1224-74), both Dominicans, and Bonaventure (ca. 1217-74), Duns Scotus (1266-1308), and William of Ockham (ca. 1285-ca. 1347), who were Franciscans. These religious orders also produced well-respected preachers such as Raymond of Penafort (1185-1275), Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444), and John Capistran (1385-1456).
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