Translatio imperii
Ottonian Germany
in Debating medieval Europe
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The revival of the Western Empire in the tenth century in the German-speaking lands east of the Rhine, no longer in the Western Frankish heartlands of the Carolingian Empire, was described by contemporaries as its ‘translation’, and it is this new empire of the Ottonian Reich that is the subject of the fourth chapter. It considers first the nature of that empire as an extremely decentralized polity, a form of governmentality thoroughly different to other medieval conceptions of a ‘state’, and then turns to the way in which the late emergence of Germany as a united nation-state has conditioned, as nowhere else in Europe, the study of its medieval origins: the idea that Germany was on a ‘special path’ (Sonderweg). It considers then the identity of this empire, examining the idea of imperial ‘renovation’ and of the relationships that it constructed to its Carolingian and Roman precursors. Finally, it examines the relationship of Ottonian government to its Church, once seen as the tool through which it exercised power in the absence of any recognizable state structures; and to the real vibrancy of the Ottonian Church, evident in the great waves of monastic reform and in its resplendent manuscript culture.

Debating medieval Europe

The early Middle Ages, c. 450 –c. 1050

Editor: Stephen Mossman

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