Tension grew between the Frankish Carolingian kings and the Catholic Church. The two enties relied on each other: the papacy gave the Carolingians legitimacy for their non royal blood to sit on royal thrones, and the Frankish armies defended the Papal States from Lombards and other aggressors. But they didn’t agree on all matters. One of their key differences was on the topic of Jewish toleration. The Carolingian kings considered their Jewish subjects useful, profitable members of society, while the Church hierarchy thought of them as theologically defective sinners who refused to recognize the divinity of their Lord Savior. There was no reconciling these two positions.
When the power of the royal family was strong, the Jews of France were well protected. In 839 Catholic clergy were outraged, and nervous, when a deacon from Louis I’s own court ran away to Muslim Spain to convert to Judaism in safety. King Louis didn’t seem to mind. Louis the Pious died in 840 leaving three surviving sons. After a bloody civil war, Lothair I, Louis the German, and Charles the Bald divided the empire into thirds at the Treaty of Verdun in 843. Now there was an East Francia, Middle Francia, and a West Francia with a dependent Aquitaine held by a nephew Peppin II.
The new Archbishop of Lyons Amulo participated in two Church councils that set new restrictions on Jewish life and movement. He was at the Council of Meaux (845) and the Council of Paris (846) where prohibitions on Jewish slave ownership, Jewish service in government office, and Jewish congregation with Christians were combined into a body of law. Most extreme was a proposal taken from Visigothic law: that Jewish children be removed from their parents and raised in Christian homes.King Charles the Bald refused to ratify these laws, however. Charles, like his father and grandfather, employed Jews as foreign diplomats. In 877 King Charles sent a Jewish emissary named Judacot to Barcelona with silver to rebuild a damaged Christian church there. Charles died of a fever that year. The Church blamed his Jewish physician.
The poisoning of King Charles II was the third conspiracy southern European Jews were accused of in thirty years. French Jews had also been held responsible for a Danish incursion at Bordeaux (848) and Jews of Barcelona had been blamed for handing over the city to the Moors (852). The Viking threat was pinned on the Jews and they were suspected of collusion. An 11th century Christian historian wrote that the Bishop of Sens (871-883) expelled all the Jews and nuns from the city “certe de causa“, or “certainly with cause”. Tragically this tantalizing phrase is all of the story we get, and we don’t know what the Jews and nuns did or allegedly did to warrant this mutual expulsion.
During the various reigns across the Frankish kingdoms by the unpopular and sickly Charles III, who may have had epilepsy, the power of the monarchy faded. His various relations died without legitimate sons, leaving their kingdoms to him. He faced uprisings, revolts, and grabs for the crowns made by nephews and bastards his half-brothers and uncles had left behind. Charles also dealt with Vikings, usually by paying them off, which worked but made him look weak. In his third dealing with the Normans, he married his daughter Giselda to one who converted to Christianity. The descendants of these Normans would later conquer England. In late 887, East Francia formally deposed King Charles III. He died six weeks later. The entire empire broke apart into miniature kingdoms which appointed or elected their own kings from within, based on who they felt had the best claim. Several of Charlemagne’s descendants ended up on royal thrones, but his Jewish tolerant empire was no more.
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