Medieval Italy - Italy in Medieval Times
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Medieval Italy

Lombard shield boss
Lombard shield boss (to make spears slide off it)
(Metropolitan Museum, New York)

In 774 AD, Charlemagne conquered northern Italy from the Lombards, and soon after that Charlemagne got the Pope to name him the Holy Roman Emperor. For the next three hundred years, northern Italy was in the hands of the Holy Roman Emperor; that is, it belonged to the sons and grandsons of Charlemagne, and then to the men who took over ruling the Holy Roman Empire. Basically these men ruled Germany and Austria, and they tended to live in Germany, so that northern Italy was being ruled by far-away German kings who only came to Italy once in a while.

In 774 AD, central and southern Italy still belonged to the old Roman Empire. But the emperors in Constantinople were busy trying to protect their kingdom from the Abbasids, and had no time or soldiers to spare for Italy. So the Popes in Rome, with the help of the kings of France, became the main leaders of central and southern Italy.

By 830 AD, however, the Abbasids conquered Sicily and southern Italy, as part of their general conquest of the Mediterranean Sea. So three different groups of people ruled Italy: the Islamic Empire ruled southern Italy, the Popes ruled the middle, and the Holy Roman Empire ruled northern Italy.

Learn by doing: medieval castles
More about medieval Italy

Bibliography and further reading about medieval Italy:

More about medieval Italy
The Abbasid Empire
The Holy Roman Empire
Medieval Europe
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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