How does Suger represent the nature of power in Medieval Europe in the wake of the Carolingian Empire?

Suger represents the nature of power in Medieval Europe in the wake of the Carolingian Empire in his writings on history. As a confidant of the kings of France, he was uniquely positioned as a commentator on the role of a monarch.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Suger, born in 1081, was a French abbot and one of the foremost historians of his time. He is mainly remembered as a patron of Gothic architecture at its beginnings, but he was also a confidant of both King Louis VI and King Louis VII. He entered the clergy at the age of 10, making the acquaintance of the future Louis VI, who also was in training at his priory. After holding various clerical offices, he was sent to the court of Pope Gelasius II by King Louis VI and also represented the king at the court of Gelasius's successor, Pope Calixtus II. He eventually rose to the post of regent of the kingdom at the time of the Second Crusade. Suger undoubtedly had considerable influence on the actions of the two kings which he served. He was active in codifying articles of justice and promoted the marriage of Louis VII to Eleanor of Acquitaine.

As a historian, he authored biographies of both the kings he served under. In his Life of Louis VI, he put forth his views on the proper role of a monarch. He occupies himself with the traditional functions of a ruler: as administrator of the kingdom, as the spiritual fountainhead of the realm, and as the protector of the church. His notions of how these roles should be fulfilled differ in some respects from his contemporaries. Beyond guaranteeing the defense of the kingdom, he identified the role of the ruler as presiding over a feudal hierarchy of subvassals, a concept not previously formulated in medieval France.

Some sources infer that Suger was applying the familiar hierarchical structure of the church to the lay ruling order of the times. In addition, he diminishes the powers of consecration epitomized in the rituals observed at Louis's coronation. He portrays the king as essentially the same man before and after his elevation. Finally, Suger's enunciation of the royal role as protector emphasizes the protection of the poor on an equal footing with the protection of the church.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team