Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Economics, History


Joel Anderson

Committee Members

Michael Grillo, Sarah Harlan-Haughey, Samantha Jones, Timothy Waring

Graduation Year

May 2020

Publication Date

Spring 5-2020


An important stage in Christian monastic reforms occurred in Aachen during the synods from 816-819 A.D. These meetings were brought about to bring uniformity and centralization to monastic practices within the Frankish realm of Charlemagne’s son, Louis the Pious (d. 840). The reforms were initiated by the emperor of the Carolingian Empire and guided by the reformist monk Benedict of Aniane (d. 821). Monastic dogma that was agreed upon included a drastic reinterpretation of the Rule of St. Benedict. Benedict of Aniane’s influence was evident within the synods. His monastic reforms were directed towards establishing stringent asceticism and Christian zeal. But it is also important to recognize the reforms regarding imperial oversight of monasteries, which invested the emperor with near unquestionable authority. This led to mixed reactions from monasteries and the Roman Papacy. Many monastic communities embraced the benefits of security and dogmatic consistency offered by the empire. The papacy greatly feared these reforms. Many in Rome believed that Louis the Pious was attempting to imitate the absolutist rule of the Byzantine Empire. Each actor within this situation committed distinct actions. Every action committed by either the imperial court, monastic communities, or the Roman Papacy demonstrated the intentions and consequences of the synods. This moment in the development of religious monasticism was significant as some of the reforms enacted were controversial. Still, the changes at the conclusion of the Synods of Aachen, were revolutionary to Western Christian monastic tradition as it placed monasticism within the influence of the emperor.