In Rome the new official religion had developed into a powerful institution with a top-down hierarchy. Each level of Officials appointed to oversee the level below. New roles evolved for women to continue spreading the word of Christianity, but they were removed from church governance, and were not allowed to become priests or conduct the mass.
The church became a very powerful institution, with the Bishop of Rome declaring that Peter had made Rome the centre of the christian church. This powerful position was then changed to 'Pope - (Father) Head of the Christian Church'.
Christian communities in many parts of the former empire, particularly the Eastern Roman Empire, opposed the institution of the pope as the supreme ruler of the 'Christian Church', and as a result formed their own Christian movements and churches. Many of the former Western Roman Empire's enemies that now had regained back their former territories as well as taking over the Western Roman Empire's lands in Italy and the Mediterranean had become Christians, joining the 'Roman Catholic Church' and recognising the pope as supreme ruler.
The pope as supreme ruler of 'The Roman Catholic Church' gained political and economic influence within the Christian countries of Western Europe; becoming so powerful that in 800 A.D. the Roman born Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish ruler Charlemagne, 'Emperor of the West'.
In return the pope gained temporal sovereignty over the Roman city and state. In sharing power with the monarchy, the pope had in effect revived The Western Roman Empire; seperate and independent from control of the Emperor who ruled from the seat of power in the East of the empire.
From Charlemagne in 800 A.D., Italy would be ruled under this arrangement by Carolingian, Saxon and Franconian Kings through to the Dark Ages until the Hohenstaufen Dynasty took over in 1138, then the 'arrangement' became known as 'The Holy Empire'.
In 1254 it was called 'The Holy Roman Empire' at the beginning of Frederick II's reign. Born in Lesi, Italy, Frederick was the last Emperor of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, ruling Italy and Sicily while his son Conrad IV ruled Germany. The 'arrangement' was not without friction. As king-maker the pope held great power in Italy and within the catholic church, held power in the Monarch's Country as well as other European Kingdoms, now involved in the crusades.
Pope Innocent IV deposed Frederick II, as a result, internal conflict within the German Royal lineage caused both Germany and The Holy Roman Empire to be without a ruler for nineteen years
.This period from 1254 to 1273, is known as 'The Great Interregnum.' it was a grave period of civil conflict within Italy. Florence was a particularly hard hit area of battles between factions (The Guelphs and The Ghibellines). Dante (1212-94?) and the 'White' faction of the Guelphs supported a complete separation of church and state. The 'Black' faction of the Guelphs supported the pope, and with his assistance gained power in 1301. Dante was banished from the City for two years and fined heavily. Reneging on his debt, he was condemned to death if he ever returned to Florence.
While in exile, Dante switched his allegiance to the causes of the Ghibellines, hoping for a united Europe under an enlightened emperor. His writings would be come popular and influential, it was he that first introduced the tri-colour concept of faith, hope and charity as the future flag that would rally the call for a unified Italy.
During 'The Great Interregnum' the Papacy expanded it's power within Italy. Pope Innocent IV acquired vast tracks of lands which would become Papal States and therefore governed and ruled by The Roman Catholic Church, with The City of Rome as the seat of power.
Europe outside of Italy, especially France, England and Germany were heavily involved in internal power struggles between their own noblemen and mounting discontentment within the feudal societies that they had produced.
Areas within Italy not under direct control of the King or Papacy centred around cities, many of which were ports that had regained some of their former wealth.
These cities and ports were further enhanced by three major events that would not only bring about the Power of the City States but would eventually change the face of Italy, Europe
and the world.
The first event was Marco Polo's father and uncle's overland journey to China in 1260. They were Venetian merchants in the service of the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan, they made several journeys, but in 1292 left the country as escorts for a Mongol Princess travelling to Persia by sea via Sumatra, South India and the Persian Gulf, returning by land through Persia, the Black Sea and Constantinople arriving back in Venice in 1295.
Venice is strategically placed for Eastern Trade on the North East Coast of Italy and flourished politically and economically. In Medieval Italy, Venice's the rival port was Genoa on North West Coast. Both ports had fleets that travelled in the same waters. Marco Polo was captain of his galley when it participated in a battle with the Genoan fleet. He was imprisoned in Genoa and related details of his travels and trade goods brought back from the Orient, silk, spices, and many things that we now think of as being Italian.
After his release, Marco Polo's books were printed, first in French and then in other languages. The books contained details of the goods, peoples, routes and maps that would later be used by others following in his footsteps.
Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, son of a wool weaver, educated and hungry for adventure having read Marco Polo's books became inspired to reach China by a Western route across the Atlantic to the New World.
Genoa went through a very difficult political and economical period that lasted well into the fifteen century. Being on the West coast, Genoa had a great deal of contact with the great sea-faring nations of Europe, Spain, Portugal, France and England. The Genoese ability in navigation was legendary, and these skill were in great demand by the crown heads and merchants of Europe.
Spain had become a catholic sovereign nation that was expanding as a empire. Columbus, born the same year as the young Isabella persuaded the Spanish crown to undertake a discovery of China and the valuable spicelands of India sailing West as a shorter route than sailing around Africa to the East. In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but did not land in China or India but The West Indies, another source of treasure, goods and spices. He called the inhabitants 'Indians" thinking that he was in India. It would be another famous son of Italy, Amerigo Vespucci a navigator born in Florence that would discover and give his name to the North and Southern Continents of the new world 'America'.
Although the pope continued to proclaim Kings of Italy of Germanic origins from 1273 until 1806, Italy as a unified country was emerging. Anarchy in the south and democracy emerging in the north, the new economic realities replaced the old despotic ties and many states formed their own policies and government.
The Monarchies in Europe and the Roman Catholic Church had their differences, new religious thought was emerging as a result of scientific study and discoveries. Italian scientists, and scholars such as Humanist Lorenzo Valla (1406-57) critiqued the bible.
In Europe the invention of the printing press, the circulation of the 'Bible' by Gutenberg in 1450 and Caxton's 'Edicts and Sayings of the Philosophers' in 1477 were giving food for thought.
The religious doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and the pope's authority over their sovereignty was challenged, culminating in the 'Reformation'. Henry VIII in England defied the pope's authority and founded The Anglican Catholic church with himself as head of the English Protestant Church. Germany and other northern countries formed their own 'Protestant' churches.
The Roman Catholic Church expanded into the 'New World'.
It would not be until the eighteenth century that the Papal States would once again be part of Italy. Napoleon took back most of the land of the Papal States, absorbing them into his 'Kingdom of Italy'. Italy would again become a battleground occupied and ruled by a variety of foreign powers and struggle to be a unified country.