The Roman Empire’s state religion became the Roman Church.


Antichristus, a woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder of the pope using the temporal power to grant authority to a generously contributing ruler.

By symbolizing four empires as four beasts, Daniel 7 presents world history, from the Babylonian Empire until Christ’s return. (See here) The fourth beast signifies the Roman Empire. (See here) At first, it had 10 horns, representing the nations of Europe into which the Western Empire fragmented in the fifth century. Then an 11th horn came up, uprooting three of the other horns in the process, dominated the other nations, blasphemed God, and persecuted His people (Dan 7:25). It will be the main enemy of God and of His people of all time. It will become so important that a court will sit in heaven to judge between it and God’s people (Dan 7:26, 9-11, and 14). This 11th horn will be a continuation of the Roman Empire but will only be destroyed when Christ returns (Dan 7:26, 11). It is the main character in Daniel 7. The only reason that Daniel describes the preceding four empires and ten kingdoms is to enable the reader to identify that evil 11th horn. A previous article identified it as the Roman Church. To explain:

In the fourth century, in the year 380, Emperor Theodosius made Trinitarian Christianity the sole and official religion of the Roman Empire and persecuted the other forms of Christianity, including the previous dominant Homoian group, into extinction, at least among the Roman people. (See here).

In the fifth century, non-Trinitarian (‘Arian’) nations, who previously migrated into the Empire, became powerful, assumed control of the Western Empire (the current Europe), and divided it into many nations (see, here), symbolized by the first ten horns. However, these ‘Arian’ nations attempted to remain part of the Roman Empire. Therefore, they not only allowed the Roman Church (the Church of the Roman Empire) to remain in the West but treated it with respect. Nevertheless, it was subordinate to the ‘Arianism’ of the majority population.

The ten horns (kingdoms) in the west co-existed with the Roman Empire which continued to rule in the east.

In the sixth century, Justinian, emperor of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, sent troops to the west to liberate the Roman Church. His troops subjected three of the ‘Arian’ nations in present-day Italy and its surrounds, symbolized by three horns which the eleventh horn uprooted. (See here)

Justinian then set up the Byzantine Papacy, a system in which the Eastern Empire ruled the nations in the west through the Western Roman Church. This continued for two centuries and transformed the Roman Church into a very powerful political institution. Formally still called a church, effectively, it became the Western arm of the Roman Empire. (See here)

In the eighth century, Islamic conquests significantly weakened the Byzantine Empire (see Wikipedia). Consequently, it could no longer control or protect the Roman Church. But this was not the end of the Roman Church. It survived in the West after the final demise of the Roman Empire, as the final and most important fragment of that Empire, symbolized as the 11th horn.

The 11th horn was “little” or “small” when it came up (Dan 7:8; 8:9) but grew “larger than its associates” (Dan 7:20, 24). It became “exceedingly great” (Dan 8:9), meaning that it dominated the kingdoms of Europe.

The purpose of the current article is to explain how and when the Roman Church became “larger” than the other 10 horns. It shows that the church was dominated by emperors and kings from the 4th until the 10th centuries. However, from the 11th century onward, the church managed to free itself from domination and reverse the power relations, to dominate the kings during the ‘High Middle Ages’. This article explains the major events in that process and what power the church had to dominate kings.

See here for a discussion of the characteristics of the Evil Horn in Daniel 7 and 8 that identify it as the Church of the Middle Ages.

The green blocks in the sections below are intended as summaries. 


Until the 10th century, the rulers and kings dominated the church:

Roman Rule – 4th Century

After Christianity was legalized in 313, Roman emperors dominated and regulated the Church. The will of the Emperor was the ultimate authority in doctrine.

For example:

      • Emperor Constantine ensured that the Council of Nicaea reached the decision he thought best. (see here).
      • The ‘Arian’ emperors Constantius and Valens exiled Nicene bishops to the other ends of the empire. (see here)
      • Emperor Theodosius unilaterally made the Trinity doctrine the state religion of the Roman Empire. (see here)

The emperors were the final judges in doctrinal disputes:

“If we ask the question, what was considered to constitute the ultimate authority in doctrine during the period reviewed in these pages, there can be only one answer. The will of the Emperor was the final authority.” (Hanson, p. 849) 1Hanson, RPC, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God – The Arian Controversy 318-381, 1987. Hanson is a wo

They used ‘general councils’, mistakenly called ecumenical councils, to manage the church:

“The history of the period shows time and time again that … the general council was the very invention and creation of the Emperor. General councils … were the children of imperial policy and the Emperor was expected to dominate and control them.” (Hanson, p. 855)

Byzantine Papacy – 6th to 8th centuries

In the 5th century, ‘Arian’ tribes overran the Western Roman Empire, forcing the Church of Rome into submission. After the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire liberated the Papacy in the 6th century, it was subject to the demands of the Eastern Emperors from the 6th to 8th centuries.

After emperor Justinian, in the sixth century, subjected the major Arian nations in Europe (see discussion above), the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman emperors, in what is known as the Byzantine Papacy, ruled the Nations of Europe through the Church for two centuries. Consequently, during that period, the Papacy was subject to the demands of the Eastern Roman Emperors. (See here)

Carolingian (French) Dynasty – 9th century

In the 8th century, Muslim conquests weakened the Byzantine Empire. Consequently, the Papacy sought protection from the Frankish-dominated Carolingian dynasty. However, in the 9th century, the Carolingians also asserted immense authority over the Papacy.

The first clash between the Roman Empire and Islam was in 634, followed by decades of war. In the 8th century, the Byzantine Empire lost its richest provinces. Suddenly, much of the Christian world was under Muslim rule. The peoples of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria largely accepted their new rulers and many declared themselves Muslims within a few generations.

Consequently, Byzantine (Eastern Roman) authority in Italy evaporated. Pope Zachary, in 741, was the last pope to seek the emperor’s approval for his election. By 751, the Roman Church ceased to be part of the Byzantine Empire. This was the end of the Byzantine Papacy.

Since the Byzantine Empire could no longer protect the Papacy, it had to find a new protector. After a period of volatility, the popes found a powerful protector in the Carolingian dynasty. This was a large Frankish-dominated empire founded by Charlemagne (Charles the Great). He was the first emperor to rule most of Western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The Carolingian dynasty ruled in western and central Europe during 800–888.

However, the Carolingians followed their Roman predecessors by asserting “immense authority over the Western church” (Britannica). Charlemagne claimed to govern both the church and state. On the other hand, the pope exercised influence in Carolingian affairs by maintaining the right to crown emperors and by sometimes directly intervening in political disputes. Church and state were re-united.

Ottonian (German) Dynasty – 10th century

After the Frankish Empire lost power, the Ottonian dynasty in Germany ruled Europe in the 10th century. It treated the church buildings as property of the State and bishops as officials of the State.

Carolingian power waned in the late 9th and the 10th century. In the 10th century, the Ottonian dynasty in Germany established a new imperial line and became the preeminent power in Latin Europe. Otto I was German king from 936. By suppressing rebellious vassals and his decisive victory over the Hungarians, he consolidated the German Reich, revived Charlemagne’s empire in 962, and became the Holy Roman Emperor (962–973). He used the church as a stabilizing influence to ensure a secure empire.

The Ottos, accustomed to the tradition in which great landowners built and owned the churches on their estates as private property, treated Rome and all important sees in this spirit. Bishops were appointed on royal nomination and forbidden appeals to Rome. (Britannica)


Specific Events

In the 11th century, for the first time, the church escaped the domination of civil rulers. The church formed the College of Cardinals to appoint new popes, restricting political interference, and the popes challenged the authority of monarchs to control appointments in higher church offices. With the Concordat of Worms, the Emperor agreed to allow the Church to appoint its officials but retained the right to veto the appointments of bishops. 

Traditionally, the monarchs controlled appointments (investitures) of popes and high-ranking church officials. In the 11th century, the kings’ rights in this regard became more circumscribed:

In 1059, the church formed the College of Cardinals to appoint new popes, restricting interference from political rulers.

Beginning in the mid-11th century, in what is known as the Investiture Controversy, the popes challenged the authority of the monarchs to control appointments to the higher church offices. (Investiture means “the action of formally investing a person with honors or rank.”)

The kings and popes continued to argue about lay investiture until 1122 when representatives of the Church and the emperor met in the German city of Worms and reached a compromise known as the Concordat of Worms. By its terms, the Emperor renounced the right to invest ecclesiastics with the symbols of their spiritual power and agreed that the Church would appoint its officials, but that the emperor retained the right to veto the appointment of the bishops. This was a victory for the pope, but the emperor also retained considerable power over the Church.

On the surface, it was a dispute over the appointment of officials. In reality, it was a power struggle over authority over the people.

During this time of increasing dominance, the popes also sought to establish the primacy of Rome over the church worldwide. This worsened tensions between Rome and Constantinople and eventually brought about the Schism of 1054 between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Pope Gregory VII vs King Henry IV

One famous incident during the Investiture Controversy illustrates how powerful the pope has become. Henry IV, the mightiest king in Europe at the time, had to wait for three days, stripped of his royal robes and clad as a penitent, barefoot in ice and snow, before Pope Gregory was willing to withdraw his ex-communication.

In 1075, Pope Gregory VII, through the Dictatus Papae, claimed the pope as the highest authority in the church and banned lay investiture. 

In response, the German emperor—King Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire, ordered Gregory to step down from the papacy. Gregory then excommunicated the king. Afterward, German bishops and princes sided with the pope. To save his throne, the king tried to win the pope’s forgiveness:

Stripped of his royal robes, and clad as a penitent, Henry had to come barefooted in ice and snow and request admission to the pope’s presence. All day he remained at the door of the citadel, fasting and exposed to the wintry weather, but was refused admission. A second and third day he thus humiliated and disciplined himself, and finally, on 28 January, l077, he was received by the pontiff and absolved from censure. (Cath. Ency. VI, 794)

Henry was the mightiest king in Europe at the time. Imagine the head of the mightiest nation today having to ask the pope for forgiveness in this way. This shows how powerful and arrogant the Church has become.


The 11th century was a period of change. In this and subsequent centuries, known as the High Middle Ages, the Roman Church transformed from being subordinate to secular powers to supremacy over them. It developed political power, rivaling and exceeding that of the secular rulers of Europe.

The term “Middle Ages” describes Europe between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries. The ‘High Middle Ages was the period of European history that commenced around 1000 and continued for some centuries. During these centuries, the Church became the dominant power in Europe. This was when the church became “larger in appearance than its associates.”

The Church was not satisfied to have authority over itself. It reasoned that the pope has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole church. Consequently, the pope is the ultimate ruler of the kingdoms within Christendom. Therefore:

Powerful popes, such as Alexander III (r. 1159–81), Innocent III (r. 1198–1216), Gregory IX (r. 1227–41), and Innocent IV (r. 1243–54) claimed authority over emperors and kings.

Emperors and kings, to reign lawfully, had to be in communion with the Pope. Otherwise, the Pope could declare the ruler unfit to reign. 2Emperors and kings had to … be in communion with the Pope, as essential conditions of their reigning lawfully; if these conditions were broken, of which the Pope was the judge, then … he could … declare their ruler unfit to reign. [Cath Dic, 257]

The Popes claimed the right to depose the kings of Western Europe. They were sometimes successful.

The papacy evolved into a great administrative bureaucracy. The papal court created legal machinery of great sophistication and became, in some ways, the highest court of appeals, exercising jurisdiction in a broad range of matters. (Britannica)

In the pontificate of Innocent III (1198–1216), the papal claims to authority reached their zenith. Innocent:

      • Declared that the pope stood between God and humankind as the vicar (stand in the place) of Christ.
      • Claimed jurisdiction over all matters relating to sin.
      • Involved himself in the political affairs of France and the Holy Roman Empire.
      • Called the Fourth Crusade (1202–04), which led to the sack of Constantinople.
      • Approved legislation requiring Jews to wear special clothing.

Innocent’s successors continued his policies and further extended papal authority.

Persecution of Christians

The 11th horn will wear down the saints of the Highest One (Dan 7:25). The authority of the Pope also resulted in the massacre of Christians.

For example:

Innocent III (1198–1216) called the Albigensian Crusade, which was intended to end heresy in southern France and resulted in the massacre of Christians whom the Papacy classified as heretics.

The Inquisition, which was a powerful office set up within the Catholic Church to root out and punish heresy, is infamous for the severity of its tortures. The Spanish Inquisition alone resulting in some 32,000 executions. (

The Catholic Church authorized the Waldensian massacres. (see here) The Waldensians criticized Catholic beliefs and identified the Church as the harlot of the Apocalypse. In response, the Catholic Church called for the destruction of the Waldensians, absolving all who perpetrate such crimes. In consequence, the Waldensians were looted, raped, tortured, and massacred.


Factors that, in later years, allowed the Church to become “larger” than the kings of Europe include the following:


The Church became very wealthy by demanded that all people, excluding church officials, contribute 10% of their earnings.

Ordinary people across Europe had to ‘tithe’ 10 percent of their earnings to the Church. This allowed the Church to amass a great deal of money and power, as attested by the cathedrals. Built during the Middle Ages, were the largest buildings and could be found at the center of towns and cities across the continent.

Eternal Hell

The Church ruled by superstitious fear by teaching that people would go to eternal hell unless they found salvation through the sacraments and ceremonies of the church.

To control the gates of hell can be quite a lucrative business. The church used this monopoly on salvation to wield power over political rulers:

Popes excommunicated disobedient kings. This meant the king was denied salvation and his vassals were freed from their duties to him.

If an excommunicated king continued to disobey the pope, the popes used an even more frightening weapon; the interdict, which meant that many sacraments and religious services could not be performed in the king’s lands, causing civil unrest because the king’s subjects believed they are doomed to hell.


The Church made very strict rules around marriages, forcing people to seek permission for marriage from the Church.

The Church attempted to control most marriages among the great by prohibiting marriages involving blood kin and kin by marriage to the seventh degree of relationship. Under these rules, almost all great marriages required a dispensation.


In addition to being centers for spiritual life, monastic communities became storehouses of knowledge, education, crafts, and artistic skills, and were centers for agriculture and production.

Christian monasticism, which is the practice of living ascetic and typically secluded lives dedicated to worship, became popular in the Middle Ages. 

Before the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, books were works of art. Craftsmen in monasteries created handmade books with colored illustrations, gold and silver lettering, and other adornments.


The crusades greatly enhanced papal prestige. They gave the people a common purpose and inspired waves of religious enthusiasm.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Catholic Church authorized military expeditions called Crusades to expel Muslim “infidels” from the Holy Land and to return it to Christian control. 

Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1095. Crusaders, who wore red crosses on their coats to advertise their status, believed that their service would guarantee the remission of their sins and ensure them eternal life. They also received worldly rewards, such as papal protection of their property and forgiveness of some kinds of debts.

Since the pope called for the crusades, they were also a sign of the authority of the popes over the political rulers. By participating in the crusades, in a sense, the kings submitted to the Pope’s authority. 



  • 1
    Hanson, RPC, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God – The Arian Controversy 318-381, 1987. Hanson is a wo
  • 2
    Emperors and kings had to … be in communion with the Pope, as essential conditions of their reigning lawfully; if these conditions were broken, of which the Pope was the judge, then … he could … declare their ruler unfit to reign. [Cath Dic, 257]

The Catholic Church called for the Waldensian massacres.


This is a summary of primarily the following Wikipedia articles:

Waldensian Wars

Our knowledge of the medieval history of the Waldensians comes almost exclusively from the records of the Roman Catholic Church, the same organization that condemned them as heretics and persecuted them fiercely. 

The Waldensians were an ascetic movement within Christianity, reputedly founded in Lyon around 1173. (Lyon is the third-largest city and second-largest urban area of France.) This movement quickly spread to areas that are part of France and Italy today.


The Waldensians were characterized by lay preaching, voluntary poverty, and strict adherence to the Bible. They were critical of Catholic beliefs and identified the Catholic Church as the harlot of the Book of Revelation.

The Catholic Church declared the Waldensians heretical. In 1487 Pope Innocent VIII issued the Bull of Extermination against the Waldensians, which called all to destroy the Waldensians in any way possible, absolving all who perpetrate such crimes.

The Waldensians found reformers’ ideas similar to theirs and quickly merged into the larger Protestant movement. But the Waldensians were still fiercely persecuted, for example, in the Massacre of Mérindol in 1545. 

In 1655 the soldiers of the Duke of Savoy did not simply slaughter the Waldensian; they looted, raped, and tortured. This became known as the Piedmont Easter massacre, and was caused by constant pressure exerted by the Council of Propagation of the Faith and the Extermination of Heresy, an institution of the Roman Catholic Church; established in Turin in 1650.

In 1685, King Louis XIV of France began to purge his territory of Waldensians. French troops forced 8,000 to convert to Catholicism, killed about 2,000 Waldensians, and incarcerated about 8,500 in several fortresses. The government confiscated Waldensian properties and the valleys were resettled by Catholic subjects. 

Such persecutions continued intermittently until the French Revolution when the Waldenses were assured liberty of conscience.

Waldensian Beliefs

Waldensian symbol – A light shines in the darkness

The Waldensians translated the New Testament into their language. The French Bible, translated in 1535, was partly based on this Waldensian translation.

They rejected several beliefs widely held in Christian Europe of the era. For example, the Waldensians held that:

    • Temporal offices were not meant for preachers of the Gospel,
    • Relics were no different from any other bones and should not be regarded as special or holy,
    • Pilgrimages served only to spend hard-earned money,
    • Holy water was no more efficacious than rainwater, and that
    • Prayer was just as effectual if offered in a church or a barn.
    • They scoffed at the doctrine of transubstantiation.

They spoke of the Catholic Church as the harlot of the Apocalypse (Babylon) and identified the Papacy as the Antichrist.

Catholic Response

The Catholic Church excommunicated them in 1180 and forced them from Lyon. By 1215, the Catholic Church declared them heretical and subjected them to intense persecution.

Illustrations depicting Waldensians as witches in Le champion des dames, by Martin Le France, 1451
Waldensians depicted as witches

In 1487 Pope Innocent VIII issued the Bull of Extermination against the Vaudois (Waldensians – see the book Israel of the Alps-chapter II), in which he called all rulers of nations to take up arms for their destruction. He summoned all Catholics to a crusade against them, absolved all who should take part in this crusade from all ecclesiastical penalties, legitimized their possession of goods that they might have stolen, and promised the remission of all sins to everyone who should kill a heretic. Moreover, he annulled all contracts with the “Vaudois, commanded their domestics to abandon them, forbade anyone to give them any assistance, and authorized all and sundry to seize upon their goods.”

Joined the Reformation

The Waldensians found the Reformers’ ideas similar to theirs and quickly merged into the larger Protestant movement. In 1532, they formally became a part of the Calvinist tradition. Some Protestant scholars regard the Waldensians as early forerunners of the Reformation, similar to the followers of John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, who had maintained the apostolic faith in the face of Catholic oppression and were also persecuted for it.

Sixteenth Century

The Massacre of Mérindol took place in 1545 when Francis I of France ordered the Waldensians of the village of Mérindol to be punished for dissident religious activities. Provençal and Papal soldiers killed hundreds or even thousands of Waldensian villagers. 

In 1560, Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy ordered all Protestants in his domain to revert to Catholicism. The Waldensians petitioned him, saying they had always stayed loyal to him and that their religion was the same as Jesus Christ originally taught. 

The duke’s noblemen were Catholic while the Waldensians were peasants. Tensions rose and eventually escalated to violence from 4 April to 5 July 1560.

Charles Emmanuel II

In the 17th century, the Duke of Savoy attempted to exterminate the Waldensians. This led to the exodus and dispersion of the Waldensians to other parts of Europe. (Savoy is a region in Europe. It was annexed to France in 1792.)

The Savoyard–Waldensian Wars were a series of conflicts between the Waldensians and the Savoyard troops from 1655 to 1690 (The Savoyard state is a name used by historians to denote collectively all of the states ruled by the counts and dukes of Savoy.) The Savoyard–Waldensian Wars were largely persecutions of Waldensians, rather than a military conflict. The Waldensians were nearly annihilated. In summary: 

In January 1655, Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy commanded the Waldensians to attend Mass or move to the upper valleys of their homeland. Since this was in the midst of winter, the order was intended to persuade the Waldensians to become Catholics. However, most of the populace abandoned their homes in the lower valleys. They “waded through the icy waters, climbed the frozen peaks, and at length reached the homes of their impoverished brethren of the upper Valleys, where they were warmly received.”

By mid-April 1655, the Duke sent troops into the upper valleys. The Duke’s forces did not simply slaughter the inhabitants. They are reported to have unleashed an unprovoked campaign of looting, rape, and torture.

According to a report by Peter Liegé:

Little children were torn from the arms of their mothers and their heads dashed against the rocks. Mangled bodies were thrown on the highways or fields, to be devoured by beasts. The sick and the aged were burned alive in their dwellings. Some had their hands and arms and legs lopped off, and fire applied to the severed parts to staunch the bleeding and prolong their suffering. Some were roasted alive, some disemboweled; or tied to trees and their hearts cut out. Others were buried alive. Parents were compelled to look on while their children were first raped, then massacred, before being themselves permitted to die. (Wylie, J. A. (1996) [1860]. History of the Waldenses. Hartland. p. 132. ISBN 9780923309305)

This massacre became known as the Piedmont Easter.

Alexis Muston, a 19th-century French Protestant pastor based in Bordeaux, claimed in L’Israel des Alpes (Israel of the Alps – Paris 1852) that neither Duke Charles Emmanuel II of Savoy nor the Waldensians themselves had sought to wage war and that both parties were content to maintain the peace. These atrocities were committed due to the constant pressure exerted by the New Council of Propagation of the Faith and the Extermination of Heresy (Concilium Novum de Propaganda Fide et Extirpandis Haereticis), an institution of the Roman Catholic Church established in Turin in 1650.

King Louis XIV

The 1598 Edict of Nantes guaranteed freedom of religion to the Protestant subjects in France. In 1685, King Louis XIV of France revoked this edict and started to purge his territory of Waldensians. French troops sent into the Waldensian areas forced 8,000 to convert to Catholicism through baptism and by placing children in Catholic homes. On 22 May about 2,000 Waldensians were killed in the fighting or massacred afterward. About 3,000 left for Germany. About 8,500 were incarcerated in several fortresses. The government confiscated Waldensian properties and the valleys were resettled by Catholic subjects. 

On 3 January 1687, the released prisoners were granted permission to leave the country, but only 3,841 had survived by that time and only 2565 reached Geneva.

The Genevan Waldensian exiles formed a rebel army of about 900 men in the summer of 1689, with the objective of returning home and retaking possession of their valleys. This event is known as the “Glorious Return”. The Waldensians suffered many losses due to hardships during the journey. French troops blocked their way, but the Protestants defeated them and reached their valleys on 6 September. They plundered the farms of the new Catholic settlers and ambushed ducal patrols. The Glorious Return was a great success, despite the heavy casualties.

Victor Amadeus II

But Louis XIV was determined to crush the Waldensians once and for all. He demanded Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II to cooperate. Victor Amadeus requested several times that the Waldensians would pack up and leave his domain again without being attacked, but this offer was refused.

Louis moved to finish the Waldensians off himself. However, on 28 May 1690 Victor Amadeus signed a truce with the Waldensians and made plans for a joint attack on the French invaders. Also, on 4 June, Victor Amadeus II recalled the Waldensians from abroad back home to Piedmont. The vast majority did indeed return to their valleys in northwestern Italy.

In this way, Duke Victor Amadeus effectively put an end to the Savoyard-Waldensian Wars, as the duchy once again tolerated the presence of Protestant subjects on its territory, and protected them against the French troops invading Piedmont.

But this was not to last long. On 29 June 1696, Savoy concluded a separate peace with France, which required that all Protestants be expelled from Savoy. In 1698, Victor Amadeus forced about 3,000 Protestants to leave the Waldensian valleys.

French Revolution

After the French Revolution, beginning in 1789, the Waldenses were assured liberty of conscience.

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