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The demise of the Roman state in Western Europe began with the deposition of the last Western Roman Emperor in the year 476. However, the culture of Late Antiquity did not disappear, but rather had a formative influence on nascent Europe through a process of transformation. The empire of the Franks emerged during the great migrations as the most effective and lasting imperial formation of the Germanic peoples. The Frankish empire of Charlemagne, whose coronation as Emperor in the year 800 effected a transfer of the Roman Empire to the Franks, barely survived his death, but nevertheless became a foundation of present-day Europe. Several divisions resulted in the establishment of a western Frankish and an eastern Frankish kingdom. What was to become Germany emerged from the eastern Frankish kingdom, which carried forward the title of Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages the empire was a feudal association in which the feudal lord and the vassal pledged themselves to mutual loyalty.

Surviving testimonia to everyday culture and authentic works of medieval art give us insight into the importance of religion and the imperial church and into medieval society and the class divisions of the estates.