Narrated by the late actor Ossie Davis, this documentary tells the story of the Christian Church’s first one thousand years, from the Last Supper to the Fall of Rome to the “new” Holy Roman Empire’s Otto the Great, German king from 936 and Holy Roman Emperor from 962 until his death in 974. He was crowned by Pope John XII in Rome but soon became disillusioned with this pope, a wild young man with a taste for women. John would die in the arms of one of his concubines and would leave nothing but trouble behind. Otto’s son Otto II would hold the empire together, but his son Otto III would plunge the Holy Roman Empire into a political crisis in the late 900s. Yet at the turn of the first millennium, 1000 A.D., it seems that all of Europe has turned Christian. Even the Vikings of Scandinavia come within the fold of the church. But two long-standing conflicts remained — between Rome and Byzantium, as each church excommunicated each other after reconciliation could not be reached; and a stand-off between Pope Gregory VII and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IX over who has the right to appoint ecclesiastical bishops or investiture. Gregory excommunicated Henry, who then spent three days begging the pope for forgiveness, to save his immortal soul.
But that does not end the power struggle between emperors and popes, which would culminate 400 years later in the Protestant Reformation, and at least 200 years of religious warfare.