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Carolus Magnus

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Charlemagne (c. 747-814)—also known as Charles the Great, Karl der Große in German, & Carolus Magnus in Latin—was king of the Franks from 771 to 814, nominally King of the Lombards, and Holy Roman Emperor.

Table of contents

Life

Arguably the founder of the Frankish Empire in Western Europe, Charlemagne was the elder son of Pepin the Short (714–768, reigned 751-768), the brother of the Lady Bertha (mother of Roland), the first Carolingian king, and his wife Bertrada of Laon (720–783).

On the death of Pepin the kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his brother Carloman, son of Carloman (who ruled Austrasia). Carloman died in December, 771, leaving Charlemagne the leader of a reunified Frankish kingdom. Charlemagne was engaged in almost constant battle throughout his reign. He conquered Saxony in the 8th century, a goal that had been the unattainable dream of Augustus. It took Charlemagne more than 18 battles to win this victory. He proceeded to force Catholicism on the conquered, slaughtering those who refused to convert. He dreamed of the reconquest of Spain, but never fully succeeded in this goal.

In 800, at Mass on Christmas day in Rome, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor, a title that had been out of use in the West since the abdication of Romulus Augustulus in 476. While this title helped to make Europe independent of Constantinople, Charlemagne did not use the title until much later, as he feared it would create dependence on the Pope.

Charlemagne organized his empire into 350 counties, each led by an appointed count. Counts served as judges, administrators, and enforced capitularies. To enforce loyalty, he set up the system of Missi Dominici, meaning 'Envoys of the Lord.' In this system, one representative of the church and one representative of the emperor would head to the different counties and every year report back to Charlemagne on their status.

When Charlemagne died in 814, he was buried in his own Cathedral at Aachen. He was succeeded by his only son to survive him, Louis the Pious, after whose reign the empire was divided between his three surviving sons according to Frankish tradition. These three kingdoms would be the foundations of later France and the Holy Roman Empire.

It is difficult to understand Charlemagne's attitude toward his daughters. None of them contracted a sacramental marriage. This may have been an attempt to control the number of potential alliances. After his death the surviving daughters entered or were forced to enter monasteries. At least one of them, Bertha, had a recognized relationship, if not a marriage, with Angilbert, a member of Charlemagne's court circle.

Cultural significance

Charlemagne's reign is often referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance because of the flowering of scholarship, literature, art and architecture. Most of the surviving works of classical Latin were copied and preserved by Carolingian scholars. The pan-European nature of Charlemagne's influence is indicated by the origins of many of the men who worked for him: Alcuin, an Anglo-Saxon; Theodulf, a Visigoth; Paul the Deacon, a Lombard; and Angilbert and Einhard, Franks.

Charlemagne enjoyed an important afterlife in European culture. One of the great medieval literature cycles, the Charlemagne cycle or Matter of France, centres around the deeds of Charlemagne's historical commander of the Breton border, Roland, and the paladins who served as a counterpart to the knights of the Round Table; their tales were first told in the chansons de geste. Charlemagne himself was accorded sainthood inside the Holy Roman Empire after the 12th Century. He was a model knight as one of the Nine Worthies.

Wives

  1. Himiltrude
  2. Desiderata ?
  3. Hildegard of Savory (married Abt 771) (758-783)
  4. Fastrada (married 784) (died 794)
  5. Luitgard (married 794) (died 800)

Children

  1. Pepin the Hunchback (d. 813)
  2. Charles, King of Neustria (d. 811)
  3. Pepin, King of Italy (ruled 781-810)
  4. Louis I The Pious, King of Aquitaine, Emperor (ruled 814-840)
  5. Lothar (d. 780)
  6. Six Daughters (Hildegarde?, Gisele?, Adelheid?, Bertha?, Lothaire?, Rotrud?)
  7. Aupais ?

External links

References


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This page has been accessed 6150 times. This page was last modified 23:57, 21 Sep 2004. Content is available under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.


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