Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was Pepin the Short's son. Pepin the Short was the Mayor of the Palace of the last Merovingian king -and he eventually was crowned king of Franks in 752 by Pope Zachary (see at "From Merovingians to Carolingians"). The move to the Carolingians, who were Austrasians in origin, brought to two novelties. Since then the Frankish king was augmented through the consecration, as he was no more a layman only. On a other hand, that brought to a development of granting lands in the purpose of securing faithfulness of the Greats in the Frankish dominions to the new dynasty. Under Charles the Hammer, who was the one who initiated that policy, they confiscated numerous domains from the Church as Pippin the Short was forced to settle the question. Some lands were given back to Church as others were given the legal status of 'precaria verbo regis,' which means 'lands hold in a precarious way in king's name.' From one point of view, that widened the tendency to a kingly feudality, a system by which benefits were confered lifelong and to provide the Frankish king with a military. From a other point of view, that also determined the characteristic of the Carolingian rule until the end of Charlemagne's reign, which made of conquests and the grant of lands conquered, the way to maintain the cohesion of aristocracy
Charles had been born about 742 A.D. At the age of 10 he was together with his brother Carloman, and his father, anointed by the pope during the event of 752. When Pepin died in 768, Frankish kingdom was divided into Charles and Carloman. About 769 A.D. the relations between the Franks, the Lombards and papacy are not clearly established as Bertrada, the mother to Charles, is considering Italian marriages as the affair ended with the timely death of Carloman and the exclusion of Bertrada. As he married Hildegard by 772, Charles began his personal reign as in Rome Hadrian I, a pope of exception, seated on Peter's throne. Carloman, who ruled from Samoussy, in the French department of the Aisne, seems to have tended to favour the Lombards in the frame of the relationships between the Franks, the papacy and the Lombards. Carloman's death thus allowed Charles to reunite his brother's territories to his, having blinded the Austrasian magnates who refused to recognize him. The sons of Carloman fled to the Lombards. Carloman had married Gerberge, the daughter to Desiderius, the king of the Lombards. Since then, during 40 years, in a inordinated way, Charles was to engage himself into a long series of military campaigns at the effect of maintaining, strengthening and transforming the Frankish dominions as he eventually was to build a powerful Christian kingdom. He quickly settled discord between Pope Adrian I (elected in 772) and the Lombards (near who Carloman's widow had taken refuge with her children), and he entered Rome in 773 A.D. where he became aware that he had to be the champion of Christendom. His coronation as emperor did not take place until 26 years later however
|click to a chart of the Carolingian empire|
From 774 to 785 A.D., Charles waged war at the same time against Saxons, and against Lombards who were trying to regain their lost kingdom. Charles had settled in Paderborn, at the closest to Saxe. Saxons were German pagans living in the northernmost part of Germany. As soon as 772, Charles had led a campaign against them, but they took the opportunity of Frankish king's involvement in Italy to rise again. That campaign had allowed to destroy their sacred tree, the 'Irminsul.' The council of Kiersy (September 774) stated that Saxons would have no other choice than baptism of death. During 7 years, until 781 A.D., Charles campaigned against them to achieve that policy. A first summit of this war occurred in 777: at the 'Champ de Mai' ('Spring Hosting') of Paderborn, many Saxons were baptised. The war against the Saxons was to last 33 years in total as the Franks never could meet a battle in line and always had to fight a anti-guerilla warfare. During the campaigns of those years, the Franks eventually reached to the Elbe river, hence to the Slavs, with, for example, the Adobrites
At the same time Charles had to lead a swift campaign into Italy to protect Rome again the junction of diverse ennemies: some Lombards dukes, the former reigning family of Lombardy -helped by the Eastern emperor Copronymus. In 777-778, concerned about Spanish Church and having received the allegiance and promise of help of three Saracen emirs against the king of Cordoba, he entered northern Spain. In Charles' mind, it was about pacifying the lands beyond the Pyreneans so to warrant peace in Aquitania and Septimania as the move also was a attack against a Umayad, a enemy to the Abassids which lied at the East of the Byzantine empire. That campaign did not unfolded as successfully as forecasted. Traitors had been moved away. The Frankish ost took back to France as, en route, it plundered the city of Pampelona, a Basque city, but a Christian one. It is in that frame that the famous ambush of Roncesvalles took place, leading to the death of Roland. This is at the origin of the 'Chanson of Roland.' The Roncesvalles ambush dissuaded Charles to ever be back in Spain. By 779 A.D. the king took the capitulary of Herstal, a one about justice and the slaves' trade
By late 780 A.D., Charles considered that important stages had been reached and he decided to leave for a kind of 'triumphal tour' in Pavia and Rome (it was a time when he initiated a policy of local kings, like Pippin in Italy and Louis in Aquitania. In terms of international relations, Irene turned the imperatrix of the East as she has nothing against more closeness with the Franks. From his sojourn in Italy, Charles eventually brought back Alcuin and other scholars with him. With the operations against the Saxons taking back (the Franks were defeated at the Süntelgebirge and they retorted with the massacre of Verden), queen Hildegarde and Bertrada, Charles' mother died by 783. With the Saxons exhausted, Wittekind, their leader, by 785, accepted baptism as Charles edicted the Saxon Capitulary. That victory upon the Saxons by the Christian king finally represented the victory the Romans never could acquired upon Germania. By the Franks, Alcuin and Paul the Deacon unified and purified liturgy as Alcuin was a go-between for those both cesaropapists which were Charles and Offa, Anglo-saxon king of Mercia. Then, as Adrian I tended to side with Irene who wished a council upon Iconoclasm, king Charles endeavoured to put his enlarged Frankish kingdom in. He appointed Austrasian counts and respected the local cultures hopint to halt plots and miscellaneous motions -of which the pope worrying to assert one's authority in the Italian Peninsula- which occurred from Italy to Saxony, and Britany or Spain. 787 A.D. saw the definitive submission of Bavaria. By late 788, as he was now 46 years old, Charles was reaching a first apogee. His cesaropapism was supervising papacy, Italy was pacified, Bavaria almost annexed, the Saxons and the Avars contained and Byzantium afar, despite the beginnings of the council of Nicea. A relative peace was now extant in the Frankish dominions!
After he protected the Abodrites against other Slaves, the Wilzes, beyond the Elbe river, the 'Admonitio generalis' was the first effort, by 789 A.D. to built a City of God through cesaropapism, the oath of faithfulness and the missi dominici. 790 turned the first year without any military campaign as 791 the year of the main campaign against the Avars. Such a relative peace however was swiftly questioned. 792 and 793 saw a renewal of the Saxon revolt, the Avars, Italy, the Adoptianist heresy, the plot of Pippin the Hunchback, a Arab raid in Septimania, hunger and even the failure of the Carolina Fossae. Since then, Charles was going to be satisfied in defending and strengthening the dominions he assembled as those, from now on, are confusing themselves with the West. First, the cesaropapist council of Frankfurt, in 794 A.D. as it mingles management of the Church and of the worldly affairs, was a response to that of Nicea and he also perpetuated the misunderstanding by which the Franks thought that the Byzantine council had authorized the adoration of images. As queen Fastrada died, Charles get maried for the third time as pope Leo III turned the new, disputed pope in Rome by 796. He also was the first one the election of who was first notified to the Frankish king and the eastern basileus no more. The pope gave the Standard of Rome to Charles and the Avars were definitively submitted. As they neared the year 800 A.D., a attack against Leo in Rome et the weakness of Byzantines make that Alcuin, for example, saw the king of Franks like the sole power upon which the Church may relie as the Roman tradition of a theocracy in the West was having that Charles like the one to put itself into practice. As queen Liutgarde had died and Charles never to marry again, he left for Rome. That was the coronation of 800 A.D., which was a restoration of the pope and a imperial event cluttered with debates as it remains however one of the important stages in the history of the European West
As he had reached 60 years of age, Charles' energy passed, after his coronation, to a legislative activity which, through cesaropapist capitularies, was aiming to the City of God with a kind of renaissance of abstract political concepts like the 'res publica,' missi ascribed specific districts, a new oath imposing a active participation. 801 A.D. had a new embassy from the king of Persia as both powers had a common interest to agree, like about Spain, Byzantium, or the Holy Land. As far as how the Byzantines reacted to the imperial restoration in the West, a balance of strength occurred as, following the fall of impress Irene, Byzantium ended to renew his attacks against Venetia and Dalmatia before conceding, under emperor Michael I, about 812 A.D., that two empires now were extant, the one in the East and the one in the West. Generally, military activities of Charles as assisted by his sons, would tend to be satisfied with securing borders only, but troubles were to remain there until the end of the reign, by 814, with Slavs, Danes and Sarracene pirats South. Alcuin died by 804 A.D and since 805, during more than 2 years, a grave famine struck and trade to the Slavs and the former lands of the Avars had to pass through specified toll cities. By 806 A.D., Charlemagne, with his health in evolution and a first generation of his companions died, had to consider sharing the Empire, at his death, between his sons, or the 'Divisio regnorum.' He now lacked people for being missi or soldiers to serve the ost. A new Persian embassy came to the Franks by 807. After the death of Pippin, king of Italy by 810 A.D., Charles, at 69 years old, wrote his will as his son Charles died by 811. By 813, Charlemagne had his son Louis of Aquitania to come in Aachen. As he had turned the sole heir now, Charles -likely because Byzantium had eventually accepted the Western empire- had him, by September, recognized like the heir to the imperial title by the clerk or lay Greats. By the end of his reign, Charlemagne was surrounded by sycophants only and he developed a kind of authoritarianism against malfunctions which could not miss to happen in vast territories he wanted since to rule like a empire. Thence no more official wanted to take any initiative and every case was turned up to the emperor, the orders of who they waited for. Eventually came January 814. Charlemagne caught a cold, either during hunting, or getting out of the baths, which turned a pleuresia which caused his death of January 28th. According to some, a set of bad omens seemed to have announced the emperor's death. They swiftly interred him -as he had not express how he wanted to- in the Aachen Chapel, likely because they feared that the abbey of St-Denis came and claim the corpse. When Otto III, of the Ottonian lineage to which the pope had passed the Empire by 962 A.D., had the tomb of Charlemagne opened by the Whit Sunday of the year 1,000 A.D. to obtain a approval of his universalist utopia, they found the corpse of Charles mummified, sitting on the marble throne, with the globe and scepter in hand and the New Testament on his knees. Charles had been burried the Bible in hand, his finger pointing to Matthew 16, 26: 'What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?' Charles, when getting old, suffered gout and had come to limp. The sarcophagus into which Charles had scheduled to be interred, was figuring Proserpina and Pluto, the goddess and god of the UnderwoldWebsite Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, http://schoolsempire.6te.net. Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 4/4/2015. contact us at email@example.com