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Charlemagne: Dream of a Unified Chrisendom


His father was Pepin the Short, who in 751 ended the Merovingian lineage of ... after a victory March), commemorated in the epic poem, The Song of Roland (Count ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Charlemagne: Dream of a Unified Chrisendom

CharlemagneDream of a Unified Chrisendom
  • a thoughtful endeavor by Emily Ehrlich

.of German blood and speech
  • Charlemagne is the name given to Charles, Son of
    Pepin, by later generations who would admire him.
    Charles was born in 742 (the location is still
    disputed), and was, as biographer Will Durant put
    it, of German blood and speech. He spoke
    Teutonic, although his book reading was limited
    and he could not write.
  • His father was Pepin the Short, who in 751 ended
    the Merovingian lineage of Kings and was declared
    king of the Franks.

The Donation of Constantine
  • In 754, Pepin came to the aid of the Christian
    Church in Rome by defending them against the
    imposing Lombards, and by donating land to the
    papal states. In return, Pope Stephen II
    bestowed translatio imperii upon Pepin, by decree
    of a false document the churched forged.
  • The Donation of Constantine proclaimed that
    whoever was the recipient of the Donation would
    be King of the Christian Empire, and more
    importantly, would be responsible for the
    protection and expansion of the Christian World.
  • The Donation was a step towards the
    Christianization of the Barbarian peoples of
    Western and Northern Europe. With this new
    responsibility disguised as a Papal honor, Pepin
    now believed it his duty to organize and expand
    the Christian Empire which he now ruled.
  • When Pepin died in 768, Charles (who would later
    be named Charlemagne) and his brother inherited
    the Kingdom. When his brother died soon there
    after, Charlemagne accepted his fathers role of
    protector of the Church, and felt that it was a
    decree from God that he create a unified empire
    in His name.

Pepins Acceptance of the Donation of Constantine
The First Stages of Expansion
  • Charlemagnes first campaign for expansion was in
    Italy, where he immediately defeated Desiderius,
    King of the Lombards, and was crowned by Rome the
    new Lombardian King. Not only did this secure
    the independence of the papal states, it also
    brought new wealth and new people to
    Charlemagnes ever-growing Christian kingdom.
  • More of a threat than the Lombards were the
    Saxons, who continually struggled against and
    resisted Christianization. After 32 years of
    battle, Francia finally annexed Saxony on its
    northeastern fronteir.
  • Whilst subduing the Saxons to the north,
    Charlemagne also campaigned in Spain in 778.
    This campaigne is particularly remembered for the
    Basque ambush on Charlemagnes guards after a
    victory March), commemorated in the epic poem,
    The Song of Roland (Count Roland being the Breton
    leader of the March). The location of the ambush
    would later be called the Spanish March,
    representing a buffer zone between Muslim Spain
    and Frkanish Gaul.

European Map Displaying Saxony, the Kingdom of
the Lombards, and The Spanish March
the Drang nach Osten (Push to the East)
  • The Slavic Kingdom of the Avars (Huns), an
    Asiatic tribe along the upper Danube, had always
    been a a terrifying and powerful threat to
    Charlemagnes growing Kingdom. The two were
    ultimately polarized one was an assimilated
    collection of tribes under a standardized
    religion that rejected tribal customs and
    heritage, the other reveled in just that, and
    its nomadic barbaric people were Chrisendoms
    antithesis. Charlemagne finally defeated the
    imposing power of the Avars, and over the period
    of 791 to 795 converted their Kingdom into a
    tributary state.
  • The victory over the Avars opened up the Danubian
    Plain to Christian (and, more importantly,
    German) culture and colonization. This marked
    the beginning of Christianitys eastern
    expansion, known as the Drang nach Osten, or the
    Push to the East.
  • Another eastern victory occurred when Charlemagne
    defeated Tassilo, Duke of Bavaria, the duchy of
    Bavaria now joined Chrisendom. Another protected
    march (border-zone)was formed, this one called
    the Ost Mark, also known as Austria.

Map of Bavaria and Danube River
Unified West, Estranged East The Birth of the
Holy Roman Empire
  • In 800, what had once been unified territory of
    the Roman Empire was once again under a central
    authority, that of Charlemagne (with the
    exception of the British isles, which Charlemagne
    never reached). His Kingdom extended from the
    Elbe River to the Pyrenees, from the North Sea to
    southern Italy. Charlemagne ruled and protected
    the Christian Kingdom, and since the Church was
    in Rome, it could be said that he had the utmost
    authority in Rome, surpassing that of the papacy.
  • When religious differences in Christianity
    between Irene, Empress of Byzantium and the Roman
    Church (primarily over the issue of iconoclasm,
    or image worship) came to a head, the Church
    relied on Charlemagne for protection and
    leadership. On Christmas Day, 800, he was
    crowned as the first Holy Roman Emperor, naming
    him the divinely appointed leader of the earthly
    Christian world (as far as Latin Christianity was
  • Hail to Charles the Augustus, crowned by God the
    great and peace-bringing Emperor of the Romans!
    His head was annointed with holy oil, the Pope
    renamed Charlemagne (again) as Emperor and

Charles the Augustus, Holy Roman Emperor
Aachen in the Holy Roman Empire
  • Charlemagne decided to create a capitol for the
    Holy Roman Empire, much like Constantinple wasfor
    Byzantium. Ironically, he chose Aachen
    (Aix-la-Chapelle), not Rome, where he constructed
    the Palace Chapel, obviously mimicking the
    Byzantium style and architecture.

Administration of a Vast Kingdom
  • Charlemagnes kingdom stretched between the
    Vistula and the Atlantic, between the Baltic and
    the Pyrenees, including almost all of Italy and
    the Balkans. Its seems almost incomprehensible
    that one man could rule such a vast empire, but
    Charlemagnes administration was the most
    enlightened government in Europe since Theodoric
    the Goth.
  • Charlemagne created a centralized state ruled by
    royal authority. However, he employed a system
    of vassals in a court to maintain order in the
    Kingdom. Each district was under the watch of a
    count who became the primary link between the
    local and central governments.
  • To prevent a count from gaining too much power,
    Charlemagne created the missi dominici, a group
    of envoys who inquired into the abuses of power
    throughout the Empire. They worked in
    conjunction with an elite group of guards called
    the vassi dominici,
  • Perhaps most essential to the government were the
    sixty-five Capitularii, written legislature that
    imposed law.

Capitularii and the Assimilation of Barbaric Codes
  • The Capitularii were not necessarily an organized
    system, but rather a reinvention of and extension
    of old barbarian codes to fit the new Christian
  • Included were the old wergild, ordeals, trial by
    combat, and punishment by mutilation. Relapse
    into paganism was punishable by death. So was
    eating meat during Lent.
  • Some Capitularii were moral counsels, or answers
    to questions that had been addressed. For
    example, one stated, It is necessary that every
    man should seek to the best of his stregnth and
    ability to serve God and walk in the way of His
    precepts for the Lord Emperor cannot watch over
    every man in personal discipline.
  • Capitularii also governed sexual and marital
  • In essence, the Capitularii were meant to convert
    Barbarianism to a more docile, easily controlable
    Christian civilization.
  • Interesting Fact Charlemagne was against slavery
    and serfdom, for it was a Barbarian practice that
    resulted from the battles between pagan tribes.
    He worked for the cause of free peasantry and
    against the spread of serfdom, because he
    believed it to be a relapse into uncivilized

Internal Improvements and Education
  • For public lands, Charlemagne issued a Capitulare
    de villis, a ridiculously detailed plan for all
    state income. It explained how forests,
    wastelands, ports, and propery of the state
    should be maintained. It also encouraged and
    protected commerce by standardizing weights and
    measures and prices. Roads and bridges were
    maintained or repaired.
  • To improve literacy and overall education,
    Charlemagne imported scholars from Ireland,
    Britain and Italy. From these schools would
    spring the future universities of Europe. It is
    important to note, however, that while literacy
    improved, there was no renaissance in literature,
    and no great works from this time period were
    produced, with the exception of Einhards Vita
    Carogli Magni, a biography of Charlemagne.

The Carolingian Legacy of Charlemagne
  • Literacy is a major part of Carolngian culture,
    because of the impact it played on sustaining
    Charlemanges centralized Christian Empire.
  • An educated(literate) clergy could undertake many
    of the administrative tasks of government,
    thereby sealing the bond between government and
  • An educated clergy also ensured the acceptance of
    orthodox doctrine as a uniform liturgy.
  • The uniform script, known as the Caroline
    minuscule, achieves the publication of a uniform
    Mass book, book of lessons, and overall study of
    the liturgy and gospel.
  • Barbaric tribes lacked a written language for the
    most part. Literacy unified them under a common
  • Besides the strategic reasons above, a literate
    culture raised the prestige and authority of
    Charlemagne, who painted himself as the defender
    of the Church, of orthodoxy, education, and
    western civilization

Charlemagne. Encyclopedia of World Biography,
2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998.
Reproduced in Biography Resource Center,
Farmington Hills, Mich. The Gale Group. 2004.
http// Ch
arlemagne. Historic World Leaders. Gale
Research, 1994. Reproduced in Biography Resource
Center, Farmington Hills, Mich. The Gale Group.
2004. http//
RC Durant, Will. King Charlemagne, History of
Civilization Vol III, The Age of Faith.
magne.htm Einhard the Life of Charlemagne,
translated by Samuel Epes Turner, (New York
Harper Brothers, 1880). Translation reprinted
by University of Michigan Press in 1960. Fanning,
Steven. Donation of Constantine, The Catholic
Encyclopedia, Volume V. http//
cathen/05118a.htm Tinkler, Michael C.
Charlemagne, The Catholic Encyclopedia Volume
III. http//