By Jeffrey Wiegand
This is a map of Francia in the early 8th century. Christianity is the dominate religion spread by the Western Roman Empire which fell 300 years before. Charlemagne was born in 742/747/748, the exact year is still unknown. It is believe that he was born somewhere in modern day Germany or Belgium, although that exact location is unknown.
Above is Pepin the Short father to Charlemagne. He and this brother (Carloman) inherited the rule of the Fraankish Empire. Six years after their fathers death Carloman retired and left control of the entire empire to Pepin.
This painting dictates warfare in the middle ages. One of his first acts as king was to go to war against the Lombard king, Aistulf. He also began expanding the empire further and further towards the papal states in northern Italy. It is believed that Charlemagne grew up traveling with his fathers military campaigns, therefore he received only a elementary level of official schooling.
This is Carloman 1, Charlemagne's brother, after their fathers death both ruled until Carloman's sudden death in 771. Making him the sole leader of the Franks.
One time honored expectation of Frankish rulers was to conquer and plunder, Charlemagne was no exception. He fought the Saxons for 30 years before they gave into his demands of accepting Christanity, which led him to marry a Saxon royalty. At about the same time he liberated all of Italy and claimed it as his own. He also fought Muslims in Spain.
As graphically explained above, Charlemagne sort of followed in the footsteps of the Frankish kings before him. To use this system of the grand scale of the empire at its peak simple add more steps between peasants and king. In this way it is simple to have a centralized government that is not too big. Furthermore kingship is passed down through the bloodline.
This is a artist representation of coronation ceremony of Charlemagne. Making him ruler of Italy and giving him considerable power within the church.
This is pope Leo III who crowned Charlemagne, one of the powers given to him was the ability to appoint bishops and clerics.
The picture above is of a synods that happened during Charlemagne's reign. But these religious meeting were different from the council of Nicaea which came before. These religious figures were summoned by royal order to consider an agenda set by the royal court. The goals of the court were to strengthen church structure, clarify power and responsibility of each member, improve quality, resources, and root out paganism. He had full control of clerics and the religion and was allowed to define orthodox doctrine.
Above is a picture of David Axelrod, David Plaouffe, and Jon Favreau, some of Obama's top advisors. Einhard filled a similar role for Charlemagne. He was a dedicated servant and talented writer and architect. Einhard was born 770 from a royal family, at a young age he was sent to a monetarist to be educated. He was then accepted into Charlemagne's court in 791 or 792.
Above is the Aachen cathedral it was built in 796. In fact all of Charlemagne great public buildings were manged by Einhard. Other buildings include place of Aachen and Ingelheim.
Above is the Vatican which was visted by Einhard in 806. He was on a diplomatic mission to get papal approval on the partition of the empire. Einhard was also sent on other diplomatic adventures, most notable the 802 hostage with the Saxons. Charlemagne trusted Einhard, shown by theses tasks.
This is a depiction of Charlemagne and Einhard from a copy 1521 copy of Vita Caroli Magni. Or translated as Life of Charlemagne for those who don't speak Latin. It is a biography of Charlemagne by Einhard. In it he intimately describes every aspect of Charlemagne's character and life. This book is the best and most detailed biography from the middle ages, much of our knowledge of Charlemagne comes from this book and others written by Einhard. Vita Caroli Magni was extremely popular in the middle ages and over a 100 copies survived.
His religious reforms solidified the structure of catholic church and public pray practices. He opened up Christianity to outside forces through government sponsored religious meetings. Charlemagne also built two large church which was still valued and admired today.
He demonstrated Feudalism on a grand scale and set it on a path to be the dominate form of government for hundreds of years to come.
Charlemagne has a large impact on the culture of the Middle Ages and Europe today. Reforms in his kingdom were spread throughout, creating a common identity in Europe, its from this that trade and commerce sprung up between the once fractured nations. During this reign he promoted art, culture, and education. He encouraged schooling throughout the kingdom and spread the language Latin, which serves as the base for many languages today.
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