Charlemagne, Or Charles The Great Charles I. (Ger. Karl der Grosse), emperor of the West and king of France, born according to some in Aix-la-Chapclle, according to others in the castle of Salzburg, near Neustadt, in the Bavarian district of Lower Franconia, April 2, 742, died in Aix-la-Chapelle, Jan. 28, 814. The second son of Pepin, the Frankish king dom reverted to him and his brother Carlo-man on his father's demise in 768. Carlo-man dying three years later, Charles secured the undivided sovereignty. He now found himself master of the whole of Gaul and western Germany; his ambition, however, was unsatisfied, and a succession of fortunate wars in Italy, Spain, and Germany added largely to his already extensive dominion. His first conquest was that of Lombardy. Motives of discontent and estrangement had for several years existed between him and Deside-rius, king of the Lombards. He had before his accession to the throne married Desiderata, the daughter of the latter, and had recently sent her back in a scornful manner to her father.
Desiderius himself had granted an asylum to the nephews and some of the bitterest enemies of his son-in-law; at the same time he assumed a hostile attitude toward the popes of Rome, whom Pepin had made firm allies of the Carlovingians by bestowing upon them the exarchate of Ravenna. Charlemagne, yielding to his own anger and to the entreaties of Pope Adrian I., crossed the Alps in 773 at the head | of a powerful army, besieged Pavia for eight months, and took possession of it only when its defenders had been disabled by pestilence and famine. Desiderius was exiled to the monastery of Corbie in France, and Charlemagne crowned himself with the ancient iron crown of the Lombard kings; but he had scarcely left Italy when Adelgis, son of Desiderius, supported by the dukes of Spoleto, Friuli, and Benevento, rose in arms against the conqueror. The rebels were crashed at once, and Charlemagne, to make the submission of Lombardy more sure, appointed his second son, Pepin, to reign over the country (770). Meanwhile war was actively prosecuted against the Saxons; the most important, protracted, and terrific of all his wars. Commencing in 772, it terminated only in 804, after a duration of 32 years, with very little interruption.
On his first expedition, he took Eresburg, destroyed the venerated statue known as Irminsaul, and penetrated victoriouslv as far as the Weser. But the Saxons were far from being conquered. In 775 he invaded their country again, slaughtered all who offered resistance, devastated the towns which were hot prompt enough in their submission, and now considered his power firmly established. Far from it; they rose the following year, and, notwithstanding repeated defeats, renewed their resistance in 777, but were again subdued. Charlemagne's power now seemed securely established. He held aplacl-tum at Paderborn. where many Saxon tribes acknowledged his authority and were baptized. Wittikind, their intrepid chief, the hero who inspired them with his courage and love of independence, had been obliged to take refuge with a northern prince. Charlemagne improved this interval of apparent tranquillity to make war on Abderrahman, the new caliph of Cordova. Crossing the Pyrenees in 778, he took Pamplona, Saragossa, and the territory as far as the Ebro; but a severe misfortune attended his return to France. The rear guard of his army was overtaken in the narrow passes of Roncesvalles by the Basques, the inveterate enemies of the Franks, and destroved to the last man; among the valiant chiefs who were slain was Roland, whom history scarcely notices till his later renown in the annals of chivalry.
But the presence of Charlemagne was required on the Elbe; the indomitable Saxons had revolted again under Wittikind; they could not endure the foreign yoke, and, above all, they hated Christianity. Charlemagne adopted against them measures of the greatest severity and cruelty; more than 4,000 prisoners were at one time slaughtered; many thousands of the Saxons were transplanted with their families into Frankish countries; part of Saxony was laid waste, and every means resorted to to crush the spirit of its inhabitants. Two great battles, which took place at Detmold in 783, destroyed their last forces, and Wittikind, despairing of the future, surrendered in 785, swore allegiance to Charlemagne at Attigny-sur-Seine, and was baptized. This, however, was far from being the last of these bloody straggles; the independence of Saxony found other champions, who more obscurely, but not less heroically, undertook their patriotic task. The alternate succession of risings and defeats went on almost uninterruptedly, until Saxony, completely exhausted by repeated losses, and bent down under the despotic organization devised by the conqueror, had no recourse but to give up her national freedom and religion.
The diffusion of the gospel was aided by conquest; the bishoprics or missionary stations of Minden, Ilalbcrstadt, Verden, Bremen, Munster, Hildesheim, Osna-bruck, and Paderborn were the origin of as many cities; and the old Saxon nationality was completely broken down. While this desperate struggle was still at its height, Charlemagne had to baffle the treacherous designs of Tassilo, the Agilolfingian duke of Bavaria, who, although a tributary of the Frankish monarch, held secret intercourse with his enemies, and attempted to unite the Saxons, the Lombards, the Avars, the Slavs, and the Saracens against him. The duke was arrested, arraigned as a traitor before an assembly of lords at Ingel-heim in 787, and sentence of death passed upon him, which, however, was commuted to imprisonment in the monastery of Jumieges, near Rouen. Bavaria was now divided into counties under Frankish governors. Charlemagne afterward conquered several of the Slavic tribes along the banks of the Baltic, undertook a war of extermination against the Avars, which lasted from 794 to 790, and put their country under the administration of Frankish counts and bishops.
Having thus taken possession of the northeast of Spain, the larger part of Italy, and northern and eastern Germany, he found himself at the close of the 8th century master of an empire bounded N. by the Baltic sea, the Eider, the North sea, and the British channel; W. by the Atlantic ocean; S. by the Ebro, the Mediterranean, the Volturno, and the Adriatic; and E. by the Theiss and the Oder. Margraviates, or military marches, were established for the protection of the land frontiers, while fleets were in readiness on the seashore to oppose the piratical invasions of the Saracens and the Northmen. So extensive s dominion seemed fully to warrant a higher appellation than that of king; and moreover, the ultimate aim of his conquests had been the restoration of the western Roman empire. Having been induced to visit Italy to protect Pope Leo III. against his rebellious clergy, the Frankish king was solemnly and triumphantly crowned by the grateful pontiff in St. Peter's church, on the Christmas day of the 800th year of the Christian era.
Henceforth he styled himself emperor of the West, and, with a view of reestablishing the ancient Roman empire, proposed to marry Irene, the Byzantine empress; a project baffled by her deposition.
This was a great era in the middle ages. The Christian kings of Spain, the Mussulmans of Fez, and the caliph of Bagdad, Haromi al-Rashid, sent ambassadors to present homages and gifts to the powerful western monarch. - However great as a warrior and the founder of an empire, Charlemagne deserves still more awgiver, as a lawgiver, a civilizer, and a patron of learning, science, and art. He endeavored to establish order and a regular administration among the many nations which his sword had united, most of which were in a barbarous condition, totally different in their origin, language, and manners, and hostile to each other. Great national assemblies, known as champs de Mai, were held yearly in the spring. (See Champ de Maes.) Other assemblies took place in the autumn, but were merely councils of military and ecclesiastical lords whose advice the emperor was pleased to receive, and who under his directions prepared the bills and projects to be submitted to the national meeting. In addition to the laws thus adopted by the nation, Charlemagne issued edicts known as capitularies, in which regulations for the administration of the empire as well as the management of the emperor's private property were enacted.
The collection of these capitularies, a number of which have been preserved, is among the most valuable relics of the middle ages, and affords striking evidence of foresight, wisdom, and prudence in their author. His empire forming ethnologically various kingdoms, Charlemagne placed at their head his own sons with the title of kings; but they were nothing more than his lieutenants, the supreme power being concentrated in his own hands, he alone appointing the officers intrusted with the administration. His whole do-minion was divided into a number of counties governed by earls (Grafen), and these were placed under the supervision of imperial delegates, or missi dominici, who four times every year visited the circuits assigned to them, holding provincial meetings and courts of justice, receiving the accounts of the collectors of public money, and adjusting the grievances of the people. He was thus enabled to control every branch of administration, as well as the proceedings of the various functionaries, who were appointed for a term of three years only.
His protection extended to the clergy, increasing their wealth by a law upon tithes, their liberty by his respect for canonical elections, and their power by certain judicial prerogatives; but at the same time keeping them under his dominion, submitting them to the missi dominici, restricting their rights of asylum, interfering with questions of discipline and even of dogma, and causing the monasteries to be reformed by Benedict of Aniane. Trade and industry were not less objects of his fostering care; he granted privileges to merchants, and reduced as much as possible the tolls to which they were subjected. He established uniformity of currency, had the coinage executed in his palace, and regulated the value of gold and silver coin. Beggars were not permitted to prowl about the country, but were provided for by the lords or communities to which they belonged. He bestowed particular attention upon general instruction and the revival of classical learning, illustrious men were invited to his court from all parts of the world, and especially from Italy, to diffuse among his subjects various branches of learning, as grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, astronomy, history, theology, and medicine.
The Anglo-Saxon Alcuin, a man of considerable information, if not thorough learning, seems to have been the leading spirit of this aggregation of teachers; he was the originator of the palatine school, a kind of normal institution, from which men thoroughly instructed were sent into the provinces, and constituting at the same time an academical society, which consisted of the emperor himself, several members of his family, mostly females, and the most distinguished of his courtiers. The academicians assumed names borrowed from antiquity; Charlemagne himself was styled David, while two of his daughters, Gisela and Rothruda, were called Delia and Co-lumba. These ladies and some others were also engaged in making copies of ancient manuscripts, which task, however, specially devolved upon the monks of various monasteries. The emperor gave encouragement to this calling, paying largely for such copies, and establishing a library in his own palace at Aix-la-Chapelle. He himself was eager in his desire of knowledge and science, conversing with the learned in his leisure hours, and having books read to him during his meals. In the night he would frequently get up to study the course of the stars.
Through such diligent application he became as much of a scholar as was consistent with his public duties; and some literary works were due to his encouragement, such as a German grammar and a collection of the national songs of ancient Germany. The fine arts were far from being neglected by him; he had the Gregorian chant-adopted in the churches, and brought singers from Italy, whose concerts he patronized. Among the many palaces constructed by his order, we must mention those of Ingelheim, Nimeguen, and Aix-la-Chapelle. The last was a masterpiece of architecture, having been ornamented with columns and sculptural fragments brought from Italy; it was a large and magnificent building, the spacious halls and rooms of which were decorated in a splendid manner, and filled with most elegant and costly furniture. The basilica in the same city, erected also by Charlemagne, was equally celebrated, and became the pattern of many churches built during the 9th century. He moreover encouraged civil engineering; a wooden bridge 500 paces long was constructed at Mentz over the Rhine; and a gigantic canal was commenced, but not completed, to establish through this river and the Danube a water communication between the North and Black seas. - Charlemagne was of a tall and commanding figure; either standing or sitting, he had an air of grandeur and dignity; and notwithstanding the shortness of his neck and his obesity, he was well proportioned and remarkably active, with a firm step and manly appearance, his shrill voice alone being not in accordance with his person.
An adept in the use of weapons, he was also an unrivalled swimmer and a consummate hunter. Although encouraging magnificence of attire among his courtiers, he was generally plainly dressed, giving preference to the old Frankish style of costume. He was frugal and temperate, and evinced great severity against drunkards, He had nine more or less legitimate wives, by whom he had at least twenty children. The only son who survived him was his successor, Louis le Debonnaire. Several of his daughters led a dissolute life and caused great scandal. The awe with which Charlemagne inspired his contemporaries increased as time rolled on; his historical deeds, amplified and adorned by poetry, powerfully seized upon the popular imagination; and the great emperor and his twelve legendary peers became the heroes of innumerable chivalric romances, which were recited or sung everywhere, and the collection of which is now styled "The Carlovingian Cycle." His name has also won a halo of sanctity, the anti-pope Pascal III. having canonized him in 11G5, and Louis XL having ordered his anniversary to be celebrated on Jan. 28. The origin of many pious or learned institutions has been ascribed to him; and fiction and truth are so much blended in his history that it is difficult to disentangle the one from the other.
But, however this may be, Charlemagne takes rank among those extraordinary men who, from time to time, appear to change the face of the world and inaugurate a new era in the destinies of mankind. - The cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle stands on the site where Charlemagne had erected a chapel, which he designed as his burial place. The chapel was destroyed by the Normans, and rebuilt in its present form by Otho III. toward the close of the 10th century. The position of the tomb in which once reposed the remains of Charlemagne is marked by a slab of marble under the centre of the dome, inscribed with the words Carolo Magno. "When the vault was opened by Otho III., the body of Charlemagne was found seated on his throne, clothed in the imperial robes. These relics are now deposited in Vienna, excepting the throne, which alone remains in the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle. - The literary works attributed to Charlemagne are: 1, his "Capitularies'1 (first collected by Ansegise, abbot of St. Wandrille; best edition that of Etienne Baluze, 2 vols, folio, Paris, 1677); 2, "Letters" contained in the collection of De Bouquet; 3, a "Grammar," of which fragments are to be found in the Polygraphia of Trithemius; 4, his "Testament," contained in Bouchers Bibliotheque du droit francois, tom. iii. (folio, Paris, 1077); 5, some Latin poems, such as the "Epitaph of Pope Adrian" and the "Song of Poland;" 0, the "Caroline Books." - Among the books which treat of Charlemagne, we may refer to the great biography of his contemporary, Eginhard, Vita Caroli Magni, in Duchesne's Rerum Francorum Scriptores (best edition by Pertz, in the Monu-menta Germanim Historica; Monachas Sagal-lensis, De Gestis Caroli Magni Libri II.; Donatus Acciaiolus, De Vita Caroli Magni Commentarii; Leclerc de la Bruere, Histoire du regne de Charlemagne; Haureau, Charlemagne ct sa cour; Struve, Rerum Germani-carum Scriptores, torn. i.; Dippold, Leben Kaiser Karls des Grossen (Tubingen, 1810); Gaillard, Histoire de Charlemagne (2d ed., 4 vols., Paris, 1810); Lorenz, Karls des Grossen Privat- und Hofleben, in Raumer's Historisches Taschenbuch (1832); Abel, Jahrbucher des frankischen Reichs ureter Karl dem Grossen (Berlin, 1866 et seq.). Piper has edited from the original MS. Karl des Grossen Kalen-darium und Ostertafel (Berlin, 1858). Among the more popular works upon this monarch may be mentioned the "History of Charlemagne," by G. P. R. James (1832), and Bui-finch's " Legends of Charlemagne " (1863).