Charlemagne - George Upton


It was at Ingelheim on the Rhine that Charlemagne usually established his court during the middle period of his reign. An obelisk upon one of the adjacent heights, erected in 1807, bears the inscription, "Charlemagne's highway." The erection of his palace at this spot shows his keen appreciation of its natural beauty. The view from these heights toward the Rhine, Johannisberg, and the Rheingau, taking in a blooming, fruitful valley, is incomparably fine. In one of the descriptions of the vicinity, it is related that Charlemagne was the first Frankish ruler who built in the grand style. It says:

"A great admirer of the monuments of Greek and Roman architecture, Charlemagne was not satisfied with the simplicity of his ancestors, and sought to combine the useful and the beautiful, the comfortable and the artistic. He built not merely as the owner, but like a king. He selected one of the most beautiful spots on the heights of Rheingau for the palace of Ingelheim. The broad river, enclosing numerous islands in its strong arms, is visible throughout its entire course from the bend where it enters Rheingau, below Mainz, to the point where it plunges into the dark abyss of Bingerloch. The smiling meadows along its banks at the foot of vine-clad hillsides spread out like a charming panorama."

The palace itself is described by contemporaries as a wonder of art, transplanted as if by magic from the Italian Ravenna to the banks of the Rhine. Charlemagne secured the hundred marble and granite columns upon which the structure rests, as well as the mural decorations of the interior, through the favor of the Pope. Barbarian opulence in buildings was usually displayed in the lavish use of gold and silver, and artistic effect was sought for in brilliant metallic shimmer. But Charlemagne employed gold and silver only for the decoration of that beautiful work of art the reproduction of the old palace at Ravenna upon the Ingelheim heights a conspicuous evidence of that great change in times and customs by which not only the abode, but eventually the title and sceptre, of the Caesars came into the possession of a German sovereign.

Contemporaneous descriptions of the personality of Charlemagne have also been preserved. According to the chronicles of Eginhard, he was large and symmetrical of body and stood about seven feet high. He had full, bright eyes, a strong nose, beautiful hair, and a frank, open countenance. Whether sitting or standing, he inspired reverence by his dignity. He was often upon horseback in war or the chase. He loved bathing as passionately as the chase, and often buffeted the green waves of the Rhine with his strong arms, but he was fonder of the warm mineral baths of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) than of the river water.

According to the Eginhard chronicles also, Charlemagne usually wore the Frankish costume, which is thus described in a chronicle at Saint Galls:

"The Frankish costume consisted of shoes, set off with gold adornments fastened by scarlet bands about the legs, and flaxen hose of the same color, figured in a most skilful manner. Then came the inner coat of bright canvas material, shoulder belt, and sword. The remaining detail of the costume was a gray or blue four-cornered mantle, doubled and so disposed that when worn over the shoulder it fell to the feet before and behind, but barely covered the knees on the sides. A staff was carried in the right hand, made of a sapling with symmetrical knobs, and with a handle of gold or silver finely wrought. It was at once beautiful, strong, and cruel. The mantle was made of a thick woollen stuff called 'Frisian' in the northern Netherlands."

Such was the costume generally worn by the Emperor. In winter, however, the chronicle says that he protected his shoulders and breast with an outer garment of otter and marten skins. He disliked foreign dress, and wore it only once or twice in Rome at the request of the Pope. He carried a sword at his side continuously with a golden hilt and belt. Now and then he made use of one set with jewels, but only upon ceremonious occasions, or when receiving embassies. At the high festivals he wore a gold-embroidered dress, shoes set with gems, a mantle fastened with a golden clasp, and a golden, jewelled crown. From another narrative of events in the times of Charlemagne, we quote the following:

"Although the Franks were excellent riders and generally fought on horseback, they did not participate in tournaments, although the principal feats of the tournament were conspicuous for the exercises which the young warriors enjoyed practising. The really grand occasions of the Franks were their religious and state festivals, where they displayed their fondness for splendor and churchly pomp. The brilliancy of the state festivals, to which Charlemagne summoned representatives from far and near, was enhanced by the presence of the monarch seated upon his high and gorgeous throne. A blue mantle covered his shoulders, and upon his head he wore a refulgent diadem. His right hand held a golden sceptre. His spouse wore a crown above her veil, which, like her dress and those of the court ladies, glittered with pearls, rubies, diamonds, and other costly gems, procured in trade or taken as spoils of war. The dukes, counts, and other nobles surrounding the throne wore girdles adorned with gold, silver, and jewels from the Orient. Their fur-trimmed mantles suggested the habits of their fathers and the experiences of the forests. Palace functionaries stood back of the Emperor; heralds threw gold pieces to the crowd; and musicians sang and poets recited hymns in honor of the Frankish heroes.

Festivals of this kind lasted several days. The guests at a signal from the horn mounted their horses to hunt boars and buffaloes, which were abundant in those days a pastime which called for impetuous courage, as it was attended by great danger. As gentler sport they fished and hunted with falcons and other birds of prey. Still other sources of pleasure were ball games and chess contests. In Charlemagne's time the Franks were passionately devoted to both, but the Emperor cared little for such sports and rarely played chess, which seemed to him merely a pleasant way of passing time, which to him was of the highest importance and too valuable to be wasted.

The meals in the homes of the wealthy consisted of three courses: the first, a salad of mallows or hops, which were considered as appetizers and aids to digestion; the second, plain bread and pork or venison; and the third, pastries and fruit. Wine was rarely used, and consequently there were few displays of bad passions. The common beverages were beer and mead. Poor families and even those fairly well off ate turnips, lentils, beans, and other vegetables, and upon festive occasions a goose and some kind of pastry.

However great the wealth or high the rank, the utmost importance was attached to the hair and beard, which were considered indications of strength and courage qualities which commanded respect at that time. The grandees exchanged a hair as a sign of mutual agreement. A promise was often sealed by touching the beard. A debtor who could not pay was considered the slave of his creditor and tendered him the shears with which to cut his beard. If a young warrior was taken prisoner by one of the barbarians and doomed to death, he would beseech his captor not to soil his hair with blood or allow a slave to touch it. Agreements were annulled by breaking a straw.

Hospitality was regarded as a sacred rite, and guests were treated with almost religious reverence. The household furniture was simple. The walls of the rooms were covered with painted and gilded leather, and the floors were covered with straw mats, woven by the women of the house. Except upon festival days, when sumptuous display was expected, there was the utmost simplicity both in the homes of private persons and at the Court of Charlemagne."

Charlemagne's wife and daughters took an active part in the household duties. The daughters learned to spin and weave when they were quite young, and Charlemagne much preferred the garments which they made. Angilbert, a scholarly friend of the Emperor, has left a description of the palace at Ingelheim as well as of a hunting party in which the Emperor's spouse, Lindgard, and the sons, Carl and Pepin, figure. He says:

"The Emperor's charming wife, Lindgard, enters the courtyard followed by a numerous train. Her cheeks vie in tint and glitter with the roses, and her hair with the shimmer of a purple robe. Her brow is bound with a purple fillet, jewels sparkle on her neck, and a golden crown glitters on her head. As she enters with her ladies, courtiers make way to her, right and left. She mounts her horse, which is brought to her, and beams with royal dignity upon the crowd of nobles surrounding her two sons, Carl and Pepin. The one who bears his father's name resembles him in figure, countenance, and spirit. He is in full armor a valiant warrior, tried and true.

Following the queen and princes, the hunters crowd through the gates accompanied by a tumult of sound from hound bells and horns. Next appear the princesses with their retinue. Rotrud rides at their head, calm of face and proud in bearing. Her blonde hair is fastened by a purple band, and a little gold crown gleams upon her brow. Next, Bertha, the image of her father in face, voice, and disposition. Her blonde hair is intertwined with gold cords and wreathed with a diadem. A marten-skin covers her snowy neck, and the seams of her tightly fitting cloak are set with glittering jewels. Next rides Gisela, dazzlingly white and beautiful. Purple threads are interwoven in the delicate texture of her veil. Silvern gleam her hands, golden her brows, her eyes shine like the sun, and she manages her fiery steed with perfect ease. Ruodhaid on her gracefully ambling palfrey follows. Hair, neck, and feet glow with jewelled ornaments, and a silken mantle, fastened at the breast with gold clasps, covers her shoulders. Then follows Theodora, she of the rosy face and gold-red hair, wearing a necklace of emeralds and a gorgeous mantle. Hiltrud, last of the sisters, appears and, after glancing around majestically, turns her steed in the direction of the forest whose dark recesses invite this imposing expedition."

Where was Charlemagne, master of the house and the Empire, as the hunting party set out?—gazing at the animated spectacle from the palace balcony, or in the stillness of his apartment studying serious problems upon which depended the weal or woe of his empire?

The solution of these problems was a weighty matter. He had inherited not honors alone, but burdens which needed a giant's strength to carry. His life was a continuous struggle with forces which hurled themselves against his empire. To understand his situation we must consider the circumstances which confronted him when the crown of the Franks became his heritage. We must revert to the past and review the history of the Empire down to his accession, that we may clearly understand what this hero and sovereign contended against and accomplished.

Charlemagne And Desiderius

Charlemagne was born at Aix-la-Chapelle in 742 and was twenty-six years of age when he became sovereign. His brother Carloman died in the third year of his reign, which left Charlemagne ruler of the whole kingdom. It may be stated in advance that he enjoyed but one year of peace during his forty-six years of power.

"Hammer and anvil" was the paramount method of action in the political world of those days. There was never any possibility of living at peace with one's neighbor. It was either oppress him or be oppressed by him. There was no middle course.

Let us now follow the campaign of Charlemagne against Desiderius, King of the Lombards. To make its significance and progress as clear as possible we must first of all consider the relations of Charlemagne and his brother Carloman, who, as already stated, died in the third year of his reign.

The consent of the grandees of the Frankish kingdom was necessary to the validation of Pepin's division of the kingdom between the two sons. The restriction, however, was made by Pepin that while Charlemagne and Carloman were invested with their new dignities, the Frankish kingdom should remain a united kingdom, its administration only being divided between, them. Pepin's wishes were respected, and measures were taken to maintain the unity of the kingdom. But the two brothers had hardly assumed, the task of sovereignty when an event occurred which put to the test their good faith and their readiness to carry out the obligations laid down by Pepin.

Wolf, chief of the southwestern Frankish dukedom, raised the banner of revolt, believing that he could now accomplish what his predecessor, Waisar, had striven in vain to do while Pepin was living. Charlemagne promptly prepared to suppress the uprising, and called upon his brother Carloman to assist him. Carloman declined, and Charlemagne was forced to act alone; but he quickly succeeded in quelling the revolt. It is not strange that he and his Franks were angry at the conduct of his brother, and that there were many, not only in his own, but in his brother's part of the kingdom, who regretted that Charlemagne had not been made sole ruler. Carloman's action was not only regarded as faithless toward his brother, but even stigmatized as treachery against the united kingdom, the evil consequences of which could be averted only by Charlemagne's strong arm. The latter's leading warriors, indeed, had been in favor of taking the field against Wolf without paying any attention to his brother. It was due to Charlemagne's mother, the royal widow Bertha, that the world of that day was spared the tragedy of a fraternal and civil war.

This distinguished lady, who was so greatly beloved by the people that she was celebrated in later tradition as "The Swan Maiden," was tenderly loved by Charlemagne. ( She determined to overcome his resentment against his brother and reconcile them. She succeeded in doing this, but had hardly done so when Carloman died. The grandees and church dignitaries thereupon assembled and named Charlemagne ruler of the whole Frankish kingdom. They recognized the danger confronting a divided kingdom and hastened to avert it.

Gilberga, Carloman's widow, if she had been wise would have placed herself under the protection of Charlemagne and her mother-in-law, the widow Bertha. Instead of this, she was induced by Charlemagne's enemies to leave the country, with the intention at a favorable time of asserting the rights of her two sons. This she soon did at the court of the Lombardian King, Desiderius, who entertained strong animosity against the Franks. Pepin had forced King Haistulf, Desiderius's predecessor, when he was threatening Rome and had seized Ravenna, to give up not only the Roman, but other possessions to the Papacy. This was not forgotten by Desiderius; and when, after Haistulf's death by a fall from his horse, he succeeded him, he regarded himself as heir to the Papal throne and the avenger of Haistulf; and he lost no opportunity of intermeddling in Roman affairs.

After the death of Paul the First, in Rome, a layman, named Constantine, came to the Papal chair. Christoph and Sergius, chiefs of the opposing faction, thereupon betook themselves to Desiderius and appealed for his assistance, which he was willing to give, as he had his own advantage in view. Constantine was promptly deposed, seized as a prisoner, and blinded. Desiderius then determined to place a Lombardian in the Papal chair, and instructed the two Lombardian priests, Waldibert and Philip, to organize a party in Rome which should select Philip as Pope. Too late, Christoph and Sergius regretted that they had invoked the help of Desiderius. In the meantime, however, they accomplished the removal of the two Lombard priests by an uprising. The new Pope Philip and his assistant fled to a church. The right of asylum, however, was not recognized by their enemies. Philip was consigned to the dungeon of a monastery, and Waldibert was torn from the image of the Virgin, to which he was clinging, and blinded.

Christoph and Sergius succeeded in electing a Roman as Pope, who took the name of Stephen the Third; but as he did not manage affairs to please them, they determined to depose him by force. Realizing the danger which threatened him, Stephen appealed to Desiderius, who again showed himself ready for any service which should inure to his own advantage. The most friendly assurances were extended, and Stephen, in letters to Charlemagne and his mother, could hardly find words to sound the praises of Desiderius, who was doing so much for Rome. Christoph and Sergius, who had mustered a considerable force, were attacked by Desiderius and defeated, and both were made prisoners and blinded.

Stephen now was at the mercy of Desiderius, who used every means in his power to compel him to surrender voluntarily to him the possessions which Pepin had restored to the Church. This proved a fresh source of resentment on Charlemagne's part against Desiderius. He only waited for Stephen to appeal to him for help, and held himself in readiness to lend it; but his plans were frustrated by a new move which he could not resist. His mother, who had gone to Italy, interposed and wrote letters to him which led to anything rather than a warlike view of the situation. Although she had no doubt of the lion-hearted nature of her son, or of the valor of his army, she could not view the dangers arising from a conflict between the Franks and the Lombards without the gravest solicitude. She was sufficiently shrewd and experienced to appreciate the situation. She reflected that the Bavarian Duke Thassilo, her dead husband's nephew, without whose consent Charlemagne could not have attained to sovereignty, was as inimical to him as Desiderius was. Thassilo had proved disloyal to Pepin in refusing him the assistance he was in duty bound to furnish in the war against Waisar, Wolf's predecessor. Bertha knew that death alone prevented her husband from punishing his perfidy. As Thassilo and Desiderius were now on good terms she feared that if Charlemagne should attack the one, the other would come to his help. Besides this, the Saxons to the north of the Frankish kingdom were in arms again. She also feared in case of war that the West-Frankish dukedom would rise again. Lastly, she knew that Desiderius had promised the widow and sons of Carloman to provoke an uprising in their favor in the Frankish kingdom.

To avert these dangers Bertha planned to bring Desiderius, Thassilo, and Charlemagne into a tripartite relationship, and thus establish friendly conditions. She proposed that Charlemagne and Thassilo should marry daughters of Desiderius and that Adalgis, Desiderius's only son, should marry Gisela, Charlemagne's sister. The plan was accepted by all concerned except the fair Gisela, who chose to go to a convent and engage in its pious duties, rather than wear a crown. She is honored in the Catholic Church to-day under the name of Itisberg.

The daughter of Desiderius selected by Bertha as the spouse of her son was named Desiderata. She is described as a princess of beautiful face and stately mien. Bertha presented her to Charlemagne, who, in the meantime, had separated from his first wife, the daughter of a Frankish nobleman. At that time marital separations and remarriages were not uncommon among the upper classes, and some of the very highest class had several wives. Bertha had managed this business secretly, and the Pope did not hear of her plans until Desiderata had gone to the Frankish country. It is not strange that the news caused him the greatest anxiety, for he clearly foresaw that if Charlemagne became the son-in-law of Desiderius, he could no longer look to the Franks for the protection of the territory which Pepin had taken from the Lombards and given to the Church. He wrote an urgent letter to Charlemagne, imploring him to break off marriage with Desiderata, even going so far as to declare that the Lombards, notwithstanding they had been living with the Roman people, were still little better than carrion, and the descendants of lepers. He closed with these words:

"We have sent you this our appeal, from the grave of Saint Peter, and with our tears. Should you—which we cannot believe defy the authority of Peter, our master, the ban will be imposed upon you. You will be banished from God's Kingdom eternally to consort with the devil and the wicked in the everlasting fires of hell."

When Charlemagne received this letter the wedding festivities were already over. The warning had come too late. Whether of itself it would have thwarted the plans of Bertha is uncertain, but in any event it strengthened the prejudice of Charlemagne against Desiderata which he had had from the first. It was not long before she became so unbearable to him that he sent her back to her father. The conciliatory work of his mother, well intended as it had been, was ruined.

Desiderius, enraged to the extreme both against Charlemagne and the Pope, held the latter principally responsible for the affront put upon his daughter, and resolved to wreak vengeance at once. He demanded that the Pope should crown the son of Carloman as King of the Franks, intending after that to incite an uprising in that country in his favor. The time seemed auspicious, as Charlemagne was now at war with the Saxons. While the Pope was hesitating, and just as Desiderius was about to use force, Stephen died and was succeeded by Hadrian.

Hadrian could not be induced to crown the young prince, either by flattery or by threats. Desiderius thereupon began harrying the Papal territory and advanced to lay siege to Rome. As he occupied all land communications, Hadrian sent messengers to Marseilles and thence to Diedenbofen the seat of Charlemagne's court at that time. In his letter Hadrian informed the King of Desiderius's demand and his threatening movement, and implored him not to let him fall into Desiderius's hands. Immediately after the receipt of this letter Charlemagne received one from Desiderius, in which the latter, to gain time for carrying out his designs against Rome, assured him he had given up everything to the Pope which belonged to him.

Charlemagne, however, was not deceived. The favor which Desiderius had shown to the son of Carloman clearly revealed his hostility to himself. He decided upon war with the Lombards at once, and the campaign was begun in the autumn of the year 773.

Charlemagne mustered his forces at Geneva. Their equipment was essentially different from that formerly used by the Franks. They were armed with the longer Roman spear as well as the larger shield, the latter furnishing better protection for the body than the round Frankish shield. In place of the old leathern head-covering they wore the brazen helmet and visor. The body was also protected by a coat of mail. Many of the soldiers carried heavy clubs in place of the long swords. These formidable weapons were made of knotted oak, cased in iron, and sometimes made entirely of that metal.

Upon the advice of those Franks who were hostile to Charlemagne and had been entertained at the court of Desiderius, the Alpine passes leading into Lombardy were obstructed besides being strongly guarded. In this way Desiderius felt certain he could defy Charlemagne. Another event increased his feeling of security. Charlemagne, in consideration of the natural resentment of a father whose daughter had been humiliated, sought once more to establish friendly relations with him. He appealed to him to acquiesce in Pepin's assignment of territory to the Church and to abstain from any assault upon his sovereignty. Unfortunately for Desiderius, he looked upon this as a proof that Charlemagne recognized the impossibility of invading Italy. Thereupon he contemptuously rejected the offer and went so far with his insolence that the latter, realizing now that war was inevitable, exclaimed: "He does not fear the barking of the German dog so long as it does not come out of its kennel."

Charlemagne prepared for every emergency. Immediately upon the receipt of Desiderius's reply, he began a forward movement. He led the main part of his army over Mont Cenis by a route which Desiderius had supposed to be impassable; while his uncle Bernhard with another division crossed Mount Joll. The two divisions met at the southern base of the Alps. No resistance had been offered except at one spot, and that was easily overcome. Charlemagne pressed forward without delay, defeated the Lombard forces of Adalgis and the Frankish leader Ottocar, and advanced to the siege of Pavia, whither Ottocar had fled to join Desiderius. As the siege might be a long one, Charlemagne at the head of one division of his army advanced toward Rome, taking possession, on the way, of many Roman cities which had fallen into the hands of the Lombards.

There was as great rejoicing in Rome as there was consternation among the Lombards at Charlemagne's victorious progress. Preparations were made to welcome the rescuer. Ozanam says:

"On Easter Saturday Charlemagne appeared before the gates of Rome. The clergy bearing crosses, the senators and magistrates waving banners, and the children carrying palm branches and singing hymns, went out to meet him. He ascended to the Vatican where Pope Hadrian awaited him. On the following day he donned the tunic and laticlavium and sat in the court of justice. Military authority and civil jurisdiction were exercised alike by patricians."

Shortly after this Charlemagne set out for his uncle's camp before Pavia. The chronicles of St. Gall describe his arrival. Desiderius, who was shut in there, mounted a high tower with Ottocar, from which he espied Charlemagne's army approaching in the distance. At first they saw only the war machines.

"Is not Charlemagne there with this great expedition?" asked Desiderius.

Ottocar replied that he was not.

But when Desiderius saw the large force of warriors following, he said, "Surely Charlemagne is among that multitude."

"No, not yet," said Ottocar.

"But what shall we do," said Desiderius, who was growing very anxious, "if he should come with a still greater number of soldiers?"

While he was speaking, the bodyguards appeared, at sight of whom the panic-stricken Desiderius cried out, "There comes Charlemagne."

Ottocar again assured him he was not there.

Then came bishops, abbes, the clergy of the royal chapel, and the grandees. Desiderius exclaimed with a groan, "Let us hide ourselves in the bowels of the earth, far away from the sight of this terrible enemy!"

Hardly had he uttered these words when they saw something in the west like a black cloud driven by the northeast wind. The glimmer of weapons foretold a day for the doomed city as dark as night. Then Charlemagne himself appeared—that man of iron; iron-helmeted and gauntleted, his breast and shoulders in coat of iron mail, with lance uplifted in his right hand, his left grasping his sword-hilt.

Famine and pestilence forced the surrender of the city. Desiderius was deposed and his throne declared forfeited, and he was sent first to Luttich and thence to the monastery of Corvey, where he was compelled to spend his remaining days in the exercise of penance. His soil, Adalgis, escaped a like fate by flight. After the surrender the Archbishop of Milan crowned Charlemagne with the Iron Crown, so called because a nail from the Cross, said to have been brought by the Empress Helene from Jerusalem, was set among its jewels.

Immediately after the coronation, Paulus Diaconus, famous as a historian, tried to incite revolt. He was arrested, brought before the military court, and sentenced to a shameful death. Charlemagne, however, did not execute the penalty. He admired the man for his patriotism and gave him his freedom. He established a constitution and laws for the Lombards, and after settling the affairs of their kingdom, received news of the Saxon uprising.

The First Eleven Tears of the Saxon War

We must now consider the longest and most desperate of Charlemagne's wars—that waged against the Saxons, which began before his campaign against Desiderius and lasted not less than thirty-three years.

A bitter race antagonism had long prevailed between the Franks and the Saxons. As already related, the latter had been subjugated by Charlemagne's predecessors and forced to pay tribute. Saxony extended along both sides of the Weser, westerly to the vicinity of the lower Rhine, southwesterly to the Harz and the Unstrut, and northerly to the ocean, except the country occupied by the Frisians. Four races inhabited Saxony—the Westphalians, living between the Weser and the Issel; the Eastphalians, on the right bank of the Weser to the Elbe; the Eugen, between both these; and the Northmen, or Nordalbingi, who lived on both sides of the Elbe. "Phalen" or "Falen" means a great plain, and one of these names (Westphalia) is in use to-day.

The Saxons were not far advanced in civilization. The hatred which they entertained against the Germans, who had been converted to Christianity by Boniface and other missionaries, had caused them to break off friendly intercourse with their ancestral associates. They worshipped Odin and other heathen divinities in their forests, as of old. Charlemagne conducted his campaign against them, not so much in the interest of religion as to overthrow the power of a dangerous neighbor, before he went to Italy to subjugate Desiderius. He invaded Saxony and occupied Eresburg, in the vicinity of which was Irminsul, the mystic idol revered by the Saxons. Its significance is still doubtful. Some maintain that it typified the world-ash tree Ygdrasil, whose trunk, the Germans believed, was rooted in the underworld and whose branches shadowed Oin'sd palace, Walhalla. Others contend that it was a memorial of Arminius who freed Germany from the Roman yoke. The Irminsul was demolished by the Franks. The Saxons at last sued; for peace, which Charlemagne granted after they had given him twelve hostages. Then he retired with his army.

After this opening success over the Saxons, Charlemagne began his campaign against Desiderius; but hardly had he deposed the Lombardian King before he received the news that the Saxons, in violation of their promise to remain peaceable, had invaded Hesse and were laying it waste. He appeared among them so suddenly and in such force that they were again easily overcome. Once more they submitted, sent him hostages, and were pardoned. It was not his good fortune, however, to enjoy the fruits of victory long. An uprising in Italy, led by Adalgis, son of Desiderius, who had previously escaped, as has been related, next confronted him. Adalgis betook himself to the court of the Greek Emperor to seek his assistance, and made an alliance with his brother-in-law Arighis, Duke of Benevento, who had married the rejected Desiderata. By this alliance he secured the help of the other Italian nobles, who had been left undisturbed upon condition of remaining loyal. The landing of Adalgis with his Greek auxiliaries was the signal for an uprising.

Upon receipt of the news of his enemy's designs from the Pope, Charlemagne hastened to Italy. Only one of the nobles, however, Duke Rotgund in Friaul, had ventured to take up arms, and he was quickly defeated, taken prisoner, and made to do penance the rest of his life. The remaining nobles were stripped of their possessions and the country was divided into earldoms, governed by Frankish nobles.

As soon as the Saxons learned that Charlemagne was engaged in Italy, throwing their promises to the winds, they rose again, destroyed a number of Christian churches, and advanced to lay siege to Eresburg, which was occupied by the Franks. Failing to capture the stronghold by assault, they resorted to trickery. By a pretended retreat they induced the Franks to make a sally, then turned upon them, slaughtered them, and demolished the fortress. A few of the garrison saved themselves by flight to Siegburg on the Ruhr, which was attacked by the Saxons without success. Charlemagne, in the meantime, having returned from Italy, suddenly appeared in Saxony and overcame all opposition. He once more pardoned those who implored mercy, restored Eresburg, and built the fortress of Lippestadt.

To appease the King, several of the nobles, among them Bruno, son-in-law of Wittekind, accepted Christian baptism and remained as hostages with the King. Charlemagne did not avenge this disloyalty upon his hostages, but continued his efforts to overcome opposition by mild measures which were not altogether satisfactory to his leaders. In his opinion the time had not yet come to undertake forcible conversions, for he was convinced that Christian belief and faith could not be imposed by violence. He was fully resolved to Christianize the Saxons, but he had other methods in view of bringing about that result. He was equally determined that the Saxons should become a political element in the great German nation, but he was cautious about taking any measures that were not absolutely necessary.

It was Charlemagne's custom to call an annual assembly of the leaders of his people upon the Champ de Mai to discuss affairs of state. He decided that year (777) to hold it in Saxony, and selected for its locality the district at the source of the Lippe near Paderborn He hoped the Saxons would regard this gathering as a peace measure.

Their leaders were invited to participate and appeared in a body, with the exception of Wittekind, who bitterly hated the Franks. He had escaped after the defeat; and as Adalgis sought assistance from the Greek Emperor, so he appealed to his brother-in-law Siegfried, King of Denmark, to aid him.

The Saxon chiefs beheld Charlemagne for the first time in the majesty of peaceful surroundings. Heroes of the sword and dignitaries of the Church were gathered around his throne. Many of these chiefs willingly acknowledged such a master. ~It happened also that a Moorish Embassy from Spain was in Paderborn at this time. The Saxons beheld the newcomers with astonishment, so different was their splendid attire from that of the northern peoples. The Moorish leaders had come to seek the help of Charlemagne against Abderrahman, Caliph of Cordova, and promised to transfer their allegiance to him in case he freed them from his power. Charlemagne was glad of the opportunity to interpose in Spanish affairs. He promised to help the petitioners, and in the meantime decided to demand a district in northern Spain for himself as a defence, in case of emergency, against the Moors of the southern part. The Saxons for the first time realized the wide extent of his authority and fame. How could they longer withstand him, they asked themselves: Ozanam says:

"Many of them swore allegiance and promised to surrender their country and their freedom if they violated their word. Many renounced idol worship and were baptized. A multitude of men, women, and children went down to the river in white garments, accompanied by chanting priests, and came back Christians; at their head the priests and monks, who had thus laid the foundations of the Christian Saxon Church. The world rejoiced at the conversion."

No one was more delighted than Charlemagne. It heightened his hope and enthusiasm when he set out upon the Spanish expedition the following year. He crossed the Pyrenees, overcame Pampeluna and Barcelona, and made Navarre, Aragon, and Catalonia subject to his authority. Saragossa was next invested, and after a short resistance its people submitted to him and gave hostages and tribute. Thereupon he made northeastern Spain, as far as the Ebro, the limit of the Frankish kingdom in Spain, and established a barrier against the Moors, intending thereby to discourage pagan invasions and prevent the disturbance of the Christian world, as his grandfather had done before him.

Unfortunate news from home forced Charlemagne to leave Spain. While crossing the Pyrenees a part of his army met with serious disaster. The rear guard, led by Roland, was ambushed in a narrow valley near Roncesvalles by the Basques and slaughtered to the last man. It was impossible to offer resistance, for the enemy occupied an impregnable position on the heights, from which they rolled down huge rocks and hurled showers of missiles. The hero Roland and his brave comrades, the paladin Anschelm and the seneschal Eckart, who were slain, were celebrated at a later period in song and romance. Charlemagne undoubtedly would have turned back to avenge them had not a new Saxon uprising forced him to return as speedily as possible. He soon defeated the Saxons and laid waste their country to the Elbe. The usual result followed. Wittekind fled, the Saxons took the oath of allegiance and gave securities.

Charlemagne well knew that the roots of the Saxon animosity were grounded in their heathen religion. He determined to eradicate it by force. His scheme was to pardon only those who consented to be baptized and to remain faithful to the Christian faith. Death should be the penalty of participation in the heathen service. Forcible measures of this kind, imposed for the purpose of changing ideas and sentiments, are improper, it is true; but under existing circumstances it seemed the only preventive of their constant uprisings. It also promised to be of great advantage, as the younger generation would be influenced by the abandonment of the heathen religion to become loyal.

Charlemagne not only determined to introduce Christianity, but Frankish laws as well. Saxony was divided into districts to which Frankish chiefs were assigned. He deemed it of the highest importance that a people who had violated their obligations so frequently should be restrained by severe measures. The immediate outcome of this, however, was the almost complete destruction of a division of the Frankish army and the massacre of four princes and twenty distinguished nobles, by the Saxons, led by Wittekind and his brother Albion. Charlemagne's grief at their loss was as intense as his anger against the Saxons. His patience was exhausted. He determined that justice should be inexorable in dealing with these murderers and perjurers. If he overlooked their bloody deed it would only incite the Saxons to perpetrate fresh atrocities. He determined to execute a penalty severe enough to intimidate the Saxons ever after, and to protect those who might be exposed to danger if the guilty went free. Charlemagne acted upon the theory that a judge who releases a murderer is equally guilty if that murderer commits fresh crimes. He put down the uprising at once; and when the Saxons as usual implored mercy and charged Wittekind (who had again fled) with the blame, he demanded the surrender of the guilty persons. They were tried by a military court, found guilty, and beheaded. Four thousand five hundred in one day! This was the massacre at Verden! a gruesome deed!

Wittekind's Baptism

Notwithstanding their many defeats and the massacre at Verden, the Saxons were not completely subjugated. Infuriated by that dreadful event, Wittekind and the Saxon leaders incited another uprising and began a war of revenge. Charlemagne in consequence was forced to use more strenuous measures than before. Two desperate battles were fought, one at Detmold, which was not decisive, and the other at Hesse, between the Ems and the Weser, in which the Saxons, who fought with almost unexampled bravery, were completely routed. Charlemagne removed ten thousand Saxons with their women and children to Brabant and Flanders, where they found new homes, their old ones having been turned over to Frankish settlers.

The King was now fully determined to put an end to any further opposition by making an offensive campaign.. Hitherto the Saxons had been the aggressors, but this year (784) he invaded Saxony and advanced as far as the Elbe. There he learned that Wittekind and Albion were on the opposite shore of the river and that they were desirous of opening negotiations with him. Accordingly he sent messengers to them promising them safe conduct if they wished to meet him. Wittekind sent back word that they were ready to tender allegiance and to be baptized, whereupon Charlemagne arranged for a meeting at his castle at Attigny. When they arrived they were received so graciously that the King's kindness offset the bitter necessity which had forced them to submit.

The reconciliation of Charlemagne and Wittekind amply justified the former's attitude toward the Saxons. Wittekind, in the presence of the great King, whose majesty and graciousness impressed him and whose words animated him with a new spirit, felt that had he been in Charlemagne's place he should have acted as the King had done. In view of the event at Attigny, those who criticised Charlemagne were dwarfs whose weak eyes could not see above his sword belt, much less appreciate the majestic spirit that shone in his kingly face. In their own name and in the name of their people, Wittekind and Albion vowed allegiance and were baptized, together with a great number of Saxons. Geva, the wife of Wittekind, who accompanied him, was also baptized. Charlemagne regarded that day at Attigny as the most fortunate in his career. Wittekind, his wife Geva, and Albion were loaded down with gifts and left for their homes escorted by a guard of honor. In a letter to the Pope, Charlemagne requested that a thanksgiving festival be ordered in commemoration of the event.

Wittekind and Charlemagne


It is related in the tradition concerning Wittekind's baptism that he subsequently came in disguise to the castle when Charlemagne was celebrating the Christmas festival, and that what he saw and heard there removed the last vestige of his heathen belief and left him a true Christian.

Thassilo and the Avars

Charlemagne now realized that the time had come for him to deal with Thassilo, Duke of Bavaria, a somewhat difficult matter because of their near relationship, Thassilo being, as already stated, Pepin's nephew. The Duke was not only secretly conspiring against Charlemagne in Italy, but he was also in communication with the leaders of the Slays and Thuringians, urging them to resist Charlemagne's authority. His most serious offence, however, was his effort to induce the Avars to assist in the war against the King.

Charlemagne, learning of the intrigues in Italy, appeared there much sooner than his enemies had anticipated, and easily thwarted their designs; after which he went to Rome and attended the Easter festival (787). Fearing that Charlemagne might discover all his secret plottings, Thassilo sent messengers to the Pope asking him to take steps to bring about a reconciliation between himself and the King. The Pope, however, uncertain whether he was in earnest or simply wished to gain time, not only refused to comply with his request, but sent word to him that if he violated his solemn promises or evaded them in any way the ban would be pronounced against him.

After his return Charlemagne summoned a parliament at Worms and laid Thassilo's case before it. His refusal to appear only aggravated his guilt. War was declared against him. Three Frankish armies invaded Bavaria, two of them led by the King's sons, Carl and Pepin, the third by Charlemagne in person. Thassilo was taken by surprise, for he had intended to begin his operations later. Neither the discontented Thuringians, who were in league with him, nor the Slays and Avars, came to his help. Thassilo's wife, Luitberger, daughter of Desiderius, had persistently urged her husband to make war against Charlemagne, and when too late she realized the folly of her advice and the danger which threatened Thassilo. The Bavarians themselves were not eager to fight, and indeed expressed more confidence in Charlemagne than in their Duke. Under these discouraging circumstances Thassilo deemed it wisest to betake himself to Charlemagne's camp and implore his pardon. He was exceedingly penitent and tendered his sceptre to the King, saying that he had forfeited any right to hold it longer. Charlemagne invested Thassilo with the dukedom in fee and took hostages from him, among them his son, Theudo.

Delighted that he had escaped this danger, Thassilo went to Regensburg and Charlemagne returned home. But Thassilo had hardly come under his wife's influence again when he violated his promise and resumed his hostile machinations. He summoned the leaders of his people to Regensburg, denounced his royal cousin, reviled him, and openly declared he would not respect a compulsory promise even if it cost him ten sons. The foolish Duke did not realize how contemptible he made himself by his conduct in the eyes of all honest men. He renewed negotiations with the Avars and induced them to join him. One division of the barbarians was led by Thassilo through Bavarian territory into the Frankish kingdom, and a second into Italy; but both armies were defeated by Carl, who was sent against them by the King.

Justice at last overtook Thassilo. He was summoned to appear before the Parliament at Ingelheim. The defeat of the Avars had so completely demoralized him that he did not dare to disobey the summons. He failed to clear himself from the charge of treason. His own followers testified against him. The indictment against him which called for the severest penalty was based upon this article in the Frankish statutes: "Whoever shall fail to keep faith with the kingdom, whoever shall break his vows to the King, whoever shall ally himself with the enemies of the kingdom, shall forfeit his life." The death penalty was unanimously pronounced. Charlemagne asked him what he would do if his life were spared; whereupon Thassilo, as a proof of his repentance, agreed to spend the rest of his days in a monastery, received the tonsure at St. Goar, and was sent from there to Fulda. Charlemagne declared his ducal title extinguished, assigned Frankish counts to the districts of Bavaria, and incorporated it in the Frankish kingdom.

The year 790 was one long remembered by the Franks, for it was the only peaceable year in Charlemagne's long reign. Preparations, however, had to be made to punish the Avars and prevent raids in future.

The Avars, living between the Enns and the Sau, were of Hunnish stock, for which reason they are sometimes called Huns in the old chronicle. They inherited not only the pillaging habits of their ancestors, who swept over Germany like a deluge in the fifth century, but the almost countless treasures, or a considerable part of the treasure, which their fathers had stolen. The defences which they built on their frontiers were of a peculiar kind. They were called "rings"; each one of them was sufficiently large to enclose a number of villages, and consisted of strong walls, ten feet high and as many wide, constructed of tree-trunks and rocks cemented together and surmounted by densely planted thorn bushes. Behind such walls, the Avars thought they were secure against any enemy; but they were soon to learn their mistake.

Charlemagne reviewed his forces at Regensburg before entering upon his campaign. Upon this occasion he buckled a sword around his third son Ludwig, then thirteen years of age, who was to take part in the expedition. He moved along both banks of the Danube in an easterly direction, while Pepin made his advance from Italy. The Khan of the Avars attacked the latter and was defeated in a bloody battle. When Charlemagne reached the Enns he heard the news and invaded the enemy's country at once. Several rings were carried by storm, the contents of the treasure vaults removed, the villages devastated, and large numbers of prisoners were taken. A sickness which broke out among the army horses forced the King to retire sooner then he had intended. The war, however, lasted some years longer before the enemy was entirely subjugated. The decisive battle occurred in the year 796. The rings which Pepin had reconstructed, as well as those which remained in possession of the enemy after the first expedition, were taken by assault. Wien (modern Vienna) was one of the principal localities occupied by the Avars. Charlemagne made the Avar country the Oestmark of the kingdom, subsequently called Oesterrichi and at a later period Oesterreich.

The Coronation at Rome

Pope Hadrian died at the close of the year 795. Charlemagne was so overcome by the death of the venerable prelate that he shed tears when the sad news was told him. Hadrian had looked upon him as the defender of the Church; and in his relations to the King there was not a trace of that ambition which characterized later Popes, to the detriment of Christianity.

Hadrian's successor, Leo the Third, hastened to ingratiate himself with Charlemagne. He notified the King of his election and sent him a consecrated silver key as a symbol of his recognition of Charlemagne, both as the ruler of Roman territory and as a world sovereign.

It is of importance to understand the relations existing between Charlemagne and the Popes, for they were very different from those which existed between the later Popes and the German rulers. A letter of congratulation sent to Leo by Charlemagne throws some light upon them. It begins:

"We have read the letter from Your Highness and listened to the decretals, and we heartily congratulate you upon your unanimous election, the dutiful obedience of your people, and your promises of loyalty to us."

During the next few years there were outbreaks in Saxony and Spain. Wittekind and Albion remained faithful to their promises; but not so some of their people. The disturbances, however, were quelled without much difficulty. The Moors in Spain, also, who had gained some advantages, were speedily overcome.

In the year 799 an assault was made upon Pope Leo during a street procession. It was badly managed, however. The leaders of the mob had planned to blind the Pope and cut out his tongue, but they only succeeded in cutting him in the face. The Pope's friends rescued him and conducted him to a safe place of concealment. The clerical officials, Paschal and Campulus, relatives of Hadrian, who were in attendance upon Leo, had been requested by the Pope not to officiate during the procession. He little dreamed of their treachery, for they were the abettors of the assault. The Duke of Spoleto, being informed of the outrage, proceeded at once to Rome with armed followers and escorted Leo to one of his castles.

As soon as his wounds healed, Leo betook himself to Germany personally to implore Charlemagne's assistance. At Nuremberg he learned that the King was holding court at Paderborn, and thither he hastened. Before he could reach the city, news of his approach was conveyed to the King, who at once began preparations to give him an honorable reception. He sent Archbishop Hildebrand and Count Auschar to meet him, but this was only 'the beginning of the ceremonies he had arranged. As Leo neared the city, a troop of cavalry went out to escort him. The King's son, Pepin, greeted him and conducted him to the plaza, where Charlemagne sat upon the throne in royal state in the midst of his dignitaries. Rising and outstretching his arms, the King stepped down, embraced the Pope, and led him by the hand as he blessed the kneeling people.

On the following day Leo related to the King the details of the murderous plot against him, of which the scars on his face bore evidence, and informed him that the conspirators had sought to justify their act by spreading base calumnies against him. He closed by asking Charlemagne's help. The King replied that he could not personally accompany him to Rome, because of fresh disquiet in Saxony and the Spanish Mark, but he would furnish him an escort headed by Frankish chiefs, and promised to go to Rome personally as soon as possible. When the Pope's enemies learned that Charlemagne had received him, their courage failed them. Leo was greeted with imposing ceremonies, and Paschal and Campulus were thrown into prison by the Franks.

The Saxon and Spanish affairs having been settled by the close of the next year (800), Charlemagne, mindful of his promise, went to Rome. The Pope met him at Novonte and had a private interview with him, at which a memorable event, soon to occur, doubtless was discussed. The Pope then returned to Rome to make preparations for Charlemagne's reception, and on December sixth the King entered the city. His reception was an imposing one. The people welcomed him with their civic banners, the air was rent with loyal shouts, and the Pope, surrounded by the dignitaries of the Church, met him in front of St. Peter's, which he entered accompanied by the music of the Papal choir. This was only the prelude to the memorable ceremony for which preparations had been quietly made.

Charlemagne began his magisterial duties in Rome by conducting an inquiry into the assault upon Leo. The calumnies were proved baseless; but as the Pope wished personally to establish his innocence, Charlemagne summoned an assembly of the clerical and secular dignitaries and called upon anyone who had accusations to make against the Pope to appear and state them. No one appeared. Thereupon, to purify himself of all offence, the Pope declared he would make purgation by oath. He rose and said:

"The all-gracious and powerful King Charlemagne came with his prelates and princes to investigate these charges. In the presence of all here, in the presence of God and His angels, who know our in-most souls, and in the presence of Saint Peter, prince of the apostles, I, Leo, head of the Holy Roman Church, declare that I am guiltless of the charges made against me."

He then passed a death sentence upon the conspirators, but Charlemagne subsequently mitigated the penalty. Paschal and Campulus were sent to a monastery for penance and their confederates were placed under the ban.

At last the memorable event occurred which made Charlemagne the ruler of the Christian world. High mass was celebrated by the Pope in the Vatican on the first day of the Christmas season in the year Boo. Charlemagne, in the elegant attire of a Roman patrician, knelt before the shrine of the apostle Peter. Suddenly the Pope descended the altar steps, placed a golden crown upon the King's head, draped him with the royal purple, and in a loud voice proclaimed: "Long life and success to the pious Charlemagne, sublime and peace-loving Roman Emperor!"

The choirs sang and the multitude shouted, "Long live the divinely crowned Augustus Carl, great and pious Roman Emperor!"

The anointing of Charlemagne as Roman Emperor, and of his son Pepin as King of Italy, closed the ceremony.

It was an event of extraordinary significance. It was not a mere spectacle or a comedy planned by Leo for purposes of deception, as some historians have asserted. Charlemagne would never have consented to such mummery; for he was a giant not only in body but in soul, and was always swayed by lofty purpose. He regarded the ceremony performed that day in the Vatican as one of serious moment. It is not conceivable that Pope Leo conferred this extraordinary honor upon his rescuer merely for his own advantage. Charlemagne had always shown that he felt he was called upon to exert all his power for the strengthening and extension of Christianity.

It must be taken into consideration that at that period hardly a fourth of Europe had been converted; that the Christian world in the south was threatened by the Mohammedans, in the north by the heathen Normans, and in the east by the Slays and other pagans. From the earliest times the Eastern emperors had made claims upon Italy, and the Pope had not been protected until Pepin and Charlemagne appeared. Considering these things, and the dangerous situation, can anyone blame Leo for proclaiming the Frankish King, who had saved him before all the world, as the all-powerful champion of Christendom, and for conferring upon him a title which would impress all people as the commemoration of a great deed? It was this last consideration which induced Charlemagne to accept the title. He detested all outward display. Wherever he went he wore his plain military costume, but when he represented the people upon public occasions he did not despise show. He never under-estimated the effect of personal appearance upon the people, and he well knew what the effect of this title would be. It was full of meaning to the people; but its significance to him was the completion of the great mission he had contemplated. As to the motives actuating him, M. Carriere well says:

"Charlemagne made the deeds and achievements of his grandfather and father the foundation of a lofty historical work. His soul was exalted with the ideal of a Roman empire and Christian German nation. Henceforth he devoted all his energies to the work of uniting the Germans in one organic whole. He brought not only Bavaria, but Saxony under German authority. From the Eider to the Tiber, from the Ebro to the Drau, his authority was absolute. When the Pope placed the imperial crown upon his head, it was the symbol of the work of culture the Germans would carry on in Rome, and a token that the new city should be a Christian city, representing God's Kingdom on earth."

Victories of Peace

It seems almost incredible that a prince who was obliged to undertake so many and such prolonged campaigns that against the Saxons alone requiring twenty-six expeditions—could have had any opportunity to engage in works of peace. The question must arise how he found the time, or the opportunity, or the encouragement for other operations than those of a warlike nature.

Succeeding events will supply the answer. From the point of view of his wars, the Emperor has been called a conqueror; but when we come to consider his peace achievements and his creative ability, it will be shown that he had a still clearer right to that appellation. It will also clearly reveal his ideals of sovereignty, and we shall recognize the propriety of the title history has accorded him.

First of all, let us consider the place which was the favorite resort of the Emperor during the last twenty years of his life. He lived at Aix-la-Chapelle nearly all the time when he was not in the field Its gently sloping heights, spurs of the Eifel and Ardennes, at that time densely wooded, enclosed a fruitful valley. A royal palace stood there in Pepin's time; and even if Charlemagne was not born there, as is sometimes asserted, yet it is certain that he spent the most of his boyhood amid these scenes.

Bathing was one of his favorite pleasures, and many a time he breasted the blue waves of the Rhine. The warm mineral baths at Aix-la-Chapelle were his especial delight. There were also thickly wooded spots in the vicinity which attracted him. He was as fond of hunting as of bathing, even in his last years; and his retainers, as well as his beautiful and buxom daughters, often joined him in the hunt, and chased the buffaloes and wild boars to the clang of horns and the baying of hounds. All great human personages excite the imagination of those who come under their influence; and the popular fancy is fond of weaving stories about them which help to reveal their true character. One of these legends concerns the baths at Aix-la-Chapelle.

At Charlemagne's palace in Mainz there was a bell which was said to ring whenever any danger was threatened. Charlemagne heard its clang one day and sent a messenger to ascertain the cause. He found that a snake had coiled itself around the rope and was the bell-ringer. The snake led the messenger to its nest, where a noxious toad was found squatting upon the snake's eggs. He drove the toad away and then informed the Emperor of the curious event. Charlemagne's astonishment was further increased when the snake suddenly appeared in the hall, wriggled along to his table, ascended it, dropped a sparkling jewel which it carried in its jaws into a wine glass, and then quickly disappeared.

The magic stone, upon which swan and runic symbols were engraved, had mysterious properties. Whoever received the gift became the object of the passionate adoration of the giver. Charlemagne placed the stone in a ring and sent it to his beloved wife Fastrada. Immediately he became more closely attached to her than ever before. He could not be away from her. When her death removed her from his side, he was overcome with grief. Her body was placed in an open coffin in the Cathedral, and the Emperor spent his time there and would not suffer it to be buried. The people whispered among themselves, "The Emperor's mind is affected by his love for Fastrada. What will become of his crown and country if this grief continues?"

In this emergency the pious Turpin had a dream which suggested a method of deliverance. He rose from his bed, donned his clothes, and hastened to the Cathedral. It was apparently empty. Before the altar there was a lofty sarcophagus, upon which the Empress rested. Round about it upon the floor lay a band of paladins garbed as penitents. In front of the sarcophagus stood the Emperor weeping, with his head resting upon the coffin. Turpin ascended the steps. He gently raised Fastrada's ermine covering, seized the hand so long cold, and quietly removed the ring; whereupon the paladins, who had been kneeling in prayer, looked about in astonishment. The Emperor lifted his head and addressed them. "How long have we mourned? Too long, surely! Where is my chancellor? It seems to me my people are calling. Let the Empress be buried in the earth, never to be forgotten."

The magic swan ring now exerted its influence in a new way. The Emperor became devotedly attached to the prelate, and the latter was troubled over its demoralizing influence. He went to Aix-la-Chapelle, followed by the Emperor, and threw the ring into a quiet forest lake made by the warm springs. From that time the place became the favorite resort of the Emperor. He erected a castle in the midst of the lake, in which he often meditated upon the frailty of earthly things. He took delight in bathing in the waters in whose depths the swan ring, taken from the hand of his beloved, rested without his knowledge.

At Aix-la-Chapelle he also built a majestic palace, surrounded by a broad columned portico, which was a marvel of architecture at that time. Rome and Ravenna furnished the columns, the marble blocks, and the mosaic work, and the best architects were sent there by the Pope. Around it were buildings for the schools, court attendants, and bodyguards; farther away, a cloister and farmhouses; and still farther off a tall structure built over the warm baths and capable of accommodating hundreds. The most majestic building of all was a minster connected with the palace by a pillared passageway, the dome of which, supported by tall columns, was adorned with a representation of Christ and the four-and-twenty elders of the Apocalypse in mosaic upon a gold background, the altars glistening with gold and silver ornaments.

Everything was carried out according to the plans of the Emperor; and even when he was in the field the work went on. He devoted himself assiduously to all sacred matters. In the early morning hours he might be seen passing along the portico to the church to meditate and strengthen himself for his official duties, and at evening he returned for the same high purpose.

Those who attended this hero of the spiritual when the times were opportune for deeds of peace often accompanied the hero of the sword upon his expeditions. During his first Lombard campaign he became acquainted with the pious and learned Anglo-Saxon prelate, Alcuin, and took him with him that he might have the advantage of his counsels and teaching. Charlemagne, like all princes' sons in those days, had enjoyed but little instruction up to the time he assumed the sovereignty. His native ability helped him over many hard places, but that same ability inspired him with a passionate desire to avail himself of the treasures of knowledge. The great Emperor sat, a willing scholar, at the feet of his teacher Alcuin, whom Guizot thus describes:

"Alcuin was very well versed in Antonius and Hieronymus and was familiar with Pythagoras, Aristotle, Aristippus, Diogenes, Plato, Homer, Virgil, Seneca, and

Pliny. His writings were chiefly theological, but he had also done much of importance in mathematics, astronomy, dialectics, and rhetoric. This man was the light of the Church in his day and was also a classical scholar."

Other members of the scholarly circle at his court, were Angilbert, Eginhard, Theodulph, Peter of Pisa, and the Lombard historian Paulus Warnefried. The last, as already has been stated, had been condemned to death for inciting revolt in his country, but was pardoned by Charlemagne, who subsequently conferred many honors upon him. How highly Charlemagne esteemed art and science is shown by the fact that he attended the sessions of the academy and was recognized as an equal among its members. He would not allow court ceremonials to be conducted in halls devoted to the service of science. In order to preserve and foster the culture of former times, the members at his request took the names of famous ancients. Alcuin was called Horace; Eginhard, Callippus; Angilbert, Homer; Theodulph, Pindar; and Charlemagne the hero, champion of, the Church, and lover of the lyre was unanimously called David.

Charlemagne was endowed with extraordinary natural gifts of language; his studies, which he pursued at night, both at home and in the field, enabled him in an exceedingly short time to converse as fluently in Latin as in his mother tongue. He studied the works of the great Roman historians, Julius Caesar, Sallust, Livy, Tacitus, and others; and besides this, during his Roman expeditions, he had viewed the scenes of the exploits described by them and the ruins of ancient stateliness. The Grecian world also had revealed to him the brilliant culture of the great men of that country. He was so well acquainted with the Greek language that he could read the literature in the original, which disclosed to him visions of the beauty of that Eden. Rome stood high in his estimation, but Athens higher; and higher than either Rome or Athens, Jerusalem, as the source of those sacred teachings which are to humanity what the sun is to the earth—light-diffuser and inspiration of newly created life. He never wandered from the true path, whose course is so often confused by mistaken teachers even to this day. With unwavering faith he anticipated the complete victory of the light and was ready at all times to serve the sacred cause with all his energy. He often manifested his sincere interest in the Academy. He ardently longed to create a new Athens at Aix-la-Chapelle by his own efforts, assisted by his friends, and to make this new Athens the centre of a Christian spirit which should be a light to all the nations. He founded training schools and schools for youth. He organized a school at the court for the sons of his generals and officials. He supervised every detail, so that there should be no question of their success, and invited the assistance of others. The great Emperor was not ashamed to avail himself of the critical knowledge acquired by the results of education. The chronicles of Saint Gall contain the following interesting instance of this:

It happened that the sons of those of the middle and lower classes exhibited results which surpassed all his expectations, and that the sons of people of the higher classes handed in wretched and bungling compositions. Imitating the example of the highest Judge, Charlemagne placed the industrious ones on his right and said to them: "I praise you, my children, for the zeal with which you have carried out my instructions and because you have done your best according to your ability. Continue striving to accomplish still more that you may not fail to meet my expectations and to have my constant care." Then he turned his reproachful gaze upon those at his left and hurled these words at them: "Why is it that you, sons of noblemen, puppets upon whom have been showered all the gifts of birth and wealth, have not respected my orders and recognized my solicitude for your reputation? You have slighted me and devoted yourselves to effeminate habits, sports, frivolity, and disgraceful actions." Raising his arm, he shouted: "By Heaven, there are other things more worthy than these. Your birth and rank count for little with me. Listen! If you do not hasten to atone for your neglect by increased industry, you will never again enjoy my favor."

He who would achieve greatness in the short span of life must improve every moment of time. Even while dressing, Charlemagne busied himself with state affairs, heard complaints, held receptions, and made decisions. When he could not sleep at night he spent much time reading and writing. One may ask why a man who understood Greek and Latin and was so well versed in classic literature should have practised writing. The question has given rise to many conjectures Very little attention was paid to writing in those days. It was mainly confined to the copying of the letters in the sumptuous editions then in use. The books with their costly gold and silver covers, set with precious stones, were genuine works of art. Guizot says:

"With few books and still less paper, writing was a luxury as well as a gift. Nearly all instruction was oral, and writing was not depended upon in study. It is true Charlemagne did not need to economize in paper; but his teachers had accustomed themselves to instruct their pupils with extracts and selections, which were committed to memory and not written upon tablets. They did not expect great elaboration of detail from their scholars and brought their studies to a close without practising the art which with us is considered the beginning. The writing and preparation of diplomas was the work of expert secretaries."

As Charlemagne had acquired the art of writing he thus surpassed the princes and notables of his time in this also.

The Emperor took special pains at meals that while the body was nourished the soul and mind should not be neglected. He was fond of pleasant entertainment, and if conversation was not so interesting as he wished, the chaplain would read from some good book. As gormandizing was distasteful to him, the dinner consisted of only four courses, something unheard-of in court life at that time. He drank but three times at table, and regarded drunkenness as a vice. He was delighted beyond measure when surrounded by his own family, something he rarely enjoyed because of his many campaigns.

An extraordinarily tender relation existed between Angilbert, who bore the academic name of Homer, and Charlemagne's beautiful daughter Bertha. Upon one occasion they sat engaged in pleasant conversation without noticing that night was approaching. What might have happened if the Emperor had been aware of this it is difficult to conjecture. The hours passed swiftly and daybreak drew near. It was not a Romeo and Juliet morning of lark and nightingale greetings to the sun, but a cold winter morning with freshly fallen snow on the ground. How was Angilbert to get away without leaving accusing footprints in the snow? At this juncture, Charlemagne, who had risen early, went to the window and beheld his loved daughter Bertha carrying Angilbert on her back through the snow, after which she returned to her chamber. Charlemagne kept silent about the escapade, and it was not until some time afterwards that he confided to his friend what he had seen that night.

It was devout piety that induced Charlemagne to build the stately Cathedral. The music of the Italian masters was heard there for the first time, and the art of song was fostered by his chapel. The German language was employed there for the first time in divine service, much to the surprise of the Franks. The peal of the organ which Harun-al-Rashid presented to the Emperor was also first heard there. The chronicles of Saint Gall, to which we are indebted for so much interesting information concerning Charlemagne, relate that "the wonderful instrument, by the aid of its metal action and leathern bellows, filled the air with resonant thunder and anon with the, soft tones of the lyre, as if worked by magic."

Wood and stone, music, tapers, and incense, however, are of little account by themselves. Indeed they sometimes prove detrimental to the service, which should be the worship of God in spirit and in truth. There had been much pomp in the service before the time of Charlemagne. Indeed, the churches vied with each other in religious spectacles, and there was very little change in these matters among the clericals or laity in his time. When the clericals had finished their churchly duties they sought relief from their exertions in worldly pleasures. They were often seen in courtly attire engaged in hunting, in military exercises, or riding to banquets. It was irksome to bishops and abbes when they had to be satisfied with such a table as Charlemagne set forth. He was determined from the very first that there should be a radical change in church observances, and that the first step should be the establishment of higher standards in the behavior of clericals, and the suppression of covetousness, vanity, and personal show among them. He sternly rebuked a bishop who had provided himself a golden crozier set with pearls and precious stones. "We expect our pastors to bear the cross of Christ," he told him, "but they abandon their poor sheep and seek to vie with kings and emperors in splendor and majesty." He also required them to evince a spirit of reverence in all their actions.

He assigned a young priest, who came to him highly recommended, to an important position. Thereupon the priest mounted his horse which was standing waiting for him and would have hurried away to the hunt. Charlemagne called him back and said: "Forsooth, I observe that you are far too active for a priest. It will be better, therefore, for you to follow me in my campaigns as a soldier, for the Kingdom of Heaven is much disturbed by these storms of war."

The clericals often accompanied him, not for fighting, but to render spiritual help whenever it was needed. Certain monks who had distinguished themselves by works of mercy and the transcribing of useful books were allowed the privilege of hunting as exceptions, because he thought they might strengthen themselves and at the same time secure skins for book covers, girdles, and gloves.

Charlemagne labored incessantly for the highest interests of Church and State. He held two annual assemblies, one military and the other of a deliberative nature, in which these interests were discussed. It is surprising to find that he held forty-two synods for that part of the Empire alone, in which church matters were regulated and educational questions settled. He issued four hundred and seventy-seven edicts appertaining to the subjects contained in the famous "Capitularies," besides six hundred and seventy-four of a political character. Although many of these are not applicable to modern conditions, it must be remembered that one time is not all time that the wisdom of the lawgiver must be measured by the conditions of those for whom laws are made; and that results must be decided upon their merits or demerits. All his contemporaries are agreed that his laws resulted in great benefit for the Empire.

It often happened in these assemblies that when the decisions of famous men in the olden times were considered, a feeling of doubt would seize upon Charlemagne. Upon one such occasion he declared: "Oh that I had twelve such learned advisers as Hieronymus and Augustine were!" To which Alcuin replied: "The ruler of heaven and earth did not have any, and you are longing for twelve of them."

Charlemagne retired to rest burdened with care, but awoke with fresh hope and new desire for action. His predecessors had made their first residence in Paris; he, German in body and soul, much as he enjoyed the healthiness of Roman life, left for the banks of the Rhine, and, as has been related, selected Aix-la-Chapelle as his residence in his latter days. There was not a detail of public administration which escaped his attention or upon which he did not expend his extraordinary creative ability. When it was necessary he sat in majesty upon his throne. In the academy he devoted himself with no less assiduity to the promotion of great truths. Indeed, it is difficult to say in what capacity he most excelled—as a war hero, lawgiver, judge, or teacher. Those who saw him in plain attire upon one or other of the royal estates, directing and disposing, might well imagine that the great Charlemagne perfectly filled the role of farmer.

Under Charlemagne's management the crown possessions became models of husbandry. Nothing escaped his attention, and whatever he planned was successful. The stewards received lists containing the names of species of corn, kitchen herbs, fruit trees, medical simples, which were to be planted, cultivated, and looked after in field and garden. He ordered poultry, geese, and doves to be kept at the mills so that the superfluous grain should not be wasted. He laid out fish-ponds, constructed apiaries, planted noble vineyards, and introduced improved methods of wine-making. Nor did he confine himself to the strictly useful. He arranged for the keeping of pheasants and peacocks. He cultivated great quantities of flowers in the beautiful pleasure gardens. He employed gardeners, fish-masters, and bee-keepers. He arranged to have experts in the making of butter and cheese teach the people. Upon the crown estates as well as upon; others, wolf-hunters were posted, who had to deliver annually a certain number of skins or suffer a penalty. Whatever produce from the crown property was unnecessary for use at the court was sold, and a yearly account of it was kept. The supervision of the house stewards extended to the slightest detail. Charlemagne was far from avaricious. His household never suffered for lack of anything. Whenever corn was disposed of he arranged to sell the measure about a denier below the ordinary price. He had the highest sense of order in the management of affairs, and looked upon disorder, whether in the State, the family, or intellectual matters, as conducive to disastrous results. He did not live upon the fat of the land, but upon the abundance from his own estates.

Let us consider the conditions of industry and business in Charlemagne's Empire. His wars were in no wise detrimental to material prosperity. Arrow, missile, and helmet makers, as well as sword and bow and bullet makers, were in demand. At the royal palaces there were blacksmiths, armorers, gold and silver smiths, shoemakers, tailors, millers, turners, masons, wheelwrights, builders, brass-workers, tanners, soap-boilers, fowlers, potters, bakers, joiners, saddlers, net-weavers, coopers, architects, glass-blowers, parchment makers, painters, and dyers. After Charlemagne's order that monks who failed in studies should make themselves useful as handworkers, there was an active emulation among all the artisans employed at the palaces, the monasteries, and in the cities. Ferdinand Pfalz states in his "Scenes in City Life" that under Charlemagne, notwithstanding his frequent wars, the cities enjoyed material prosperity:

"The Rhine, Meuse, and Scheld were crowded with freight vessels; and at the landing-places, as at Worms, Mainz, Cologne, Dorstadt, Maestricht, Ghent, and Bruges, or in the harbors at the mouth of the Scheld there were busy scenes. The Strasburg merchants shipped down the Rhine to the sea and the Frisians to Worms. The great Emperor regarded this expansion of commerce with delight. The old and patched Roman walls were soon too restricted for the increasing urban populations. Churches and seats of the nobility spread out into the suburbs, which eventually had to be enclosed in a ring of walls."

Order in housekeeping both in court and state affairs Charlemagne regarded as vitally necessary to sovereignty.. The whole Empire was divided into districts and to each district a competent official was assigned, whose duty it was to see that the Capitularies were respected. Special judges appeared from time to time, made examinations, and reported to the Emperor. In deliberations on the affairs of the Empire, Charlemagne summoned the leading feudal owners and the high churchmen in May, which is the origin of the name "Mayfield" given to these meetings.

Last Days and Death

It is not remarkable that the fame of such a sovereign spread far and near throughout the world. Representatives of all nations were found at his court. The heathen Avar with braided frontlets, the haughty Count of Lombardy in silk and peacock feather, the turbaned Arab, the fierce Saxon, the lithe Anglo-Saxon, the Bavarian, and the Frank mingled with white-robed priest, dark-cowled monk, and gowned Jew. Princes of Asia and Africa contended for the favor of the great Western Emperor, among them Harun-al-Rashid ("Aaron the Just"), Mohammedan caliph of Asia. Charlemagne had sent an embassy to this powerful prince, who ruled at the marvellous city of Bagdad, asking him to extend his protection to Western Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem. Harun graciously acceded to this request. He sent Charlemagne the banner of Jerusalem and the keys to the Holy Sepulchre as a symbol of his sovereignty over that city. These gifts were followed by others, costly gold-embroidered silken stuffs, frankincense, balsam, and spices, also monkeys and an elephant. The chronicles state that in return Charlemagne sent him Spanish horses and mules and Frisian robes, white, gray, sapphire, and variegated, besides hounds of the largest and best kind for chasing and catching lions and tigers. Charlemagne had a hospital built in Jerusalem where needy pilgrims could be cared for. Ibrahim, the African prince who ruled over Mauritius, sent him a Libyan lion, a Numidian bear, Iberian steel, and purple from Tyre. Another gift by Harun was a brass water-clock, which was so constructed that a hand revolved during the twelve hours; and as each was completed, brass balls falling upon a metal basin gave out a clear tone announcing the hour.

Charlemagne was at this time over sixty years of age. His white hair and beard added to his majestic appearance. His fourth wife had recently died, and he now, upon suggestions from Rome, considered a union with the Empress Irene of Greece. The real nefariousness of this woman was not revealed until later; and at this time the Emperor knew no reason why he should not marry her. But it is to be remembered that in every action Charlemagne conducted himself not as a private person, but as the ruler of a great empire. The only question which arose in his mind was whether such a union would accrue to the advantage of the Christian world and his own people. He decided that it would, and entered upon the preliminaries of a settlement. Then came news of the dethronement of Irene and her banishment to Lesbos an event which was subsequently justified and which proved to be very fortunate for him.

An agreement was made with the Saxons in the year 803 at Selz on the Saale, which secured peace for the future. In consideration of the restoration of their old rights and customs they promised to refrain from any resistance to the spread and maintenance of Christianity in Saxony, and to accept the incorporation of their country as part of the Frankish Empire.

In 808 the aged hero again took the field. He led an expedition against Gottfried, King of Denmark, who in years past had been so busy inciting Saxon revolt. But the Emperor's purpose was not to obtain satisfaction for old offences, but to stamp out new hostilities. The Obotrites, allies of the Franks, had been suddenly attacked by Gottfried; Danish vessels had harried the German coast; and the Danes had made several landings and pillaged and murdered. Driven back by Carl, the Emperor's oldest son, Gottfried reached a spot several miles beyond the Schley, where a wall had been constructed across the country, still known as the "Danewerk." During this expedition the Emperor was thrown from his horse, which caused his lance to fly from his hand, and his sword to drop from his belt. Many regarded this as an unfortunate omen; but Gottfried and Charlemagne did not meet on the field. Gottfried was slain by some of his own people, and Hemming, his brother and successor, hastened to send a peace embassy to Charlemagne. A treaty was negotiated by which Denmark renounced all claim upon the territory for which it had striven, south of the Eider, which was recognized as the northern boundary of the Frankish Empire.

When Charlemagne returned to Aix-la-Chapelle he was taken ill for the first time in his life. He regarded his ailment, however, as nothing worse than a slight feverish attack, and resumed his official duties in a few days. For the first time his people began to realize that he was mortal, and to ask themselves what might happen to the Empire if he were taken away.

Of Charlemagne's three sons, the two eldest, Carl and Pepin, had proved themselves heroes in the field. Of these two, Carl, who most closely resembled his father in face and figure, was his favorite. To his great disappointment, however, he was forced to admit to himself that Ludwig, the youngest, should the emergency occur, would be unfitted to be his successor, and unqualified to assure the perpetuity of the Empire. And what was this great Empire? It was bounded on the north by the Eider and the Baltic, on the south by the Tiber and the Mediterranean, on the east by the Elbe and the Raab, and on the west by the Ebro and the Atlantic, recalling the extent and power of the old Roman Empire under Caesar and Augustus.

Charlemagne long and anxiously considered, the situation before he decided to call an assembly of the dignitaries of State and Church and submit his plans for the division of the sovereignty. These plans provided for the assignment of the young Carl to the principal part of the Frankish Empire, the predominating German nations; Pepin to the Italian, and Ludwig to those possessions which at a subsequent period became the principal part of France.

The circle of those nearest the heart of the great Emperor gradually grew smaller. His mother, Bertha, had already been dead twenty years. This rare woman, who in her will provided ample chests of linen to poor weavers and spinners, enjoyed his love and filial care to the very last. The Academy still numbered many excellent scholars in its membership; but there was no one to fill the place of that wise teacher and close friend, Alcuin, who died about this time. In 810 the Emperor's eldest daughter, Rotrud, died. Hardly had he recovered from this blow when news came of the death of Pepin, after a brief illness.

Alas! of what avail are human plans? Too often they are like the dust scattered by the wind. The Emperor bore his grief manfully, and labored with his customary devotion in his affairs of State and at the academy. In these last days he began with extraordinary enthusiasm to write a German grammar. Unfortunately it was not finished, and the only fragments left of it are the names which he gave to the months and the winds.

The next year (811) was not finished before fresh tidings of sorrow came. Carl, the Emperor's favorite son, was snatched away by death in the very prime of his life, as his brother Pepin had been shortly before. Still the Emperor wasted no time in mourning. He attended to his duties as usual; but after this last blow his face never wore a smile again.

Charlemagne's Crypt


The only remaining son was the one who had shown himself the least capable. What solicitude for the future of his race and Empire must have overwhelmed the Emperor!

In the year 813 Charlemagne summoned the notables of the Empire to an assembly at Aix-la-Chapelle. He announced to them that he had arranged a definite settlement of the boundary question with Greece, Denmark, and the Moors, which gave great satisfaction to them. Thereupon he proclaimed his son Ludwig King of the Franks, and added that he also wished, with their consent, to invest him with the dignity of Roman Emperor. They gave their consent, but there were grief in the hearts and tears in the eyes of many of them.

Upon the day fixed for the coronation Charlemagne appeared in the Cathedral imperially arrayed, and met the notables assembled there. He led his son Ludwig to the altar, where a throne had been placed. After they had offered prayer they arose, and Charlemagne made a solemn address to his son in which he bade him always to be mindful of the duties of a sovereign, closing with these words:

"Compel malicious and dangerous disturbers by force to live in an orderly manner and pursue the right way. Be the consoler and defender of the cloisters and the poor. Select only wise, just, and firm counsellors. Never remove one except for proper reasons, and so conduct yourself that you may have no cause to blush before God or man."

When Ludwig had promised to follow these counsels the Emperor ordered him to take the crown from the altar and place it upon his head. This was done. The Emperor was a loyal adherent of the Church, but he did not care to have the ceremony performed by priestly hands, as he feared that it might open the way to future assumptions of a dangerous kind. Supported by his son, the venerable Emperor thereupon left for the palace.

Ludwig went temporarily to Aquitaine, which had been assigned to him. The separation between father and son was a painful one, for neither felt that they should see each other again.

The people were greatly troubled, particularly by a remarkable event which shortly occurred and so worked upon the popular fancy that they expected some dire calamity would follow. The colonnade connecting the palace and the minster was struck by lightning, the dome was injured, and the last words upon the altar, "Carolus princeps," were effaced. But Charlemagne gave no attention to it. It was of little consequence to him.

The year 814 opened. It was plain to all that the Emperor was growing weaker. On the twenty-seventh of January the last rites were administered by Bishop Heldebald in both forms, and early the next day Charlemagne passed away in the seventy-second year of his age and the forty-seventh of his reign, with the words "Into Thy hands I commit my spirit."

The real nature of this calamity is shown by the discussion which took place as to the suitable manner of the Emperor's interment. He who had so long watched over the welfare of the Empire, he who had so often sat upon his steed as the battle hero, upon his throne as lawgiver, judge, and counsellor, and as teacher among the scholars of the academy, should he now lie in a coffin? They could not conceive of it. It was repugnant to the sentiment of all those whose hearts were overcome by their great loss. After earnest discussion they decided upon a form of interment which should reflect the greatness of that loss. 'Seated upon a marble throne with gold adornments, in imperial garb glistening with golden bees, the crown upon his head, sword and pilgrim's scrip at his side, a Testament upon his knees, and a fragment of the Holy Cross at his breast, thus was the dead Emperor lowered to the crypt of the minster, which was filled with the costliest spices.

One hundred and eighty-six years later, in the year 1000, the German Emperor Otto the Third, who was a victim of melancholy, opened the crypt, hoping that the sight of the great dead would restore peace and rest to his soul. The glare of torches revealed the majestic figure of the Emperor, still sitting upright on his throne. Otto, however, did not find the rest for which he had hoped. Had he realized the spirit of the Emperor, had he studied him in his great works, perhaps it would have brought him relief and the fresh incentive to activity might have resulted in more faithful performance of his duties as sovereign.

A century and a half later the crypt was again opened by Barbarossa, who ordered that the precious remains of Charlemagne should be placed in a marble casket and buried in the Cathedral.

While reflecting with reverence upon this picture of the Emperor in the crypt, we should also consider the picture of the living Emperor, as revealed in this story of his earthly pilgrimage. If we do this in the right way, refusing to be influenced by those harpies who pursue all great and noble men in history that they may besmirch their memories, we shall be inspired by the example of his great deeds to make our own pilgrimage a blessing both to ourselves and others.