Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Charlemagne, called Carolus by contemporaries, was born in the 740s (historians are uncertain about the year), crowned King of the Franks in 768, additionally made King of (northern) Italy in 774, and Emperor of (western) Europe on Christmas in 800. He spent much of his life fighting to expand his empire. Pope Leo III was a close friend and ally, sanctioning his imperial aspirations.


Although illiterate, Charlemagne spoke at least two languages fluently, Frankish and Latin, and encouraged the preservation of learning as well as the thorough education of his children. He was a Christian and demanded that his subjects accept Christianity. When he died in 814, he had expanded his kingdom in all directions but especially toward the south and east. He controlled most of what is today Franceand Belgium and also ruled much of what is now western Germanyand northern Italy. (His capital, Aachen, is now part of Germany.) Within his borders was some territory now belonging to Spain, and there were other lands where he made his influence felt although the were never fully under his control.


His son Louis the Pious became emperor after him, but over time the Caroligian Empire, as it was called, split into various kingdoms, only to unify as several separate countries in more recent centuries.