Charlemagne –

From the Frankish sovereign crowned in the year 800 to the majestic emperor with the flowery beard, there is a step that was quickly crossed in the medieval imagination.

Can the modern historian reach a more certain reality than the portrait of Carlos fawned over by court historians and legendary tales?

King Charles the Great (Wikimedia Commons)

The historical sources are relatively numerous, but all are favorable to the Carolingian. And legend, even more than history, would give Charlemagne an epic dimension.

Let us try to mention some sure facts about what was the life of Charles the Great, Carolus Magnus, Charlemagnethe first European Roman Emperor of the Middle Ages.

When his father, the king Pepin the Short, died in 768, the course of the Frankish kingdom was on the right track. A Carlos It would be up to him to finish it.

The first interventions of Charlemagne in the war they were still simple military demonstrations, almost as ineffective as those he had carried out Pepin. But from 778, the Saxons, who had found a chief in the person of widkingThey became a real threat.

For three years in a row Charlemagne he confronted the saxonsand in 785, widking he had to capitulate and take an oath of allegiance and convert to Christianity, along with all his followers in Saxony.

A prudent policy of conversion, inspired by the Saxon experience, gradually attracted the avars from the north to the Christian region, who ended up placing themselves under the protection and vassalage of Charlemagne.

The saracenscoming from the south of the Pyrenees, were gradually contained in the area between the mountain and the Ebro. Not far away, the Hispanic mark was formed, which encompassed all of Catalonia, with Barcelona as its capital, and covered the Frankish kingdom to the south. .

In 773, Charlemagne undertook a campaign that began in the spring with the intention of definitively lowering the power lombard, north of Italy. The king and the Frankish army remained for a whole year in the enemy country, which allowed them to finally obtain the surrender of Pavia, in June 774.

This victory mainly favored Romeand the papacy, threatened by the Lombard presence to the north of their territories. Charlemagne replaced the lombardsbut quickly, and despite the agreements, he himself became a threat to Rome and the Papal States.

In these instances, the frank kingdom It encompasses almost the entire West, extending from the English Channel to the Adriatic Sea, and from the banks of the Ebro to the Elbe.

December 25 of the year 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the west for him Pope Leo III, in Rome itself. Let us remember that the last European emperor of Rome fell in 476 (a date that traditionally marks the beginning of the Middle Ages).

The emperors were strengthened in the East, in Constantinople, but the culture and religion was moving away year by year from the West, which was not governed by any Roman emperor since then.

It was Charlemagne crowned in spite of himself? Without any doubt, the coronation ceremony was suggested by the propaganda of the clerics and prepares the initiative of the Pope. Rome was granting the only thing that it was then capable of giving: legitimacy. By doing this, the papacy secured the alliance of the franks.

Thought Carlos restore a universal empire in the Roman style, or just get an honorary title and continue with the policy that had been carried out until now?

It is impossible to know for sure, but the Frankish tradition was preserved intact, indicating that the nature of power was not transformed by the ceremony at Christmas 800.

Moreover, everything happened as if Carlos The empire was considered as a momentary realization, destined to disappear with his person. Early in 806 he settled his succession with an act apportioning, according to the ancient customs of his people, his “empire or kingdom of his” among his three sons.

The empire thus seemed, in Halphen’s phrase, “a kind of apotheosis” of Charlemagnean ephemeral construction linked to the powerful personality of its creator.