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Title: Charlemagne - Life Stories for Young People
Author: Upton, George P. (George Putnam), Schmidt, Ferdinand
Language: English
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              [Illustration: _CHARLEMAGNE and Desiderata_]

                    _Life Stories for Young People_


                     _Translated from the German of
                           Ferdinand Schmidt_

                            GEORGE P. UPTON

         _Author of “Musical Memories,” “Standard Operas,” etc.
              Translator of “Memories,” “Immensee,” etc._

                        WITH FIVE ILLUSTRATIONS

                    [Illustration: A · C · M^cCLURG]

                          A. C. McCLURG & CO.

                          A. C. McClurg & Co.
                      Published September 24, 1910

                         THE • PLIMPTON • PRESS
                              [W • D • O]
                       NORWOOD • MASS • U • S • A

                          Translator’s Preface

Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, might well have been entitled Charles
the Greatest. He was great in war and great in peace—a great conqueror,
great law-maker, great scholar, great organizer, great civilizer. He
subdued savage nations, introduced learning, extended religion,
encouraged the arts and sciences, and established one of the mightiest
empires of the olden times. All the races of Germany, of Italy, and of
France were welded by him into one great monarchy. He maintained and
extended the influence of Christian culture. A large part of his life
was spent in the field, and yet he found time for the political
establishment and development of a great empire, for the reorganization
of the Church, for the promotion of education, for the conservation of
classic culture, and for an astonishing display of many-sided activity.
Gibbon, the historian, says of him:

  “The dignity of his person, the length of his reign, the prosperity of
  his arms, the vigor of his government, and the reverence of distant
  nations, distinguish him from the royal crowd: and Europe dates a new
  era from his restoration of the Western Empire.”

He was a monarch whose life was characterized by extraordinary activity
and energy, by nobility of purpose and wisdom in administration, and by
a constructive genius and innate capacity for wise and generous ruling,
which have rarely been found in “the royal crowd.” As one of the most
conspicuous figures in history, the events of his life as narrated in
this volume deserve careful study at the hands of youth.

                                                                G. P. U.

Chicago, _July 1910_.


  Chapter                                                           Page
  I Ingelheim                                                         11
  II Retrospect                                                       20
  III Charlemagne and Desiderius                                      30
  IV The First Eleven Years of the Saxon War                          45
  V Wittekind’s Baptism                                               55
  VI Thassilo and the Avars                                           58
  VII The Coronation at Rome                                          64
  VIII Victories of Peace                                             72
  IX Last Days and Death                                              91
    Appendix                                                         101


  Charlemagne and Desiderata                              _Frontispiece_
  Charlemagne, Charles Martel, Clovis, Pepin the Short                26
  Wittekind’s Submission                                              56
  Charlemagne and Alcuin                                              78
  Otto the Third in the Crypt of Charlemagne                          96


                               Chapter I

It was at Ingelheim[1] 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,[2] and the Rheingau,[3] 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 Cæsars 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[4] (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

  “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

  “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’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

  “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.

                               Chapter II

The Franks, inhabiting both sides of the Rhine, held a leading position
among the German tribes about the middle of the fifth century, three
hundred years before the time of Charlemagne. They invaded Gaul from the
north and subdued that part of it occupied by the Alemanni[6] and
Burgundians,[7] and securely established themselves in the eastern and
southeastern parts of the country, southern Gaul being occupied by the
West Goths.[8]

About this period Clovis[9] made his appearance among the Franks. He was
brave to the extreme of hardihood and at the same time thoroughly
unprincipled. He ruled over one family[10] of Franks, relatives of his
being chiefs of the others. The family ancestor of the Franks was
Merovæus, from whom the Merovingians derived their name.

Notwithstanding their relationship, the Frank chiefs were in continual
strife with each other, but Clovis at last secured a kind of sovereignty
over all the families and forced his relations to furnish him with
warriors. As soon as this was accomplished, he set about making his
power absolute and suppressing their mutual quarrels, as he was
determined they should assist him in further invasions of Gaul. The only
remnant of Roman power left in Gaul (that part of it lying between the
Seine and the Loire) still maintained its political independence. It was
against this region, which was under the rule of the Roman patrician
Syagrius, that Clovis next directed his operations. He provoked him to
war, defeated him, and forced the West Goth King, Alaric the Second (who
was ultimately slain in battle by Clovis), with whom Syagrius sought
shelter, to give him up. He then strangled him in prison.

Clovis next made war against the Burgundians, who, as has been said,
occupied the southeastern part of Gaul and were ruled at that time by
two brothers, Gundobald and Godegisel. Both fell victims to his cruelty.
One of the dead brothers left a daughter Clotilde, for whose hand Clovis
appealed to her uncle, the Burgundian chief. The uncle did not dare
refuse Clovis’s request, and Clotilde, the Christian, became his wife.
She immediately set about the task of converting him, but did not
succeed at that time. His purpose was to secure her inheritance, not her
religious faith.

Before concluding final arrangements with the Burgundians another
problem presented itself for settlement. The Alemanni were threatening
Siegbert, one of his relations. This gave him a sufficient pretext for
drawing his sword against them. A decisive battle was fought at
Toul.[11] It was a bloody encounter, and victory at first appeared to
favor the Alemanni. Thereupon, thinking of Clotilde’s appeals to him, he
invoked the Christians’ God before his whole army and promised to become
a Christian if he won the victory. Thereupon he massed his forces and
hurled them upon the enemy with such fierceness that the onset was
irresistible. The Alemanni were decimated, and Clovis occupied the
entire region between the Neckar and Lahn and forced it to supply
warriors to make good his losses. In the same year he and three thousand
of his followers were baptized at Rheims.

The German chiefs who had embraced Christianity at an earlier period had
given their adhesion to the Arian confession, but Clovis gave his to the
Catholic. There was great rejoicing in Rome, and the Pope conferred upon
him the title of “All Christian King,” which title also descended to his
Frankish successors. Later the clergy spread the report abroad that a
miracle took place at the time of Clovis’s baptism. It was said that
there was no consecrated oil at hand. As the bishop stood helpless at
the altar a white dove suddenly flew down with a flask of oil in its
beak, a sign that his name had been inscribed in heaven and that his
conversion had given delight to God and the angels. To satisfy the
sceptical, the wonderful flask was preserved in the Cathedral of Rheims,
and the precious contents were not diminished, though it was used
whenever the rite was repeated. In fact the flask was used at every
coronation down to the close of the last century. The story of its
origin spread and is believed by some even to this day. Neither baptism,
nor anointing, nor papal titles, however, could change the deceitful,
truculent, bloodthirsty nature of Clovis. He next turned against his
wife’s Burgundian relatives, who were subjugated and compelled to pay
tribute to him.

Clovis was now master of Gaul even to the southern part of it, which had
belonged to the West Goths who a century earlier, under the leadership
of Ataulf, had taken possession of the country north and south of the
Pyrenees (southern Gaul and northern Spain). As there was no political
pretext for making war upon the West Goths he found a religious one. The
“All Christian” King Clovis assembled the bishops and secular leaders
and thus addressed them:

“Shall the West Goth heretics occupy that beautiful country and
persecute our Catholic brethren? Arise in the name of our faith and
conquer them!”

Clovis had now openly declared his adherence to the Catholic faith, and
there was fresh rejoicing in Rome when it was known that he had
undertaken a crusade against the West Goths. He was victorious in a
battle with Alaric the Second, whom he slew with his own hand, but was
prevented by Theodoric the Great,[12] father-in-law of Alaric, from
subjugating the entire West-Gothic kingdom. He had to be content with
the sovereignty of the region between the Loire and the Garonne
(Provence) as part of the Frankish Empire.

Clovis’s career was continually marked by injustice, cruelty, and
bloodshed. One outrage rapidly followed another. He next sought to add
the possessions of his Frankish relatives to his kingdom. Siegbert, with
whom he had fought against the Alemanni, was a cripple because of a
wound received in the battle of Toul. Clovis sent word to his son that
his father had lived too long, and that if he were out of the way they
might be friends. The dissolute son had his father murdered, and sent
this message to Clovis: “My father is no longer living. Send messengers
to me, and they shall take whatever you need from my treasures.” Clovis
sent his messengers, but upon another errand. The young prince led them
to the treasure chamber and they assassinated him there.

Clovis next assumed the role of avenger of Frankish chiefs killed by
Siegbert. He summoned the heads of the Frankish families and brought
such inducements to bear that they voluntarily acknowledged his
authority and accepted his sovereignty. He secretly inspired an uprising
against one relative, who had proved too obstinate; and when he was
brought before him by his own people in chains, Clovis exclaimed: “What!
are you not ashamed to appear before me in chains and to disgrace our
princely race?” With these words he cut off his head with a battle-axe.
He also killed his victim’s brother because he dared to protest. Sooner
or later all his relatives who wavered in allegiance suffered from his
wrath. Then he began to grow anxious lest some one of the family might
have been spared. He hypocritically lamented that he had not a relative
he could trust. He instituted a search, but all inquiries were useless.
He was in undisputed possession of a kingdom which extended from the
mouth of the Rhine to Switzerland on the south, to the Atlantic ocean on
the west, and almost to the Pyrenees on the southwest. He thought
himself secure against all enemies, but in his forty-fourth year death
overtook him.

Four sons inherited his kingdom, but there was no peace among them or
any of their descendants during the next two centuries. Treachery,
assassination, and poison were the agencies employed by the male members
of the princely house to gain their end. Petty jealousy, envy, and
revenge drove their wives to crimes of the worst description. Simplicity
of customs disappeared from court life. Roman civilization accomplished
its fatal work. The once princely Merovingian race was degenerated by
physical and spiritual weakness.

                     [Illustration: _CHARLEMAGNE_]

                    [Illustration: _CHARLES MARTEL_]

                   [Illustration: _PEPIN THE SHORT_]

                        [Illustration: _CLOVIS_]

The result of all this was a change in governmental relations. Before
the close of the sixth century the weak Merovingians relinquished the
responsibilities of rule to the mayor of the palace.[13] Among those who
filled the position, Pepin of Landen, the founder of the Pepin family
afterwards known as Carolingians or Carlovingians, was conspicuous. That
the Frankish kingdom, which included also Burgundy and Thuringia,
escaped dissolution was entirely due to this powerful Pepin family.
Subsequently Pepin of Heristal, a member of the same family, rose to the
honor of leadership. After many distinguished achievements, his son
Charles, who was called Charles Martel, or “the Hammer,” because of his
victory over the Moors in 732, succeeded him. The Frankish kingdom, as
well as the German Christian world, was saved by him from a great
disaster at the hands of the Moors, who twenty-one years later (711)
overthrew the power of the West Goths in Spain and established
themselves there.

Another Pepin, called “the Short,” by reason of his low stature,
succeeded Charles Martel. The enemies of the country—the Saxons
particularly—felt the weight of his power. An enmity of long standing
existed between the Saxons and the Franks, and they had often met in
fierce encounters. It is hard to say which side was to blame, but it is
certain that the Saxons, especially after the Franks had been
Christianized, often invaded the country of the latter, and that the war
which Pepin waged against them was to that extent a just one. He at last
subdued them and forced them to pay tribute. It was in Pepin’s time also
that the form of government was restored to the old royal system; and
while he accomplished this he also insisted that the influence of the
clergy should not be impaired. First of all he sought to secure the
favor of the bishops of the country, and succeeded so well that two of
them agreed to settle matters with the Pope. Everything seemed to favor
his plans. The Pope was hard pressed by the brave Lombardian King
Haistulf and in sore need of help. After consultation with the bishops
Pepin compelled Haistulf to give up his possessions to the Pope, and the
Pope recognized the Franks as defenders of the Church.[14]

Pepin the Short, like his predecessors, Charles Martel, Pepin of
Heristal, and Pepin of Landen, achieved great results for the Frankish
kingdom. For some years he carried on war with Aquitania and eventually
added that country to his dominions. When the Saxons hesitated about
paying the tribute which his father had exacted from them, he drew his
sword and compelled them to keep their agreement. When he realized that
his death was fast approaching, he divided his kingdom between his sons,
Charles[15] and Carloman. Charles, the elder, inherited Aquitania,
Austrasia,[16] Thuringia, Bavaria, Mainz, and Worms; Carloman inherited
Burgundy, Alsace, Provence, and Alemannia. Neustria[17] was divided
equally between them.

Pepin died in 768.

                              Chapter III
                       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.[18] 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,[19]
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 tri-partite 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.[20] 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[21] 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

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,[22] 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

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.”[23]

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, abbés, 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

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,[24] where he was
compelled to spend his remaining days in the exercise of penance. His
son, 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
Hélène from Jerusalem, was set among its jewels.

Immediately after the coronation, Paulus Diaconus,[25] 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.

                               Chapter IV
                The First Eleven Years 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[26] and the Unstrut,[27] 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,[28] 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[29] 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.[30] 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 Odin’s 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,[31] 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,[32] 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,[33] 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[34] 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![35]—a grewsome deed!

                               Chapter V
                          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.[36] 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.

                [Illustration: _WITTEKIND’S Submission_]

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

                               Chapter VI
                         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 Slavs and
Thuringians, urging them to resist Charlemagne’s authority. His most
serious offence, however, was his effort to induce the Avars[37] 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 Slavs 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.[38] 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[39] and the Sau,[40] 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

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[41] 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.[42]

                              Chapter VII
                         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

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 inmost 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 800. 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

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 Slavs 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 underestimated 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. Carrière 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.”

                              Chapter VIII
                           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,[43]
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.

                [Illustration: _CHARLEMAGNE and Alcuin_]

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 Cæsar, 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

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

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

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 abbés 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.

                               Chapter IX
                          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 Cæsar and

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

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

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!

        [Illustration: _OTTO THIRD in the crypt of Charlemagne_]

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

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

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

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.


[1]Ingelheim is a small town in Hesse, eight miles west of Mainz.

[2]Johannisberg is a village near Wiesbaden, famous for its wine.

[3]The Rheingau is a district on the right bank of the Rhine, also
   famous for its vineyards.

[4]Aachen is the German name of Aix-la-Chapelle, famous for its baths
   and the Cathedral founded by Charlemagne, where his marble throne is

[5]A canton of Switzerland, which was once subject to the monastery of
   Saint Gall.

[6]The Alemanni were a German race which occupied the region from the
   Main to the Danube.

[7]The Burgundians were also a German race which invaded Gaul and
   founded the Kingdom of Burgundy.

[8]The West Goths are usually called Visigoths.

[9]Clovis, founder of the Merovingian line, was born about 465 and was
   the son of Childeric. He married the Christian princess Clotilde in
   493 and, after victories over the Alemanni and Burgundians,
   established his court in Paris in 507. He died in 511.

[10]The word “family,” as used in this translation, signifies “tribe.”

[11]Toul is on the Moselle River in France. It is an important fortress
   and strategic point. It was annexed to France in 1648 and is one of
   the towns besieged by the Germans in the war of 1870.

[12]Theodoric the Great invaded Italy in 493, became sole ruler there,
   and founded the East-Gothic power.

[13]The mayor of the palace was an official having great authority in
   the court. He was elected by the chiefs and acted almost
   independently of his master.

[14]The origin of the temporal power of the Pope.


[16]Austrasia corresponds to the western part of Germany.

[17]Neustria corresponds to Northern France and Flanders.

[18]Desiderius, who reigned from 756 to 774, was the last of the Lombard
   kings. At this time he had invaded the Papal possessions.

[19]Bertha was designated as “Bertha with the large foot,” because one
   of her feet was larger than the other. All kinds of romances have
   been woven about her. She died at Choisy in 783 at a very advanced

[20]Gisela had already declined an offer of marriage from Leo the
   Fourth, King of Greece.

[21]A town in Alsace-Lorraine on the Moselle River, near Metz.

[22]The capital of the province of Pavia, on the Ticino River. It has
   been the scene of war and siege for centuries.

[23]Charlemagne was made a patrician in the time of Pepin.

[24]An old Benedictine Abbey on the Weser.

[25]Paulus Diaconus was born about 720 and died before 800. He was the
   great historian of his time, his principal work being a “History of
   the Lombards.”

[26]A range, of mountains in Brunswick, Anhalt, Hanover, and Saxony.

[27]A river in Central Germany, emptying into the Saale at Naumburg.

[28]Nordalbingia included the country now known as Holstein.

[29]Saint Boniface was an English missionary called “The Apostle of

[30]Arminius, who achieved German independence, was the Saxon hero, and
   they called this idol “Irminsul,” another form of “Hermann Säule”
   (“Hermann’s Pillar”).

[31]Benevento, a Lombard duchy in Southern Italy.

[32]The chief tributary of the Rhine in Prussia.

[33]Wittekind was the Saxon leader against Charlemagne and conducted the
   war until 785, when he submitted.

[34]Field of May.

[35]A town in the province of Hanover, near Bremen.

[36]A small town in Ardennes, France.

[37]The Avars were a savage robber people inhabiting what is now

[38]A bishopric of the old German Empire containing the abbey of Fulda.

[39]The River Enns separates Upper and Lower Austria.

[40]The River Sau or Save is one of the principal tributaries of the
   Danube, and joins that river at Belgrade.

[41]The modern Vienna.

[42]When Charlemagne expelled the Avars he made the district between the
   Enns and the Wienerwald the boundary of the Kingdom. “Oestmark”
   signifies “East mark” or limit, and “Oesterreich” means Austria.

[43]Alcuin, the prelate and scholar, was born at York, England, in 735,
   and died at Tours in 804. He was master of the school of the palace
   and general superintendent of all Charlemagne’s educational reforms.
   He was an authority on theology, history, grammar, rhetoric; he
   revised the Vulgate, and was also a poet.


The following is a chronological statement of the most important events
in the life of Charlemagne:

    742     Birth of Charlemagne.
    768     Accession to the throne conjointly with Carloman.
    771     Death of Carloman.
    772     Saxon War.
    773     War with the Lombards.
    777     Mayfield at Paderborn.
    778     War with Arabs in Spain.
    785     Submission of Wittekind.
    788     Bavaria subdued.
    800     Crowned Emperor at Rome.
    808-810     Defeated the Danes.
    814     Death of Charlemagne.
    814     Accession of Ludwig.

                     LIFE STORIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

                    _Translated from the German by_
                            GEORGE P. UPTON

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                     _Historical and Biographical_

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                          Transcriber’s Notes

--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
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--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
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