Charlemagne Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne) was born in 747 or 748 as the son of King Pippin III. born in the Frankish kingdom. His later dominion encompassed much of today's France, western and southern Germany, Italy and Spain. It was he who was able to regain the imperial dignity since antiquity.


Birth and childhood:

Charles the Great was born on 2 April 747 or 748, the exact year is not known. As the eldest son of Pippin the Younger, or Pippin III, Karl was born into the royal family of the Carolingians, whose royal title was granted only in 751, after the family was active for decades as administrator of the royal court and gained more and more power.

About the childhood and youth of Karl is virtually nothing handed down. Assuming that Karl in his later life identified a certain level of education, could speak Franconian as well as Latin and in his kingdom of education a high priority, it can be assumed that in addition to the martial training also at that time unusual training in other area came to him.




His entrance as king:

Already Charles's father Pippin III. expanded the Frankish empire over parts of Europe. In the last years of his tenure, however, he spent mainly to secure the area he had conquered from external influences. In 768 he led his last campaign in Aquitaine (a southwestern province of France, adjacent to Spain). On the way back in June 768 he fell ill, whereupon he began to regulate his succession. He decreed that his empire should be divided between his two sons Karl and Karl Mann. So Karl got the northern and eastern part, Karlmann the western and southern part. Pippin died on 24 September 768 in Saint-Denis. On October 9, 768, the coronation of the sons, Charles in Noyon and Karl man in the old Merovingian residence Soissons took place.

Although the two new kings were brothers, the relationship between them was tense from the start. There was no government over the former entire Frankish kingdom, since everyone wanted to rule only for himself and his part of the empire. The final break of the two occurred when Karl asked his brother for support against the insurgents in the province of Aquitaine, but Karlmann denied him this. Thus Charles defeated the rebellion alone and annexed parts of Aquitaine, which formally belonged to Karlmann's domain.

Although the mother of the two brothers Bertrada tried again and again to mediate between the two, but later failed to Charles's own plans. First, however, Karl agreed to his mother's suggestion to break away from his first wife Himiltrud and marry an unknown Lombard princess to seek an alliance with the Lombard king Desiderius.

From the spring of 771, however, Charles left entirely from his mother's plans, sent the Lombard princess back to her father and instead married an Alemannian named Hildegard, who came from one of Karlmann's provinces. His brother Karlmann now feared that Karl tried to exert influence through this marriage on the controlled by him province of Alamanni.

An open war between the two brothers was simply denied the fact that Karl died on 4 December 771 and Karl now took the opportunity and also took over the rule of his brother's kingdom.




Charles's campaigns and expansion of his empire:

The Longobard campaign:

After the death of his brother, Karl held power over the entire Frankish kingdom. But Karlmann's two sons, who had fled to the Langobard king Desiderius in Italy, posed an immediate danger to him. In addition, Desiderius extended his empire over Italy and made claims to the Roman church.

So it happened that Pope Hadrians in the spring sent 773 ambassadors to Karl to solicit his support. Karl assured him of support, set up an army and marched in late 773 from Geneva with two large armies the border to the Lombard kingdom. Charles's 1st Army, which he led himself, came over the Mont Cenis, the 2nd Army under the leadership of his uncle Bernhard came over the Great St. Bernard. Desiderius was forced to retreat to Pavia, a heavily fortified city. This was besieged for 9 months on arrival of the two armies, until the city and thus Desiderius capitulated. Subsequently, the city was looted and the Lombard Empire annexed to the Frankish Empire, which included Upper and Lower Italy. Southern Italy, however, was deprived of Karl's plans of integration.




The Saxon Wars:

Since the summer of 772, the Franconian empire was in the so-called Saxon wars. Since the Saxons, not like the Franks or Lombards, were structured in a unified empire but in loose tribal areas and their borders were directly adjacent to the Frankish empire, conflicts could hardly be avoided.

But not only the military aspect gave reason for the campaigns, also the christianization of the classified as pagan Saxons may have been reason.

So in 772 Karl started a campaign from Worms to the Eresburg, from there he went on to the tribal area where he had the cult shrine Irminsul (presumably a large pillar) destroyed. While Karl was then in Italy, some of the Saxon tribes rose and plundered in 774 through Frankish territory, where they destroyed many churches and monasteries. 775 was again the Franconian campaign, which had the subjugation of the Engern and Ostfalen and the destruction of Westphalia result. The second campaign was, in contrast to the first, characterized by particular hardness and brutality. Karl read, let kill many tribal leaders under the reason "only baptism or death", which gave the campaigns the final character of a Missionierung.

In 776, the Saxons rose again, but were beaten again. The Eresburg was then rebuilt on the instructions of Charles, other bases were created by the Franks, including the famous Karlsburg. Similarly, churches and monasteries were built to promote the Christianization. In 777, it seemed as if the areas were finally pacified. Paderborn (the former Karlsburg) also became the venue of the first Frankish imperial assembly.

But the peace was again fragile from 778 under the new rebel leader Widukind. This took advantage of Charles's campaign and the defeat in Spain, to rise again against the Franconian occupiers. So it happened that Karl again in the summer of 779 with the utmost brutality penetrated into Saxon areas and defeated the insurgents.

782 rebelled again parts of the Saxons under the leadership of Widukind, where they succeeded in Süntel in Weserbergland a great victory when they have defeated parts of the Frankish army devastating. Karl then read a new army, beat the rebels and let Verden on the Aller kill many Saxons, which went down in history as the blood court of Verden.

Since 783 there have always been minor uprisings, these could be smashed by campaigns of the Frankish army mostly but quickly. In 785 the resistance was so far broken that Karl Widukind offered peace talks, which he accepted. It was followed by the baptism Widukind, where Karl acted as his godfather.

After 792, only minor, local riots, which related almost exclusively to the northeastern Saxons in the Elbe area, provided for campaigns by the Franks. Due to the deportation of the Saxons, the settlement of Franconia and the construction of new churches, the Christianization and pacification was strongly promoted. From 804 the areas were completely pacified.




The campaigns in Spain:

When the first imperial assembly outside of the Frankfort empire was held in Paderborn in 777, envoys appeared from the Spanish peninsula under Arab rule at that time to ask Karl for help in overthrowing the ruler Abd ar-Rahman I. Karl saw further potential to expand his empire and agreed to support.

In 778 Karl undertook the first campaign, where he advanced with two armies. The first one came to Pamplona, the second to Zaragoza. Pamplona could be taken quickly, at Zaragoza, the two armies united, but the city withstood the conquest. Karl had clearly misjudged his campaign this time, underestimating the strength and power of Abd ar-Rahman I.

When he also received the news that the Saxons made an uprising again, Karl read his troops turn. On retreat, however, he destroyed the walls of Pamplona, which his troops in August 778 at the revenge attack of the Basques brought heavy losses.

A second campaign led Karl from the year 792/793. This time he was more successful and could take over some cities, including 803 Barcelona and 811 Pamplona. As in the Saxon areas, he also settled in northern Spain and drove out the Arabs from the conquered territories.




The Awaren war:

From the late 6th century, the equestrian nomads from the Asian region had created their own empire in today's Balkan region. During the reign of Charles, however, this empire was already in decline. Fearing to be the next on Charles's expansion list, the Avars undertook from 788 several attacks on the areas of northern Italy and Bavaria. These campaigns failed, however, and at the peace negotiations 790 in Worms no agreement could be reached.

In return, Charles started from 791 to a large-scale invasion of the Awareness. Like the Saxons, the Avars were called pagans, and Karl could also stylize the campaign as a struggle of Christians against unbelievers and proclaim themselves protectors of the faith. There were no open battles during the campaign and due to the renewed uprisings in the Soviet Union, this remained for a while only a secondary battlefield for Karl.

In the years 794 and 795, however, there were internal power struggles in the Awareness, which resulted in the death of the ruling Khagans. 795 appeared also the first Awarenstamm, whose leader (the Tudun) submitted to Charles rule.

796 was the next campaign of Charles in the Avar Empire to subjugate the other tribes. Through their defeat, the new khagans subjugated the reign of Charles, which completely destroyed the nation of the Avars.

From 799 to 803 there were still isolated rebellions against the Frankish occupation, which, however, remained without significant success. As in other conquered territories, Christianization also began in the Balkans in the border region with the Frankish Empire.




The incorporation of the province of Bavaria:

Bayern enjoyed even before the reign of Charles's father Pippin III. a special role in the Frankish Empire. At the time of Charlemagne there was a nephew of Pippin: Tassilo III.
Tassilo ruled all-embracing in Bavaria, he found himself in a king-like position and had good connections to the Pope and the Lombards. Karl saw in Tassilo an undesirable, indirect competitor and was accordingly striving after its elimination.

So Tassilo was invited to Worms in 787 to officially surrender to the Frankish king. However, Tassilo did not show up and turned to the Pope for help. However, this hit on Karl's side and also asked Tassilo to submit to Karl. Even within Bavaria, the demands for a submission were getting louder.

After Karl 787 also took military action against Tassilo, this was now completely isolated. Some Bavarian leaders voluntarily joined Karl, so that Tassilo capitulated in October 787 and subjugated. The tensions between the two remained, however, so Karl decided to summon Tassilo and his family to Ingelheim in June 788, where he and his family were arrested. Im was accused of having worked together with the Avars in an acted procedure and to have committed desertion. The verdict was initially death, but Karl converted it into life-long cloister.

Bavaria was now officially part of the Frankish kingdom with Karl as ruler.



Die Eroberungen Karls des Großen

The conquests of Charlemagne




The coronation to the Emperor:

Since the year 795 Leo III. as successor to Hadrian Pope in Rome. His position, however, was anything but solid, especially among the nobility in Rome, he had no support. At the end of April 799, the situation was so strained that there was even an attempted assassination attempt on Leo, presumably carried out by followers of Hadrian.

Fearing for his life, Leo fled to Paderborn to Karl and asked for help. At the end of 799 he brought him back to Rome with military escorts, where he followed in 800 in November. In order to publicly declare the bond between Pope and his protecting power to the Frankish kingdom, Karl was crowned emperor on December 25, 800 in Old St. Peter.

The imperial coronation, however, was something special, since the last Roman emperor was deposed in 476 with the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Now a new, Roman empire was to be created, which followed the rule of the ancient Roman emperors and was subsequently claimed by the Carolingians, then since the Liudolfingern (Ottonians) by the Roman-German kings and laid the foundation for the Roman-German Emperor should form in the later Holy Roman Empire.




Karl's death and his successor:

Karl's death and his succession: As early as 806, Karl had regulated his successor in his political will. Thus, his empire was to be divided among his two eldest sons. After these died but remained as the next legitimate successor only his son Ludwig left.

On January 28, 814 Charlemagne died in Aachen, after severe fever and pain in the side and was buried in the Palatine Chapel.






You can find the right literature here:


Charlemagne: A Biography

Charlemagne: A Biography Paperback – June 12, 2007

Charlemagne was an extraordinary figure: an ingenious military strategist, a wise but ruthless leader, a cunning politician, and a devout believer who ensured the survival of Christianity in the West. He also believed himself above the rules of the church, siring bastards across Europe and coldly ordering the execution of 4,500 prisoners. Derek Wilson shows how this complicated, fascinating man married the military might of his army to the spiritual force of the Church in Rome, thereby forging Western Christendom. This is a remarkable portrait of Charlemagne and of the intricate political, religious, and cultural world he dominated.

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Charlemagne: A Life From Beginning to End

Charlemagne: A Life From Beginning to End Paperback – December 8, 2016

It is possible that no man has ever dominated a time as much as Charles the Great dominated the Early Middle Ages. It is true that the era had its kings, warriors, scholars, and religious leaders, but in many ways, Charlemagne was all of these things.

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Charlemagne Paperback – October 18, 2016

From his father, Charlemagne inherited only a part of the Frankish kingdom - little more than half of modern France and the Low Countries. Before his astonishing career had ended, he had conquered half of Europe and his armies had marched through Italy, Germany, and Spain. In a glittering Christmas Day ceremony in Rome, in the year 800, he was crowned the new Holy Roman Emperor. More than the heroic conqueror of Western Europe, Charlemagne was an intense and thoughtful human being. His succession of five wives brought him a palace full of children. So warm was his love for his daughters that he could never bear to see them married away from the court, even though enticing alliances with other rulers were offered them. A deeply religious man, Charlemagne became the protector of orthodox Christianity against medieval heresies. A patron of learning, he established schools and brought artists and scholars to his court to work and study. As a result, most classical literature comes down to us in copies of books made in Charlemagne's time. Here, from National Book Award winner Richard Winston, is his remarkable story

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