Charlemagne: Father Of Europe

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Many historians argue Charlemagne was the greatest uniting force of Europe since the Roman Empire under the “Five Good Emperors” (Machiavelli Ch. 10)1. My primary intent of this essay is to examine the rule of Charlemagne and why he is often acknowledged as the “Father of Europe”. With this goal in mind, I have studied the works of Rosamond McKitterick, Roger Collins, Alessandro Barbero, and Heinrich Fichtenau. Through these authors and historians I have gained insight into Charlemagne 's religious and educational approaches, the creation of the Carolingian dynasty, and the military expansion of the Frankish kingdom in Western Europe. But to understand the historical significance of Charlemagne 's rule first we must examine the
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His reform focused on the strengthening of the church 's power structure, improving and standardising liturgical practices, and the rooting out of paganism. This rooting out is seen horrifically in the so called Verden Massacre. With his imperial coronation, he controlled ecclesiastical property and defined Christian doctrine. Despite the harsh legislation, he had grown a well developed support from the clergy who approved his desire to deepen the piety and morals of his Christian subjects.
At his residence in Aachen Charles sought to build a chapel that would rival St Peter’s in Rome. He believed that a new Rome or Athens would rise in Aachen, not in terms of population, but in terms of bringing back the age of antiquity (Fichtenau pg 31)13. His cathedral, was built in a octagonal architecture similar to that seen in many Byzantine churches. Possibly the most interesting aspect of this chapel was that his seat was built on the second level, and was directly across from the Altar of Christ (Fichtenau pg 54)14. One could say he saw himself as an equal to Jesus; I believe this to not be true as he saw the Earth and Heaven as mirrors of one another (fichtenau pg 47) 15. While Jesus was the ruler in the kingdom of Heaven, he was the ruler of the kingdom on Earth. Consequently, even the Papacy saw Charles the Great as a higher power than the church as seen
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Peter’s Basilica on on Christmas day in 800 AD and as he kneeled to pray at the Altar of Christ, Pope Leo III crowned him Roman Emperor.(McKitterick 49)16 He would be the first to bear that title in Western Europe in almost 300 years. In my opinion the choice to crown him on Christmas day reaffirms the notion that Charlemagne and Christ were intended to be mirrors of eachother. Modern contemporaries argue "the motivation behind the acceptance of the imperial title was a romantic and antiquarian interest in reviving the Roman empire is highly unlikely." (Collins pg.147)17 Ultimately, his imperial coronation truly made little difference to his power or territory possessions, but it constituted an important contribution to imperial ideologies within Europe.(McKitterick

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