The Carolingian Empire

The Carolingian Empire

The Carolingian Empire

The Carolingian Empire

Excerpt

The great French historians of the last generation were unanimous in their estimate of the importance of the reign of Charles the Great for the subsequent course of European history. F. Lot wrote that although the empire of Charles had broken up thirty years after his death, the impression it left was so strong that in the institutions, the law, the ecclesiastical organization, and the culture of each of the new states, there subsisted enough common elements for a European civilization to maintain itself throughout the Middle Ages. This European civilization, the French scholar concluded, was made possible through the reign of Charlemagne A. Kleinclausz observed that the contemporary poet who called Charles the lighthouse of Europe, was not mistaken, and that the generations which followed him were not the victims of an illusion when they saw in him the sovereign and emperor, king and master, of all his subjects, who exercised his power from the Rhineland where he had wisely fixed his residence; a power exercised in the west over the old kingdom of the Franks, in the east over Germany, and, beyond the Alps, over Italy. Under his aegis the peoples of a new Europe drew together.

The crucial importance of Charles the Great's reign has never been questioned; and as a result there is a long series of portraits, descriptions, histories, legends, epics, and even of hagiography, dealing with Charles. The series began with Einhard's famous Life. Professor Fichtenau's book, Das karol ingische Imperium, of which the following chapters are a partial translation, is only the latest of a long series. The long history of the history of Charles is itself, of course, a tribute to his importance and proof of the fact that he made a profound impression on the European imagination. But it is more: it is, in a sense, a barometer of the fluctuations of the European intellect, of its political and religious passions and prejudices. In this sense Charles the Great can well be compared with Magna . . .

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