When did Karl 1 die?


Charles also expanded the Frankish Empire to the south-east. When his relationship with his cousin, the Bavarian Duke Tassilo III. (741- after December 11th, 794) deteriorated from the beginning of the 780s, Karl invaded Bavaria in 787. Tassilo submitted without a fight on the Lechfeld, swore an oath of loyalty and took his duchy from the Frankish king as a fief. Just a year later, the Duke was accused of breach of loyalty at a Imperial Assembly in Ingelheim and sentenced to death. Karl converted this sentence into life imprisonment. The king himself took over the rule in Bavaria and stayed mainly in Regensburg for a few years. From there he moved against the Avars for the first time in 791, who were considered Tassilo's allies and had been worrying Bavaria since 788. The enterprise ended unsuccessfully, and only in 795/796 could Karl's son Pippin finally defeat the Avars.

In addition to all these external wars, Charles also cultivated his relations with the Pope. In view of the distance, he himself rarely appeared in Italy, which was administered by his officials of Franconian, Alemannic and later also of Bavarian origin. To celebrate Easter 781, the king then personally traveled to Rome. He and Pope Hadrian renewed their alliance. In addition, Hadrian Pippin (777-810) and Ludwig (813 co-emperor, 814-840 emperor) anointed and crowned Charles' younger sons, kings (of Italy and Aquitaine). Charles gave the Pope income or areas in Tuszien and the Duchy of Spoleto, but did not meet other papal demands. He also did not follow his anti-Byzantine stance, but instead made an alliance with the emperor. While it was planned to do this through a marriage of Karl's daughter Rotrud (died 810) with the young Constantine VI. (Reign 780-797), the engagement did not last long: Six years later, Charles reappeared in Italy and brought the Principality of Benevento in southern Italy into its dependency. With that he had penetrated into the Eastern Roman area of ​​interest and the alliance with Eastern Rome ended.

In addition to Charles's actions, the Council of Nicaea in 787 had also put a strain on Frankish-Byzantine relations. While Pope Hadrian supported the intention of ending the so-called iconoclasm and thus the division of the church with this council and sending legates to Nicaea, Charlemagne and the Frankish bishops were left out. In response, the Franks did not recognize the decisions of the council. With this, Charlemagne had taken a position of his own on one of the central questions of Christianity and made it clear that his empire played an independent role alongside the two universal powers even in theological questions.

Pope Hadrian died at the end of 795. Apparently there was then a change of power in Rome. Not as before a representative of the aristocracy, but with Leo III. (Pontificate 795-816) a climber from the clergy was elected to succeed St. Peter. The internal tensions erupted in an uprising in which, in the spring of 799, the Pope was allegedly blinded and robbed of his tongue.

Leo fled and found protection with Karl, who was then in Paderborn. Negotiations there were less about a possible coronation than about the rehabilitation of the Pope, against whom his opponents brought serious charges. Karl had Leo returned to Rome in the autumn, but the allegations against the Pope remained in the room. It was only when Charles himself came to Rome a year later that the charges were heard at a synod. These could only be removed from the world by Leo taking an oath of cleansing.

In return, the Pope at the head of the synod voted to make Charles emperor. On Christmas Day in 800 the Frankish king was crowned emperor by the Pope and acclaimed by the Romans. For his recognition as emperor, however, the relationship with Ostrom was decisive. However, Emperor Nikephorus I (802-811) did not want to recognize the Franconia as an emperor with equal rights. Diplomatic paths failed at the latest when Charles got involved in an internal conflict in Venice, which was part of Byzantium. The war broke out and ended in a draw. After long negotiations, Karl was finally recognized as emperor by the new Eastern Roman Emperor Michael I (Emperor 811-813, died 844) at the end of 812.

Internally, Karl sought to master the internal problems of his empire with the help of written edicts, the so-called capitularies: a lack of discipline in both the high clergy and the secular officials, a lack of legal unity and, above all, an insufficient level of education in church circles. With the Capitular of Herstal (779) he called for better administration and a more correct way of life for clerics and monks.

The Admonitio generalis (789) also dealt with the duties and the way of life of the clergy. In doing so, Karl strove for a uniform organization of church life in the entire Franconian Empire. In particular, bishops should put pastoral care at the center of their activities, hold regular diocesan synods and visit the clergy regularly. The main concern, however, was to improve the level of education of clergy and monks. Therefore schools should be set up in episcopal churches and in monasteries.

The improvement of education was not an end in itself, but was intended to promote a uniform organization of church life in the entire Franconian Empire. This also included a uniform and easily legible script, the Carolingian minuscule, which was an important prerequisite for the dissemination of new ideas and old texts. The layman should, after all Admonitio generalis according to the Ten Commandments and attend mass on Sunday, while they were not allowed to work on that day.

The elevation of Charles to emperor prompted him to make even more legislative efforts. In the Aachen capitularies, which emerged in 802, Karl initially demanded loyalty from his subjects in the form of oaths of allegiance, but also a Christian way of life. A central concern was the protection of churches, widows, orphans and pilgrims, a task that the church father Augustine (354-430) had assigned to the Christian ruler. Overall, his edicts followed these ideals, a ruler's ethos deeply rooted in the Christian faith and his new self-image as emperor.

The emperor also made new guidelines on the practical level: in the judiciary, he improved the position of the poor and the powerless by restricting self-help and blood revenge and making the acceptance of an atonement mandatory. He also reformed the jurisprudence itself: Counts or their representatives presided over courts in the name of the king and carried out the verdict, which was passed by legally experienced men from the people, so-called aldermenscabini) 'Found'. Karl also introduced so-called complaint witnesses who had to appear as prosecutors if a crime victim did not do so himself. With these changes, Karl reacted to the grievances in the 'administration' of his empire, for example through abuse of power or office. He entrusted royal messengers (missi dominici) with their control. They traveled around the empire, controlled the local dignitaries and carried out the will of the ruler.

In his personal life, however, Karl did not always follow the ecclesiastical ideals. He disowned his first two wives, Himiltrud and a daughter of the Longobard king Desiderius, who was not known by name, for political reasons. After that he got married two or three times. His third wife Hildegard (died 783) gave him three sons, Karl, Pippin and Ludwig, who were chosen to succeed him, but only the latter survived his father. Further illegitimate descendants played no role politically. When he felt his end was approaching in the autumn of 813, he personally crowned Ludwig in Aachen as co-emperor, so he renounced the participation of the Pope. Charlemagne died on January 28th, 814 in Aachen, where he was buried on the same day in the Palatine Chapel at a location unknown today.

Sources (selection)

Annales regni Francorum et Annales qui dicuntur Einhardi, ed. Friedrich Kurz (MGH SS rer. Germ. [6]), Hanover 1895.
Einhard, Vita Karoli magni, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger (MGH SS rer. Germ. [25]), Hanover 61911.
Capitularia regum Francorum I, ed. Alfred Boretius (MGH Capit. I), Hanover 1883.
Codex Carolinus, ed.Wilhelm Gundlach, in: MGH Epistolae III, Hannover 1892, pp. 469-657.
Opus Caroli regis contra synodum (Libri Carolini), ed. Ann Freeman and M. v. Paul Meyvaert (MGHi Concilia 2, Supplementum 1), Hanover 1998.
The documents of Pippin, Karlmann and Charlemagne, ed. Engelbert Mühlbacher and M. v. Alfons Dopsch, Johann Lechner and Michael Tangl (MGH DD Karolinorum I), Hanover 1906.

Literature (selection)

Becher, Matthias, Charlemagne, 6th edition, Munich 2014.
Collins, Roger, Charlemagne, Basingstoke [et al.] 1998.
Favier, Jean, Charlemagne, Paris 1999.
Fried, Johannes, Charlemagne. Violence and belief. A biography, Munich 2013.
Hartmann, Wilfried, Karl der Große, Stuttgart 2010.
Schieffer, Rudolf, Die Zeit des Carolingischen Großreichs 714-887 (Gebhardt. Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte 2), Stuttgart 2005.
Schieffer, Rudolf, Die Karolinger, 5th edition, Stuttgart 2014.
Weinfurter, Stefan, Charlemagne. The holy barbarian, Munich 2013.


Schieffer, Theodor, "Karl der Große" in: Neue Deutsche Biographie 11 (1977), pp. 157-174 [online version, accessed on 2017-03-24]; URL: https-blank: //www.deutsche-biographie.de/gnd118560034.html#ndbcontent