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Charlemagne, Aachen, Charles the Great


The intention of what follows is to clear up one of the mysteries still surrounding the Charles the Great, now most commonly known by his later appellation “Charlemagne.” Born in 742, the son of King Pepin the Short (ca. 714-768), Charlemagne ruled as king of the Franks after 768; he additionally ruled as Emperor of the West, from 800 until his death in 814. Sources in his time presented him as an emulator and successor of Constantine the Great, and successive Western Emperors presented their own personae as successors of Charlemagne. In 1165, 350 years after Charlemagne’s death, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa induced his anti-Pope, Paschal III, to canonize Charlemagne as a saint, just as the Eastern Church canonized Constantine. The actual context of Charlemagne’s canonization was, however, rather more political than spiritual.