Kaiser Karl: Buchmalerei aus dem 9. Jahrhundert (c) Edition il Bulino 154v

Charlemagne ruled over a developing country

Charlemagne was the second Carolingian to rule the Franconian Empire. A generation earlier, his father Pippin had deposed the Franconian royal dynasty of the Merovingians. Their rule had been overshadowed by constant wars between brothers and repeated division of the realm. At first, Charlemagne also reigned over merely a part of the empire. Only after conflicts with his brother did he become the sole ruler of the Franconians.

Charlemagne ruled over a major power, but he was also aware that his empire lagged far behind ancient, Byzantine and Islamic civilisation. His numerous reforms in cultural, economic and scientific domains were aimed at reducing this shortfall. They were later referred to as the "Carolingian Renaissance".

The illumination shown here comes from an Upper Italian manuscript. It has been traced back to a lost original that was created just a few years after Charlemagne's death. The detail shows Charlemagne in the attire of Franconian kings. In the full picture we can see, next to him, his older son Pippin and beneath them a scribe.

Upper Italian manuscript, 9th century
Modena, Edition il Bulino 154v


Charlemagne the King

"Charles used to wear the national, that is to say, the Frank, dress: next to his skin a linen shirt and linen breeches, and above these a tunic fringed with silk, while hose fastened by bands covered his lower limbs."


(from Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne, written circa 840)

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