Kaiser Karl: Münzporträt auf Solidus um 800 (c) Kaiserpfalz Ingelheim

No accurate image of Charlemagne has survived

The only contemporary portraits of Charlemagne to be found are on coins like this. They depict him according to the model image of the Roman emperors. Here, his ties to the emperors of the ancient world were the main priority, not his real physical features. Charlemagne also reformed the coinage system according to the Roman model. The ancient Roman currency, the denarius, became the uniform means of payment in the Franconian Empire.

We know from his companion and biographer Einhard that Charlemagne was tall and well-proportioned, wore a moustache and spoke with a high voice. He usually dressed like his Franconian followers.

Coin portrait on a solidus, about 800
Ingelheim Palace near Mainz
Copyright: Imperial Palace Ingelheim

Charlemagne the Unknown

"Charles was large and strong, and of lofty stature, though not disproportionately tall... The upper part of his head was round, his eyes very large and animated, nose a little long, hair fair, and face laughing and merry..."

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

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