The Real Charlie

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Remarkable.  The bones of Charlemagne at Aachen are likely his real bones:


The relics of Charlemagne, long on display at a treasury in Germany, are likely the real bones of the Frankish king, scientists say.

Last Tuesday (Jan. 28) marked exactly 1,200 years since Charlemagne died in A.D. 814. To commemorate the occasion, a group of scientists at the Cathedral of Aachen gave a summary of the research that has been conducted on the king’s bones, stretching back to 1988.

Go here to read the rest.

Charlemagne.  He found the crown of the Roman emperors lying in the gutter of time, and by his efforts, against the odds, restored, in alliance with the popes, a Western Empire.  Charlemagne laid the foundation that allowed Catholic Europe to survive the siege by Islam and to ultimately defeat the Vikings through conversion.  In his reign Western Europe began waking from the long night described by Chesterton:

For the end of the world was long ago,

When the ends of the world waxed free,

When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,

And the sun drowned in the sea.

When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky

And whoso hearkened right

Could only hear the plunging

Of the nations in the night.

When the ends of the earth came marching in

To torch and cresset gleam.

And the roads of the world that lead to Rome

Were filled with faces that moved like foam,

Like faces in a dream.

And men rode out of the eastern lands,

Broad river and burning plain;

Trees that are Titan flowers to see,

And tiger skies, striped horribly,

With tints of tropic rain.

Where Ind’s enamelled peaks arise

Around that inmost one,

Where ancient eagles on its brink,

Vast as archangels, gather and drink

The sacrament of the sun.

And men brake out of the northern lands,

Enormous lands alone,

Where a spell is laid upon life and lust

And the rain is changed to a silver dust

And the sea to a great green stone.

And a Shape that moveth murkily

In mirrors of ice and night,

Hath blanched with fear all beasts and birds,

As death and a shock of evil words

Blast a man’s hair with white.

And the cry of the palms and the purple moons,

Or the cry of the frost and foam,

Swept ever around an inmost place,

And the din of distant race on race

Cried and replied round Rome.

And there was death on the Emperor

And night upon the Pope:

More than any other single man in secular history Charlemagne set the course of European history for the next 1000 years.   Even today, Western Europe might bear the stamp: “Charles made me.”


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  1. In France, Charlemagne is widely venerated as a saint. The Maid, on recalls, on the testimony of her companion Dunois, attributed the relief of Orléans to the intercession of St Charlemagne and St Louis.

    Charlemagne was canonized by Pascal III in 1165, possibly to please the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Unfortunately, Pascal was an anti-pope! However, Charlemagne’s cultus has been permitted in many dioceses, both in France and Germany for over a millennium, so he can properly be considered “Blessed.” At least, Pope Benedict XIV thought so, but that great and cautious canonist added that he was expressing his opinion as a private doctor – But what a doctor! There has been no greater canonist than Prospero Lambertini.

    Dom Prosper Guéranger, the great abbot of Solesmes, composed a prayer to Charlemagne, saluting him as “beloved of God, Apostle of Christ, rampart of His Church, protector of justice, guardian of morals and terror of the enemies of the Christian name”; with a pardonable touch of patriotism, it includes the petition, “Protect with a special love France, the most splendid flower of your splendid crown [le plus riche fleuron de votre splendide couronne]. Show that you are always her king and her father. Put an end to the progress of the false empires that have raised themselves in the North on foundations of schism and heresy, and never permit the peoples of the Holy Empire to fall prey to them.”

  2. “Thus for Charlemagne and Roland my attentive gaze followed them both, as one’s eye follows his falcon in its flight.” Dante Paradiso 18.43-45.

    The eagle, symbolic of the Roman Empire then the HRE , was seen as a force to defend and advance Christianity. And, I think, Dante viewed the Empire as being “friendly” to Florence and his faction.

  3. Dante believed that the problems of Italy could be solved by a unified government under a strong emperor. He was woefully disappointed in his lifetime as imperial power was definitely on the wane in Italy. I have often wondered what he would have made of the sawdust Caesar Mussolini.

  4. I had a schoolmaster – he had served in both World Wars – who was firmly convinced that the wars of the 20th century were a direct result of the Treaty of Verdun in 843, when the domains of Charlemagne were partitioned amongst the three sons of Louis the Pious. Louis the German received Germany, Charles the Bald, France and Lothair the middle strip of land, including modern Belgium, Alsace, Lorraine, Burgundy and Italy – The Middle Frankish Kingdom.

    Imperial involvement in Italy, from the time of Frederick Barbarossa (the great-uncle, by the by, of St Thomas Aquinas), the quarrels of Guelphs (the papal party) and Ghibellines (the imperial party), the Habsburg-Valois rivalry that was fought out in Italy was the great destabilising factor in European history – the French and Austrians were still fighting each other there in the battles of Solferino and Magenta in 1859.

    His theory does have a sort of quirky logic

  5. Considering the Dark Ages from which most of Western Europe was not yet emerged, the Reign of Charlemagne was brilliant, much like emerging from a dark tunnel into immediate sunlight. It also revealed the fruit of the hard laborare et orare of the Gregorian Reform [This reform was Pope St Gregory the Great’s] which synthesized Augustinian theology and Benedictine monasticism. The Benedictine monk, Alcuin was constantly at the side of Charlemagne counseling and setting up the ‘new civilization’s’ Liturgy [Gallo-Roman Liturgy], language {Latin among the educated and officials], education and aesthetics.

    Aragon, the heir of Isuldur, who returned to his throne after a long absence of rightful kings in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings certainly is at least partly based on Charlemagne as well as the Arthurian legends. The difference between Arthur and Charlemagne is that Charlemagne lived, and is a real historical figure.

    I would concur with MPS’ comments about Western European history in many ways being the direct result of the Treaty of Verdun in 843, just as I believe this history of Western Civilization is directly marked by the Emperor Diocletian’s dividing the Roman Empire in two around 300 AD to be confirmed by Constantine making old Byzantium into the new Capital of the Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople [City of Constantine]. I was watching the heir of the Eastern Roman Emperors declare the Olympic Games open last night on television.

  6. Botolph

    Alcuin of York was an excellent poet. I hope Donald will pardon me for reproducing one of his sonnets, with Helen Waddell’s translation. It is the equal of anything written in the Silver Age and brings the man to life, across the gap of twelve centuries. One can understand that plaintive letter to his brethren in York, “Malo vocem lectoris in ædibus tuis quan turba ridentium in scalis” [I prefer the voice of the reader in your house to the laughing throng on the stairs] Life at court, and as a prime minister at that, must have been a trial to him at times.

    De Luscinia

    QUAE te dextra mihi rapuit, luscinia, ruscis,
    ilia meæ fuerat invida laetitiæ.
    tu mea dulcisonis implesti pectora musis,
    atque animum moestum carmine mellifluo.
    qua propter veniant volucrum simul undique cœtus
    carmine te mecum plangere Pierio.
    spreta colore tamen fueras non spreta canendo.
    lata sub angusto gutture vox sonuit,
    dulce melos iterans vario modulamine Musæ,
    atque creatorem semper in ore canens.
    noctibus in furvis nusquam cessavit ab odis,
    vox veneranda sacris, o decus atque decor,
    quid mirum, cherubim, seraphim si voce tonantem
    perpctua laudent, dum tua sic potuit?

    Written for his lost nightingale

    WHOEVER stole you from that bush of broom,
    I think he envied me my happiness, O little nightingale, for many a time
    You lightened my sad heart from its distress,
    And flooded my whole soul with melody.
    And I would have the other birds all come,
    And sing along with me thy threnody.
    So brown and dim that little body was.
    But none could scorn thy singing. In that throat
    That tiny throat, what depth of harmony,
    And all night long ringing thy changing note.
    What marvel if the cherubim in heaven
    Continually do praise Him, when to thee,
    O small and happy, such a grace was given?

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