100 Years Carnegie

Men of Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie


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During the Middle Ages, when religious art dominated, few political portraits were commissioned. Charlemagne's images were created only after his death, so his actual appearance remains a mystery.

Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, was King of the Franks from 768-814 and was the founder of the Holy Roman Empire. He is also credited with stimulating European economic and political life and leading a cultural revival known as the Carolingian Renaissance. He achieved these ends through forming a political alliance with the rival power of the papacy and the strengthening of fuedal institutions. As a result, northern Europe emerged in the high and late Middle Ages as the dominant economic, political, and cultural force of the Western World.

Charlemagne was born in 742 to Pepin the Short and Bertrada. In 741 Pepin had become mayor of the palace, and in 751 he unseated the last Merovingian king and was declared King of the Franks. Little is known about Charlemagne’s childhood, except he was educated at the palace school by Fulrad, the abbot of St. Denis.

When Pepin died in October of 768, Charlemagne and his brother Carloman were both proclaimed king and were to rule the kingdom together. In the division of the empire, Carloman received a larger and richer portion, leading to ill feelings between the brothers. The tension was heightened when Carloman refused to aid Charlemagne in his campaign against an uprising in Aquitaine. When Charlemagne emerged victorious after the Aquitainian campaign, a war between the brothers seemed certain. Carloman died unexpectedly in 771, however, and Charlemagne was left ruler of the entire kingdom.

By 800 Charlemagne extended his empire from the Elbe River in the northeast to south of the Pyrenees in the southwest and from the North Sea to southern Italy. He ruled all of the Christianized western provinces, except the British Isles, that had one been part of the Roman Empire.

Charlemagne endeavored to create unity and harmony in his realm and to spread learning and laws that would achieve his goals of empire. He borrowed much from his eastern counterpart, the Byzantine emperor, including the design of his palace at Aachen. In contrast to his Merovingian predecessors who traveled their kingdom, Charlemagne created a fixed capital parallel to Byzantium. He resided at Aachen for most of his later years.

In 806, when he was 64, Charlemagne took measures to provide for the succession of his empire. He divided his kingdom among his three sons – Charles, Pepin, and Louis. Charles soon died in April 810, shortly followed by his brother Pepin. This means that Louis, who would later be called “the Pious,” was left of as the sole heir to the empire. He was the least warlike and aggressive of the three, and was crowned by his father in 813.

The last years of Charlemagne’s realm saw many domestic troubles, including increased civil disobedience, pests, and famine. In 811 Charlemagne created his final will and gave a large portion of his treasures, more than to his own heirs, to various churches of the realm. He died, while fasting, on January 28, 814, and was buried at his palace at Aachen.


"Charlemagne Biography ," available from
Internet; accessed 1 December 2004.

Relief of Battle at Pamplona Charlemagne's Dream
Statuette of Charlemagne on a Horse Carolingian Sword
Charlemagne's Empire


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