«CHARLEMAGNE: THE MAKING OF AN IMAGE, 1100-1300 By JACE ANDREW STUCKEY A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN ...»
servant of the Church. According to Bruni, Charlemagne possessed all the necessary virtues of the ideal king. Bruni writes, Carolo certe ipsi, utcumque tandem electo, divina porro humanque faverunt, et fuit profecto vir dignus imperatorio culmine et qui non solum rerum gestarum magnitudine, verum etiam plurimarum virtutum excellentia, Magnus meruerit appellari. Idem fortissimus atque mitissimus, summa iustitia nec minori sobrietate, ad gloriam rei bellicae, quae in illo mixima fuit, liberalium artium studia et doctrinam litterarum adiumxerat.12 Charlemagne himself, whatever the means of his election, certainly enjoyed both divine and human favor. He was truly worthy of the high position of emperor. He deserved to be called “The Great” not only for the greatness of his deeds but for excellence of his many virtues. He was most strong and most merciful, just in the highest degree and equally temperate in his habits. To the great glory he had won in war, he added zeal for the liberal arts and literary learning.
Bruni’s description reflects a multi-talented and well-rounded Charlemagne and a clear indication that the primary thematic strand associated with chapter three – kingship continued to be associated with the image of Charlemagne well beyond the twelfth- and thirteenth-centuries.
Kingship, like crusading, is a concept that is prevalent in both literary and historical sources. In addition, the example of Charlemagne as an ideal king was, to a certain extent, predicated upon his military success, which often included a Muslim enemy and therefore could not be severed entirely from his image as a knight and crusader.
However, the image of Charlemagne is also important in this area for a number of other reasons. Twelfth- and thirteenth-century Capetian kings used perceived or actual connections to Charlemagne to legitimize their own rule. This is a critical period for the history of the French monarchy. This is best exemplified in the concept of the reditus regni ad stirpem Karoli Magni. In the midst of emerging secular states and a tremendous Bruni, History, trans., Hankins, pp. 90-93.
growth in the power of monarchies, the image of kings changed. Increasingly, sources in the early twelfth-century focused on the idea that kings were sacred individuals. It was in the twelfth-century not the early Middle Ages that kings were first credited with having miraculous healing powers. They were often accorded the ‘royal touch,’ which gave them the ability to cure such diseases as scrofula – a notoriously disfiguring disease. The earliest account of this ability comes from Guibert de Nogent’s On Saints and Their Relics.13 In addition, in the twelfth-century there was a marked increase in the canonization of former kings and emperors. There were at least four major figures who were canonized during a twenty-year span of the mid-1100s. The German Emperor Henry II, was canonized in 1146; the English King, Edward the Confessor in 1161;
Canute, King of Denmark and Charlemagne in 1165.14 Charlemagne’s is the most controversial as the canonization was performed by the anti-pope Pascal III at the request of Frederick Barbarossa. The French king, Louis VII, was noticeably absent from the ceremony.15 Louis and Pope Alexander III in Rome probably did not oppose the canonization because of negative views of Charlemagne, but rather because they thought that neither Pascal nor Barbarossa possessed the authority to hold the ceremony. The first to promote the idea of Charlemagne’s canonization was Otto III (983-1002), who opened Charlemagne’s tomb. A participant in the event, the Italian count Otto of Lomello, reported in the Chronicum Novalinciense that Charlemagne was sitting up with a golden crown and that his body was uncorrupted as his finger nails continued to grow.
Maureen C. Miller, Power and the Holy in the Age of the Investiture Conflict: A Brief History with Documents, (Boston & New York, Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2005), p. 162.
Miller, Power and the Holy in the Age of the Investiture Conflict, p. 163.
The only monarchs present at the ceremony were Frederick Barbarossa and Henry II of England.
Otto’s ultimate intention was to have Charlemagne canonized. However, Otto died shortly after the opening of the tomb and plans for the canonization were not carried until the time of Barbarossa.16 Nevertheless, it was never formally recognized, nor condemned by the Church. Consequently, the ‘cult of Charlemagne’ flourished well into the modern era. The language used at the canonization is an ideal illustration of the representation of Charlemagne’s kingship. He is described as a ‘great and glorious king’ who established churches and monasteries while devoting much of his life to converting non-Christian peoples.17 He is put forth as the ideal and the one ruler that all who follow should strive to emulate. For example, in 1364, Christine de Pizan in her Le Livre et bonnes meurs du sage roy Charles V, said of King Charles V that not since the time of Charlemagne had a king possessed such ‘greatness,’ ‘wisdom,’ and ‘virtue.’18 Charlemagne clearly continued to be the ‘standard’ benchmark for French royalty.
It is not difficult to see the broad significance of Charlemagne’s iconic image concerning kingship in the Middle Ages. Even with the limited time period analyzed here, it is obvious that the image of Charlemagne is an important representation of the ideal king. In this context, in both literary and historical sources he appears as such in a variety of contexts throughout Western Europe in the High and Late Middle Ages.
However, a short analysis of the word ‘king’ itself, may lead the discussion to a better Gert Althoff, Otto III, trans. Phyllis G. Jestice, (University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University, 2003), pp. 104-107.
Diploma of January 9, 1166 in Monumenta Germania historica, Diplomatum regum et imperatorum Germania 10.2, ed. Heinrich Appelt, (Hannover, Hahn, 1979), no. 502, p. 434.
Christine de Pizan, Le Livre et bonnes meurs du Sage roy Charles V, ed. Suzanne Solente, (Paris, H.
understanding of the impact the image of Charlemagne had on the concept of kingship in the broader context of European history.
The medieval Latin form of Charlemagne’s name, Carolus Magnus, is actually based on the Old High German form Karal. The more familiar Middle High German form, Karl found in numerous literary and historical texts, was the source from which several East Europe languages drew to adopt the name to a more general purpose. As a result of the extended contact between Charlemagne and the Slavs of the Eastern marches, Charlemagne’s Germanic name was adapted as a general term for ‘king’ in the Slavic language.19 Max Vasmer has demonstrated that the word for ‘king’ in all modern Slavic languages derives from Charlemagne’s medieval Germanic name.20 The structure of ‘Karl’ yields the modern Slavic, and even some non-Slavic, words for king as illustrated in the chart below. From Slavic, the word was borrowed and adapted by other non-Slavic languages such as Lithuanian, Albanian, and Romanian. In all of those languages, a king is always said to be ‘Charlemagne.’ Erich Berneker, Slavisches Etymologiesches Wörterbuch, (Heidelberg, Carl Winter’s Universitatsbuchhandlung, 1924), pp. 572-573.
The idea was first pronounced by Franz von Miklosich, in his Etymologisches Wörterbuch Der Slavischen Sprachen, (reprint Amsterdam, Philo Press, 1970), p. 131.
Král first appears after the year 883 and before 900 in the Vita Methodii. Korol’ appears in Ukrainian and Russian as early as 1289.21 The linguistic history associated with Charlemagne illustrates the development of the legend and image of the ‘king’ who surpassed all of his medieval and even modern counterparts in representing the institution of the monarchy.
However, Charlemagne’s image goes beyond simply representing the ideal of Christian kingship. There is a much more specific purpose associated with Charlemagne’s role as a monarch. Politically, Charlemagne was used as both a precedent for royal policies and a legitimizing factor for later monarchs. With the increased centralization of France in the twelfth- and thirteenth-centuries, the Capetian kings found Max Vasmer, Russisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1953), p. 631.
it necessary to demonstrate the legitimacy of their rule by establishing strong familial connections with the Carolingian past. This connection almost always took the form of some sort of descent from Charlemagne. A familial connection to Charlemagne went a long way in representing the legitimacy of the Capetian kings of France. Part of the reason for this depiction may have a lot to do with his perceived positive relationship with the Church.
Charlemagne’s devotion to God is emphasized in virtually every literary and historical text analyzed in this dissertation. However, his devotion and service to the Church is the main theme in such works as Suger’s Vita Ludovici Grossi Regis, in which Charlemagne is praised as ‘a friend of the Church.’ He is even depicted as paying homage to the Abbey of Saint-Denis. This is a critical component to his characterization since the relationship between ‘Church and State’ was in constant flux. The emerging centralized monarchy France dramatically altered the power structure in these two regions and threatened to reduce the political influence of the Church. Although, it can be argued that this did not actually occur until the fourteenth-century, the concern among churchmen was certainly present for some time. The conscious effort to depict Charlemagne as a ‘friend’ and sometimes a ‘servant’ to the Church is a reflection of this growing concern.
The concept of precedent is one of the most important aspects concerning Charlemagne’s representations. It is one that runs throughout the various themes analyzed here. Charlemagne is a proto-crusader, he is the predecessor of the Capetian kings, and his behavior viewed as an example for later rulers. Charlemagne, by the twelfth-century, is also the symbol of the monarchy. This helps explain why he is depicted in a negative manner in some literary works of the twelfth- and thirteenthcenturies. It is often not a personal attack on Charlemagne, but rather a critique of royal behavior and policies.22 Charlemagne is the ‘anti-ideal’ in these sources because he is a king who lacks proper faith and one who mistreats his own vassals.
The negative portrait of Charlemagne is a complex issue, primarily because it is the representation that occurs least. More than thirty of the approximately eighty extant chansons de geste belong to the Geste du roi cycle. Another twenty-four are from the William of Orange cycle.23 Still others belong to the Crusade cycle and some of the rebel baron poems do not even have Charlemagne as a character. The negative portrait is clearly in the minority. The first instance of this practice occurs in some mid-twelfthcentury French sources. However, the tendency was much more prominent after the thirteenth-century and into the fourteenth and fifteenth-centuries, particularly in Italy and Spain. In Italy, Charlemagne (Orlando Furioso) is represented as a dotard and knighterrant. In Spain, the theme of Roland is changed so that Charlemagne is not a liberator or deliverer, but a vainglory bandit. He does not attack the Muslim oppressors, but Alphonso the Chaste and is eventually driven out by Bernard de Carpio.24 The practice of depicting Charlemagne in a less-than-ideal fashion occurs almost exclusively in literary sources.
In France, the sources containing negative and comical portraits of Charlemagne still tend to promote an image of proper authority and sanctity. In the Pilgrimage of Henry W. C. Davis, Charlemagne: The Hero of Two Nations, (New York, Books for Libraries Press, 1972), p. 327.
Guillaume d’Orange Four Twelfth-Century Epics, trans. Joan M. Ferrante, (New York, Columbia University Press, 1974), pp. 8-10.
Davis, Charlemagne, pp. 329-331.
Charlemagne, he is actually mistaken for Christ himself and in the rebel-baron cycles such as Girart de Vienne, he is always respected as the rightful king and there is no attempt to remove him from power. In the French sources, it appears to be a bi-product of the ongoing conflict between the monarchy and the nobility.
The culmination of the ‘construction of the image’ came in the thirteenth-century with the advent of royal vernacular historiography. By the late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century, the poets, chroniclers, and court historians had a wealth of material to work with and expanded the use of the image. The Capetian-Carolingian blood-line connection took center stage as Giles of Paris, William of Breton, and Rigord and other court poets and historians explicitly emphasized that Capetian kings such as Philip II and Louis VIII descended from Charlemagne. This is not entirely a fabrication of the Capetian monarchy since Louis VIII, in particular, could claim lineage to Charlemagne on both his mother’s and father’s side of the family. However, what is important for the purposes of this study is the importance that the Capetian court placed on these familial connections. The emphasis on Charlemagne shaped the way in which his image was used. The image of Charlemagne as an ideal king already existed and the Capetian writers seized upon this image and used it for their own propagandistic purposes whether it be legitimizing their own rule and royal policies or helping to instruct their future kings.
With the compilation of the Grandes Chroniques, much of the legendary image and mythological deeds became canonized in the ‘official’ history of the realm. The image of Charlemagne became a compilation of previous epics, historical chronicles, and pseudochronicles that painted a picture of royal and knightly perfection. The image solidified the crusading king of the twelfth century epics. The image and representation also took on more explicit didactic objective and Charlemagne was cited much more often as an example of proper kingship and presented as the ideal to be followed by future kings. By this period, the history of Charlemagne was put in the its ‘preferred form,’ at least by the standards and expectations of the Capetian monarchy.