«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 ...»
Shortly after the completion of the Grandes Chroniques, the image portrayed in it was exported to Scandinavia and other regions. In Norway, the Karlamagnus Saga appeared shortly after the Grandes Chroniques in about 1300 and at the same time in Germany, the Karl Meinet also appeared. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, various other versions appeared in Iceland and Denmark. However, unlike the case of Spain and Italy, in these other non-French regions, the positive archetype is still more prevalent. From Germany to England to Norway and Iceland, Charlemagne is presented as an archetype crusader and king – the defender of the Church and the precedent for all future kings.
Clearly, the image of Charlemagne is one that is unique among medieval monarchs.
The Charlemagne of history conquered the Lombards and Saxons, converted nonChristian territories, ruled the Carolingian Empire at its greatest extent, and oversaw a renaissance in education and learning that transformed the West. The twelfth- and thirteenth-centuries, Charlemagne combined all the achievements and exploits of the historical Charlemagne with a crusade to the Holy Land, with the successful liberation of Spain from the yoke of Muslim oppression, and with the defense of Italy from Muslim aggression. The later Charlemagne lived for more than two-hundred years. The later ‘medieval’ Charlemagne rose from the dead to join the army of the First Crusade. The reputation of the later Charlemagne would also lead to his eventual canonization in 1165.
There are a number of factors that help define the image of Charlemagne. In particular, the physical description of Charlemagne is an important element. The author of Roland described Charlemagne with a ‘white beard’ and a man with ‘fierce countenance.’ In the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle, he has a youthful body and dark hair. In Aspremont, he has a ‘long and flowing beard’ and an ‘imposing mark.’ Primat in compiling the Grandes Chroniques gave a detailed description of Charlemagne physical characteristics, calling his body ‘graceful’ and ‘noble.’ There are clearly some contradictions among the various sources concerning his physical description. However, in reality, it simply reflects the attributes that the authors are trying to express through Charlemagne’s representation. The long white beard is representative of ‘age’ and ‘wisdom.’ The fierce countenance and imposing mark are representative of Charlemagne's image and status as a knight and warrior. The physical description was clearly an important aspect for the authors to report. Whether it is because of his famous beard or his imposing physical presence, he was distinguished and set apart from all others. Perhaps what is more important is the context in which he is used.
Zumthor was quite right when he argued that literature “simultaneously reflects and interprets a state of society.”25 The literary sources reflected a value system and concerns that centered on a number of important issues. I have tried to elucidate a few of the most prominent as they relate to the image of Charlemagne. All of this ultimately comes back to the purpose and the reason Charlemagne was depicted the way that he was. It is a Paul Zumthor, Toward a Medieval Poetics, trans. Philip Bennett, (Minneapolis and Oxford: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), p. 5.
question of function. What did he provide and for whom did he provide it? The questions of function in this case are dependant upon the intended audience.
Maria Corti contended that authors in the Middle Ages always had a “definite public” in mind when they produced their texts.26 Having studied more than 25 texts, it became clear that Corti’s assessment of the relationship between author and audience in this context is accurate. Of course, the intended audience often varies source to source.
One of the keys to understanding audience is patronage. Of course, for many anonymous works this is not always possible. However, many others did. Using the sources that can be linked with an author and patron can be used broadly to establish possible audiences for other sources. Examples from the chansons de geste, such as Girart de Vienne and the Crowning of Louis were primarily aimed at a noble rather than royal audience. They were often performed at princely and baronial courts. Roland was also primarily intended for a warrior aristocracy of an aristocratic audience. However, with the prominence of the crusade theme, the positive portrait of the king, and the popularity of the works based on the number of manuscripts, sources such as Roland and the Turpin Chronicle probably appealed to both royal and noble audiences. The Roland story is adapted into other sources such as the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle and the Grandes Chroniques and became standard ‘history’ at the royal courts. On the other hand, sources such as the Grandes Chroniques and the Latin poem Karolinus are clearly intended for a royal audience. In both cases, their production was often intended to be gifts for certain Capetian kings. The prominence of Charlemagne in these sources and others like them is a clear indication of the notoriety of Charlemagne’s reputation. It also suggests the Maria Corti, An Introduction to Literary Semiotics, trans. Margherita Bogat and Allen Mandelbaum, (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1978), p. 17.
importance of the image of Charlemagne to the monarchy and the nobility. The image of Charlemagne was attractive to various levels of society. His image was multidimensional and multi-functional. He represented a number of important twelfth and thirteenth century ideals. The image of Charlemagne represented a defining symbol for crusaders and kings. In the midst of a major literary movement, and a torrent of crusade and royal propaganda the image of Charlemagne emerged as an ideal that Western
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