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Charlemagne was the founder of the Carolingian Empire, best known for uniting Western Europe for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire.
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Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
As emperor, Charlemagne proved to be a talented diplomat and able administrator of the vast area he controlled. He promoted education and encouraged the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of renewed emphasis on scholarship and culture. He instituted economic and religious reforms, and was a driving force behind the Carolingian miniscule,
a standardized form of writing that later became a basis for modern European printed alphabets. Charlemagne ruled from a number of cities and palaces, but spent significant time in Aachen. His palace there included a school, for which he recruited the best teachers in the land.
In addition to learning, Charlemagne was interested in athletic pursuits. Known to be highly energetic, he enjoyed hunting, horseback riding and swimming. Aachen held particular appeal for him due to its therapeutic warm springs.
According to Einhard, Charlemagne was in good health until the final four years of his life, when he often suffered from fevers and acquired a limp. However, as the biographer notes, “Even at this time…he followed his own counsel rather than the advice of the doctors, whom he very nearly hated, because they advised him to give up roasted meat, which he loved, and to restrict himself to boiled meat instead.”
In 813, Charlemagne crowned his son Louis the Pious (778-840), king of Aquitaine, as co-emperor. Louis became sole emperor when Charlemagne died, in January 814, ending his reign of more than four decades. At the time of his death, his empire encompassed much of Western Europe.
Charlemagne was buried at the cathedral in Aachen. In the ensuing decades, his empire was divided up among his heirs, and by the late 800s, it had dissolved. Nevertheless, Charlemagne became a legendary figure endowed with mythical qualities. In 1165, under Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1122-1190), Charlemagne was canonized for political reasons; however, the church today does not recognize his sainthood.
Biography courtesy of History.com
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