Emperor Charlemagne: On the Pinnacle Where the Winds of History Blow

Upon receiving the Eucharist, Charlemagne exclaimed, “Lord, I commend my soul into Your hands!” Thus died this man of God who spent his life fighting for the glorification of Holy Church and improvement of Christian Civilization.

Newsroom (04/18/2022 09:00, Gaudium Press) Among the enemies against whom the Emperor Charlemagne fought, the most terrible were the Saxons, who only surrendered definitively in 804, after 32 years of war.

In 808, he confronted the Saracens who, from Spain, wanted to dominate France, and he defeated them at the Battle of Taillebourg, a town in the south-west of France.

A year later, Charlemagne asked Pope St. Leo III to preside over a council in Aachen. The Pope granted the request and, at the solemn assembly, it was decided, thanks to the argument presented by the Emperor, that the Symbol of the Apostles should state that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son – Filioque – thus condemning the so-called “orthodox” Church that denies this truth.

Feeling that death was approaching due to a violent pleurisy, Charlemagne asked for the Eucharist to be brought to him. After receiving Communion, he exclaimed: “Lord, I commend my soul into Your hands”. It was 28 January in the year 814; he was 72 years old.

His biographer, Eginhard, wrote: “When Charlemagne died, the world lost its father.”

At his death it was discovered that he was wearing a hair shirt as a type of penance, and reportedly he had worn it for many years. He was buried in the chapel that he had had built in his palace in Aix.

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Was Charlemagne a Saint?

In several cities, including Paris, Reims, Rouen and Aix-la-Chapelle, he was worshipped as a saint. Some time later, the University of Paris chose “Saint Charlemagne” as its patron.

Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira states:

“Since he had such merits, one may ask what was his role before the Church. Was he a Saint? The answer that seems best to me to give to that question is: if a Saint had done this, one would have said that it is a typical work of a Saint, and of a great Saint. Of one of the greatest Saints in the History of the Church.

“On the other hand, if he had been a sinful man – not one who lives in a state of mortal sin, but one who from time to time sins mortally – it would have been said that he could not accomplish this work. For it is an outstanding work of apostolate. And, according to Msgr. Chautard, in the very famous book, The Soul of Every Apostolate, he who does not have an intense life of piety does not have intense Faith, Hope and Charity – which are the theological virtues – nor the cardinal virtues, and cannot carry out a fruitful work of apostolate. So how could Charlemagne do one of the greatest works of apostolate of all the centuries if he was not very virtuous? Evidently it is very difficult to explain that.”

The Inept Sons of Charlemagne

Regarding Charlemagne’s sons, Dr. Plinio comments:

“The Germanic danger was almost completely mastered when another risk was announced: when the navigating kings – the Vikings, the Normans – began to enter through northern France.

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“France has several navigable rivers which were easy and convenient ‘roads’ for those very agile sailors from the Baltic, who entered, descended, attacked and pillaged.

When Charlemagne died, he found himself in the presence of that danger of not knowing whether his sons would overcome or not. Sons who were worthless, to whom he passed on an Empire as heavy as the world, and who began by dividing the Empire he had left to one. Sons so worthless that, in one of the ‘songs of gesture‘, on the heroic deeds of Charlemagne, Roland – the great warrior, nephew and right-hand man of Charlemagne – is much insisted upon as worthy, but Charlemagne’s sons are not considered. They are not mentioned in any of the ‘songs of gesture’. That is to say, they were not taken into consideration for anything.”

The sons of the great Emperor […] were inept, incapable of carrying the glorious burden of the Empire that their father had known how to establish.

“The result was the splitting of the Empire into three kingdoms, corresponding to the three sons of Charlemagne. Added to this was the precariousness of the roads, which made communication between the central power and the large landholdings so difficult that, although each landowner still obeyed the monarch in theory, in practice he was a local king. Thus the Empire crumbled, in the etymological sense of the word.”

Intrepid defender of the Papal States

Charlemagne is the man “placed on the pinnacle where all the winds of history blow and all greatness gathers. A hero, launched into public life from his youth, who even today exerts a profound directive action on historical events“.

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Charlemagne is the great tower from which the whole wall of the Christian West was built.

He was the intrepid defender of the Papal States, formed by territories along the Adriatic coast that his father, Pepin the Short, (or Pepin the Younger) had forced the Lombards to cede to him, where there were five important cities, including Ravenna. These states remained under Church rule until 1870, when they were sacked by revolutionaries led, among others, by Garibaldi.

In the beautiful Gothic Cathedral of Aachen the throne of Charlemagne stands, from where he once attended ceremonies in the church built by his order on the same site.

The International Charlemagne Prize is awarded annually by the city of Aachen to people who have distinguished themselves in the Church or in temporal society.

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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