The Legacy of Charlemagne 814-2014

28 January 814. Charlemagne, one of Europe’s most remarkable historical figures, dies. For centuries Charlemagne will appeal to the imagination. He and his own source of inspiration, the Roman Empire, will inspire important rulers well into the 20th century.
This book tells the untold story of Charlemagne’s heritage. Why did Europe remain divided for so long after the break-up of his immense realm in 843? And how did the vanished Carolingian empire remain so influential for so long? 

Equestrian statuette of Charlemagne/Charles the Bald. Only few remnants of the original gilding have been preserved. Paris, Louvre, inventory number OA8260.Fotoarchief Pruisisch Cultuurbezit / RMN – Grand Palais / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

The horseman, Charlemagne or Charles the Bald, has his short hair evenly combed over his forehead. He wears a crown set with gems that has four palmettes. The mantle is held on the right shoulder by a brooch. Paris, Louvre, inventory number OA8260. Fotoarchief Pruisisch Cultuurbezit / RMN – Grand Palais / Jean-Gilles Berizzi 

Homage, fol. 23v. The picture of the donor in the Evangelistary of Otto III takes two opposite pages. In the left part four women, barefoot and with bowed heads, approach the enthroned ruler in the right part. The captions identify them, according to the ancient imagery, as personifications of geographical units. The provinces of the realm bring presents: Germania a horn of plenty with gems, Gallia a palm and Roma a dish with gems. Sclavinia carries a golden globe and symbolizes the submission of a foreign ruler whose territories are not part of the Ottonian empire. 

You will get to know Francia Media, the forgotten middle realm that connected the North Sea to the Mediterranean after 844. Europe’s artery. This is where the future founding fathers of Europe originate from and where today’s European centres of power are situated.

Reconstruction of the architectural complex at Crkvina (Biskupija), MHAS

Gilded spurs from the so called,Borna’s sarcophagus, MHAS (photo: Z. Alajbeg)

So called Borna’s sarcophagus, church of St Mary, Crkvina at Biskupija, 9th c., limestone, 224 x 82 x 45 cm, MHAS (photo: Z. Alajbeg)

The specialists who wrote this richly illustrated book explain the use and abuse of the past, the power of culture, the dividing and unifying forces in Europe and the significance of borders. It features particularly topical themes, with a past.

After his imperial coronation in 1804 Napoleon visited Aachen. Print after Henri-Paul Motte, Napoleon before the throne of Charlemagne, 1898. Private collection. 

Commemorative plate 843-1943. The statuette of Charlemagne or his grandson Charles the Bald is on the inside. On the outside there is a reference to the Treaty of Verdun: ”In 1943 Adolf Hitler defends, in collaboration with all the peoples of Europe, the empire of Charlemagne, divided by his grandsons in 843’.
Copyright Musée de l’Armée. Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/ Emile Cambier/ Tony Querec

The Legacy of Charlemagne 814-2014 is linked to the exhibition of the same name in the Provincial Heritage Centre in Ename. The book is edited by the province of East Flanders with the support of the European Commission within the framework of the EU project “Cradles of European Culture”, and is sponsored by Mr Horst van Cuyck.

Dirk Callebaut & Horst van Cuyck (eds), The heritage of Charlemagne 814 – 2014, 2014, Lannoo, 414 p.


This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein