Einhard on the Coronation of Charlemagne
As Pope Leo [III] was riding from the Lateran in Rome to service in the church of St. Lawrence, called " the Gridiron," he fell into an ambush which the Romans had set for him in the neighborhood of this church. He was dragged from off his horse and, as some would have it, his eyes put out, his tongue cut off, and he was then left lying in the street, naked and half dead. Afterward the instigators of this deed ordered that he should be taken into the monastery of the holy martyr Erasmus to be cared for. His chamberlain Albinus succeeded, however, in letting him down over the wall at night, whereupon Duke Winigis of Spoleto, who had hurried to Rome on hearing of this deed of sacrilege, took him into his charge and carried him to Spoleto.
When the king [Charlemagne] received news of this
occurrence, he gave orders that the Roman pope, the successor of St. Peter, should be brought to him, with all due honor. He did not, however, give up on this account the expedition into Saxony which he had undertaken. He held a general
assembly at a place called Lippeham, on the Rhine; he then crossed the river and pushed on with his entire army to
Paderborn, where he set up his camp and awaited the pope. In the meantime he sent his son Charles, with a part of the army,
While he was awaiting his son's return, the pope arrived, was honorably received, and remained several days with him. After he had laid before the king all the reasons for his coming, he was accompanied back to Rome by the king's ambassadors and reinstated in his authority there.
After the pope's departure, the king remained several days
longer and finished his business with Daniel, ambassador of the Patrician Michael of Sicily. He received also the
sad news of the undoing of Gerold and Eric; the one, Gerold, governor of Bavaria, lost his life in a battle with the Huns
and was buried in Reichenau; the other, Eric, after many battles and brilliant victories, met his death through the
In the winter, which was spent in Aix-la-Chapelle, came Count Wido, count and governor of the border land of Brittany, who, during this year, and in alliance with other counts, had traversed the whole territory of the Bretons, and now brought to the king the arms of the dukes who had submitted themselves, with their several names inscribed thereon. It appeared at that time as if that whole country was completely subjugated; and so it would have been had not the fickleness of its faithless people soon changed all this, as usual.
Trophies of victory were also brought which had been taken from Moorish robbers killed on the island of Majorca. The Saracen, Azan, governor of Oska, sent to the king the keys of that city, together with other gifts, and promised to give the town over to him whenever opportunity should offer. Moreover, a monk came from Jerusalem, bringing to the king the blessing of the Patriarch and certain relics from the place of the resurrection of our Lord. The king spent Christmas in his palace at Aix-la-Chapelle. When the monk desired to return home, he gave him, as a companion, Zacharias, a priest of his palace, and sent, besides, pious gifts to the holy places. . . .
When spring came again, about the middle of March, the king left Aix-la-Chapelle and journeyed toward the coast of
Gaul. Off this coast, which was being devastated by the piratical Northmen, he built and manned a fleet. Easter he
celebrated in St. Riquier at the shrine of St. Richard. From here he traveled along the coast to the city of Rouen,
where he crossed the Seine and betook himself to Tours in
From Mayence he went with his army to Ravenna, where he stayed only seven days and whence he dispatched his son Pippin, with the army, into the country of Beneventum. He and his son left Ravenna together, but at Ancona they parted company and he betook himself to Rome.
On the very day of his arrival Pope Leo went to meet him at Momentum. He received the pope with great reverence, and they dined together. Then he remained behind while the pope returned to the city in order that he might be waiting to receive him the next morning on the steps of St. Peter's, together with the bishops and all the clergy.
When he appeared and dismounted from his horse, the pope received him with gratitude and thanksgiving and conducted him into the church, while all the people glorified God in hymns of praise. This was on the 24th day of November. Seven days later, the king publicly proclaimed, in an assembly which he had called together, all the reasons why he had come to Rome, and thenceforth he labored daily to carry out all that he had come to do.
He began with the most serious and difficult matter, namely, the investigation into the offenses of which the pope had been accused. But since no one could be found who was willing to substantiate the charges, the pope, carrying the Gospels in his hand, mounted the pulpit in St. Peter's and before all the people, and in the name of the Holy Trinity, took an oath to clear himself from the crimes imputed to him.
On the same day Zacharias, the priest whom the king had dispatched to Jerusalem, arrived at Rome with two monks
sent to the king by the Patriarch. By way of a blessing, they brought with them the keys to the sepulcher of our Lord
and to the place of Calvary, together with an ensign. The king received them graciously, kept them as his guests for
some days, and when they were ready to return, dismissed
On the most holy day of the birth of our Lord, the king went to mass at St. Peter's, and as he knelt in prayer before the altar Pope Leo set a crown upon his head, while all the Roman populace cried aloud, " Long life and victory to the mighty Charles, the great and pacific Emperor of the Romans, crowned of God! " After he had been thus acclaimed, the pope did homage to him, as had been the custom with the early rulers, and henceforth he dropped the title of Patrician and was called Emperor and Augustus. . . .
[Source: James Harvey Robinson, Readings in European History, 2 vols (Boston: Ginn & Company, 1906), 1:131-134.]
| The History Guide | |
copyright © 2002 Steven Kreis