Historical Time Line of Charlemagne's Life



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St James appears to Charlemagne

Carolingians and the Papacy

715-741 - Pope Gregory II was the first Roman pope to be elected after seven popes who were either Greek or Syrian. Map of Meditteranean

732  Arabs are defeated at Tours (Poitiers) by Charles Martel 

731-728 - Pope Gregory III was a Syrian who was equally skilled in Latin and Greek.  He threatened to excommunicate the Byzantine Emperor Leo III (717-741) who had promulgated a decree that prohibited sacred images in churches (Iconoclastic Controversy).

741-752 - Pope Zacharias a Greek from Southern Italy was the last of the Greek popes.  He was also the last pope who sent envoys to Constantinople to inform the emperor and the patriarch of his election

742 AD - Pepin the Short's son Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne in French) or Charles the Great is born in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) on April 2.  

751 - Pepin the Short dethrones the last Merovingian king and takes the throne for himself.

753 - Pope Stephen II (752-757) appealed to the Byzantine emperor for military help against the Lombards.  When his appeal failed he turned to Pepin the Short in 754.  Pepin led a military expedition against the Lombards and defeated the Lombard King Aistulf.  Pope Stephen recognized the legitimacy of Pepin's claim to be king of the Franks.  Pepin gave the pope dominion over the lands of Central Italy and established the legal foundation of the Papal States (Patrimony of St Peter).  Stephen also used the Donation of Constantine to support his claim to rule over central Italy.

754 - Pope Stephen crowns Pepin the Short.

756 - Aistulf attacks Rome.  Pepin the Short rushes to protect Pope Stephen II  again from the Lombards.  Pepin strips the Byzantines of control of Ravenna.

760 - Charlemagne accompanies his father during his military efforts to conquer the lands south the Loire River, or Aquitaine as they are more commonly known.

768 - Pepin the Short dies and his kingdom is divided up between Charles and his brother Carloman.

770 - Charlemagne marries Desiderata, daughter of the Lombard King Desiderius. The Lombards virtually surrounded Papal states, and this marriage worried the Pope and Charlemagne's brother.  

771 - Carloman dies, and Charlemagne unites the Frankish Empire quickly. There is some speculation as to the cause of Carloman's death, but there is no evidence to indicate Charlemagne had any knowledge of wrong- doing.

774 - Reacting to the Pope's plea for help, Charlemagne conquered the lands of his brief father-in-law after a lengthy siege of Pavia. Charlemagne spent the following Easter in Rome and reaffirmed his vow to protect Papal lands.

Expansion of Charlemagne's Kingdom and Christianization of Northeastern Germany

775 - Charlemagne begins new attacks against the Saxons and their leader Widukind.

778 - The events surrounding the Song of Roland take place as Charlemagne's rear guard leaves Spain in Gascon territory. Though somewhat romanticized in the 4000 line epic, the defeat of Roland is the most important epic literature to come from the Middle Ages.

782 - In response to Widukind's attacks, Charlemagne orders the execution of 4500 Saxon prisoners in one day.  Return to Topic Four

783 - On April 30, Hildegarde dies in childbirth, and Charlemagne's mother Bertrada dies three months later. Charles also begins the final three year campaign to conquer Saxony. The Saxons are finally crushed, and Charlemagne imposes strict new rules to govern all areas of their lives, laws that only the Christian Church in Saxony could remove.

788 - Charles overpowers the Bavarians.

791 - 796 - Charlemagne conquers the empire of the Avars (modern Hungary and Austria.)

Charlemagne and the Papacy:  Pope Leo III (795-816)

795 - On Christmas day, Pope Hadrian dies and Leo the Third is named the new Pope.

799 - Leo III was attacked while on a religious procession in Rome. After returning to health with Charlemagne, the Pope is sent back to Rome.

800 - Charles decides that the Papal situation in Rome needs his personal attention, so he and his entourage (including his children) went to Rome. After arriving, Charlemagne immediately called to order a trial for the Pope. There was a  rebellion in Rome against the Pope, and the trial could neither condemn the Pope or find him innocent. Then however, Pope Leo took an oath of innocence near the holy tomb of Saint Peter. 

Christmas Day, 800 - Charlemagne, after greatly helping Pope Leo III, is crowned Holy Roman Emperor. With much splendor and drama in Saint Peter's Basilica, Leo presented Charles with a gold crown.  Emperor Charles V (1550-1558) was the last emperor to be crowned by the pope;  Francis II (abdicated in 1806) was the last Holy Roman Emperor.  Napoleon crowned himself.

813 - Charlemagne delegates power to his only surviving son Louis.

814 - Charlemagne dies on January 28.