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Play now 45 mins

The Carolingian Renaissance

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 30 March 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renaissance. In 800 AD on Christmas Day in Rome, Pope Leo III proclaimed Charlemagne Emperor. According to the Frankish historian Einhard, Charlemagne would never have set foot in St Peter's that day if he had known that the Pope intended to crown him. But Charlemagne accepted his coronation with magnanimity. Regarded as the first of the Holy Roman Emperors, Charlemagne became a touchstone for legitimacy until the institution was brought to an end by Napoleon in 1806.

A Frankish King who held more territory in Western Europe than any man since the Roman Emperor, Charlemagne's lands extended from the Atlantic to Vienna and from Northern Germany to Rome. His reign marked a period of enormous cultural and literary achievement. But at its foundation lay conquest, conversion at the point of a sword and a form of Christianity that was obsessed with sin, discipline and correction.

How did Charlemagne become the most powerful man in Western Europe and how did he finance his conquests? Why was he able to draw Europe's most impressive scholars to his court? How successful was he in his quest to reform his church and educate the clergy? And can the Carolingian period really be called a Renaissance?

With Matthew Innes, Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London; Julia Smith, Edwards Professor of Medieval History at Glasgow University; Mary Garrison, Lecturer in History at the University of York

  • Further Reading

    Abbot of Seligenstadt Einhard & Notker the Stammerer, Two Lives of Charlemagne, trans. by Lewis Thorpe (Penguin, 1969)

    Matthew Innes, State and Society in the Early Middle Ages: the Middle Rhine Valley, 400-1000 (Cambridge University Press, 2000)

    Julia Smith, Europe After Rome: A New Cultural History 500-1000 (Oxford University Press, 2005)

    Mary Garrison, Alcuin's World through his Letters and Verse (Cambridge University Press, 1995)

    Matthias Becher, Charlemagne (Yale University Press, 2003)

    Roger Collins, Charlemagne (Palgrave Macmillan, 1998)

    Roger Collins, Early Medieval Europe, 300-1000 (Palgrave Macmillan, 1999)

    Charlemagne: Empire and Society, ed. by Joanna Story (Manchester University Press, 2005)

    Carolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation, ed. by Rosamond McKitterick (Cambridge University Press, 1993)

    Rosamond McKitterick, History and Memory in the Carolingian World (Cambridge University Press, 2004)

    Matthew Innes, The Carolingian World (forthcoming 2006)

Credits

Presenter
Melvyn BRAGG
Producer
Natasha MAW

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