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Charlemagne - Holy Roman Conqueror

Episode 2 of 3

Anne McElvoy is joined in Aachen, Germany, by Prof Rosamond McKitterick to explore how Charlemagne managed to run his vast empire.

In the second of three programmes, Anne McElvoy explores the challenges of governing the peoples of Europe across three of the continent's great empires ...and the parallels today.

The second leg of Anne's journey through Europe takes her to Aachen in Germany. Aachen today lies at a crossroads of the continent, a mile or two from both modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands; once it was, as Aix-la-Chapelle, part of France. And in the late 700s AD it was the capital of Europe, of the Holy Roman Empire founded by the Emperor Charles 1st, Karolus Magnus, better known as Charlemagne.

Anne McElvoy is joined in Aachen by Professor Rosamond McKitterick of Cambridge University to visit the Palatine chapel, all that remains of Charles's imperial palace and containing the rough-hewn stone throne of the Carolingian Emperors. There too they explore how Charlemagne managed to run his vast empire, and discover whether some of the challenges faced by those today whose job it is to bring Europe together had parallels twelve hundred years ago.

Hymned in literature's Song of Roland as the hero of the battle of Roncevalles, Charlemagne had dominion far from his own lands of Austrasia, of which Aachen was the capital. Stretching from Aquitaine in the west, to the Spanish Marches in the south and as far south east as Rome, his conquests gave him a formidable empire, united by Charlemagne's Christian faith - he was Holy Roman Emperor, crowned by the Pope - by learning and culture which he encouraged, and by Carolingian coinage. So to what extent do these unifying characteristics from 800AD have equivalents in the Europe of Angela Merkel, David Cameron and the euro-crisis?

Producers Simon Elmes & Georgia Catt.

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28 minutes