What is Charlemagne famous for?
Charlemagne held many titles. He was the King of the Franks, the King of the Lombards, and the Holy Roman Emperor. He has also been called the Father of Europe because his military conquests united most of Western Europe and facilitated the Carolingian Renaissance. However, many sources have idealized the life and achievements of Charlemagne. This essay will provide an honest account of events to determine how far Charlemagne deserves to be called Charles the Great. It will do so by discussing his military campaigns in Saxony, Italy, and Spain.
Charlemagne was determined to subjugate the Saxons. This was not simply a military campaign. He wanted to integrate the Saxons into the Frankish culture by forcibly converting them to Christianity. In 772, Frankish forces captured a Saxon fortress on the River Lippe at Eresburg and destroyed the Irminsul shrine. The Irminsul was considered sacred by the Saxons and was located in the recently acquired territory on the expanding southern border of Saxony suggesting that the shrine was directly associated with military victory and conquest. Therefore, the destruction of the Irminsul was not only financially lucrative by the treasure found inside. This act was also designed to damage Saxon morale. The Saxons were massively disheartened by the demolition of the Irminsul, and this is shown by the fact that Saxon chroniclers continued to remember the shrine as late as the 10th century. In 774, the Saxons retaliated by invading and destroying Eresburg and attempting to overthrow the Frankish fort of Syburg in the valley of the Ruhr. They also attacked the monastery of Fritzlar on the upper River Weser which had been created by Saint Boniface as a place for evangelizing the region. This was revenge for the destruction of the Irminsul. In 775, Charlemagne commanded an expedition to regain the Frankish forts lost in 774. On the River Oker, the Eastphalian Saxons gave hostages and promised loyalty to the Frankish King.