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The Imperial Coronation of Charlemagne

At the beginning of the ninth century, Charlemagne—already the master of Western Europe—was crowned by a calculating Pope as the supreme sovereign of the Christian world. Peter Munz asks what the real significance of his new title really was?

Charlemagne and the Pope:  In 772, when Pope Adrian I was threatened by invaders, the king rushed to Rome to provide assistance. Shown here, the pope asks Charlemagne for help at a meeting near Rome.On Christmas Day of the year 800, there took place an imposing ceremony in the basilica of St. Peter in Rome. Charles, the King of the Franks, also known as Charlemagne, had come to hear the Mass that was to be celebrated by Pope Leo III in the large basilica. When Charles rose from prayer in front of the altar, Leo placed a precious crown on his head, and the large crowd that was present in the church acclaimed Charles thus:

“To Charles Augustus, crowned by God, and peaceful emperor of the Romans, life and victory.” Then the laudes were sung and the Pope “worshipped Charles according to the manner of the ancient princes.” And then Mass was said. Thus the laconic report of the officially inspired Annals of the Kingdom of the Franks.

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