Charlemagne was easily one of the most fascinating figures in Western civilization, as well as the most heroic and romantic. The 47 years of his reign marked some of the most significant and far reaching events of the Middle Ages. Undoubtedly, it was his enlightened vision for Europe that resulted in the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of cultural flowering that never really ceased to develop, and which led in a straight line directly to that period of astonishing achievement we now call the High Gothic. It is almost impossible to conceive what Europe might have been like without him. Indeed, even in the 21st century, we still hear the echoes of his deeds in the hurly-burly of historical events that unfold today.
This incredible biography, without question the best ever written about Charlemagne in the English language and one of the greatest biographies of the 20th century, is a thrilling and poignant chronicle of the greatest of Medieval kings. We follow the young king in his early years as he assumes control over a divided kingdom, as co-ruler of the Germanic Franks along with his brother Carloman. When Carloman dies, Charlemagne assumes sole ownership of the crown and immediately begins his expansionist policy, first subduing the Lombards in Italy, then taking on the savage pagan Saxons. As his empire grows, Charlemagne proves himself a genius at military and civil administration. The Byzantine Emperor and Caliph of Baghdad held him in high esteem and acknowledged him as the successor to the western Roman emperors. But it was his great Christian faith and compassion that marked him out for greatness. He was a first rate scholar-humanist and surrounded himself with the greatest minds of Europe. As a fervent son of the church, it was Charlemagne more than anyone else who charted the course of the Catholic Church. As never before or since, Charlemagne held an empire in thrall as both its temporal and spiritual leader.
©1954 Estate of Richard Winston; (P)2004 Audio Connoisseur