Mary Alberi

title.none: Erkens, ed., Karl der Grosse (Mary Alberi)

identifier.other: baj9928.0211.014 02.11.14

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Mary Alberi, Pace University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2002

identifier.citation: Erkens, Franz-Reiner, ed.,. Karl der Grosse: Und das Erbe der Kulturen. Akten des 8. Symposiums des Mediavistenverbandes. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001. Pp. v, 325. 98 DEM. ISBN: 3-050-03581-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 02.11.14

Erkens, Franz-Reiner, ed.,. Karl der Grosse: Und das Erbe der Kulturen. Akten des 8. Symposiums des Mediavistenverbandes. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001. Pp. v, 325. 98 DEM. ISBN: 3-050-03581-1.

Reviewed by:

Mary Alberi
Pace University

The 1200th aniversary of Charlemagne's imperial coronation inspired a number of conferences and publications, among them Karl der Grosse und das Erbe der Kulturen. This volume contains papers delivered at three out of five sections of an interdisciplinary conference on Charlemagne and his influence held at the University of Leipzig in March, 1999. Papers from the two sections not represented in this volume have already been published in Karl der Grosse in Renaissance und Moderne: zur Rezeptionsgeschichte und Instrumentalisierung eines Herrscherbildes, ed. Franz-Reiner Erkens, Das Mittelalter 4/2 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1999).

The papers in the first two sections of Karl der Grosse und das Erbe der Kulturen, on Charlemagne and his influence on the ninth century, reflect the current view of Carolingian politics as the outcome of an often fragile consensus between the Frankish king and nobles. Accordingly, these papers reject the static image of Charlemagne as the "pater Europae" whose nearly absolute authority effected the }nification of the peoples of the west into a single Christian empire, in favor of a more dynamic and complex portrait of Charlemagne and the often ambivalent nature of his reign. In his introductory essay, Rudolf Schieffer argues that Charlemagne's expansion of his kingdom, his ouster of Duke Tassilo of Bavaria, and his imperial coronation resulted from ever changing policies and the ability to take advantage of sudden opportunities. On the other hand, Charlemagne displayed remarkable consistency in domestic affairs, especially the reform of his kingdom according to Christian principles. Schieffer points to the importance of literacy for the long-term success of this reform.

The papers which follow this introduction emphasize Charlemagne's personal shortcomings, tensions within the ideology of the Christian empire, and the difficulties of maintaining loyalty within the Carolingian family. Although court propaganda excused Charlemagne's disregard of ecclesiastical teaching on sexual morality on the basis of his achievements as a Christian king, Michael Richter finds more critical opinions in the Codex carolinus, the Liber pontificalis, and the Visio Wettini. Although difficult, the search for contemposary evaluations of Charlemagne's conduct which depart from the court's official line may yield valuable results in other areas. Franz Tinnefeld gives a general impression of intermittent contacts between the Carolingians and Byzantines in diplomacy, war, and trade after 750, rather than specific discussion of Charlemagne's reign. Lutz E. Von Padberg discusses the tensions between ethnic diversity and the ideal unity of the Christian empire proclaimed by Charlemagne's court. Charlemagne appropriated a religious ideal, the unity of all nations within the church, for a political purpose, the integration of many nations in a single Christian empire under his imperial authority. The means by which he pursued this goal did not always sit well with his contemporaries, however. Charlemagne's policy of forced conversion and the conduct of high-ranking Frankish ecclesiastics at his court provoked muted criticism from English missionaries hoping for success among the Saxons. Moreover, unity remained an elusive goal, more attainable in ecclesiastical and cultural reform, far less so in political life, as the distintegration of Charlemagnm's empise in the ninth century indicates. The remaining papers in this section emphasize the complexities of Carolingian political life. Brigitte Kasten challenges the view that Charlemagne created a hierarchical political order in Aquitaine, an important subkingdom. Despite the installation of his son Louis the Pious as king in 781, Charlemagne kept direct control of Aquitaine's military, political, and financial affairs. In doing so, he prevented Louis and his supporters from building an independent power base. Franz Staab's discussion of the Carolingian custom of "boy" vassalage highlights Charlemagne's efforts to protect the inheritance rights of favored heirs by ensuring the subordination of other, potentially troublesome family members. In parwicular, Staab challenges Matthias Becher's views on Charlemagne's overthrow of his cousin Duke Tassilo of Bavaria. Staab argues that Tassilo took his oath of vassalage as a boy, as early as 748, and broke it because he wanted to share in the royal inheritance of his Carolingian mother.

Several papers in the second section of Karl der Grosse und das Erbe der Kulturen trace Charlemagne's influence on ninth-century culture. Kurt Smolak considers Walafrid Strabo's De imagine Tetrici a product of Charlemagne's cultural reform not only in its extensive literary allusions but also in its use of allegory to discuss a troublesome issue in 829, political unity. Fritz Losek argues that Charlemagne's cultural reform, transmitted through Alcuin and Arn, directly influenced Salzburg's literary culture until the early 900s. Wolfgang Eggert's examination of the Royal Frankish Annals suggests that the sense of a unified regnum Francorum developed only in the ninth century, around the figure of the king, often as the result of conflict with non-Frankish enemies. Egon Boshof questions Nikolaus Staubach's argument that Charles the Bald consciously worked to revive his grandfather's empire as the novus Karolus magnus. In fact, Charles the Bald commemorated many of his ancestors, and his reunification of Charlemagne's empire was the outcome of dynastic failure and opportunism. Bosof's paper implies that too much emphasis on Charlemagne may distort our understanding of the later Carolingians. Charles Bowlus disagrees with Timothy Reuter's assertion that Charlemagne initiated military expeditions into the middle Danube region in pursuit of plunder without long-term goals. Instead, Bowlus finds continuous military action over several generations, based on the desire of eastern Frankish kings to secure access to Italy. In a paper on a related topic, Martin Eggers locates the Moravians in Pannonia. Wilhelm G. Busse challenges the idealization of rulers deemed "great" by modern historians. Busse argues that a group of Alfred the Great's learned ecclesiastical courtiers sought greater authority for their own translations of works useful for the reform of clergy and nobles by attributing them to the king. Juergen Roemer's examination of the eagle as the symbol of imperial authority undermines the illusion ofccontinuity between Charlemagne and later German emperors. In fact, Carolingian authors often identified the eagle with the pagan Roman Empire which had persecuted Christians. The Salians and the Staufer restored the eagle as a symbol of empire.

The papers in the third section of Karl der Grosse und das Erbe der Kulturen trace the various ways in which later generations remembered Charlemagne. Several papers discuss Charlemagne's continuing importance as a source of political legitimacy. According to Elisabeth Mégier, Hugo of Fleury emphasized Charlemagne's role as King of the Franks, in order to dignify France's origins while preserving its autonomy against the claims of the German emperor who also claimed to be Charlemagne's heir. Bernd Schuette concludes that the Ottonians remembered Charlemagne's conquest of Saxony as an event which legitimized their family's preeminence, while the Salians asserted their legitimacy by claiming they conformed to Charlemagne's model of ideal k{ngship, often without much regard for historical accuracy. References to Charlemagne were far more important for the Staufer, beginning with Frederick Barbarossa, who organized Charlemagne's canonization in 1165. Bernd Bastert detects the influence of this canonization in high German epics depicting Charlemagne as miles Christi. Stefan Hohmann focusses on Pseudo-Frauenlob, who considered Charlemagne's authority over both worldly and ecclesiastical hierarchies a precedent for Louis the Bavarian's own claims. Other papers discuss Charlemagne's importance for local churches. Dorothea Walz examines the Translatio sanguinis domini, written at Reichenau in the mid-tenth century, to explain how a very important relic was transported from the east during Charlemagne's reign, which had become a legendary time well-suited to such epic events. Kerstin Wiese concludes that the decorative scheme of Charlemagne's reliquary represents the interests of the Aachen church. It depicts the church's foundation as the culminating deed in Charlemagne's progress toward sanctity and affirms the legitimacy of emperors who, like Charlemagne, made donations to the church. Charlemagne's memory was preserved in popular fiction, too. Rita Schlusemann examines the Renout/Reinolt tradition, in which Charlemagne displays both the good and bad qualities of a powerful ruler of Christian society. Finally, Frank Fuerbeth discusses Jans Enikel's abstruse theories about the course of sacred history which gave meaning to his story of how Queen Fastrada's magic ring held Charlemagne in thrall.

The individual papers gathered in Karm der Grosse und das Erbe der Kulturen offer many insights into a wide range of topics and should provoke lively debates about Charlemagne and his influence on the Middle Ages. As a whole, the papers gathered in this volume may raise doubts about Charlemagne's direct influence on later periods and questions about continuity between the Carolingian era and the rest of tke Middle Ages. The papers in the third section of Karl der Grosse und das Erbe der Kulturen, which focus on politics and culture are often literary in nature and offer little information about Charlemagne's influence upon politics or institutions, which are the focus of the first two sections of the volume. These sources examined in these papers demonstrate that Charlemagne's heirs in France and Germany sought legitimacy by emphasizing continuity with "their" Carolingian past. That past, however, had assumed a semi-legendary character, with much of its political and institutional framework apparently forgotten or lost. One important aspect of Charlemagne's work does emerge from these papers, however -- his propagation of the written word, which enabled later generations to preserve his memory in a wide variety of literary genres.