detail of the portrait of the Emperor Charlemagne by Albrecht Durer
He has been dead for 1,200 years – but only now have scientists finally identified the bones of Charlemagne.
After 26 years of research, German scientists are satisfied that bones held for centuries at Aachen Cathedral, Germany, are those of the king of the Franks, who is also known as the father of Europe.
A total of 94 bones and fragments were analysed from the cathedral and are believed to belong to the founder of the Holy Roman Empire.
Professor Frank Rühli, of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, who was among the scientists studying the remains, said: ‘Thanks to the results from 1988 up until today, we can say with great likelihood that we are dealing with the skeleton of Charlemagne.’
The team of researchers studied the dimensions of the thigh, shin and upper arm bones to get an idea of the man’s height and build – which match the descriptions of the emperor. The man now confirmed to be Charlemagne, was six feet tall (1.84metres) weighed around 12stone 3lbs (78kg) and had a slim build.
One Medieval biographer, Einhard the Frank, wrote that Charlemagne walked with a limp in his later years, which the scientists now think could be true. They found that the skeleton’s kneecap and heel bones had deposits that would indicate an injury of some sort. But they didn’t find any new evidence to suggest that he died of pneumonia – or other clues about his later health – which would back up other accounts.
More on Charlemagne from the sidebar.
Charles the Great, King of the Franks, ruled a European empire from 768 based mainly around France, Germany and parts of Italy. Called the 'Father of Europe' he united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire.Posted by Jill Fallon at February 6, 2014 9:46 AM | Permalink
His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance - a period of cultural and intellectual activity within the Catholic Church. Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne's empire. Although he could not write, he spoke Teutonic, Latin and Greek.
He was 6ft 4in - a monstrous height for the period, which has been confirmed by measurement of his skeleton.
Oddly, his father was known as Pepin the Short and was around 5ft tall.
Charlemagne's first campaign came at the age of 27, when the Pope sought his aid in repelling the Lombards of Italy. He conquered them in the field and took the crown of Lombardy as his own.
From his capital of Aachen in modern-day Germany, Charlemagne went on to fight 53 campaigns, most of which he led himself. He defended a Christian Europe from Muslim Saracens and pagan Saxons, often beheading thousands in a single day.
He is thought to have died aged 72 from a fever, but study of the ancient bones has not confirmed this.