Charlemagne Pious? Yes—Christian? No!
RELIGIOUS historians speak highly of Charlemagne, the German ruler who reigned from A.D. 768 to 814. They wax eloquent in describing his being crowned by the pope in the year 800. They also tell of how Charlemagne co-operated with the church, by “encouragement and protection of missions, advancement of Christian culture, organization of dioceses, enforcement and protection of a Christian discipline of life, improvement of the clergy,” etc.
No question about it, Charlemagne was a good Catholic. “The personal devotion of Charles to the Apostolic See is well known.” But when we look at some of his deeds and compare them with the teachings of Christ, can we, by any stretch of the imagination, say that he was a Christian emperor, even though crowned by the pope?
In the latter part of 1954 a new and authoritative biography of Charlemagne was published, termed “Charlemagne: From the Hammer to the Cross,” and in reviewing this “excellent biography” the New York Times, October 22, 1954, had the following to say:
“Young Charles was insatiably ambitious and he had the ability and luck to achieve most of his ambitions.” “Charlemagne waged his wars for two purposes: to expand his power and to convert the heathen, particularly the Saxons. As the Saxons bitterly resisted being conquered and converted Charlemagne resorted to harsh measures. In one day he had 4,500 Saxons beheaded as a lesson to others. He forced many to become Christians on threat of death and he scattered many more around his realm by mass deportations.” After a reign of 46 years, at the time of his death, “he was the most celebrated ruler in the world—Charlemagne, Emperor and Augustus, King of the Franks and Lombards, ruler of all Europe from the Pyrenees to the plains of Hungary, from Denmark to Calabria (in Southern Italy).”
The biographer terms Charlemagne as pious, and zealous for religion as well as for culture and health. Also that he liked to have Augustine’s City of God read to him at mealtimes and that he presided over many religious conferences. And regarding his private life we are told, “his affection for his five wives, fourteen children and numerous concubines was great.”
In view of Christ’s example and teachings can anyone who is ambitious for temporal power be termed a Christian? Anyone who orders the execution of thousands in order to force others to accept his particular type of religion? Anyone who has five wives and numerous concubines?