Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West on Christmas Day


It was on Christmas Day, in the year 800, that Charlemagne was crowned, in Rome, Emperor of the West by the Pope. Like his grandson, 75 years later.

Christmas in the year 800, 1221 years ago. King of the Franks for 32 years and King of the Lombards for 26 years, Charlemagne is in Rome. The sovereign aged about fifty (his date of birth is uncertain), who lives in Aachen, will be consecrated Emperor of the West by Pope Leo III in the Vatican basilica, erected by the Emperor Constantine. “The new Christian Empire had to take birth in the prestigious building which housed the sacred tomb of the apostle Saint Peter, adored by all Franks. Charlemagne would inaugurate what was to become a custom. Henceforth, in fact, and until the construction of the new basilica in 1506, the coronation of the emperors of the West would be celebrated at Saint-Pierre « , explains Henri Pigaillem, in his book » The most beautiful Christmases in history. « , Published in November 2021 by » Archipoche « editions.

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For this coronation, Charlemagne wore « a long tunic covered with a madder chlamys », specifies the author, who adds that he is accompanied, in addition to a crowd of lords and prelates, by his sons, Pépin and Charles , and his daughters, Berthe, Gisèle, Théodrade and Hildegarde. Which are « draped in a long veil embroidered with gold braid, the hair held back by purple bands which encircled their temples, the face rosy by the ointments, the neck adorned with precious stones ». Charlemagne prostrates himself for a long time before the tomb of Saint Peter, then kneels before the Pope who places on his forehead « the crown with gold rays and encrusted with gems that the King of the Franks, according to the chronicler Eginhard, had himself. worn when entering the sanctuary, and in which was enshrined a diadem from the treasury of the basilica ”. The monarch then receives the ornaments from the ancient Roman emperors.

Charlemagne’s grandson was also crowned on Christmas day

It is also Christmas Day that his grandson Charles II, known as « the Bald », chooses to be, in turn, crowned in Rome Emperor of the West. This happens exactly 75 years later, in 875, and this time it is Pope John VIII who officiates.

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