The Garden Guide


Born - Died : 742 - 814

Charlemagne ('Charles The Great' in English and Carolus Magnus in Latin') became King of the Franks in 786 and in the course of a long life and 53 military campaigns united virtually all the Christian lands of Western Europe. He was a great-grandson of Charles Martel. Christianized the pagan Saxons and introduced the tithe ('tenth'), whereby one tenth of everyone's income went to the church. The Pope supported him, as a defense against the Eastern Church, and crowned him Roman Emperor in 800. Long after his death (in 962) one of his successors became the Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation. Charlemagne's court was itinerant but he built palaces at Nijmegan, Engelheim and Aachen, all in the manner of open Roman villas with courtyards and gardens. His empire was sufficiently secure, and his army sufficiently close, for him not to require a fortified dwelling. A series of imperial edicts, known as capitularies ('chapters') was issued throught his reign to instruct his subject on civil, militaray and ecclesiastical affairs. Most famous, to garden historians, was the Capitulare des Villes which specified a list of plants to be grown on the royal estates. The first two plants on the list were the rose and the lily, both ornamental and functional. The other plants were herbs, some also decorative, and vegetables. He had Old High German as his first language, spoke Old French hesitantly and knew some classical Greek and Latin. School children learn that the territory he ruled were 'neither Holy, nor Roman nor an Empire'. Charlemagne cared about religion andnot long after his death, instructions for an ideal monastery to be designed. It is known as the St Gall Plan. The Oath of Strasbourg, sworn by Charlemagne's grandsons in 842 created the kingdoms of the East Franks (Germany) and the West Franks (France). A third grandson became King of Italy with the title of Emperor.