Vita Caroli Magni


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Charlemagne as a Builder


Illustrious as was Charlemagne in enlarging his kingdom and in conquering foreign nations, and though constantly occupied with such affairs, he nevertheless began in several places very many works for the adornment and convenience of his realm. Some of these he was able to finish. Chief among them may be mentioned the church of the Holy Mother of God, built at Aachen,2 a marvel of workmanship; and the bridge over the Rhine at Mainz,3 five hundred paces in length, so broad is the river at that place. This bridge, however, was destroyed by fire the year before Charlemagne died. It could not be restored on account of his approaching death, although he intended to replace the wooden structure by a bridge of stone.

He also began some magnificent palaces, one not far from Mainz, near the town of Ingelheim, and another at Nimeguen, on the river Waal. . . . He was especially particular in giving orders to the priests and fathers to see to the restoration of the churches under their care, if in any part of his kingdom he found them fallen into decay.

Charlemagne also constructed a fleet for the war against the Northmen. For this purpose ships were built on the rivers of Gaul and Germany which flow into the North Sea. As the Northmen were making a practice of ravaging the coasts of Gaul and Germany, he posted towers and outlooks in all the harbors, and at the mouths of those rivers which ships could navigate. By these defenses he prevented any enemy from being able to pass into the interior. He did the same thing in the south, on the coast of the provinces of Narbonne and Septimania, and along all the coast of Italy as far as Rome, for in those parts the Moors had lately taken to piracy. Thus Italy suffered no great damage from the Moors, nor Gaul or Germany from the Northmen, during the reign of Charlemagne, except that Civita Vecchia, a city of Etruria, was betrayed to the Moors, who took it and destroyed it, and in Frisia some islands off the German coast were plundered by the Northmen.

1 Einhard, , 17.

2 Or Aix-la-Chapelle.

3 Or Mayence.


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Chicago: "Charlemagne as a Builder," Vita Caroli Magni in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 280. Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2023,

MLA: . "Charlemagne as a Builder." Vita Caroli Magni, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, page 280. Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Charlemagne as a Builder' in Vita Caroli Magni. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.280. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2023, from