From Imperator to Holy Crusader

A Historiography of the Charlemagne Legend


  • Colby Turberville


This article is a historiography of Charlemagne’s legend. It roughly covers between the late eighth century to the twelfth century. It focuses on various contributors to Charlemagne’s legend such as his contemporary courtiers, especially Einhard. It also pays close attention to the clerical backlash against Charlemagne during the reign of his son, Louis the Pious. This article shows how the diversification of Europe changed the legend of Charlemagne, and thus preserved it. Finally, this article ends by showing the power that Charlemagne’s image had accumulated as evidenced by its strong influence during the First Crusade. This article is, in short, an attempt to follow the developing image and legend of one of the most influential figures in European history and show that image’s influence on and connection with that history.