Charlemagne was one of the most powerful kings in world history and is widely regarded as the "Father of Europe." In 800, he became the first western European ruler to be crowned emperor in Rome. But who was Charlemagne really?
The boundaries of the Carolingian Empire are similar to those that were formed by Europe’s "Inner Six" 1,200 years later. Those six nations: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands became the founding members of the European Economic Community. Charlemagne, who is believed to have lived between 748 and 814, created more than an empire. He also imposed order and laid the cornerstones for what was to become a common religious and cultural identity. He wanted to rule over all of Roman Christendom and not just the Franks. Faith was one of the things that gave cohesion to his realm. On Christmas Day in the year 800, he became the first western European ruler to be crowned emperor in Rome. The Roman title and the concept of an empire then became attached to the Carolingian dynasty, something that eastern Carolingian and German kings also later laid claim to. Charlemagne created the basis for what would become the German Empire through his conquests in Central Europe. He waged war on the Saxons for thirty years, until he brutally subjugated them and forced them to accept Christianity or die. The inclusion of Saxony shifted the center of the Carolingian Empire east. After Charlemagne's realm split into western and eastern halves a century later, it was none other than the descendants of the heathen Saxons who demonstrated the power, determination and influence to follow in the footsteps of the great emperor. The German tribes elected Otto the Great as the "east Carolingian" king and he went on to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor.