We do not know the precise location of Charlemagne’s birthplace. He donned the crown at the ripe age of twenty-nine in 771 A.D. upon the death of Carloman II. From that moment he became embroiled in an almost ceaseless series of military campaigns designed both to expand his frontiers and safeguard them; in this turbulent age, kings needed to fight as well as administrate. Historians tell us that he undertook around fifty-three campaigns, and personally commanded most of them.Continue reading
The chronicler known to posterity as Notker the Stammerer (“Notker Balbulus”) was born in what is now Switzerland around A.D. 840. He seems to have come from a family that had the means to provide him with the best education his era could offer. We find him in adulthood as a monk at the monastery at St. Gall, where he was able to exercise his considerable musical talents in composing verses and hymns.Continue reading
As Europe took shape in the early medieval period, the vernacular languages found their voices in popular epics and ballads. This was not an accident; access to Latin and its literature required literacy, and this was something not easy to come by at that time. But the lay audiences of Europe began to develop their own voices, and these soon coalesced by degrees into coherent form. The tradition was mostly oral at first, until these songs and ballads began to be written down. In every new civilization it seems that the epic ballad occupies the first stage of literary expression; perhaps this is because a people must first master their environments before they can have the leisure to philosophize. And mastery of the environment means capability in war.