The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Carolingian and Ottonian Art

Why was Charlemagne interested in illustrated manuscripts?

The medieval ruler Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in the year 800 and controlled a territory that included Germany, France, the Netherlands, and parts of Italy. As Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne’s goal was to unify his secular government with the Christian church and to restore the Western Roman Empire, albeit as a Christian kingdom. Charlemagne clearly saw the power of arts and education as a fundamental part of his campaign, and he turned to monasteries—the intellectual centers of the medieval world—to support his mission of conquering all of Europe. Charlemagne’s court in Aachen, Germany, became a leading center for artists, including architects, sculptors, and illuminators. Charlemagne’s scriptoria in Aachen produced some of the most important illuminated manuscripts of the of late eighth and ninth centuries in Europe, which resulted in the spread of Christianity, the standardization of church practices, and the solidification of the Emperor’s power across Europe.


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