Charlemagne Study Guide

The King with the Grizzly Beard
The King with the Grizzly Beard. Public Domain

For a quick overview of the progress of Charlemagne's life, consult the chronological listing of significant events below. To see what else was happening in the world when Charles governed most of Europe, visit the timelines in this directory.

Timeline of Charlemagne's Life and Reign

  • 742: Charles the Great is born on April 2, traditionally in this year, but possibly as late as 747
  • 751: Charlemagne's father Pippin is declared king, beginning what would later be called the Carolingian dynasty
  • 768: Upon the death of Pippin, the kingdom of Francia is divided between Charles and his brother Carloman
  • 771: Carloman dies; Charles becomes sole ruler
  • 772: Charlemagne makes his first raid on the Saxons, which is a success; but this was just the beginning of an extended struggle against the decentralized pagan tribes
  • 774: Charlemagne conquers Lombardy and becomes King of the Lombards
  • 777: Construction of a palace in Aachen begins
  • 778: An unsuccessful siege of Saragossa, Spain, is followed by an ambush of Charlemagne's retreating army by the Basques at Roncesvalles
  • 781: Charles makes a pilgrimage to Rome and has his son Pippin proclaimed King of Italy; here he meets Alcuin, who agrees to come to Charlemagne's court
  • 782: In response to recent attacks by Saxon leader Widukind, Charlemagne reportedly has 4,500 Saxon prisoners executed en masse
  • 787: Charles launches his educational plan by ordering bishops and abbots to open schools near their churches and monasteries
  • 788: Charlemagne takes control of Bavaria, bringing all the territory of the Germanic tribes into one political unit
  • 791-796: Charles conducts a series of campaigns against the Avars in present-day Austria and Hungary. The Avars are eventually destroyed as a cultural entity
  • 796: Construction on the cathedral in Aachen begins
  • 799: Pope Leo III is attacked in the streets of Rome and flees to Charlemagne for protection. The king has him conducted safely back to Rome
  • 800: Charlemagne comes to Rome to oversee a synod where Leo clears himself of the charges laid on him by his enemies. At Christmas mass, Leo crowns Charlemagne Emperor
  • 804: The Saxon wars finally come to an end
  • 812: Byzantine emperor Michael I acknowledges Charlemagne as emperor, though not as "Roman" emperor, providing official power to the power Charles already wielded in fact
  • 813: Charles delegates imperial power to Louis, his last surviving legitimate son
  • 814: Charlemagne dies in Aachen