Timeline of Charlemagne's Life and Reign

king charlemagne portrait
Public Domain

For a quick overview of the progress of Charlemagne's life, consult the chronological listing of significant events below.

Timeline

  • 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