Coronation of a Reluctant Emperor, December 25, 800
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[Charlemagne] was more than a conqueror; he was a great organizer and reformer. He divided his realm into counties, each with a comes (Latin for companion), or “count,” to rule it. To keep an eye on his subordinates, the king himself throughout his life made trips to all parts of his realm, arriving with little or no warning. He also sent out emissaries, called missi dominici, to travel a regular circuit and report to him on the state of his provinces and the needs of his subjects. These royal legates, who traveled in pairs—one a count, the other a bishop—were appointed for a year’s duty over a certain number of counties. Complaints against a local count or his administrators were brought before the emissaries, and they would send the complaints up to the king.
Among the reports brought back to Charles by his missi dominici were letters from provincial bishops. Because Charles saw how badly these letters were written, he began to fear that his clergy did not have enough Latin to understand the Scriptures. He thus established schools in every monastery and cathedral for the perfect teaching of the Latin tongue. The English scholar, Alcuin, who headed the school in Charles’s palace, called the “palace school,” was commanded to staff and oversee these many schools. Scholars from the British monasteries were brought over to Charles’s kingdom to train new teachers. Thus Charles brought the Anglo-Saxon renaissance of learning to the continent. (more…)