Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

This program is over.

Hope you didn't miss it! Browse other programs we offer.

Charlemagne: Father of Europe

Evening Program

Monday, September 14, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0495S
$20 - Member
$25 - Non-Member

Emperor Charlemagne, ca. 1513, by Albrecht Dürer (German National Museum, Nuremberg)


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • For multiple registrations, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses.


To the French he is Charlemagne, to the Germans Karl der Grosse, and to Pope Leo III he was the man worthy of reviving the office of emperor of the Romans after it had lain vacant in the West for three centuries. Charles the Great, king of the Franks (r. 768–814), was the greatest and most successful of the barbarian rulers who rose to power after the fall of the Roman Empire.

In a reign marked by constant warfare, Charlemagne created an empire that encompassed what is today France, Germany, northern Italy, and Catalonia. His Christian zeal and lust for territory, plunder, and slaves drove him to reduce the pagan Slavs and Turkic Avars of Central Europe to tributary peoples, and to devote 33 years to the conquest and conversion of the fiercely independent pagan Saxons of northern Germany. And yet this warrior king was also a great patron of the arts, learning, and religion. 

The Carolingian Renaissance he sponsored and funded with the profits of war preserved the legacy of the classical world into the Middle Ages and modern times. It is little wonder that within three centuries of his death, he had become a mythic figure and the center of a cycle of epic poems. Charlemagne embodies the paradoxes of the early Middle Ages, the period popularly (and misleadingly) known as the Dark Ages.

Richard Abels, professor emeritus of history at the United States Naval Academy and visiting scholar at Catholic University, explores both the man and the myth of the so-called Father of Europe.


  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.