Charles the Trek part 1

Charlemagne is still alive and kicking 1200 years later for TSMorangles 2014 Early Medieval Holidays

When summer comes, the amateurish History Buff starts looking at the calendar: Anniversary calendar, tell me what happened in:

1914: my grandfathers are going to war…

1814… Napoleon horoscope: Not good.

1714 … Anne Stuart leaves the stage

1614: nuptials. Pocahontas marries John Rolfe (too late to buy a wedding gift).

1514. Another wedding: Henry VIII marries off his buxom sister to King Louis XII of France. (Another cunning plan to snatch the French crown and doomed to fail as usual. E for effort).

1414, …

1314: Templars. Burning (note to self: holidays are people friendly; not executioner fun)

1214: Bouvines. Now we enter the nitty gritty of medieval stuff.

1114, …

1014 Aethelred the Unready is packing his suitcase to go back to Britain (problem: snailfrog lives in Britain and plan to travel eastwards)

914: loads of battles in the Middle East (shaking head sadly as nothing seems to change)….



Charlemagne dies. Sorry. 814. Close enough to my favorite era: The Merovingian times! This settles it. Germany: Aachen and maybe… maybe… we shall see. The formula is simple: plan ahead sort of. (short of?) And be ready for a booty of delighted photos.

Will 2 cameras along a mobile phone suffice? Are we ready? We shall cross the Channel (Napoleon dreamt of it: 1814 box ticked). First stop: France. Ticking boxes for 1514, 1414, 1314 etc.

Charlemagne, I presume? Here, we come!


The crown is massive!

No wonder Charles was a big man as in magnus; he had to be to carry this 4 pounds of gold on his head.

We start: …

Let’s be open as in Frank (which is a pun considering what follows) about what the expression Dark Ages may imply in reality:

some museums, you will wish to visit, may suffer drastic budget cuts. Bring your torch (no joke). The Musee d’Archeologie Nationale (Museum of National Archaeology of Saint Germain en Laye) shows finds related to French History. It is also dedicated to Gauls, Iron and Bronze ages and if you want to see the real thing, albeit in a museum which is keen on cutting its electricity bill, this museum is for you. You can see and almost touch items found in Queen Aregund’s grave.(580 AD) It is a pity the French ministry of Culture which runs the museum spends so few monies on artefacts of value such as


Which is her ring or this mysterious terra cotta:


What we know is that it was made about the instant t of King Clovis conversion so end 5th, early 6th C. Who is this person? A cross on the forehead yet armed with a sword trampling a snake while carrying a spear and … a shield? Anyhow his boots were made for walking and he was not an eunuch. What are the funny ears, the diadem, the heads on his side? If any heathen/pagan of new of tumblr community has an idea, please tell us!

One thing is sure. As per this Saxon knife and its scabbard, Raedwald of Sutton Hoo fame had contacts with the Continent.


I want to thank the museum staffs who allowed its disabled visitors to use the goods-lift. Not fancy but kindly offered and welcomed. Also worth a bow the kind musuem-shop manager who gave sound advice to her books buyers.

Next step: Charlemagne Exhibition in Aachen.

A triple exhibition (you can from the start buy the three tickets with the much needed matching three audio-guides): 19 euros per person. A few booklets in your language about the Dom, the Treasure and the exhibition plus a Charlemagne Aachen guide! This printed shopping spree will cost you about 50 euros. I recommend it as you cannot take photos; here it is postcards only)


The original bronze fountain of Aachen as chosen by Charles will find you today at the Dom atrium.


Some say it is a she-bear, some a she-wolf. It sits among us since it left the workshop of its Roman maker in the 2thC AD.

Some decoration artefact from a Langobard palace with matching Iron crown. This exhibition is amazing.


All you wanted to know about the palatial complex, how it was built, what are the actual lines of research can be found at the RatHaus: Town Hall for you and me. If you have money to spend, you can dine (not cheap alas) at Charles’s cellar or Keller as the RatHaus is built on the great hall of our exalted friend. The old coronation hall hosts the exhibition, which is nice considering that up to 1531 all the Emperors of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire have been crowned in this room.


Aren’t we glad Google exists as we could not take picture of the Coronation Hall because this was verboten since it was hosting the exhibition!

Charles possibly at one point sat on this throne, courtesy of France Bibliotheque Nationale.  This is possibly Dagobert the 1st own favourite chair. As dear Dagobert passed away in 639 AD, you will realize that our ancestors were building stuff which really lasted! Well outlasted them.  By the way, this is massive; on par with the marble throne found at the Dom.


Is it Merovingian then Carolingian? It is rightly debated. Frankly, nobody is sure but for one thing. Carolingian kings/emperors sat on it. As the Emperor was a tall man, it fits the imperial physicality as it is very heavy

Carolingian cavalry man, improvement on body armor against arrows…


Links with Byzantium and Baghdad. A must see : sadly no camera. And if you are wheelchair bound: the tags are too high to be read by our disabled friend. By the way, if you do not speak German, ready your souls. This exhibition should and will reconcile France and the Anglo-Saxons. No translation on the tags as for the books. The full catalog exists only in German and to get a human guide, you must book it weeks ahead. None the less, you quickly get an idea of the richness of the architecture during the not-so-dark-ages…

I will add that the curator has a special door and lift for disabled visitors (one of our group had suffered a stroke some time ago hence our targeted comments.).

Then on we moved to the Cathedral. As they say, the Dom and what a Dome it is. Firstly it was raided by the Vikings in 881 AD. So it suffered plenty of destruction before it was one hundred years old… yet… what a sight.


The marble and mosaic are modern as in late 1880s. Hagia Sophia inspired. You must imagine it white! With maybe some red drawings? Maybe as in the few surviving frescoes of the 9th century still around IN Europe (one can dream of a cortege copycatting Justinian and Theodora…)


This gentleman comes from Malles, St Benoit Church. a rare glimpse of a real Carolingian lord.

The Dom has a lot to offer:  many bronze doors are from Charlemagne days, Roman columns, a white marble seat (proof of Imperial thriftiness as it comes from recycled marble floors) and balconies. The whole built on older Roman remains. 


The Dom tourist bureau offers a daily guided tour in English (do not complain; at least you get one in your native language. On the plus side, about all Europe was obliged to follow the English speaking tour since their German was as good or rather poor as mine).

And here we close…


today the first part of this journey.



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