"Look up to the Emperor Charlemagne" Notre Dame de Paris Tip by CatherineReichardt

Notre Dame de Paris, Paris: 652 reviews and 1,336 photos


I love the concept of 'happenstance' - a chance occurrence that sometimes strangely aligns with other seemingly unrelated events. So unexpectedly encountering a statue of Charlemagne outside Notre Dame de Paris at the beginning of a trip which I had planned to end in Aachen - the city that Charlemagne raised to prominance - proved to be a perfect example of this concept.

Charlemagne is a fascinating figure who looms out of the otherwise anonymous mists of the Dark Ages. Although Charlemagne is often considered to be a German monarch, he was in fact King of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor, who established a vast empire covering most of Western Europe, encompassing present day France, Switzerland, the Low Countries and swathes of Germany, Austria, Spain and Italy - not bad going for a man who was barely literate and never learned to write.

Indeed there seems to have been little that Charlemagne could not do: in fact, he was even elevated to saintdom, but ? unfortunately for him ? was canonised by an anti Pope during the Papal Schism in the Middle Ages, so his ?saintly status? is not recognised by the Church today. One cannot help thinking that this unfortunate blunder would have irked such a ?can do? sort of individual, but since this happened several hundred years after his death, this was one of the very few outcomes that he could not influence in his own favour. In all fairness, it seems likely that the qualities that allowed him to establish and maintain the most celebrated Empire of the Dark Ages (lots of militaristic marauding, self-interested diplomacy and general meting out of harsh discipline) are unlikely to tally with the contemporary qualifications for sainthood!

For more on Charlemagne, see my Aachen travel pages.

Update (October 2011): If you're interested in Charlemagne, you may be intrigued to know - as I discovered on my last visit - that both his mother and father are buried in the necropolis at St Denis, which is the last resting place of the majority of French royalty (see my St Denis travel tip). I already knew that his father was somewhat unfortunately known as Peppin the Short but it was a revelation to discover that his mother was called Bertha Bigfoot! Since Charlemagne was renowned for his great height (one of the meanings of the name Charlemagne is that 'Charles the Great' refers to his stature, not just his status), one can only presume that he took after his Mum, and given the unfortunate monikers that his parents endured, he may well have considered himself fortunate to be known as Carolus Magnus, Charlemagne or just plain Charles!

Address: Place du parvis de Notre Dame , 75004
Directions: Métro: Cité; RER: Châtelet-Les Halles, Saint Michel-Notre Dame
Phone: +33 1 42 34 56 10
Website: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/-English-

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jun 7, 2013
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