28th January 814 was the day on which a great European emperor died. He is generally known to history as Charlemagne, which points to his importance as King of the Franks and thus the father of the French nation, but he was actually more German than French.
The empire controlled by Charlemagne stretched across the whole of present-day France, Belgium and the Netherlands, nearly all of Germany and Austria, and parts of Italy, Hungary and Spain. The dynasty that he established, named Carolingian, ruled until 987.
Charlemagne died from influenza at the age of 71 and was buried in the cathedral that he had built in his capital city of Aachen, which the French prefer to call Aix-la-Chapelle.
Charlemagne even managed to become a saint in the eyes of some believers. However, he was canonised in 1165 by Pope Paschal III, who was an anti-pope established by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Charlemagne is therefore not included on the list of saints approved by the Catholic or Orthodox Churches.
© John Welford