Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Blessed Emperor Charlemagne

File:Friedrich Kaulbach - Krönung Karls des Großen.jpg
Coronation of Charlemange [by Pope St. Leo III] by Friedrich Kaulbach (+1903)

This past 28 January was the feast of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, who bore that imperial title from his coronation by Pope St. Leo III in 800 until his death in 814AD.  Before he was Emperor, he was Charles I, King of the Franks, and, by conquest, King of the Lombards (or Italy).  His was a massive character, a heroic character in a heroic age of iron.

From my standard sources:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Charlemagne

Patron Saints Index: Blessed Charlemagne

I present here a few notes that I have compiled on the Emperor Charlemagne:

In 768, Pepin, King of the Franks, died.  He was succeeded by two sons:  Carloman and Charles.  When Carloman died in 771, Charles became sole ruler of the massive Frankish kingdom (much of modern France, Germany, and the Low Countries).  This was to be a momentous development.  In May 773, Charles opened an assembly of the Franks – he proposed to finish off the Lombards once and for all, as King Desiderius (756-774) had again violated treaties and harassed the popes.  That summer of 773 he invaded Italy to aid the pope, Hadrian I (772-795).  Victory was swift (except, however, the siege of Pavia, the Lombard capital), and Charles was in Rome during Holy Week of 774.  He confirmed the Donation of Pepin while there – and was named King of the Lombards and Patrician of the Romans after the fall of Pavia and capture of Desiderius that June.

Meanwhile, to the north, the Germanic barbarians, the Saxons, surged into the Frankish realm looting and killing.  In 775, Charles campaigned against the Saxons.  An assembly in 777 made the possibility of the conversion of the Saxons look real.  Next, Charles – the Great – was enticed into a plan to invade Muslim Spain by the Islamic governor of Barcelona.  This he did in 778 with the support of Pope Hadrian.  He marched on Zaragossa in the Northeast, and found the city too difficult to seize.  In his frustration, he also destroyed the walls of Pamplona.  Thus, as he departed Spain, a combined Muslim-Basque forced attacked his rear-guard at Roncesvalles, the object of the famous “Song of Roland.”  In Fall 780, Charlemagne returned to Italy and in 781 he met an English scholar, Alcuin, and commissioned him to direct his palace school and educate his children and nobles.  In 782, Charlemagne, angry with the continued war with the Saxons, slaughtered 4,500 of their nobles at Verdun.  This he regretted, and, by 785, the chief of the Saxons, Widukind, was baptized.  He next added Bavaria and Carinthia to his realm in 788.  In 797 Saxony was finally added to Charlemagne’s realm. 

File:Frankish Empire 481 to 814-en.svg 
Map showing the Frankish realm -- the light green added by Charlemagne.

The 790s marked the start of the invasion of a new menace – the Vikings from the North.  In 794, Charlemagne made his capital in the city of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle).  The next year the old ally of Charles, Pope Hadrian, died, to be replaced by a great saint, St. Leo III (795-816).  In 799, a vicious assassination attempt on the life of Pope St. Leo III was made – including an attempt to blind him and split his tongue – during a procession.  Charlemagne and his men, however, protected the pope, found the attackers and brought them to justice.  In 800, the call came forth for Charles to be crowned Emperor, for he ruled most all of the old western realm, and had been a faithful protector of Church and Pope.  The Byzantine Empire had lost Rome, was ruled by a usurper woman (Irene), and was not helping the Church as had the Franks.  Thus, on Christmas day, 800, Pope St. Leo III crowned Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor – not just a revival of the old Empire, but this was a new Christian realm.  The coronation of Charlemagne was universally accepted in the Latin West, as was his title of Emperor, even if the Byzantines protested.  The recognition of his title by the East came nominally in 812 with the promise of Charlemagne to restore Venice to the Byzantines if they recognized the title.  This Michael I did, but not as “Roman Emperor.”  This Holy Roman Imperial title would exist until 1806.  Something, then, of the reign of the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charles Magnus:
  • Character: In what shows very much the kind of Emperor he was to be, in 802 he demanded an oath of loyalty from his nobles – not only loyalty to himself, but to “‘voluntarily strive according to his intelligence and strength to keep himself entirely in the holy service of God’ and to refrain from any actions harmful to churches, widows, orphans, and strangers, all of whom were under the special protection of the Holy Roman Emperor.”  Einhard, his biographer describes him thus:
    • [All extracts from Book III. Section numbers used in various translations]
      #22. [Charles' Appearance.] Charles was large and strong, and of lofty stature, though not disproportionately tall (his height is well known to have been seven times the length of his foot); the upper part of his head was round, his eyes very large and animated, nose a little long, hair fair, and face laughing and merry. Thus his appearance was always stately and dignified, whether he was standing or sitting; although his neck was thick and somewhat short, and his belly rather prominent; but the symmetry of the rest of his body concealed these defects. His gait was firm, his whole carriage manly, and his voice clear, but not so strong as his size led one to expect. His health was excellent, except during the four years preceding his death, when he was subject to frequent fevers; at the last he even limped a little with one foot. Even in those years he consulted rather his own inclinations than the advice of physicians, who were almost hateful to him, because they wanted him to give up roasts, to which he was accustomed, and to eat boiled meat instead. In accordance with the national custom, he took frequent exercise on horseback and in the chase, accomplishments in which scarcely any people in the world can equal the Franks. He enjoyed the exhalations from natural warm springs, and often practised swimming, in which he was such an adept that none could surpass him; and hence it was that he built his palace at Aixla-Chapelle, and lived there constantly during his latter years until his death. He used not only to invite his sons to his bath, but his nobles and friends, and now and then a troop of his retinue or body guard, so that a hundred or more persons sometimes bathed with him.
      #23. [Charles' Clothing] He used to wear the national, that is to say, the Frank, dress-next his skin a linen shirt and linen breeches, and above these a tunic fringed with silk; while hose fastened by bands covered his lower limbs, and shoes his feet, and he protected his shoulders and chest in winter by a close-fitting coat of otter or marten skins. Over all he flung a blue cloak, and he always had a sword girt about him, usually one with a gold or silver hilt and belt; he sometimes carried a jewelled sword, but only on great feast-days or at the reception of ambassadors from foreign nations. He despised foreign costumes, however handsome, and never allowed himself to be robed in them, except twice in Rome, when he donned the Roman tunic, chlamys, and shoes; the first time at the request of Pope Hadrian, the second to gratify Leo, Hadrian's successor. On great feast-days he made use of embroidered clothes, and shoes bedecked with precious stones; his cloak was fastened by a golden buckle, and he appeared crowned with a diadem of gold and gems: but on other days his dress varied little from the common dress of the people.
      #24. [Charle's Manner] Charles was temperate in eating, and particularly so in drinking, for he abominated drunkenness in anybody, much more in himself and those of his household; but he could not easily abstain from food, and often complained that fasts injured his health. He very rarely gave entertainments, only on great feast-days, and then to large numbers of people. His meals ordinarily consisted of four courses, not counting the roast, which his huntsmen used to bring in on the spit; he was more fond of this than of any other dish. While at table, he listened to reading or music. The subjects of the readings were the stories and deeds of olden time: he was fond, too, of St. Augustine's books, and especially of the one entitled "The City of God."
      He was so moderate in the use of wine and all sorts of drink that he rarely allowed himself more than three cups in the course of a meal. In summer after the midday meal, he would eat some fruit, drain a single cup, put off his clothes and shoes, just as he did for the night, and rest for two or three hours. He was in the habit of awaking and rising from bed four or five times during the night. While he was dressing and putting on his shoes, he not only gave audience to his friends, but if the Count of the Palace told him of any suit in which his judgment was necessary, he had the parties brought before him forthwith, took cognizance of the case, and gave his decision, just as if he were sitting on the Judgment-seat. This was not the only business that he transacted at this time, but he performed any duty of the day whatever, whether he had to attend to the matter himself, or to give commands concerning it to his officers.
      #25 [Charles' Education] Charles had the gift of ready and fluent speech, and could express whatever he had to say with the utmost clearness. He was not satisfied with command of his native language merely, but gave attention to the study of foreign ones, and in particular was such a master of Latin that he could speak it as well as his native tongue; but he could understand Greek better than he could speak it. He was so eloquent, indeed, that he might have passed for a teacher of eloquence. He most zealously cultivated the liberal arts, held those who taught them in great esteem, and conferred great honours upon them. He took lessons in grammar of the deacon Peter of Pisa, at that time an aged man. Another deacon, Albin of Britain, surnamed Alcuin, a man of Saxon extraction, who was the greatest scholar of the day, was his teacher in other branches of learning. The King spent much time and labour with him studying rhetoric, dialectics, and especially astronomy; he learned to reckon, and used to investigate the motions of the heavenly bodies most curiously, with an intelligent scrutiny. He also tried to write, and used to keep tablets and blanks in bed under his pillow, that at leisure hours he might accustom his hand to form the letters; however, as he did not begin his efforts in due season, but late in life, they met with ill success.
      #19 [Charles and the Education of His Children] The plan that he adopted for his children's education was, first of all, to have both boys and girls instructed in the liberal arts, to which he also turned his own attention. As soon as their years admitted, in accordance with the custom of the Franks, the boys had to learn horsemanship, and to practise war and the chase, and the girls to familiarize themselves with cloth-making, and to handle distaff and spindle, that they might not grow indolent through idleness, and he fostered in them every virtuous sentiment. He only lost three of all his children before his death, two sons and one daughter, Charles, who was the eldest, Pepin, whom he had made King of Italy, and Hruodrud, his oldest daughter....
      He was so careful of the training of his sons and daughters that he never took his meals without them when he was at home, and never made ajourney without them; his sons would ride at his side, and his daughters follow him, while a number of his body-guard, detailed for their protection, brought up the rear. Strange to say, although they were very handsome women, and he loved them very dearly, he was never willing to marry any of them to a man of their own nation or to a foreigner, but kept them all at home until his death, saying that he could not dispense with their society. Hence, though other-wise happy, he experienced the malignity of fortune as far as they were concerned; yet he concealed his knowledge of the rumours current in regard to them, and of the suspicions entertained of their honour.
      #27[Charles and the Roman Church] ... He cherished the Church of St. Peter the Apostle at Rome above all other holy and sacred places, and heaped its treasury with a vast wealth of gold, silver, and precious stones. He sent great and countless gifts to the popes; and throughout his whole reign the wish that he had nearest at heart was to re-establish the ancient authority of the city of Rome under his care and by his influence, and to defend and protect the Church of St. Peter, and to beautify and enrich it out of his own store above all other churches. Although he held it in such veneration, he only repaired to Rome to pay his vows and make his supplications four times during the whole forty-seven years that he reigned.
      #28 [Charles' Coronation] The Romans had inflicted many injuries upon the Pontiff Leo, tearing out his eyes and cutting out his tongue, so that he had been comp lied to call upon the King for help. Charles accordingly went to Rome, to set in order the affairs of the Church, which were in great confusion, and passed the whole winter there. It was then that he received the titles of Emperor and Augustus, to which he at first had such an aversion that he declared that he would not have set foot in the Church the day that they were conferred, although it was a great feast-day, if he could have foreseen the design of the Pope. He bore very patiently with the jealousy which the Roman emperors showed upon his assuming these titles, for they took this step very ill; and by dint of frequent embassies and letters, in which he addressed them as brothers, he made their haughtiness yield to his magnanimity, a quality in which he was unquestionably much their superior.
      [from Einhard, Life of Charlemagne, S. E. Turner, trans. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1880), pp. 56-62, 51-54, 64-66. cf,]
  • Martial: As far as military conquests go during his Imperial rule, his last campaign against the Saxons came in 804, and this brought him to the boundary of the Danish realm – the Vikings.  Here was to be the next great source of trouble.  The other area of campaign was Spain.  From 801-811, his son Louis, and Duke William of Toulouse, waged war against the Islamic Emirate of Cordoba with its Umayyad Emir.  It came to naught, as the Muslims fought hard, and King of the Asturias, Alfonso II (791-842) the Chaste, was unable to give much aid.  Pamplona was captured, but Zaragossa would remain beyond reach.  They reached a three year truce in 812 with the Emir of Cordoba.
  • Culture: Charlemagne contributed a great deal to culture, despite his barbarian stock.  To quote the old Catholic Encyclopedia, his interest in church music and solicitude for its propagation and adequate performance throughout his empire, have never been equalled by any civil ruler either before or since his time… He not only caused liturgical music to flourish in his own time throughout his vast domain, but he laid the foundations for musical culture which are still potent today.Charlemagne also made notable contributions to learning, as his association with Alcuin mentioned earlier bears witness.
Charlemagne's Chapel at Aachen.

With Charlemagne’s death in 814AD
, Imperial rule passed to his only surviving son, and the weakest, Louis I the “Pious” [His other two sons were Pepin +810, and Charles, +811].  Nevertheless, provision was made for the traditional dividing of the Empire, had others survived.  Hence, eventually the Emperor would be divided – with the Imperial title staying with the eastern portions, Germany.  Charlemagne has been ranked with Constantine for his significance, and a local cult, in Aachen, has been approved, so it is entirely appropriate to call him, and invoke him, as Blessed Charlemagne!

[Cf., Carroll, Building of Christendom]

Live well!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Concerning the Stars

File:The Sun by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory - 20100819.jpg
A G2 V star that most of us are rather familiar with: the Sun.

Without our local star of the Sun, life on Earth as we know it would not be possible.  In the midst of the cold snap in the Eastern United States, we might appreciate all the more the warming action of the Sun.  In fact, on 2 January, we reached our Aphelion, our closest point to the Sun on our orbit -- it is too bad for us in the Northern Hemisphere that we are tipped away from the Sun at this point!

Yet, these crisp nights also allow us to view a particularly clear night sky, and the winter constellation present to us some of the brightest and most impressive stars, from our perspective.

Below I have compiled a list of the brightest stars visible in the skies of the northern latitudes, including their common name, Bayer designation, their Spectral Type (which classifies stars based on their surface temperature, along with the Roman Numeral indicating the luminosity class, whereby the lower the Roman number the more massive the star) and finally its apparent magnitude, or brightness as it appears to us.  Below that, I have a list of the closests stars to us, along with a chart presenting a list of the different spectral classes.

It is a delightful exercise to try to detect the color of the brighter stars -- with Rigel and Betelguese in Orion being a wonderful exercise and comparison.

So, let us enjoy the stars and clear nights of winter, even if we wish for a bit more of the warmth of the sun!

Brightest Stars of the Northern Sky
NAME                   DESIGNATION                  SPECTRAL TYPE                 MAGNITUDE
G2 V
α Canis Majoris
A1 V
α Boötis
α Lyrae
A0 V
α Aurigae
G6 III & G2 II
β Orionis
B8 Ia
α Canis Minoris
α Orionis
M2 Iab
0.7 (Variable)
α Aquilae
A7 V
α Tauri


α Scorpii

M1 Ib

 0.92 (Variable)


α Virginis

B1 V

1.00 (Variable)


β Geminorum



NEXT FOUR: Fomalhaut (Piscis Austrinus), Deneb (Cygnus), Regulus (Leo), Adhara (Canis Major)
NB: This excludes the bright southern stars, which would number #3, 4, 10, 11, 15, 21.
Closest Stars to Earth

STAR                                                     LIGHT YEARS DISTANT                APPARENT MAGNITUDE
1. Sun                                                  8 light minutes                        -26.75
2. Proxima Centauri                            4.21                                         11.05
3. Alpha Centauri [Binary]                 4.37                                         0.02
4. Barnard’s Star (Ophiuchus)            5.94                                         9.54
5. Wolf 359 (Leo)                               7.80                                         13.45
6. Lalande 21185 (Ursa Maj.)           8.32                                         7.49
7. Luyten 726-8 [Binary] (Cetus)        8.5                                           12.3
8. Sirius [Binary]                                 8.61                                         -1.45
Spectral Types and Star Classification
Surface Temperature Ranges for
Different Stellar Classes
Sample stars
33,000 K or more
ζ [Zeta] Ophiuchi,
δ [Delta] Orionis (Mintaka)
10,500–30,000 K
Rigel, Spica, the Pleiades
7,500–10,000 K
Altair, Vega, Deneb, Sirius
6,000–7,200 K
Procyon A, Polaris
5,500–6,000 K
Sun, Capella
4,000–5,250 K
Arcturus, Aldebaran
2,600–3,850 K
Betelgeuse, Antares, Barnard’s Star

Live well!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Oath of Office

Blessed Charles of Austria taking the Coronation Oath as King of Hungary; notice the slightly off-center cross on the top of the Crown of St. Stephen.

In light of the recent inauguration, it is worth pondering the practice of taking the oath of office.  Certainly an oath is a solemn act, in which an individual traditionally calls upon Almighty God to witness to the truth of one's promise to act in a certain way.  (Cf., Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Oaths) In the case of an oath of office, the new office-holder solemnly promises or affirms that he will act in a proscribed manner or refrain from certain acts in office.

For the purposes of this post, I will note an example of three different manners of oaths of office, a secular Republican office, a secular office in a Monarchy, and an Ecclesiastical office.

In the United States of America, we are rather familiar with the Federal Oath of Office that is said by officials or employees of the Federal Government:
"I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

5 U.S.C. §3331"

This oath had been motified in the midst of the American Civil War ("enemies foreign and domestic," and originally also included a promise that one had not aided or supported an cause contrary to that of the Constitutional government of the United States.  This second half, promising a future course of action without mention of the past, has survived the decades since that conflict.

Here is a clip of President Ronald Reagan taking the Oath of Office in 1981:

Oaths of office in the various states of the Union are slightly different.  Take this example of the oath of office in the Commonwealth of Virginia:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the
United States, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that
I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent upon me
as .......... according to the best of my ability, (so help me God)."


Here is a clip of the current Governor of Virginia, his excellency, Robert McDonnell, taking the oath of office in Richmond, Virginia (at about 4:55), after Ken Cuccinelli taking his oath as Attorney General, and William Bolling as Lieutenant Governor:

In a monarchy, of course, there are several different manners of oaths, far more ancient in form than those of our modern Republics, the most famous being the actual coronation oath of the monarch themselves.  Here is the formula used by Queen Elizabeth II upon her coronation:
"The Queen having returned to her Chair, (her Majesty having already on Tuesday, the
4th day of November, 1952, in the presence of the two Houses of Parliament, made
and signed the Declaration prescribed by Act of Parliament), the Archbishop standing
before her shall administer the Coronation Oath, first asking the Queen,

Madam, is your Majesty willing to take the Oath?
And the Queen answering,
I am willing.
The Archbishop shall minister these questions; and the Queen, having a book in her
hands, shall answer each question severally as follows:

Archbishop. Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the
Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other
Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws
and customs?

Queen. I solemnly promise so to do.
Archbishop. Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed
in all your judgements?

Queen. I Will.
Archbishop. Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the
true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the
United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you
maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the
doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in
England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the
Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do
or shall appertain to them or any of them?

Queen. All this I promise to do.
Then the Queen arising out of her Chair, supported as before, the Sword of State
being carried before her, shall go to the Altar, and make her solemn Oath in the sight
of all the people to observe the premises: laying her right hand upon the Holy Gospel
in the great Bible (which was before carried in the procession and is now brought from
the Altar by the Archbishop (The Bible to be brought) and tendered to her as she
kneels upon the steps), and be brought saying these words:

The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me

Then the Queen shall kiss the Book and sign the Oath. And a Silver Standish
Queen having thus taken her Oath shall return again to her Chair, and the Bible shall
be delivered to the Dean of Westminster

Here is a clip that, at about 4:35, includes the Coronation Oath of Elizabeth II:

An official within a monarchy, of course, has a particular loyalty, not only to the prescribed manner of government, but to the actual person of the monarch, who, in a sense, represents the government as its sovereign.  Such an oath harkens to that taken by a vassal to his lord.  For example, here is the text of a member of Parliament in the United Kingdom:
"I (name of Member) swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God."

Finally, holders of Ecclesiastical offices often take an oath of office, this in addition to whatever vows or solemn promises taken upon entrance into the Clerical state.  For instance, this is the oath taken by a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church:
"I [name and surname], Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, promise and swear to be faithful henceforth and forever, while I live, to Christ and his Gospel, being constantly obedient to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff [Name of current Pope], and of his canonically elected Successors; to maintain communion with the Catholic Church always, in word and deed; not to reveal to any one what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church; to carry out with great diligence and faithfulness those tasks to which I am called by my service to the Church, in accord with the norms of the law.

So help me Almighty God

May our public officials ever live up to the high ideals and virtues proscribed by their oaths, and may honor and integrity be their watchwords.

Live well!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

200th of the Battle of River Raisin

File:River Raisin Massacre monument.jpg
The monument in Monroe, Michigan, to the men from Kentucky that fought and died at the Battles of River Raisin or Frenchtown in January 1813AD.

As we recall the 200th anniversary of the events of the War of 1812, this weekend we mark the next phase of fighting in the Michigan Territory, this just south of Detroit near Monroe, Michigan.

An American army sought to recapture Detroit and the portions of the Michigan Territory lost to the British and their Canadian allies the previous year.  In overall command was US General William Henry Harrison for the Americans and General Henry Proctor for the British.

On 18 January 1813, a portion of the American column of US General James Winchester, under the command of Lt. Colonel William Lewis, clashed with a small British force at the Battle of Frenchtown, or First River Raisin, capturing Frenchtown, now Monroe, scattering the smaller British force.

The British under Proctor replied, with a force of both British and Indian troops, counterattacked on 22 January 1813 at the Second Battle of River Raisin, this time dealing a stinging defeat to the column of Winchester.  The two armies involved had around 1,000 troops.  US General Winchester was captured early in the fight, and was compelled to command his force to surrender, and over 500 men did so.  A large portion of Winchester's force were men from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Here is an account of the two actions in the area of Frenchtown, Michigan Territory that January 1813:

The British, having captured so many Americans, tried to withdraw back towards Detroit before Harrison could reply with his half of the American army -- but in the retreat, the Native Allies of the British massacred a portion of the wounded American prisoners -- the River Raisin Massacre -- this on 23 January 1813.

Here is the local website of the Battlefield:

Here is the National Park Service site for the Battlefield Park:

In the end, another American military operation on the Michigan front failed, and Detroit remained in British hands.  The land war along the border with Canada has, to this point in the war, been a dismal performance for the United States.

It seems that nine counties in Kentucky bear the names of veterans that fought at the battle, as the historical sign pictured belows explains, with eight of them not surviving the battle.  These are:
Allen Co., Ballard Co., Graves Co., Edmonson Co., Hart Co., Hickman Co., McCracken Co., Meade Co., and Simpson Co., Kentucky.

File:River Raisin National Battlefield Park9.jpg

Live well!