On Christmas Day, 800, Charlemagne, the King of the Franks, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. Under Charlemagne, much of western Europe was ruled as one vast country, but within 40 years of his death, in 814, the Holy Roman Empire had fragmented.
Charlemagne was a brilliant leader, and his kingdom stretched from the North Sea to Italy. As Holy Roman Emperor, he was expected to rule Europe like a Roman emperor, but with a new responsibility for the safety and prosperity of the Church and the Pope.
Charlemagne was a great patron of learning, inviting the most famous scholars of the day to his main court at Aachen. His advisers and friends included Peter of Pisa, Agobard of Lyons, and Alcuin of York. Under Charlemagne, rare manuscripts were collected, the text of the Bible was revised, and grammars, history books, and ballads were published.
By 843 Charlemagne’s empire had split into three kingdoms, each of which was ruled by a member of his family. Following Charlemagne, there was no Holy Roman Emperor until Otto I was crowned in 962. After 1438, all but one of the holders of the prestigious title were Habsburg monarchs. In 1806 Napoleon abolished the title.