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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry

The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry

How did Charlemagne do so much at such an early date? Did he have help?

In modern times Cotton Malone, a former Justice Dept agent, and twin sisters, Dorothea Oberhauser Lindauer and Christl Oberhauser Falk, are looking for the same thing but for different reasons. Cotton's father and the Oberhauser's father were on a secret nuclear submarine lost on a highly classified mission beneath the ice shelves of Antarctica. They both want to find out what happened to their fathers. Cotton just wants to know what happened to the crew and the twins want to know what the mission found. The twins' grandfather had come upon clues discovered in Charlemagne's tomb. He thought it would lead them to proof of a master super race of Aryans. The Nazis explored Antarctica in 1938, way before the Americans. Based on documents found by the Americans after the war, they sent this submarine to try and find what the Nazi's had found. But the submarine was lost. Because it was such a secret mission, there was no official search for the crew and they were assumed dead. But there was a 3 man dive team that was sent to look. One, a black man named Langford Ramsey, goes in and then comes back to his two team members with a mysterious bag and no comments. Now there are assassinations, murders, blackmail and it has something to do with Charlemagne, the Antarctica, the submarine, Cotton, Dorothea and Christl.

This book was a typical treasure hunt. It was good but not great. But I could recommend it for anyone over 14 yrs old. It helps to have the biographical information about Charlemagne that I've included below.

Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus, Charles the Great) was born 4/2/742 to King Pippin the Short and Bertrada of Laon. He succeeded his father and co-ruled with his brother Carloman I. Carloman and Charlemagne didn't get along, but war was prevented by the sudden death of Carloman in 771.

Charlemagne's golden crown

Charlemagne's iron cross

As King of the Franks from 768 until his death on 1/28/814, Charlemagne continued the policy of his father towards the papacy and became its protector. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800 as a rival of the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople. He expanded the Frankish kingdoms into a Frankish Empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe.

Charlemagne was engaged in almost constant battle throughout his reign, often at the head of his elite bodyguard squadrons, with his legendary sword, Joyeuse, in hand. After thirty years of Saxon Wars and eighteen battles, he conquered Saxonia. The Saxons were divided into four subgroups in four regions. Nearest to Austrasia was Westphalia and furthest away was Eastphalia. In between these two kingdoms was that of Engria and north of these three, at the base of the Jutland peninsula, was Nordalbingia. He forcefully converted the Saxons to Christianity but they would go back to paganism. In the summer of 779, he again invaded Saxony and reconquered Eastphalia, Engria, and Westphalia. He divided the land into missionary districts and he assisted in several mass baptisms in 780. He then returned to Italy and, for the first time, there was no immediate Saxon revolt. In 780 Charlemagne decreed the death penalty for all Saxons who failed to be baptised, who failed to keep Christian festivals, and who cremated their dead. Saxony had peace from 780 to 782. He returned in 782 to Saxony and instituted a code of law and appointed counts, both Saxon and Frank. Charlemagne allegedly ordered the beheading of 4,500 Saxons who had been caught practising their native paganism after conversion to Christianity, known as the Massacre of Verden. The massacre triggered three years of renewed bloody warfare (783-785). Thereafter, the Saxons maintained the peace for seven years, but in 792 the Westphalians once again rose against their conquerors. The Eastphalians and Nordalbingians joined them in 793, but the insurrection did not catch on and was put down by 794. An Engrian rebellion followed in 796, but Charlemagne's personal presence and the presence of Christian Saxons and Slavs quickly crushed it. The last insurrection of the independence-minded people occurred in 804, more than thirty years after Charlemagne's first campaign against them. But was subdued.

In 813, Charlemagne called Louis the Pious, king of Aquitaine, his only surviving legitimate son, to his court. There Charlemagne crowned his son with his own hands as co-emperor and sent him back to Aquitaine. He then spent the autumn hunting before returning to Aachen on 1 November. In January, he fell ill with pleurisy. He died on 1/28/814. He was buried on the day of his death, in Aachen Cathedral.

Aachen, the Imperial Cathedral. Charlemagne began building this cathedral in 792. It was consecrated in 805. This is the oldest cathedral in northern Europe and was known as the "Royal Church of St. Mary at Aachen" during the Middle Ages. For 600 years, from 936 to 1531, the Aachen chapel was the church of coronation for 30 German kings and 12 queens.

Looking into the octagon

Aachen's Emperor's throne

A later story, told by Otho of Lomello, Count of the Palace at Aachen in the time of Otto III, would claim that he and Emperor Otto had discovered Charlemagne's tomb. Charlemagne was seated upon a throne, wearing a crown and holding a sceptre, his flesh almost entirely incorrupt. In 1165, Frederick I re-opened the tomb again, and placed the emperor in a sarcophagus beneath the floor of the cathedral. In 1215 Frederick II would re-inter him in a casket made of gold and silver.

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