Vita Caroli Magni

The “Vita Caroli Magni” (often written in its Frankish form as “Vita Karoli Magni”) was renowned to be not only the first biography of an emperor in the middle-ages, but even as one of the most widespread books in Europe for centuries.

Probably first published in the first half of the 9th century the biography of Charlemagne – in itself built on the example of the Roman Sueton’s “Lives of the Cesars” – became not only a model for other biographies of the same type (and even the same name, as was the case with the Bohemian king Carolus in the 14th century), but it became an incredibly widespread “school book” in the early and higher middle-age period.

Not just its style – in impeccable, almost classical Latin – but even more its order of subjects might well be called an important paradigm of early historiography.

In our context though (i.e. within the framework of the “Vita Caroli Pauli”) it serves as a counter-model to an autobiography that would follow a more modern paradigm: It is not with posthumous fame our “hero” Carolus Paulus is concerned, but rather with a very introspective “self-assertion” and “feel” (as we would put it today) of one’s own identity. Immature and a little drastic as Carolus’ attempt to find a model for his “identity quest” may seem, it still carries a certain conception of one’s own dignity an personal worth with it.

So, to look over the horizon of “INITIA – the Time of Beginnings”, Carolus is – not as a modern personality would be – concerned about “human rights”, but he is very much concerned about human dignity: “A man deserves honor”, he will shout out at a later stage (not published yet). The choice of the title “Vita Caroli” therefore is some kind of a foreshadowing of “times to come”. Times in which it will become obvious that man is not just dignified by being believed to be created in the image of God. But he is dignified in a calling of the Most High… in case, and of if this is the case, this calling is received, accepted and worked upon.

Dignity will come by relationships: Carolus becomes a monk by being educated by monks. He will become a scholar by studying and fellowshipping with scholars. And when Carolus will – in the future of the tales yet to be told – be in the companion of kings end emperors… the outcome is already clear.

But he has made a decision: He still will be “paulus”, a minor one. Not an inferior, but a servant. Not of kings, but of the king he follows.