Modern ‘$cience’ and ‘reason’ states that the medieval period was an unbroken sea of Darkness, an age of the broken, the depraved, the hair shirted fanatic, the unreasonable mystic, the ‘denier’ of rationality, the mentally infirm and debauched, and illiterate toothless idiots who talked to non-existent ‘friends’. The reign of Charlemagne or Charles the Great is hard to align with such a belief system. The Carolingian renaissance of the 9th century has its antecedents dating back to Clovis and the early 6th century, informed by the transformation of the Roman Empire, now deceased, into separate units, with extending ties of trade, commerce and ideas, a Europe which was revitalised once the dead weight of the Roman military state was lifted. Windmills now so much in vogue, are hardly new. They proliferated along with water mills post the Roman implosion as one example of a benefit amongst many, in the ending of a parasitical tyrannical system.
In the 8th century, the Muslims were still threatening from the south, the Magyar or Huns from the east, and the first Viking raids from the north were commencing late in the century, much of that propelled by the white slave trade with the Muslim caliphs around the Mediterranean. In this milieu on Christmas day in 800, Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III as first Holy Roman Emperor. Modern history was thus initiated.
Charlemagne effectively unified the ‘West’ or the rump of Christendom that was still free of the Muslim yoke. He was the quintessential Christian warrior, a crusader, who also built churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages, roads, cities, aqueducts, and artistic works. He is also remembered for maintaining cordial relations with the new Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, one Harun al Rashid, who had just taken over from the Ummayad dynasty, disgraced by the massive failures to take Constantinople (718). Einhard the biographer of Charlemagne stated he did this largely to make life tolerable for Christian dhimmis living in Muslim occupied territory of what was once a vast Christian empire. This included sending money and supplies to the beleaguered Christian populations in Muslim lands. Charlemagne also made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he built a hostel for travelling Christians, along with a library and church.
Charlemagne did campaign against the Muslims in Spain building a buffer zone around the Pyrenees and down the coast to Barcelona. This allowed him and the Holy Roman Empire the space and time needed to conquer the Frisians and Saxons and continue the Christianisation of Germany. The Muslims in Spain and North Africa directed their efforts elsewhere, realising that the might of the Franks could not be assaulted. In 846 post Charlemagne’s death, a Muslim fleet landed at Rome’s port, Ostia, and attacked the city. Unable to break in, they sacked and pillaged the surrounding countryside including the holy basilicas of St Paul and St Peter where Charlemagne had been crowned. The tombs of Peter and Paul were scandalised and vandalised, the basilicas stripped of their treasures and gold. Thus began a decades long investment and raiding on the Italian Tyrrhenian coast, with white slaves and easy treasure being the main objectives. Italian cities and families began to move inland to hilltop and mountaintop villages, a migration forced by Saracen depredation. Exorbitant ransom was paid to eject the Muslims from the Italian coastal areas including Ostia, which only served to stimulate more attacks.
Deterred by the power of the Frankish empire, the Muslims vented the energies of Jihad in the Western Mediterranean and on Italy and Sicily. In the 9th century the Muslims conquered the Balearics, Corsica, Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily and Sardinia. All were utterly annihilated with massive destruction and endless thousands of white Christian slaves taken. In Crete in 826 for example, Muslims forced all Christians to convert to Muhammadanism, or be enslaved. The capital city Candia was turned into a white slave market.
The imposition of jizya or enormous taxation and its economic and social destruction, was matched by the thousands of destroyed churches and Christian buildings. Not only were Muslims content and amused by the evisceration of Christian culture, they absolutely delighted in profaning the same. In Salerno Sicily, during the Muslim siege, a virgin Christian nun was raped every evening on the altar in a Christian cathedral. These depredations and depravity are rarely mentioned today.
By the early 10th century, the once Romano-Christian Mediterranean had become a Muslim ‘lake’, the hunting ground of slavers, brigands and Jihadis. Ibn Khaldun the celebrated Muslim historian boasted that the Christians could not float a plank, and could do nothing to resist the Muslim fleets. The nature of the Muslim Jihad changed with the rise of Charlemagne and the Frankish Holy Roman Empire. The ‘easy’ riches found in Spain, southern France and the costs of Italy and the Mediterranean islands had been thoroughly plundered and taken. White slaves, women for the sex harems, young boys as eunuchs and warriors, men as galley rowers or slaves for mines, were now preferred. Hence the Viking onslaught in the north, partnered with the Muslim Jihad in the south. The Vikings enslaved many tens of thousands of White Christians and sent them south to the Muslim caliphates. This is a little remarked upon fact, certainly not to be found in the endless documentaries now seeking to rebrand the Vikings from vicious pagan warring criminals, into peaceful, humble, shy farmers.