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Styles & Periods
Carolingian Art

Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III in 800. This event marks a period characterized by war and artistic achievement. Charlemagne founded many scriptoria, or writing workshops, for copies of the bible to be scripted, and collected old Roman writings. It was during this period that what we know as ‘roman lettering’ was first used. This was actually Carolingian lettering of a copy of a Roman or Latin text. The Emperor was passionate about spreading the word of God, and understood the value of literacy, despite never being completely literate himself. Charlemagne went to great lengths to establish centers of learning all over the Mediterranean. Also included in his reign was a great blossoming of architecture. Charlemagne chose Aachen, now a part of northwestern Germany, as the seat of power for the Carolingian Empire and the site of his palace. Using the Basilica of San Vitale, a Byzantine masterpiece, as a model, the Aachen palace was built with a polygonal plan and an upper story which allows the chambers to fill with light. Though most of the palace has been destroyed, the Palatine Chapel remains as a key example of Carolingian architectural history.


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