From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.
In many Churches, especially in Germany, there is kept, on the second Feast of the Martyr Agnes, the Feast of the pious Emperor Charlemagne. The Emmanuel, who is come into this world, is to receive the title of King of kings and Lord of lords; he is to gird himself with the sword, and bring all nations into subjection; what could be more fitting than that he should lead to his Crib the greatest of Christian Princes, who ever made it his glory to use his sword in the service of Christ and his Church?
Charlemagne was held as a Saint by the people, and the decree of his canonization was given by the Antipope Paschal the Third, in the year 1165, at the request of Frederic Barbarossa; on which account, the Holy See has permitted this public veneration to be continued in all those places where it prevailed, though it has never given its approbation to the informal procedure of Paschal, nor made it valid by its own sentence, which it would, in all probability, have done had the request been made. At the same time, the many Churches, which, now for seven centuries, have honoured the memory of Charlemagne, keep his Feast under the simple title of Blessed, out of respect to the Roman Martyrology, where his name is not inserted.
Before the Reformation, the name of Blessed Charlemagne was inscribed in the Calendar of a great many of the Churches in France; the Breviaries of Rheims and Rouen are the only ones that have retained it. The Church of Paris ceased to keep his Feast, in order to satisfy the prejudices of several Doctors of the University, in the early part of the 16th century. Protestantism had, naturally enough, an antipathy for a man, who was the noblest type of a Catholic Prince: and they who were tainted with the spirit of Protestantism, defended their blotting out the name of Charlemagne from the Calendar, not so much by the informality of his Canonization, as by the scandal which they affected to find in his life. Public opinion was formed on this, as on so many other matters, with extreme levity; and among those who will be surprised at finding the name of Charlemagne in this volume, we quite expect that they will be the most astonished who have never taken the trouble to inquire into the holiness of his life.
More than thirty Churches in Germany still keep the Feast of the great Emperor. His dear Church of Aix-la-Chapelle possesses his Relics and exposes them to the veneration of the people. The University of Paris, strange to say, chose him for its Patron in 1661; but his Feast, which had been given up for more than a century, was only restored as a national holiday, without the slightest allusion being made to it in the Liturgy.
It does not enter into the plan of this work to discuss the reasons, for which public veneration has been paid to the Saints whose feasts we keep during the year; our readers must not, therefore, expect from us anything in the shape of a formal defence of the saintly life of Charlemagne. Nevertheless, we cannot refrain from making a few remarks, which our subject seems to require. And firstly, we affirm, with the great Bossuet that the morals of Charlemagne were without reproach, and that the contrary opinion, which is based on certain vague and contradictory expressions of a few writers of the Middle-Ages, has only gained ground by Protestant influence. Dom Mabillon—after having given the history of the Emperor’s repudiation of Hermengarde, and his return to Himiltrude, his first wife—concludes his account of Charlemagne, in his Benedictine Annals, by acknowledging that this Prince’s plurality of wives has never been proved to have been simultaneous. Natalis Alexander and Le Cointe—authors who cannot be taxed with partiality, and who have gone into all the intricacies of the question—prove most clearly, that the only reproach to be laid to Charlemagne’s charge, on the subject of his wives, is his having repudiated Himiltrude, out of complaisance to the mother of Hermengarde, a fault which he repaired the following year, in compliance with the remonstrances of Pope Stephen the Fourth.
We grant, that after the death of Luitgarde, the last of his wives who was treated as Queen, Charlemagne married several others, whom Eginhard calls concubines, because they did not wear the crown, and their children were not considered as princes of the blood; but we say, with Mabillon, that Charlemagne may have had these wives successively, and that it is difficult to believe the contrary, regarding so religious a Prince, and one who had singular respect for the laws of the Church.
But, independently of the opinion of the grave authors whom we have cited, there is an incontestable proof of Charlemagne’s innocence on the score of the simultaneous plurality of wives, at least from the time of his separation from Hermengarde. The Prince was then in his twenty-eighth year. The severity of the Roman Pontiffs relative to the marriages of sovereigns is too well known to require proof. The history of the Middle-Ages abounds with the struggles they had, on this essential point of Christian morals, with the most powerful monarchs, some of whom were most devoted to the Church. How, then, we would ask, would it be possible, that St. Adrian the First, who governed the Church from 772 to 795, and whom Charlemagne treated as a father, asking his advice in everything he undertook—how, we repeat, would this holy Pontiff allow Charlemagne to indulge in the most scandalous crimes, without remonstrating, whilst Stephen the Fourth, who only sat three years, and had not the same influence on this Prince, could induce him to dismiss Hermengarde? Or again, would St. Leo the Third—who reigned as Supreme Pontiff from 795 till after Charlemagne’s death, and who recompensed his virtuous conduct by crowning him Emperor—would he have made no effort to induce him to abandon the concubinage in which some writers would make us believe he lived after the death of his last Queen Luitgarde? Now, we find not the shadow of any such remonstrances made by these two Popes, who governed the Church for more than forty years, and have been placed on her altars. The honour of the Church herself is at stake in this question, and it is the duty of every Catholic to suspect the imputations cast on the name of Charlemagne as calumnies.
It would seem, from the letter of Pope Stephen the Fourth, that the marriage with Himiltrude was suspected, though falsely, of nullity; and it is not improbable that this suspicion may have satisfied Charlemagne’s conscience when he divorced her. However this may be, we find Charlemagne afterwards legislating against public immorality with all the zeal and energy of a man whose own life was not tainted with anything of the kind. We will cite but one example of this Christian firmness in repressing scandal, and we put it to the conviction of any honest heart, if a Prince, whose life had been a series of public scandals, could have dared to express himself, with the simplicity and confidence of an innocent conscience, in an assembly of the Bishops and Abbots of his Empire, and in the presence of the Princes and Barons whose licentiousness he wished to repress, and who might so justly have excused their own disorders, by the lewd example of the very man who exhorted them to virtue and threatened to chastise their vices? In a Capitulary, given during the Pontificate of St. Leo the Third, he thus decrees: “We forbid, under pain of sacrilege, the seizure of the goods of the Church, and injustices of whatsoever sort, adultery, fornication, incest, illicit marriage, unjust homicide, &c., for we know, that by such things kingdoms and kings, yea and private subjects, do perish. And whereas, by God’s help, and the merit and the intercession of the Saints and Servants of God, whom we have at all times honoured, we have gained a goodly number of kingdoms, and won manifold victories, it behoveth us all to be on our guard lest we deserve the forfeiture of these gains by the aforementioned crimes and shameful lewdnesses. We know, of a truth, that sundry countries, wherein have been perpetrated these seizures of the goods of the Church, these injustices, these adulteries, and these prostitutions, have lost their courage in battle, and their firmness in the faith. Any one may learn from history, how the Lord hath permitted the Saracens and other peoples to conquer the workers of such like iniquities; nor doubt we that the like will happen likewise to us, unless we abstain from such misdeeds; for God is wont to punish them. Be it, therefore, known to all our subjects, that he who shall be taken and convicted of any of these crimes, shall be deposed of all his honours, if he have any; that he shall be thrown into prison, till he repent and make amends by a public penitence; and, moreover, that he shall be cut off from all communication with the faithful; for we shall grievously fear the pit whereinto we see others be fallen.” Again, we ask, would Charlemagne have spoken such language as this, if, as has been asserted, his old age was being disgraced with debauchery, at the very time that he passed this Capitulary, that is, after the death of Luitgarde?
Granting, then, that this great Prince had sinned, we must allow that it was only in the early part of his reign, and we ought to remember that the remainder of his life was so holy as to be more than an ample penance. Is it not a sight worthy of our admiration to see this brave warrior, when he had become the mighty Sovereign, unceasingly practising, not only sobriety, which was a rare virtue among his countrymen, but fastings, which would bear comparisons with those of the most fervent anchorets—wearing a hair-shirt even to the day of his death—assisting at the Offices of the Church, day and night, even during his various campaigns, when he had the Divine services performed in his tent—and giving abundant alms, (which, as the Scripture tells us, covereth a multitude of sins,) not only to all the poor of his dominions, who besought his charity, but likewise to the Christians of Africa, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, for whose sakes he more than once exhausted his royal treasury? But, what is above all this, and, in the absence of every other proof, would testify to Charlemagne’s possessing every virtue that could adorn a Christian Prince, is his making no other use of his sovereign power than that of spreading the Kingdom of Christ on the earth. It is the one single end he proposed to himself in every battle he fought, and every law he made.
This monarch, to whom were subject France, Catalonia, Navarre, and Aragon; Flanders, Holland, and Friesland; the provinces of Westphalia, Saxony, as far as the Elbe; Franconia, Suabia, Thuringia, and Switzerland; the two Pannonias, (that is, Austria and Hungary,) Dacia, Bohemia, Istria, Liburnia, Dalmatia, and even Sclavonia; and finally, the whole of Italy, as far as southern Calabria—this Monarch signs himself, in his glorious Capitularia: “I, Charles, by the grace of God and the giving of his mercy, King and governor of the Kingdom of the French, devoted defender of God’s Holy Church, and her humble Champion.” So many other Kings and Emperors—who are not to be compared with him in power, and yet are objects of men’s admiration in spite of all their crimes, which are artfully palliated by every possible excuse—have made it their one grand aim to enslave the Church. History tells us of even some otherwise pious Kings, who were jealous of her Liberty, and sought to curtail it: Charlemagne ever respected that Liberty, as though it were his own mother’s honour. It was he, that, following the example of Pepin, his father, so nobly secured the independence of the Apostolic See. Never had the Roman Pontiffs a more devoted or a more obedient Son. Scorning petty political jealousies, he restored to the clergy and people the episcopal elections, which were in the hands of the Sovereign, when he began his reign. He waged war mainly with a design to favour the propagation of the faith among infidel nations. He marched into Spain, that he might free the Christians from the yoke of the Moors. He brought the Churches of his Kingdom into closer union with the Apostolic See, by establishing the Roman Liturgy in all the States that were under his sceptre. In the whole of his legislation, which he framed in assemblies where Bishops and Abbots had the preponderance, there is not a single trace of what have been called Gallican Liberties, which consist in the interference of the Sovereign, or civil Magistrate in matters purely ecclesiastical. “So great was Charlemagne’s love for the Roman Church,” says Bossuet, “that the main point of his Last Will was the recommending to his successors the defence of the Church of St. Peter, a defence which was the precious heirloom of his house, handed down to him by his father and his father’s father, and which he was resolved to leave also to his children. It was this love of the Church which prompted him to say, and the saying was afterwards repeated in a full Council, held during the reign of one of his descendants, that if the Church of Rome were, by an impossibility, to put on us a burden which was well nigh insupportable, we ought to bear it.”
What could prompt this spirit of Christian moderation, which made Charlemagne so respectful to the moral power of the Church—what could temper down the risings of pride, which, as a general rule, increases with the increase of power—what save a most saintly tenor of life? Man, unless he be endowed with the help of a powerful grace, cannot attain, much less can he maintain himself his whole life long, in such perfect dispositions as these. Charlemagne, then, has been selected by our Emmanuel himself to be the perfect type of a Christian Prince; and we Catholics should love to celebrate his glory during this Christmas season, during which is born among us the Divine Child, who is come to reign over all nations, and guide them in the path of holiness and justice. Jesus has come from heaven to be the model of Kings, as of the rest of men; and so far, no man has so closely imitated this divine model as "Charles the Victorious, the ever August, the Monarch crowned by God.”
We will borrow from the Breviaries of Germany the liturgical history of her great Apostle. It is true, that there is a want of exactitude, here and there, in the following Lessons; but they are valuable, as being the expression of the devotion of a Catholic people for their glorious and saintly Emperor.
Beatus Carolus ex patre Pippino, Brabantiæ Ducis filio, qui ad Franciæ Regnum deinde electus est, et Bertrada Græcorum Imperatoris filia natus, ob res gestas, et religionis Christianæ zelum, Magnus, et a Concilio Moguntino Christianissimus appellatus est. Primus fuit, qui expulsis Italia Longobardis a Leone Tertio Pontifice Imperator coronari meruit: nam rogatu Adriani Papæ, qui Leonem antecessit, Italiam cum exercitu ingressus, Ecclesiæ sua patrimonia, et Imperium Occidenti restituit: ipsum quoque Leonem a Romanis, in Litania majore injuriose habitum vindicavit, ejectis urbe sacrilegii reis. Multa sancivit pro Ecclesiæ dignitate, ac inter cætera legem renovavit, voluitque lites forenses ad judicium Ecclesiæ remitti, si alteruter litigantium id postularet. Et quamvis benignus esset moribus, magna tamen severitate compescebat vitia, præsertim adulteria, et idololatriam, constitutis peculiaribus cum ampla potestate judiciis, quæ in hodiernum usque diem in Saxonia inferiore observantur.
Cum Saxonibus triginta et tres annos præliatus, subactis tandem non aliam legem dedit, quam ut Christiani essent; fundosque in perpetuum obligavit, ut erectis per agros trabalibus crucibus, Christum palam faterentur. Guasconiam, Hispaniam atque Gallæciam, ab idololatris expurgavit, ac sepulcrum sancti Jacobi hodierno honori restituit. In Hungaria toto octennio rem Christianam armis promovit ea adversus Sarracenos utens lancea semper victoriosa, qua unus militum Christi latus aperuerat. Quos tantos ejus pro fidei dilatatione conatus, Deus pluribus signis visus est adjuvare; nam Saxones, qui castrum Sigisburgum obsederant, divinitus territi, aufugerunt: et in primo Saxonico tumultu largissimum flumen exiliit, quo totus exercitus triduo aquationis inedia laborans recreatus est. Tantus autem Imperator veste vix a plebe differebat, cilicio prope continuo induebatur, nec nisi in summis Christi ac Divorum festis apparebat in auro. Pauperes et peregrinos tam in Regia sua, quam missis expensis, ubique terrarum adjuvabat. Coenobia viginti quatuor erexit, ac litteram auream (ut appellant) ducentorum pondo cuique misit; duas Metropolitanas sedes, ac novem Episcopales constituit. Templa viginti et septem exædificavit: fundavit denique duas Universitates, Ticinensem et Parisiensem.
Ipse autem Carolus, sicut erat literis deditus, Alcuino doctore usus, ita filios suos liberalibus scientiis, priusquam armis et venatui tradidit. Anno demum ætatis sexagesimo octavo, cum filium Ludovicum coronari, et regem agere jussisset, totum se transtulit ad studia orationis et eleemosynarum. Ecclesiam sicut assueverat, mane, ac vesperi, nocturnis etiam non raro horis frequentabat; psalmodia enim Gregoriana delectabatur; quam per Franciam et Germaniam primus instituit, impetratis ab Adriano Primo cantoribus, et ecclesiasticos hymnos ubivis locorum conscribendos curavit. Evangelia vero ipse sua manu descripsit, et cum Græcis ac Syris codicibus contulit. Cibi et potus semper parcissimus fuit, solitus morbos suos jejunio familiari, quod ad septiduum aliquando protraxit, curare. Tandem multa nefanda a malevolis perpessus, annos natus septuaginta duos, in morbum incidit, in quo ab Hildebaldo Episcopo sacra communione refectus, cum singula membra sua signo crucis signaset, psallens versiculum: In manus tuas; spiritum magnis meritis comitatum Deo reddidit, quinto Kalendas Februarii. Sepultus est in Basilica Aquensi, quam ædificarat et ditarat reliquiis Sanctorum. Ubi etiam magna peregrinorum pietate et divinis beneficiis honoratur. Natalis autem ejus per plerasque Germaniæ Diœceses, jam inde a temporibus Alexandri Tertii, ex Ecclesiæ consensu, colitur, tamquam præcipui fidei auctoris in Septentrione.
The father of the Blessed Charles was Pepin, who was the son of the Duke of Brabant, (afterwards elected to the throne of France,) and of Bertrade, daughter of the Greek Emperor. He merited, by his glorious deeds and his zeal for the Christian Religion, the surname of Great; and by one of the Councils held at Mayence he was called the Most Christian Monarch. Having driven the Lombards out of Italy, he was the first to have the honour of being crowned Emperor by the Vicar of Christ, Pope Leo the Third. At the request of Adrian, Leo’s predecessor, he entered with an army into Italy, and restored to the Church her patrimony, and to the West the Empire. He avenged the injuries done to Pope Leo by the Romans, during the chanting of the Litany, and he expelled from the city such as had taken part in this sacrilege. He passed many laws tending to the honour of the Church; among the rest, he re-established the law which provided that civil suits should be referred to the judgment of the Church, in case of one of the parties demanding it. Though of a most gentle disposition, he was very severe in suppressing vice, more especially adultery and idolatry, for which he established special tribunals vested with extraordinary powers, which exist to this day in Lower Saxony.
After having waged war for thirty-three years with the Saxons, he at length brought them into subjection, imposing no other law upon them, than that they should become Christians. He obliged all landowners to erect a cross of wood in their fields, as an open confession of their faith. He rid Gascony, Spain, and Gallicia, of idolaters, and restored the sepulchre of St. James to what we see it at this day. He upheld the Christian Religion in Hungary by an eight years’ campaign, and in fighting against the Saracens, he always made use of the victorious Spear, wherewith one of the soldiers opened our Saviour’s Side. God seemed to favour, by many miracles, all these efforts made for the spreading of the faith. Thus the Saxons, who were laying siege to Sigisburgh, were struck by God with fear, and took to flight; and in the first rebellion of the same people, there sprang up from the earth a plentiful stream, wherewith was refreshed Charles’ whole army, which had been without water for three days. And yet, this great Emperor could scarce be distinguished by his dress from the rest of the people, and almost always wore a hair-shirt, never appearing in his gilded robes save on the principal Feasts of our Lord and the Saints. He gave alms to the poor and to pilgrims, not only at his regal residence, but in every part of the world, by sending them monies. He built twenty four Monasteries, to each of which he sent what is called the Golden Letter, weighing two hundred pounds. He founded two Metropolitan, and nine Episcopal Sees. He built twenty-seven Churches, and founded two Universities, one in Pavia, the other in Paris.
As Charles himself was fond of study, in which he had Alcuin as his master, so, likewise, would he have his sons trained in the liberal sciences, before be permitted them to turn either to war or to the chase. In the sixty-eighth year of his age, he had his son Louis crowned king, and devoted himself wholly to prayer and alms-deeds. Each morning and evening he visited the Church, and oftentimes he repaired thither also in the night, for he was exceedingly fond of the Gregorian Chant, and was the first to introduce it into France and Germany; he had obtained Cantors from Pope Adrian the First, and took care to have the hymns of the Church copied in every place. He made copies of the Gospels with his own hand, and collated them with the Greek and Syriac versions. He was extremely sparing in what he took to eat and drink. If he fell sick, he sought a remedy in fasting, which he sometimes observed for seven continuous days. At length, after suffering much from malicious men, being then in his seventy-second year, he fell sick. He received the consolation of Holy Communion at the hands of Bishop Hildebald. He signed his whole body with the sign of the cross, singing the words, Into thy hands; which done, he rendered to God his soul rich in merit, on the fifth of the Calends of February (January 28th). He was buried in the Basilica of Aix-la-Chapelle, which he had built and enriched with relics of the Saints. There he is honoured by the devotion of numerous pilgrims, and by the favours granted by God through his intercession. His Feast is kept in most of the dioceses of Germany, by the consent of the Church, ever since the time of Pope Alexander the Third; it is kept as the Feast of the principal propagator of the faith in the North.
The following Hymn is taken from the same Office as the Lessons we have just read.
O Rex orbis triumphator,
Regum terræ Imperator,
Inter beatorum coetus,
Nostros audi pie fletus.
Tua prece mors fugatur,
Languor cedit, vita datur,
Sitientibus das undas,
Et baptismo gentes mundas.
Arte et natura duros,
Sola prece frangis muros,
Regna suave jugum Christi
Ferre doces, quæ vicisti.
O quam dignus verna cœlis,
Servus prudens, et fidelis,
E castris astra petisti,
Ad locum pacis ivisti.
Ergo rupem ferro fode,
Fontem vivum nobis prode,
Ora pia prece Deum,
Et fac nobis pium eum.
Sit Majestas Trinitati,
Laus et honor Unitati,
Quæ virtute principali
Jure regnat coæquali.
O King, conqueror of the earth!
Emperor of the kings of the world!
lovingly hear our prayers,
now that thou reignest among the blessed.
By thy prayers death is put to flight,
the sick are healed, life is restored,
the thirsty obtain fountains of water,
and whole nations are cleansed in the laver of baptism.
Ramparts made impregnable by art and nature,
yield to the simple power of thy prayers;
and thou teachest the vanquished nations
to bear the sweet yoke of Christ.
Prudent and faithful servant,
and oh! how worthy of heaven!
Thou didst ascend thither from the battlefield,
thou enteredst into the land of peace.
Strike, then, the rock with thy sword,
and call forth for us a stream of living water.
By thy holy prayers,
obtain for us the mercy of our God.
Glory be to the Blessed Trinity!
Praise and honour to the Holy Unity,
that reigneth co-equally
in infinite power.
The same Liturgy gives us this Antiphon.
Ant. O spes afflictis, timor hostibus, hostia victis, regula virtutis, juris via, forma salutis, Carole, servorum pia suscipe vota tuorum.
Ant. O hope of sufferers, terror of thine enemies, merciful to the conquered, model of virtue, example of justice, teacher of salvation—receive, O Charles! the devout prayers, of thy clients.
Among the Sequences written in honour of the holy Emperor, we find the following, which is taken from an ancient Missal of Aix-la-Chapelle.
Urbs Aquensis, urbs regalis,
Regni sedes principalis,
Prima regum curia.
Regi regum pange laudes,
Quæ de magni regis gaudes
Iste cœtus psallat lætus,
Psallat chorus hic sonorus
At dum manus operatur
Bonum, quod cor meditatur,
Dulcis est psalmodia.
Hac in die, die festa,
Magni Regis magna gesta
Reges terræ et omnes populi
Omnes simul plaudant ac singuli
Hic est Christi miles fortis,
Hic invictæ dux cohortis
Decem sternit millia.
Terram purgat lolio,
Atque metit gladio
Ex messe zizania.
Hic est magnus Imperator,
Boni fructus bonus sator,
Et prudens agricola.
Infideles hic convertit,
Fana, Deos, hic evertit,
Et confringit idola.
Hic superbos domat reges,
Hic regnare sacras leges
Facit cum justitia.
Quam tuetur eo fine
Ut et justus, sed nec sine
Unctus dono gratiæ
Cæteris præ regibus.
Cum corona gloriæ,
O Rex mundi triumphator,
Jesu Christi conregnator,
Sis pro nobis exorator,
Sancte pater Carole.
Emundati a peccatis
Ut in regno claritatis,
Nos plebs tua cum beatis
Cœli simus incolæ.
Stella maris, o Maria,
Mundi salus, vitæ via,
Vacillantum rege gressus,
Et ad Regem des accessus,
In perenni gloria.
Christe, splendor Dei Patris,
Incorruptæ fili Matris,
Per hunc sanctum cujus
Festa Celebramus, nobis præsta
O city of Aix! City of royalty!
seat of princely power,
and favourite court of kings!
O thou that so joyously celebratest
the memory of King Charles the Great,
sing thy praises to the King of kings.
Let this glad assembly give forth its hymns,
and this sweet choir of music
sing as with one voice of praise.
O sweet the psalmody,
when the hand achieves
the holy meditation of the heart!
On this festive day,
let the Church proclaim
the great deeds of the great King.
Let the kings of the earth and the people,
let all, and each, praise him
with a holiday of joy.
This is the brave soldier of Christ,
the leader of the invincible army,
and he prostrates his enemies by tens of thousands.
He weeds the earth of its cockle,
and with his sword
cleanses the harvest from the tares.
This is the great Emperor,
the good sower of the good seed,
the prudent husbandman.
He converts infidels,
he overthrows the temples,
and the false gods, and breaks the idols.
He subdues haughty kings,
he establishes the reign
of holy laws and justice.
He defends the right,
for he loves justice;
but he tempers justice by mercy.
He is anointed with the oil of gladness,
and with grace,
above all other kings.
He wears the crown of glory,
he is decked with all the emblems
of kingly majesty.
O King that didst triumph over the world!
O King that now reignest with Christ!
O Charles! O sainted father!
pray for us,
That we thy people,
being cleansed from our sins,
may be made fellow-citizens
with the blessed in the kingdom of heaven.
O Mary! Star of the Sea!
that didst give to the world its Saviour and its Life!
guide our faltering steps,
and lead us to Jesus our King,
in everlasting bliss.
O Jesus! Brightness of the Eternal Father!
Son of the VirginMother!
we beseech thee, by the merits of the Saint
whose Feast we celebrate, grant us to come
to everlasting joy.
We will conclude our selection by giving the Collect said on this feast.
Deus qui superabundanti fœcunditate bonitatis tuæ, beatum Carolum Magnum Imperatorem, deposito carnis velamine, beatæ immortalitatis trabea sublimasti: concede nobis supplicibus tuis, ut quem ad propagationem veræ fidei Imperii honore exaltasti in terris, pium intercessorem habere mereamur in cœlis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who in the superabundant riches of thy mercy, didst clothe the blessed Emperor Charles the Great, after he had laid aside the garb of the flesh, with the robe of immortal life; grant, we beseech thee, that he whom thou didst raise up on earth to the imperial dignity, that so he might spread the true faith, may lovingly intercede for us in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
All hail faithful and beloved servant of God, Apostle of Christ, Defender of his Church, Lover of justice, Guardian of the laws of morality, and Terror of them that hate the Christian name! The hand of the Vicar of Christ purified the diadem of the Cæsars, and put it on thy venerable head. The imperial sceptre and globe are in thy hands. The sword of the victories won for God is girt on thy side. The Supreme Pontiff has anointed thee King and Emperor. Bearing thus in thyself the figure of Christ in his temporal Kingship, thou didst so use thy power as that he reigned in and by thee. And now he recompenses thee for the love thou hadst for him, for the zeal thou hadst for his glory, and for the respect thou didst ever evince to the Church, his Spouse. He has changed thy earthly and perishable royalty into that which is eternal, and in his heavenly kingdom thou art surrounded by those countless souls, whom thou didst convert from idolatry to the service of the one true God.
We are celebrating the Birth of the Son of that VirginMother, in whose honour thou didst build the glorious Church, which still excites the admiration of all nations. It was in that sacred edifice that thou didst place the Swathing-clothes wherewith she clad her Divine Babe; and it is here, too, that our Emmanuel would have thine own Relics enshrined, so to receive the honour they deserve. O admirable imitator of the faith of the three Eastern Kings! present us to him, who deigned to be clothed in these humble garments. Ask him to give us a share of thy humility, which made thee love to kneel near his Crib—of thy devotion for the Feasts of the Church—of thy zeal for the glory of his divine Majesty—and of the courage and earnestness wherewith thou didst labour to spread his Kingdom on earth.
Oh! pray for our Europe, which was once so happy under thy paternal rule, and is now divided against itself. The Empire, which the Church confided to thy care, has now fallen, in just punishment for its treachery to the Church that gave it existence. The nations of that fallen Empire are now restless and unhappy. The Church alone can satisfy their wants, for she alone can give them Faith; she alone has not changed the principles of justice; she alone can control power, and teach subjects obedience. Oh! pray that nations, both people and their governments, may return to what can alone give them liberty and security, and cease to seek these blessings by revolution and discord. Protect France, that fairest gem of thy crown, protect her with an especial love, and show her that thou art ever her King and her Father. Finally, O blessed Charlemagne! ask our God that he arrest the progress of Russia, the Empire of schism and tyranny, and never permit that we become a prey to its intrigue and ambition.
 “Charlemagne was valiant, wise, and moderate; he was a warrior without ambition, and led an exemplary life. This I say, notwithstanding the reproaches heaped upon him by ignorance, in times past. His prodigious conquests caused the kingdom of God to be spread, and, in everything he did, he showed himself to be a perfect Christian.” Sermon on the Unity of the Church.