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Einhard as scribe

Einhard (also Eginhard or Einhart) (c. 775 – March 14, 840 in Seligenstadt, Germany) was a Frankish courtier, a dedicated servant of Charlemagne, of whom he wrote his famous biography, Vita Karoli Magni, and Louis the Pious.


Public life

Einhard was from the eastern German-speaking part of the Frankish Kingdom. Born into a family of relatively low status, his parents sent him to be educated by the monks of Fulda - one of the most impressive centres of learning in the Frankish lands - perhaps due to his small stature (Einhard referred to himself as a "tiny manlet") which restricted his riding and sword-fighting ability, Einhard concentrated his energies towards scholarship and especially to the mastering of Latin. Despite such humble origins, he was accepted into the hugely wealthy court of Charlemagne around 791 or 792. Charlemagne actively sought to amass scholarly men around him and established a royal school led by the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin. Einhard evidently was a talented builder and construction manager, because Charlemagne put him in charge of the completion of several palace complexes including Aachen and Ingelheim. Despite the fact that Einhard was on intimate terms with Charlemagne, he never achieved office in his reign. In 814, on Charlemagne's death his son Louis the Pious made Einhard his private secretary. Einhard retired from court during the time of the disputes between Louis and his sons in the spring of 830.

Private life

Einhard was married to Emma, of whom (as of most laywomen of the period) little is known. There is a possibility that their marriage bore a son, Vussin. Their marriage also appears to have been exceptionally liberal for the period, with Emma being as active as Einhard, if not more so, in the handling of their property.[1] It is said that in the later years of their marriage Emma and Einhard abstained from sexual relations, choosing instead to focus their attentions on their many religious commitments. Though he was undoubtedly devoted to her, Einhard wrote nothing of his wife until after her death on 13 December 835, when he wrote to a friend that he was reminded of her loss in ‘every day, in every action, in every undertaking, in all the administration of the house and household, in everything needing to be decided upon and sorted out in my religious and earthly responsibilities’.[2]

Religious Beliefs

Einhard made numerous references to himself as a "sinner", a description of himself that shows his Augustinian influenced world view.[3] To assuage such feelings of guilt he erected churches at both of his estates in Michelstadt and Mulinheim. In Michelstadt he also saw fit to build a basilica completed in 827 and then sent a servant, Ratleic, to Rome with an end to find relics for the new building. Once in Rome, Ratleic robbed a catacomb of the bones of the Martyrs Marcellinus and Peter and had them translated to Michelstadt. Once there, the relics made it known they were unhappy with their new tomb and thus had to be moved again to Mulinheim. Once established there, they proved to be miracle workers. Although unsure as to why these saints should choose such a "sinner" as their patron, Einhard nonetheless set about ensuring they continued to receive a resting place fitting of their honour.[4] It has been contended that in the last decade of his life Einhard's strong religious beliefs led to him retiring to a monastery. However, his letters from this period show his maintained contact with those he had met in court and Julia Smith has claimed the tone of these letters are not as religious in character as would have been expected from a member of the church.[5] After his death he was buried in Mulinheim (today Seligenstadt) with his wife Emma, near his beloved saints Peter and Marcellinus.

Local lore

Local lore from Seligenstadt portrays Einhard as the lover of Emma, one of Charlemagne's daughters, and has the couple elope from court. Charlemagne found them at Seligenstadt (then called Obermühlheim) and forgave them. This account is used to explain the name "Seligenstadt" by folk etymology. The story has been popularised by poet Wilhelm Busch.[6] Einhard and his wife were originally buried in one sarcophagus in the choir of the church in Seligenstadt, but in 1810 the sarcophagus was presented by the Grand Duke of Hesse to the count of Erbach, who claims descent from Einhard as the husband of Imma, the reputed daughter of Charlemagne. The count put it in the famous chapel of his castle at Erbach in the Odenwald.[7]


Einhard wrote a number of works, the most famous of which was produced at the request of Charlemagne's son and successor Louis the Pious. Most notable of these is his biography of Charlemagne, the Vita Karoli Magni, "The Life of Charlemagne" (c. 817–836), which provides much direct information about Charlemagne's life and character. In composing this he relied heavily upon the Annals of the Frankish Kingdom. Einhard's literary model was the classical work of the Roman historian Suetonius, the Lives of the Caesars. His work was written as a praise of Charlemagne, whom he regarded as a foster-father and to whom he was a debtor "in life and death". The work thus contains an understandable degree of bias, Einhard taking care to exculpate Charlemagne in some matters, not mention others, and to gloss over certain issues which would be of embarrassment to Charlemagne, such as the morality of his daughters. However, it is from this work that historians gain a picture of Charlemagne as a powerful warrior king whose great belief in God led to many reverential visits to Rome.

See also


  1. ^ Ibid., p. 58.
  2. ^ From Einhard’s letter of April 836 to Lupus of Ferrieres quoted by Julia Smith, 'Einhard', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, March 2003, pp. 55-77, p. 55.
  3. ^ Ibid., pp.60-61.
  4. ^ Ibid., p. 67.
  5. ^ Ibid., p. 69.
  6. ^ Spessart: Der hessische Spessart | Freizeit | hr
  7. ^ [1]

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EINHARD (c. 770-840), the friend and biographer of Charlemagne; he is also called Einhartus, Ainhardus or Heinhardus, in some of the early manuscripts. About the 10th century the name was altered into Agenardus, and then to Eginhardus, or Eginhartus, but, although these variations were largely used in the English and French languages, the form Einhardus, or Einhartus, is unquestionably the right one.

According to the statement of Walafrid Strabo, Einhard was born in the district which is watered by the river Main, and his birth has been fixed at about 770. His parents were of noble birth, and were probably named Einhart and Engilfrit; and their son was educated in the monastery of Fulda, where he was certainly residing in 788 and in 7 9 1. Owing to his intelligence and ability he was transferred, not later than 796, from Fulda to the palace of Charlemagne by abbot Baugulf; and he soon became very intimate with the king and his family, and undertook various important duties, one writer calling him domesticus palatii regalis. He was a member of the group of scholars who gathered around Charlemagne, and was entrusted with the charge of the public buildings, receiving, according to a fashion then prevalent, the scriptural name of Bezaleel (Exodus xxxi. 2 and xxxv. 30-35) owing to his artistic skill. It has been supposed that he was responsible for the erection of the basilica at Aix-laChapelle, where he resided with the emperor, and the other buildings mentioned in chapter xvii. of his Vita Karoli Magni, but there is no express statement to this effect. In 806 Charlemagne sent him to Rome to obtain the signature of Pope Leo III. to a will which he had made concerning the division of his empire; and it was possibly owing to Einhard's influence that in 813, after the death of his two elder sons, the emperor made his remaining son, Louis, a partner with himself in the imperial dignity. When Louis became sole emperor in 814 he retained his father's minister in his former position; then in 817 made him tutor to his son, Lothair, afterwards the emperor Lothair I.; and showed him many other marks of favour. Einhard married Emma, or Imma, a sister of Bernharius, bishop of Worms, and a tradition of the 12th century represented this lady as a daughter of Charlemagne, and invented a romantic story with regard to the courtship which deserves to be noticed as it frequently appears in literature. Einhard is said to have visited the emperor's daughter regularly and secretly, and on one occasion a fall of snow made it impossible for him to walk away without leaving footprints, which would lead to his detection. This risk, however, was obviated by the foresight of Emma, who carried her lover across the courtyard of the palace; a scene which was witnessed by Charlemagne, who next morning narrated the occurrence to his counsellors, and asked for their advice. Very severe punishments were suggested for the clandestine lover, but the emperor rewarded the devotion of the pair by consenting to their marriage. This story is, of course, improbable, and is further discredited by the fact that Einhard does not mention Emma among the number of Charlemagne's children. Moreover, a similar story has been told of a daughter of the emperor Henry III. It is uncertain whether Einhard had any children. He addressed a letter to a person named Vussin, whom he calls fili and mi nate, but, as Vussin is not mentioned in documents in which his interests as Einhard's son would have been concerned, it is possible that he was only a young man in whom he took a special interest. In January 815 the emperor Louis I. bestowed on Einhard and his wife the domains of Michelstadt and Mulinheim in the Odenwald, and in the charter conveying these lands he is called simply Einhardus, but, in a document dated the 2nd of June of the same year, he is referred to as abbot. After this time he is mentioned as head of several monasteries: St Peter, Mount Blandin and St Bavon at Ghent, St Servais at Maastricht, St Cloud near Paris, and Fontenelle near Rouen, and he also had charge of the church of St John the Baptist at Pavia.

During the quarrels which took place between Louis I. and his sons, in consequence of the emperor's second marriage, Einhard's efforts were directed to making peace, but after a time he grew tired of the troubles and intrigues of court life. In 818 he had given his estate at Michelstadt to the abbey of Lorsch, but he retained Mulinheim, where about 827 he founded an abbey and erected a church, to which he transported some relics of St Peter and St Marcellinus, which he had procured from Rome. To Mulinheim, which was afterwards called Seligenstadt, he finally retired in 830. His wife, who had been his constant helper, and whom he had not put away on becoming an abbot, died in 836, and after receiving a visit from the emperor, Einhard died on the 14th of March 840. He was buried at Seligenstadt, and his epitaph was written by Hrabanus Maurus. Einhard was a man of very short stature, a feature on which Alcuin wrote an epigram. Consequently he was called Nardulus, a diminutive form of Einhardus, and his great industry and activity caused him to be likened to an ant. He was also a man of learning and culture. Reaping the benefits of the revival of learning brought about by Charlemagne, he was on intimate terms with Alcuin, was well versed in Latin literature, and knew some Greek. His most famous work is his Vita Karoli Magni, to which a prologue was added by Walafrid Strabo. Written in imitation of the De vitis Caesarum of Suetonius, this is the best contemporary account of the life of Charlemagne, and could only have been written by one who was very intimate with the emperor and his court. It is, moreover, a work of some artistic merit, although not free from inaccuracies. It was written before 821, and having been very popular during the middle ages, was first printed at Cologne in 1521. G. H. Pertz collated more than sixty manuscripts for his edition of 1829, and others have since come to light. Other works by Einhard are: Epistolae, which are of considerable importance for the history of the times; Historia translations beatorum Christi martyrum Marcellini et Petri, which gives a curious account of how the bones of these martyrs were stolen and conveyed to Seligenstadt, and what miracles they wrought; and De adoranda truce, a treatise which has only recently come to light, and which has been published by E. Diimmler in the Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft fiir c ltere deutsche Geschichtskunde, Band xi. (Hanover, 1886). It has been asserted that Einhard was the author of some of the Frankish annals, and especially of part of the annals of Lorsch (Annales Laurissenses majores), and part of the annals of Fulda (Annales Fuldenses) . Much discussion has taken place on this question, and several of the most eminent of German historians, Ranke among them, have taken part therein, but no certain decision has been reached.

The literature on Einhard is very extensive, as nearly all those who deal with Charlemagne, early German and early French literature, treat of him. Editions of his works are by A. Teulet, Einhardi ornnia quae extant opera (Paris, 1840-1843), with a French translation; P. Jaffe, in the Bibliotheca rerum Germanicarum, Band iv. (Berlin, 1867); G. H. Pertz in the Monumenta Germaniae historica, Bande i. and ii. (Hanover, 1826-1829), and J. P. Migne in the Patrologia Latina, tomes 97 and 104 (Paris, 1866). The Vita Karoli Magni, edited by G. H. Pertz and G. Waitz, has been published separately (Hanover, 1880). Among the various translations of the Vita may be mentioned an English one by W. Glaister (London, 1877) and a German one by O. Abel (Leipzig, 1893). For a complete bibliography of Einhard, see A. Potthast, Bibliotheca historica, pp. 394-397 (Berlin, 1896), and W. Wattenbach, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, Band i. (Berlin, 1904). (A. W. H.*)

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