Charlemagne The legendary king Charles the Great 1250 Years ago Charlemagne ruled an Empire The Trilogy now in one book: Waldo / Godsbert / Carolus Charles the Great or Charlemagne, as he was better known, was obsessed with how history would judge and portray him. One of his greatest desires was to be counted among the just. He asked his childhood friend and by now Imperial Abbot Waldo, to find the scribe who could best set his atrocities, committed against the medieval pagans, in a good light. But did he succeed?
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Born June 11, 1952 in Esslingen, Germany
Home Town - Bad Urach
Media University - Stuttgart
K&E Prize - Top Student Achievement Award
International Advertising Agency - Frankfurt
International Advertising Agencies - Sydney
Ogilvy & Mather Silver Nail Award - Sydney
Wagner Business Development Pty Ltd - Sydney
Germany’s Order of Merit - by German President
Lives in Australia on Sydney’s Northern Beaches
Books by this author:
THE CHARLEMAGNE TRILOGY - Historical Fiction
WALDO - Charlemagne’s Priest
GODSBERT - Charlemagne’s Scribe
CAROLUS - Charlemagne’s Life
CHARLEMAGNE - The trilogy in one book
PANGAIA / SOUL - Thriller
PURE SIN - Tragedy
PURE FIRE - Tragedy
PURE ANGST - Tragedy
PURE LOVE - Epiphany
REVOLUTION#10 - Conspiracy Thriller
GODSON - Music-Drama
EUPHORIA OF UNHAPPINESS - Cultural Satire
SAGACITA - Poetic Drama
Original document from the Würzburg archives
I am with God in Münsingen called Waldo and donate, as documented, for the wellbeing of my soul, and to the holy martyr Nazarius, who’s body rests in Cloister Lorsch, where the abbot Gundeland is responsible in the name of Rome, that I shall always be present in the Alemannic area of Münsingen and Auingen, a church, farmland and meadows and also a church in the village of Trailfingen and another one in Seeburg.
Documented for Cloister Lorsch on June 11 in the second year of reign of King Charles. (770AD)
Abbey of St. Gall, December 6, 770AD
Chapter I: Sword
Chapter II: Cross
Chapter III: Confession
Some 21 years earlier...
City of Worms, July 1, 741AD
Chapter 1: Arrival
Cathedral of Worms, July 2, 741AD
Chapter 2: Baptism
Chapter 3: Love
Chapter 4: Death
Chapter 5: Refuge
Burkheim, 742 AD - 750AD
Chapter 6: Childhood
Chapter 7: Schooling
Burkheim April 21, 750AD
Chapter 8: Reunited
Chapter 9: Ravenna
Chapter 10: Agony
Chapter 11: Bloodbath
Lake Constance, July 8, 759AD
Chapter 13: Incarceration
Werd Island, November 16, 759AD
Chapter 14: Confrontation
Chapter 15: Missionary
Chapter 16: Symbols
Reichenau, April 8, 764AD
Chapter 17: Exams
St. Gall, May 5, 764AD
Chapter 18: Enlightenment
Chapter 19: Ordination
Chapter 20: North
Chapter 21: Rejection
Chapter 22: Belief
Chapter 23: Devotion
Saint Denis, September 25, 768AD
Chapter 24: Funeral
Seeburg, May 15, 770AD
Chapter 25: Mission
Seeburg, June 2, 770AD
Chapter 26: Visit
Seeburg, June 11, 770AD
Chapter 27: Donation
Seeburg, June 21, 770AD
Chapter 28: South
St. Gall, December 7, 770AD
Chapter 29: Sin
St. Gallen, 6 December 777
Chapter I: Lake Constance
Chapter II: Abbey of St. Gall
Chapter III: Judgment
Some 20 years earlier...
Lake Constance, 1 July 757
Chapter 1: Sacrifice
Chapter 2: Poison
Chapter 3: Apprentice
Chapter 4: Interruption
Chapter 5: Family
Chapter 6: Warning
Chapter 7: Devil
Chapter 8: Attack
Chapter 10: Vampire
Chapter 9: Discovery
Chapter 11: Runaway
Chapter 12: Wolves
Chapter 13: Witches
Chapter 14: Homecoming
Chapter 15: Royal Scribe
Chapter 16: The Lord’s Prayer
Chapter 17: Homage to Reichenau
Chapter 18: Godsbert in Shock
Chapter 19: Reaching Seeburg
Chapter 20: Dangerous Assignment
Chapter 21: New Horizons
Chapter 22: Othmar’s Secret
Chapter 23: Exploration
Chapter 24: Cave of Wonder
Chapter 25: Hidden Jewel
Chapter 26: Honey Trap
Chapter 27: Seduction
Chapter 28: Faith and Miracles
Chapter 29: City of God
Chapter 30: Guardian Angel
Chapter 31: Seeburg to St. Gall
Chapter 32: Exaggerated Truth
Seeburg, 25 September 806
Chapter I: Hunted
Chapter II: Trapped
Chapter III: Storm of rage
Some 20 years earlier...
St Gall, 1 July 781
Chapter 1: Immortality
Chapter 2: Three scribes
Chapter 3: Charles the Great
Chapter 4: A just life
Chapter 5: Waldo’s guilty secret
Chapter 6: Son and daughter
Chapter 7: Exorcism
Chapter 8: The Holy Trinity
Chapter 9: Scribes’ progress
Chapter 10: Waldo’s rejection
Chapter 11: Homage to the Queen
Chapter 12: Friend of wisdom
Chapter 13: Waldo of Reichenau
Chapter 14: The forbidden manuscript
Chapter 15: Fugitive
Chapter 16: Godsbert’s inspiration
Chapter 17: Return to Ravenna
Chapter 18: The Holy Grail
Chapter 19: Captured
Chapter 20: Renovatio
Chapter 21: Hiding the Grail
Chapter 22: Angels and Gods
Chapter 23: Seeburg Reunion
Chapter 24: Memory and Emotion
Chapter 25: Making history
Chapter 26: Forgiveness
THE LIFE OF CHARLES THE GREAT
“Who was Waldo?”
I hear you ask.
An old, medieval document, the shown ‘Donatio Waldonis’, written in Latin on sheepskin in the early middle ages verifies the donation of a Christian church by a certain Waldo in Seeburg, a small village in Southern Germany.
No further historic records of this mysterious Waldo exist. I spent several years of intense research to unravel his alleged identity.
I concluded, that Waldo and Charlemagne, the mighty Carolus Magnus were like the priest and the soldier, who shared a lifelong bond forged in childhood.
They saw themselves as Christianity’s cross and sword, put on earth by God to build and defend Christendom in medieval Europe.
Both men differed in their approach to converting the pagans. Charlemagne, the soldier, believed in a swift decision and the beheading by sword of the unwilling: “My god is your god! My will be done! My kingdom come!”
Waldo, the priest, believed in a more gentle missionary way, bringing salvation with bread, wine and fear of the unknown, and the promise of a better life in heaven: “Jesus died for us on the cross for our redemption. Thy will be done. Thy kingdom come. Amen!”
They also shared a terrible secret known only to themselves and God. It is a secret that history failed to uncover in the last 1250 years...
At this point I want to highlight and acknowledge the immeasurable help of my friend and editor Roger McAuliffe who turned my often clumsy thoughts and words into the refined writing befitting the Charlemagne Trilogy.
And those who read this book with an open mind, will hopefully care more about the authenticity of their spiritual experience than the historical authenticity of every chronicled aspect in this novel.
‘Lege feliciter’ as Waldo might have said in his Latin writing language meaning ‘read happily’, he might have added a pious ‘Amen’.
Let me simply say: ‘Enjoy!’
Dedicated to Waldo, who on June 11, 770AD donated a church, which he built in the village of Seeburg, to the Cloister Lorsch and who inspired me to write this historic novel.
“You will never be forgotten in this place. As long as this fleeting world exists, your name will be endlessly praised, Waldo, oh thou most holy man.”
Said the monks of St. Denis on Waldo‘s death in 814AD
Paul the Apostle was in a hurry. Ever since he had a vision of the resurrected Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he feared that the Armageddon, the end of the world, was near.
His mission was to convert as many Jews and Gentiles to his new faith of Christianity as possible. He preached that only the true believers in Jesus the Son of God and a descendant of King David were destined for heaven, all others were doomed to the fires of hell for eternity.
He and his companions undertook many missionary journeys and eventually sailed for Rome, Spain and Britain before returning to Jerusalem where he was arrested and martyred.
This need for urgency, for fear of the end of the world, persisted throughout the Early Middle Ages in Europe during the Merovingian and the Carolingian Dynasties.
In the 7th century, the wealth and influence of the Merovingian dynasty rapidly diminished, due to the growing power of the noble families. By the 8th century it had all but dried up and the Merovingian kings were rulers in title only.
Charlemagne’s friend and biographer, Einhard, summed up the position of the last descendants of Clovis in colourful terms: “The king had nothing left but the enjoyment of his title and the satisfaction of sitting on his throne, his hair long and his beard trailing, acting the part of a ruler.”
In the early 8th century, while Spain was succumbing to Muslim armies, Charles Martel, ‘The Hammer’, emerged. When the Muslims invaded Frankish lands Charles drove them out and finally ended Muslim expansion in Western Europe. The Frankish empire then came under the rule of the Carolingian dynasty, named after Charles – ‘Carolus’.
Charles Martel was succeeded by his sons, Pippin and Carloman. Carloman eventually retired to St Benedict’s monastery of Monte Cassino and Pippin became sole ruler of Francia. His father, Charles Martel, never called himself king, but Pippin wasn’t so reluctant. In 754, he was anointed King of the Franks by Pope Stephen II.
When Pippin died in 768, his kingdom was divided between his two sons, Charles (Charlemagne) and Charlesman. The two brothers were in constant conflict, but in 771, at the age of only 21, Charlesman died after a long illness, and conveniently for Charlemagne who took over as sole ruler of the Frankish empire.
Charlemagne was unrelenting, and often brutal, in his determination to convert Europe, the Frankish Empire, to Christianity and protect Christendom at all costs. And like Paul the Apostle, Charlemagne was in a hurry too.
The Carolingian dynasty saw Christianity as not only a means of salvation and the forgiveness of sins, but also as a tool to unite the people of the vast Empire and give them a feeling of national solidarity and belonging.
So, there were two powers at play, the Roman Catholic Church, which supported an apostolic conversion of the pagans, and the Frankish Kings, who wanted a much faster conversion.
The Church sent out missionaries to convert the pagan villagers through the power of the cross, by preaching Jesus Christ’s message of the forgiveness of sins and a life to come in God’s kingdom of heaven.
This apostolic approach was far too slow for the Carolingian kings. So they sent in their troops with swords and orders to kill all local noblemen who were not converting to Christianity as they were hindering the amalgamation of the Frankish Empire.
Two cruel historic events vividly illustrate the fierce determination of the Frankish kings to convert the pagans at all costs.
At the Bloodcourt of Cannstatt in 746AD, hundreds of helpless Suebi noblemen were killed by Charlemagne’s uncle, King Carloman.
27 years later, in 773AD, Charlemagne killed thousands of Saxon prisoners of war for not obeying his orders to convert to Christianity.
Eventually the empire was converted to Christianity, and the Pope in Rome, with the help of the Frankish Kings, eventually became the powerful guardian of the unified Christian kingdom of the Carolingians.
The story that unfolds here in this book, begins in the middle of the 8th century, with Waldo, the missionary priest from the Cloister of Reichenau.
Taught and inspired by Irish-Scottish Monks, he sets out to convert the last bastion of the Frankish kingdom’s barbaric pagans to Christianity, with nothing more than a cross, faith in God, and his own strength and courage.
His childhood friend, and King of the Franks, Charles the Great, also known as Charlemagne, pushes him to be less apostolic and more ferocious in his approach, explaining that the only power in a cross is the fear of the sword.
The moonlight floated to earth as a shimmering silver mist, illuminating the winter’s night. It bathed the landscape in a pale glow, betraying the nocturnal predators lurking in their hidden places.
A great eagle owl dropped from its moonlit perch without a whisper of sound to find a darker place to hunt. As it glided low across the ground towards the forest, its gleaming blood orange eyes caught a glimpse of a tall, imposing figure silhouetted against the purple sky.
The great owl had seen this majestic man before, but never alone like this. There were always protectors. Where were they now? As powerful as he was, he had too many enemies to be wandering alone in the shadow time of the gathering dark.
Even here, in his own land, there were savage barbarians waiting for the black of night to spill the blood of Christian conquerors like him. Worse still, there were traitors whose loyalty could be bought for silver and gold. And there were murderous assassins who would slit this warrior’s throat simply for the glory of their god.
He always had protectors, who would lay down their own lives to save his. But now there were none to be seen as he walked slowly, head bowed, as if in contemplation … or penitence. He stopped and looked up ahead, and then behind, the way he had come, as if he might turn and go back to the safety of his protectors. Or perhaps it was to make sure he wasn’t being followed. He turned forward again and his shoulders lifted as he sucked in a deep lungful of the cool night air.
His keen, bright eyes scanned the glowing landscape before him as he strode forward. Occasionally he peered deep into the shadows, made stronger and sharper-edged by the full moon, now partly obscured by the bell towers of the great abbey ahead of him in the distance.
The path he was following was taking him up hill to the abbey’s gate. It ran along a narrow ridge, with the forest pressing in on both sides just a little way below him. As he moved forward once again, a bloodcurdling scream pierced the silence. It came from close by in the trees to his right. He swung round to face the sound, drawing his sword in the same flowing movement.
The moonlight flashed a brilliant gold along the full length of the blade. He stood with the sword angled across his chest, his other hand on the dagger at his belt, and listened. The scream reached him again, but this time it was less violent. It sounded several more times – now just a squeal. Then, abruptly, it was choked off and its echo faded away in the wind. A bear killing a wild pig, he decided.
He listened a while longer to the restored silence. Then, satisfied there was no immediate threat, he wrapped his gilded blue cloak around him and continued along the path.
He moved at a brisk pace, but his gaze keenly followed the edge of the path on his left, as if retracing his steps, looking for something precious he had lost earlier. The object of his search suddenly appeared just ahead of him, easily seen in the bright moonlight. It was a small pile of white stones, which he quickly brushed aside retrieving the dark bundle of wrapped cloth underneath. He vigorously shook it loose, held it up, and smiled.
A perfect fit, he thought. He put the garment on over his own clothing and pulled the cowl over his head. The magnificent abbey loomed above him, an awe-inspiring shape against the night sky.
He stood and admired its vast, brooding magnificence for several moments before striding forward once again, now as a monk not a king. A short time later he stopped again and looked behind him one last time, before leaving the path and melting into the night as the shadow of the abbey claimed him.
On the other side of the abbey wall appeared a second figure flitting in and out of the shadows as he strode purposefully towards the vast building towering over him.
The small metal cross hanging around his neck was of a dull lustre and not designed to impress or intimidate. Despite his humble attire however, this man was no stranger to the trappings of power.
He too heard the scream in the night, but it was a way off and he was accustomed to such sounds. He had no fear of wild beasts. Only the fear of God filled his heart. If the Lord wanted him to be devoured by wolves, then so be it.
This part of the northern Alps, he reflected, was beautiful and spectacular in the daylight, but now, at night, even under a bright moon, it could seem savage and frightening with its prowling predators and Godless Barbarians. But much more than that, it was also awe-inspiring and terrifying for another reason.
He knew that one might meet devils and run the risk of losing one’s soul in this place, but one might also meet the Almighty. For all his holiness and devotion to his Creator, he wasn’t ready to meet him.
Not tonight, at least. Tonight he had a duty to an earthly lord that he alone among men could perform.
With such thoughts urging him to greater exertion, he finally entered the abbey from a hidden rear entrance. Minutes later, he reached a side door to the church. The door opened onto three stone steps that took him straight up into the sacristy.
He replaced his humble monk’s habit with his fine priest’s vestments and climbed five more stone steps to the first floor. He hurried along a vaulted corridor running along the side of the nave, past a row of emblazoned shields and flickering candles hanging overhead.
As he reached the narthex he stepped directly into the chapel. The high rectangular windows faced south, away from the full moon in the eastern sky, so only the faintest glow of light reached them, shrouding the chapel in a soft grey gloom.
Along one wall were three bronze latticed doors, each opening into confessional recesses. Each confessional recess was made up of two narrow chambers with a small wooden mesh window between them. Under each window was a narrow shelf, and in each chamber a bench with a prayer book on it.
The priest lit the candle, closed the lattice door behind him and settled in the chair on one side of the gloomy confessional chamber. He sat motionless in the semidarkness, head bowed in prayer, waiting for the most powerful and important man in the land to come and confess his sin. It was just one sin, but one he knew would be committed. A terrible sin he was obliged to forgive, and forget. Forgetting his own sin would be much more difficult.
The great sinner came through the front entrance and made his way briskly past the gatehouse, into the church hall and through to the narthex. From there he could see the altar at the far end of the nave, and to his left he saw that the door to the chapel was open.
He knelt on one knee, drew his sword and placed it firmly on the stone floor in front of him. Facing the altar, he bowed his head in prayer and remained that way for several minutes.
In the confessional chamber close by, all the priest heard was a sharp clink of sword on stone. A short time later he heard the sinner take his place at the other side of the mesh window.
The priest didn’t bother to look up because there was nothing to see in the shadows behind the mesh, but he had a clear picture of the proud, regal head there with its white mane, strong nose and large penetrating eyes.
The deep voice resonated through the confined chamber. “Bless me father. Even a king must confess his sins.”
“But not to everyone.”
“To you only, my trusted Christian adviser, dear Waldo.”
“Your sins are my sins, Charles.”
“I plan to kill my brother. God forgive me!”
“First you will need Bertrada to forgive you.”
“She will not, she is his mother too.”
“But God will forgive you?”
“God is merciful.”
“And what mercy will you show to your brother?
“It is necessary to kill him to protect the Christian faith!”
“Even your own brother?”
“It has to be done ... before he kills me.”
“Christ didn’t kill.” said Waldo, the confessional priest.
No further response came from the darkness at the other side of the mesh window. The long silence condensed like dew on Charles’s conscience.
“Are you still there? Waldo, my brother.”
“Would you kill me then too, Charles … if it had to be done?”
“You are my soul brother. We are joined at the heart, you and I Waldo. It would be as stabbing myself in the heart. It will be my natural earthly brother I kill.”
“I could forgive you, in the name of the Lord. But I cannot bless what you plan to do. I wear a cross, not a sword.”
Charles laughed bitterly: “A cross is a sword, a sword is a cross. We are sword and cross together.”
“Then it will be ‘we’ who kill him, Charles – you and me.”
“My sins are your sins, Waldo.”
“It is our sins that separate us from God,” said Chrodegang the Bishop-in-waiting of Metz.
“Amen,” came the response from the priests and monks gathered around him.
“We are conceived in the iniquity of sin,” one of the monks said. The Bishop raised his hands and lifted his eyes towards the church’s vaulted ceiling, as the others bowed their heads.
“Let us pray,” he said. “Lord, you raised up John the Baptist to prepare each of us for Christ. We are to repent and – “
“They come! They come!” shouted an unseen voice.
Seconds later a small boy burst into the church and ran up to the Bishop.
“They come!” he shouted again, unable to contain his excitement.
One of the monks constrained and calmed the boy.
“Hush Ruthard,” he said gently, “his Grace is praying.”
With a remarkable display of willpower, the wide-eyed boy obeyed.
“They come!” he whispered, looking up desperately at the monk who had his arm wrapped firmly around the boy’s shoulders. The bishop frowned severely at the boy, then turned away with a wide smile on his face and continued his interrupted prayer.
“We are to repent and be baptised for the remission of our sins through the holy faith of St John the Baptist, burning and shining lamp of the world. This is God’s instruction.”
He turned and smiled at the boy.
“Tomorrow we have a christening to celebrate the cleansing of the original sin from the soul of the infant Waldo, son of Richbold, Count of Wetterau … and baby brother of young Ruthard.”
The bishop ruffled the boy’s hair.
“So, they come!” he said happily. “Thank you Ruthard for this joyous news. And we thank the Lord for their safe arrival. Now let us go and welcome our exalted visitors.”
Exalted they were. This was indeed a gathering of the highest in the land. Nobles, abbots and bishops making the journey to the city of Worms on the river Rhine and its Cathedral to attend the baptism of Richbold’s second son, Waldo. And the most august guests of all were the future King Pippin and his brother Carloman, sons of the legendary ruler Charles Martel ‘The Hammer’. As well as being a future king, on this day, July 1st 741, Pippin was also to be godfather to the infant Waldo the next day. The two brothers had just returned from their sister Hiltrude’s marriage to the Bavarian Duke Odillo in Passau, two week’s journey from Worms.
“Our cherished sister Hiltrude is now the Duchess of Bavaria!” Pippin announced, as he greeted his dear friend Richbold.
“Hail to the Duchess of Bavaria,” Richbold declared to the gathered throng.
“To the Duchess of Bavaria!” they sang out with one voice. “May God fill her heart with joy!”
“Thank you my friends,” Pippin sang back with a beaming smile. He then thumped Richbold vigorously on the back and threw his arm around his shoulder.
“Wine for our great and honoured guests!” Richbold ordered. He need not have bothered for the wine was already being poured.
“Now everyone must hear about our journey from Passau,” Pippin said, taking a large goblet of wine in both hands, as if he were a priest grasping a chalice. “Carloman and I travelled along the Danube to Ulm where we disembarked our barges. We wanted to cross the Swabian Alb as we had heard so many strange and terrible tales about the pagan barbarians living in those God-forsaken lands at the far edge of our empire.”
“They were sub-human and uncivilized, we were told,” said Carloman, “and were guilty of the most vile and inhuman acts imaginable.”
The gathered guests were now listening intently, expecting to hear horrible stories of bloodthirsty devil worship and the gruesome sacrifice of innocent children.
“That is not so,” Carloman said, disappointing everyone. “It is true they are a rough-looking people clothed in animal skins and coarse linen. But they are no more bloodthirsty than anyone else. They are just poor, ignorant and living in squalor.”
“They are not organized,” said Pippin. “They have no civil rules or systems.
The villages stink. All manner of filth and waste is tossed into the alleyways, and stays there until it rots. These barbarian people get sick all the time.”
“We cannot allow this to continue in our own lands,” Carloman said. “Life is not worth living as these barbarians live, and we must change it. No-one in the empire we rule has to live like a barbarian.”
All those gathered cheered mightily and drank heartily to the health and benevolence of Pippin and Carloman.
“Friends! Friends!” shouted Pippin, trying to calm them. “Let us thank my great friend Richbold for his hospitality. And let us not overindulge ourselves today, because tomorrow we must celebrate the holy baptism of my godson, the infant Waldo. And we must do so with great dignity and respect under the gaze of the Lord our God.” The gathered guests, now calm and quiet, nodded their agreement.
“Then, afterwards,” Pippin cried, “We can overindulge!”
A new day emerged from the pink glow that gently washed across the eastern sky. The arriving light was only just touching the top of the church’s bell tower, painting it with a rosy hue.
The western door of the cathedral was still in darkness, but an array of torches and candles illuminated the baptistery and there was already a bustle of activity. Preparation for Waldo’s baptism began early.
With the rulers Pippin and Carloman on the guest list, nothing could be left to chance. Richbold’s instructions were that everything must be ready two hours before the christening, which was set for midday.
At noon precisely the church bells rang out across the countryside announcing to one and all that the christening of Waldo, second son of Richbold, the Count of Wetterau, had begun.
Richbold, with Pippin and Carloman at his side, led the male guests and family members into the church, and the door was closed behind them.
They took their places in the pews as Chrodegang, the Bishop-in-waiting of Metz and his entourage of priests and monks assembled before them on a raised section above the baptismal font.
The Bishop led the men in prayers for the salvation of the soul of the infant Waldo. He finished with a plea to God that Waldo’s religious destiny would be fulfilled.
“As the second son, it will be Waldo’s duty to save the family’s souls for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven by devoting his life to the service of the Lord our God as a member of the clergy in the Holy Christian Church. Let us bow our heads in silent, fervent prayer that this is the will of the Lord and shall come to pass.”
The Bishop blessed the assembled men and signaled for the main door to be opened once again.
High overhead the sun shone directly down on the church with a benevolent warmth. When the doors were opened a burst of golden light filled the baptistery, glistening brightly on the water in the baptismal font.
For the men already inside, the figures entering the church were silhouettes carried forward in a giant halo of sunshine. As they moved into the church out of the glare of the light behind them, their form and features came into clear focus.
Leading the group, carrying the infant Waldo, was a girl called Bertrada of Laon, a relation of Waldo’s mother, Farahild, who as tradition decreed, was not present at her child’s christening. Bertrada was accompanied by Waldo’s godfather Pippin and his godmother the Duchess of Williswinda.
The Bishop of Metz was waiting just inside the entrance hall, ready to accept the child for baptism.
Bertrada presented the infant Waldo to the bishop, who was beaming with the joy of baptising his own nephew. But there were rituals to be followed as if he were anyone’s newborn.
“Has the child been baptised before?” he asked. “No your Grace.” said Bertrada softly.
“Is the child a boy or a girl?” the bishop asked.
“He is a boy,” Bertrada replied shyly, “his name shall be Waldo.”
The bishop then blessed the infant Waldo and placed a pinch of salt in the child’s mouth to represent the reception of wisdom and to exorcise any demons.
He then turned to the godparents.
“Do you both know the prayers you are to teach the child?”
“We do, your Grace,” answered Pippin and the Duchess in unison.
With that, the bishop led the group to the baptismal font where he anointed the infant, immersed him in the font and named him Waldo.
His godfather, Pippin, raised him out of the water and held him while his godmother wrapped him in a chryson, a christening gown of fine white linen decorated with glittering seed pearls.
The final part of the ceremony was to take place at the altar. Bertrada took Waldo from his godparents and going ahead of the others, carried him up to the altar, where she waited for the others to join her.
At this point it seemed that the sun moved suddenly in the sky as a shaft of light beamed in from a window high up in the nave and shone directly on Bertrada and the infant Waldo nestled in her arms.
A murmur rose from many among the gathering. Is it a sign from heaven? The God-light illuminating Waldo’s certain destiny as a great holy man of the church. They saw the beam of golden light as a flame of devotion to the Lord and bowed their heads in silent adoration.
The only head not bowed was Pippin’s, whose eyes were glowing with the flame of an entirely different kind of adoration. His gaze was fixed on the young Bertrada, as it had been throughout the baptism ceremony. Pippin saw the beam of light striking the beautiful countenance of Bertrada as a sign from God too, or at least from His cherubs, whose golden arrows had found their mark.
“Love is the key that opens the gates of happiness,” Duchess Williswinda said.
Pippin seemed not to hear. He was now standing right beside Bertrada at the altar, about to recite his godfather vows. The scent of her was intoxicating and making him feel light-headed. He was also having trouble breathing, and his pulse was racing.
Williswinda, Waldo’s godmother, was standing at his other side.
“To love is to receive a glimpse of heaven,” she said softly, close to Pippin’s ear.
His face flushed a deep scarlet, but he refused to look at the Duchess, who was smiling broadly. She seemed to have read his most intimate thoughts. Pippin was indeed thinking that the golden sunlight illuminating Bertrada’s dazzling garment of white silk and bleached linen, transformed her into an angel sent from heaven.
He felt a gentle nudge in his ribs from Williswinda, who was enjoying herself immensely at Pippin’s expense.
He realised that the Bishop was looking directly at him with a patient smile on his face.
“Forgive me, your Grace,” Pippin said, recovering quickly, as a great leader should. “I was lost in thoughts of the divine beauty of this holy ceremony.”
Waldo’s godmother snorted as she stifled a laugh, attracting a knowing look from the bishop, who was fighting his own battle trying not to laugh on such a devout occasion.
Once the baptism ritual had finished, Pippin found the courage to turn and look directly at Bertrada, who rewarded him with a glorious smile that lit up his soul and shone out through his eyes.
He was oblivious to the many other smiles on the faces around him who recognized a man hopelessly smitten by love.
To bring Pippin back to reality and the matters at hand, Richbold stepped forward.
“Our great and revered Lords, Pippin and Carloman,” he announced loudly, “My beloved wife Farahild and I are honoured, on behalf of the Duchess Williswinda, to invite you, and all our friends gathered here, to join us across the river Rhine at Lorsch, the Duchess’s family estate.
The holy baptism of my son Waldo has taken place in the sight of God and his heavenly angels. Now we celebrate this blissful event with the joy of earthly pleasures - beer, wine, food, dancing and singing - in the company of my beloved wife Farahild, who, as per tradition was not present during this holy ceremony!”
The ripeness of summer filled the afternoon air with gentle warmth and rich fragrances of the lush countryside as the happy gathering left the church.
While they made their way across the Rhine, preparations for the celebration feast were almost complete. A large striped tent, festooned with colourful flags and banners fluttering in the gentle breeze, stood in a wide, grassy clearing near a grove of fruit trees. Some distance away under a stand of spruce trees, a cluster of smaller tents waited to welcome the exhausted revellers at the end of the day.
Inside the main tent, a long wide table of polished oak overflowed with delicious food of every kind – roasted meats and fish, fruit and vegetables, freshly baked breads, jugs of wine and small barrels of dark beer made from barley, mead and wine.
The Duchess’s young son Cancor had arranged the feast and he was still buzzing to and fro attending to last minute details as the guests began arriving. From the moment the first beers were handed around to eager hands, the festivities were in full swing. The tantalising aroma of pork and lamb roasting on spits over open fires was irresistible. The hearty feasting began without delay, and continued throughout the afternoon, amplified with much mirth and merriment.
By the time the sun began to melt into the horizon, the abundance of food, drink and sunshine had taken its toll. In the lingering pink afterglow of sunset, shadowy figures, on unsteady feet, began to drift off to their tents under the spruce trees. The long day of exuberant celebration and overindulgence had exhausted almost everyone.
One man, though, had reserved his energy. Throughout the festivities, Pippin had been restrained in the drinking activities. For most of the day his mind had been preoccupied with finding a way to spend time alone with Bertrada that evening, in secret. Yet, after all that thinking, he had come up with no plan. Even taking the initiative and approaching her directly seemed beyond him.
As he sat by the glowing embers of one of the spit roasting fires pondering his dilemma, he saw Bertrada at the entrance of the main tent in conversation with Duchess Williswinda. As he watched them, both turned and looked in his direction.
“I think we should go and say goodnight to our lord Pippin.” the Duchess said. “Are you happy to do that, my dear?”
Bertrada smiled sweetly and nodded.
As they approached Pippin, he stood up and greeted them.
“My ladies,” he said, with a subtle dip of his head.
“My lord,” Duchess Williswinda replied. “It has been a wonderful day. And baby Waldo is greatly privileged to have you as his godfather.”
“And truly honoured to have such a godmother as you, my lady,” Pippin said.
“I must bid you good night, my lord,” Williswinda said. “We have another full day tomorrow.” She smiled at him. “Can I leave the lovely Bertrada in your capable hands? Will you see her safely to her tent?”
“Of course, my lady,” Pippin replied, embracing her gently.
Williswinda embraced Bertrada, smiled again at Pippin, and then left, leaving the two of them standing either side of the fire staring into each other’s eyes. The soft light from the fire’s embers added a pink blush to Bertrada’s face and a glow in her eyes.
At the touch of love, Plato said, everyone becomes a poet. That night, by the fire, the poet buried deep inside Pippin miraculously emerged for a few fleeting seconds from some hidden recess of his heart and uttered a declaration of love.
“If the only place where I could see you was in my dreams,” he said softly, “I’d like to sleep forever.”
Bertrada bowed her head.
“My Lord,” she said, “a dream is a wish the heart makes.”
The warm night air wrapped around them like an embrace. They strolled through the grove of fruit trees behind the main tent for several hours talking about nothing, and everything. Bertrada’s innocence and Pippin’s shyness in love heightened the wonder of a tender passion neither had known before.
Sometime before dawn they found themselves lying together on sheepskin rugs in the main tent. They had both enjoyed some of the wine still in a jug on the banquet table.
In a blissful hour before the birdsong heralded the new day, Pippin and Bertrada created a new life destined to change the course of history. They made a son who would become the greatest Emperor King of the European Middle Ages - Charlemagne - Charles the Great.
The morning sun was high above the horizon before the first of the previous day’s revellers emerged bleary-eyed from their tents to face the glare of the bright summer sky.
A few, however, were not so sluggish. Cancor and his staff had risen early and cleared the table in the main tent of the remains of the previous day’s feast and re-laid it with fresh food and drinks for breakfast. It included many barrels of spring water that would be in great demand when the guests first entered the tent. By midday most of them were up and about and slowly recovering their enthusiasm for another afternoon of feasting and festivities.
Pippin and Bertrada had left the tent before the clean-up began just after first light, and almost no-one was aware of their illicit love tryst in the bewitching hours before dawn. Only the Duchess Williswinda, who was partly complicit in the liaison, knew when she saw Bertrada’s radiant expression that the passion of love had claimed her heart. But even the Duchess had no way of knowing that an extraordinary new life had sprung forth in the heat of that passion.
For Pippin, however, there was no time to bask in the glow of new found love. As he watched Bertrada taking the baby Waldo from his mother Farahild’s arms and placing him in a cradle in the shade of a canopy, a messenger arrived with grave news: Pippin and Carloman’s father, Charles Martel, the Hammer, lies dying at Quierzy-sur-Oise and has called for his two sons to go to him.
Before dawn the next day, the two brothers and their retinue set off from Worms on the week-long journey west to Quierzy.
The mood on the journey was solemn, but not morose. Both men knew this time would come eventually. The prospect of their father’s death was something they had learnt to live with from the time they were young boys. They grew up expecting any day to hear that he had been killed in battle.
That he survived so many brutal and bloody encounters was a continuous miracle that only God could claim credit for. They were taught that even the greatest warriors, like their father, usually died on the battlefield, and they had accepted that was the way it would be. So it was always a surprise, and a joy, whenever he returned safely.
“What will you say to him?” Carloman asked his brother.
“I will tell him that he is the hero of the age,” Pippin said. “That his many victories have improved the happiness of mankind for centuries to come. And you, Carloman?”
“You know, my brother,” Carloman said, “our father never cared for prestige and titles so long as the real power was in his hands. He never called himself King. But I will tell him he is the greatest King there ever was, or will be.”
“Yes!” Pippin declared. “We will tell him that he deserves to become the father of a long line of great kings.”
“Starting with us,” Carloman said. “That is our duty, and homage, to him.”
For some time, the brothers rode without speaking, lost in their own thoughts, before Carloman broke the silence.
“I trust we are not too late,” he said quietly.
“Fear not, brother!” Pippin responded brightly. “Our father is a brilliant tactician … he would not leave it too late to call us. He would not fail in his final duty to tell us what we need to hear.”
Pippin knew his father well. Charles Martel had allowed himself plenty of time to farewell his sons and pass on his wishes and demands of them as his successors. The three men spent many weeks together reliving the patriarch’s decades of great military successes and political victories.
The invincible arm of the Hammer, Charles Martel, saved and delivered Europe and Christianity from the deadly grasp of the all-conquering power of Islam. He had halted the Muslim Moors on their destructive path of continental domination. And he changed most of Europe from a horde of barbarian rabble constantly fighting with one another, to a civilized and organized state.
The Hammer’s boots had marched triumphantly against Muslim, Saxon and many other invaders time and time again in his ferocious defence of Western Europe and Christendom.
For his sons, they were massive, intimidating boots to fill, perhaps several sizes too massive. Nonetheless, they had to fill them very soon.
Pippin and Carloman were acutely aware of the formidable military leader their father had been and the extraordinary legacy he left them.
They knew it would take the two of them to replace the single towering figure of the Hammer. Just as they knew there would be no time to mourn their father as there were many battles waiting to be fought throughout their lands.
Charles Martel died on September 28th, 741 at Quierzy-sur-Oise leaving his two sons to take up where he left off. Together, Pippin and Carloman were up to the task and continued to defend European Christendom and build the Carolingian empire. Their father’s territories were divided between them. Carloman took over as ruler of Austrasia, Alemannia and Bavaria. Pippin became ruler of Neustria, Burgundy and Aquitaine.
Neither brother disputed their father’s decision. They were content with their spoils and didn’t see one another as competitors. The only disgruntled member of the family was their new brother-in-law, the Bavarian Duke Odillo, who had recently married their sister Hiltrude.
“Odillo thinks we are pretenders and he is the legitimate ruler of Europe,” Carloman said.
“Just like any noble,” Pippin replied, “Odillo thinks birthright is superior to power and might. We will correct his error one way or another.”
“He is already rallying the Swabian mobs to his cause.”
“Well, brother,” Pippin said, “Against the two of us, they have no chance.”
“I trust our sister will understand,” Carloman said.
“Let’s just hope her new husband isn’t killed in the battle,” Pippin said. “Hiltrude would never forgive us.”
Hiltrude’s forgiveness was never tested. Pippin and Carloman met Duke Odillo’s forces on the battlefield in the Alsace and won a convincing victory over their rebellious brother-in-law.
The Duke survived the battle and continued to rule Bavaria as a feudal lord under Carloman’s authority.
In Pippin’s mind, his hurried departure from the christening celebrations at Worms had virtually wrenched him physically from Bertrada’s arms. There had been no opportunity to say goodbye properly, as new, passionate lovers should.
Even if he wasn’t prepared to admit it to himself, it had been a wrenching of his heart as well. Many times during the two months in Quierzy before his father died, he had been thinking of Bertrada and longing for her embrace. He wasn’t to know that he had seeded a bud of life in Bertrada’s womb, which was blossoming vigorously with each day that passed.
Bertrada was longing for Pippin too, and to share the news that she was pregnant with his child. No-one else could know Pippin was the father, so she had to keep their secret to herself. She felt it was Pippin’s decision to reveal the truth, or not. In the meantime though, Bertrada was simply pregnant and unmarried, and her fate was sealed.
Her family abandoned her and would have nothing more to do with her. She was cast out without mercy and faced a bleak future as a young mother with no husband to support and protect her.
At this time Richbold was ordered by Pippin and Carloman to move his family from near Worms, and take them south, to a town near Strassburg on the river Rhine.
“Bertrada, we are moving to Burkheim,” Waldo’s mother, Farahild, said. “We are to administer the Breisgau, and the most important Rhine crossing in the region, on behalf of Pippin and Carloman. You are welcome to come and live with us there, where you and your baby will be safe, and you will be part of our family. We are related after all.”
Bertrada was overcome with joy and gratitude and wept openly, unable to speak. Farahild hugged her tightly.
“We are to live in a restored Roman castello,” she said, brightly. “It has under floor heating, all the amenities we need … and we can bathe in warm water all year round!”
Through her tears, Bertrada managed a smile.
“I will never forget your love and kindness, Farahild,” she said.
And neither will my child … and its father, she thought, if he does not, God forbid, forsake me.
For several months Bertrada lived happily with Waldo’s family and tenderly nurtured the life growing inside her. Deep in her heart though, she was anxious about how Pippin would react when he found out the child was his. Would he accept it, and her, or reject them both? And how was she to get the news to him? It was her secret until she could tell him herself.
Having settled into their new home and their duties managing the Breisgau crossing, Richbold’s household was looking ahead to Christmas and making plans for the holy devotions and festive celebrations.
After dinner one evening with friends and important guests from Burkheim, Richbold rose from his chair to make an announcement.
“My friends, Christmas is only weeks away, and we are all busy preparing for this wonderful and holy time of prayer and celebration. Along with all our family and friends, this year we will be honoured by the presence of two exalted guests.”
Bertrada gasped involuntarily, and then instantly stifled it, pretending to cough.
Richbold exchanged a brief knowing smile with his wife, unseen by Bertrada.
“Pippin and Carloman will be joining us!” he said.
“Let me feel our child,” Pippin said tenderly, the moment he saw Bertrada.
As he gently ran his hand over her swollen belly, he felt a sharp kick.
“I’m sure it’s a boy, he has a strong kick,” he declared, laughing.
Bertrada had said nothing, she was simply staring at him in astonishment.
“But, how did you know?” she finally managed to say.
“My darling,” he said, embracing her carefully. “Farahild and the Duchess Williswinda are most perceptive and resourceful ladies. They found a way to advise me of their suspicions. I am overjoyed. The spirit of my father lives on! Here in your belly. He will be called Charles, after him. Our son - grandson of the mighty Hammer!”
Pippin’s joy at the prospect of a son and heir was tempered by the certainty that when the worst of winter was over, he would be required on the battlefields once again. With Charles Martel dead, many of the Hammer’s enemies who did not dare fight him, now saw an opportunity to strike before his two sons could firmly establish their power as his successors.
The Alemanni, Bavarians and Saxons were all out for revenge, and the Muslim Moors were planning new invasions across the Pyrenees into southern Europe.
Pippin spent as much time as he could with Bertrada after Christmas, but by March the demands of war had overtaken him. Less than a month before his first son was born, he went off to the battlefields leaving a distraught Bertrada to bring their son into the world without him by her side.
Only the soft glow of candles illuminated Bertrada’s exhausted face as she lay recovering in the warm darkness of the birthing room. For one so young, she had faced the terror of her first childbirth with extraordinary courage and dignity. She had heard that labour pain could be unbearable, and that it was women’s punishment for Eve’s eternal sin.
But God had been kind and merciful to her with her first birth. Her son Charles had seemed in a great hurry to come into the world and Bertrada’s ordeal was over quickly. She could hear him protesting loudly in the next room as the midwife wrapped him in swaddling clothes to protect him from the influence of evil spirits until baptism. Bertrada sighed with happiness and Charles’s cries faded as she drifted into a deep sleep.
“Behold the newest addition to our family,” Richbold announced to the gathered household, holding the swaddled infant in his arms. “Charles, son of Pippin and Bertrada, and grandson of Charles Martel. Born strong and healthy, by the grace of God, on this glorious day April 2nd, 742.”
“What do you think, Waldo?” Farahild said, holding her son close to the infant Charles so that their noses were almost touching.
Waldo was still an infant himself, only about one year old. He smiled and gurgled happily. He reached out and put his hand on Charles’s forehead, who was wrapped tightly like a tiny mummy in his swaddling clothes and could only mimic Waldo’s smile and gurgle.
“Ah, look!” Farahild said. “They are best friends already.” She kissed Waldo and held him up in front of her face. “Good boy my darling Waldo,” she said. “You must always look after Charles, like an older brother.”
Whether it was just her youth, or if her distress at Pippin’s absence also contributed to it, Bertrada was unable to lactate and could not suckle her infant son. Farahild was still breastfeeding baby Waldo and offered to provide milk for the infant Charles as well.
However, she quickly became ill and was growing weaker by the day. Finally, Farahild was unable to breastfeed either Waldo or Charles and a milk mother, called Anneliese, was employed to take her place. Sadly, not long after, Farahild died of exhaustion.
Waldo was still too young for the tragic loss of his mother to affect him, but it was a devastating blow to his older brother Ruthard who took many years to come to terms with it. The personalities of the two brothers were very different from that point on.
Both Waldo and Charles grew to love their milk mother Anneliese, a Swabian girl from Birkenfeld. She had a gift for storytelling and would keep the boys entranced for hours with her wonderful fables and tales of pagan legends and Christian religion.
One day Anneliese told Waldo and Charles the story of two famous martyrs, Nazarius and Celsus. Perhaps at some point later on Anneliese wished she had not told the boys the martyrs’ story because they could not get enough of it and wanted to hear it over and over again. But Anneliese loved the boys as they loved her, and she never tired of telling them about Nazarius and Celsus.
“It was the time of the Roman Emperor Nero,” Anneliese began.
Waldo and Charles had heard this opening sentence so many times they could recite it in their sleep, but each time Anneliese spoke the words it sent the boys into a trance of attention. They sat perfectly still, wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
“Nero was persecuting the Christians,” Anneliese continued, “and it was a dangerous place for Nazarius, who lived in Rome with his parents. His mother was the Christian Perpetua and his father was the Jew Africanus. Nazarius, adopting his mother’s religion, wanted to preach about Jesus and help wandering Christians, so he fled from Rome and preached in Lombardy. There he went to Milan where he met the twin brothers Gervase and Protase. The brothers had been born into a rich Roman family. But they were left orphans because their parents Vitalius and Valeria were martyred for their Christian faith. Gervase and Protase gave their wealth to the poor, set their slaves free and spent their time fasting and praying. Nero’s pagan soldiers locked them up in prison for their confession of faith in Jesus.”
Anneliese deliberately paused before continuing to add some tension to her storytelling.
“Nazarius wanted to help the twin brothers,” she said, “and he tried to relieve their sufferings. But you know what happened then?”
The boys just stared at her, waiting.
“The horrible pagans punished him!” she declared dramatically. “They gave him a terrible beating and banished him from Milan! Just for trying to help ease the pain of his Christian friends.”
“Those pagans and Nero were evil,” Waldo said to Charles, who nodded vigorously.
“When he recovered from his beating,” Anneliese said, “Nazarius went to Embrun where he was allowed to preach about Jesus. He was very good at explaining the holiness and love of Jesus and convinced many heathens to become Christians. And he did it gently just by telling stories of good Christians like Gervase and Protase. He didn’t have to threaten them with the fires of hell because they trusted him and believed he was telling the truth.”
At this point Waldo was smiling broadly as always because he liked the idea that the pagans weren’t forced to convert through fear of God’s wrath, or the brutality of the sword. Being a little younger than Waldo, perhaps Charles wasn’t able to understand the significance of gentle persuasion and he didn’t return Waldo’s smile when he looked at him. Instead he pleaded with Anneliese.
“Tell us about Celsus!” he cried.
“Well,” Anneliese said, “in the city of Kimel, Nazarius baptised the young son of a certain Christian widow. The boy’s name was Celsus, and he became a faithful student of Nazarius and helped him in his missionary work.”
Now Waldo and Charles were getting excited and couldn’t wait for Anneliese to tell them the next part of the story.
“The pagans hated Nazarius and Celsus for preaching about Jesus, and so they decided they should be devoured by wild beasts.”
Anneliese knew what was coming next and pretended to be distracted by something and again paused in her story. Waldo and Charles were beside themselves with anticipation, calling to her to continue. After several more seconds teasing the boys, she went on.
“Now where was I?” she said. “Oh yes, I remember … when Nazarius and Celsus were thrown in the cage with the wild beasts, they refused to eat them!”
Waldo and Charles went wild, clapping and cheering wildly, jumping up and down on the spot.
Anneliese waited for them to calm down and continued.
“Then afterwards, the pagan soldiers were ordered to drown them into the river Mosel, near Trier, by throwing them overboard. But a storm was brewing just when they reached the middle of the wide river, putting enormous fear into the soldiers. Nazarius calmed their souls with a prayer to God the Almighty and promised their safe return if he and Celsus were released. So it was done and all were saved and the Christians released.”
There were more noisy celebrations from Waldo and Charles. But it was briefer and more subdued because they knew how the story ended.
“After this miraculous encounter, Nazarius and Celsus felt invincible. They returned to Milan and visited Gervase and Protase in prison. Unfortunately this was a big mistake and they were arrested and taken to Nero. This pagan emperor ordered that Nazarius and Celsus be beheaded.”
Waldo and Charles sat silently staring at Anneliese with tears welling up in their eyes.
“Many years later,” Anneliese said, “during the reign of the holy Emperor Theodosius, Saint Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, made an amazing discovery after being given a sign by God. In a garden outside the city walls he found the remains of Nazarius, including his severed head. Nazarius’s blood was reportedly still liquid and red when his body was taken by Saint Ambrose to the Basilica of the Apostles. In the same garden he also discovered the remains of Saint Celsus, which he also had taken to the Basilica.”
“But Nazarius and Celsus are now Saints in heaven with God,” Waldo said, wiping his eyes with one hand and putting his other arm around Charles, who still had tears streaming down his cheeks.
When it was time for the boys to be confirmed as Christians, there was no difficulty for Richbold in choosing each one’s confirmation name, which tradition demanded must be the name of a saint. Waldo and Charles were confirmed as Nazarius and Celsus.
Like their favourite martyrs, the two boys were inseparable and devoted to one another. It was a bond forged in childhood that would never be broken as both followed their different destinies to become great men of the time.
However, fulfilling those destinies was many years in the future. For now, in the beautiful countryside of the Upper Rhineland at the Breisgau crossing, Waldo and Charles enjoyed a lifestyle every young boy dreams of. They lived in a fortress by the river, surrounded by meadows, vineyards, dark forests, and they enjoyed all the privileges of being part of a noble family who wanted for nothing.
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