Charlemagne°

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

CHARLEMAGNE°

CHARLEMAGNE ° (742–814), king of the Franks from 768, emperor of the West from 800. Charlemagne was well disposed toward the Jews. A Jew, *Isaac, was a member (probably interpreter) of the delegation he sent to the caliph Harun al-Rashid. He was the only one to return from Baghdad, and brought back an elephant, Rashid's gift to the emperor. Charlemagne also had dealings with Jewish merchants, especially with an expert in jewelry. Some of his legal provisions were clearly influenced by the theological issues of his day. Thus he forbade the Jews to employ Christians to work on Sundays and Christian festivals and warned against the sale of church property to the Jews; when a Jew brought a charge against a Christian, he was required to have more witnesses than a Christian. Some legal documents, probably wrongly attributed to Charlemagne, indicate that there was a tendency to worsen the legal status of the Jews, e.g., by forcing them to take a humiliating oath. On the other hand, the legendary tales which flourished immediately after his death and gained greater currency from the 12th century onward extol Charlemagne's friendship for the Jews and make special mention of his appointment of a nasi, a "Jewish king," in Narbonne. They credit him with giving the Jews of that city special rights in recognition of their support when Narbonne was taken from the Muslims.

bibliography:

Graetz, Hist, 3 (1894), 141–4; Baron, Social2, index; B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et Chrétiens… (1960), passim; Grabois, in: Le Moyen Age, 72 (1966), 5–41; idem, in: Tarbiz, 36 (1966/67), 22–58.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]