Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor (742-814).
King of the Franks from 768 and emperor from 800, he launched a vast expansion of his rule, conquering Germany, Bavaria, and Saxony, bringing Christianity to the people. At the request of the pope he took his army over the Alps into Italy, where he conquered Lombardy and established his son as king. His first expedition into Spain ended in failure and in the death of his commander, Roland (the hero of the romantic legend, Chanson de Roland). By 800 Charlemagne was the supreme power in western Europe. Although Charlemagne read little and never learned to write, he encouraged the foundation of monastic and episcopal schools. From his court at Aix he stimulated the revival of arts and letters known as the Carolingian Renaissance.