Unveiling the Mystery: How Tall was Charlemagne?

Unveiling the Mystery: How Tall Was Charlemagne?

Welcome to our investigation into the height of Charlemagne, one of the most prominent rulers in history. Despite his enduring legacy, the physical appearance of Charlemagne remains a mystery, with no conclusive evidence to determine his exact height. However, in this section, we will explore the historical records to uncover clues about his physical stature. Join us on this intriguing journey as we delve into the different accounts and speculations regarding Charlemagne’s height.

Charlemagne’s Height: Historical Accounts and Speculations

Charlemagne was undoubtedly a larger-than-life figure renowned for his military conquests and political prowess. While we may never know the exact height of this towering historical figure, we have numerous historical accounts and speculations to draw from.

Through the writings of contemporary chroniclers and later historians, we can paint a picture of Charlemagne’s physical appearance and stature. Einhard, a contemporary biographer, described Charlemagne as “large and strong,” with a “stately manner and a vigorous bearing.” Other contemporaries described him as “majestic” and “imposing.”

Later historians, such as Notker the Stammerer and Adelhard of Corbie, also provided descriptions of Charlemagne’s physical appearance. Notker the Stammerer wrote that Charlemagne was “not unduly tall, but surpassing the average man in height, his eyes were large and animated, his nose a little long, hair and beard of medium blond.” Adelhard of Corbie described him as having a “large and thick neck,” and a “large and powerful chest.”

While these descriptions provide some insight into Charlemagne’s stature, they are also tinged with romanticized elements. As such, historians and anthropologists have had to employ various methods to estimate Charlemagne’s height.

Charlemagne’s Height: Historical Accounts and Speculations

Historian Description of Charlemagne’s Stature
Einhard “Large and strong,” with a “stately manner and a vigorous bearing.”
Notker the Stammerer “Not unduly tall, but surpassing the average man in height, his eyes were large and animated, his nose a little long, hair and beard of medium blond.”
Adelhard of Corbie “Large and powerful chest” and a “large and thick neck.”

As there are no exact measurements available, historians and anthropologists have used various techniques to make educated guesses about his height. One method involves comparing Charlemagne’s physical description to those of other individuals whose height is known. For instance, Einhard mentioned that Charlemagne was taller than his peers, who were “quite tall,” thus indicating Charlemagne’s height was likely above average.

Another approach is examining physical objects that are closely associated with Charlemagne, such as his throne or burial site. From the measurements of these objects, historians have been able to estimate that Charlemagne was around 6 feet tall or perhaps slightly taller. Yet, these estimates remain speculative and do not provide a definitive answer to how tall Charlemagne truly was.

Nonetheless, the fascination with Charlemagne’s physical stature serves as a testament to his enduring legacy and impact on history. In the next section, we will delve deeper into the challenges and methods involved in estimating Charlemagne’s height and the insights we may gain from physical descriptions and analogies.

Estimating Charlemagne’s Height: Challenges and Methods

Trying to estimate the height of Charlemagne is no easy feat, as there are no direct measurements or records to rely on. Historians and anthropologists use various methods to try and make educated guesses about his tallness.

One such method involves examining the skeletal remains of individuals from Charlemagne’s time period and region, as height can be estimated based on bone length. However, there is no guarantee that the remains of someone who lived during Charlemagne’s era would accurately reflect his height.

Another method is to compare Charlemagne’s physical characteristics to those of other historical figures who are known to have been of certain heights. This approach requires speculation and interpretation and is far from a foolproof method.

Comparing Charlemagne to Other High-Profile Individuals

For instance, some historians have compared Charlemagne’s physical characteristics to those of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was known to be about 5 feet 6 inches tall. Based on this comparison, some speculate that Charlemagne may have been of similar height. However, it is important to consider the cultural differences and body types of individuals from different eras and regions.

Additionally, some historians have examined the physical descriptions of Charlemagne in historical texts to try and surmise his height. For instance, one contemporary chronicler describes Charlemagne as being “not overly tall but very thickset.” From this description, some have speculated that Charlemagne may have been of moderate height but with a sturdy build.

Ultimately, due to the lack of direct evidence, any estimation of Charlemagne’s height remains speculative. However, through careful examination of historical records and comparison to other individuals, historians can develop educated guesses about his tallness and physical appearance.

Physical Descriptions of Charlemagne

Although there are no exact measurements of Charlemagne’s height, historical texts provide some clues to his physical appearance. In various accounts, Charlemagne is described as being taller than the average person of his time, with a commanding presence and impressive build.

The medieval monk of Saint Gall, who might have seen Charlemagne in person, wrote that the Frankish king was “large and strong” and had a “stately and powerful appearance.” Another contemporary observer, Einhard, wrote that Charlemagne was “not excessively tall” but “big-boned and robust.”

Descriptions of Charlemagne’s height in feet and inches or meters are not available, but some historians have attempted to make educated guesses based on comparisons with other individuals. For example, Charlemagne is often described as taller than his father, Pepin the Short, who was about 5’6″ (1.68 meters) tall. Some scholars estimate that Charlemagne was around 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall, although this is difficult to confirm.

In addition to height, descriptions of Charlemagne’s physical appearance also include details about his hair and beard. Einhard wrote that Charlemagne had “bright, piercing eyes” and a “long, thick beard.” He also noted that Charlemagne was particular about his grooming, keeping his hair and beard neatly trimmed.

Comparisons and Analogies

One way historians have attempted to estimate Charlemagne’s height is by comparing him to other individuals. In particular, they have looked to other rulers who lived around the same time period, such as Offa of Mercia and Pepin the Short. While these comparisons can provide some clues, they must be taken with caution, as they are often based on subjective accounts and may be influenced by biases or political agendas.

Another approach has been to look at analogies made in historical texts. For example, Einhard, Charlemagne’s biographer, described him as “not excessively tall, but powerfully built.” This description has been interpreted in various ways, with some historians suggesting that Charlemagne was around 6 feet tall, while others argue he was closer to 5’7″.

It is important to note that these comparisons and analogies may not provide an accurate depiction of Charlemagne’s height, as they rely on subjective interpretations and may be influenced by cultural and social factors. Additionally, it is possible that Charlemagne’s height varied throughout his life, as he would have been subject to the same natural processes of growth and aging as anyone else.

Iconography: Portrayals of Charlemagne

Another way to gain insights into Charlemagne’s physical appearance and stature is through the iconography and artistic representations of him. Throughout history, countless artists have depicted Charlemagne in various forms, including paintings, sculptures, and other artworks. By analyzing these portrayals, we may glean visual clues about his height and physical appearance.

One famous depiction of Charlemagne is the equestrian statue found in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome. Created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 17th century, the statue portrays Charlemagne as a tall and imposing figure, riding high on a horse and dressed in regal garments. This portrayal suggests that Charlemagne was not only physically tall but also held a commanding presence.

Artwork Description
Coronation of Charlemagne by Albrecht Dürer This painting depicts Charlemagne as a tall, broad-shouldered figure surrounded by his retinue. He is shown wearing a crown and holding a scepter, indicating his royal status.
Charlemagne’s Triumph by Peter Paul Rubens In this painting, Charlemagne is portrayed as a stately figure, towering over his defeated enemies. His height is emphasized by his placement on a raised platform, and he is shown wearing a regal robe and crown.
Charlemagne and the Meeting at the Golden Gate by Jean Fouquet This illuminated manuscript depicts Charlemagne as a tall, elegant figure standing next to his queen. He is shown wearing fine garments and holding a scepter, indicating his authority and power.

These artworks suggest that Charlemagne was perceived as a tall and regal figure in his time. While we cannot know for certain how accurate these portrayals are, they offer valuable insights into how Charlemagne was perceived by his contemporaries and subsequent generations.

Modern Interpretations and Speculations

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence regarding Charlemagne’s height, scholars continue to put forth various theories and speculations.

  • Genetics: Some researchers have used Charlemagne’s height as a basis for exploring genetic inheritance. By examining the heights of his known relatives and descendants, they have attempted to estimate Charlemagne’s height.
  • Contemporary Accounts: Other historians have suggested that Charlemagne’s height was likely average or slightly above average for his time, based on contemporary accounts that describe him as tall, yet not unusually so.
  • Military Standing: Some have argued that Charlemagne’s military standing and success were likely more important to his contemporaries than his physical stature and that his reputation as a warrior and conqueror overshadowed any concerns about his height.

While these speculations cannot provide a definitive answer to the question of Charlemagne’s height, they highlight the ongoing fascination with his physical appearance and its possible significance in understanding his historical legacy.

Charlemagne’s Height: The Elusive Truth

Despite extensive historical records and modern speculations, the true height of Charlemagne remains unknown. While we can make educated guesses based on various sources and methods, we cannot definitively answer the question of how tall he really was.

The primary challenge in estimating Charlemagne’s height lies in the limitations and biases of historical records. Most written records from the time were created for official purposes and did not include personal details such as height. Additionally, descriptions of physical appearance were often influenced by cultural norms and expectations rather than objective observations.

As a result, historians and anthropologists have had to rely on creative methods to estimate Charlemagne’s height. One technique involves analyzing the skeletal remains of individuals from the same time period and geographic region in order to make comparisons with Charlemagne’s presumed height. Another approach involves examining historical artwork, such as depictions of Charlemagne on horseback, to gauge his size and stature.

Despite these efforts, the true height of Charlemagne may never be known for certain. Nevertheless, the fascination with this historical figure’s physical stature speaks to the enduring legacy and impact he had on history.


Despite the extensive research and analysis, the question of how tall Charlemagne truly was remains a mystery. Historians have examined numerous sources, including historical accounts, physical descriptions, artworks, and modern speculations, but no conclusive evidence has emerged.

This elusive truth highlights the limitations of historical records and the challenges in definitively answering questions about the past. Nevertheless, the fascination with Charlemagne’s physical stature reflects the enduring interest in this influential historical figure and his impact on European history.

Charlemagne’s legacy continues to inspire and intrigue scholars and enthusiasts alike, reminding us of the enduring impact of great leaders in shaping our world.