Episode 8: Getting Medieval on Charlemagne’s Elephant

Where did Charlemagne get his elephant and what does it tell us about the relationship between the Franks and the Mediterranean world that once was Rome? The answer may surprise you—it certainly surprised the Danes!

Without Islam, the Frankish empire would probably never have existed, and Charlemagne, without Muhammed, is inconceivable.
—Henri Pirenne 

Video with subscription at Unauthorized.tvSee also my lectures on medieval history for the Charlemagne Institute.


Reliquary of Charlemagne, 14th century
Aachen Cathedral Treasury
People—and elephant
Pirenne’s disappearances  
  • Papyrus
  • Wines of Gaza
  • Oil from Africa
  • Spices
  • Silk
  • Gold coinage
Elephants, including Charlemagne’s
Recommended Reading 
Silk with elephant
placed in Charlemagne’s reliquary casket in AD 1000
Aachen Cathedral Treasury


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