Charlemagne (2 April 742/747/748– 28 January 814), also known as Charles the Great (Latin: Carolus or Karolus Magnus) or Charles I, was King of the Franks. He united most of Western Europe during the early Middle Ages and laid the foundations for modern France and Germany. He took the Frankish throne in 768 and became King of Italy from 774. From 800 he became the first Holy Roman Emperor — the first recognized emperor in Western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. While Charlemagne already ruled his kingdom without the help of the Pope, recognition from the pontiff granted him divine legitimacy in the eyes of his contemporaries.
The expanded Frankish state Charlemagne founded was called the Carolingian Empire.
The oldest son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon, Charlemagne became king in 768 following the death of his father. He was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I. Carloman's sudden death in 771 under unexplained circumstances left Charlemagne as the undisputed ruler of the Frankish Kingdom. Charlemagne continued his father's policy towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in northern Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain. He also campaigned against the Saxons to his east, Christianizing them upon penalty of death, leading to events such as the Massacre of Verden. Charlemagne reached the height of his power in 800 when he was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day at Old St. Peter's Basilica.