Christophorus I (23 February 879-12 August 942) was the Emperor of the Byzantine and Frankish Empire from 27 October 879 until the dissolution of the position in 893 with the Magnam Europae charter. Crowned on his eleventh birthday, he became the Holy Roman Emperor in 890. Despite a brief revocation of the title from the Pope, which led to the Italian Wars, Christophorus held power in Europe until his death in 942.
Remembered as one of the most important Emperors of the Carolingian Empire, his rule saw the acquisition of the Bulgarian Empire, all of Italy, Brittany, and parts of eastern Europe.
Christophorus was born on 23 February 879 in Constantinople to Marie of Paris and Carloman. The young father became Emperor within months of Christophorus' birth, resulting in his mother largely raising him. In September 879, Carloman disappeared. The emperor was declared dead on 27 October 879, resulting in the infant Christophorus becoming Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Frankish Empire at the age of eight months.
Due to his obvious inability to rule the kingdom, his mother became regnant, making decisions for Christophorus during his childhood. It wasn't until the beginning of the 890s that Christophorus was able to make important decisions regarding the kingdom on his own. Surprisingly enough, his mother was able to run the Byzantine and Frankish empires relatively well, though she was infamous among Byzantine and Frankish officials due to the welfare and safety of her son being her top priority. This trait, which was cursed during her life, was celebrated posthumously.
During his mother's time as regnant, Christophorus trained under various stragegoi, including that of Hellas, Thracia, and Macedonia. During his childhood, in 884, the Bulgar War took place. The Bulgarians invaded Byzantine lands, which resulted in an armed response from the Franks and the Byzantines. During this time, Anna was deemed 'unfit to rule under wartime conditions' by many officials, Byzantine and Frankish alike. Christophorus formed opinions of both sides during this time as he observed the arguments.
Despite his mother's proven inability to effectively lead troops in a war, she was allowed to remain in power (albeit with several military leaders assisting her) until her son was ready to lead. In 890, two years until the end of the Bulgar War, Christophorus was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope. He began to make important decisions at the age of 892, when he oversaw the creation of the Bulgarian Theme at the end of the Bulgar War.
In 893, during Christophorus' fourteenth year, he was determined to be fit to rule. Immediately, he began to seek reforms in the Frankish and Byzantine Empires. The dynastic union created when Charlemagne and Irene married was not enough. Not even sharing a ruler was efficient. Christophorus stated that unity was the only way for the Carolingian Union to effectively rule Europe. The fourteen-year-old drafted a charter with several military rulers, his formerly-regnant mother, and other relatives in the Carolingian Family.
The Magnam Europae charter was revised several times to ensure fairness for both Franks and Byzantines. While the revisions shaped the charter into its final form, one notable and infamous mistake was overlooked; its title. Christophorus I was learning to speak Latin at the time, resulting in his accidental usage of incorrect Latin. Nevertheless, the charter was signed and enacted in 893, fusing the Eastern Roman Empire and Frankish Empire and the various subkingdoms ruled by said nations into one, unified Carolingian Empire. With the Eastern Roman Empire and the Frankish Empire completely combined, the newly-formed nation was seemingly unstoppable.
Troubles with the Church
Almost immediately, the Magnam Europae charter was met with opposition. Pope Formosus revoked the title of Holy Roman Emperor from Christophorus and issued a charter demanding the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. The Carolingian Empire attempted to appease Formosus, though it was no use. With the Christian Church opposed to the Magnam Europae charter, the Carolingian Empire was almost ended as soon as it had begun. Finally, after a year of attempting to sooth relations with Pope Formosus, it was considered to be in the Carolingian Empire's best interests to install a pope that was partial to the Magnam Europae charter. While many of the cardinals were open to the charter, waiting for Formosus to die was ineffective. The Carolingian Empire had to force him out of office.
The Italian Wars
The Carolingians invaded the Papal States in 894 with the intention of absorbing the state into the Carolingian Empire and remove Formosus from the Papal throne. The invasion went very well, with minimal losses in the Carolingian ranks. The Battle of Rome was a success; Formosus was deposed and a Carolingian, Pope John IX, was appointed to the Papacy. The invasion, however, sparked armed resistance from Spoleto. After a two-year long invasion, Spoleto also fell to the Carolingians. These battles were the first in a series of battles known as the Italian Wars. Marked by bloodshed in the Italian peninsula, the war lasted for nearly three decades.
The southern Italian states, worried about the Carolingian Empire, formed the League of Napoli, intent on expelling the Carolingians from southern Italy. Allied with the Sicilian Emirate, an enemy of the Carolingians, the League was able to mount several invasions of Carolingian Italy. The League of Napoli was initially successful, capturing the southern Ravenna cities, liberating Spoleto, and even invading the Pentapolis on the Adriatic. The Sicilian Emirate betrayed them, however, and the League began to fall apart, their gains in the war eliminated by 921. The League surrendered in 924, placing all of Italy under Carolingian control.
Recovering & After the War
The Italian Wars had taken a financial toll on the Carolingian Empire. As the Carolingian Empire calmed down, Christophorus worked on improving the economy of the Empire, though he also began taking time for himself. The Emperor, who was only 15 at the start of the Italian Wars, was now in his 40s. While he had occasionally toured Europe and had numerous alleged affairs around the Carolingian Empire, he never settled down. The search for a wife began at the very end of the Italian Wars. Suitors from all over Europe were considered, including a noblewoman from Constantinople, a woman from Paris, even a shieldmaiden in Denmark. However, Christophorus chose to marry the Breton princess Alana of Brittany in 927.
By 930, Alana's father, king Robert the Noble, had passed away, leaving Alana Queen of the Bretons. The marriage between Christophorus I and Alana resulted in the personal union of Brittany and the Carolingian Empire, the title of monarch passing to Christophorus. He did not spend all this time courting, however. Christophorus spent massive amounts of time working on the Carolingian economy. He spent so much time making sure the Carolingian economy would recover in the 930s, in fact, that he seemed rather distant. In 928, Alana bore a son, Michael. She bore two more sons before 938; Louis and Robert. By 940, daughters Bertha and Theodora were born.
Christophorus I was said to have entered the throne a well-adjusted and kind man. He was said to have treated people well and his reaction with the Pope at the age of 15 was startling to many. People noted, however, how much the Italian War and its aftermath had changed him. Christophorus I personally participated in the invasions of Rome and Spoleto. The action he saw is said to have traumatized him. He did not return to battle until the latter parts of the Italian Wars. By the time the war was over, he was described as 'distant' and 'hollow'. When dealing with Carolingian matters, he was cold, calculating, and ever-present. He was known to keep an eye on almost every part of the Empire during his reign.
In 941, Christophorus began showing signs associated with a brain tumor. Upon convulsing into a seizure in Constantinople, he was aware of his imminent death. Wanting to secure the throne for his son, he is said to have enacted a contingency plan of sorts. Many Carolingian officials and others that would prevent Michael from being anything but a good leader were poisoned, including his wife, Alana. The symptoms continued to worsen until his death in 942.
Christophorus is known mostly for his rule during the Italian Wars. It is possible that the League of Napoli would have won the war, had another person been in charge of the Carolingian Empire. His decline into a cold, distant figure obsessed with his empire was seen as a model of both devotion and tragedy. Christophorus was buried in Constantinople, his gravesite marked with a towering statue of himself. His son, Michael I, would lead the Carolingians until 961.