The skeletal remains interred at a German cathedral likely belong to Charlemagne.

Updated: Mar 30


In 1988, a sarcophagus that supposedly belonged to Charlemagne, King of the Franks (abt 747-814), was secretly opened. According to historical records, Charlemagne died of pneumonia in 814, and his body was placed in a sarcophagus in the Aachen Cathedral in Germany. On Wednesday, after 26 years(!) of research, German scientists announced that the skeletal remains they recovered from the sarcophagus likely belong to the founder of the Holy Roman Empire.

One of the scientists studying the remains, Professor Frank Rühli, said: “Thanks to the results from 1988 up until today, we can say with great likelihood that we are dealing with the skeleton of Charlemagne.”

Researchers believe that measurements of the arm and leg bones correspond to descriptions of Charlemagne. The remains belong to man who stood about 6 feet tall. Based on historical accounts, it’s believed that Charlemagne stood between 5’8” and 6’3”. These researchers also claim this man weighed about 172 lbs, which would mean he was very slim for his height.

Medieval biographer Einhard, a courtier and one of Charlemagne’s servants, wrote in his accounts that the emperor walked with a limp in his later years. The scientific team found that both patella (kneecap) and calcanei (heel bones) had deposits consistent with an injury, which could have caused a limp.

In all the team found 94 bone and bone fragments, most of which were found in the king’s tomb. Other bones were found in reliquaries. Parts of his skull was found in a bust depicting the emperor, one of his lower leg bones was discovered in another elaborate reliquary. (I also found pictures of another reliquary containing bits of his right arm). They believe some of the other missing bones were given away as relics when Charlemagne passed.

sarcophagus of charlemagne.

Though historical accounts say Charlemagne died of pneumonia in AD 814, this team could not find any clear indications of what killed him from his skeletal remains.