Angus of Metz
Angus of Metz is the name of the author of the Chronicle of the Saxon Wars, and the one who tells the story of Widukind. A young novice of the Benedictine Order in the monastery of Metz, Angus was an orphan, sponsored by the monks of the abbey since they found him at the doors of the church. He was abandoned by his mother in the hope of securing a better future for her child. From an early age, he became very fond of reading. With his teacher, Bernard of Mortrand, he learned Greek, Latin and Arabic, aided by his prodigious skill. However, in his adolescence, his passion for books and signs awakened the fears of his teacher, who decided to send him on a spiritual quest. Entrusted to the brothers of Cologne, Angus of Metz was accepted as a clerk in an evangelical mission whose ostensible purpose was the preaching of the Word of God. Among various assistants; some monks and brothers in charge of the mission, the company launches into the wild kingdom of ancient Germania. Once on its way, Angus will realize that the purpose of the mission is very different: Alfred of Durham will warn him that they had been sent to the heart of darkness in search of a heretic who preaches the mysterious Gospel of the Sword among the pagan peoples. Following this, Angus of Metz will become the instructor of the seven-year-old son of an important Saxon lord, who opposes the Carolingian domination. That child will be none other than Widukind.
Widukind, a Saxon leader and one of the heads of the Westphalian nobility, was the moving spirit in the struggles that the Saxons endured for their independence and heathen faith. The Frankish accounts of the Saxon Wars, colored by national feeling (?), is only an outline of Widukind's character. After Charlemagne’s victory in 777, Widukind fled to Denmark. Once there, he realized that opposition was futile at the moment. When Charlemagne was in Spain in 778, Widukind came back and, trusting the Saxon love of independence, organized a war of revenge. Saxon hordes plundered and devastated the region of the middle Rhine, and even threatened Fulda, so the monks fled, carrying the remains of St. Boniface. A Frankish army defeated the Saxons at Laisa and rescued the town. In 782, order seemed to be restored among the Saxons, and once again Widukind fled to Denmark. Though he did return once more when Charlemagne began his march toward home. The Wends also were incited to join the uprising. The hatred of the insurgents was directed against the churches and priests, and Willihad, the first Bishop of Bremen, was forced to temporarily abandon his missionary work. Widukind no longer had the entire Saxon nation on his side. A strong Frankish party had now sprang up, but the terrible punishment inflicted by Charlemagne on 4000 Saxons at Verden on the Aller greatly strengthened the national party among the Saxons. Widukind again fled to Denmark; after this he persuaded the inhabitants of the northern Elbe district and the Frisians to join the revolt.
Arnauld of Goth
Angus of Metz describe some of those characters as follows in his Chronicle:
"There was a man, a venerable old man of the highest reputation among the Germanic Council, called Arnauld of Goth. He was Girard of Montsalvatge's most faithful supporter. I had heard the name a long time ago, sometimes mentioned in discussions of Metz. Oh, much is what will be told about his long hand and the power of his word. The name of Arnauld extends a shadow all over the whole manuscript, both wise and full of dark mystery...
But I must stop myself, since I do not want to confuse you, dear reader. He must have been very old at the time, as Alfred later confirmed to me, and even then his word and the strength of his faith were holy and almost legendary. He was celebrated for his wisdom, in addition to the fact that he was blind. Though some evil tongues had said that his disability was a punishment for his lust for knowledge at such an early age. But from all the monastery stories, the one that stood out was the severity and the relentless strength of spirit, which called for the struggle against paganism and against the presence of diabolical plans on Earth. This being the wisest of the prophecies of the End of times, on the Armageddon, the Apocalypse and the dangers of the millennium, whose presence would come, as we all know, surrounded by terrible and devastating diseases. His followers, however, asserted that Arnauld was the only man in the kingdom that had seen the Holy Grail, and because of this gift, he was a visionary who had the ability to see beyond the blindness of mortal men. His eyes saw that which nobody else could see."
Alfred of Durham
"A certain brother of mine used to walk behind me. He covered his face with zeal, by the sides of his hood, as if to conceal some deformity that no other congener should discover. However, there was no shyness, nor ugliness, as I realized later, forcing him into hiding. After our first meeting, I was able to appreciate the great intelligence in the gray of his eyes, distant and fleeting, into the halls of Cologne. Having only slightly passed his middle age, his more mature face was littered with freckles, right where the passage of time plows the field around the eyes, starting with the eyelids. This is especially true for men who have worked from sunrise to sunset without ever knowing the meaning of the word fear. A pale yellow beard surrounded his angular chin, as is typical to many of those born in the Western Isles.
It is possible that this fact, also referenced by others, would attract me especially, since the great missionaries had come to Europe from Anglia and Northumbria. I would have liked to visit these kingdoms, spend some time in their monasteries, but God had a different plan for me. Maybe I singled him out because of my sympathy for the missionaries who had preceded us in these wild lands: Suidvert, Evald, and the great Bonifatius, who before the Pope had given him that honor, he was known simply as Willfred in the common language. Later he, illuminated by the faith, had sailed from the Green Islands into the territories of Germany to carry out miraculous acts of evangelism with the powers that Rome had invested in him."
Remigius the Pious
Hidden behind the ominous comments I had heard of him – such as ‘the last hope’, ‘the bulwark behind which the strength of a silent faith is hidden.’ Present in many of the talks, even though he was never mentioned, he had been like the halo that expands from a glow, without ever being able to isolate the glow from its originating source.
Remigius the Pious belonged to our great Benedictine order. He started many years ago in the north. He listened to his instructors and was a great apprentice. It is said that his hands were bright, and that he learned faster than any other student in his monastery. As a young boy, he accompanied the entourage of the Germanic Council that visited Rome, where he was educated. He later held important positions among the Franks on the northern border. And while no other man would have favored a more desirable fate, while he sat at the table of the powerful lords of the Church, when the moment came for Pippin the Short to appoint him as Almoner of the Palace, a position of great importance as you can well imagine... he gave up all that he was, in return for what he could be."
Ragnar was a cousin of Widukind and one of the most important characters of Angus' Chronicle. The namesake and subject of “Ragnar’s Saga”, and one of the most popular Viking heroes among the Norse themselves, Ragnar was a great Viking commander and the scourge of France and England. A perennial seeker of the Danish throne, he was, briefly, ‘king’ of both Denmark and a large part of Sweden. He was a colorful figure, who claimed to be descended from Odin and was linked to two famous shieldmaidens, Lathgertha in the Gesta Danorum, and Queen Aslaug according to the Völsungasaga.He told people he always sought greater adventures for fear that his (possibly adoptive) sons who included such notable Vikings as Björn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless would eclipse him in fame and honor. Ragnar raided France many times, using the rivers as highways for his fleets of longships. By remaining on the move, he cleverly avoided battles with large concentrations of heavy Frankish cavalry, while maximizing his advantages of mobility and the general climate of fear caused by Viking unpredictability. His most notable raid was probably the one upon Paris, which was spared from burning only by the payment of 7,000 lbs of silver offered as danegeld by Charles the Bald. To court his second wife, the Swedish princess Thora, Ragnar traveled to Sweden and quelled an infestation of venomous snakes, famously wearing the hairy breeches whereby he gained his nickname. He continued the series of successful raids against France throughout the mid 9th century, and fought numerous civil wars in Denmark, until his luck ran out at last in Britain at last. After being shipwrecked on the English coast during a freak storm, he was captured by Anglian king Alla of Northumbria and infamously put to death by being thrown into a pit of vipers.
Goimo Longhands, King of Denmark
"On the stage of the scene, several majestic chairs, carved in indigenous wood, stood out against the embers of a fire which he took to be cursed. Two torches burned on opposite ends of the room. In the chairs of the scene, two men remained seated, waiting. On the throne, King Goimo looked grim, with his gray beard and eyes like a hawk. Goimo then rose slowly, never taking his eyes off of Widukind’s. Once upright, they were able to see the golden embroidery on his coat, the long sword that hung from his belt, his high boots... the radiating force that emanated from that old, woebegone man who once ruled the Danes with an iron fist."
Geva of Wehen
"Beside him sat a beautiful young woman. Widukind looked at her with a mixture of surprise, fear and trembling admiration. She was blonde and wore two braided ponytails. From her forehead hung a studded spinelle. It was all around finely decorated with miniature claws and it dangled under a net of gold threading, where the braids were contained. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen: the radiant force of the Viking race burned within her eyes."
"He noticed the gray-eyed girl: working diligently as she performed some of the toughest activities, though she rarely saw her brothers. Being the biggest, she also seemed to feel superior to the rest. The view of the matriarch had been implanted in their minds, so neither was aware of their own identity as unique creatures created by God. Instead, they behaved like puppets in those little theaters that minstrels are capable of mounting in the courts of kings. They would comply only until, once satiated with wine, they would casually fall asleep in the arms of the worst concubines. It was not just the feelings she aroused in Angus that forced him to think of such inequality, but it was also the injustice, and the fact that this young woman had been tortured by their mother even before birth. It was this kind of compassion about her past, that led to the indescribable feelings he had towards her.”
"-I feel no pain... No pain!” muttered the penitent, who answered to the name of Parzivál. Girard had baptized him by that name, for the penitent had strange dreams and visions and reminded the madman of the legends of the Holy Grail. Parzivál suddenly got up, left the punishment, and began to walk on his bloody footprints. He walked among those present, while Girard shouted after him. The others were crossing the Passage of the Penitent, as before the fleeting glow of an imminent miracle that announced the infinite glory of the almighty Lord. And I remembered that the presence of flagellated penitents was probably the one which had impressed the heathens the most. They did not look kindly at us, instead, they seemed overwhelmed by the gesture of guilt with which Girard preached the word of the Gospels."
Helglum the Grey
"Helglum, the wizard of Wigaldinghus, came leaning on his long staff made of ash wood, to which pagans attributed much power. He touched the horse's forehead with the tip of the arch, which was ascribed a protective spell and had a sprig of yew attached to it. He muttered strange words that no one could quite comprehend, because they were pagan runes, created by the Gods, in a language that was above that of mere mortals."
"At that moment, Widukind turned around, coming face to face with a bald man. He was not too old, but strange looking. His eyes were such that, as the gems of Liguria, they seemed to hide constellations of translucent yellow crystals that created a queer effect around their iris. The morning light fell on them under closed and inhospitable eyebrows. His jaw moved slowly, chewing with delight some doughy roots, leaving a dry and purple trace on the corner of his lips, due to the cold. A dirty great fur coat of white fox rested on his shoulders, between leather armor plates. A viking sorcerer and a gothi of Odin, Vigi was the shadow of Ragnar Lodbrok, and at the same time a bloody warrior.”
"A tall great warrior, a shadow that caused suspicion among the Saxons. His folded arms seemed as sealed and unwilling to embrace as his lips seemed unable to produce any speech. His hair was dark, which Angus found surprising, since that was an uncommon feature for his Viking lineage.”
"She was green-eyed, slightly tinged with the color of amethyst, her hair was black and shiny as the beautiful plumage of a crow, her teeth were like very fine pearls between her soft lips. Her neck was a tower; her legs, columns; her arms, wings. Her fingers, thin and snowy as the queen of winter, held the door. But the duke stopped to look at the traces of her grave countenance, illuminated by a vibrant smile, and felt the joy in her heart hiding behind the spell of her gaze."
Alcuin of York
Alcuin of York was a scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Ecgbert at York. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court, where he remained a figure at court in the 780s and 790s. He wrote many theological and dogmatic treaties, as well as a few studies on grammar, and a number of poems. He was made abbot of Saint Martin's at Tours in 796, where he remained until his death. He is considered to be one of the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era.
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans (Imperator Romanorum) from 800 to his death. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into a Frankish Empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800 which temporarily made him a rival of the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople. His rule is also associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped define both Western Europe and the Middle Ages. He is numbered as Charles I in the regal lists of France, Germany (where he is known as Karl der Große), and the Holy Roman Empire.
The son of King Pippin the Short and Bertrada of Laon, he succeeded his father and co-ruled with his brother Carloman I. The latter had a bad relationship with Charlemagne, but war was prevented by the sudden and unexpected death of Carloman in 771. Charlemagne continued the policy of his father towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain, to which he was invited by the Muslim governor of Barcelona. Charlemagne was promised several Iberian cities in return for giving military aid to the governor, however, the deal was withdrawn. Subsequently, Charlemagne's retreating army experienced its worst defeat at the hands of the Basques, at the Battle of Roncesvalles (778), which was memorialised, though heavily fictionalised, in the Song of Roland. He also campaigned against the peoples to his east, especially the Saxons, and after a protracted war subjected them to his rule. By forcibly converting them to Christianity, he integrated them into his realm and thus paved the way for the later Ottonian dynasty.