Research Project


Evolution of a European Myth between the Middle Ages and the Modern Age: The Legend of the Second Charlemagne

Lorenza Tromboni

Starting from the text of the Karolus, on which I based the first phase of my research on political prophecies, I selected five different prophecies related in different ways to the themes of the second Charlemagne legend and the emperor of the last times. Then, I observed the diffusion of these prophecies into the historiographical Italian tradition. The prophecies are: the Gallorum levitas, an anti-French Latin prophecy dated 1268, where the triumph of the emperor of the last times is promised, along with the reunion of Christianity and Church reform. The Prophetia de uno imperadore, a vernacular poem, attributed to the Florentine Paolo Danza: it is said that an emperor will come, he will bring peace and stability, and he will convert the Muslims, especially the Turks. From the works of Giovanni Pontano, the well-known Italian humanist, we have information on the Prophecy of St. Cataldo, found in Apulia, addressed to Ferrante I of Naples by a mysterious frater Franciscus Hispanus, to induce the king to expel the Jews from his reign. The content is quite simple, but the text is written in an intentionally obscure language: it is relevant in our context because it establishes a bond between the death of king Ferrante and the Italian enterprise of Charles VIII. The Memoria delli novi segni e spaventevoli prodigy describes several horrible prodigies and frightful events that were signs of future disasters. At the end of this terrifying list was an exhortation to the crusade addressed to the Christian princes. The Karolus or ‘second Charlemagne legend’ represents the starting point of the research itself. The circulation of prophecies related to messianic topics that belong to the Joachimite tradition, such as the emperor of the last times, was quite common in Italian chronicles: this kind of texts was a sort of answer to the proliferation of wars on Italian soil and the lack of political stability: historians, chroniclers, poets and diplomats recorded the spiritual concern of the Italian people in their writings.

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