Then came in sight that man of iron, Charlemagne, topped with his iron helm, his fists in iron gloves, his iron chest and his Platonic shoulders clad in an iron cuirass. An iron spear raised high against the sky he gripped in his left hand, while in his right he held his still unconquered sword. For greater ease of riding other men keep their thighs bare of armour; Charlemagne's were bound in plates of iron. As for his greaves, like those of all his army, they, too, were made of iron. His shield was all of iron. His horse gleamed iron-coloured and its very mettle was as if of iron. All those who rode before him, those who kept him company on either flank, those who followed after, wore the same armour, and their gear was as close a copy of his own as it is possible to imagine. Iron filled the fields and all the open spaces. The rays of the sun were thrown back by his battleline of iron. This race of men harder than iron did homage to the very hardness of iron. The pallid face of the man in the condemned cell grew paler at the bright gleam of iron. 'Oh! the iron! alas for the iron!' Such was the confused clamour of the citizens of Pavia. The strong walls shook at the touch of iron. The resolution of the young grew feeble before the iron of these older men.


Notker the Stammerer (Monk of Saint Gall), Charlemagne, from Einhard and Notker the Stammerer, Two Lives of Charlemagne, translated by Lewis Thorpe, Penguin Classics, Great Britain, 1969, p. 163-164.

PLACE: Carolingian Empire

TIME: 8th century

CIRCUMSTANCE: Before the battle between Desiderius and Charlemagne