Charlemagne was tall but skinny, shows bone study

CharlemagneCharlemagne, the medieval king of Western Europe, indeed stood tall, reveals the revered ruler’s remains

In the journal, Economics & Human Biology, a team led by Frank Ruhli of Switzerland’s University of Zurich, looked at the preserved shin bone of the one-time ruler of Europe. “Charlemagne – or Carolus Magnus meaning ‘Charles the Big’ as well as ‘Charles the Great’ – is one of the most important historical personalities,” begin the study of the Frankish king who died in 814 A.D.

The son of ”Pippin the Short”, Charlemagne’s physique is only known from historical descriptions, where his chronicler described him as “a large and strong person, being lofty but not disproportionally tall, and measuring exactly seven times the length of his own foot.” Ruhli and colleagues decided to size up the legend using his shin bone, on exhibit in the treasury of Germany’s Aachen cathedral.

Using X-ray’s and computed tomagraphy, the team finds Charles the Big was tall; his shin was 17 inches long, which made him 6 feet tall at a time when the average European man stood 5’5″. But he was likely not big around, as the shin doesn’t show excessive thickening, instead suggesting he weighed about 172 pounds, says the study, which concludes:

“Although our stature estimation has a range or error, being based on one bone only, it is evident that the physical appearance of Charlemagne was highly notable for the Middle Ages and thus it may have contributed to his socio-political achievements, since tall stature is – even nowadays – well correlated with decreased mortality and morbidity and increased individual socio-economic success.”

So, it looks like even in the Middle Ages, you could never be too thin, or too rich.

Source: USA Today

One Response to Charlemagne was tall but skinny, shows bone study
  1. Jim
    November 15, 2010 | 16:58

    Actually, I think the study under estimates the size of the king Charlemagne by several inches. Taking into account the length of his tibia, shin bone as being about “17 inches” and his ancestry, using Dr. Mildred Trotter’s regression formulas I would come up with a height estimation of 6 feet 3 to 6 ft 4, and 170-180 lbs and about a size 12 US shoe (30 cm)