chapter  16
34 Pages

Charlemagne in Hell

ByRichard Kay

Ten years after the death of Charlemagne, a monk named Wetti had a vision in which he saw the late emperor standing in hell, “and his genitals were being mutilated by the gnawing of a certain animal.”1 At about the same time, two other visionaries also encountered Charles in the afterworld, and although both agreed that prayer could save the emperor, neither report suggests why the emperor did not go directly to heaven.2 Naturally, all three accounts have provoked scholarly investigation, but to my knowledge no one thus far has inquired why (and how) an obscure monk at Reichenau came to be obsessed

1 Heitonis Visio Wettini 11, ed. Ernst Dümmler, MGH Poetae, 2 (Berlin, 1884), pp. 267275 (my translation here, and hereafter unless otherwise stated). Cf. Visio Guetini, ed. Migne, PL, vol. 105, cols 771-780. English translation (omitting the preface and capitula) as “Wetti’s Vision” by Eileen Gardiner in her Visions of Heaven and Hell before Dante (New York, 1989), pp. 65-79, with notes on pp. 244-245. For a catalogue of manuscripts, testimonia, and editions: Clemens Müller, “Wettinus-Guetinus-Uguetinus: Ein Beitrag zur Überlieferungsgeschichte von Heitos ‘Visio Wettini’,” in Hans F. Haefele, et al. (eds), Variorum munera orum: Latinität als prägende Kra mittelalterliche Kultur; Festschri für Hans F. Haefele zu seinem 60. Geburtstag (Sigmaringen, 1985), pp. 23-36. My references to the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH) are abbreviated in accordance with the Repertorium fontium historiae Medii Aevi, vol. 1: Series collectionum (Rome, 1962), pp. 466-479.