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The Massacre of Verden: Forced Christianization

Charlemagne is remembered as a ruler who brought peace, order, and civilization to Europe. As a Frankish king, he is described as a hero in his own country’s annals. However, careful reading of the Royal Frankish Annals (written during Charlemagne’s lifetime) gives us many insights into a very dark side of Charlemagne:

“While the king (Charlemagne) spent the winter at the villa of Quierzy, he decided to attack the treacherous and treaty-breaking tribe of the Saxons and to persist in this war until they were either defeated and forced to accept the Christian religion or be entirely exterminated." (See The Royal Frankish Annals published by Ann Arbor Paperbacks, translated by Bernhard Walter Scholz, p.51) This statement was ascribed to Charlemagne by his court annalist in 785 AD, three years into the Saxon Wars, a war that would end up being 33 years in length, and a war fought for the sole purpose of enlarging Charlemagne's Reich (empire) with the forced conversion of all Saxony. The Saxons, in Saxony (Northern Germany) were allies to the Danes. The Saxon leader Widukind often visited the Danish kings. Widukind married Geva of Westfold, daughter of the Danish king Goimo I and sister of the Danish kings Ragnar and Siegfried. Wikipedia has an accurate article on the Saxon Wars, if you would like more info:

Massacre of Verden

The Massacre of Verden (German: Blutgericht von Verden) was a massacre of 4,500 Saxons by beheading in the year 782 near the present town of Verden in Old Saxony (northern Germany). The massacre was ordered by Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars. The effect of this massacre was that the Saxons lost virtually their entire tribal leadership and were now largely governed by Frankish counts installed by Charlemagne. The Saxon leader Widukind had escaped to his in-laws in Denmark, but soon returned, and after three more years of war, submitted to Charlemagne.

After forced conversion the Saxons ignored the baptismal vows, practiced their native Heathenry, and took up arms to defend their homeland against the Franks. They attacked a Frankish army at night near the Suntel Mountain, and almost completely annihilated it. Charlemagne returned to Saxony with a large army to retake Saxony. Once Charlemagne defeated the Saxons, he performed this massacre to pound the Saxons into submission, punishing them for forsaking their (forced) baptismal vows and annihilating his army. Charlemagne’s Royal Annals called the Saxons “oath breakers.” During the massacre, the Frankish writings claim that the Aller River was flowing red with their blood.

Charlemagne's massacre has been met with both disgust and approval throughout the modern period. Beginning in the 1870s, some scholars have attempted to exonerate Charlemagne of the massacre by way of a proposed manuscript error, but these attempts have since been generally rejected. While the figure of 4,500 victims has generally been accepted, some scholars regard it as an exaggeration.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, historians generally approved of the executions of Verden, as displays of piety. During the Enlightenment, this changed. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was one of the first to suggest that Verden cast a shadow over Charlemagne's legacy. Voltaire considered the king a "thousand-fold murderer", with Verden the centerpiece of his barbarism. Hermann Gauch, Heinrich Himmler's adjutant for culture, took the view that Charlemagne (known in German as Karl der Große: 'Karl the Great') should officially be renamed "Karl the Slaughterer" due to the massacre. He advocated a memorial to the victims. Alfred Rosenberg also stated that the Saxon leader Widukind, not Karl, should be called "the Great." During the Third Reich, the massacre became a major topic of debate; with Hitler eventually using Charlemagne’s genocides and deportations as an example for his Reich.

In 1935, occultic Nazi Germany assembled the Sachsenhain (Saxon Grove), consisting of 4,500 large stones in Verden, to commemorate the Massacre of Verden. The site today is open to the public.

The Royal Frankish Annals, the Frankish history written in Latin at the time of the massacre, states the following: “When the king heard of this disaster he decided not to delay, but made haste to gather an army, and marched into Saxony. There he called to his presence the chiefs of the Saxons and inquired who had induced the people to rebel. They all declared that Widukind was the author of the treason but said that they could not produce him because after the deed was done he had fled to Nordmannia (Denmark.) But the others who had carried out his will and committed the crime they delivered up to the king to the number of four thousand and five hundred; and by the king's command they were all beheaded in one day upon the river Aller in the place called Verden.”

The Royal Frankish Annals (Latin: Annales Regni Francorum) are annals written for the early Frankish kings, covering the years 741 to 829. At least three different authors were involved in their compilation, one of whom may have been the Frankish historian Einhard (c.770 - 840); though a convincing argument for his authorship has not been made. They are among the most important sources for the political and military history of the reign of Charlemagne. They are continued by the Annales Fuldenses and Annales Bertiniani.

I believe we have one Saxon source for the Massacre of Verden. See my notes to the Heliand Fitt 9 in my book "Saxon Heathenry". I believe that the Blood Court at Cannstatt is also proof that the Massacre of Verden was a Frankish genocide. The blood court at Cannstatt (Blutgericht zu Cannstatt) took place in the year 746 AD when Carloman, a Frankish King and Charlemagne’s Uncle, invited all nobles of the Alamanni to a council at Cannstatt. According to the Annals of Metz, the Annales Petaviani, and an account by Childebrand, Carloman arrested several thousand noblemen and executed them for high treason. This ended the independence of the duchy of Alemannia (South of Old Saxony, next to Frankia). After this massacre, Alemannia was ruled by Frankish dukes. The similarity to the Bloodcourt of Verden is obvious. Please join us in the group Saxon Heathenry on Facebook. Also, see the author page of Robert Sass on Amazon.

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