Emperor Louis The Pious Survived A Building Collapse


In 817, less than four years after succeeding Charlemagne as emperor of the Franks, Louis the Pious attended a Maundy Thursday service with over twenty companions. After the sermons and ceremonies were over on that holy day, Louis began to exit the church, his route taking him through a corridor dominated by wooden arches. The unsuspecting emperor of the Franks, however, was not aware that the wooden beams above his head were constructed of disastrously poor quality materials. The arched corridor had apparently either been built with rotting wood or otherwise was poorly maintained. Consequently, right as the emperor and his companions were passing under the arches, the rotted beams suddenly snapped and the passageway toppled down on top of their heads.

According to the Royal Frankish Annals, Louis the Pious and twenty other churchgoers were caught in the collapse. While no deaths were reported, many of the people walking under the unstable arcade were severely wounded. Fortunately for Louis, he was reportedly the least injured of all those affected. Even so, he did not escape the collapse unscathed. He suffered a bruised chest, a cut or scratched right ear, and another bad bruise on his right thigh, which was caused by falling lumber. It reportedly took Louis twenty days to recover from his wounds, but after that time had passed, he felt well enough to go on a hunting trip.

Written by C. Keith Hansley.


  • Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories, translated by Bernhard Scholz and Barbara Rogers. Ann Arbor Paperbacks / University of Michigan Press, 1972.

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