When Charlemagne destroyed the Irminsul, the bridge guarded by Heimdal that connected heaven and earth

In the spring of 772 Charlemagne led a large army of Franks against the Saxons. He first took the fortress of Eresburg and then entered Saxon territory, razing everything and obtaining a great booty of gold and silver.

But before leaving the place, he ordered the destruction of the irminsul. This is what the chronicles say. But what was he irminsul And why was it so important to end him?

In the year 865 a Benedictine monk named Rodolfo de Fulda described in his introduction to the translation of De miraculis sancti Alexandri (work of the monk Meginhard) as the Saxons worshiped a trunk placed vertically, of great size, which they called irminsul (in Latin translated as column universalis) that held it all up. It would be a pillar that, metaphorically, would connect heaven and earth, supporting the entire Universe, and that has many similarities with the Nordic yggdrasil.

Externsteine ​​/ photo Daniel Schwen on Wikimedia Commons

It was located, according to the chronicles, near Eresburg (now Obermarsberg). For this reason, it is sometimes located in Externsteine, a megalithic complex of turret-like rock formations, located near the Teutoburg Forest, which some consider the main sanctuary of the Saxons, and which is only 45 kilometers from Eresburg.

In fact, the Nazis would create a foundation dedicated to the search for irminsul and to the study of the place, turning it into the spiritual center of German nationalism.

Some researchers associate the irminsul with the germanic god irminwhose name is inferred precisely from the irminsul without knowing for sure if he was the main god or demi-god of the Saxons, which at the moment is a dead end circle.

What is known is that in Old Norse irmin is translated by Jörmunr, which curiously is one of the names of Odin. Some authors think that irmin it simply means great God and they identify it with the Nordic yggdrasil and with the god Heimdal. Thus, the irminsul (yggdrasil) would be the tree-bridge that would connect heaven and earth, guarded by the guardian Heimdal, who at the same time would be the god of men. Let us remember that in Norse mythology Heimdal is the son of Odin, and the guardian of the dwelling of the gods and the Bifrostthe rainbow that acts as a bridge to Asgard.

The reason why Charlemagne destroyed the irminsul it was clearly to weaken the old pagan cults and favor the spread of Christianity. It is precisely in Externsteine ​​that there is a Christian relief of the descent of Jesus from the cross, in which researchers believe that the irminsullike a kind of chair-shaped trunk to the right of the cross.

However, today historians do not believe that there is any evidence connecting the irminsul with Externsteine, and also the excavations have not found evidence that the place was a Saxon sanctuary, or that it was used for religious purposes before Christianity.

Christian relief in Externsteine ​​with the supposed representation of the Irminsul at the foot of the cross / photo Gunnar Ries on Wikimedia Commons

The only certain thing is that the irminsul it was a column or pillar, made of oak or another type of tree, which the Saxons revered as a spiritual or material connection between heaven and earth. If there were more irminsul that the one destroyed by Charlemagne, or if this was the main one or the only one, is something that we will possibly never know.


Sources

The 8th Century and All That / The Odinic Rite / Philip Coppens / Wikipedia.