Charles the Great [Charlemagne] is one of the greatest historical and legendary heroes of western romance. The son of Pepin the Short, he became sole king of the Franks and leader of the Amulfing dynasty in 771. The monk Einhard, Charlemagne’s court biographer, gives the impression of a cultured, intelligent, charismatic figure blessed with outstanding ability and strength. It was Charlemagne who finally united the Frankish kingdom, restoring its laws and economy, and re-establishing the institutions of the Western Church. Charlemagne was also an able military leader, and extended his kingdom to encompass most of western Europe, except Spain and southern Italy. Charlemagne gathered men of culture and learning at his court, and through his patronage and energy the late 8th and 9th centuries have become known as the period of the Carolingian Renaissance. The emperor died in 814 and was succeeded by his son, Louis the Pious. The images that survive portray Charlemagne as the Christian successor to the Roman emperors. The same image is to be found in his palatial complex at Aachen, and on his reformed coinage, where he sometimes appears with a laurel wreath around his head.