English



13 min

751 to 888

Carolingian Empire

by Something Something




The Carolingian Empire (800–888) was a large Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe during the early Middle Ages. It was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty, which had ruled as kings of the Franks since 751 and as kings of the Lombards in Italy from 774. In 800, the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor in Rome by Pope Leo III in an effort to transfer the Roman Empire from east to west. The Carolingian Empire is considered the first phase in the history of the Holy Roman Empire, which lasted until 1806.






  Table of Contents / Timeline


Pepin the Short


CHAPTER   1

Pepin, First Carolingian king

751 Jan 1 -

Soissons, France



Pepin the Short, also called the Younger (German: Pippin der Jüngere, French: Pépin le Bref, c. 714 – 24 September 768) was King of the Franks from 751 until his death in 768. He was the first Carolingian to become king. Pepin's father Charles Martel died in 741. He divided the rule of the Frankish kingdom between Pepin and his elder brother, Carloman, his surviving sons by his first wife: Carloman became Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, Pepin became Mayor of the Palace of Neustria.;Since Pepin had control over the magnates and actually had the power of a king, he now addressed to Pope Zachary a suggestive question:


In regard to the kings of the Franks who no longer possess the royal power: is this state of things proper?


Hard pressed by the Lombards, Pope Zachary welcomed this move by the Franks to end an intolerable condition and lay the constitutional foundations for the exercise of the royal power. The Pope replied that such a state of things is not proper. Under these circumstances, the wielder of actual power should be called King. After this decision, Childeric III was deposed and confined to a monastery. He was the last of the Merovingians. Pepin was then elected King of the Franks by an assembly of Frankish nobles, with a large portion of his army on hand.


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Muslim troops leaving Narbonne to Pepin le Bref in 759


CHAPTER   2

Pepin secures Narbonne

759 Jan 1 -

Narbonne, France



The Siege of Narbonne took place between 752 and 759 led by Pepin the Short against the Umayyad stronghold defended by an Andalusian garrison and its Gothic and Gallo-Roman inhabitants. The siege remained as a key battlefield in the context of the Carolingian expedition south to Provence and Septimania starting in 752. The region was up to that point in the hands of Andalusian military commanders and the local nobility of Gothic and Gallo-Roman stock, who had concluded different military and political arrangements to oppose the expanding Frankish rule. Umayyad rule collapsed by 750, and Umayyad territories in Europe were ruled autonomously by Yusuf ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri and his supporters.


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CHAPTER   3

Charlemagne reigns

768 Jan 1 -

Aachen, Germany



Charlemagne's rule began in 768 at Pepin's death. He proceeded to take control of the kingdom following his brother Carloman's death, as the two brothers co-inherited their father's kingdom.;





| © Quill & Ink History


CHAPTER   4

Saxon Wars

772 Jan 1 -

Saxony, Germany



The Saxon Wars were the campaigns and insurrections of the thirty-three years from 772, when Charlemagne first entered Saxony with the intent to conquer, to 804, when the last rebellion of tribesmen was defeated. In all, 18 campaigns were fought, primarily in what is now northern Germany. They resulted in the incorporation of Saxony into the Frankish realm and their forcible conversion from Germanic paganism to Christianity.The Saxons were divided into four subgroups in four regions. Nearest to the ancient Frankish kingdom of Austrasia was Westphalia, and farthest was Eastphalia. In between the two kingdoms was that of Engria (or Engern), and north of the three, at the base of the Jutland peninsula, was Nordalbingia. Despite repeated setbacks, the Saxons resisted steadfastly, returning to raid Charlemagne's domains as soon as he turned his attention elsewhere. Their main leader, Widukind, was a resilient and resourceful opponent, but eventually was defeated and baptized (in 785).


Medieval sources describe how an Irminsul, a sacred,;pillar-like object attested as playing an important role in the;Germanic paganism;of the;Saxons.;, was destroyed by;Charlemagne;during the;Saxon Wars.


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The Frankish king Charlemagne was a devout Catholic and maintained a close relationship with the papacy throughout his life. In 772, when Pope Adrian I was threatened by invaders, the king rushed to Rome to provide assistance. Shown here, the pope asks Charlemagne for help at a meeting near Rome.


CHAPTER   5

Conquest of the Lombard kingdom

773 Jan 1 -

Pavia, Province of Pavia, It



At his succession in 772, Pope Adrian I demanded the return of certain cities in the former exarchate of Ravenna in accordance with a promise at the succession of Desiderius. Instead, Desiderius took over certain papal cities and invaded the Pentapolis, heading for Rome. Adrian sent ambassadors to Charlemagne in autumn requesting he enforce the policies of his father, Pepin. Desiderius sent his own ambassadors denying the pope's charges. The ambassadors met at Thionville, and Charlemagne upheld the pope's side. Charlemagne demanded what the pope had requested, but Desiderius swore never to comply. Charlemagne and his uncle Bernard crossed the Alps in 773 and chased the Lombards back to Pavia, which they then besieged. Charlemagne temporarily left the siege to deal with Adelchis, son of Desiderius, who was raising an army at Verona. The young prince was chased to the Adriatic littoral and fled to Constantinople to plead for assistance from Constantine V, who was waging war with Bulgaria.


The siege lasted until the spring of 774 when Charlemagne visited the pope in Rome. The pope granted him the title patrician. He then returned to Pavia, where the Lombards were on the verge of surrendering. In return for their lives, the Lombards surrendered and opened the gates in early summer. Desiderius was sent to the abbey of Corbie, and his son Adelchis died in Constantinople, a patrician. Charlemagne was then master of Italy as king of the Lombards.


In 776, Dukes Hrodgaud of Friuli and Hildeprand of Spoleto rebelled. Charlemagne rushed back from Saxony and defeated the Duke of Friuli in battle; the Duke was slain. The Duke of Spoleto signed a treaty. Northern Italy was now faithfully his.


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CHAPTER   6

Roncesvalles campaign

778 Jan 1 -

Roncevaux, Spain



According to the Muslim historian Ibn al-Athir, the Diet of Paderborn had received the representatives of the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza, Girona, Barcelona and Huesca. Their masters had been cornered in the Iberian peninsula by Abd ar-Rahman I, the Umayyad emir of Cordova. These "Saracen" (Moorish and Muwallad) rulers offered their homage to the king of the Franks in return for military support. Seeing an opportunity to extend Christendom and his own power, and believing the Saxons to be a fully conquered nation, Charlemagne agreed to go to Spain.


In 778, Charlemage led the Neustrian army across the Western Pyrenees, while the Austrasians, Lombards, and Burgundians passed over the Eastern Pyrenees. The armies met at Saragossa and Charlemagne received the homage of the Muslim rulers, but the city did not fall for him. Indeed, Charlemagne faced the toughest battle of his career. The Muslims forced him to retreat, so he decided to go home, as he could not trust the Basques, whom he had subdued by conquering Pamplona. He turned to leave Iberia, but as his army was crossing back through the Pass of Roncesvalles, one of the most famous events of his reign occurred: the Basques attacked and destroyed his rearguard and baggage train. The Battle of Roncevaux Pass, though less a battle than a skirmish, left many famous dead, including Roland.


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CHAPTER   7

Battle of Süntel

782 Jan 1 -

Weser Uplands, Bodenwerder,



The Battle of Süntel was a land battle that took place between Saxon rebels led by Widukind and a detachment of Frankish forces led by envoys of Charlemagne named Adalgis, Geilo, and Worad at Süntel in 782 during the Saxon Wars. The result was a victory for the Saxons, resulting in the deaths of Adalgis, Geilo, four counts, and 20 other noblemen. Shortly following the loss, Charlemagne had 4,500 rebels beheaded on a single day, in an event sometimes known as the Verden Massacre.


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Alcuin (pictured centre), was one of the leading scholars of the Carolingian Renaissance.


CHAPTER   8

Carolingian Renaissance

790 Jan 1 -

Aachen, Germany



The Carolingian Renaissance was the first of three medieval renaissances, a period of cultural activity in the Carolingian Empire. It occurred from the late 8th century to the 9th century, taking inspiration from the Christian Roman Empire of the fourth century. During this period, there was an increase of literature, writing, the arts, architecture, jurisprudence, liturgical reforms, and scriptural studies. The Carolingian Renaissance occurred mostly during the reigns of Carolingian rulers Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. It was supported by the scholars of the Carolingian court, notably Alcuin of York.


The effects of this cultural revival were mostly limited to a small group of court literati. According to John Contreni, "it had a spectacular effect on education and culture in Francia, a debatable effect on artistic endeavors, and an unmeasurable effect on what mattered most to the Carolingians, the moral regeneration of society". The secular and ecclesiastical leaders of the Carolingian Renaissance made efforts to write better Latin, to copy and preserve patristic and classical texts, and to develop a more legible, classicizing script, with clearly distinct capital and minuscule letters.


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| ©Angus McBride


CHAPTER   9

Battle of Bornhöved

798 Jan 1 -

Bornhöved, Germany



In the Battle of Bornhöved, the Obodrites, led by Drożko, allied with the Franks, defeated the Nordalbingian Saxons. The victory of Charlemagne in the battle finally broke the resistance of the Nordalbingian Saxons to Christianisation. Charlemagne decided to massacre the Nordalbingian Saxons or deport them: their areas in Holstein become sparsely populated and were handed over to the Obodrites. The limit of influence between Denmark and the Frankish Empire was successfully established on the Eider River in 811. This boundary was to remain in place almost without a break for the next thousand years.


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Imperial Coronation of Charlemagne, by Friedrich Kaulbach


CHAPTER   10

Holy Roman Emperor

800 Jan 1 -

Rome, Metropolitan City of R



Pope Leo III crowns Frankish king Charlemagne, who united most of Western Europe and forcibly extended Christendom, as heir of the Roman emperors at the basilica of Saint Peter's at Rome.






| ©Angus McBride


CHAPTER   11

Louis takes Barcelona

801 Apr 3 -

Barcelona, Spain



In the beginning of the 8th century when the Visigothic Kingdom was conquered by the Muslim troops of the Umayyad Caliphate, Barcelona was taken by the Muslim wali of Al-Andalus, Al-Hurr ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Thaqafi. After the failure of the Muslim invasion of Gaul at the Battles of Toulouse in 721 and Tours in 732, the city was integrated into the Upper March of Al-Andalus.


From 759 onwards the Frankish Kingdom embarked on the conquest of the territories under Muslim domination. The capture of the city of Narbonne by the forces of the Frankish king, Pepin the Short, brought the border to the Pyrenees. The Frankish advance was met with failure in front of Zaragoza, when Charlemagne was forced to retreat and suffered a setback in Roncevaux in the hands of Basque forces allied with the Muslims. But in 785, the rebellion of the inhabitants of Girona, who opened their gates to the Frankish army, pushed back the border and opened the way for a direct attack against Barcelona. On April 3, 801, Harun, commander of Barcelona accepted terms to surrender the city, worn out by hunger, deprivation and the constant attacks. The inhabitants of Barcelona then opened the gates of the city to the Carolingian army. Louis, Charlemagne's son, entered the city preceded by priests and clergy singing psalms, processing to a church to give thanks to God.


The Carolingians made Barcelona the capital of the County of Barcelona and incorporated it into the Hispanic Marches. Authority was to be exercised in the city by the Count and the Bishop. Bera, son of the Count of Toulouse, William of Gellone, was made the first Count of Barcelona.


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| ©Angus McBride


CHAPTER   12

Carolingian Civil War

823 Jan 1 -

Aachen, Germany



The Carolingian Civil War lasted from roughly 823 to 835 and involved a series of hostile infighting between Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald and his older sons Lothar, Pepin, and Louis the German. In 829 Louis the Pious stripped Lothar of his title as co-Emperor and banished him to Italy. The next year, in 830, his sons retaliated and invaded Louis the Pious’s empire and replaced him with Lothar. In 831, Louis the Pious once again attacked his sons and bestowed the kingdom of Italy to Charles the Bald. Over the course of the next two years Pepin, Louis the German, and Lothar revolted once again, resulting in the imprisonment of Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald. Finally, in 835, peace was made within the family and Louis the Pious was ultimately





| ©Kings and Generals


CHAPTER   13

Battle of Fontenoy

841 Jun 25 -

Fontenoy, France



The three-year Carolingian Civil War culminated in the decisive Battle of Fontenoy. The war was fought to decide the territorial inheritances of Charlemagne's grandsons — the division of the Carolingian Empire among the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious. The battle has been described as a major defeat for the allied forces of Lothair I of Italy and Pepin II of Aquitaine, and a victory for Charles the Bald and Louis the German. Hostilities dragged on for another two years until the Treaty of Verdun, which had a major influence on subsequent European history. Although the battle is known to have been large, it was not well documented. Many historical sources are believed to have been destroyed after the war, leaving scant records from which to conjecture the numbers of combatants and casualties.


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Partition of the Frankish Empire after the Treaty of Verdun 843.  Francia Occidentalis   Francia Media   Francia Orientalis


CHAPTER   14

Treaty of Verdun

843 Aug 1 -

Verdun, France



The Treaty of Verdun, agreed in August 843, divided the Frankish Empire into three kingdoms among the surviving sons of the emperor Louis I, the son and successor of Charlemagne. The treaty was concluded following almost three years of civil war and was the culmination of negotiations lasting more than a year. It was the first in a series of partitions contributing to the dissolution of the empire created by Charlemagne and has been seen as foreshadowing the formation of many of the modern countries of western Europe.


  • Lothair I received Francia Media (the Middle Frankish kingdom).
  • Louis II received Francia Orientalis (the East Frankish kingdom).
  • Charles II received Francia Occidentalis (the West Frankish kingdom).

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CHAPTER   15

Siege of Paris

845 Mar 28 -

Paris, France



The Frankish Empire was first attacked by Viking raiders in 799, which led Charlemagne to create a defence system along the northern coast in 810. The defence system repulsed a Viking attack at the mouth of the Seine in 820 (after Charlemagne's death) but failed to hold against renewed attacks of Danish Vikings in Frisia and Dorestad in 834. Like other nations adjacent to the Franks, the Danes were well informed about the political situation in France; in the 830s and early 840s they took advantage of the Frankish civil wars. Large raids took place in Antwerp and Noirmoutier in 836, in Rouen (on the Seine) in 841 and in Quentovic and Nantes in 842.


The siege of Paris of 845 was the culmination of a Viking invasion of West Francia. The Viking forces were led by a Norse chieftain named "Reginherus", or Ragnar, who tentatively has been identified with the legendary saga character Ragnar Lodbrok. Reginherus's fleet of 120 Viking ships, carrying thousands of men, entered the Seine in March and sailed up the river. The Frankish king Charles the Bald assembled a smaller army in response but after the Vikings defeated one division, comprising half of the army, the remaining forces retreated. The Vikings reached Paris at the end of the month, during Easter. They plundered and occupied the city, withdrawing after Charles the Bald paid a ransom of 7,000 French livres [2,570 kg (83,000 ozt)] in gold and silver.


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CHAPTER   16

Carolingian Empire collapses

888 Jan 1 -

Neidingen, Beuron, Germany



In 881, Charles the Fat was crowned emperor while Louis III of Saxony and Louis III of Francia died the following year. Saxony and Bavaria were united with Charles the Fat's Kingdom, and Francia and Neustria were granted to Carloman of Aquitaine who also conquered Lower Burgundy. Carloman died in a hunting accident in 884 after a tumultuous and ineffective reign, and his lands were inherited by Charles the Fat, effectively recreating the empire of Charlemagne.


Charles, suffering what is believed to be epilepsy, could not secure the kingdom against Viking raiders, and after buying their withdrawal from Paris in 886 was perceived by the court as being cowardly and incompetent. The following year his nephew Arnulf of Carinthia, the illegitimate son of King Carloman of Bavaria, raised the standard of rebellion. Instead of fighting the insurrection, Charles fled to Neidingen and died the following year in 888, leaving a divided entity and a succession mess.






CHAPTER   17

Epilogue

889 Jan 1 -

Aachen, Germany



Despite the relatively short existence of the Carolingian Empire when compared to other European dynastic empires, its legacy far outlasts the state that had forged it. In historiographical terms, the Carolingian Empire is seen as the beginning of 'feudalism'; or rather, the notion of feudalism held in the modern era. Though most historians would be naturally hesitant to assign Charles Martel and his descendants as founders of feudalism, it is obvious that a Carolingian 'template' lends to the structure of central medieval political culture.;


The size of the empire at its inception was around 1,112,000 square kilometres (429,000 sq mi), with a population of between 10 and 20 million people. Its heartland was Francia, the land between the Loire and the Rhine, where the realm's primary royal residence, Aachen, was located. In the south it crossed the Pyrenees and bordered the Emirate of Córdoba and, after 824, the Kingdom of Pamplona; to the north it bordered the kingdom of the Danes; to the west it had a short land border with Brittany, which was later reduced to a tributary; and to the east it had a long border with the Slavs and the Avars, who were eventually defeated and their land incorporated into the empire. In southern Italy, the Carolingians' claims to authority were disputed by the Byzantines (eastern Romans) and the vestiges of the Lombard kingdom in the Principality of Benevento. The term "Carolingian Empire" is a modern convention and was not used by its contemporaries.;






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