Merovingian Dyn.
East Frankish Kgd.

The Carolingian Dynasty, 751-887

Charles Martel, as mayor only the second highest ranking person in the Frankish Kingdom, was the strongman. His son PEPIN THE SHORT succeeded him as mayor and in 751, with the blessing of the pope he deposed Childerich III., the last Merovingian king, who entered a monastery.
Pepin had given Frankish protection to the pope - the area around Rome and Ravenna was hard-pressed by the Lombards. Pepin formally donated this territory to the pope (an area which was not his to give; technically it was Byzantinian) and thus created the Papal State. Pepin began a policy of close Papal-Frankish cooperation.

In 768 the kingdom was partitioned among Pepin's sons Charles (CHARLEMAGNE) and Carloman. Carloman died in 771, leaving Charlemagne solely in charge. He pursued a policy of aggressive military expansion - Saxony was subdued 772/804, the Lombard Kingdom of Italy 773-774 (again at the pope's request, who again was hard-pressed by the Lombards), Bavaria 788, Carantania 795. Territories further east (Bohemia, western Pannonia were at least temporary under Frankish sovereignty. In 800 Charlemagne was crowned ROMAN EMPEROR.
Charlemagne enforced baptism on the conquered pagan people. He promoted missionaries and had the respective people's laws codified, added chapters protecting the church included.
At his court, which was itinerary - no palace was able to feed his entourage for more than 6 weeks; major palaces were at AACHEN, Herstal, Valenciennes, Attigny, Ingelheim and Nijmegen - he assembled scholars such as his biographer EINHARD and ALCUIN OF YORK. This period of cultural history is referred to as the CAROLINGIAN RENAISSANCE. Under Charles' successors it would produce the first texts written in French and German language.
Measures such as the christianization of the conquered peoples, the establishment of a Frankish state administration there (counts, dukes), of a church administration (archdioceses, dioceses) and of developing a standardized French and German written language (as opposed to the numerous regional Germanic and Romance dialects) served the purpose of integrating the various ethnicities into a nation Frankish in identity.

Charlemagne was succeeded by his son LOUIS THE PIOUS. His 3 sons partitioned the Kingdom in 843/870/880 into what became the nuclei of France (the West Frankish Kingdom), Germany (the Eastern Frankish Kingdom) and Benelux/Switzerland/Italy (the Middle Frankish Kingdom). None of their kings felt German, French or Italian - they were Franks. Under CHARLES THE FAT in 885-887, the East and West Frankish kingdoms (which had acquired the northern part of the middle Frankish kingdom in 870) were united one last time.
In the meantime, Viking raids had developed from coastal hit-and-sail affairs (beginning 814) into full-scale invasions. Entire regions such as Frisia and Normandy had slipped out of Frankish control; Cologne (883) and Paris (since 885) found themselves under attack.

Frankish Kings, 751-887
Pepin the Short 751-768
Charlemagne 768-814 Carloman 768-771
Charlemagne 768-814
Louis the Pious 814-843
Middle Frankish Kingdom
Lothar I. 840-855 E
- Louis II. 855-875 E
- Lothar II. 855-869
- Charles 855-863
West Frankish Kingdom
Charles II. the Bald 840-875
Louis II. 877-879
Louis III. 879-882
Carloman 879-884
Charles the Fat 885-888
East Frankish Kingdom
Louis I. 843-876
- Louis II. 876-882
Carloman 876-880
Charles III. the Fat 876-887
Charles III. the Fat sole ruler in the West and East Frankish Kingdom 885-887

The Franks, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Charlemagne, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914 edition, from El Camino de Santiago
Alcuin, from Catholic Encyclopedia, from MacTutor of Mathematicians Archive
DOCUMENTS Merovingian and Carolingian, a guide to online resources, from ORB
Einhard, the Life of Charlemagne, from Medieval Sourcebook, full text
Charlemagne, 5 tapes, 1995, filed by French tv, in English

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 12th 2004

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