Carolingian Empire


Carolingians (kărəlĬn´jēənz), dynasty of Frankish rulers, founded in the 7th cent. by Pepin of Landen, who, as mayor of the palace, ruled the East Frankish Kingdom of Austrasia for Dagobert I. His descendants, Pepin of Heristal, Charles Martel, Carloman, and Pepin the Short, continued to govern the territories under the nominal kingship of the Merovingians. In 751, with the knowledge and backing of Pope Zacharias, Pepin the Short deposed the last Merovingian king, Childeric III. To emphasize the importance of the church and to legitimize his reign, Pepin was consecrated by a bishop of the Roman church. The family was at its height under Pepin's son, Charlemagne, who was crowned emperor in 800. His empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun (843) after the death of his son, Emperor Louis I, among Louis's three sons. Lothair I inherited the imperial title and the middle part of the empire. Louis the German founded a dynasty that ruled in Germany (kingdom of the East Franks) until 911, his successors being Charles III (Charles the Fat), Arnulf, and Louis the Child. The third son of Louis I, Charles II (Charles the Bald), founded the French Carolingian dynasty, which ruled, with interruptions, until 987. Its rulers were Louis II (Louis the Stammerer), Louis III, Carloman, Charles III (Charles the Simple), Louis IV (Louis d'Outremer), Lothair (941–86), and Louis V. In the Carolingian period, a landed economy was firmly established. The kings consolidated their rule by issuing capitularies and worked closely with church officials. Until the late 9th cent., Charlemagne and his successors were generous patrons of the arts. He encouraged the Carolingian Renaissance, a return to Roman classicism and Byzantine and Greco-Roman styles. Charlemagne successfully conquered all of Gaul and parts of Germany and Italy. He created a papal state in central Italy in 774. After his death the kingdom was divided; its authority, eventually eroded, was reestablished in France in 893.

See H. Fichtenau, The Carolingian Empire (1949; tr. 1957, repr. 1965); D. Bullough, The Age of Charlemagne (1965); F. L. Ganshof, The Carolingians and the Frankish Monarchy (tr. 1971); E. James, The Origins of France: Clovis and the Capetians, AD 500–1000 (1982); R. McKitternick, The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians (1983).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Carolingian Empire: Selected full-text books and articles

The Carolingian Empire By Heinrich Fichtenau; Peter Munz Blackwell, 1957
The Era of Charlemagne: Frankish State and Society By Stewart C. Easton; Helene Wieruszowski Robert E. Krieger Publishing, 1961
The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987 By Rosamond McKitterick Longman, 1983
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "From Major Domus to Rex Francorum: The Emergence of the Carolingians", Chap. 6 "The Foundations of the Carolingian Renaissance"
The World of the Middle Ages: A Reorientation of Medieval History By John L. Lamonte Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949
Librarian’s tip: "The Breakdown of the Carolingian Empire" p. 164
Western Europe in the Middle Ages: A Short History By Joseph R. Strayer Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1955
Librarian’s tip: "The Collapse of the Carolingian Empire-Feudalism" p. 57
Germany: A Short History By Donald S. Detwiler Southern Illinois University Press, 1999 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "The Carolingian Empire" p. 12
Ireland: Harbinger of the Middle Ages By Ludwig Bieler Oxford University Press, 1963
Librarian’s tip: "The Irish in the Carolingian Empire" p. 115
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