Article

Carolingian Era

Thomas F.X. Noble

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online December 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0012
Carolingian Era

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
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The almost mythical character of Charlemagne (b. 748–d. 814)—Carlo Magno, Charles the Great, Karl der Grosse—has ensured that his age and dynasty would always receive attention. Charlemagne’s courtier, Einhard (b. c. 770– d. 840) prepared in about 828 The Life of Emperor Charles, one of the most successful medieval biographies. During Charlemagne’s reign—as king from 768 to 800 and as emperor from 800 to 814—writers began to explore the genealogy of the Carolingian (from Carolus) family, tracing it back to an alliance between the powerful families of Arnulf of Metz (d. c. 640) and Pippin I (d. 640). In older scholarship the family is sometimes called Arnulfing or Pippinid. The family rose to power as mayors of the palace, sort of prime ministers, to the Merovingian kings of the Franks. Pippin II decisively defeated his rivals in 687 at Tertry and consolidated power until his death in 714. His son, Charles Martel, overcame opposition and ruled as mayor until 741, sometime without a king on the throne. Charles’s sons, Pippin III and Carloman, shared the mayoral office until Carloman retired to a monastery in 747. In 751 Pippin III became king of the Franks and reigned until 768. His kingdom was divided between two sons, Charlemagne and Carloman, but the latter died in 771. Charlemagne was succeeded by only one legitimate son, Louis the Pious, who reigned until 840. Louis’s three surviving sons, Lothair (d. 855), Louis the German (d. 876), and Charles the Bald (d. 877) divided the Carolingian realm at Verdun in 843, and they and their heirs divided it again on several subsequent occasions. The east Frankish Carolingians died out in 911 and the West Frankish branch of the family alternated with the Robertian family, formerly counts of Paris, after 888. In 987 the last living Carolingians were bypassed, and Hugh Capet, a Robertian, ascended the throne that his descendants would hold until 1328.

Article.  10398 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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