Carolingian dynasty


Carolingian dynasty
Family of Frankish aristocrats that ruled nearly all or part of western Europe in 751–987.

Pippin I (d. 640), the dynasty's founder, came to power in the office of mayor of the palace under the Merovingian king Chlotar II, with authority over Austrasia. From this post, his descendants, including Charles Martel, continued to usurp authority from the Merovingians, who remained on the throne as figureheads until 751, when Charles's son Pippin III, with papal support, deposed Childeric III and formally took the title of King of the Franks. Under Pippin's son Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus
the source of the dynasty's name), the Carolingian realm was extended into Germany and Italy, where he conquered the Lombards and continued the alliance with Rome. Charlemagne also promoted religious reform and cultural growth and was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III on Dec. 25, 800. On his death, Charlemagne was succeeded by his son Louis the Pious, whose three sons divided the realm in 843. Despite internal strife and foreign invasion, the dynasty survived until 911 in the eastern part of the realm, where German rulers would revive Carolingian political ideals later in the century, and in the western realm until 987.

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▪ European dynasty
      family of Frankish aristocrats and the dynasty (AD 750–887) that they established to rule western Europe. The name derives from the large number of family members who bore the name Charles, most notably Charlemagne.

      A brief treatment of the Carolingians follows. For full treatment, see France: The Carolingians (France).

      The family came to power as hereditary mayors of the palace of the Frankish kingdom of Austrasia, and, by the time of Pippin II of Herstal (French Héristal), who became mayor of the palace in 679, they had reduced their nominal Merovingian kings to mere figureheads. Indeed, in 687 Pippin II gained effective rule over the entire Frankish realm when he defeated his Neustrian rival, Ebroïn. At his death in 714 Pippin left a legitimate heir, a child of six, and an illegitimate son, Charles Martel. By 725 Charles Martel had established himself as ruler of the Franks, although he maintained the fiction of Merovingian sovereignty until 737, when following the death of Theuderic IV (Theodoric IV) he let the throne remain vacant. Charles Martel died in 741, and his sons Pippin III the Short and Carloman divided the realm between themselves. Upon Carloman's abdication in 747, Pippin III became the sole ruler. His position was so secure that in 750 he deposed the last of the Merovingians, Childeric III, and, with the support of Pope Zacharias (Zacharias, Saint), had himself elected king by an assembly of Frankish nobles and consecrated by a bishop of the Roman church.

      The realm was again divided on Pippin III's death in 768, but the death three years later of his younger son, Carloman, reunited all the territories in the hands of Pippin's elder son, Charles, who became known as Charlemagne. Charlemagne extended Frankish power by conquest over virtually all of Gaul and into Germany and Italy, and he made tributaries of the Bohemians, Avars, Serbs, Croats, and other peoples of eastern Europe. He formed an alliance with the papacy and in 774 created a papal state in central Italy. On Christmas Day of 800, in the presence of Pope Leo III (Leo III, Saint), he was crowned emperor of the restored Roman Empire. The unity that Charlemagne was able to impose on western Europe, however, fell victim to the ancient Frankish custom of dividing the realm among all a deceased king's sons. On the death of Charlemagne's sole surviving son and successor, Louis (Louis I) the Pious, in 840, three of his sons contested the succession. In the Treaty of Verdun (Verdun, Treaty of) in 843 they agreed to divide the empire into three kingdoms. Francia Occidentalis in the west went to Charles II the Bald, Francia Orientalis in the east went to Louis II the German, and Francia Media, including the Italian provinces and Rome, went to Lothar, who also inherited the title of emperor.

      Subsequent partitions of the three kingdoms, together with the rise of such new powers as the Normans and the Saxons, whittled away at Carolingian authority. The imperial title passed from Lothar to his son Louis II in 855, from Louis II to his uncle Charles the Bald in 875, and, after an interregnum following Charles's death in 877, to Charles III the Fat, the youngest son of Louis the German, in 881. By the time Charles III was deposed in 887, Carolingian power had all but dissolved in the empire, though Carolingian kings returned to power in France in 893/898–923 and 936–987.

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Universalium. 2010.

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