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Historical Characters of Christian Europe

    Frankish Empire     Normans and Crusaders     Medieval France     Early Modern France     Holy Roman Empire     German Reformation     Medieval Church     Arts and Culture



Frankish Empire—500 to 845

Baptism of Clovis to Treaty of Verdun


Character/Date Short Biography

Merovingians

Clovis
466–511
Founder of the Frankish Kingdom. Converted to Christianity by his wife Clotilda.
Clotilda
d. 545
Christian wife of Clovis; converted him to Christianity, and built a church.
Fredegonde
d. 597
Murderous queen consort of Chilperic, a Merovingian King. Quarreled for 40 years with Brunhilda, sister of his former wife.
Brunhilda
543–613
Merovingian Queen who ruled as regent for her sons and grandsons. Feueded with Fredegone.
Gregory of Tours
538–594
Bishop of Tours, historian who record the deeds of the early Merovingians and Martin of Tours.

Carolingians

Charles Martel
686–741
Frankish King who defeated the Moors at the Battle of Tours.
Pepin the Short
714–768
King of the Franks. Son of Charles Martel. Father of Charlemagne.
Charlemagne
742–814
First Holy Roman Emperor. Unified most of Western Europe into a Frankish Empire.
Roland
d. 778
Nephew of Charlemagne and legendary hero of his wars. Died at Roncesvalles.
Wittekind
~ 780
Leader of Saxon resistance to Charlemagne. After years of struggle, converted to Christianity.
Alcuin
735–804
Famous teacher of the middle ages in both England and France. Founded schools in York, and under Charlemagne.

Later Carolingians

Louis the Pious
778–840
Son of Charlemagne and king of Franks. On his death his three sons divided the kingdom between them.
Louis the German
804–876
Grandson of Charlemagne, ruler of East Franconia.
Charles the Bald
823–877
Grandson of Charlemagne who Inherited Kingdom of the West Franks. Dealt with Norse pirates who besieged Paris.
Charles the Fat
832–888
Briefly reunited the East and West Kingdoms of Charlemagne.
Arnulf of Carinthia
850–899
Deposed uncle, Charles the Fat. Repelled Vikings invaders at Battle of Leuven.



Normans and Crusaders—845 to 1100

Siege of Paris to First Crusade


Character/Date Short Biography

Dukes of Normandy

Rollo the Viking
d. 931
Viking Leader who was granted the Dukedom of Normandy if he became Christian.
Richard the Fearless
932–996
Grandson of Rollo the Viking who introduced Feudalism into Normandy and increased influence of Duchy.
Robert the Magnificent
1008–1035
Duke of Normandy and Father of William the Conqueror.
William the Conqueror
1028–1087
Claimed the crown of England and won it at the Battle of Hastings. Ruled forcefully but justly.
Emma of Normandy
988–1052
Norman princess, wife first of Aethelred, then of Canute. Mother of Edward the Confessor.
Robert Curthose
1051–1134
Eldest son of William the Conqueror, querreled with Father but succeeded him in Normandy. Leader of First Crusade.

Normans of Italy

Robert Guiscard
1015–1085
Norman mercenary who conquered Southern Italy and Sicily from the Greeks and Saracens.
Roger of Sicily
1093–1154
Formed the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, a great sea power of southern Italy for 7 centuries.

Frank leaders

Hugh Capet
938–996
Noble who became a king of France after the death of the last Carolingian King.
Robert II of France
972–1031
Second of the Capet Kings of France. Married to Constance, a woman of great intrigue and mischief.
Philip II Augustus
1165–1223
King of France who expanded his realm by retaking Normandy and Anjou from the Plantagenets.
Charles the Simple
879–929
French King who conceded the Dukedom of Normandy to Rollo the Viking.
Odo of Paris
860–898
Ruled briefly as king of France after Charles the Fat was deposed. Gained renown for fighting vikings, but died without issue.
Archbishop Hatto
850–913
Scheming minister of Arnulf, and regent for Louis the Child. Secured vacant throne for Conrad I.

Crusader Kings

Peter the Hermit
1050–1115
Monk who helped instigate the First Crusade, by preaching against the Moslems of Jerusalem.
Baldwin III
1130–1162
Fifth of the Latin Kings of Jerusalem.
Baldwin I
1060–1118
Leader of the first Crusade, served as Count of Edessa, the first Crusader state, and then 'king' of Jerusalem.
Bohemond I
1054–1111
Norman Prince of Italy who led the first Crusade became ruler of Antioch crusader state.
Godfrey of Bouillon
1060–1100
Leader of the First Crusade. Reconquered Jerusalem for the Christians.
Tancred
1072–1112
Leader of the first Crusade who eventually became regent of Antioch and Galilee.



Medieval France—1100 to 1485

University of Paris to Louis XI-Spider King


Character/Date Short Biography

Kings of France

Louis VI
1081–1137
Influential Capet King who centralized royal power and fought the Normans.

~ 0
Philip II Augustus
1165–1223
King of France who expanded his realm by retaking Normandy and Anjou from the Plantagenets.
Louis IX
1214–1270
Crusading king. Canonized as a saint for his concern and compassion for the poor.
Blanche
1188–1252
Queen of France and mother of St. Louis who served as regent when he was on crusades.
Philip the Fair
1268–1314
King of France best known for feuding with pope Boniface VIII and executing the Knights Templars.
Louis XI
1423–1483
Very wily and politically astute King who increased the influence of the throne.

Martial Heroes

Raymond VII of Toulouse
1197–1249
Count of Toulouse who sided with the Albigensian heretics against the King of France.
Bertrand du Guesclin
1320–1380
French commander during the Hundred Years war, who harassed the English rather than seeking pitched battles.
Chevalier Bayard
1476–1524
Renowned French knight who was thought to embody the ideals of chivalry.
Charles the Bold
1433–1477
Duke of Burgundy who fought France in the Burgundian Wars. At his death his domains passed to the Hapsburgs.

Scholars and Saints

Peter Abelard
1079–1142
Eminent Priest and Teacher, famed for his ill-fated affair with Heloise.
Abbot Suger
1081–1151
Trusted Counsellor of Louis VI. Remodeled St. Denis Abbey in Paris in Gothic style and popularized Gothic Architecture. .
Jean Froissart
1337–1405
Famous historian of mediaeval France, especially regarding the Hundred Years War. Served as secretary to Philippa of Hainault.
Joan of Arc
1412–1431
Led the French Army to Victory at the Siege of New Orleans. Burned at the stake by English.
Colette of Corbie
1381–1447
French Abbess and founder of the Poor Clares.



Early Modern France—1485 to 1715

Italian Wars to Louis XIV-Sun King


Character/Date Short Biography

Kings of France

Francis I of France
1494–1547
King of France who was a patron of the arts, and was involved in the Italian Wars.
Catherine de Medici
1519–1589
Queen of France who is generally held responsible for the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
Henry IV
1553–1610
Popular Huguenot King who converted to Catholicism, but decreed religious toleration.
Maria de Medici
1573–1642
Queen of Henry IV, and regent following his assassination.
Louis XIV
1638–1715
French King who expanded the borders of France, and lived in great pomp and splendor.

Ministers

Cardinal Richelieu
1585–1682
Very influential Minister of Louis XIII. Consolidated royal power and crushed dissenters.
Jules Cardinal Mazarin
1602–1661
Minister of France during the early reign of Louis the XIV. Followed in the footsteps of Richelieu.
Colbert
1619–1683
As minister of Finance, improved France's economy under the extravagant Louis XIV.

Martial Heroes

Henry of Guise
1550–1588
Leader of the Catholic cause in France during the Wars of Religion. Opposed Henry of Navarre for the throne until he became Catholic.
Gaspard de Coligny
1519–1572
French protestant military hero who was assassinated at the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.
Vicomte de Turenne
1611–1675
One of the greatest Marshall's of France. Served Louis XIII and XIV, in Thirty Years War, Fronde, and Dutch Wars.
Prince of Conde
1621–1686
Renowned Marshal of France during the age of Louis XVI. Fought in numerous wars including Fronde, thirty years, and Franco-Dutch.
Comte de Tourville
1642–1701
Naval Commander during War of the Grand Alliance. Defeated British at Barfleur.

saints

Vincent de Paul
1576–1660
Parish priest who devoted life to helping the poor. Established home for foundlings.



German Reformation—1500 to 1740

Martin Luther to Last Hapsburg Emperor


Character/Date Short Biography

Hussite Rebellion

John Hus
1373–1415
Initiated a movement based on writings of Wycliffe. Excommunicated, and burned at the stake.
Wenceslas of Bohemia
1361–1419
Mentally unstable king of Bohemia best known for allowing execution of Jan Hus and provoking Hussite War.
Jan Ziska
1360–1424
Leader of the Hussites whose military tactics, were particularly interesting and novel.

Protestant Leaders

John Calvin
1509–1564
Protestant Theologian. Influenced French Huguenots, Presbyterian Scots, and English Puritans.
Martin Luther
1483–1546
Leader of the Protestant Reformation. Excommunicated by Catholic Church.
Philip Melanchthon
1497–1560
Protestant theologian who collaborated with Martin Luther. Served with Luther on the faculty at the University of Wittenberg
Frederick the Wise
1486–1525
Known as the 'Elector of Saxony', a powerful Prince who founded the University of Wittenberg, and supported Luther during his trial for heresy.
Huldrych Zwingli
1484–1531
Priest who was a critic of the abuses of the Church and an early leader of the Reformation in Zurich, Switzerland.
Jacob Arminius
1560–1610
Dutch Reformed theologian who opposed strict Calvinist doctrines and began and early split within the Dutch Reformed Church.
Desiderius Erasmus
1466–1536
Humanist Philosopher and theologian. Befriended Luther, but did not break from the church.

German Peasant War

Thomas Munzer
1489–1525
Radical protestant reformer who was a rebel leader during the Peasants War in Germany.
Goetz of the Iron Hand
1480–1562
Robber baron who led the peasants uprising in Germany shortly after the protestant reformation.

Dutch Revolt

William the Silent
1533–1584
Hero of the Dutch Revolt. Led resistance to the Inquisition and Spanish tyranny.
Count Hoorn
1524–1569
Admiral of the Dutch Navy. With Egmont, protested Inquisition and was beheaded.
Count Egmont
1522–1568
Powerful Noble in Low Countries during Dutch Revolt. Protested Inquisition and was beheaded.
Marice of Nassau
1567–1625
Son of William the Silent and Statholder of the Dtuch Republic after the death of his father.
Margaret of Parma
1522–1586
Half-sister of Philip II of Spain who governed the Netherlands in the early years of the Dutch revolt.
Alexander Farnese
1545–1592
Nephew of Philip III, who governed the Netherlands in the later years of the Dutch revolt.

Thirty Years War

Count of Tilly
1559–1632
One of the two major generals of the HRE imperial forces during the Thirty Years War.
Wallenstein
1583–1634
Military leader of the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years War.
Great Elector
1620–1688
Calvinist Duke of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg who made commercial and domestic reforms and laid the groundwork for the rise of Prussia.

Holy Roman Emperors

Charles V
1500–1558
16th century Hapsburg Emperor who ruled Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and parts of Italy.



Medieval Church—600 to 1600

Gregory the Great to Council of Trent


Character/Date Short Biography

Popes

Gregory the Great
590–640
Increased the power of the papacy by church reforms and effective management.
Pope Gregory VII
1020–1085
Tested wills with Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV over 'investiture' issues.
Pope Boniface VIII
1235–1303
Pope who advocated of papal supremacy against king Philip IV of France, and was ultimately defeated.
Alexander VI
1431–1503
Disgraced the office of Pope by appalling behavior, and worldly politicking.
Pope Julius II
1443–1513
Renaissance character known as "Warrior Pope" for his defense of the Papal states. Commissioned Michelangelo and Raphael.
Pope Leo X
1475–1521
Pope during the Protestant Reformation. Known for extravagance, and building St. Peter's.

Religious Orders

Benedict of Nursia
480–547
Established the Benedictine order of monks. Founded the monastic movement in Europe.
St. Dominic
1170–1221
Founded Dominican Order of scholars, theologians, and teachers.
Francis of Assisi
1182–1226
Founded the Franciscan order of indigent Friars.
Bernard of Clairvaux
1091–1153
Monk who helped revive the original spirit of monasticism among the Cistercian Order.

Saint Scholars

Bonaventure
1221–1274
Francisican Theologian and Philospher. Doctor of the Church.
Thomas Aquinas
1225–1274
Foremost theologian and philosopher of the Catholic Church. Doctor of the Chruch.
Catherine of Siena
1347–1380
Saint who helped resolve the Papal schism of the 14th century.
Anthony of Padua
1195–1231
Greatly loved Franciscan preacher and teacher. Many miracles attributed to him.

Counter Reformation Saints

Charles Borromeo
1548–1608
Archbishop of Milan, and noted reformer of the Catholic clergy during the reformation era.
Ignatius of Loyola
1491–1556
Founder of the Jesuits order, dedicated to the Pope. Important counter-reformation figure.
Francis de Sales
1567–1622
Reformation era priest noted for opposing the spread of protestantism in Savoy.
John of God
1495–1550
Dedicated his life to helping the Poor. Founded order of Hospitallers, which cared for the sick.
Philip Neri
1515–1595
Noted Italian saint of the Reformation era, and founder of the Congregation of the Oratory.

Martial and Civic Leaders

Girolamo Savonarola
1452–1498
Monk who raged against the extravagance and sins of the Renaissance. Burned at the stake.
Lucretia
d. 510 BC
Virtuous Maiden, killed herself after assault by son of Tarquin Superbus.
Valetta
1494–1568
Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers who defended Malta from the siege in 1565.
Andrea Doria
1466–1560
Renowned Naval Commander from Genoa. Fought in the service of Charles V. Fought Turks and Pirates in the Mediterranean.
Cosimo de Medici
1389–1464
Patriarch of the powerful Medici family in Florence. Wielded great power 'behind the scenes.'
Lorenzo de Medici
1449–1492
Great power broker Renaissance Florence. Great Patron of the Arts.



Arts and Culture—800 to 1600

Song of Roland to Machelangelo


Character/Date Short Biography

Visual Arts

Giotto
1267–1337
Painter and Architect of the early Renaissance.
Fra Angelico
1395–1455
Renaissance painter well known for his many Frescos for the Vatican. Recently beatified.
Sandro Botticelli
1445–1510
Renowned Florentine painter, patronized by the de Medici's. Painted 'The Birth of Venus' and 'Primavera'.
Leonardo da Vinci
1452–1519
One of the most brilliant men of any age, Leonardo was artist, inventor, engineer, and scientist.
Albrecht Durer
1471–1528
German painter from Nuremburg best known for his early printings, and associate with the Reformation.
Michelangelo
1475–1564
Great sculptor and painter of the Renaissance. Works included David, the Pieta, and Sistine Chapel
Raphael Santi
1483–1520
Florentine painter of the High Renaissance. Contemporary of de Vinci and Michelangelo.
Peter Paul Rubens
1577–1640
Seventeenth century Flemish painter, well known for portraits and historical paintings.

Literary Arts

Dante Alighieri
1265–1321
Poet who wrote his masterpiece The Inferno in Italian. It became universally known.
Francesco Petrarch
1304–1374
Renaissance poet and writer who republished and popularized many Roman and Greek classics.
Niccolo Machiavelli
1469–1527
Italian Diplomat famous for 'The Prince', a political treatise advocating deceipt and ruthless pursuit of power.