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Christian Europe—Frankish Empire

500 to 845
Baptism of Clovis to Treaty of Verdun

Era Summary       Characters       Timeline       Reading Assignments      


Characters—Frankish Empire


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.

Timeline—Frankish Empire


AD YearEvent

Merovingian Kings

448 Merovech succeeds Clodio as king of the Salian Franks.
451 Romans, Visigoths, and Franks under Merovech, defeat Attila the Hun at the Battle of Chalons.
465 Clovis I, grandson of Merovech, succeeds as leader of the Salian Franks.
486 Clovis defeats Syagrius, the last Roman appointed ruler of Gaul at the Battle of Soissons.
492 Clovis marries Clotilda, a Catholic princess of Burgundy.
496 Clovis baptized in Christmas day in 496 in the Abbey of Rheims by St. Remigus.
507 Clovis defeats a Visigoth army and conquers Aquitaine in Southwest France at the Battle of Vouille.
511 Frankish kingdom divided divided among sons of Clovis at his death. Capitals were at Soissons, Paris, Orleans, and Rheims.
558 Chlothar I becomes sole ruler of Franks. Kingdom later divided into four regions: Burgundy, Neustria, Austrasia, Aquitaine.
575-613 Brunhilda ruled in Austrasia after death of Sigebert I. Feuded with of Nuestria.
613 Chlothar II (son of Fredogunda) becomes ruler of Franks after executing Sibebert II and Brunhilda.
632 Dagobert I becomes king by murder and treachery. Later Merovingian kings considered "do-nothing" kings.

Mayors of the Palace

680-714 Pepin II (father of Charles Martel) served as "Mayor of Palace" of Austrasia, then for entire kingdom.
718-723 Charles Martel, illegitimate son of Pepin II, fought to claim 'Mayor of Palace' office from his step-brother.
731 Martel leads army against Odo, Duke of Aquitaine, who had made a truce with the Moors. Odo submits to Martel.
732 Battle of Tours: Franks and Burgundians under Martel severely defeat invading Moors of the Umayyad Caliphate.
741 Frankish realms divided between Pepin the Short and Carloman. Pepin sole ruler after Carlomon withdraws to Monastery (747).

Carolingian Kings

751 Pepin the Short crowned king of the Franks, first Carolingian ruler of the Franks.
751 Lombards conquer 'Exarchate of Ravenna' in central Italy, from Byzantines. Rome under rule of pagan Lombards.
756 Donation of Pepin: Pepin forces the Lombards to surrender conquests in central Italy to Pope of Rome. Legal basis for Papal States.
771 Charlemagne, son of Pepin, becomes ruler of the Franks.
774 Charlemagne surrounds Pavia, sends Desiderous into exile, and is crowned king of the Lombards.
778 Battle of Roncevaus Pass: Charlemagne leads Franks over the Pyrennes to oppose Basques and Moors. Basis for 'Song of Romand'.
782 Alcuin becomes Master of the Palace School in Aachen. Begins educational and ecclesiastic reforms.
785 After years of war with the Franks, Saxon leader Wittekindis baptized and swears fealty to Charlemagne.
789 Charlemagne issues laws that guide reforms throughout the Frankish kingdom.
780-840 Carolingian Renaissance: increased activity in art, literature, law, architecture, liturgy, and religion throughout Frankish realms.
795 Charlemagne creates the 'Spanish March' as a buffer between the Franks and Spanish Moors.
800 On Christmas, 800, Charlemagne is crowned 'King of the Romans' by Pope Leo III.
814 Charlemagne dies and his only legitimate son, Louis the Pious, inherits the Empire.
840 On death of Louis the Pious, his three sons, Lothair I, Louis the German, and Charles the Bald fight over Frankish dominions.
843 Treaty of Verdun: Sons of Louis the Pious divide the Empire into three Parts.

Recommended Reading—Frankish Empire

Read chapters from "core" texts before reviewing study questions.


Book Title
Selected Chapters (# chapters)

Core Reading Assignments

Guerber - The Story of Old France   France Long Ago to Troublesome Sons (23)
Finnemore - France: Peeps at History   Gauls and the Franks to Merovings and Carlovings (2)

Supplemental Recommendations

Harding - The Story of the Middle Ages   The Ancient Germans to Descendants of Charlemagne (12)
Macgregor - The Story of France   The First King of France to Louis the Good-Natured (6)
Lansing - Barbarian and Noble   Clovis, King of the Franks to The School of the Palace (4)
Marshall - The History of Germany   Charlemagne to Conrad I (9)
Marshall - The Story of Europe   Barbarians Invade the Empire to Treaty of Verdun (4)
Morris - Historical Tales: French   The Huns at Orleans to The Crowning of Charlemagne (6)

Easy Reading Selections

Dalkeith - Stories from French History   Queen Clothilde and King Clovis to Charlemagne (2)
Haaren - Famous Men of the Middle Ages   Clovis to Charlemagne (3)
Evans - Old Time Tales   Clovis Becomes a Christian to The Death of Roland (9)