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


Founder of the Frankish Kingdom. Converted to Christianity by his wife Clotilda.
d. 545
Christian wife of Clovis; converted him to Christianity, and built a church.
d. 597
Murderous queen consort of Chilperic, a Merovingian King. Quarreled for 40 years with Brunhilda, sister of his former wife.
Merovingian Queen who ruled as regent for her sons and grandsons. Feuded with Fredegonde.
Dagobert I
Last of the strong, respected Merovingian kings. Later Merovingians were "do-nothing" kings.


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

Later Carolingians

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

Early French Saints

St. Denis
d. 250
Saint of the third century who was martyred in Roman Gaul by druid priests for converting Celts to Christianity.
Martin of Tours
Roman soldier who gave up his military career to follow Christ. Bishop of Tours and early monastic personality.
St. Irenaeus
~ 190
Early Christian theologian, bishop in Roman Gaul, recognized as a Father of the Church.
St. Germanus
Renowned Bishop from Gaul visited Britain in order to help combat Pelagianism heresy.
Gregory of Tours
Bishop of Tours, historian who record the deeds of the early Merovingians and Martin of Tours.
Peasant girl of France whose prayers diverted the Huns from attacking Paris.
Bishop of Reims who befriended, helped convert, and baptized Clovis.

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 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 Brunhilda ruled Austrasia after Sigebert I. Feuded with Fredogunda of Nuestria.
613 Chlothar II (Fredogunda son) rules Franks after executing Sibebert II and Brunhilda.
632 Dagobert I becomes king of Franks by treachery. Later Merovingian are "do-nothing" kings.

Mayors of the Palace

680-714 Pepin II (of Herstal) (father of Charles Martel) served as "Mayor of Palace" of Austrasia, then for entire kingdom.
718-723 Charles Martel, illegitimate son of Pepin Herstal, 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, exiles Desiderous, 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 Roland'.
782 Alcuin becomes Master of the Palace School in Aachen. Begins educational and ecclesiastic reforms.
785 Saxon leader Wittekind is 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 'Spanish March' as buffer between 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

Book Title
Selected Chapters (# chapters)

Core Reading Assignments

Guerber - The Story of Old France   France Long Ago to The Strassburg Oath (24)
Marshall - A History of France   Gauls Defeat Romans to Louis the Stammerer (15)

Supplemental Recommendations

Macgregor - The Story of France   The Druids to Louis the Good-Natured (9)
Lansing - Barbarian and Noble   Clovis, King of the Franks to The School of the Palace (4)
Marshall - The Story of Europe   Rise of the Franks to Treaty of Verdun (3)
Morris - Historical Tales: French   The Huns at Orleans to The Crowning of Charlemagne (6)

Easy Reading Selections

Finnemore - France: Peeps at History   Gauls and the Franks to Merovings and Carlovings (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 (6)
Dalkeith - Stories from French History    entire book