Carolingian Empire


The Carolingians, who succeeded the Merovingians, reigned in Western Europe from the 750s to the end of the 10th century . With the support of the Church of Rome, the power of the Carolingian Empire is marked by having almost achieved the unity of the Christian West thanks to the great reforms launched by Pepin the Short and under the rule of his son, Charlemagne , who followed them. in the religious, administrative, legislative and educational spheres.


General features

  • Capital: Aachen
  • Religion: Christianity
  • Government: Monarchy
  • Emperors: Charlemagne (768-814), Louis I (814-840), Lothair (840-843)

What is the Carolingian Empire?

The term Carolingian Empire gets its name from the Carolingian dynasty that ruled Western Europe in the 8th century. This empire constitutes a political and territorial organization that marked a crucial point in the formation of the France we know today . Indeed, the Carolingians were descendants of the Frankish peoples. With the arrival of the Carolingian Empire, the Merovingians who had held power since the 6th century fell.


Characteristics of the Carolingian Empire

One of the peculiarities of the Carolingian Empire was its social structure based on a pyramid of loyalty bonds . At the top of the pyramid, stood the emperor. To reinforce his authority, Charlemagne develops the system of vassalage. In order to strengthen the ties between his person and the nobles, he grants them lands in exchange for their obedience and fidelity. These great lords become the vassals of Charlemagne. In this way, the emperor made sure that he had faithful men ready to help him in the event of war.


The peasants worked the land. Some of them were serfs, in other words, they did not have the freedom to abandon the lands and their owners could exercise their rights over them. In that sense, not everyone was free during the Carolingian Empire.

On the other hand, it is important to highlight the organization of the empire, which was divided into: counties, brands and ducats . Counties generally corresponded to the territory of a city. They were administered by counts, who were appointed by the emperor. They were in charge of justice and the protection of the county. They also collected taxes. For their part, the marks were militarized areas that were located on the borders of the empire’s territories, established for the defense of external attacks. These were ruled by a marquis. Finally, the duchies constituted the union of several counties and were ruled by a Duke.


It is important to note that what we know today as France , became the nucleus of Western Europe during the Carolingian era.

The Carolingian dynasty inherits the Merovingian territories and begins a policy of conquest.

Culture of the Carolingian Empire

Charlemagne, emperor of the Carolingian Empire, was a great promoter of culture. During this time, most people could not read or write, and Charlemagne was even illiterate. Thus, the emperor opened schools for the education of public and religious officials such as the Palatine School, which was located in Aachen.

In the same vein, schools were created in places of worship such as churches and monasteries. There, valuable libraries were created that contained works of Latin culture. On the other hand, thanks to this cultural renaissance, during the reign of this empire, writers and thinkers arose and the arts and sciences developed.

Despite the cultural heyday of the Renaissance, only the nobles and clergy had access to it.

Economy in the Carolingian Empire

Carolingian Empire Characteristics, location, culture, economy, religionThe economy is based on agriculture , the main source of wealth and power. The great dominions are the towns, the abbeys and the lands of the bishops. There was a manorial system in which the peasants could cultivate the lands under the condition of paying a tax. This being the case, the landowners were rich and powerful while the great mass of peasants lived miserably. All this gave rise to a feudal production system. Cereals were the main crop.

The commercial exchanges were not very developed due to the wars of the time and that there was a self-sufficient economy. In addition, the numerous trade taxes also reduce traffic.

Religion in the Carolingian Empire

The relationship between the Carolingian Empire and the Catholic Church was one of mutual benefit and political expediency. The papacy granted spiritual legitimacy to the Frankish kings while the kings provided the church with military protection and power . Thus, together, the Carolingian reign and the Christian church fought for the political and religious unification of Western Europe. Charlemagne as a Christian wanted to extend the Christian religion beyond the limits of his territory. This being the case, he was in charge of expeditions in Germany against his pagan people, the Saxons, managing to obtain their conversion. He also ventured into Muslim Spain but was unsuccessful in defeating the emir at Córdoba on the Iberian Peninsula.

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