Carolingians (kărəlĭnˈjēənz) [key], dynasty of Frankish rulers, founded in the 7th cent. by Pepin of Landen, who, as mayor of the palace, ruled the East Frankish Kingdom of Austrasia for Dagobert I. His descendants, Pepin of Heristal, Charles Martel, Carloman, and Pepin the Short, continued to govern the territories under the nominal kingship of the Merovingians. In 751, with the knowledge and backing of Pope Zacharias, Pepin the Short deposed the last Merovingian king, Childeric III. To emphasize the importance of the church and to legitimize his reign, Pepin was consecrated by a bishop of the Roman church. The family was at its height under Pepin's son, Charlemagne, who was crowned emperor in 800. His empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun (843) after the death of his son, Emperor Louis I, among Louis's three sons. Lothair I inherited the imperial title and the middle part of the empire. Louis the German founded a dynasty that ruled in Germany (kingdom of the East Franks) until 911, his successors being Charles III (Charles the Fat), Arnulf, and Louis the Child. The third son of Louis I, Charles II (Charles the Bald), founded the French Carolingian dynasty, which ruled, with interruptions, until 987. Its rulers were Louis II (Louis the Stammerer), Louis III, Carloman, Charles III (Charles the Simple), Louis IV (Louis d'Outremer), Lothair (941–86), and Louis V. In the Carolingian period, a landed economy was firmly established. The kings consolidated their rule by issuing capitularies and worked closely with church officials. Until the late 9th cent., Charlemagne and his successors were generous patrons of the arts. He encouraged the Carolingian Renaissance, a return to Roman classicism and Byzantine and Greco-Roman styles. Charlemagne successfully conquered all of Gaul and parts of Germany and Italy. He created a papal state in central Italy in 774. After his death the kingdom was divided; its authority, eventually eroded, was reestablished in France in 893.
See H. Fichtenau, The Carolingian Empire (1949; tr. 1957, repr. 1965); D. Bullough, The Age of Charlemagne (1965); F. L. Ganshof, The Carolingians and the Frankish Monarchy (tr. 1971); E. James, The Origins of France: Clovis and the Capetians, A.D. 500–1000 (1982); R. McKitternick, The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians (1983).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.