The Carolingian dynasty was a dynasty that came to rule the Germanic Frank tribes beginning in the 7th century. Before the Carolingian dynasty, the Franks were ruled by the Merovingian dynasty while the Carolingians were a major Frankish noble family.
The tide began to turn decisively in the favour of the Carolingians after the decisive victory of Charles Martel against the Moors in Spain. By ascending to rule the Franks, the Carolingian dynasty rapidly extended its power and before long, the dynasty went on to forge the Holy Roman Empire.
Rise to Power
The Carolingian dynasty was the name given to the descendants of Charles Martel, although the family had older origins. Martel had been hailed as the saviour of Christianity in Western Europe after he decisively defeated the Muslim armies at the Battle of Tours in 732.
Martel’s role led him to be granted immense importance with the Church. Consequently, the Papacy began to favour the Carolingians as opposed to the Merovingian dynasty which ruled the Franks in the 8th century. Finally, after slowly gaining power in the Frankish regions, the Carolingian “Pepin the Short” was crowned the King of the Franks with the approval of the Frankish nobility and the Papacy.
The Reign of Charlemagne
The Carolingian dynasty built a very powerful and efficient infrastructure on which it then based its power in the Frankish realm. By the time Charlemagne became the King of the Franks in 768, the Carolingian power in the Frankish regions was at its peak and the Carolingian infrastructure was an efficient political and military machine.
Charlemagne set this machinery to motion and forged a huge Empire which was to be the basis of the subsequent Holy Roman Empire. He took over the kingdom of Italy, forced the Saxons into submission and fought off the Avars and Slavs in the East. He also slowly extended the Frankish borders into the Moors-controlled regions of Spain. Charlemagne was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in 800 and remained ruling the vast Empire until 814.
The Carolingian Empire
Charlemagne laid the basis for the creation and consolidation of a vast Carolingian Empire which included East and West Francia, Italy, Saxony, Bavaria as well as regions neighbouring the Moorish territories in the Iberia. However, the Empire was short-lived because after Charlemagne’s death, it was divided into his three sons in 814.
Although the constituent parts of the kingdoms of Italy, Neustria and Aquitaine, they became permanent divisions over time and the basis of the independent kingdoms of Germany and France. After a prolonged period of turmoil, the Empire effectively came to an end in 887.
Post-Empire Carolingian Dynasty
Although the Empire came to an end in 887, descendants of the Carolingian dynasty continued to hold positions of power in different parts of the Empire’s former territories. The Carolingian dynasty’s rule in Germany ended in 911 while members of the dynasty held power in France until 987. The power of the dynasty came to an end in Lorraine as well in 1012.