Charlemagne and the Carolingians: A Dynasty of Power and Influence (750-850)

The Carolingian dynasty, which lasted from 750 to 850, was one of the most important in European history.

Carolingian Costumes. 9th century clothing. Charlemagne Knight in armor.
Early Carolingian leaders and noblemen were usually military leaders and dressed as such.

The dynasty is named after its most famous member, Charlemagne, who ruled over much of Western Europe in the 8th and early 9th centuries.

Charlemagne and his descendants left an indelible mark on European culture, politics, and society, and their legacy can still be felt today.

In this article, we will explore the history of the Carolingians and their influence on European civilization.

Origins of the Carolingians

The Carolingians were a Frankish dynasty that emerged in the 8th century. They came to power after the collapse of the Merovingian dynasty, which had ruled over the Franks for more than two centuries.

Carolingian Shields Warrior
Compared to the Carolingian helmet, the Carolingian shield costs 1/6th of the helmet’s price.

The Carolingians were named after their founder, Charles Martel, who was a powerful military leader. He became famous for defeating the Moors at the Battle of Tours in 732, which halted the Muslim advance into Europe.

After Charles Martel’s death, his son Pepin the Short seized power and became king of the Franks in 751. Pepin was the first Carolingian king, and he laid the foundations for the dynasty’s future success.

The Saracen army prepares for battle near Paris
Martel was able to check the Moorish advance by routing the Muslim army at the Battle of Tours in 732.

He established the practice of dividing his realm between his sons, which helped to prevent succession disputes and maintain stability.

Charlemagne’s Reign

Pepin’s son, Charlemagne, was one of the most important figures in European history. He became king of the Franks in 768 and went on to conquer much of Western Europe.

Charlemagne’s military campaigns were incredibly successful, and he was able to create an empire that stretched from modern-day France to Germany, Italy, and beyond.


Charlemagne was also a patron of the arts and education. He established schools throughout his empire and brought in scholars from all over Europe to teach there.

Charlemagne himself was literate and encouraged the spread of literacy among his subjects. He also commissioned great works of art and architecture, which helped to create a distinctive Carolingian style.

Carolingian Empire TImeline

After Charlemagne’s death in 814, his empire was divided between his three sons. This led to a period of instability and conflict, as the various parts of the empire vied for power.

The Carolingian dynasty continued to rule over much of Europe, however, and its influence on the continent was immense.

Carolingian Culture and Society

The Carolingians left a lasting legacy on European culture and society. They were instrumental in the development of a distinctive European identity and the spread of Christianity throughout the continent.

Carolingihan Armour
Troops from different other regions were also recruited directly into the Carolingihan army

Carolingian art and architecture, with its distinctive blend of Roman, Germanic, and Christian elements, was influential for centuries to come.

Lindau Gospels Carolingian Art
The Lindau Gospels which dates back to 880 and is an example of the Carolingian goldsmith work on book cover.

The Carolingians also played an important role in the development of the medieval feudal system. Under this system, lords held land from the king in return for military service and loyalty.

This helped to establish a system of social hierarchy and political order that would shape European society for centuries.


The Carolingian dynasty was one of the most important in European history. Charlemagne and his descendants left an indelible mark on European culture, politics, and society.

Their influence can still be felt today, and their legacy continues to inspire scholars and thinkers around the world.

From their origins as Frankish warriors to their establishment of a powerful empire and distinctive culture, the Carolingians were a dynasty of power and influence that helped to shape the course of European history.

Charlemagne and the Carolingians | 5 Books

“Charlemagne” by Johannes Fried
This comprehensive biography explores the life and reign of Charlemagne, shedding light on his political achievements, cultural impact, and the broader context of the Carolingian era.

“The Carolingian World” by Marios Costambeys, Matthew Innes, and Simon MacLean
This book offers a comprehensive overview of the Carolingian period, covering political, social, and cultural aspects, and providing a deeper understanding of the dynasty’s influence.

“Charlemagne’s Early Campaigns (768-777): A Diplomatic and Military Analysis” by Bernard S. Bachrach
Focusing on Charlemagne’s early military campaigns, this book examines the diplomatic strategies, military tactics, and territorial expansion that marked the Carolingian dynasty’s rise to power.

“Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity” edited by Rosamond McKitterick
This collection of essays explores the cultural, religious, and intellectual impact of Charlemagne and the Carolingians on the formation of a distinct European identity during the early medieval period.

“The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe” by Pierre Riché
Riché delves into the history of the Carolingian dynasty, tracing their rise to power, achievements, and their lasting influence on European politics, religion, and culture.

These books offer valuable insights into the Carolingian dynasty, their political endeavors, cultural contributions, and the broader historical context of their era.
They provide a comprehensive understanding of the Carolingians and their significant impact on European history.