Carolingian Empire

The Carolingian Empire was among the most significant early medieval empires in Europe. It came into being on the turn of the 9th century and came to end by the first quarter of the 10th century. The Empire was very significant for the later history of Europe, being the precursor to the later Holy Roman Empire and to the different monarchies which later ruled different regions of Europe.

The foundation of the Empire were laid by Charles Martel and his decisive victories against Muslim invaders. Later, his grandson Charlemagne formally took the title of the Emperor and became the first Emperor of the Carolingian dynasty.

Age of Charlemagne *768 – 814

The Age of Charlemagne refers to an important period in the History of the powerful Carolingian empire Read more about the Age of Charlemagne *768 – 814 >>

Carolingian Dynasty

The Carolingian Dynasty extended it's power in Europe and Eventually went on to form the Holy Roman Empire Read more about the Carolingian Dynasty >>

Carolingian People

The Carolingian were noble people, described as being Germanic Franks, They lived in and ruled the North West regions of Europe Read more about the Carolingian People >>

Carolingian Timeline

The Carolingian Timeline List all the important events in the Carolingian empires eventful history Read more about the Carolingian Timeline >>

Carolingian Weapons and Weaponry

Top 4 Weapons used by 'Carolingian Warriors' of the Carolingian Empire! Read more about the Carolingian Weapons and Weaponry >>

Charlemagne *King of the Franks

Charlemagne was an influential medieval European ruler who launched and won many important battles, Grandson of Charles Martel Read more about the Charlemagne *King of the Franks >>

Famous Carolingian Kings

Charlemagne the Great' is considered the greatest of all Carolingian Kings who lived during the Middle Ages Read more about the Famous Carolingian Kings >>

Famous Carolingian People

The Carolingian dynasty came to power in Francia during the middle of the 8th century taking power away from the Merovingian rulers Read more about the Famous Carolingian People >>

Carolingian Empire Origins

Charles Martel defeated the Muslim army of the Umayyad at the Battle of Tours in 732, effectively becoming the champion of Christendom in Europe and the most influential victor in the whole of Western Europe.

His son, Pepin III, assumed the title of the “King”, effectively being the ruler of most of Europe north of the Pyrenees.

Saracen Armies Battle of Tours

Saracen armies prepare for the battle of Tours

Charlemagne assumed the throne in 751 and went on to consolidate the whole realm of the kingdom into a single entity through a series of battles.

He stretched the Empire across Western Europe and beyond and took the title of the Roman Emperor in 800.

The Empire under Charlemagne

Charlemagne’s reign was very significant in the history of the Carolingian Empire.

He was the first Frankish king who united most of the territories of Western Europe into a single entity, something which hadn’t been accomplished since the fall of the Roman Empire.


His reign was marked by many battles, constant patronage of the Church, and expansion of Christendom by the subduing of many territories and peoples.

He annexed Italy to his Empire and defined the kingdoms of Germany and France.

It was also during his reign that European attempts to wrest back Muslim control of Spain began. He died in 814 and was succeeded by his son, Louis the Pious.

Carolingian empire 915.svg

Fissures in the Empire

The Reign of Louis was marked by civil warfare, mostly between him and his own sons.

Louis had tried to establish dynastic control over the Empire’s territories by assigning his sons to different kingdoms. He made three of his sons the Kings of Italy, Bavaria, and Aquitaine.

When he tried to nominate another kingship for his fourth son, civil warfare ensued during which Louis first removed his three sons from their thrones but was subsequently removed from Emperorship and imprisoned.

Later, the disputes were resolved within the family and Louis resumed the throne. Later, another civil war raged upon his death which led the way to the Treaty of Verdun.

Treaty of Verdun in 843

Following Louis’ death, his eldest son Lothair became Emperor.

He tried to strip his two brothers of their territories which led to a civil war between the three. His brothers Charles the Bald and Louis the German forged an alliance against him and conclusively defeated him in 841.

At the threat of losing his imperial right to the throne, Lothair came to an agreement with the other two.

Charles the Bald

This was called the Treaty of Verdun. According to this treaty, Louis received the medieval German kingdom and adjoining territories.

Charles was made King of the territories which would later become France. Lothair received the Kingdom of Italy and adjoining territories and the imperial title, although the title itself carried little importance.

Map of Medieval Italy Le Repubbliche Marinare

Map of Medieval Italy Le Repubbliche Marinare

The Empire in Later 9th Century

Following the Treaty of Verdun, civil warfare ended but the attempts by different members of the Carolingian dynasty to expand their powers continued.

After Lothair’s death, the territories owned by him were further sub-divided into his three sons, with his son Louis II receiving Italy and also becoming the next Emperor.

Holy Roman Empire

Louis II attempted to expand his reign by allying with his father’s brothers. The next few years saw more inter-dynastic fights and manoeuvres.

In 869, Louis II died with no heirs, and his Kingdom was divided between Charles the Bald and Louis the German. Soon after, Charles, the Bald was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor as well as the King of Italy.

Reunification of the Empire

The original Carolingian Empire had been divided since the death of Charlemagne. It was reunited only once again under the reign of Charles the Fat.

Charles first succeeded to the throne of Italy and after being crowned the Emperor by the Pope, also came in possession of the other territories of East Francia.

Carolingian Empire

The King of West Francia, his cousin, died in 884 so his territories also passed into the possession of Charles.

The entire Empire remained united under Charles until 888. His reign then turned into another bout of civil warfare, finally culminating in his forced retirement and division of the Empire into five kingdoms.

Decline of the Empire

The Vikings had already begun launching major attacks on the territories of the Empire before Charles assumed the throne.

While he was Emperor, Charles had to purchase the withdrawal of the Vikings from the siege of Paris in 886.

vikings Attack Paris

This was considered a cowardly act that contributed to the rebellion of Charles’ nephew, Arnulf of Carinthia, in 888. His rebellion marked the end of the Empire.

Splintering into Successor States

After the demise of the Carolingian Empire, it splintered into five kingdoms.

These included Western Francia which came into possession of Count Odo of Paris, East Francia of which Arnulf became King, Italy, Aquitaine, and Burgundy.

Carolingian Empire Summary

The Carolingian dynasty rose to power in Western Europe following Charles Martel’s landmark victory against Muslims at the Battle of Tours in the 8th century.

Battle of Tours

His grandson Charlemagne then forged a sizable Carolingian Empire and assumed the title of Emperor. The Carolingian dynasty continued to rule the Empire which soon disintegrated into different parts.

Although an Emperor remained the supreme ruler of the Empire, the territories of the Empire were geographically divided into distinct regions.

And upon the end of the Empire in the 9th century, is divided into 5 successor states including East Francia, West Francia, Burgundy, Italy, and Aquitaine.