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Family tree of the Carolingians from the second half of the 12th century. Ekkehard von Aura , Chronicon universale, Berlin, State Library, Ms. lat. Fol. 295, fol. 80v

Carolingian is the house name of the ruling family of the West Germanic Franks , which goes back to Karl Martell and held the royal dignity in the Franconian Empire from 751 . Its most famous representative was Charlemagne , from whom the later Carolingian rulers descended. After the division of the Carolingian Empire in 843 , the Carolingians ruled in Eastern France until they died out there in 911, and in Western France with two interruptions until the change of dynasty in 987, which brought the Capetians to power. In the Duchy of Lower Lorraine , a side branch of the West Franconian Carolingians ruled until the early 11th century. With this, the Carolingian family died out in the male line (if one only takes into account the legitimate legitimate sons). However, there are large numbers of descendants of illegitimate children of the Carolingian rulers who cannot sit on the throne, as well as descendants of Charlemagne in the female line.


When the Carolingians ruled, they were often referred to in the sources as the descendants of Charlemagne, but the term Carolingian as a term for an association of descent did not yet exist. This name was only introduced later, apparently referring to the role of Charlemagne as the ancestor of the later Carolingians and to the guiding name Karl . In Eastern Franconia, the name Karoli (Karle) only appeared in the second half of the 10th century with the historian Widukind von Corvey ; around 965 he called the last East Franconian Carolingian king who died in 911, Ludwig the child , “ultimus Karolorum apud orientales Francos”, the last of the Karles in the East Franconians. In France, where the reign of the Carolingians ended in 987, the historian Richer von Reims soon referred to the kings of the past as "Karle". This later became the Latin forms of the name Karlenses , Karlingi , Karolini and finally Karolingi , from which the German word Karolinger was derived.


The ancestors of the Carolingians were Arnulf von Metz from the Arnulfinger family and Pippin the Elder from the Pippiniden family . The Carolingians ruled the Franconian Empire with interruptions from 639 , but not as kings , but only as caretakers of the Merovingians , whose sole claim to royal dignity was still respected. By the middle of the eighth century, the Carolingians were able to expand their power to such an extent that they could finally get rid of the nominal Merovingian kingship. Pippin the Younger was acclaimed King of the Franks by the Frankish nobles with papal support in 751, the last Merovingian was deposed. The royal salvation was symbolically deprived of him by shaving his hair and banishing him to a monastery. This dynasty change meant a deviation from the concept of blood law , justified by the idea of divine right , which, however, remained alive and was now carried over to the new dynasty . His son Karl became the sole ruler of the Franconian Empire in 771. It was his goal from the beginning to unite all Germanic tribes in one empire. He almost achieved this with the submission of the Bavarians and the Lombards . He achieved his goal 32 years later when he finally subjugated the pagan Saxons , who then had to become Christian. Charles was on December 25, 800 in Rome by Pope Leo III. the emperor anointed and crowned. Soon after, he was also referred to as Charlemagne.

Family table of the Carolingians from 877-987 (left) and their relationship to the Liudolfingern (middle; East Franconia ) and the Capetians (right; West Franconia )

Charles the Great was followed by Ludwig the Pious as emperor in 814 , as Charles' older sons, Charles the Younger and Pippin the Hunchback , died before Charles. While Louis the Pious was still alive, his sons Lothar I , Ludwig II , Pippin and Karl II the Bald rose in various coalitions against their father and fought each other (see: Inner-dynastic battles of the Carolingians 830-842 ), with the rank of the emperor, whom Lothar had held as co-emperor of his father since 817, was never questioned. In 843, the three remaining brothers Lothar I, Ludwig II and Karl II agreed in the Treaty of Verdun on a division of rule, but not of the empire. After Lothar's sons died without heirs, rule was divided again in the Treaty of Meerssen in 870 between Charles II and Ludwig II. Charles III the fat one, King of Eastern Franconia, briefly united both parts of Franconia in 885. Arnulf von Carinthia and Ludwig III followed him as emperor . the blind. After that, the Carolingians died out as an imperial family.

The Carolingian dynasty ruled Central Europe in different constellations until 987 and had a decisive influence on the early medieval world. Based on the Franconian inheritance law , which did not provide for an automatic primacy of the firstborn, the Frankish empire was divided several times after the death of Charlemagne. The Treaty of Verdun 843 can be seen as the starting point for the emergence of France and Germany. With the partitions and the Treaty of Coulaines in the western Franconian empire, the Frankish nobility grew in power and always tried to influence plans for partition in their favor. If it was the Carolingians who shaped the face of Europe in such a way that their influence should be visible for more than 1200 years, their rule is also the origin of the federal and decentralized constitution and the exercise of rule in the area of ​​today's Germany.

When the East Franconian line in 911 died out with Ludwig the child , a Konradine followed with the Franconian Duke Konrad I and, from 919, the Liudolfinger , later called Ottonen , with the Duke of Saxony Heinrich I. In western France the Carolingians were in power until 987, when they were ousted by the Capetians .

The style of architecture of this time, a form of pre-Romanesque , is called "Carolingian architectural style". The book and administrative script that was created at the time of Charlemagne is known as the Carolingian minuscule .

Important narrative sources include Einhard's biography of Charlemagne, various annals (including the so-called Reichsannals , the Metz Annals , the Annals of St. Bertin and the Annales Fuldenses ), several chronicles (such as that of Regino von Prüm ) and Nithard's histories represent.


Pippinid and Carolingian caretakers

Carolingian kings

Carolingian Emperor

Kings of Eastern Franconia

Kings of Italy

Kings of Lorraine

Kings of the west of France

Kings of Aquitaine

Kings of Lower Burgundy

Dukes of Lower Lorraine

Other rulers

The Counts of Vermandois

While the ruling Carolingian lines were extinct, a branch of the Carolingians - the Counts of Vermandois - survived even the house of the Liudolfinger (Ottonen), who had replaced the Carolingians in their rule over Eastern Franconia . This line of the Carolingians is derived from Bernhard , (sub) king of Italy (812–818). He was an illegitimate son of Pippin , who was (sub) king of Italy from 781 to 810, and a grandson of Charlemagne .

The last male descendant of this house - and thus the Carolingian - Count Eudes, died after 1085. His sister, Adelaide Countess of Vermandois and Valois († 1120/24) brought these counties into her marriage with Hugo of France (* 1057; † 1101 ) who founded the second house of Vermandois .

See also


Web links

Commons : Karolinger  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Karolinger  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Manfred Mai: World History . Ed .: Manfred Mai. Carl Hanser, Munich / Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-446-20191-2 , p. 49 .
  2. Detlev Schwennicke : European Family Tables , New Series, Volume III. Panel 49; Verlag JA Stargardt, Marburg 1984.
  3. Detlev Schwennicke: European family tables. New episode, volume III. Panel 55; Verlag JA Stargardt, Marburg 1984.