History of France
100 B.C. - 1180 A.D.
From: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Gaul, in this context, signifies only what the Romans, from their perspective, termed Transalpine Gaul (Gallia Transalpina, or "Gaul Across the Alps"). Broadly, it comprised all lands from the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean coast of modern France to the English Channel and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rhine River and the western Alps. The Romans knew a second Gaul, Cisalpine Gaul (Gallia Cisalpina, or "Gaul This Side of the Alps"), in northern Italy—which, however, does not belong to the history of France. Transalpine Gaul came into existence as a distinct historical entity in the middle of the 1st century BCE, through the campaigns of Julius Caesar (c. 100–44 BCE), and disappeared late in the 5th century CE. Caesar's heir, the emperor Augustus (reigned 27 BCE–14 CE), divided the country into 4 administrative provinces: Narbonensis, Lugdunensis, Aquitania (Aquitaine), and Belgica. Realizing the impossibility of large-scale expansion beyond the Rhine, rulers of the Flavian dynasty (69–96) annexed the region between the middle Rhine and upper Danube rivers, roughly the Black Forest region, to secure communications between Roman garrisons, by then permanently established on both rivers. This area was called the Agri Decumates, which may have referred to a previous settlement made up of 10 cantons. Its eastern border, conventionally referred to as the limes, assumed its final shape, as a defended palisade and ditch, under Antoninus Pius (138–161). The Agri Decumates were attached to Upper Germany (Germania Superior), 1 of 2 new frontier provinces (the other being Lower Germany [Germania Inferior]) created by the last Flavian emperor, Domitian (reigned 81–96). For greater administrative efficiency, the emperor Diocletian (reigned 284–305) subdivided all 6 Gallic provinces, forming a total of 13.
Gaul was predominantly a Celtic land, but it also contained pre-Celtic Ligurians and Iberians in the south and southwest and more recent Germanic immigrants in the northeast. Neighbouring Celtic communities on the Danube and in northern Italy, however, were not included. The south, in addition, had been heavily influenced by the Greek colony of Massilia (modern Marseille, founded c. 600 BCE) and its daughter cities. In brief, the Gaul that was the foundation of medieval France was not a "natural" unit but a Roman construct, the result of a decision to defend Italy from across the Alps.
The Roman conquest
In the 2nd century BCE Rome intervened on the side of Massilia in its struggle against the tribes of the hinterland, its main aim being the protection of the route from Italy to its new possessions in Spain. The result was the formation, in 121 BCE, of "the Province" (Provincia, whence Provence), an area spanning from the Mediterranean to Lake Geneva, with its capital at Narbo (Narbonne). From 58 to 50 BCE Caesar seized the remainder of Gaul. Although motivated by personal ambition, Caesar could justify his conquest by appealing to deep-seated Roman fear of Celtic war bands and further Germanic incursions (late in the 2nd century BCE the Cimbri and Teutoni had invaded the Province and threatened Italy). Because of chronic internal rivalries, Gallic resistance was easily broken, though Vercingetorix's Great Rebellion of 52 BCE had notable successes before it expired in the cruel siege of Alesia (Alise-Sainte-Reine).
Gaul under the high empire (c. 50 BCE–c. 250 CE)
The first centuries of Roman rule were remarkable for the speedy assimilation of Gaul into the Greco-Roman world. This was a consequence of both the light hand of the Roman imperial administration and the highly receptive nature of Gallic-Celtic society. Celtic culture had originated on the upper Danube about 1200 BCE. Its expansion westward and southward, through diffusion and migration, was stimulated by a shift from bronze- to ironworking. Archaeologically, the type of developing Celtic Iron Age culture conventionally classified as Hallstatt appeared in Gaul from about 700 BCE; in its La Tène form it made itself felt in Gaul after about 500 BCE. Initially the Romans, who had not forgotten the capture of their city by Brennus, the leader of Celtic war bands, about 390 BCE, despised and feared the Celts as barbarian savages. Until the end of the 1st century BCE, they disparaged Gaul beyond the Province as Gallia Comata ("Long-Haired Gaul"), mocked and exploited the Gauls' craving for wine, and generally mismanaged the Province itself.
Gaul by then, however, was not far behind Rome in its evolution. In the south, Ligurian communities had long emulated the Hellenic culture of Massilia, as may be seen in the settlement of Entremont (near Aquae Sextiae [Aix-en-Provence]). In the Celtic core, Caesar found large nations (his civitates) coalescing out of smaller tribes (pagi) and establishing urban centres (oppida—e.g., Bibracte [Mont Beuvray], near Augustodunum [Autun]), which, though quite unlike the Classical city-states, were assuming significant economic and administrative functions. After the corrupt Roman Republic was replaced by the empire and its more prudent rule, these advances in Transalpine Gaul could be exploited for the imperial good. The Province, now Narbonensis, was planted with settlements of retired Roman soldiers (coloniae, "colonies"—e.g., Arelate [Arles]); it soon became a land of city-states and was comparable to Italy in its way of life. In the remaining "three Gauls"—Lugdunensis, Aquitania, and Belgica—such colonies were few; there the civitates were retained, as was the habit of fierce rivalry between their leaders. Competition, however, was diverted from war: status was now measured in terms of the level of Romanization attained by both the individual and his community.
Northern Gaul therefore became a Romanized land too. This is dramatically reflected in the dominance of Latin as the language of education and government; French was to be a Romance tongue. Archaeologically, however, Romanization in Gaul is most evident in the emergence of the Greco-Roman city. Although the civitates were too large to act as true city-states, they contained towns, either already in existence (e.g., Lutetia Parisiorum [Paris]) or newly founded (e.g., Augustodunum ["Augustusville"]), that could be designated as their administrative centres and developed, by local magnates at their own expense, in accordance with Classical criteria. Thus, these civitas-capitals, as scholars term them, were characterized by checkerboard street grids and imposing administrative and recreational buildings such as forums, baths, and amphitheatres. Although they display vernacular architectural traits, they essentially follow the best Mediterranean fashion. Most were unwalled—an indicator of the Pax Romana, a tranquil period of about 150 years.
The mark of Rome is also discernible in the countryside, in the shape of villas. Villas of this period were, however, working farms as much as Romanized country residences—manor houses, not palaces. The survivors of the great Gallic aristocracy of the pre-Roman period, who first adopted Roman ways and who might eventually have constructed rural palaces, persisted into the 1st century CE but then seem to have been eclipsed by lesser landowners.
Scholars dispute the extent to which the mass of the Gallic population (about 10 million, or 15 persons per square kilometre [39 persons per square mile], large for a preindustrial economy), free or slave, benefited from the new conditions, but there is no doubt that the landowners prospered. One of the great engines of their wealth was the Rhine army, which stimulated trade by purchasing its supplies from the interior. Commerce was greatly facilitated by a road network and system of river transport that had been expanded and improved under Roman administration. It is no accident that the capital of high imperial Gaul was Lugdunum (Lyon), the main Gallic road junction and a great inland port on the river route that led north to Colonia Agrippinensis (Cologne), the chief city of the two German provinces.
It is not surprising, therefore, that there was relatively little resistance to Roman rule and that Vercingetorix's rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful. There were localized revolts in 21 CE and 69–70, but these were easily suppressed. They may have accelerated the demise of the old Gallic aristocracy; few Gauls subsequently pursued imperial Roman careers (for example, as senators). This diffidence, perhaps initially due to lingering Roman prejudice against Celts but reinforced by Gallic contentment with local responsibilities, may have served to keep Gallic wealth in Gaul.
Gaul under the late Roman Empire (c. 250–c. 400)
High Roman Gaul came to an end in an empirewide crisis characterized by foreign invasions and a rapid succession of rulers, as increased pressure on the empire's frontiers exacerbated its internal economic and political weaknesses. Priority was given to holding the Danube and the East; despite sporadic visits by emperors, the West was neglected. In 260 and 276 Gaul suffered depredation by two recent confederations of Germanic peoples, the Alemanni and the Franks (facing Upper and Lower Germany, respectively). The ensuing civil war left Gaul, Britain, and (for a while) Spain governed by a line of "Gallic" emperors (beginning with Postumus [reigned 260–268]). These lands were reconquered by the Roman emperor Aurelian in 274, though there was further revolt about 279–80. Although unity was reestablished and order of a sort restored by Aurelian (reigned 270–275), Probus (276–282), and Carinus (283–285), the country was much altered. For example, about 260 the Agri Decumates were abandoned, and, from about the reign of Probus, there began an extensive program of city fortification, though on very restricted circuits that cut through, and even used as building material, the proud structures of the previous age. The countryside was prey to marauding peasants. There was, however, no move to exploit the crisis to gain independence: the "Gallic Empire," though closely involving leading Gallic civilians, depended on the loyalty of the Rhine army; it thus championed Gallo-Roman, not Gallic, interests (essentially, the maintenance of a strong Rhine frontier).
After Diocletian and his successors radically reformed the empire in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, Gaul enjoyed a new stability and even an enhanced role in imperial life. The reason for this was the empire's renewed commitment to defend Italy from the Rhine. To ensure the loyalty of the Rhine garrison and the civil population that depended on it for protection, imperial representation in the frontier region became permanent. An official of the highest rank, a praetorian prefect, was based there, and a series of emperors and usurpers (in particular, Constantine I [reigned 306–337], Julian [355–363], Valentinian I> [364–375], Gratian [375–383], and Magnus Maximus [383–388]) resided there for at least part of their reigns. Their seat of government was usually Augusta Treverorum (now Trier, Germany), the former civitas-capital of the Treveri and capital of Belgica, now "the Rome of the West." (An interesting exception to the rule was Julian, who, with Trier rendered inhospitable by war, wintered in Paris, giving that city its first taste of future greatness.) Throughout the 4th century and especially in its latter half, the ever-present German menace as well as internecine strife occasionally caused the Rhine frontier to be broken, but it was always vigorously restored.
Some recovery of economic prosperity occurred, though it was fragile and uneven. The levying of taxes in kind rather than in cash may have weakened commerce, and the settlement of captive barbarians on the land indicates a rural labour shortage. Trier was endowed with magnificent buildings, but most Gallic cities failed to recover their Classical grandeur. The well-to-do, who were for the most part probably not descended from the aristocracy of high Roman Gaul (destroyed in the 3rd-century crisis), had loftier ambitions than their predecessors. Looking beyond the civitates, they eagerly sought posts in the imperial administration, now conveniently close at hand, basing their claim to advancement on their learning. (Gallo-Roman education, drawing vitality from the Gallo-Celtic love of eloquence, had long been renowned, but it blossomed fully in the 4th century in famous universities such as the one at Burdigala [Bordeaux].) As the century progressed, some educated Gauls grew extremely powerful; the best-known, Ausonius (c.310–c. 393), a poet and professor at Burdigala, was appointed tutor of the future emperor Gratian and became his counselor. These worldly aristocrats, when not at court, favoured the country life; the latter 4th century saw the rise of the palatial villa, especially in the southeast. Other Gauls looked to serve an even higher power; Christianity, thought to have been introduced in the region about 250 by St. Denis of Paris, took root deeply in the land in the century following. An episcopal hierarchy(based on the Roman provinces and civitates) was developed, and monasticism was introduced by Martin of Tours (c. 316–397).
The end of Roman Gaul (c. 400–c. 500)
From 395 the division of the Roman Empire into an eastern and a western half reinforced acute internal political stresses that encouraged barbarian penetration of the Danube region and even Italy. The Rhine frontier was again neglected, and the seat of the Gallic prefecture was moved to Arelate. The result was Germanic invasion, most dramatically the mass crossing of the Rhine in 405–406, and civil war. By 418, Franks and Burgundians were established west of the Rhine, and the Visigoths settled in Aquitania (Aquitaine). These Germans, however, were nominally allies of the empire, and, mainly because of the energy of the Roman general Flavius Aetius, they were kept in check. The death of Aetius in 454 and the growing debility of a western imperial government hamstrung by the loss of Africa to the Vandals created a power vacuum in Gaul. It was filled by the Visigoths, at first indirectly through the nomination of the emperor Avitus (reigned 455–456) and then directly by their own kings, the most important being King Euric (466–484). Between 460 and 480 there was steady Visigothic encroachment on Roman territory to the east; the Burgundians followed suit, expanding westward from Sapaudia (now Savoy). In 476 the last imperial possessions in Provence were formally ceded to the Visigoths.
Gaul suffered badly from these developments. Communities near the Rhine were destroyed by war. Refugees fled south, to Roman territory, only to find themselves burdened by crippling taxation and administrative corruption. As is evident from the works of the writer Sidonius Apollinaris (c. 430–c. 490), however, the economic power and with it the lifestyle of the Gallo-Roman aristocracy remained remarkably resilient, whether under Roman emperors or barbarian kings. Many aristocrats, such as, for example, Sidonius himself, also confirmed their standing in their communities by becoming bishops. Until the middle of the 5th century, the leaders of Gallic society, lay and clerical, while learning to live with the barbarian newcomers, still looked to Rome for high office and protection. Thereafter they increasingly cooperated with the German rulers as generals and counselors. Thus, at least in the centre and south of the country, the Gallo-Roman cultural legacy was bequeathed intact to the successor-kingdoms.
Merovingian and Carolingian age
The period of the Merovingian and Carolingian Frankish dynasties (450–987) encompasses the early Middle Ages. After the 4th and 5th centuries, when Germanic peoples entered the Roman Empire in substantial numbers and brought the existence of that Mediterranean state to an end, the Franks played a key role in Gaul, unifying it under their rule. Merovingian and, later, Carolingian monarchs created a polity centred in an area between the Loire and Rhine rivers but extending beyond the Rhine into large areas of Germany.
Early Frankish period
In the second quarter of the 5th century, various groups of Franks moved southward. The Ripuarian Franks, as they would be known, settled in the middle Rhine area (near Cologne) and along the lower branches of the Moselle and Meuse rivers, and the Salian Franks, as they came to be known, found homes in the Atlantic coastal region. In the latter area, separate groups took possession of Tournai and Cambrai and reached the Somme River. These Franks along the coast were divided into many small kingdoms. One of the better-known groups established itself in and around the city (urbs) of Tournai; its kinglet (regulus) was Childeric (died c. 481/482), who traditionally is regarded as a close relative in the male line of Merovech, eponymous ancestor of the Merovingian dynasty and descendant of a sea god. Childeric placed himself in the service of the Roman Empire.
Gaul and Germany at the end of the 5th century
Preceding the arrival of the Franks, other Germans had already entered Gaul. The area south of the Loire was divided between two groups. One, the Visigoths, occupied Aquitaine, Provence, and most of Spain. Their king, Euric (reigned 466–484), was the most powerful monarch in the West. The other group, the Burgundians, ruled much of the Rhône valley. In northern Gaul the Alemanni occupied Alsace and moved westward into the area between the Franks and Burgundians, while the first British immigrants established themselves on the Armorican peninsula (now Brittany). Substantial parts of Gaul were ruled by Syagrius, a Roman king (rex) with his capital at Soissons.
In spite of the influx of Germans, whose numbers have been exaggerated, Gaul, which had been part of the Roman Empire for about 500 years, remained thoroughly Romanized. Because many of its administrative institutions withstood the crisis of the 5th century, Gaul's traditional Roman civilization survived, at least in attenuated form, especially among the aristocratic classes. The core of political, social, economic, and religious life remained in the civitas with the urbs at its heart. In addition, the Germans themselves were, to varying degrees, Romanized. This influence was stronger among the Burgundians and the Visigoths, who had lived within the empire for a longer time and had intermingled with other Germanic peoples to a great extent, than it was among the Franks and Alemanni, who had only recently entered the empire even though they had fought alongside or against Rome since the 3rd century. On the other hand, the Burgundians and Visigoths were often seen in an unfavourable light by the Romans because they adopted a heretical form of Christianity—Arianism. The Franks and Alemanni, who preserved limited contacts with Germans living outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire, remained pagan, which the Romans viewed less harshly than heresy.
In effect, the Germanic peoples who penetrated into Roman Gaul were but a small segment of the Germanic world. The northern Germans (Angles, Jutes, Saxons, and Frisians) still occupied the coastal regions of the North Sea east of the Rhine, and the Thuringians and Bavarians divided the territory between the Elbe and Danube. The Slavic world began on the opposite bank of the Elbe.
Clovis and the unification of Gaul
Clovis (reigned 481/482–511), the son of Childeric, unified Gaul with the exception of areas in the southeast. According to the traditional and highly stylized account by Gregory of Tours that is now generally questioned by scholars in its particulars, Clovis consolidated the position of the Franks in northern Gaul during the years following his accession. In 486 he defeated Syagrius, the last Roman ruler in Gaul, and in a series of subsequent campaigns with strong Gallo-Roman support he occupied an area situated between the Frankish kingdom of Tournai, the Visigothic and Burgundian kingdoms, and the lands occupied by the Ripuarian Franks and the Alemanni, removing it from imperial control once more. It was probably during this same period that he eliminated the other Salian kings. In a second phase he attacked the other Germanic peoples living in Gaul, with varying degrees of success. An Alemannian westward push was blocked, probably as a result of two campaigns—one conducted by the Franks of the kingdom of Cologne about 495–496 at the Battle of Tolbiacum (Zülpich), the second by Clovis about 506, after his annexation of Cologne. Clovis thus extended his authority over most of the territory of the Alemanni. Some of the former inhabitants sought refuge in the Ostrogothic kingdom of Theodoric the Great, the most powerful ruler in the West at that time.
In the late 490s, according to the traditional chronology, Clovis absorbed the region between the Seine and the Loire (including Nantes, Rennes, and Vannes) and then moved against the Visigothic kingdom. He defeated Alaric II at Vouillé (507). He annexed Aquitaine, between the Loire, Rhône, and Garonne, as well as Novempopulana, between the Garonne and the Pyrenees. Opposed to a Frankish hegemony in the West, Theodoric intervened on behalf of the Visigothic king. He prevented Clovis from annexing Septimania, on the Mediterranean between the Rhône and the Pyrenees, which the Visigoths retained, and occupied Provence. In addition, Clovis eliminated various Frankish kinglets in the east and united the Frankish people under his own leadership.
Clovis established Paris as the capital of his new kingdom, and in 508 he received some sort of recognition from Emperor Anastasius, possibly an honorary consulship, and the right to use the imperial insignia. These privileges gave the new king legitimacy of sorts and were useful in gaining the support of his Gallo-Roman subjects.
The conversion of Clovis
According to Gregory of Tours, Clovis came to believe that his victory at Tolbiacum in 496 was due to the help of the Christian God, whom his wife Clotilda had been encouraging him to accept. With the support of Bishop Remigius of Reims, a leader of the Gallo-Roman aristocracy, Clovis converted to Catholic Christianity with some 3,000 of his army in 498. This traditional account of the conversion, however, has been questioned by scholars, especially because of the echoes of the conversion of Constantine that Gregory so clearly incorporated in his history. Scholars now believe that Clovis did not convert until as late as 508 and did not convert directly from paganism to Catholic Christianity but accepted Arian Christianity first. Clovis did, however, convert to the Catholic faith, and this conversion assured the Frankish king of the support not only of the ecclesiastical hierarchy but also of Roman Catholic Christians in general—the majority of the population. It also ensured the triumph in Gaul of Roman Christianity over paganism and Arianism and spared Gaul the lengthy conflicts that occurred in other Germanic kingdoms.
The sons of Clovis
Following the death of Clovis in 511, the kingdom was divided among his four sons. This partition was not made according to ethnic, geographic, or administrative divisions. The only factor taken into account was that the portions be of equal value. This was defined in terms of the royal fisc (treasury), which had previously been the imperial fisc, and tax revenues from land and trade, which were based upon imperial practices. Boundaries for the division were poorly defined.
Clovis's lands included two general areas: one was the territory north of the Loire River (the part of Gaul that was conquered earliest); the other, to the south, in Aquitaine, was a region not yet assimilated. Theodoric I, Clovis's eldest son by one of the wives he married in Germanic style before Clovis married Clotilda and converted to Christianity, received lands around the Rhine, Moselle, and upper Meuse rivers, as well as the Massif Central. Clodomir was given the Loire country to the other side of the Rhine, which was the only kingdom not composed of separated territories. Childebert I inherited the country of the English Channel and the lower Seine and, probably, the region of Bordeaux and Saintes. Chlotar I was granted the old Frankish country north of the Somme and an ill-defined area in Aquitaine. Their capitals were centred in the Paris Basin, which was divided among the four brothers: Theodoric used Reims; Clodomir, Orléans; Childebert, Paris; Chlotar, Soissons. As each brother died, the survivors partitioned the newly available lands among themselves. This system resulted in bloody competition until 558, when Chlotar, after his brothers' deaths, succeeded in reuniting the kingdom under his own rule.
The conquest of Burgundy
In spite of these partitions, the Frankish kings continued their conquests. One of their primary concerns was to extend their dominion over the whole of Gaul. It took two campaigns to overcome the Burgundian kingdom. In 523 Clodomir, Childebert I, and Chlotar I, as allies of Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, moved into Burgundy, whose king, Sigismund, Theodoric's son-in-law, had assassinated his own son. Sigismund was captured and killed. Godomer, the new Burgundian king, defeated the Franks at Vézeronce and forced them to retreat; Clodomir was killed in the battle. Childebert I, Chlotar I, and Theodebert I, the son of Theodoric I, regained the offensive in 532–534. The Burgundian kingdom was annexed and divided between the Frankish kings. Following Theodoric the Great's death in 526, the Franks were able to gain a foothold in Provence by taking advantage of the weakened Ostrogothic kingdom. The Franks were thus masters of all of southeastern Gaul and had reached the Mediterranean. But, in spite of two expeditions (531 and 542), they were unable to gain possession of Visigothic Septimania. Also, at least a portion of Armorica in the northwest remained outside the Frankish sphere of influence. During this period, British colonization of the western half of the Armorican peninsula was at its height.
The conquest of southern Germany
To the east, the Franks extended their domain in southern Germany, subjugating Thuringia (about 531 Chlotar I carried off Radegunda, a niece of the Thuringian king), the part of Alemannia between the Neckar River and the upper Danube (after 536), and Bavaria. The latter was created as a dependent duchy about 555. The Franks were less successful in northern Germany; in 536 they imposed a tribute on the Saxons (who occupied the area between the Elbe, the North Sea, and the Ems), but the latter revolted successfully in 555.
Theodebert I and his son, Theodebald, sent expeditions into Italy during a struggle between the Ostrogoths and Byzantines (535–554), but they achieved no lasting results.
The grandsons of Clovis
At the death of Chlotar I (561), the Frankish kingdom, which had become the most powerful state in the West, was once again divided, this time between his four sons. The partition agreement was based on that of 511 but dealt with more extensive territories. Guntram received the eastern part of the former kingdom of Orléans, enlarged by the addition of Burgundy. Charibert I's share was fashioned from the old kingdom of Paris (Seine and English Channel districts), augmented in the south by the western section of the old kingdom of Orléans (lower Loire valley) and the Aquitaine Basin. Sigebert I received the kingdom of Reims, extended to include the new German conquests; a portion of the Massif Central (Auvergne) and the Provençal territory (Marseille) were added to his share. Chilperic I's portion was reduced to the kingdom of Soissons.
The death of Charibert (567) resulted in further partition. Chilperic, the principal beneficiary, received the lower Seine district, including a large tract of the English Channel coast. The remainder, most notably Aquitaine and the area around Bayeux, was divided in a complex manner; and Paris was subject to joint possession. The partitions of 561 and 567, which reaffirmed the division of Francia, were the sources of innumerable intrigues and family struggles, especially between, on the one hand, Chilperic I, his wife the former slave Fredegund, and their children, who controlled northwestern Francia, and, on the other hand, Sigebert I, his wife the Visigothic princess Brunhild, and their descendants, the masters of northeastern Francia.
The shrinking of the frontiers and peripheral areas
These events undermined the Frankish hegemony. In Brittany the Franks maintained control of the eastern region but had to cope with raids by the Bretons, who had established heavily populated settlements in the western part of the peninsula. To the southwest the Gascons, a highland people from the Pyrenees, had been driven northward by the Visigoths in 578 and settled in Novempopulana; in spite of several Frankish expeditions, this area was not subdued. In the south the Franks were unable to gain control of Septimania; they tried to accomplish this by means of diplomatic agreements, which were buttressed by dynastic intermarriage, and by military campaigns occasioned by religious differences (the Visigothic kings were Arians). In the southeast the Lombards, who had recently arrived in Italy, made several raids on Gaul(569, 571, 574); Frankish expeditions into Italy (584, 585, 588, 590), led by Childebert II, were without result. Meanwhile the Avars, a people of undetermined origin who settled along the Danube in the second half of the 6th century, threatened the eastern frontier; in 568 they took Sigebert prisoner, and in 596 they attacked Thuringia, forcing Brunhild to purchase their departure.
The parceling of the kingdom
Internal struggles resulted in the emergence of new political configurations. At the time of the partitions of 561 and 567, new political-geographic units began to appear within Gaul. Austrasia was created from the Rhine, Moselle, and Meuse districts, which had formerly been the kingdom of Reims, and from the areas east of the Rhône conquered by Theodoric I and his son Theodebert; Sigebert I (died 575) transferred the capital to Metz to take advantage of the income provided by trade on the Rhine. Neustria was born out of the partition of the kingdom of Soissons; a portion of the kingdom of Paris was added to it, thus endowing the area with a broad coastal section and making the lower Seine valley its centre. Its first capital, Soissons, was returned to Austrasia following the death of Chilperic I; its capital was later moved to Paris, which had been controlled by Chilperic. The kingdom of Orléans, without its western territory but with part of the old Burgundian lands added to it, eventually became Burgundy; Guntram fixed its capital at Chalon-sur-Saône. Aquitaine submitted to the Frankish kingdoms centred farther north in Gaul; its civitates were the object of numerous partitions made by sovereigns who regarded it as an area for exploitation. Aquitaine did not enjoy political autonomy during this period.
The failure of reunification (613–714)
Chlotar II and Dagobert I
Territorial crisis was partially and provisionally averted during the first third of the 7th century. Chlotar II, son of Chilperic I and Fredegund and king of Neustria since 584, took control of Burgundy and Austrasia in 613 upon the brutal execution of Brunhild, and thus a united kingdom once again was created. He fixed his capital at Paris and, in 614, convoked a council there, at which he recognized the traditional prerogatives of the aristocracy (Gallo-Roman and Germanic) in order to gain their support in the governing of the kingdom. His son Dagobert I (reigned 629–639) was able to preserve this unity. He journeyed to Burgundy, where the highest political office, mayor of the palace, was maintained; to Austrasia; and then to Aquitaine, which was given the status of a duchy. He thus recognized structures of imperial origin.
Dagobert had only limited success along the frontier. In 638 he placed the Bretons and the Gascons under nominal subjection, but ties with these peripheral peoples were tenuous. He intervened in dynastic quarrels of Spain, entering the country and going as far as Zaragoza before receiving tribute and quitting. Septimania remained Visigothic. On the eastern frontier there were incidents involving Frankish merchants and Moravian and Czech Slavs; after the failure of a campaign conducted by Dagobert, with the assistance of the Lombards and Bavarians (633), the Slavs attacked Thuringia. The king reached an agreement with the Saxons, who would protect the eastern frontier in return for remission of a tribute they had paid since 536. Thus, Dagobert used traditional imperial techniques to protect the frontiers with more or less Romanized barbarians.
The hegemony of Neustria
The territorial struggles began anew after 639. In Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy, power was gradually absorbed by aristocratic leaders, particularly the mayors of the palace. Ebroïn, mayor of the palace in Neustria, attempted to unify the kingdom under his leadership but met with violent opposition. Resistance in Burgundy was led by Bishop Leodegar, who was assassinated about 679 (he was later canonized). Austrasia was governed by the Pippinid mayors of the palace, who were given the office as a reward for their founder's support of Chlotar in the overthrow of Brunhild; Pippin I of Landen was succeeded by his son Grimoald, who tried unsuccessfully to have his son, Childebert the Adopted, crowned king, and by Pippin II of Herstal (or Héristal), whom Ebroïn was briefly able to keep from power (c. 680).
Frankish hegemony was once more threatened in the peripheral areas, especially to the east where Austrasia was endangered. The Thuringians (640–641) and Alemanni regained their independence. The Frisians reached the mouth of the Schelde River and controlled the towns of Utrecht and Dorestat; the attempted conversion of Frisia by Wilfrid of Northumbria had to be abandoned (c. 680). In southern Gaul the duke Lupus changed the status of Aquitaine from a duchy to an independent principality.
Austrasian hegemony and the rise of the Pippinids
The murder of Ebroïn (680 or 683) reversed the situation in favour of Austrasia and the Pippinids. Pippin II defeated the Neustrians at Tertry in 687 and reunified northern Francia under his own control during the next decade. Austrasia and Neustria were reunited under a series of Merovingian kings, who retained much traditional power and authority while Pippin II consolidated his position as mayor of the palace. At the same time, Pippin II partially restabilized the frontiers of northern Francia by driving the Frisians north of the Rhine and by restoring Frankish suzerainty over the Alemanni. But control of southern Gaul continued to elude Pippin II and his supporters. In the early 8th century, Provence became an autonomous duchy, while power in Burgundy was divided.
Representatives of the Merovingian dynasty continued to hold the royal title until 751. Chroniclers in the service of their successors, the Carolingians—as the Pippinids would come to be known—stigmatized the Merovingians as "do-nothing kings." Although some of the later Merovingian kings inherited the title as children and died young, they retained at least some power into the 8th century, and only in the 720s did they become mere puppets. At the same time, however, effective power was increasingly concentrated in the hands of the Pippinids, who, thanks to their valuable landholdings and loyal retainers, maintained a monopoly on the office of mayor of the palace. Because of their familial predisposition for the name Charles and because of the significance of Charlemagne in the family's history, modern historians have called them the Carolingian dynasty.
Charles Martel and Pippin III
Pippin II's death in 714 jeopardized Carolingian hegemony. His heir was a grandchild entrusted to the regency of his widow, Plectrude. There was a revolt in Neustria, and Eudes, duc d'Aquitaine, used the occasion to increase his holdings and make an alliance with the Neustrians. The Saxons crossed the Rhine, and the Arabs crossed the Pyrenees.
The situation was rectified by Pippin's illegitimate son, Charles Martel. Defeating the Neustrians at Amblève (716), Vincy (717), and Soissons (719), he made himself master of northern Francia. He then reestablished Frankish authority in southern Gaul, where the local authorities could not cope with the Islamic threat; he stopped the Muslims near Poitiers(Battle of Tours; 732) and used this opportunity to subdue Aquitaine(735–736). The Muslims then turned toward Provence, and Charles Martel sent several expeditions against them. At the same time, he succeeded in reestablishing authority over the dissident provinces in the southeast (737–738) with the exception of Septimania. Finally, he reestablished his influence in Germany. In his numerous military campaigns he succeeded in driving the Saxons across the Rhine, returned the Bavarians to Frankish suzerainty, and annexed southern Frisia and Alemannia. He also encouraged missionary activity, seeing it as a means to consolidate his power. Most notably, Charles supported the Anglo-Saxon missionaries, especially Winfrith (the future St. Boniface), who spread the faith east of the Rhine. The work of the Anglo-Saxons was sanctioned by the papacy, which was beginning to seek support in the West at the same time that St. Peter's prominence was growing among the Franks. Moreover, long-lasting ties with England brought Boniface to Rome for papal blessing of missionary work, and his activities strengthened ties between the pope and the Franks.
Charles Martel had supported a figurehead Merovingian king, Theodoric IV (reigned 721–737), but upon the latter's death he felt his own position secure enough to leave the throne vacant. His chief source of power was a strong circle of followers who furnished the main body of his troops and became the most important element in the army because local dislocation of government had weakened the recruitment of the traditional levies of freemen. He attached them to himself by concessions of land, which he obtained by drawing on the considerable holdings of the church. This gave him large tracts of land at his disposal, which he granted for life (precaria). He was thus able to recruit a larger and more powerful circle of followers than that surrounding any of the other influential magnates.
At the death of Charles Martel (741), the lands and powers in his hands were divided between his two sons, Carloman and Pippin III (the Short), as was the custom. This partition was followed by unsuccessful insurrections in the peripheral duchies—Aquitaine, Alemannia, and Bavaria. The seriousness of these revolts, however, encouraged Pippin and Carloman to place the Merovingian Childeric III, whom they conveniently discovered in a monastery, on the throne in 743.
Carloman's entrance into a monastery in 747 reunited Carolingian holdings. Pippin the Short, who as mayor of the palace had held de facto power over Francia, or the regnum Francorum ("kingdom of the Franks"), now desired to be king. He was crowned with the support of the papacy, which, threatened by the Lombards and having problems with Byzantium, sought a protector in the West. To accomplish this goal, he sent a letter to Pope Zacharias in 750 asking whether he who had the power or the title should be king, and he received the answer he desired. In 751 Pippin deposed Childeric III; he then had himself elected king by an assembly of magnates and consecrated by the bishops, thus ending the nominal authority of the last Merovingian king. The new pope, Stephen II (or III), sought aid from Francia; in 754 at Ponthion he gave Pippin the title Patrician of the Romans, renewed the king's consecration, and consecrated Pippin's sons, Charles and Carloman, thus providing generational legitimacy for the line.
As king, Pippin limited himself to consolidating royal control in Gaul, thus establishing the base for later Carolingian expansion. Despite Pippin's efforts, the situation at the German frontier was unstable. The duchy of Bavaria, which had been given to Tassilo III as a benefice, gained its independence in 763; several expeditions were unable to subdue the Saxons. On the other hand, Pippin achieved a decisive victory in southern Gaul by capturing Septimania from the Muslims (752–759). He broke down Aquitaine's resistance, and it was reincorporated into the kingdom (760–768). Pippin campaigned in Italy against the Lombards twice (754–755; 756) on the appeal of the pope and laid the foundations for the Papal States with the so-called Donation of Pippin. He exchanged ambassadors with the great powers of the eastern Mediterranean—the Byzantine Empire and the Caliphate of Baghdad. He also continued a program of reform of the church and religious life that he had begun with Carloman.
Pippin III was faithful to ancient customs, and upon his death in 768 his kingdom was divided between his two sons, Charles (Charlemagne) and Carloman. The succession did not proceed smoothly, however, as Charlemagne faced a serious revolt in Aquitaine as well as the enmity of his brother, who refused to help suppress the revolt. Carloman's death in 771 saved the kingdom from civil war. Charlemagne dispossessed his nephews from their inheritance and reunited the kingdom under his own authority.
Charlemagne consolidated his authority up to the geographic limits of Gaul. Though he put down a new insurrection in Aquitaine (769), he was unable to bring the Gascons and the Bretons fully under submission. However, Charlemagne extended considerably the territory he controlled and unified a large part of the Christian West. He followed no grand strategy of expansion, instead taking advantage of situations as they arose.
He pursued an active policy toward the Mediterranean world. In Spain he attempted to take advantage of the emir of Córdoba's difficulties; he was unsuccessful in western Spain, but in the east he was able to establish a march, or border territory, south of the Pyrenees to the important city Barcelona. Pursuing Pippin's Italian policy, he intervened in Italy. At the request of Pope Adrian I, whose territories had been threatened by the Lombards, he took possession of their capital city, Pavia, and had himself crowned king of the Lombards. In 774 he fulfilled Pippin's promise and created a papal state; the situation on the peninsula remained unsettled, however, and many expeditions were necessary. This enlargement of his Mediterranean holdings led Charlemagne to establish a protectorate over the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean (798–799).
Charlemagne conquered more German territory and secured the eastern frontier. By means of military campaigns and missionary activities he brought Saxony and northern Frisia under control; the Saxons, led by Widukind, offered a protracted resistance (772–804), and Charlemagne either destroyed or forcibly deported a large part of the population. To the south, Bavaria was brought under Frankish authority and annexed. Conquests in the east brought the Carolingians into contact with new peoples—Charlemagne was able to defeat the Avars in three campaigns (791, 795, 796), from which he obtained considerable booty; he was also able to establish a march on the middle Danube, and the Carolingians undertook the conversion and colonization of that area. Charlemagne established the Elbe as a frontier against the northern Slavs. The Danes constructed a great fortification, the Danewirk, across the peninsula to stop Carolingian expansion. Charlemagne also founded Hamburg on the banks of the Elbe. These actions gave the Franks a broad face on the North Sea.
The Frankish state was now the principal power in the West. Charlemagne claimed to be defender of Roman Christianity and intervened in the religious affairs of Spain. Problems arose over doctrinal matters that, along with questions concerning the Italian border and the use of the imperial title, brought him into conflict with the Byzantine Empire; a peace treaty was signed in 810–812. Charlemagne continued his peace policy toward the Muslim East: ambassadors were exchanged with the caliph of Baghdad, and Charlemagne received a kind of eminent right in Jerusalem.
The restoration of the empire
When by the end of the 8th century Charlemagne was master of a great part of the West, he reestablished the empire in his own name. He was crowned emperor in Rome on Christmas Day, 800, by Pope Leo III, who had been savagely attacked by rivals in Rome in 799 and who hoped that the restoration of an imperial authority in western Europe would protect the papacy. Charlemagne's powers in Rome and in relation to the Papal States, which were incorporated, with some degree of autonomy, into the Frankish empire, were clarified. Although his new title did not replace his royal titles, it was well suited to his preponderant position in the old Roman West. The imperial title, later known as Holy Roman emperor, indicates a will to unify the West; nevertheless, in his succession plan of 806, Charlemagne preserved the kingdom of Italy, giving the crown to one of his sons, Pippin, and made Aquitaine a kingdom for his other son, Louis. The continuing dispute with the Byzantines over the imperial title may have led to his reluctance to pass it on, or, more likely, he saw it as a personal honour in recognition of his great achievements.
Only chance ensured that the empire remained united under Louis I (the Pious), the last surviving son of Charlemagne. Louis was crowned emperor in 813 by his father, who died the following year. The era of great conquests had ended, and, on the face of it, Louis's principal preoccupation was his relationship with the peoples to the north. In the hope of averting the threat posed by the Vikings, who had begun to raid the coasts of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Louis proposed to evangelize the Scandinavian world. This mission was given to St. Ansgar but was a failure.
During Louis's reign, the imperial bureaucracy was given greater uniformity. Louis the Pious saw the empire, above all, as a religious ideal, and in 816 in a separate ceremony the pope anointed him and crowned him emperor. At the same time, Louis took steps to regulate the succession so as to maintain the unity of the empire (Ordinatio Imperii, 817). His eldest son, Lothar I, was to be sole heir to the empire, but within it three dependent kingdoms were maintained: Louis's younger sons, Pippin and Louis, received Aquitaine and Bavaria, respectively; his nephew Bernard was given Italy. He also replaced the dynasty's customary relationship with the pope with the Pactum Hludowicianum in 817, which clearly defined relations between the two in a way that favoured the emperor.
The remarriage of Louis the Pious to Judith of Bavaria and the birth of a fourth son, who would rule as Charles II (the Bald), upset this project. In spite of opposition from Lothar, who had the support of a unity faction drawn from the ranks of the clergy, the emperor sought to create a kingdom for Charles the Bald. These divergent interests would undermine Louis's authority and cause much civil strife. Notably, in 830 Louis faced a revolt by his three older sons, and in 833–834 he confronted a second, more serious revolt. In 833 he was abandoned by his followers on the Field of Lies at Colmar and then deposed and forced by Lothar to do public penance. Judith and Charles were placed in monasteries. Lothar, however, overplayed his hand and alienated his brothers, who restored their father to the throne. Lothar lived in disgrace until a final reconciliation with his father near the end of Louis's life.
The partitioning of the Carolingian empire
The Treaty of Verdun
After the death of Louis the Pious (840), his surviving sons continued their plotting to alter the succession. Louis II (the German) and Charles II (the Bald) affirmed their alliance against Lothar I with the Oath of Strasbourg (842). After several battles, including the bloody one at Fontenoy, the three brothers came to an agreement in the Treaty of Verdun (843). The empire was divided into three kingdoms arranged along a north-south axis: Francia Orientalis was given to Louis the German, Francia Media to Lothar, and Francia Occidentalis to Charles the Bald. The three kings were equal among themselves. Lothar kept the imperial title, which had lost much of its universal character, and the imperial capital at Aix-la-Chapelle (now Aachen, Germany).
The kingdoms created at Verdun
Until 861 the clerical faction tried to impose a government of fraternity on the descendants of Charlemagne, manifested in the numerous conferences they held, but the competition of the brothers and their supporters undermined clerical efforts.
Francia Media proved to be the least stable of the kingdoms, and the imperial institutions bound to it suffered as a result. In 855 the death of Lothar I was followed by a partition of his kingdom among his three sons: the territory to the north and west of the Alps went to Lothar II (Lotharingia) and to Charles (kingdom of Provence); Louis II received Italyand the imperial title. At the death of Charles of Provence (863), his kingdom was divided between his brothers Lothar II (Rhône region) and Louis II (Provence). After the death of Lothar II in 869, Lotharingia was divided between his two uncles, Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Louis, however, did not gain control of his share until 870. Charles was made master of the Rhône regions of the ancient kingdom of Provence, while Louis turned most of his attention to fighting the Muslims who threatened the peninsula and the papal territories.
In Francia Occidentalis Charles the Bald was occupied with the struggle against the Vikings, who ravaged the countryside along the Scheldt, Seine, and Loire rivers. More often than not, the king was forced to pay for their departure with silver and gold. Aquitaine remained a centre of dissension. For some time (until 864) Pippin II continued to have supporters there, and Charles the Bald attempted to pacify them by installing his sons—first Charles the Child (reigned 855–866) and then Louis II (the Stammerer; 867–877)—on the throne of Aquitaine. The problems in Aquitaine were closely connected to general unrest among the magnates, who wished to keep the regional king under their control. By accumulating countships and creating dynasties, the magnates succeeded in carving out large principalities at the still unstable borders: Robert the Strong and Hugh the Abbot in the west; Eudes, son of Robert the Strong, in this same region and in the area around Paris; Hunfred, Vulgrin, Bernard of Gothia, and Bernard Plantevelue (Hairyfoot), count of Auvergne, in Aquitaine and the border regions; Boso in the southeast; and Baldwin I in Flanders. Nevertheless, Charles the Bald appeared to be the most powerful sovereign in the West, and in 875 Pope John VIII arranged for him to accept the imperial crown. An expedition he organized in Italy on the appeal of the pope failed, and the magnates of Francia Occidentalis rose up. Charles the Bald died on the return trip (877). Charles's son Louis the Stammerer ruled for only two years. At his death in 879 the kingdom was divided between his sons Louis III and Carloman. In the southeast, however, Boso, the count of Vienne, appropriated the royal title to the kingdom of Provence. The imperial throne remained vacant. The death of Louis III (882) permitted the reunification of Francia Occidentalis (except for the kingdom of Provence) under Carloman.
In Francia Orientalis royal control over the aristocracy was maintained. But decentralizing forces, closely bound to regional interests, made themselves felt in the form of revolts led by the sons of Louis the German. He had made arrangements to partition his kingdom in 864, with Bavaria and the East Mark to go to Carloman, Saxony and Franconia to Louis the Younger, and Alemannia (Swabia) to Charles III (the Fat). Although Louis the German managed to gain a portion of Lotharingia in 870, he was unable to prevent Charles the Bald's coronation as emperor (875). When Louis the German died in 876, the partition of his kingdom was confirmed. At the death of Charles the Bald, Louis's son Carloman seized Italy and intended to take the imperial title, but ill health forced him to abandon his plans. Carloman's youngest brother, Charles the Fat, benefited from the circumstances and restored the territorial unity of the empire. The deaths of Carloman (880) and Louis the Younger (882) without heirs allowed Charles the Fat to acquire successively the crown of Italy (880) and the imperial title (881) and to unite Francia Orientalis (882) under his own rule. Finally, at the death of Louis the Stammerer's son Carloman, Charles the Fat was elected king of Francia Occidentalis (885); the magnates had bypassed the last heir of Louis the Stammerer, Charles III (the Simple), in his favour. Charles the Fat avoided involving himself in Italy, in spite of appeals from the pope, and concentrated his attention on coordinating resistance to the Vikings, who had resumed the offensive in the valleys of the Scheldt, Meuse, Rhine, and Seine. He was unsuccessful, however, and in 886 had to purchase the Vikings' departure: they had besieged Paris, which was defended by Count Eudes. The magnates of Francia Orientalis rose up and deposed Charles the Fat in 887.
The Frankish world
Germans and Gallo-Romans
The settlement of Germanic peoples in Roman Gaul brought people from two entirely different backgrounds into contact. Linguistic barriers were quickly overcome, for the Germans adopted Latin. At the same time, German names were preponderant. Although there were religious difficulties in those regions settled by peoples converted to Arianism (Visigoths, Burgundians), Clovis's eventual conversion to Catholic Christianity simplified matters. The Germans who settled in Gaul were able to preserve some of their own judicial institutions, but these were heavily influenced by Roman law. The first sovereigns, under Roman influence, committed the customs of the people to writing, in Latin (Code of Euric, c. 470–480; Salic Law of Clovis, c. 507–511; Law of Gundobad, c. 501–515), and occasionally had summaries of Roman rights drawn up for the Gallo-Roman population (Papian Code of Gundobad; Breviary of Alaric). By the 9th century this principle of legal personality, under which each person was judged according to the law applying to his status group, was replaced by a territorially based legal system. Multiple contacts in daily life produced an original civilization composed of a variety of elements, some of which were inherited from antiquity, some brought by the Germans, and many strongly influenced by Christianity.
The collapse of Roman imperial power and the influx of Germans did not destroy the old Roman senatorial and landed aristocracy; the 6th-century kings called on its members to serve in the administration. A sort of military aristocracy had existed among the Germans: at the time of their settlement within the empire, its members were given tax revenues and lands confiscated from the Gallo-Roman aristocracy or awarded from the fisc (royal treasury). The two groups fused rapidly. They shared a common life, discharging public and religious duties and frequenting the court. By the beginning of the 7th century, there arose an aristocracy of office, whose signs of prestige were the possession of land and service to the king and church. This aristocracy increased in importance during the conflicts between the Merovingian sovereigns. The ascendance of the Pippinids, Carolingian rule, and the power struggles in the 9th century furnished these magnates, on whom those in power were dependent, with a means of enriching themselves and augmenting their political and social influence.
Parallel to this class of lay magnates and largely drawn from the same families was an ecclesiastical aristocracy, which was one both of office and of land. The church found itself in possession of a vast landed fortune. At the beginning of the 7th century, at least, the church frequently benefited from immunity, and governmental rights were conferred on abbots or bishops.
A class of small and middle-size landholders apparently existed, about which little is known. It appears that both the power of the magnates and the practices born of the ancient patronage system, combined with extensive military service, had the effect of diminishing the size of this class.
During the Merovingian epoch, slavery, inherited from antiquity, was still a viable institution. Slaves continued to be obtained in war and through trade. But the number of slaves decreased under the influence of the church, which encouraged manumission and sought to prohibit the enslavement of Christians. Under the Carolingians, the slaves in Gaul formed only a residual class, although the slave trade was still active. Taken increasingly from the Slavic territories (the term slavus replaced the traditional servus), slaves were a commodity for trade with the Muslim lands of the Mediterranean.
Diffusion of political power
During the period of insecurity and turbulence that marked the end of the Merovingian epoch, bonds of personal dependence, present in both Roman and Germanic institutions, competed with weakened governmental institutions. In the 7th century these bonds took one of two forms: commendation (a freeman placed himself under the protection of a more powerful lord for the duration of his life) and precarious contract (a powerful lord received certain services in return for the use of his land for a limited time under advantageous conditions). In the 8th century the Pippinids increased their personal circle of followers. Charlemagne sought to establish a personal bond with the entire free population through oaths of loyalty. He encouraged an increase in the number of royal vassals and gave them administrative functions. During the 9th-century power struggles, however, some administrative offices became hereditary, though this represented a distortion of the vassalic relationship. In addition, before the end of the century, a man could place himself in vassalage to several lords. Finally, the usurpation of governmental powers led to the formation of territorial principalities, resulting in a great weakening of royal authority.
The institutions of government underwent great changes under the Frankish monarchs. Kingship was the basic institution in the Merovingian realm. Since Clovis's reign, the power of the king had extended not only over a tribe or tribes but also over a territory inhabited by Germans of divergent backgrounds and by Gallo-Romans as well. The king exercised power within legal limitations, which, when violated, led to efforts to reestablish political equilibrium by means of civil war, assassination, and an appeal to God and the saints. Royal power was dynastic and patrimonial. The Frankish kings successfully eliminated the Germanic practice of the magnates electing the king (the Frankish king was content to present himself to the magnates who acclaimed him) and accepted the hereditary principle as a personal right. The kings partitioned the kingdom at each succession. Royal power also had a sacred aspect; under the Merovingians the external sign of this was long hair.
The nature of the Frankish monarchy was profoundly changed during the Carolingian epoch. When Pippin III usurped the office of king, he had himself consecrated first by the bishops of his realm (possibly including Boniface) in 751 and then by the pope in 754. This rite, originated by the biblical kings of Israel, had already been adopted by the Visigoths; it gave Christian legitimacy to royal authority because it reinforced the religious character of the monarchy and signified the king's receipt of special grace from God. The king was permitted to reign and was given a stature above that of the common level because of this grace. Acclamation by the magnates became a pledge of obeisance to a king whom God had invested with power.
To this new royal status Charlemagne, who had been called rex et sacerdos (Latin: "king and priest") in the 790s, added the title of emperor, which had not been held by a ruler in the West since 476. Although, according to his biographer, Charlemagne was surprised by the ceremony on Christmas Day in 800, he must surely have known of the coronation. Indeed, during the previous decade his advisers, especially Alcuin, had developed the idea that Charlemagne was a worthy successor to Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Among the clerical ranks that formed the entourage of the new emperor, the revival of the empire was regarded as a magistracy conferred by God in the interests of Western Christianity and the church; imperial authority was considered a kind of priesthood, and its bearer was obligated to lead and protect the faithful. This idea reached fruition under Louis the Pious, who understood his role as that of a Christian emperor and dispensed with the royal designations that his father included in his official title. He also redefined Carolingian relations with the pope, who crowned Louis in 816 and whose role became central in the act of coronation. Later Carolingians were deemed emperors only after coronation by the pope, and, as a result of the divisions of the empire, the emperor's most important duty was defense of the pope.
The central government
By the time of Clovis, the ancient Germanic assembly of freemen participated only in the conduct of local affairs and was consigned largely to a military role. Within each kingdom, the king's court, of Roman imperial origin but adapted and modified by the Frankish sovereigns, encompassed domestic services (treasury, provisioning, stables, clergy), a bureau of accounts, and a military force. The court was presided over by three men—the seneschal, the count of the palace, and, foremost, the mayor of the palace, who also presided over the king's estates. They traveled with the king, who, while having various privileged places of residence, did not live at a fixed capital. Only under Charlemagne did this pattern begin to change; while not abandoning the itinerant life, Charlemagne nonetheless wished to make Aachen the centre of his state. It was there that he constructed a vast palace, which was based upon a late imperial Roman model and of which only the Palatine Chapel remains.
Except in the north, which was divided into districts called pagi (singular pagus), the Merovingians continued to use the city (the Roman civitas) as the principal administrative division. A count, installed in each pagusand city (urbs), delegated financial, military, and judicial authority. Groups of counts were occasionally placed under the authority of a duke, whose responsibilities were primarily military.
The development of institutions in the Carolingian age
The Carolingians contented themselves with refining their administrative system to strengthen royal control and to solve the problems posed by a large empire. The kingdom's cohesion was augmented by an oath of fidelity, which Charlemagne exacted from every freeman (789, 793, 802), and by the publication of legislation—the capitularies—that regulated the administration and exploitation of the kingdom. In the marches, local governments were established.
To improve government further, the episcopate (the body of bishops) was given a central role in the administration, and a new class of judges (scabini) was created. Charlemagne extended the use of the missi dominici—i.e., envoys who also served as liaisons between the central government and local agents and who were responsible for keeping the latter in line. To strengthen his control over the population, Charlemagne attempted to develop intermediary bodies; he tried to use both vassalage and immunity as means of government—in the first instance by creating royal vassals and giving them public offices and in the second by controlling protected institutions such as monasteries and the Jewish community.
Agriculture was the principal economic activity, and during the entire Frankish age the great estate, inherited from antiquity, was one of the components of rural life. These estates were, according to contemporary documents known as polyptyques, an important source of income for the aristocracy. The estates appear to have long been placed under cultivation by servile labour, which was abundant at the time. The heavy work was done with the assistance of day labourers. A portion of the land, however, was given to the tenants—the coloni—who were compelled to pay annual charges. With the decline in slavery at the end of the Merovingian era, the number of tenancies increased, and tenants were compelled to render significant amounts of labour to cultivate land held directly by the lord. This bipartite system, in which the lord's "reserve" coexisted with tenant holdings, was not adopted throughout the Frankish empire but became characteristic of the future French heartland between the Loire and the Rhine. Farming techniques were rudimentary and crop yields were low, putting a damper on population growth and economic expansion; during the Merovingian and Carolingian periods, the total population remained below the peak it had reached in Roman times. The Carolingian period, however, especially after 800, witnessed the beginning of climatic and technological change that would lay the foundation for later economic and demographic expansion.
Despite the Islamic conquests, Mediterranean commerce did not decline abruptly. In Gaul, goods such as papyrus, oil, and spices were imported from the East, and there were numerous colonies of Syrians. Currency continued to be based on the gold standard, and imperial units were still used. All signs, moreover, point to the existence of manufacturing for trade (marble from Aquitaine, Rhenish glass, ceramics). However, in the Carolingian age, Mediterranean trade no longer occupied a primary place in the economy. The adoption of a new monetary system based on silver, along with a reduction in the number of Oriental goods and merchants, are signs of the change. After the 7th century, trade among the countries bordering the English Channel and the North Sea and in the Meuse valley increased steadily. The Scandinavians, with their great commercial centres at Birka in Sweden and Hedeby in Denmark, were both pirates and traders; they established new contacts between East and West.
In addition to this large-scale commerce, there was agriculturally based local trade. The number of markets increased, and market towns began to appear alongside the former Gallo-Roman cities, which survived as fortresses and population centres and served as the basis for religious organization and political administration.
Frankish fiscal law
The Frankish fiscal system reflected the evolution of the economy. Frankish kings were unable to continue the Roman system of direct taxation of land as the basis for their income. Their principal sources of income were the exploitation of the domains of the fisc (royal treasury), war (booty, tribute), the exercise of power (monetary and judicial rights), and the imposition of a growing number of telonea (taxes collected on the circulation and sale of goods).
The episcopate and the diocese were practically the only institutions to survive the collapse of Roman imperial power largely unchanged. Many bishops played important roles in defending the population during the German conquest. During the Frankish era, bishops and abbots occupied a socially prominent position because of both their great prestige among the people and their landed wealth.
The organization of the secular church took its final form under the Merovingian and Carolingian kings. The administrative bodies and the hierarchy of the early Christian church were derived from institutions existing during the late Roman Empire. In principle, a bishop was responsible for the clergy and faithful in each district (civitas). The bishop whose seat was in the metropolitan city had preeminence and was archbishop over the other bishops in his archdiocese. The monarchy dominated the church. Kings most often appointed bishops from among their followers without regard for religious qualifications; the metropolitan see was often fragmented in the course of territorial partitions and tended to lose its importance, and the church in Francia increasingly withdrew from papal control despite papal attempts to reestablish ties. The first Carolingians reestablished the ecclesiastical hierarchy. They restored the authority of the archbishops and established cathedral chapters so that the clergy living around a bishop were drawn into a communal life. They also maintained the right to nominate bishops, whom they considered agents of the monarchy.
During the 4th and 5th centuries success at converting the countryside made it necessary for the bishops to divide the dioceses into parish churches. Initially there was a limit of between 15 and 40 of these per diocese. In the Carolingian era they were replaced by small parish churches better suited to the conditions of rural life.
Monasticism originated in the East. It was introduced in the West during the 4th century and was developed in Gaul, mainly in the west (St. Martin of Tours) and southeast (St. Honoratus and St. John Cassian). In the 6th century the number of monasteries throughout Gaul increased, as did the number of rules regulating them. Introduced by St. Columban (c. 543–615), Irish monasticism was influential in the 7th century, but it was later superseded by the Benedictine rule, which originated in Italy. The monasteries suffered from the upheavals affecting the church in the 8th century, and the Carolingians attempted to reform them. Louis the Pious, acting on the advice of St. Benedict of Aniane, imposed the Benedictine rule, which became a characteristic feature of Western monasticism. The Carolingians, however, continued the practice of having lay abbots.
In the 6th century, especially in southern Gaul, the aristocracy and, consequently, the bishops drawn from it preserved an interest in traditional Classical culture. Beginning in the 7th century, the Columbanian monasteries insisted on the study of the Bible and the celebration of the liturgy. In the Carolingian era these innovations shared the focus of education with works of Classical antiquity.
Religious discipline and piety
Characteristic of the church in the 6th century were frequent councils to settle questions of doctrine and discipline. In time, however, the conciliar institution declined, leading to liturgical anarchy and a moral and intellectual crisis among the clergy. Charlemagne and Louis the Pious attempted to impose a uniform liturgy, inspired by the one used at Rome. They also took measures to raise the standard of education of both clerics and the faithful.
The cults of saints and relics were an important part of religion during late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Relics, the remains of the holy dead, were thought to have miraculous powers that could convert pagans and cure the sick. Consequently, the great desire to obtain relics led to the commercial exchange and even theft of them. Rome, with its numerous catacombs filled with the remains of the earliest Christians, was one of the key centres of the relic trade. It also became the most prominent Western pilgrimage site at a time when pilgrimage, at first to local shrines and then to international ones, became increasingly important. The desire on the part of the faithful to be buried near relics changed funeral practices. Ancient cemeteries were abandoned, and burials in or near churches (burials ad sanctos) increased.
The influence of the church on society and legislation
The progressive Christianization of society influenced Frankish institutions significantly. The introduction of royal consecration and the creation of the empire afforded the clergy an opportunity to elaborate a new conception of power based on religious principles. The church was involved in trying to discourage slavery and in ameliorating the legal condition of those enslaved. It was during the Carolingian period that, in reaction to the polygyny practiced in German society, Christian doctrines of marriage were more strictly formulated.
Merovingian literature and arts
During the entire 6th century many writers, inspired by Classical tradition, produced works patterned on antique models; such writers included Sidonius Apollinaris (died c. 488) and Venantius Fortunatus (died c. 600). In the late 6th century, Gregory of Tours produced influential works in history and hagiography—the writing of saints' lives, which became the most widespread literary genre of the period. Nevertheless, the standard of literature continued to decline, becoming more and more conventional and artificial. The use of popular Latin became more common among writers.
Religious architecture remained faithful to the early Christian model (churches of basilican type, baptisteries, and vaulted mausoleums with central plans). Because of the development of the cult of saints and the practice of burying ad sanctos, mausoleums became common in churches. As had been the case in antiquity, marble was the principal sculptural material. In the Pyrenees, sculptors produced antique-style capitals and sarcophagi, which they exported throughout Gaul; these workshops reached their zenith in the 7th century. The development of the art of metalwork (fibulae, buckles) was another characteristic of the Merovingian age. Germanic craftsmen adapted Roman techniques (e.g., cloisonné and damascene work). A new aesthetic standard, characterized by the play of colour and the use of stylized motifs, eventually predominated.
Carolingian literature and arts
Although its roots can be traced to the 7th century, a cultural revival, or renaissance, blossomed under the Carolingians. Indeed, the Carolingian kings actively promoted the revival as part of their overall reform of church and society. Inspired by his sense of duty as a Christian king and his desire to improve religious life, Charlemagne promoted learning and literacy in his legislation. He also encouraged bishops and abbots to establish schools to educate the young boys of the kingdom. His reforms attracted some of the greatest scholars of his day, including the Anglo-Saxon Alcuin and the Visigoth Theodulf of Orléans. The renaissance continued into the 9th century and gained renewed support from Charles the Bald, who sought to revive the glory of his grandfather's court.
After raising the standard of the clergy, Charlemagne assembled a group of scholars at his court. Although, contrary to legend, there was no formal school established in the imperial palace, numerous schools opened in the vicinity of churches and monasteries. An attempt was also made to reform handwriting. Research was carried on simultaneously under the auspices of several monastic centres (most notably Tours) for the purpose of standardizing writing; this effort resulted in the adoption of a regular, easily readable script (Carolingian minuscule). Improved teaching and a desire to imitate Classical antiquity helped to revivify the Latin used by writers and scribes.
The imperial court and monasteries throughout the realm were centres of literary production. Carolingian authors produced a number of works of history, such as Einhard's Vita Karoli Magni (Life of Charlemagne), the Astronomer's Vita Hludowici imperatoris (Life of Louis the Pious), Nithard's Historiarum libri IV (History of the Sons of Louis the Pious), and Hincmar's De ordine palatii ("On the Government of the Palace"). They also wrote original works of theology on such matters as predestination and the Eucharist. These authors also copied numerous works of Christian and Classical antiquity, which otherwise would have been lost, and Alcuin prepared a new edition of St. Jerome's Vulgate. Many of the more important books were beautifully illustrated with miniatures, sometimes decorated in gold, that revealed the Roman, Germanic, and Christian influences of these artists and their patrons.
Beginning in the mid-9th century, however, the kingdoms formed from the partitions of the empire saw a renaissance of regional cultures. The fact that the Oath of Strasbourg was drawn up in Romance and German is an early indication of this development. There is a striking contrast between the Annales Bertiniani (The Annals of St. Bertin), written at the court of Charles the Bald, and the Annales Fuldenses (The Annals of Fulda), written at the principal intellectual centre in Francia Orientalis. They are, respectively, the western and eastern narratives of the same events.
Some of the great imperial monuments erected during the Carolingian age (palace of Ingelheim, palace of Aachen) reveal the permanence of ancient tradition in their regular plans and conception. The churches were the subjects of numerous architectural experiments; while some were constructed on a central plan (Germigny-des-Prés, Aachen with its internal octagon shape), most remained faithful to the traditional T-shape basilican type. Liturgical considerations and the demands of the faith, however, made certain modifications necessary, such as crypts on the east or a westwork, or second apse on the west. These church buildings afforded architects an opportunity to make experiments in balancing the arches. The extension of the vaults over the entire church and the more rational integration of the annexes and church proper gave rise to Romanesque architecture.
The buildings of the period were richly decorated with paintings, frescoes, painted stucco, and mosaics in which figural representation increasingly replaced strictly ornamental decoration. North Italian ateliers were popularizing the use of interlace (i.e., ornaments of intricately intertwined bands) in chancel decoration. Sumptuary arts became more common, especially illumination, ivory work, and metalwork for liturgical use (reliquaries).
The emergence of France
From the 9th to the 11th century the peoples and lands dominated by western Frankish kings were transformed. The Carolingian protectorate of local order collapsed under the pressures of external invasions and internal usurpations of power. Growing populations and quickening economies were reorganized in principalities whose leaders struggled to carry on the old programs of kings, bishops, and monks; one of these lands, centred on the Paris-Orléans axis and later known as the Île-de-France, was the nucleus of a new dynastic kingdom of France. This kingdom may be spoken of as Capetian France (the first king of the new dynasty having been Hugh Capet), but it was not until the 13th century that this France came to approximate the modern nation in territorial extent. The emergence of a greater France as a social and cultural entity preceded the political expansion of Capetian France; already in the 12th century Crusaders, when speaking of "Franks" from Romance-speaking lands, meant something like "Frenchmen," while the persistence of old boundaries between populations of Romance and Germanic speech perpetuated the idea of a greater West Frankland.
French society in the early Middle Ages
A foremost circumstance of the later 9th and the 10th century was the inability of the western Frankish Carolingian kings to keep order. The royal estates that had theretofore supported them, mostly in the north and east, were depleted through grants to retainers uncompensated by new acquisitions. Hindered by poor communications, the kings lost touch with lesser counts and bishops, while the greater counts and dukes strove to forge regional clienteles in fidelity to themselves. These princes (as they were called) were not rebels. More often allied with the king than not, they exercised regalian powers of justice, command, and constraint; it was typically they who undertook to defend local settlements and churches from the ravages of Magyars invading from the east, of Muslims on Mediterranean coasts, and of Vikings from northern waters.
Of these invaders, the Northmen, as contemporaries called the Vikings, were the most destructive. They raided landed estates and monasteries, seizing provisions and movable wealth. Striking as far inland as Paris by 845, they attacked Bordeaux, Toulouse, Orléans, and Angers between 863 and 875. From a base in the Somme estuary, they pillaged Amiens, Cambrai, Reims, and Soissons. But they were drawn especially to the Seine valley. Between 856 and 860 they laid waste the country around its lower reaches and repeatedly attacked Paris thereafter. Sometimes they were turned back by defenses but more often by payments of tribute. After 896 the invaders began to settle permanently in the lower Seine valley, whence they spread west to form the duchy of Normandy. Maritime raiding continued into the 10th century, then subsided.
Lords such as the counts of Flanders, Paris, Angers, and Provence were well situated to prosper in the crisis. They were often descended from or related to Carolingian kings. Adding protectorates over churches to their inherited offices, domains, and fiefs while acquiring other lordships and counties through marriage, they built up principalities that were as precarious as they were powerful. The lords tried to avoid dismemberment of the patrimony by limiting their children's right of succession and marriage, but it was only in the 12th century that these dynastic principles came to prevail in the French aristocracy. The princes, moreover, found it almost as hard as the kings to secure their power administratively. They exploited their lands through servants valued less for competence than for fidelity; these servants, however, were men who tended to think of themselves as lords rather than agents. This tendency was especially marked among the masters of castles (castellans), who by the year 1000 were claiming the power to command and punish as well as the right to retain the revenues generated from the exercise of such power. In this way was completed a devolution of power from the undivided empire of the 9th century to a checkerboard of lordships in the 11th—lordships in which the control of castles was the chief determinant of success.
The devolution of power led to a fragmented polity; at every level lords depended on the services of sworn retainers who were usually rewarded with the tenures of lordship called fiefs (feuda). In the 9th century fiefs were not yet numerous enough to undermine the public order protected by kings and their delegates. Indeed, fiefs were at first rewards for public service made from fiscal (royal) lands; this practice persisted in the south into the 11th century. By then, however, castles, knights, and knights' fiefs were multiplying beyond all control, resulting in a fracturing of power that few princes succeeded in reversing before 1100. Counts were unwilling to admit that their counties were fiefs or that they owed the same sort of allegiance to kings or dukes as their vassals did to them. Tainted with servility as well as with the brutality of needy knights on the make, vassalage was slow to gain respectability. The multiplication of fiefs was a violent process of subjugating free peasants and abusing churches.
The political history of France (c. 850–1180)
The fragmentation of political power resulting from the decline of the Carolingians meant that the kings of France were forced into rivalries, alliances, and conflicts with the princes, who were for many generations the real rulers of their territories. Even after a new dynasty, the Capetians, took over the crown in 987, it took several centuries before they were able to impose their authority on most of present-day France.
Principalities north of the Loire
Outside the dynastic royal domain (centred around Paris) the foremost northern powers were Flanders, Normandy, Anjou, Brittany, Blois-Champagne, and Burgundy.
The northernmost of these was Flanders, whose founder, Baldwin I (Iron-Arm; reigned 862–879), managed not only to abduct the Carolingian king's daughter and marry her but also to win that king's approval as count of Ghent. His authority was consolidated under his son Baldwin II(879–918) and grandson Arnulf I (918–965), the latter a violent and ambitious prince who undertook to restore the Flemish church as if he were an emperor. Fertile and precocious in trading activity, Flanders became home to a dense network of prosperous cities and monasteries; monks at Saint-Bertin and Ghent celebrated the dynastic feats of the counts.
In the time of Robert I (the Frisian; 1071–93), efforts were made to systematize the count's lordship over castles as well as his fiscal rights, but the results fell short of giving the count effective sovereign power. When the foreign-born Charles the Good (1119–27) tried to pacify the county at the expense of lesser knightly families, he was murdered. Stability together with a new and centralized mode of fiscal accountancy was achieved by Thierry of Alsace (1128–68) and his son Philip (1163–91). Toward 1180 Flanders was a major power in northern France.
The duchy of Normandy was created in 911, when the Viking chieftain Rollo (Hrolf) accepted lands around Rouen and Evreux from King Charles III (the Simple). With its pastures, fisheries, and forests, this territory was a rich prize, and Rollo's successors extended their domination of it aggressively. Early Norman history, however, is more obscure than Flemish, lacking the records that only Christian clerics could write. The acquisitions of the second duke of Normandy, William I (Longsword; 927–942), were threatened when he was murdered by Arnulf I of Flanders in 942. It was only in the reign of his son Richard I (942–996) that something like administrative continuity based on succession to fiscal domains and control of the church was achieved. The dukes (as they then came to be styled) allied with the ascendant duke Hugh Capet had little to lose from the latter's accession to the kingship in 987; it was at this time that a new Norman aristocracy in ducal control took shape. Under Robert I (the Devil; 1027–35) agrarian and commercial prosperity favoured the multiplication of castellanies and knights, and Duke William II (1035–87; William the Conqueror) had to put down a dangerous rising of Norman barons and castellans in 1047 before proceeding, surely in deliberate consequence, to establish a firmly central control of castles that was without precedent in France. His conquest of England in 1066 made William the most powerful ruler in France. At the same time, knights from lesser elite families in Normandy were establishing territorial lordships in southern Italy.
Norman ducal lordship was crude but effective. Under Henry I (1106–35) a unified exploitation of patronage, castles, and revenues was developed for the kingdom of England and the duchy of Normandy alike. Normandy passed to Henry's son-in-law Count Geoffrey of Anjou in 1135 and to his grandson Henry II (1150–89), in whose time it became the heartland of an Angevin dynastic empire.
Anjou, in the lower Loire valley, was among the lands delegated to Robert the Strong in 866. In the 10th century a series of vigorous counts established a dynastic patrimony that expanded under the great Fulk III Nerra (987–1040) and his son Geoffrey Martel (1040–60) to include Maine and Touraine. Strategically situated, this principality prospered in its early times of external danger, but it was surrounded by aggressive dynasts; the control of castles and vassalic fidelities were the count's somewhat precarious means of power.
Brittany, to the west of Anjou and Normandy, was set apart by its strongly Celtic tradition. It achieved identity in the 9th century under the native leader Nomenoë, who seized Nantes> and Rennes in defiance of Charles the Bald. His successors, badly battered by the Vikings, were recognized as dukes in the 10th century but were unable to consolidate their power over lesser counts and castellans. With little more than an unenvied independence, the duchy persisted into the 12th century, when a series of succession crises enabled King Henry II of England to subject it to the Plantagenet domains. Only after 1166 were the Bretons to feel the impact of systematic territorial administration.
The area around Blois, to the east of Touraine, had also been entrusted to Robert the Strong and remained in his family's hands until about 940, when Theobald I (the Old) seized control of it and founded a line of counts of Blois. His successors, notably the fearsome Eudes II (996–1037), annexed the counties of Sancerre (1015) and Champagne (1019–23), thereby creating a principality comparable in strength to Flanders and more threatening to the king, whose patrimonial domains it encircled. A dynastic aggregate lacking natural cohesion, Blois-Champagne achieved its greatest strength under Theobald IV (the Great; Theobald II of Champagne, 1125–52), who was a formidable rival of Kings Louis VI and Louis VII. The main lands were divided under his sons Theobald V (1152–91) and Henry (1152–81), themselves prestigious lords; and the Champagne of Henry the Liberal was among the richest, best organized, and most cultured French lands of its day.
Finally, there was Burgundy, to the south of Champagne (not to be confused with the old kingdom and the later imperial county of Burgundy), which first achieved princely identity under Richard the Justiciar (880–921). Defeating Magyars and Vikings as well as exploiting the rivalries of his neighbours, Richard was regarded (like his near contemporary Arnulf I of Flanders) as virtually a king. Ducal power was contested and diminished thereafter, but it survived as the patrimony of a Capetian family until 1361.
Thus, by the later 12th century, France north of the Loire consisted of several large principalities (some of them associated with the English crown) coexisting with each other and with the king, who struggled to impose his lordship on them.
The principalities of the south
South of the Loire emerged another set of lands: Provence, Auvergne, Toulouse, Barcelona, and Aquitaine.
Provence, lying in what is now the southeastern corner of France, was not part of the western Frankish domains. Included in the middle kingdom (Francia Media) from 843, it passed to the kings of Burgundyafter 879 and to the emperors in the 11th century. But it was local counts once again who won prestige as defenders against pillagers, in this case the Muslims, and who profited from urban growth to establish a dynastic authority of their own. This authority was fractured in the early 12th century, when the houses of Barcelona and Toulouse secured portions by marriage; a cadet dynasty of Barcelona continued to rule the county until 1245.
The county of Barcelona, formed from a delegation of Frankish royal power in 878, came to dominate all other eastern Pyrenean counties in the 11th century. Prospering at the expense of the Muslims, Count Ramon Berenguer I (reigned 1035–76) reduced his castellans to submission (as did his contemporary William in Normandy). His great-grandson Ramon Berenguer IV (1131–62) organized the strongest principality in the south. He and his successors acted as fully independent sovereigns, although the king of France retained a theoretical lordship over Barcelona until 1258.
Auvergne is the best example of a region whose masters failed to subordinate rival counts and castellans. A tradition of superior comital unity had survived in the claims of two related counts before their patrimonies were absorbed by the crown in the 13th century.
Toulouse had been a centre of delegated Frankish power from the 8th century, but its pretension to princely status dated from 924, when Raymond III Pons (924–after 944) added control of coastal Gothia to that of Toulouse and its hinterland. Dynastic continuity, here as elsewhere, however, was badly interrupted, and none of the succeeding counts were able to organize a coherent lordship. Raymond IV of Saint-Gilles (1093–1105) acquired the Crusader land of Tripoli (Syria), but he and his successors were weakened at home by conflicts with Barcelona and Aquitaine.
The duchy of Aquitaine might at first have seemed the most promising of all these principalities. A kingdom in the 9th century, it was reconstituted under William the Pious (died 926) and again, more imposingly, under William V (994/5–1029), who was acclaimed as one of the greatest rulers of his day and even offered the imperial crown in 1024. An advocate of religious reform, William sought to strengthen his control over Aquitaine by promoting alliances with the monasteries and imposing his will on lesser nobles. His efforts were not always successful, and he and his successors suffered reverses at the hands of the Angevin counts. In the 12th century the vast duchy was conveyed by the marriages of its heiress Eleanor successively to the kings of France and England.
Of these principalities, only Barcelona had achieved territorial cohesion and cultural unity by the later 12th century; it was then becoming known as Catalonia. The others, less toughened by external invasion and less resistant to the Cathari (or Albigensian) religious heresy from within, were vulnerable to an expanding Capetian monarchy.
The kingdom of France was descended directly from the western Frankish realm ceded to Charles the Bald in 843. Not until 987 was the Carolingian dynastic line set aside, but there had been portentous interruptions. The reunited empire of Charles the Fat (reigned 884–888) proved unworkable: the Viking onslaught was then at its worst, and the king proved incapable of managing defenses, which fell naturally to the regional magnates. Among these was Eudes, son of that Robert the Strong to whom counties in the lower Loire valley had been delegated in 866. Eudes's resourceful defense of Paris against the Vikings in 885 contrasted starkly with Charles the Fat's failures, and in 887 the western Frankish magnates deposed Charles and later elected Eudes king. In so doing, they bypassed an underage grandson of Charles the Bald, also named Charles, who was crowned at Reims in 893 with the support of the archbishop there. Although gaining undisputed title to the crown upon Eudes's death in 898 and imposing a crushing defeat on Rollo and forcing his conversion to Christianity before granting Normandy to the Viking leader, Charles the Simple was unable to recover the undivided loyalty of the nobility. He then sought to reward the service of lesser men but lost the crown in 922 to Eudes's brother Robert I, who was killed in battle against Charles in 923. Thereupon Robert's son-in-law Rudolf (Raoul of Burgundy) was elected king, and Charles the Simple was imprisoned, to die in captivity in 929. Yet, when Rudolf died in 936, the Robertian candidate for the crown, Robert's son Hugh the Great, stood aside for another Carolingian restoration in the person of Louis IV, son of Charles the Simple and called Louis d'Outremer ("Louis from Overseas") because he had been nurtured in England since his father's deposition. Louis IV acted energetically to revive the prestige of his dynasty, leaving the crown undisputed at his death in 954 to his son Lothar (954–986). But Lothar's dynastic resources were too seriously impaired to command the full allegiance of the magnates. When his son Louis V (986–987) died young, the magnates reasserted themselves to elect Hugh Capet king. This time, despite the survival of a Carolingian claimant, Charles of Lorraine, the dynastic breach was permanent.
The election of 987 coincided with a more general crisis of power. The pillaging of Vikings gave way to that of castellans and knights; the inability of kings (of whatever family) to secure professions of fidelity and service from the mass of people in lands extending beyond a few counties shows how notions of personal loyalty and lordship were replacing that of public order. Just as castellans were freeing themselves from subordination to counts, so the monks claimed exemption from the supervision of bishops: in a famous case the bishop of Orléans was opposed by the learned Abbo of Fleury (died 1004). There was a new insistence on the virtue of fidelity—and on the sin of betrayal.
Hugh Capet (reigned 987–996) and his son Robert II (the Pious; 996–1031) struggled vainly to maintain the Carolingian solidarity of associated counts, bishops, and abbots; after about 1025 Robert and his successors were hardly more than crowned lords, and their protectorate was valued by few but the lesser barons and churches of the Île-de-France. Neither Henry I (1031–60) nor Philip I (1060–1108) could match the success (such as it was) of their rivals in Normandy and Flanders in subordinating castles and vassals to their purposes.
Yet even these relatively weak kings clung to their pretensions. They claimed rights in bishops' churches and monasteries far outside their immediate domain, which was concentrated around Paris, Orléans, Compiègne, Soissons, and Beauvais. Henry I married a Russian princess, whose son was given the exotic name of Philip; and the choice of Louis, a Carolingian name, for Philip's son was even more obviously programmatic. Louis VI (1108–37) spent his reign reducing the robber barons of the Île-de-France to submission, thereby restoring respect for the king's justice; he worked cautiously to promote the royal suzerainty over princely domains. It was a sign of newly achieved prestige that he secured the heiress Eleanor of Aquitaine as a bride for his son Louis VII (1137–80). But Louis VI was less successful in border wars with Henry I of Normandy; these conflicts became more dangerous when, upon the failure of her first marriage, Eleanor married Henry II of Anjou, who came thereby to control lands in western France of much greater extent than the Capetian domains. Louis VII proved nonetheless a steady defender of his realm. He never relinquished his claim to lordship over the Angevin lands, and he allowed lesser men of his entourage the freedom to develop a more efficient control of his patrimonial estate. Not least, he fathered—belatedly, by Queen Adele of Champagne, his third wife, amid transports of relieved joy—the son who was to carry on the dynasty's work.
The early Capetian kings thus achieved the power of a great principality, such as Normandy or Barcelona, while harbouring the potential to reestablish a fully royal authority over the greater realm once ruled by Charles the Bald. The princes were their allies or their rivals; they sometimes did homage and swore fealty to the king, but they were reluctant to admit that their hard-won patrimonies were fiefs held of the crown. Royal lordship over peasants, townspeople, and church lands was for many generations a more important component of the king's power in France. It was exercised personally, not bureaucratically. The king's entourage, like those of the princes, replicated the old Frankish structure of domestic service. The seneschal saw to general management and provisioning, a function (like that of the mayors of the palace) with the potential to expand. The butler, constable, and chamberlain were also laymen, the chancellor normally a cleric. The lay officers were not agents in the modern sense; their functions (and incomes) were endowed rewards or fiefs, for which they seldom accounted and which they tended to claim as by hereditary right. In a notorious case, Stephen of Garland tried to claim the seneschalsy as his property and for a time even held three offices at once; but this abuse was soon remedied and taught caution to Louis VI and his successors. The chancellor drafted the king's decrees and privileges with increasing care and regularity. He or the chamberlain kept lists of fiscal tenants and their obligations on the lord-king's estates and in towns for use in verifying the service of provosts who collected the rents and profits of justice. But this service was hardly less exploitative than that of the household officers; the royal domain lagged behind the princely ones of Flanders and Normandy in the imposition of accountability on its servants. The abbot Suger of Saint-Denis (died 1151), once a provost on his monastery's domains, was instrumental in furthering administrative conceptions of power in the court of Louis VII.
Increasing productivity stimulated trade, the improvement of roads and bridges, and the growth of towns, as well as competition for the profits of agrarian lordship. After about 1050, townspeople, especially merchants, sought to free themselves from the arbitrary lordship of counts and bishops, usually peaceably, as at Saint-Omer, but occasionally in violent uprisings, as at Le Mans and Laon. Town life continued to flourish. A few places, favoured by political, ecclesiastical, and economic circumstances, grew far larger than the rest. Paris could probably count close to 200,000 inhabitants by the late 13th century, and some great provincial centres—e.g., Toulouse, Bordeaux, Arras, Rouen—may have surpassed 25,000, but most of the older cities grew more modestly. Jewish communities, which existed almost everywhere, were especially important in the towns of Champagne and Languedoc. Emigration from the countryside probably increased as peasants sought better opportunities and independence, yet the towns remained somewhat indistinct in appearance and activity from their rural surroundings. Many urban properties had agrarian attachments, often within the walls; Paris itself was, to a surprising extent, an aggregation of expanded villages. Nevertheless, the progress of commerce, together with an important ancillary development of industry, chiefly accounts for medieval urban prosperity.
The trades not only grew in volume but also became more diversified and specialized. New markets, often regional in nature, arose to supplement the older centres that had developed on the basis of the long-distance exchange of relatively high-priced imperishables. Regional markets featured agrarian staples such as grains and wines as well as animals, cloth, weapons, and tools, and they facilitated the introduction of foreign goods, such as glassware and spices. An increasing reliance on coinage or on monetary values may be connected with these provincial trades; sensitivity to the intrinsic values of the many French coinages was increasing everywhere toward 1200, even in the hinterlands away from main trading routes. In the late 13th century the need for money in denominations larger than the age-old penny (denarius)—primarily for use in the great commercial centres—caused Louis IX (reigned 1226–70) to issue the gros tournois (worth 12 pennies) and the gold coin (which, however, had little importance before the 14th century). A gradual long-term inflation tended to favour commercial activity.
The towns of northern France, notably in Artois, Burgundy, the Île-de-France, and especially Champagne, prospered not only from regional exchange but also from the great overland trade flows connecting Normandy, England, the Baltic, and the Low Countries with the cities of Italy. The fairs of Champagne, becoming the leading entrepôt of European merchants, reached their apogee in the 13th century. Favoured by the count's privilege, the traders operated at Lagny, Bar-sur-Aube, or—in greater numbers—Provins and at the "warm fair" of Troyes in June; the "cold fair" of Troyes ended the yearly cycle in October. The fairs were designated as occasions for payment and repayment, contributing significantly to the progress of banking and business accounting.
Enlarged and more diversified demand encouraged urban growth and prosperity. Townsmen were eating better: in the north, at least, the per capita consumption of meat, butter, and cheese, as well as of spices, seems to have increased by the 13th century. As for wine, not only was more being drunk but the taste for vins de qualité became more acute, and the great regional vintages, notably that of Gascony, were established. Townspeople furnished their houses more amply than in the past (lamps, wooden chests, and draperies came into common use), and they produced more articles themselves.
The progress of industry, in fact, was a remarkable feature of the period. Crafts in metal, wood, leather, and glass expanded in such large towns as Paris. Cloth work—weaving, dyeing, fulling—prospered in regional centres such as Toulouse, with specialities in fine cloths concentrated in Artois and Flanders. In most places, however, the crafts remained in the shadow of commercial enterprise, in which greater fortunes continued to be made. Artisanal associations proliferated everywhere; often termed brotherhoods (confratria, confraternitas), they fostered new urban and suburban solidarities for charitable and ceremonial purposes as well as for the promotion of economic interests.
Urban society became more competitive and more stratified. At Lyon, Bordeaux, and elsewhere, some fortunes were established enough, usually from commerce, to enable their possessors to live as landlords, build stone houses, buy rural property, and aspire to titles of nobility. This patriciate—despite occasional setbacks at the hands of "new men," a rising class of administrators chosen over men of high birth for their expertise in politics—dominated municipal governments, acting as mayors and magistrates (échevins) in the north or as consuls in the south. While not altogether self-serving—they supported civic projects such as the building or decorating of churches—they were disinclined to share power. Below them, often as their tenants or debtors, were small entrepreneurs, middlemen in trade (or between local industry and regional trade), master craftsmen, and bankers; and below all—and increasingly restive—was a swelling class of impoverished artisans, servants, vagabonds, and beggars.
Rural life changed more gradually. The expanding markets favoured well-endowed or efficient lords or peasants who could produce a surplus of goods for sale. Such conditions were less common in the south than in the north, although they could be found in most wine-producing areas. But, while rising prices benefited producers, they contributed to certain difficulties in the countryside. Fixed revenues in coin proved an unsatisfactory alternative to payments in kind, which landlords specified when new land was put under cultivation. Moreover, needs and tastes became more expensive and tended to exceed aristocratic resources; lavish generosity continued to be an admired and practiced virtue, and costly Crusades—occasionally lapsing into speculative adventures—regularly attracted noblemen after the end of the 11th century. Larger lordships began to employ salaried estate managers, while in the south the division of landed fortunes among numerous heirs resulted in a multiplied and impoverished petty nobility. Many rural landlords fell into debt in the 13th century. And, as wealth and nobility became less correlated, some nobles, especially those who were financially hard-pressed, sought to close ranks against the intrusion of new men or creditors. They insisted on noble birth as a condition for knighthood, reserving the designation of "squire" (or donzel, in the south) for those of noble birth awaiting or postponing the expensive dubbing (adoubement). At the upper extreme, a noble elite, the barons, achieved recognition in administration and law.
Peasant societies also became stratified. Men unable to set aside a surplus against times of famine and those who had to borrow or rent their tools or teams found it difficult to avoid dependence on other men. In some areas serfdom was renewed, or confirmed, as jurists interpreted the more stringent types of peasant obligation in the light of the revived Roman law of slavery. But here again economic and legal status did not necessarily coincide. Rich peasants who employed other men to drive their teams could be found in any village; such people as the mayor, the lord's provost, and the peasant creditor established themselves as a rural elite, whose resources insured them against calamity and opened up diverse opportunities in prospering regional economies. Where enfranchisement occurred, the lord usually received a good payment; even when servility persisted, there was a tendency to commute the arbitrary tallage into fixed common sums. New villages continued to be established, especially in the south, where many previously existent communities of peasants also received charters of elementary liberties in the 13th and early 14th centuries.
These conditions notwithstanding, the manor, or seigneurie, resisted fragmentation. The favourable market for grain and the psychological attachment of lords to their fathers' possessions preserved demesne land (for use by leasehold, not freehold, tenants) as the chief source of seigneurial income through the 13th century. The lords also continued to require the services of labourers, although the shortfall increased between work owed and work needed. Accordingly, lords resorted to paid seasonal labour, so that the margin between profit and loss became a more critical calculation than in the past. A new alternative was to lease the demesne to paid managers or sharecroppers, but this practice spread more slowly in France than in neighbouring countries. Whether lords had demesnes and servile tenants or not, the association between landlordship and power remained close. Tenancies or properties smaller than the grand old residences known as manses appeared everywhere but especially in the north, where horsepower and three-field crop rotations were making possible more productive agriculture. The burgeoning viticultures of Burgundy and Gasconyproved incompatible with traditional demesne lordship and encouraged sharecropping and peasant initiative. Innovation was less common in the uplands of the centre and south, where the manse tended to retain its identity and fiscal utility.
Religious and cultural life
The Christian church was badly disrupted by the invasions of the 800s and early 900s as well as by the rise of the local strongmen that accompanied the invasions. In Normandy five successive bishops of Coutances resided at Rouen, far from their war-torn district, which had converted to paganism under the Vikings. Elsewhere standards of clerical deportment declined, threatening the moral leadership with which Carolingian prelates had supported public order. Renewal came in two influential forms.
First, monks in Burgundy and Lorraine were independently inspired to return to a strict observance of the Benedictine rule and thereby to win the adherence of laypeople anxious to be saved. The monastery of Cluny, one centre of reform, was founded in 910 by William I (the Pious), a duke of Aquitaine with a bad conscience; dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, it thus came under the protection of the pope. The Cluniac reform, whose influence gradually radiated beyond Cluny and encouraged reforms in other monastic houses, stressed independence from lay control, opposed simony and clerical marriage, and practiced an elaborate routine of liturgical prayer. In the 11th century Cluny came to direct an order of affiliated monasteries that extended throughout France and beyond. Cluny's religious hegemony was challenged only in the 12th century with the rise of a yet more ascetic Benedictine observance, of which St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) was the great proponent. Centred at Cîteaux (Latin Cistercium, whence the appellation Cistercian) in Burgundy, this movement combined ascetic severity with introspective spirituality and economic self-sufficiency. A newly personal devotionalism was diffused from monastic cloisters into lay society.
Second, the bishops, in the absence of royal leadership, renewed Carolingian sanctions against violence. The Peace of God was instituted in synods of southern France in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. Solemnized in relic processions and oaths and supported by large crowds of the laity, it was an effort to restrain the increasing number of knights from violating the traditional rights of peasants and churches. It was supplemented from the 1020s by the Truce of God, which forbade fighting on certain days or during particular seasons of the year and which helped to mold a new conception of the knight as a Christian warrior prohibited from shedding the blood of other Christians. These movements were warmly embraced by the Cluniac pope Urban II when he preached the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095, which resembled the Peace councils earlier in the century. The ideals and reforms of the Peace and Truce of God contributed to a new understanding of knighthood as an honourable estate of Christian leadership. When young princes were dubbed to knighthood in the 12th century, they assumed a mode of respectability fashioned by the church; this eased the way for lesser knights to be recognized as nobles as well.
Scholars such as Gerbert of Aurillac, the future pope Sylvester II, were forced to wander from city to city in the pursuit of learning (Gerbert had to travel to Spain to study advanced mathematics); nevertheless, the growing wealth and stability of regional societies, such as those in Burgundy, Flanders, and Normandy, encouraged new impulses in the arts and letters. Cathedral schools revived the traditional curriculum of learning, stressing reading, writing, speaking, and computation. Fulbert of Chartres (c. 960–1028) was fondly remembered as a humane teacher by students who often became teachers themselves. A century later, famous masters could be found at Laon and Paris as well as (probably) at Chartres, attracting young clerics to their lectures in swelling numbers. The Breton Peter Abelard (1079–1142) taught and wrote so brilliantly on logic, faith, and ethics that he established Paris's reputation for academic excellence. His famous correspondence with his beloved Héloïse reveals the emerging humanism in 12th-century letters, demonstrating a knowledge of Classical authors and depth of emotion characteristic of the age. Traditional pursuits of contemplative theology and history gave way to new interests in logic and law. Men trained in canon and Roman law found their way increasingly into the service of kings, princes, and bishops.
Everywhere churches were built in Romanesque style, and they continued to be built in the south long after some architects, such as Suger at Saint-Denis in the 1140s, introduced the new aesthetic of Gothic style, a distinctive French innovation. Lay culture found expression in vernacular epics, such as La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) in Old French, and in the Provençal lyrics of southern France. These poems are witness to diverse zones of linguistic evolution from spoken Latin; by the 12th century the langue d'oïl (Old French) north of the Loire was broadly differentiated from the langue d'oc (Occitan, or Provençal, language) to the south. The cultural cleavage so marked ran deeper than language and was not entirely overcome by the spread of modern French, descended from the langue d'oïl, into the south.
At the same time that society and the church underwent reform and expansion, they also faced the first expressions of popular heresy since late antiquity. In the early 11th century, episodes of heresy occurred in Aquitaine, Arras, Orléans, and Vertus. The heretics, possibly influenced by foreign missionaries and certainly reacting against the abuses of the church and failures of reform, rejected the church and its sacraments, abstained from sexual intercourse and eating meat, and lived pious lives. By the mid-11th century the church had successfully repressed the heretics, burning a dozen or so at Orléans under order of the king. Heresy disappeared until the early 12th century, when a number of heretical leaders, such as Peter of Bruys and Henry of Lausanne, developed large followings in various cities. These leaders, again reacting to the flaws of the church and inadequacies of reform, rejected the church, its ministers, and its sacraments and advocated lives of simple piety in imitation of the Apostles.
The age of cathedrals and Scholasticism
Religious faith began to assume a new coloration after 1000 and evolved along those lines in the 11th and 12th centuries. Whether in the countryside or in town, a new, more evangelical Christianity emerged that emphasized the human Jesus over the transcendent Lord. The Crusading impulse was kept alive in France by the desire to vindicate the true faith against Muslim infidels and Byzantine schismatics. More intense Christian faith was also reflected in hostility toward France's Jewish communities. As early as 1010 Jews had suffered persecution and were forced to choose between conversion or exile. Anti-Jewish sentiment grew during the next two centuries and led to further offenses. Expelled from royal territories by Philip II Augustus in 1182, Jews were readmitted in 1198 but suffered further persecutions, including a formal condemnation of the Talmud under Louis IX. Philip IV (the Fair) renewed the policy of expulsion in 1306.
The church was not always in a position to satisfy the religious demands of the population, however. The regular clergy could no longer be relied upon to set standards of piety and penitence; their observance was either too relaxed or too severe to suit the new conditions brought on by a rising population and the growth of towns. The canonical movement of the later 12th century produced a secular clergy that could respond to the needs of the laity in ways that the traditional monastic orders could not. The Cistercian order, even though it continued to expand, was incapable of sustaining its ascetic impulse completely; its houses, as well as those of the older Benedictines, were often remote from the new population centres. Nor was the higher secular clergy much better situated to fulfill pastoral obligations. The bishop was by now remote from his flock, acting usually as diocesan supervisor, judge, or lord; his subordinates—the archdeacon and cathedral canons—likewise functioned primarily as administrators. Archbishops were required by the fourth Lateran Council (1215) to hold annual synods of provincial clergy, a ruling that—although imperfectly observed—probably contributed to some strengthening of discipline.
Failure to improve the standards of parish ministry or respond fully to changing social conditions left the door open for the spread of heretical sects. The critical reform was that of the parish ministry. When emphatic measures to improve the education and supervision of priests were adopted in the fourth Lateran Council, it was already too late in France. For most of the 12th century, the same evangelical impulses that led to the reforms of the orders of canons and monks also contributed to anticlericalism and doctrinal heresy, especially in the towns and villages of the east and south. There was a suspicion that sinning priests could not be trusted to mediate God's grace effectively, and the virtue of poverty as an antidote to the worldly cupidity of a prospering society was attractive to many.
The merchant Valdes (Peter Waldo), who gave up his property and family in the 1170s, took it upon himself to preach in the vernacular to his fellow townsfolk of Lyon. Although he gained the pope's approval for his lifestyle, Valdes did not receive the right to preach. Nonetheless, he and his followers—"the Poor" or "Poor Men"—continued to do so and were condemned by the church, which drove them to more extreme positions on doctrine and practice. Despite strong opposition from the church, the Waldensian movement spread to southern towns, and small groups of adherents were found in Europe through modern times.
Another heretical movement, that of the "Good Men," or Cathars (Albigenses), posed an even stronger threat to religious orthodoxy. Flourishing in the hill towns and villages between Toulouse and Béziers, the Cathars were dualists. They taught, among other things, that the material world was created by the Devil, that Christ did not assume the flesh but only appeared to, and that the church and its sacraments were the Devil's work. In stark contrast to the often ignorant and worldly Catholic clergy, the Cathar elite, the perfecti, lived rigorously ascetic lives.
For this challenge, the secular clergy of Languedoc were no match. To establish an effective counterministry of learned and respectable men, the pope deputed Cistercians to Languedoc; they were soon succeeded by St. Dominic, who spent a decade as mendicant preacher in Languedoc. In 1217, with his order of preachers recognized by the bishop of Toulouse and confirmed by the pope, Dominic set out with his fellow friars to work in the wider world "by word and example."
Meanwhile, the murder of the legate Peter of Castelnau (1208) had stirred Innocent III to promote a Crusade against the heretics of Languedoc. Led by Simon de Montfort, northern barons attacked towns in the viscounty of Béziers and later in the county of Toulouse with singular fury. The Albigensian Crusade brought the south under northern subjection, as massacres and the establishment of a papal Inquisition (1233) eventually drove the Cathars into exile in Italy or back to Catholicism. The Inquisition, which spread to many parts of France, was usually entrusted to Dominicans; it relied on the active pursuit of suspects, secret testimony, and—in case of conviction and obstinacy—delivery of the heretic to the "secular arm" for capital punishment.
Like the Dominicans, the Franciscans had spectacular success in a variety of endeavours. Highly organized, with provincial and international administrative institutions, both orders had houses in Paris by 1220, and their members were soon working everywhere in France. Becoming preachers and confessors, they also secured chaplaincies, inspectorships, and professorships as their initiatives in piety, probity, and learning were recognized. Conflict with the secular priesthood naturally resulted; the seculars attempted unsuccessfully to exclude the mendicants from the ministry of sacraments and inveighed against conventual endowments that seemed to contradict the friars' professions of poverty. Despite this conflict, the friars, women's orders such as the Poor Clares, and similar groups such as the Beguines stimulated a more active piety among laypeople, encouraging charitable works and foundations, private devotions, and penitential reading.
Culture and learning
Literacy and elementary learning became more widespread after 1000. Indeed, the growth in literacy was heralded by the heresy of Vilgard of Ravenna, who, according to Radulfus Glaber, was betrayed by demons in the guise of Virgil and other ancient writers in the late 10th century. By the later 11th and the 12th century, cathedral schools had emerged as centres of learning, and literacy had become an increasingly important tool of government. A form of Christian humanism took shape in the 12th century that was expressed in the letters of John of Salisbury and others. The courtly tastes of the 12th century, while not obliterated, were overtaken by a more flexible and ironic sensibility evident in vernacular ballads, fables, satires, and moralizing literature, most popular in the northern towns. The burgher or knight began to take a keen interest in the tangible world about him. The taste for clarity, proportion, and articulation reached mature expression in the great Gothic cathedrals of northern France, such as those in Amiens, Paris (Notre-Dame), and Reims. Architectural innovations—the pointed arch and the flying buttress—allowed the construction of soaring naves and walls pierced by large windows filled with the exquisite stained glass that was a great technological achievement of the period. And the taste for order is illustrated by the reorganization of masters, students, and studies as studia generalia (or universities). Montpellier became a leading centre of medical learning, and Toulouse (founded in 1229 to prepare clerics to combat heresy) and Orléans were noted for law. Paris remained preeminent among the early universities; its famous schools became associated as the faculties of arts, canon law, medicine, and theology, gaining jurisdictional independence under papal protection by 1231.
During the same years, philosophical doctrines in conflict with Christian orthodoxy began to trouble the theologians as translations of the metaphysical and scientific works of Aristotle and his commentators reached Paris. For a time the teaching of Aristotle was prohibited there, but by midcentury, when some of the "artists" who had been most attracted to the new philosophy were advancing to theological degrees, efforts were made to incorporate Aristotelian learning in enlarged summaries of Christian knowledge. The Summa theologiae (1266–72) by the Italian Thomas Aquinas was the greatest synthesis of this type. Its serene power breathes no hint of the controversies in which its author was involved. St. Thomas had taken his theological degree, together with St. Bonaventure, in 1257, when the secular masters were bitterly disputing the friars' privileges within the university. In the end the Dominicans and Franciscans each retained a chair on condition of submitting to university regulations. Thomas's work, however, came under suspicion. A reaction set in against the arts faculty's increasing disposition to take a naturalistic view of all reality. When Étienne Tempier, the bishop of Paris, condemned some philosophical principles as "error" in 1270 and 1277, the repercussions were so sweeping as to render even Thomas suspect.
Thomas's synthesis was to have no immediate imitators. Nevertheless, the social consequences of the emergence of academic learning in the 12th and 13th centuries were profound; it created new estates of professional men—lawyers, notaries, trained clerks, and physicians, many of them laymen—whose rational and legalist outlook became firmly rooted in French culture.
The dogmatic condemnations of the 1270s were symptomatic. Prosperity and confidence were shaken in many ways in the late 13th century. The papacy, hitherto a support for progressive causes, found itself discredited after its fiasco in a Crusade against Aragon. While the removal of the papal court to Avignon in the time of Clement V created a new centre of patronage for arts and letters, it did little to arrest the waning prestige of the church. The burdens of renewed warfare increased social tensions in the towns and depressed civic enterprise; the Jews had their assets confiscated before being expelled in 1306, and the Lombard bankers suffered like treatment in 1311. Economic indicators—while few and difficult to interpret—are generally held to suggest growing difficulties in many parts of France. The business of the fairs of Champagne was falling off by 1300, if not before, while records of Normandy reveal declining agrarian revenues in the half-century after 1260. Some regions were "saturated" with people: their existent economic technology could no longer sustain growth. Probably the population was already leveling off, if not yet decreasing, when, from 1315 to 1317, crop failures and famine caused serious disruption.
Some material presented will contain links, quotes, ideologies, etc., the contents of which should be understood to first, in their whole, reflect the views or opinions of their editors, and second, are used in my personal research as "fair use" sources only, and not espousement one way or the other. Researching for 'truth' leads one all over the place...a piece here, a piece there. As a researcher, I hunt, gather and disassemble resources, trying to put all the pieces into a coherent and logical whole. I encourage you to do the same. And please remember, these pages are only my effort to collect all the pieces I can find and see if they properly fit into the 'reality aggregate'.
I've come to realize that 'truth' boils down to what we 'believe' the facts we've gathered point to. We only 'know' what we've 'experienced' firsthand. Everything else - what we read, what we watch, what we hear - is what someone else's gathered facts point to and 'they' 'believe' is 'truth', so that 'truth' seems to change in direct proportion to newly gathered facts divided by applied plausibility. Though I believe there is 'truth', until someone celestial who 'knows' all the facts parts the heavens and throws us a scroll titled "Here Are ALL The Facts And Lies In The Order They Happened," I can't know for sure exactly what "the whole truth' on any given subject is, and what applies to me applies to everyone.
~Gail Bird Allen
Never in your long ascendancy will you lose the power to recognize your associates of former existences. Always, as you ascend inward in the scale of life, will you retain the ability to recognize and fraternize with the fellow beings of your previous and lower levels of experience. Each new translation or resurrection will add one more group of spirit beings to your vision range without in the least depriving you of the ability to recognize your friends and fellows of former estates.
Princess Bride 1987 Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya)
Vizzini: HE DIDN'T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE.
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
And here is mystery: The more closely man approaches God through love, the greater the reality -- actuality -- of that man. The more man withdraws from God, the more nearly he approaches nonreality -- cessation of existence. When man consecrates his will to the doing of the Father's will, when man gives God all that he has, then does God make that man more than he is.
"And do you not remember that I said to you once before that, if you had your spiritual eyes anointed, you would then see the heavens opened and behold the angels of God ascending and descending? It is by the ministry of the angels that one world may be kept in touch with other worlds, for have I not repeatedly told you that I have other sheep not of this fold?"
But we know that there dwells within the human mind a fragment of God, and that there sojourns with the human soul the Spirit of Truth; and we further know that these spirit forces conspire to enable material man to grasp the reality of spiritual values and to comprehend the philosophy of universe meanings. But even more certainly we know that these spirits of the Divine Presence are able to assist man in the spiritual appropriation of all truth contributory to the enhancement of the ever-progressing reality of personal religious experience—God-consciousness.
When you are through down here, when your course has been run in temporary form on earth, when your trial trip in the flesh is finished, when the dust that composes the mortal tabernacle "returns to the earth whence it came"; then, it is revealed, the indwelling "Spirit shall return to God who gave it." There sojourns within each moral being of this planet a fragment of God, a part and parcel of divinity. It is not yet yours by right of possession, but it is designedly intended to be one with you if you survive the mortal existence.
And the greatest of all the unfathomable mysteries of God is the phenomenon of the divine indwelling of mortal minds. The manner in which the Universal Father sojourns with the creatures of time is the most profound of all universe mysteries; the divine presence in the mind of man is the mystery of mysteries.
To every spirit being and to every mortal creature in every sphere and on every world of the universe of universes, the Universal Father reveals all of his gracious and divine self that can be discerned or comprehended by such spirit beings and by such mortal creatures. God is no respecter of persons, either spiritual or material. The divine presence which any child of the universe enjoys at any given moment is limited only by the capacity of such a creature to receive and to discern the spirit actualities of the supermaterial world.
Paradise is the eternal center of the universe of universes and the abiding place of the Universal Father, the Eternal Son, the Infinite Spirit, and their divine co-ordinates and associates. This central Isle is the most gigantic organized body of cosmic reality in all the master universe. Paradise is a material sphere as well as a spiritual abode. All of the intelligent creation of the Universal Father is domiciled on material abodes; hence must the absolute controlling center also be material, literal. And again it should be reiterated that spirit things and spiritual beings are real.
Culture presupposes quality of mind; culture cannot be enhanced unless mind is elevated. Superior intellect will seek a noble culture and find some way to attain such a goal. Inferior minds will spurn the highest culture even when presented to them ready-made.
True liberty is the associate of genuine self-respect; false liberty is the consort of self-admiration. True liberty is the fruit of self-control; false liberty, the assumption of self-assertion. Self-control leads to altruistic service; self-admiration tends towards the exploitation of others for the selfish aggrandizement of such a mistaken individual as is willing to sacrifice righteous attainment for the sake of possessing unjust power over his fellow beings.
How dare the self-willed creature encroach upon the rights of his fellows in the name of personal liberty when the Supreme Rulers of the universe stand back in merciful respect for these prerogatives of will and potentials of personality! No being, in the exercise of his supposed personal liberty, has a right to deprive any other being of those privileges of existence conferred by the Creators and duly respected by all their loyal associates, subordinates, and subjects.
There is no error greater than that species of self-deception which leads intelligent beings to crave the exercise of power over other beings for the purpose of depriving these persons of their natural liberties. The golden rule of human fairness cries out against all such fraud, unfairness, selfishness, and unrighteousness.