Louis the Pious

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Louis the Pious, Emperor, King of the Franks, (A.D. 768-840) reigned 814-840.

The Life of Louis the Pious

The second son of Charlemagne, Louis was crowned king of Aquitaine as a child and sent there with regents and a court a court to rule. He was crowned co-emperor with Charlemagne in 813 and on his father's death in 814 inherited the entire Frankish kingdom and all its possessions. Louis used Benedict of Aniane, a Septimanian Visigothic nobleman and monastic founder, to help him reform the Frankish church. One of Benedict's primary reforms was to ensure that all relious houses in Louis' realm adhered to the Rule of St Benedict, named for its creator, Benedict of Nursia (AD 480-550).

The United Empire and its Division

Like most Frankish men Louis, who was the second son of Charlemagne, expected to share his inheritance with his brothers Charles the Younger and Pepin. However, both of his brothers died before he did (Charles in battle and Pepin subsequent to his blinding and confinement after joining in a revolt against his father), and Louis the Pious inherited the Frankish empire intact. He was crowned co-emperor with his father in 813, a year before Charlemagne's death.

Louis laid out plans to divide his empire between his three sons from his first marriage, Lothar I (who received the title of co-emperor), Pepin I and Louis the German. He then remarried and had a fourth son, Charles the Bald. The redivision of the empire to take Charles into account caused his older sons to revolt in 822. After a settlement, Lothar rebelled again in 830. This pattern continued until Louis' death in 840. Attempts to settle the disputes between his heirs were made via the Oath of Strasbourg and Treaty of Verdun.

Although an historical accident, the unification of most of what is now western and central Europe under one chief ruler provided a fertile ground for the continuation of what is known as the Carolingian Renaissance. Despite the almost constant internecine warfare the Carolingian Empire endured, the extension of Frankish rule and Roman Christianity over such a large area ensured a fundamental unity throughout the Empire. There is no question that each part of the Carolingian Empire developed differently; Frankish government and culture were extremely dependent upon the individual ruler and his aims. Those aims shifted as easily as the changing political alliances within the Frankish leading families. What must be remembered, however, is that those families, the Carolingians included, all shared the same basic beliefs and ideas of government. These ideas and beliefs were rooted in a background that drew from both Roman and Germanic tradition, a tradition that began before the Carolingian ascent and continued to some extent even after the death of Louis the Pious and his sons.

It is interesting to note that, when modern historians (those from the late 18th c. on) hearken back to an example of a unified Europe, it is the Carolingian Empire, not the Roman one, to which they turn. Even in the case of the much-maligned Euro, the Carolingian example has been raised. Whether the Carolingian Empire lasted (or, it could be argued, ever really existed as an Empire per se) in a geographical or political sense is immaterial. The model of several individual kingdoms (or regna, to give them their proper names) under one rule clearly resonantes today. It may be argued that the divisions of Verdun still provide the general borders of Germany, France, and Italy, but it would be ill-considered to suppose that they provide any clear cultural divide. They cannot divide the Germanic-Roman Christian Legacy begun by the Carolingians.