The decline of the Carolingians

With the death of Charlemagne (814) the Carolingian power entered upon a decline. It was not sudden, but none of his line who followed Charlemagne had his ability and the Carolingian structure depended so largely upon the quality of the monarch that as the latter deteriorated the fabric fell apart.

Charlemagne's immediate successor, Louis the Pious, who reigned from 814 to 840, was deeply religious in a monastic rather than his father's lay fashion but he did not possess the force and administrative gifts of his sire. The impetus given by his predecessors carried the realm forward and he was crowned as Roman Emperor. As was to be expected, he was active in ecclesiastical affairs, and synods continued the reform movement.

True to his convictions, Louis was especially concerned with improving the quality of monastic life. To this end he called to his assistance Witiza, better known as Benedict of Aniane. Born about the year 750, Benedict was now in his mid-sixties. The son of a Gothic count, he had served in the court under Pepin the Short and Charlemagne. Then, in his twenties, he had renounced the world and entered a monastery. Disturbed by the laxity in the house which he had chosen, he founded a monastery of his own at Aniane in which he sought to restore the observance of the rule of Benedict in its full strictness, and with especial emphasis upon worship and self denial. His example proved contagious and by the time of Charlemagne's death many other houses were adhering closely to the

Benedictine ideal. Louis made Benedict of Aniane his adviser on monastic affairs and the order went forth that all monasteries in the realm must follow the Benedictine rule as interpreted by him.

The death of Louis the Pious (840) was followed, in 843, by the division of the realm between his three sons, Lothair I, who was given the imperial title and who received the region which included the Frankish portions of Italy and the valley of the Rhone, Louis, because of his assignment known as "the German," to whom went the area east of the Rhone, and Charles the Bald, who was apportioned most of the modern France and who was eventually (875), exactly seventy-five years after that had happened to his grandfather, to be crowned Roman Emperor by the Pope on Christmas Day in St. Peter's. This division, the civil strife which followed, and continued quarrels among the subsequent scions of the Carolingian line brought added internal weakness.

Not immediately, however, did collapse come. The intellectual and religious activity which had been encouraged by the great Carolingians went on well into the ninth century. Charles the Bald was abler than his father and his court was a centre of learning. It was not until the latter part of the ninth and the fore part of the tenth century that the darkness became intense.

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