CHARLEMAGNE: 742 – 814
The Franks ruled Gaul – present-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg and southwestern Germany – for 300 years. They had once traded with the Roman Empire but then they attacked it and ruled it until 751. Clovis I, part of a family called the Merovingians, was one of their most powerful kings and he started taking over Gaul in 486. He was a Christian who believed in the Trinity: that the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were all different forms of the same God.
Imagine: no laws, hardly any jobs, stores, towns or money. Imagine: trying to grow enough food to feed yourself. That is what life was like after the Romans stopped ruling Gaul. That is what life was like under the Franks. And then Charlemagne, aother Christian, came along. He was over six feet tall with blonde hair, blue eyes and a thick neck. He could read and speak Latin, the language of the Romans, and was very athletic and forceful. He expanded the empire and took over Denmark in the north and central Italy in the south. He changed western Europe.
He gave large pieces of land, estates, to loyal people who promised to provide military and political favours and to take care of the roads and bridges on their land. He also made some money and tried to get markets started so people could buy goods. He made a law that said courts had to regularly listen to cases and judges had to follow the written laws. He started a school at his palace in Aachen; it had the best teachers and the top students and trained many priests who then went out and taught others. He also had people who copied out the Roman manuscripts so all that information would not be lost. And those scholars came up with a new handwriting style which later developed into our style of printing. Artists also made changes and started painting pictures of people in natural settings instead of just creating geometric designs and fantastical animals. Architects invented new ways of designing churches and monasteries with small towers called turrets and with covered walkways, or cloisters, that joined the buildings. But Charlemagne did not only bring peace and education; he also insisted that people become Christians and his soldiers killed many people who refused to adopt that religion.
After he died in 814, his Carolingian empire slowly ended as Vikings and other invaders attacked. But he started the system of feudalism and saved much of the knowledge of the Romans that would otherwise have been lost.
Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf. “Charlemagne.” World Book Student. World Book, 2010. Web. 23
Stokstad, Marilyn. “Carolingian art.” World Book Student. World Book, 2010. Web. 23 Nov. 2010.
Uhalde, Kevin. “Franks.” World Book Student. World Book, 2010. Web. 23 Nov. 2010.
A. Answer the questions in complete sentences.
1. Who were the Franks?
The Franks were a group of people who . . .
2. Who was Clovis I?
Clovis I was king of . . . who . . .
3. What was life like before Charlemagne took over?
Before Charlemagne, life was…
4. How were Clovis I and Charlemagne alike?
Both Clovis I and Charlemagne…
5. What happened after Charlemagne died?
After Charlemagne died,…
B. Make a mindmap showing the achievements of Charlemagne.
C. Write a paragraph detailing your connections to this information.
Choose one of the following topic sentences.
1. This information reminds me of something I have heard before.
2. This information reminds me of something I believe.
3. This information reminds me of a novel I read.
4. I learned a lot of new information.
[This page may be copied for use with students if the following credit is provided: ©2011 Sophie Rosen.]