Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ Carolingian Bavaria


Bavaria ~ Detailed History ~ Carolingian Bavaria

3 sons of Louis the German shown in mediaeval ...

3 sons of Louis the German shown in mediaeval manuscript (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With Tassilo’s deposition Bavaria could be fully integrated into the Carolingian Kingdom.   Bavaria was divided into districts (Gaue), each Gau being administered by a Count, who was a royal appointee.   There was no Duke, though until his death in 799, Count Gerold, who was the brother of Charlemagne’s dead wife Hildegarde, the mother of most of his legitimate children, superintended the entire region.   The idea of Bavaria however survived.   In 798 the Bavarian Bishoprics, which by then included Saben (later transferred to Brixen) south of the Alps, formed a province with Salzburg as the metropolitan diocese.

In 806 Charlemagne, determining what would happen after his death, allocated Bavaria to his second son Pepin, already the ruler of Lombardy.   The decisions of 806 never became effective because only one of Charlemagne’s sons survived.   Louis the Pious, who became sole Emperor in 814, at first allocated Bavaria to his eldest son Lothar but in 817 decided on a new arrangement for the Empire in which Lothar became co-Emperor, while Bavaria became the sub-Kingdom of Louis’s third son.

Louis the German was still a child when he became King of this southeastern marcher region of the Empire;  his effective reign began in 827.   It began fairly peacefully, Charlemagne having crushed the Avars in the late 8th century, though in Louis’s long reign a powerful Slav principality arose in Moravia and needed frequent attention.   By the later years of his father’s reign Louis the German had added much of East Francia to the realm he was responsible for.   By 843, in alliance with his half-brother, Charles the Bald, he had seen off the attempt of his full-brother, the Emperor Lothar, to make himself the dominating influence throughout the Empire.

Bavaria and Franconia were the regions within his vast Kingdom where Louis spent most of his time;  Frankfurt and Regensburg, the Frankish and Bavarian capitals, became his principal residences.   In 859 he made his eldest son, Carloman, responsible for the marchlands in the east of Bavaria and in 865 allotted Bavaria as Carloman’s share after his death.   Quite possibly the choice of Bavaria for the eldest son was influenced by the fact that the Emperor Louis II, the Carolingian ruler of Italy, had no son, while his brother and potential heir, Lothar II, who ruled in the northern lands (Belgium, eastern France), only had a bastard son whom he failed to get legitimated.   Carloman did eventually become the East Francian candidate when the Imperial title and the rule of Italy fell vacant in 875, but he was thwarted first by his uncle Charles the Bald and then by illness, so that he failed to unite Bavaria and Italy.

Carloman’s inheritance went successively to his two surviving brothers, but his bastard son, Arnulf, held the eastern marches.   Charles the Fat, the last surviving son of Louis the German, reunited much of his grandfather’s Empire as each branch of the Carolingian family ran out of heirs or left only infants or bastards.   Charles curtailed the power of his nephew Arnulf, but Arnulf had his revenge.   Taking advantage of the Emperor’s inability to cope with Viking and Saracen raiders and his growing ill-health, which perhaps accounts for the Fatness of his nickname, Arnulf secured his deposition and became King in his stead.   He remained involved in Bavaria and continued the marcher work against the Moravian Empire.   He even encouraged another people of the steppe, the Magyars, who had been forced into central Europe, to make war on Moravia, only to find at the end of his reign that the marches of Bavaria would be needed to withstand the new ferocity that the Magyars brought.   Arnulf had intervened in Italy and gained the Imperial title in 896, but this vigorous ruler was struck down by a series of strokes and died enfeebled in 899.   His Kingdom he left to his legitimate child, who was still only 18 when he died in 911;  Arnulf left his work on the marches in growingly dangerous times to the man who had been his co-adjutor in Carinthia, the Margrave Luitpold, his friend and relative (probably through the mother that had borne Arnulf out of wedlock).

Luitpold had several successes in holding the gates of the Kingdom, but in 907 the Magyars overwhelmed him and his army at Bratislava.

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