- Louis the Pious
name =Louis I the Pious
title =by order of Divine Providence, Emperor and Augustus
caption =Louis the Pious, contemporary depiction from 826 as a "
miles Christi" (soldier of Christ), with a poem of Rabanus Maurusoverlaid.
reign =King of Aquitaine: 781-814; King of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor:
11 September 813
coronation =By his father:
13 September 813, Aachen; By Pope Stephen IV: 5 October 816, Reims
othertitles =King of Aquitaine
full name =
successor =As Emperor:
Lothair I; As King of Aquitaine: Pepin I of Aquitaine;
Ermengarde of Hesbaye, Judith of Bavaria
Lothair I, Pepin of Aquitaine, Louis the German, Charles the Bald
royal house =
royal anthem =
date of birth =778
place of birth =Cassinogilum
date of death =
20 June 840
place of death =Ingelheim
date of burial =
place of burial =
Saint Pierre aux Nonnains Basilica| Louis the Pious (778 – 20 June 840), also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, [ _de. Ludwig der Fromme, _fr. Louis le Pieux or _fr. "Louis le Débonnaire", _it. Luigi il Pio or _it. "Ludovico il Pio", _es. Luis el Piadoso or _es. "Ludovico Pío".] was the King of Aquitainefrom 781 and co-Emperor (as Louis I) and King of the Frankswith his father, Charlemagne, from 813. As the only surviving adult son of Charlemagne, he became the sole ruler of the Franks after his father's death in 814, a position which he held until his death, save for the period 833–34, during which he was deposed.
During his reign in Aquitaine Louis was charged with the defence of the Empire's southwestern frontier. He reconquered
Barcelonafrom the Muslimsin 801 and re-asserted Frankish authority over Pamplonaand the Basquessouth of the Pyreneesin 813. As emperor he included his adult sons—Lothair, Pepin, and Louis—in the government and sought to establish a suitable division of the realm between them. The first decade of his reign was characterised by several tragedies and embarrassments, notably the brutal treatment of his nephew Bernard of Italy, for which Louis atoned in a public act of self-debasement. In the 830s his empire was torn by civil war between his sons, only exacerbated by Louis's attempts to include his son Charles by his second wife in the succession plans. Though his reign ended on a high note, with order largely restored to his empire, it was followed by three years of civil war. Louis is generally compared unfavourably to his father, though the problems he faced were of a distinctly different sort.
Birth and rule in Aquitaine
Louis was born while his father
Charlemagnewas on campaign in Spain, at the Carolingian villa of Cassinogilum, according to Einhardand the anonymous chronicler called Astronomus; the place is usually identified with Chasseneuil, near Poitiers. [Einhard gives the name of his birthplace as "Cassanoilum". In addition to Chasseneuil near Poitiers, scholars have suggested that Louis may have been born at Casseneuil (Lot et Garonne) or at Casseuil on the Garonnenear La Réole, where the Dropt flows into the Garonne.] He was the third son of Charlemagne by his wife Hildegard.
Louis was crowned
king of Aquitaineas a child in 781 and sent there with regents and a court. Charlemagne constituted the sub-kingdom in order to secure the border of his kingdom after his devastating defeat at the hands of Basques in Roncesvallesin (778).
In 794, Charlemagne settled four former
Gallo-Romanvillas on Louis, in the thought that he would take in each in turn as winter residence: Doué-la-Fontainein today's Anjou, Ebreuilin Allier, Angeac-Charente, and the disputed Cassinogilum. Charlemagne's intention was to see all his sons brought up as natives of their given territories, wearing the national costume of the region and ruling by the local customs. Thus were the children sent to their respective realms at so young an age. Each kingdom had its importance in keeping some frontier, Louis's was the Spanish March. In 797, Barcelona, the greatest city of the "Marca", fell to the Franks when Zeid, its governor, rebelled against Córdoba and, failing, handed it to them. The Umayyadauthority recaptured it in 799. However, Louis marched the entire army of his kingdom, including Gasconswith their duke Sancho I of Gascony, Provençals under Leibulf, and Goths under Bera, over the Pyreneesand besieged it for two years, wintering there from 800 to 801, when it capitulated. The sons were not given independence from central authority, however, and Charlemagne ingrained in them the concepts of empire and unity by sending them on military expeditions far from their home bases. Louis campaigned in the Italian Mezzogiornoagainst the Beneventans at least once.
Louis was one of Charlemagne's three legitimate sons to survive infancy, and, according to Frankish custom, Louis had expected to share his inheritance with his brothers, Charles the Younger,
King of Neustria, and Pepin, King of Italy. In the "Divisio Regnorum" of 806, Charlemagne had slated Charles the Younger as his successor as emperor and chief king, ruling over the Frankish heartland of Neustriaand Austrasia, while giving Pepin the Iron Crown of Lombardy, which Charlemagne possessed by conquest. To Louis's kingdom of Aquitaine, he added Septimania, Provence, and part of Burgundy.
But in the event, Charlemagne's other legitimate sons died — Pepin in 810 and Charles in 811 — and Louis alone remained to be crowned co-emperor with Charlemagne in 813. On his father's death in 814, he inherited the entire Frankish kingdom and all its possessions (with the sole exception of Italy, which remained within Louis's empire, but under the direct rule of Bernard, Pepin's son).
He was in his villa of
Doué-la-Fontaine, Anjou, when he received news of his father's passing. Hurrying to Aachen, he crowned himself and was proclaimed by the nobles with shouts of "Vivat Imperator Ludovicus".
In his first coinage type, minted from the start of his reign, he imitated his father Charlemagne's portrait coinage, giving an image of imperial power and prestige in an echo of Roman glory [ S. Coupland, "Money and coinage under Louis the Pious", "Francia" 17.1 (1990), p 25.] . He quickly enacted a "moral purge", in which he sent all of his unmarried sisters to nunneries, forgoing their diplomatic use as hostage brides in favour of the security of avoiding the entanglements that powerful brothers-in-law might bring. He spared his illegitimate half-brothers and tonsured his father's cousins, Adalard and Wala, shutting them up in
Noirmoutierand Corbie, respectively, despite the latter's initial loyalty.
His chief councillors were Bernard, margrave of Septimania, and
Ebbo, whom, born a serf, Louis would raise to the archbishopric of Rheims but who would ungratefully betray him later. He retained some of his father's ministers, such as Elisachar, abbot of St Maximin near Trier, and Hildebold, Archbishop of Cologne. Later he replaced Elisachar with Hildwin, abbot of many monasteries.
He also used
Benedict of Aniane(the Second Benedict), a Septimanian Visigoth and monastic founder, to help him reform the Frankish church. One of Benedict's primary reforms was to ensure that all religious houses in Louis' realm adhered to the Rule of St Benedict, named for its creator, the First Benedict, Benedict of Nursia(480–550).
Pope Stephen V, who had succeeded Leo III, visited Rheimsand again crowned Louis. The Emperor thereby strengthened the papacy by recognising the importance of the pope in imperial coronations.
Maundy Thursday817, Louis and his court were crossing a wooden gallery from the cathedral to the palace in Aachen when the gallery collapsed, killing many. Louis, having barely survived and feeling the imminent danger of death, began planning for his succession; three months later he issued an "Ordinatio Imperii", an imperial decree that laid out plans for an orderly succession. In 815, he had already given his two eldest sons a share in the government, when he had sent his elder sons Lothair and Pepin to govern Bavariaand Aquitaine respectively, though without the royal titles. Now, he proceeded to divide the empire among his three sons and his nephew Bernard of Italy:
* Lothair was proclaimed and crowned co-emperor in
Aix-la-Chapelleby his father. He was promised the succession to most of the Frankish dominions (excluding the exceptions below), and would be the overlord of his brothers and cousin.
*Bernard, the son of Charlemagne's son
Pippin of Italy, was confirmed as King of Italy, a title he had been allowed to inherit from his father by Charlemagne.
* Pepin was proclaimed King of Aquitaine, his territory including Gascony, the march around Toulouse, and the counties of Carcassonne, Autun, Avallon and Nevers.
* Louis, the youngest son, was proclaimed King of Bavaria and the neighbouring marches.
If one of the subordinate kings died, he was to be succeeded by his sons. If he died childless, Lothar would inherit his kingdom. In the event of Lothar dying without sons, one of Louis the Pious' younger sons would be chosen to replace him by "the people". Above all, the Empire would not be divided: the Emperor would rule supreme over the subordinate kings, whose obedience to him was mandatory.
With this settlement, Louis tried to combine his sense for the Empire's unity, supported by the clergy, while at the same time providing positions for all of his sons. Instead of treating his sons equally in status and land, he elevated his first-born son Lothair above his younger brothers and gave him the largest part of the Empire as his share.
Bernard's rebellion and Louis's penance
The "ordinatio imperii" of Aachen left Bernard of Italy in an uncertain and subordinate position as king of Italy, and he began plotting to declare independence upon hearing of it. Louis immediately directed his army towards Italy, and betook himself to
Chalon-sur-Saône. Intimidated by the emperor's swift action, Bernard met his uncle at Chalon, under invitation, and surrendered. He was taken to Aix-la-Chapelle by Louis, who there had him tried and condemned to death for treason. Louis had the sentence commuted to blinding, which was duly carried out; Bernard did not survive the ordeal, however, dying after two days of agony. Others also suffered: Theodulf of Orleans, in eclipse since the death of Charlemagne, was accused of having supported the rebellion, and was thrown into a monastic prison, where he died soon after - poisoned, it was rumoured. [McKitterick, Rosamond, "The New Cambridge Medieval History, 700-900"] The fate of his nephew deeply marked Louis's conscience for the rest of his life.
In 822, as a deeply religious man, Louis performed penance for causing Bernard's death, at his palace of Attigny near Vouziers in the
Ardennes, before Pope Paschal I, and a council of ecclesiastics and nobles of the realm that had been convened for the reconciliation of Louis with his three younger half-brothers, Hugo whom he soon made abbot of St-Quentin, Drogo whom he soon made Bishop of Metz, and Theodoric. This act of contrition, partly in emulation of Theodosius I, had the effect of greatly reducing his prestige as a Frankish ruler, for he also recited a list of minor offences about which no secular ruler of the time would have taken any notice. He also made the egregious error of releasing Wala and Adalard from their monastic confinements, placing the former in a position of power in the court of Lothair and the latter in a position in his own house.
At the start of Louis's reign, the many tribes —
Danes, Obotrites, Slovenes, Bretons, Basques— which inhabited his frontierlands were still in awe of the Frankish emperor's power and dared not stir up any trouble. In 816, however, the Sorbsrebelled and were quickly followed by Slavomir, chief of the Obotrites, who was captured and abandoned by his own people, being replaced by Ceadrag in 818. Soon, Ceadrag too had turned against the Franks and allied with the Danes, who were to become the greatest menace of the Franks in a short time.
A greater Slavic menace was gathering on the southeast. There,
Ljudevit Posavski, duke of Pannonia, was harassing the border at the Dravaand Savarivers. The margrave of Friuli, Cadolah, was sent out against him, but he died on campaign and, in 820, his margarvate was invaded by Slovenes. In 821, an alliance was made with Borna, duke of the Dalmatia, and Ljudevit was brought to heel. In 824 several Slav tribes in the north-western parts of Bulgariaacknowledged Louis's suzerainity and after he was reluctant to settle the matter peacefully with the Bulgarian ruler Omurtag, in 827 the Bulgarians attacked the Franks in Pannoniaand regained their lands.
On the far southern edge of his great realm, Louis had to control the Lombard princes of Benevento whom Charlemagne had never subjugated. He extracted promises from Princes Grimoald IV and Sico, but to no effect.
On the southwestern frontier, problems commenced early when, in 815, Séguin, duke of
Gascony, revolted. He was defeated and replaced by Lupus III, who was dispossessed in 818 by the emperor. In 820 an assembly at Quierzy-sur-Oisedecided to send an expedition against the Cordoban caliphate. The counts in charge of the army, Hugh, count of Tours, and Matfrid, count of Orléans, were slow in acting and the expedition came to naught.
First civil war
In 818, as Louis was returning from a campaign to
Brittany, he was greeted by news of the death of his wife, Ermengarde. Ermengarde was the daughter of Ingerman, the duke of Hesbaye. Louis had been close to his wife, who had been involved in policymaking. It was rumoured that she had played a part in her nephew's death and Louis himself believed her own death was divine retribution for that event. It took many months for his courtiers and advisors to convince him to remarry, but eventually he did, in 820, to Judith, daughter of Welf, count of Altdorf. In 823 Judith gave birth to a son, who was named Charles.
The birth of this son damaged the "Partition of Aachen", as Louis's attempts to provide for his fourth son met with stiff resistance from his older sons, and the last two decades of his reign were marked by civil war.
At Worms in 829, Louis gave Charles
Alemanniawith the title of king or duke (historians differ on this), thus enraging his son and co-emperor Lothair, [Paired gold medallions of father and son had been struck on the occasion of the synod of Paris (825) that asserted Frankish claims as emperor, recently denigrated by the Byzantines; see Karl F. Morrison, "The Gold Medallions of Louis the Pious and Lothaire I and the Synod of Paris (825)" "Speculum" 36.4 (October 1961:592-599).] whose promised share was thereby diminished. An insurrection was soon at hand. With the urging of the vengeful Wala and the cooperation of his brothers, Lothair accused Judith of having committed adultery with Bernard of Septimania, even suggesting Bernard to be the true father of Charles. Ebbo and Hildwin abandoned the emperor at that point, Bernard having risen to greater heights than either of them. Agobard, Archbishop of Lyon, and Jesse, bishop of Amiens, too, opposed the redivision of the empire and lent their episcopal prestige to the rebels.
In 830, at Wala's insistence that Bernard of Septimania was plotting against him, Pepin of Aquitaine led an army of
Gascons, with the support of the Neustrian magnates, all the way to Paris. At Verberie, Louis the German joined him. At that time, the emperor returned from another campaign in Brittany to find his empire at war with itself. He marched as far as Compiègne, an ancient royal town, before being surrounded by Pepin's forces and captured. Judith was incarcerated at Poitiersand Bernard fled to Barcelona.
Then Lothair finally set out with a large Lombard army, but Louis had promised his sons Louis the German and Pepin of Aquitaine greater shares of the inheritance, prompting them to shift loyalties in favour of their father. When Lothair tried to call a general council of the realm in
Nijmegen, in the heart of Austrasia, the Austrasians and Rhinelanders came with a following of armed retainers, and the disloyal sons were forced to free their father and bow at his feet (831). Lothair was pardoned, but disgraced and banished to Italy. Pepin returned to Aquitaine and Judith - after being forced to humiliate herself with a solemn oath of innocence - to Louis's court. Only Wala was severely dealt with, making his way to a secluded monastery on the shores of Lake Geneva. Though Hilduin, abbot of Saint Denis, was exiled to Paderbornand Elisachar and Matfrid were deprived of their honours north of the Alps; they did not lose their freedom.
econd civil war
The next revolt occurred a mere two years later (832). The disaffected Pepin was summoned to his father's court, where he was so poorly received he left against his father's orders. Immediately, fearing that Pepin would be stirred up to revolt by his nobles and desiring to reform his morals, Louis the Pious summoned all his forces to meet in Aquitaine in preparation of an uprising, but Louis the German garnered an army of Slav allies and conquered
Swabiabefore the emperor could react. Once again the elder Louis divided his vast realm. At Jonac, he declared Charles king of Aquitaine and deprived Pepin (he was less harsh with the younger Louis), restoring the whole rest of the empire to Lothair, not yet involved in the civil war. Lothair was, however, interested in usurping his father's authority. His ministers had been in contact with Pepin and may have convinced him and Louis the German to rebel, promising him Alemannia, the kingdom of Charles.
Soon Lothair, with the support of
Pope Gregory IV, whom he had confirmed in office without his father's support, joined the revolt in 833. While Louis was at Worms gathering a new force, Lothair marched north. Louis marched south. The armies met on the plains of the Rothfeld. There, Gregory met the emperor and may have tried to sow dissension amongst his ranks. Soon much of Louis's army had evaporated before his eyes, and he ordered his few remaining followers to go, because "it would be a pity if any man lost his life or limb on my account." The resigned emperor was taken to Saint Médardat Soissons, his son Charles to Prüm, and the queen to Tortona. The despicable show of disloyalty and disingenuousness earned the site the name Field of Lies, or Lügenfeld, or Campus Mendacii, "ubi plurimorum fidelitas exstincta est" [ [http://www.intratext.com/IXT/LAT0459/_P16.HTM] .]
November 13 833, Ebbo of Rheims presided over a synod in the Church of Saint Mary in Soissons which deposed Louis and forced him to publicly confess many crimes, none of which he had, in fact, committed. In return, Lothair gave Ebbo the Abbey of Saint Vaast. Men like Rabanus Maurus, Louis' younger half-brothers Drogo and Hugh, and Emma, Judith's sister and Louis the German's new wife, worked on the younger Louis to make peace with his father, for the sake of unity of the empire. The humiliation to which Louis was then subjected at Notre Dame in Compiègne turned the loyal barons of Austrasia and Saxonyagainst Lothair, and the usurper fled to Burgundy, skirmishing with loyalists near Châlons-sur-Saône. Louis was restored the next year, on 1 March 834.
On Lothair's return to Italy, Wala, Jesse, and Matfrid, "formerly" count of Orléans, died of a pestilence and, on
2 February 835, the Synod of Thionvilledeposed Ebbo, Agobard, Bernard, Bishop of Vienne, and Bartholomew, Archbishop of Narbonne. Lothair himself fell ill; events had turned completely in Louis favour once again.
In 836, however, the family made peace and Louis restored Pepin and Louis, deprived Lothair of all save Italy, and gave it to Charles in a new division, given at the diet of
Crémieux. At about that time, the Vikingsterrorised and sacked Utrecht and Antwerp. In 837, they went up the Rhineas far as Nijmegen, and their king, Rorik, demanded the wergildof some of his followers killed on previous expeditions before Louis the Pious mustered a massive force and marched against them. They fled, but it would not be the last time they harried the northern coasts. In 838, they even claimed sovereignty over Frisia, but a treaty was confirmed between them and the Franks in 839. Louis the Pious ordered the construction of a North Sea fleet and the sending of "missi dominici" into Frisia to establish Frankish sovereignty there.
Third civil war
In 837, Louis crowned Charles king over all of Alemannia and Burgundy and gave him a portion of his brother Louis's land. Louis the German promptly rose in revolt, and the emperor redivided his realm again at
Quierzy-sur-Oise, giving all of the young king of Bavaria's lands, save Bavaria itself, to Charles. Emperor Louis did not stop there, however. His devotion to Charles knew no bounds. When Pepin died in 838, Louis declared Charles the new king of Aquitaine. The nobles, however, elected Pepin's son Pepin II. When Louis threatened invasion, the third great civil war of his reign broke out. In the spring of 839, Louis the German invaded Swabia, Pepin II and his Gascon subjects fought all the way to the Loire, and the Danes returned to ravage the Frisian coast (sacking Dorstad for a second time).
Lothair, for the first time in a long time, allied with his father and pledged support at Worms in exchange for a redivision of the inheritance. By a final "placitum" issued there, Louis gave Bavaria to Louis the German and disinherited Pepin II, leaving the entire remainder of the empire to be divided roughly into an eastern part and a western. Lothair was given the choice of which partition he would inherit and he chose the eastern, including Italy, leaving the western for Charles. The emperor quickly subjugated Aquitaine and had Charles recognised by the nobles and clergy at Clermont-en-Auvergne in 840. Louis then, in a final flash of glory, rushed into Bavaria and forced the younger Louis into the Ostmark. The empire now settled as he had declared it at Worms, he returned in July to
Frankfurt am Main, where he disbanded the army. The final civil war of his reign was over.
Louis fell ill soon after his final victorious campaigns and went to his summer hunting lodge on an island in the Rhine, by his palace at
Ingelheim. On 20 June 840, he died, in the presence of many bishops and clerics and in the arms of his half-brother Drogo, though Charles and Judith were absent in Poitiers. Soon dispute plunged the surviving brothers into a civil war that was only settled in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun, which split the Frankish realm into three parts, to become the kernels of Franceand Germany, with Burgundyand the Low Countriesbetween them. The dispute over the kingship of Aquitaine was not fully settled until 860.
Louis the Pious, along with his half-brother Drogo, were buried in
Saint Pierre aux Nonnains Basilicain Metz.
Marriage and issue
By his first wife,
Ermengarde of Hesbaye(married ca 794-98), he had three sons and three daughters:
* Lothair (795–855), king of
* Pepin (797–838), king of
* Adelaide (b. c. 799), perhaps married
Robert the Strong
* Rotrude (b. 800), married Gerard
* Hildegard (or Matilda) (b. c. 802), married Gerard,
Count of Auvergne
Louis the German(c. 805–875), king of East Francia
By his second wife, Judith of Bavaria, he had a daughter and a son:
* Gisela, married
Eberhard I of Friuli
Charles the Bald, king of West Francia
By Theodelinde of Sensfact|date=July 2007, he had two illegitimate children:
Arnulf of Sens
*"Vita Hludovici Imperatoris ", the main source for his reign, written c. 840 by an unknown author usually called "the Astronomer"
*"Vita Hludowici Imperatoris" by
Thegan of Trier[http://www.intratext.com/X/LAT0459.HTM on-line Latin text]
*Oman, Charles. "The Dark Ages 476-918".
*Godman, Peter, and Collins, Roger, editors. "Charlemagne's Heir".
Oxford University Press: New York, 1990.
* [http://perso.orange.fr/mariefb/casseneuil/palais_charlemagne.htm Cassinogilum: an argument for Casseneuil as Louis' birthplace]
* [http://www.valleedudropt.com/historic/cassinogilum1.pdf Chasseneuil-du-Poitou and not Casseuil by
NAME = Louis the Pious
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Ludwig der Fromme
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Holy Roman Emperor
DATE OF BIRTH = 778
PLACE OF BIRTH = Cassinogilum
DATE OF DEATH =
20 June 840
PLACE OF DEATH = Ingelheim
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