Carolingian Renaissance

As Carolingian Renaissance, also Carolingian Renovatio or Carolingian renewal called, refers to the cultural boom in the early Middle Ages to the time of the early Carolingians, proceeding out of the imperial court of Charlemagne. The renewal was particularly education, the Latin language and literature, the book trade and the architecture.

The term in 1839 by Jean -Jacques Ampère introduced, now internationally naturalized was provided in 1924 by the historian Erna Patzelt by pointing to continuities from the late Roman to Merovingian and Carolingian culture partly in question. The use of the term component Renaissance is so controversial because it suggests an analogy is the epoch of Renaissance humanism, which differs significantly from the time of the Carolingian Renaissance. Alternatively, therefore, sometimes the terms are used education reform Charles the Great or Carolingian renewal (Latin renovatio ).


In the Merovingian period there had been a decline of the ancient city of culture and a general decline of the church organization, liturgy, of written culture and architecture. The school system had come since the end of the 5th century to a virtual standstill. It was reported by priests who did not master the necessary Latin to pray an Our Father correct. The literature of antiquity, even the largest part of the literature of the Christian late antiquity was largely forgotten. Not a single classic quote can be detected in continental Europe from the late 6th to the middle of the 8th century in time. The same applies to copies of pagan authors of antiquity.

Cultural growth

Charles gathered at his court since 777 no later than many scholars from all over Europe ( Alcuin, Paulinus II of Aquileia, Paul the Deacon, Theodulf of Orléans ). This ensured that the court school for decades a center of Latin scholarship (theology, history, poetry) remained and went out into all the Frankish Empire from there suggestions.


One of the aspirations and achievements of the court to the collection, maintenance and spread of education, which may be called quite a reform program included:

  • The establishment of a Court Library, the " sacrae " all available works of and the " saeculares litterae ", ie the Church Fathers and the ancient authors included,
  • The development of a new book font, the so-called Carolingian minuscule
  • Collecting and copying literature, both in plain text manuscripts eg Latin classics as well as in illuminated splendor equipment of liturgical books, often based on late antique Roman and Byzantine traditions ( Utrecht Psalter, Lorsch Gospels, Godescalc - Gospel Lectionary, Dagulf Psalter )
  • The preparation and dissemination of a secured version of the text of the Bible (so-called Alcuin Bible ), the Sacramentary and the Benedictine Rule
  • Decrees and capitularies in which the churches and monasteries of the empire the care of litterae was warmly recommended (eg Epistula de litteris colendis or Admonitio generalis 789 )
  • Attention to the architecture and the arts and crafts, even here in the recourse to the formal language of the Roman architecture and art
  • A number of educational researchers of the 19th and early 20th century took notes in the Admonitio generalis to the teaching of the Lord's Prayer as a reason attributable to Karl the Great, the founding of the country and elementary schools. This was not the case because the Carolingian Renaissance was a courtly and monastic education effort, which will also lay was open from the upper classes of the population. Cathedral schools in the cities were about from the 9th/10th. Century spread and dissolved the monastic schools since the 10th century as a leading educational institutions from before they turn from the 12th century, the universities had to leave the first place. Citizens, country and village schools were in greater numbers only in the late Middle Ages and the early modern period (c. 1450-1600 ) with greatly varying quality in appearance.


Both the herrscherliche representation architecture and the idea of ​​a monastic ideal architecture in the 9th century (St. Gall Monastery Plan) show the enormous importance which began again ascribe the architecture now. The Palatine Chapel in Aachen is an independent design under an intentional nod to San Vitale in Ravenna ( by 526-547 ), then considered the rulers of the church of Theodoric, and the Sergios and Bacchus Church in Constantinople Opel (536 completed ), with the Eastern Roman emperor's palace was connected. The Aachen imperial palace was Charles the Great, according to the written sources to build as a second Rome, but also as a counterpart to Konstantin Opel. To this end, numerous large bronzes were erected obvious; while he was based at the Lateran Square in Rome, where Pope Hadrian I ( 772-795 ) antique bronze sculptures had placed.


In addition to imported plants such as the ancient bear (2nd century) and the equestrian statue of Theodoric with accompaniment figure (not included ) new works were in Aachen created locally: eight Empor grid, four double- bladed bronze doors, and on the palace, an eagle (not included ) with rotating head. The pine cones may be attributable to only around 1000. Due to their high quality, these works were long considered Roman imports; ( lost in World War II ) until the discovery of a casting furnace and some fittings during excavations on the Katschhof could refute this view. Perhaps the Aachener pieces were performed by a workshop, which was active in Saint- Denis before.

The antique-style grave slab of Pope Hadrian I († 795) was Charlemagne to Rome sent; the plate is made of black stone (Dinant ), but acts like bronze and obviously mimics the Lex Regia de Imperio Vespasiani of 69 AD after. The bronze doors of Ingelheim and the seven-branched candlestick of Aniane have not survived.


Overall, the importance of the Carolingian renewal for the history of Western Europe can not be overstated. In this respect, the 6th and 7th centuries were actual "dark " centuries, the impetus of Charlemagne and the energy Alcuin came to the role to collect the scattered heritage of antiquity. What has been lost in ancient literature (books losses in late antiquity ), was lost before the 9th century. However, fixed on the floor of the Christian patristic teaching educational reform brought little to interest the secular art of antiquity. Until about the antique sculpture "rediscovered" was, still had 600 years - until the actual Renaissance - pass, this "renaissance" of the early Italian humanists a revaluation first Roman, then ancient culture, especially literature was, and no rebirth. So was received very much Ovid, for example, in the 12th century, everything but always under clerical aspects and conditions.