Carloman, Mayor of the Palace

Carloman, Mayor of the Palace
(d. 754)
   Son of the Carolingian Mayor of the Palace, Charles Martel, Carloman inherited control of the Frankish kingdoms with his brother, Pippin the Short, on his father's death in 741. Together as mayors of the palace, Carloman and Pippin built upon the legacy of their father and strengthened the position of the Carolingian family in the Frankish kingdoms at the expense of the Merovingian dynasty. Although they placed a Merovingian on the throne, Carloman and Pippin were the real powers in the kingdoms. Carloman was also active in reform of the church, supporting the activities of the Anglo-Saxon missionary Boniface and promoting reform in the Frankish church. Indeed, his interest in the church and religious life was so great that he left worldly power for the monastic life. His abdication paved the way for the establishment of Carolingian royal power by his brother and eventually for the establishment of imperial power by his nephew Charlemagne.
   Although perhaps best known for his retirement to a monastery in 747, Carloman was an active and vigorous mayor (r. 741-747), who helped his brother Pippin suppress the many revolts they faced at the outset of their joint rule. Together they squashed the revolt of their half-brother Grifo, who sought to lay claim to part of his father's legacy. They laid siege to Laon and captured Grifo, who was kept in custody by Carloman until his retirement. The two mayors also faced difficulties from their sister, Chiltrude, who fled to the court of the Bavarian duke, Odilo. They eventually defeated Odilo in 743 but were not able to force him from the duchy. Carloman and Pippin also enforced their authority on subject peoples in Aquitaine and Alemannia, where Carloman imposed Carolingian authority with a terror campaign. The new mayors were ultimately able to establish themselves in the kingdom, but only with much difficulty.
   The revolts Carloman and his brother faced led them to an important step. Their father had ruled during the last four years of his life without a Merovingian king on the throne. It became apparent to Carloman and Pippin, however, that in order to secure their position in the Frankish kingdoms, they needed to place a Merovingian monarch on the throne. In 743 they discovered a member of the dynasty in the monastery of St. Bertin, whom they established as King Childeric III. It is likely that Carloman was the prime mover in the reestablishment of the Merovingian dynasty. And although portrayed as a poor and powerless do-nothing king by Einhard, the last Merovingian provided the legitimization that the brothers needed to maintain their control in the kingdoms.
   Carloman, and to a lesser extent his brother Pippin, were active supporters of Boniface, and both mayors were equally strong supporters of the reform of the Frankish church, particularly the reform of clerical behavior and education. Boniface, who had been protected by Charles Martel, found particularly strong support for his missionary and reform efforts from Carloman. At one point, the Carolingian mayor granted him the Anglo-Saxon missionary lands around Fulda so that Boniface could establish a monastery. Carloman also worked with Boniface to reform ecclesiastical organization in the Frankish kingdoms, in order to bring it more fully into cooperation with the papacy. Carloman also presided at several reform councils in the 740s, with, at times, Boniface and Pippin, to improve the life of the church in the Frankish kingdoms. Carloman, among other things, promised to protect the churches from impoverishment and to protect ecclesiastical property rights.
   Carloman's religious inclinations, revealed by his active support for Boniface and church reform, were fully displayed in 747 when he announced to Pippin that he had decided to withdraw from his position of power and retire to a monastery. He settled his affairs and made donations to a monastery in his domain before departing for Rome. He received the tonsure from Pope Zachary and then built a monastery in honor of St. Sylvester on Mt. Soracte. In 754, perhaps because too many pilgrims visited him at his monastery, Carloman moved to the monastery at Monte Cassino. Contemporary sources make clear that Carloman departed voluntarily, but his decision did not bode well for his immediate family, especially his son Drogo, who was disposed of by his uncle.
   Carloman's public career, however, did not end with his retirement in 747. In fact, his decision indirectly had a profound influence on the fate of his dynasty and of the Frankish kingdoms. As a result of Carloman's abdication, Pippin was left the sole mayor, and for all intents and purposes, the sole power in the realm. In 751, after deposing Childeric III, Pippin assumed the throne of the king of the Franks and founded the Carolingian royal dynasty. In 754, Carloman directly participated in the public affairs of the kingdom. At the request of the Lombard king Aistulf, Carloman left his monastery at Monte Cassino to take part in the debate among Pippin and the Frankish nobility concerning a possible invasion of Italy. Aistulf had been threatening the pope, Stephen II, who had requested aid from the Frankish king. In order to prevent an invasion by Pippin, Aistulf sent Carloman to oppose the invasion by his brother. Aistulf's plan failed, however, and the invasion followed shortly after the debate. Carloman was not allowed to return to Italy but was sent to a monastery in Vienne, where he died sometime later in the year 754.
   See also
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Scholz, Bernhard Walter, trans. Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.
 ♦ Wood, Ian. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman, 1994.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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