The Carolingian Renaissance

The Frankish Emperor Charlemagne, member of the Carolingian family, was a man that thought of himself as a mere Barbarian and thus praised the ancient Roman Empire. He desired to bring back to life a civilization that would have made ancient Rome proud. However, this civilization could be better due to its emphasis on Christianity. Charlemagne’s longings gave birth to the Carolingian Renaissance which lasted from 768 to about the year of 840. This rebirth was different from others in the fact that there wasn’t much original work, but instead preservation of the antique works performed in earlier centuries, specifically those having to do with religious material (e.g. the writings of the “latin fathers”, the learning of latin to read the Bible, more accurate translations of the religious literature, etc.).

Of course, there was an establishment of bringing back the old form of doing government in ancient Rome. The Frankish government would now be responsible of encouraging the formation of roads, schools, the administration of justice, etc. For the first time, Franks would now have a fixed capital in the city of Aachen, this would enable a more accurate rule. Aachen would be the live model that represented Charlemagne’s idea of rebirth, due to the mere fact that its court chapel was built similarly to the one you would have seen in a prominent Roman city. He was consciously building before the model of Rome and everywhere he would go, Charlemagne would seek great artists and support them.

Education was fomented greatly during the Carolingian Renaissance to the ruling elite, to the churchmen, and then to a broader public. Within the schools, theology, poetry, and science would be studied. Many cathedral schools were born; every monastery and cathedral needed to have a school to teach the clergy and the laity how to read and write. In this scholar development, the emperor realized that he had a shortage of scholars to teach and study. Therefore, he brought some from Ireland, Britain, and Italy.

In the midst of these scholars one became a very important advisor for Charlemagne, this was Alcuin of York. Alcuin was involved in the court school around the palace where many aristocrats and advisors assisted. However, Alcuin asked for a less demanding job and became the abbot of Tours, in there he continued the job of the renaissance where he took the monks to create more accurate latin translations of the Bible, latin fathers, and the latin classics.

I believe that the Carolingian Renaissance provided lots of contributions to the West. One of the most important contributions is the introduction of a single standard of writing, which is practically the one used today. This style is called “Carolingian minuscule”. Back in the old days, writing styles would differ in different geographic areas of the world. For example, the Roman style was all capitals and no space between the words, Carolingian minuscule changed this by introducing commas, lower-case letters, space between words, apostrophes, etc.


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