The Carolingian Renaissance

When someone says “renaissance” everyone thinks of the famous era that happened in Europe during the fourteenth century. This renaissance was a cultural movement that included the reformation of education and artwork. Famous people in this movement were

Leonardo da Vinci, the painter of the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo, the artist who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Most people only give credit to this era as being the only renaissance because they do not know what renaissance actually means. The term renaissance means a rebirth or revival. With that definition, there was another time period earlier that does not receive much credit for it truly did. It occurred in the late eighth and ninth century. The most famous person from this era was Charlemagne. He was a legendary person from this era because he was feared by enemies, but at the same time, loved by his people and for all of the things that he accomplished during his life. His people knew him as the first Holy Roman Empire because they respected him and because of the way that he pushed religion. This time period should be labeled as a renaissance because of his best achievements that he accomplished during his life. Those achievements, which helped led to the Carolingian Renaissance, were the way that he reformed the court systems and government, how he transformed the bartering system, and how much he emphasized the importance of information and education.

Throughout history, a successful civilization has always had a strong government that can deal with its people in a respectable manor. During this time period, the current government had an unfair system. The system had two different levels; one for peasants and one for nobles. To decide the outcome of a peasant, the peasant had to grab a hot iron and if the wound healed within three days, the outcome was innocent, but that was really rare. To decide the future of a noble, the noble had to fight or hire someone to fight for them and if they win the fight they are innocent. While some people thought this was fair, Charlemagne did not agree. Therefore, he created the trail by jury. This system was when the accused would go before a panel of under oath, honorable men. This system was fairer than the older one. The reform of this government had such a positive impact; a form of it is still used today in some parts of the world. Therefore, the government during this time period was reborn with a better philosophy.

With the government reformed, the next problem that was fixed during this era was the bartering or trade system. Back in this time, if someone had power they most likely abused it. An example of this was tax collectors. Lords sent out tax collectors to receive payment for keeping their people protected. But, most people did not have money to pay taxes so they bartered with the tax collector. The tax collector decided what was sufficient enough, most of the time it was an unfair price. When Charlemagne found this out he was outraged. So he created silver coins to standardize the value of everything. With the creation of silver coins, the bartering or trade system was fairer. Just like with the reformation of the government, the system that standardized money is still used today all over the world. That is just one of the major accomplishments that supports why this time period should be labeled as a renaissance.

The last major accomplishment that Charlemagne did was how he emphasized the importance of information and education. There are two ways that he did this. One way is how he pushed education on to others. Before Charlemagne ruled, literacy skills were disappearing and the only people who had this skill belonged to clergy. He wanted everyone to have literacy skills so everyone can communicate easier. One way he pushed literacy, was by transforming his palace into a center of learning, like a university today. Students came from all miles around to learn. The other way he emphasized information was by preserving old text. He had his scholars rewrite old text and scriptures in Latin to better preserve information for future generations to learn from. Both of these were new to the people because people believed that literacy was not important and information is learned from each generation instead of on paper. So, pushing education is the last reason why this time period should be called a renaissance.

In conclusion, most people think of the fourteenth century when some says renaissance. But, with the information above, people should recognize the late eighth and early ninth century as a renaissance. They should because the government and the bartering system were reformed to more fair systems, which forms of both are still used today. The last reason is because of the revival of thinking that knowledge is power. With the reform of government, bartering system, and the push of Education, that is why this time period should be called a renaissance or better yet, the Carolingian renaissance.