At the beginning of the 5th century, two groups of Franks had emerged: the Salian Franks lived at Tournai, Cambrai and Arras, today’s Belgium and northern France, back then in the area of the Western Roman Empire. As allies (foederati) they fought in the Roman army.
The Ripuarian Franken on the right side of the Rhine were enemies of the Empire. While Cologne was conquered by the Ripuarian Franks, the kings of the Salian Franks were high ranking officers in the Western Roman army and fought on the side of the Romans. Here we meet the first Frankish Royal dynasty, the Merovingians. The first known Merovingian king Childeric I, was a senior officer in the Roman army, he fought it for the last governor Aegidius.
Under Childeric’s son Clovis in Clovis, whom we can definitely call a despot, the Frankish Empire rose to a European power. He was baptized Catholic and took the Catholic confession. According to the “Historia Francorum” by Gregory of Tours, Clovis had invoked the Christian God to give him victory in the almost lost battle of Zülpich 496 victory over the Alemanni. But his decision was above all a shrewd political move: with his Catholic confession he had chosen the religion of his Gallo-Roman population, and have them support his kingdom. He did not live it, thought, he remained a Germanic warrior king.
Clovis’ reign stands at the transition from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages. In his kingdom were associated Roman conception of the state, Catholic Christianity and Germanic military kingship. But already in the generation of his sons began the decline of the Merovingian Empire, under his grandchildren, it was divided into: Neustria (now western France, capital cities Paris and Soissons) Austrasia (regions at the Rhine, Meuse and Mosel, Champagne, capital cities of Reims and Metz) and Burgundy (Loire and Rhone River basin, the capital of Orléans). Back then, our region was situated at the eastern border of the Frankish Empire.
Under Clotaire II, the Merowingian Empire was united again. But in 614, he had to make far-reaching concessions to the dukes, especially in Bavaria, Alemannia and Aquitaine mighty dukedoms came into being. Austrasia and Neustria were given administrative autonomy; Burgundy was lost completely. Clothar II and his son Dagobert I “the Good” are considered the last great Merovingian kings, but even in their time their highest government officials, the Mayor Domus, had firmly established their position.
First villages in the Siebengebirge
In that time various villages were founded, whose names tell us a lot. Names that end on “-heim” or “-dorf” indicate the oldest Franconian settlements, whereas names ending on “-hofen” and “-inghoven” indicate younger ones. In one of the oldest villages, Niederdollendorf, a gravestone of the 7th century was found. Names that end on “-rott” or “-roth” are found among villages in the mountains which could only have been built after parts of the forests had been cleared (= “-roden” in German). Also village names that end on “-berg” (mountain) indicate that the village was situated in the mountains, and village names on “-bach” (stream) indicate a village that had been built close to a stream. Sometimes the name of the stream is found in some names, like for example Oberpleis, which was built in the valley of a stream called the Pleis.
One of the first settlements in the Seven Mountains was Niederdollendorf; a Frankish grave stone from the 7th Century has been found, today it can be seen at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn. It shows Christian and Pagan elements. Back then, Chistianity mixed with Pagan beliefs, and often priests were killed.
The rise of the Carolingians
With the decline of the Merovingian political power got more and more in in the hands of the Mayor Domus from the Carolingian family. Charles Martel, who defeated the Arabs in the Battle of Tours and Poitiers 732, reigned like a king. Pepin III then did away with the Merovingian shadowy kingdom, in 751 he had himself crowned with the consent of the pope. A deal both sides profited from, as with “Donation of Pepin”, the Papal States came into being.
Under his son Charlemagne (768-814), the Frankish Empire rose to European power. Driven by an enormous will for power and often with merciless rigor Charlemagne set work on rearranging things in his spirit. He fought the Saxons, the Lombards and the Moors. The Empire was divided into counties, these again in districts (Gaue). At the top was a count who was appointed, transferred and dismissed by Charlemagne.
On Christmas Day 800 was Charlemagne was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III. in Rome. Now he was, in the tradition of the Christian Roman emperors, the protector of Rome and the Church, and his Frankish Empire was the successor kingdom of the Roman Empire. Both cultures, the Christian-Roman and Frankish should sustain the Empire.
Charlemagne took care of the education that had been down for a long time already. He urged the clergy, in his time a key source of education, again and again to learn Latin and Greek and to study the sciences. He called highly educated men to his court in Aachen, the “Hofschule” came into being to which we owe wonderful book illuminations. At the same time, the Frankish language was spoken at court, and was also the sermons in church were in Frankish.
The Seven Mountains were part of the county “Auelgau”. In a document from the year 893, a village named “vintre” is mentioned, that is derived from the Latin word for vineyard; obviously the Seven Mountains were a vine region already back then. In late Carolingian times Oberdollendorf and Römlinghoven were founded.
At that time, the kingdom of his grandfather was already divided. Lothar I, emperor, reigned in the Middle Empire, Louis II “the German” in the eastern empire, and Charles II “the Bald” in the western empire. The Rhineland was part of Lothar’s kingdom, Lotharingia.
But the middle empire did not last. Already in 870, in the Treaty of Meersen, it was divided between Charles the Bald and Louis II. Now the Rhine was the border, the left bank of Lotharingia was part of the Western Empire, the right bank was part of the Eastern Empire. In the treaty of Ribemont 880, the East Frankish King Louis III could win also the western part of Lotharingia.
In 881 the Frankish kingdom was raided by the Normans, Cologne was devastated. In a document of 893 a place called “Vintre” was mentioned. This name is derived from the Latin word for wine, sp probably already back then wine grown in the Seven Mountains. In late Carolingian period Oberdollendorf and Römlinghoven came into being.
A look beyond the Rhineland
Anglo-Saxon England (597-1066). At that time, Anglo-Saxon and Irish monks were proselytizing in the Frankish Empire. The first was the Irishman Columbanus who founded the monasteries of Luxeuil and Anngray in today’s France and Bobbio in Italy. The “Apostle of the Germans” was then the British Boniface, who began his mission in 722. He brought the church under the authority of the Pope in Rome.
The following picture is frome the German Wikipedia.
Das Bild der Grabstele von Niederdollendorf von Hans Weingartz, Leonce49 (Urheber) stammt aus der freien Enzyklopädie Wikipedia CC-BY-SA-3.0-DE und steht unter der Creative Commons Lizenz 3.0.