The Early Medieval Era
Various Germanic and Slavic tribes vied for control of the
eastern Alpine-Danubian region following the withdrawal and
collapse of Roman authority. Among the Germanic tribes, Alemanni
(later known as Swabians) and Bavarians were the most notable.
The Alemanni had arrived during the Roman era and by 500 were
permanently established in most of modern-day Switzerland and the
Austrian province of Vorarlberg. The early history of the
Bavarians is not clear, but by the mid-500s, they were
established alongside remnants of earlier, Romanized peoples in
areas north and south of the present-day border between Austria
and Germany. Both Swabians and Bavarians were subject to another
Germanic tribe, the Franks, but effective Frankish control did
not occur until the time of Emperor Charlemagne in the late 700s.
Slavic peoples, including Slovenes, Croats, Czechs, and
Slovaks, settled in the region as subject peoples of the Avars, a
nomadic tribe, and gradually absorbed their nomadic overlords.
During the Carolingian era (eighth and ninth centuries), the
areas of Slavic settlement, like those of the Swabians and
Bavarians, became subject to the Franks.
Under Frankish patronage, Irish monks, most notably Saint
Columban and Saint Gall, pioneered the Christian evangelization
of the region in the seventh and eighth centuries. Their work
gave rise to important monasteries whose agricultural activities
on the frontiers of the Carolingian Empire helped open the
region's primeval forests to wider settlement. Eventually
integrated into the feudal political structure, the abbots of
these monasteries vied with bishops and secular lords for
religious and political influence well into the modern era.
Bishoprics were established in four major Bavarian towns in the
730s. Salzburg, the only one of these to lie within modern
Austria, was raised to the status of an archbishopric in 798 and
was given jurisdiction over the other bishoprics. Salzburg became
the center of the Christian evangelization efforts in the Slavic
territories, which were instrumental in spreading the political
reach of the Carolingian Empire.
Data as of December 1993