Eberhard, Margrave of Friuli

His personality outstands not only from the political, but also and, above all, from the cultural viewpoint, and therefore he turns out to be a real exception in comparison with the majority of the other, noble and non-noble, representatives of the Carolingian age lay society who were often of a very low profile.

Count-duke-margrave of Friuli. A son of Unruoch, a court nobleman at Charlemagne’s service, Eberhard, whose origins were Alemannic, decisively consolidated his family foreground role thanks to his marriage with Gisela, daughter of Louis the Pious and his second wife Judith, which was celebrated between 835 and 840. It is not possible to establish with certainty when he was obliged to withstand the raids of Narentines and Croatians who infested the Adriatic Sea and threatened the March of Friuli from the eastern coasts. Some of Sedulius Scotus’ poetic works are dedicated to the margrave’s warlike exploits against Slaves and Saracens. The defence of the borders was followed by an intense missionary activity of the Aquileian Church, probably encouraged by Eberhard himself, which brought to a progressive settlement of the relations with the Croatians of Dalmatia. The margrave defended the rights the Aquileian patriarch Theodemar claimed over Istria before Louis the Pious (854); and the sovereign kept on entrusting him with important diplomatic missions. Beside Sedulius he had way of knowing and frequenting Hincmar of Reims, Rabanus Maurus and Hratgar of Lièges. In 847 he sheltered Gottschalk, a Saxon condemned and persecuted for his doctrine on predestination, and in 848 he put up Anastasius the Librarian, who had been excommunicated. Even more than his friends and relations, the volumes of the personal library listed in the testament of the margrave (and his wife) confirm the interest of a high member of the Carolingian aristocracy, which ranged from medicine to history, from law to geography and military theory; these books also allow to define the cultural relations and exchanges among northern Italy, Bavaria and, more generally, the various parts of the Empire. Eberhard died between 864 and 866; his wife left Italy and retired at Cysoing, not far from Tournai, where she had founded an abbey toward the half of the century and where the margrave’s remains were translated a decade later. In Friuli his son Unruoch succeeded to him. After his first-born son’s death the March was given to his second-born, Berengar who was to assume the crown of Italy in 888.

For further information see the entry Eberardo, marchese del Friuli written by Massimo Dissaderi in Nuovo Liruti. Dizionario biografico dei Friulani, 1, II Medioevo, edited by C. Scalon, Udine, Forum, 2006, 265-269

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