FRANCONIA (Ger. Franken), the name of one of the stem-duchies of medieval Germany. It stretched along the valley of the Main from the Rhine to Bohemia, and was bounded on the north by Saxony and Thuringia, and on the south by Swabia and Bavaria. It also included a district around Mainz, Spires and Worms, on the left bank of the Rhine. The word Franconia, first used in a Latin charter of 1053, was applied like the words France, Francia and Franken, to a portion of the land occupied by the Franks.
About the close of the 5th century this territory was conquered by Clovis, king of the Salian Franks, was afterwards incorporated with the kingdom of Austrasia, and at a later period came under the rule of Charlemagne. After the treaty of Verdun in 843 it became the centre of the East Frankish or German kingdom, and in theory remained so for a long period, and was for a time the most important of the duchies which arose on the ruins of the Carolingian empire. The land was divided into counties, or gauen, which were ruled by counts, prominent among whom were members of the families of Conradine and Babenberg, by whose feuds it was frequently devastated. Conrad, a member of the former family, who took the title of "duke in Franconia" about the year 900, was chosen German king in 911 as the representative of the foremost of the German races. Conrad handed over the chief authority in Franconia to his brother Eberhard, who remained on good terms with Conrad's successor Henry I. the Fowler, but rose against the succeeding king, Otto the Great, and was killed in battle in 939, when his territories were divided. The influence of Franconia began to decline under the kings of the Saxon house. It lacked political unity, had no opportunities for extension, and soon became divided into Rhenish Franconia (Francia rhenensis, Ger. Rheinfranken) and Eastern Franconia (Francia orientalis, Ger. Ostfranken). The most influential family in Rhenish Franconia was that of the Salians, the head of which early in the 10th century was Conrad the Red, duke of Lorraine, and son-in-law of Otto the Great. This Conrad, his son Otto and his grandson Conrad are sometimes called dukes of Franconia, and in 1024 his great-grandson Conrad, also duke of Franconia, was elected German king as Conrad II. and founded the line of Franconian or Salian emperors. Rhenish Franconia gradually became a land of free towns and lesser nobles, and under the earlier Franconian emperors sections passed to the count palatine of the Rhine, the archbishop of Mainz, the bishops of Worms and Spires and other clerical and lay nobles; and the name Franconia, or Francia orientalis as it was then called, was confined to the eastern portion of the duchy. Clerical authority was becoming predominant in this region. A series of charters dating from 822 to 1025 had granted considerable powers to the bishops of Würzburg, who, by the time of the emperor Henry II., possessed judicial authority over the whole of eastern Franconia. The duchy was nominally retained by the emperors in their own hands until 1115, when the emperor Henry V., wishing to curb the episcopal influence in this neighbourhood, appointed his nephew Conrad of Hohenstaufen as duke of Franconia. Conrad's son Frederick took the title of duke of Rothenburg instead of duke of Franconia, but in 1196, on the death of Conrad of Hohenstaufen, son of the emperor Frederick I., the title fell into disuse. Meanwhile the bishop of Würzburg had regained his former power in the duchy, and this was confirmed in 1168 by the emperor Frederick I.
The title remained in abeyance until the early years of the 15th century, when it was assumed by John II., bishop of Würzburg, and retained by his successors until the bishopric was secularized in 1802. The greater part of the lands were united with Bavaria, and the name Franconia again fell into abeyance. It was revived in 1837, when Louis I., king of Bavaria, gave to three northern portions of his kingdom the names of Upper, Middle and Lower Franconia. In 1633 Bernhard, duke of Saxe-Weimar, hoping to create a principality for himself out of the ecclesiastical lands, had taken the title of duke of Franconia, but his hopes were destroyed by his defeat at Nördlingen in 1634. When Germany was divided into circles by the emperor Maximilian I. in 1500, the name Franconia was given to that circle which included the eastern part of the old duchy. The lands formerly comprised in the duchy of Franconia are now divided between the kingdoms of Bavaria and Württemberg, the grand-duchies of Baden and Hesse, and the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau.
See J. G. ab Eckhart, Commentarii de rebus Franciae orientalis et episcopatus Wirceburgensis (Würzburg, 1729); F. Stein, Geschichte Frankens (Schweinfurt, 1885-1886); T. Henner, Die herzogliche Gewalt der Bischöfe von Würzburg (Würzburg, 1874).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)