The Stellinga Uprising of 841 to 845, which took its name from a word meaning “comrade” or “companion”, was a revolt of mostly-peasant Saxon freemen and freedmen to recover recently lost rights. The rebels’ class, while lowly, had nonetheless possessed political privileges when the Saxons were pagans and lived under traditional tribal customs. After the Saxons were forcibly converted to Christianity by Charlemagne, however, their nobility were co-opted by the conqueror, while the commoners were reduced to mere peasant and serfs.
In 840, a civil war had broken out in the Carolingian Empire between the heirs of emperor Louis the Pious. One of the contestants, Lothair I, promised the Saxon lower classes of the Stellinga s a restoration of the rights they had enjoyed in the days of paganism in exchange for their support to put him on the throne of East Francia – the future Kingdom of Germany.
In 841, as described by contemporaries: “throughout all of Saxony the power of the slaves rose up violently against their lords. They usurped for themselves the word Stellinga, and they perpetrated much madness. And the nobles of that land were violently persecuted and humiliated by the slaves“. While the writer, a royal chaplain, was biased against the rebels, the rebels apparently turned on the oppressive aristocracy, which turning of the worm was seen as an alarming inversion of the natural order.
Lothair was defeated in 841, and eventually signed a truce with his brothers. The victor, Louis the German marched against the insurrectionists, defeated them militarily, and had the captured Stellinga leaders executed. The Saxon nobility then returned to their land under the protection of Louis the German’s armies, and subjected their peasantry to a reign of terror and retaliatory vengeance that stamped out the insurrection by 843.