Learn more about Clovis I
Clovis I (variously spelled Chlodowech or Chlodwig, giving modern French Louis and modern German Ludwig) (c.466 – November 27 511) was the first king of the Franks to unite that entire barbarian (according to the Romans) nation. He succeeded his father Childeric I in 481 as King of the Salian Franks, one of several Frankish tribes, who were then occupying the area west of the lower Rhine, with their centre around Tournai and Cambrai along the modern frontier between France and Belgium, in an area known as Toxandria. He conquered the neighbouring Frankish tribes and established himself as sole king before his death.
He converted to Catholicism, as opposed to the Arianism common among Germanic peoples, at the instigation of his wife. This act was of immense importance in the subsequent history of France and Western Europe in general for Clovis expanded his dominion over almost all of the old Roman province of Gaul (roughly modern France) which stands at the centre of European affairs. He is considered the founder both of France (which his state closely resembled geographically at his death) and the Merovingian dynasty which ruled the Franks for the next two centuries.
 Frankish consolidation
In 486, with the help of Ragnachar, Clovis defeated Syagrius, the last Roman official in northern Gaul, who ruled the area around Soissons in present-day Picardie.<ref name=BeerAdvocate>Template:Cite web</ref> This victory extended Frankish rule to most of the area north of the Loire. After this, Clovis secured an alliance with the Ostrogoths, through the marriage of his sister Audofleda to their king, Theodoric the Great. He followed this victory with another in 491 over a small group of Thuringians east of his territories. Later, with the help of the other Frankish sub-kings, he defeated the Alamanni in the Battle of Tolbiac. He had previously married the Burgundian princess Clotilde (493), and, following his victory at Tolbiac, he converted in 496 to her Trinitarian Catholic faith. This was a significant change from the other Germanic kings, like the Visigoths and Vandals, who embraced the rival Arian beliefs.
 Christian king
The conversion of Clovis to Roman Catholic Christianity, the religion of the majority of his subjects, strengthened the bonds between his Roman subjects and their Germanic conquerors. However, Bernard Bachrach has argued that this conversion from his Frankish, so-called pagan, beliefs alienated many of the other Frankish sub-kings and weakened his military position over the next few years.
Perhaps surprisingly, the monk Gregory of Tours wrote that the beliefs that Clovis abandoned were in Roman gods, such as Jupiter and Mercury, rather than their Germanic equivalents. If Gregory's account is accurate it suggests a strong affinity of Frankish rulers for the prestige of Roman culture, which they must have embraced as allies and federates of the Empire during the previous century.
Though he fought a battle in Dijon in the year 500, Clovis did not successfully subdue the Burgundian kingdom. It appears that he somehow gained the support of the Armoricans in the following years, for they assisted him in his defeat of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in the Battle of Vouillé (507) which confined the Visigoths to Spain and added most of Aquitaine to Clovis' kingdom.<ref name=BeerAdvocate /> He then established Paris as his capital,<ref name=BeerAdvocate /> and established an abbey dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul on the south bank of the Seine. All that remains of this great abbey is the Tour Clovis, a Romanesque tower which now lies within the grounds of the prestigious Lycée Henri IV, just east of The Panthéon. (After its founding, the abbey was renamed in honor of Paris' patron saint, Geneviève. It was demolished in 1802.
|Battles of Clovis I|
|Battle of Soissons (486) · Frankish-Thuringian battle (491) · Battle of Tolbiac (496) · Battle of Dijon (500) · Battle of Vouillé (507)|
According to Gregory of Tours, following the Battle of Vouillé, Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I, granted Clovis the title of consul. Since Clovis' name does not appear in the consular lists, it is likely he was granted a suffect consulship. Gregory also records Clovis' systematic campaigns following his victory in Vouillé to eliminate the other Frankish reguli or sub-kings. These included Sigibert of Cologne and his son Clotaire; Chararic, another king of the Salian Franks; Ragnachar of Cambrai, his brother Ricchar, and their brother Rigomer of Le Mans.
Shortly before his death, Clovis called a synod of Gallic bishops to meet in Orléans to reform the church and create a strong link between the Crown and the Catholic episcopate. This was the First Council of Orléans.
 Death and succession
Clovis I died in 511 and is interred in Saint Denis Basilica, Paris, France, whereas his father had been buried with the older Merovingian kings in Tournai. Upon his death, his realm was divided among his four sons, Theuderic, Chlodomer, Childebert, and Clotaire. This created the new political units of the Kingdoms of Rheims, Orléans, Paris and Soissons and inaugurated a period of disunity which was to last, with brief interruptions, until the end (751) of his Merovingian dynasty.
The legacy of Clovis is well-established on three very large acts: his unification of the Frankish nation, his conquest of Gaul, and his conversion to Roman Catholicism. By the first act, he assured the influence of his people in wider affairs, something no petty regional king could accomplish. By the second act, he laid the foundations of a later nation-state: France. Finally, by the third act, he made himself the ally of the papacy and its protector as well as of the people, who were mostly Catholics.
Aside from these acts of more than just national importance, division of the state, not along national or even largely geographical lines, but primarily to assure equal income amongst the brothers, on his death, which may or may not have been his intention, was the cause of much internal discord in Gaul and contributed in the long run to the fall of his dynasty, for it was a pattern constantly repeated.<ref>The Rise of the Carolingians or the Decline of the Merovingians? (pdf)</ref> Clovis did bequeath to his heirs the support of both people and church such that, when finally the magnates were ready to do away with the royal house, the sanction of the pope was sought first.
- James, Edward. The Origins of France: Clovis to the Capetians 500-1000. Macmillan, 1982.
- Kaiser, Reinhold. Das römische Erbe und das Merowingerreich. München 2004. (Enzyklopädie deutscher Geschichte 26)
- Oman, Charles. The Dark Ages 476-918. Rivingtons: London, 1914.
- Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. The Long-haired Kings. London, 1962.
- The Oxford Merovingian Page.
| Merovingian Dynasty|
Born: 466; Died: November 27 511
|King of the Salian Franks|
481 – c.509
|King of the Franks|
c.509 – 511
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