The Merovingian - Referat
The Merovingians were a dynasty of Frankish kings, who ruled over large parts of what today is Europe and are known as the "first race" of the kings of France.
The name Merovingian comes from Merovech, of whom, on one hand, nothing is known except that he was the father of Childeric I, who ruled a tribe of Salian Franks that lived to the left side of the lower Rhine.
On the other hand he is a semi-legendary figure. The legend says Merovech had two fathers. His mother, pregnant by her husband, went swimming in a sea, where she was abused by a sea creature and became pregnant again.
Therefore is told that in Merovech’s veins the blood of two sources (the one of his Frankish father and of a “sea animal”) would run.
He got his name from the French words for “mother” and “sea” wherefrom you can derive “Merovech”, “Merovee” or “Meroveus”.
At the end of the 5th century Clovis I, son of Childeric I, defeated the local Romans and took over their army, civil service, and lands.
He was the first who rose from being the leader of the Salian Franks to becoming the founder of the Frankish Kingdom and consequently - their king.
To this time Christianity took many different forms – the Roman Church was in a steady conflict with the Celtic Church. Instead of being an Arian Christian, like most of Germanic kings in the former Roman Empire, he allied himself with Catholic bishops and aristocrats.
In 496 he was converted to Christianity, when he married the Catholic Burgundian princess Clothilde, what signaled the conversion of the rest of the Franks and thus brought continuity through their religion.
This all helped him forming a strong alliance with the church and to consolidate his power.
At Clovis I's death in 511, his kingdom was divided among his four sons, Childebert I, Chlodomir, Chlotar I and Theuderic I.
Despite their frequently fights between one another, they managed to extend their kingdom, so that by 537 the Franks had defeated the last great Roman army in Gaul and had conquered what today is France, Belgium, Switzerland, and north-western Germany.
The Merovingian divided this territory into three major kingdoms:
§ Neustria, with its capital first at Soissons (later at Paris)
§ Austrasia, with its capital at Metz, to the east along the Rhine River;
§ Burgundy, with its capital at Chalon-sur-Saône, to the south-east of Neustria.
It happened that just one king ruled all of these kingdoms, e.g. Chlotar I as the last descendant of Clovis I by 558; but more often different parts of the family divided them among themselves.
This happened after Chlotar I’s death in 561, where the realm was again divided between brothers—Charibert I, Chilperic I, Guntram and Sigebert.
Overall Frankish unity was again achieved in 613, when there were no more descendents of the kings of Austrasia and Burgundy, so that Chlotar II, son of Chilperic I and king of Neustria, inherited the other two kingdoms as well.
After the death of Chlotar's son Dagobert I in 639, the realm was divided up again, but the power of the Merovingian kings decreased. It was probably because of the long series of Merovingian child kings from the 7th century on, so that the household officials, known as mayors of the palace, could gain control of the government. They originally served as tutors of the young rulers, but eventually they maintained their power even when the kings had come of age (a good example for a child king is Sigebert III, son of Dagobert I, who became king of Austrasia in 634, when he was 3 year old).
The Merovingian kings adopted the system of the mayors of the palace from the Roman Empire. There, great landowners had employed a major domus (mayor, or supervisor, of the household) to manage the administration of several, often scattered, estates. The Merovingians selected the major palatii (mayor of the palace) to perform a similar function. The mayor got, after and after, further duties and powers: he obtained authority over judges, advised the king, when he selected counts and dukes, protected the commendati (persons commended to the king) and eventually was even allowed to command the royal army. The later Merovingian kings were little more than puppets.
During Dagobert I, Pepin “the Fat” had been Mayor of the Place and alleged he also was the one who ordered the assassination of his king. He placed his son Charles Martel in a leading position, but despite his excellent military status and that the opportunity really was there for him, he seemed have avoided claiming the throne; maybe he respected
After Charles Martel died in 741, his son, Pepin III, was the opinion that the king, Childeric III, was not qualified, so he decided to become king himself. But he wanted to make sure that none of the clergy (priest and monks), who were the only educated and cultured people in the country, and at their head, the Pope at Rome, would oppose him.
So he went to the Pope and asked the question,
“Who should be King? The man who actually holds the power, or he, thought called King, has no power at all.”
The Pope agreed that Pepin should be made King and thus broke the agreement that had been established with Clovis. The actual king, Childeric III, was deposed in 750 and sent to a monastery, serving as an exile, where he died four years later. Pepin ascended the throne of the Franks and started the Carolingian dynasty.
~Culture & Society~
Although often depicted as a barbaric and uncivilised society, the Merovingian were relatively a Christian society and a direct continuation of the Roman civilisation in terms of social standards and culture.
The Merovingian adopted many Roman institutions, although these were not nearly as effective or well-developed as they once had been.
For example, a while they kept the Roman taxation system, even though in the end opposition caused them to drop it.
The Merovingians minted coins on the Roman model and the kings maintained a primitive civil service.
For the king typical became his beard, long hair, crown and throne.
During the entire 6th century many writers, inspired by classical tradition, produced works with typical antique structure and style.
Also the use of popular Latin became more common among writers.
Religious architecture stayed the way it was the early Christian model (churches of basilican type, baptisteries, and vaulted mausoleums).
The Merovingian kings were great builders; about 510 Clovis founded a church on the tomb of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, and Childebert built Sainte-Croix-et-Saint-Vincent (today Saint-Germain-des-Prés). Both churches were decorated with marble and mosaic and their roof is made out of bronze tiles—same was the church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Daurade in Toulouse, which probably dates from the end of the 6th century and was destroyed at 1761.
Additionally great kings started building themselves great mausoleums to be buried there. As king, Dagobert I made Paris his capital. During his reign, he built the Altes Schloss Castle in Meersburg, Germany which today is the oldest inhabited castle in that country.Only little of the architecture of this period has survived; in the south of France there are still a few baptisteries (Fréjus, Riez, Venasque) that show affinity to similar structures in Italy.
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