-         Begin to spread over northern Gaul in late Roman Empire

-         Gradually advances into Roman territory




-         when Clovis ascended the throne he received a most cordial letter of congratulation from St. Remigius, Archbishop of Reims

-         Overthrew Roman power (governor) in northern Gaul c. 486 A.D. under Clovis (b. 466 A.D.) – Roman governor is beheaded – now Clovis is king of Soissons

o       “It would seem as if the episode of the celebrated vase of Soissons were an incident of the campaign against Syagrius, and it proves that, although a pagan, Clovis continued his father's policy by remaining on amicable terms with Gaulish episcopate. The vase, taken by the Frankish soldiers while plundering a church, formed part of the booty that was to be divided among the army. It was claimed by the bishop (St. Remigius?), and the king sought to have it awarded to himself in order to return it intact to the bishop, but a dissatisfied soldier split the vase with his battle-axe, saying to this king: "You will get only the share allotted you by fate". Clovis did not openly resent the insult, but the following year, when reviewing his army he came upon this same soldier and, reproving him for the defective condition of his arms, he split his skull with an axe, saying: "It was thus that you treated the Soissons vase." This incident has often been cited to show that although in time of war a king has unlimited authority over his army, after the war his power is restricted and that in the division of booty the rights of the soldiers must be respected.” (

-         Territory extends to Loire River (roughly northern half of modern France)

o       Modern France grows out of Gaul

-         Thus destroyed last vestige of Roman imperial rule in the West

-         Clovis then defeats his German neighbors – important battle near Strassburg (496 A.D.)

-         Then he conquers Visigoths between Loire River and Pyrenees and compels Burgundians (eastern France, including Geneva) to pay tribute

-         Clovis was now supreme ruler over all of Gaul and founder of the French nation

-         Clovis doesn’t oppress Roman inhabitants of Gaul. Their cities were preserved. Their language and laws were undisturbed


Conversion of the Franks


-         Two accounts (handout)

-         Clovis marries a Burgundian princess named Clotilda, a devout Catholic and an ardent advocate of Christianity – 492 or 493 A.D.

o       won the consent of Clovis to the baptism of their son

-         Story is that if Clovis won battle of Strassburg with help of his wife’s God, he’d convert to Christianity

-         Clovis honors his promise and is baptized by St. Remi, bishop of Reims. Bishop says, as he approached baptismal font:


“Bow down thy head. Adore what thou hast burned, burn what thou hast adored.”


-         3000 of his warriors convert with him

-         Sincere conversion

-         Cemented links between Franks and the Pope in Rome (other Germanic tribes were Arians)

-         From Paris, which he had finally made his capital, he administered the various provinces through the agency of counts (comites) established in each city and selected by him from the aristocracy of both races, conformably to the principle of absolute equality between Romans and barbarians, a principle which dominated his entire policy. He caused the Salic Law (Lex Salica) to be reduced to written form, revised end adapted to the new social conditions under which his fellow barbaricans were subsequently to live. Acknowledging the Church as the foremost civilizing force, he protected it in every way possible, especially by providing for it the National Council of Orleans (511), at which the bishops of Gaul settled many questions pertaining to the relations between Church and state.(

-         “However, history has preserved the memory of foundation which was undoubtedly due to Clovis: the church of the Apostles, later of Sainte-Geneviève, on what was then Mons Lucotetius, to the south of Paris. The king destined it as a mausoleum for himself and his queen Clotilda, and before it was completed his mortal remains were there interred. Clovis died at the age of forty-five. His sarcophagus remained in the crypt of Sainte-Geneviève until the time of the French Revolution, when it was broken open by the revolutionists, and his ashes scattered to the winds, the sanctuary of the beautiful church being destroyed.” (

-         “upon the ruins of the Roman Empire he built up a powerful system, the influence of which dominated European civilization during many centuries, and from which sprang France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland, without taking into account that northern Spain and northern Italy were also, for a time, under the civilizing regime of the Frankish Empire.” (


Merovingian Empire


-         Successors of Clovis occupy throne of the Franks for nearly 250 years

-         History of bloody wars, horrible murders

-         Later Merovingian kings reign but don’t rule – authority passes to “mayors of the palace,” or officers


Charles Martel and Pepin the Short


-         Most illustrious of mayors was Charles Martel

-         Could have been kind, but doesn’t seek the throne

-         His son, Pepin the Short, does seek the throne

-         Pepin seeks Vatican’s approval – “only right that man with power should rule”

-         Thus he had himself crowned king of the Franks

-         Begins Carolingian dynasty (751 A.D.)

-         In 754 A.D., Pope Stephen II comes to Pepin’s court and anoints him with holy oil, in accordance with ancient Jewish custom (David, etc.)

-         Pepin pays back the favor by protecting the Vatican against the Lombards – twice – and gave some conquered land to the Pope (‘Donation of Pepin’)




-         Pepin’s son becomes sole king of Franks in 771 A.D.

-         Reigns for 47 years

-         [handout]

-         Conquers much of Italy and Bavaria (southern Germany) and into Eastern Europe

-         Conquers Lombards at Pope’s request in 774 A.D. and assumes their crown as “King of the Franks and Lombards”

-         Seemed to most to be the successor to the Roman emperors

-         In 800 A.D., Charlemagne goes to Rome to investigate charges against Pope Leo III; C. absolves him of wrongdoing and restores him to office

-         Later that year, on Christmas day in Rome, Pope Leo III crowns Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor

-         Dies is 814 A.D.


Later Frankish Empire


-         Charlemagne’s sons can’t hold the empire together

-         Fractures into various pieces