Wednesday 26 July 2017

Kingdom of the Franks

Francia, also called Kingdom of the Franks were the lands that were ruled by Franks, who originated in the lands between the Lower and Middle Rhine in the 3rd century AD during the Late Antiquity and eventually formed a large empire dominating much of western and central Europe during the Middle Ages.

Baptistery Saint-Jean of Poitiers

The Salian Franks lived on Roman-held soil between the Rhine, Scheldt, Meuse, and Somme rivers in what is now Northern France, Belgium and the central and southern part of the Netherlands. The kingdom was acknowledged by the Romans after 357 AD. Following the collapse of Rome in the West, the Frankish tribes were united under the Merovingians, who succeeded in conquering most of Gaul in the 6th century, which greatly increased their power.


Clovis I(c. 466 – November 27, 511) was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs. He is considered to have been the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Frankish kingdom for the next two centuries.

Clovis I leading the Franks to victory in the Battle of Tolbiac,
in Ary Scheffer's 19th-century painting

Merovingian art is the art of the Merovingian dynasty of the Franks. The advent of the Merovingian dynasty in Gaul in the 5th century led to important changes in the field of arts. Sculpture regressed to be little more than a simple technique for the ornamentation of sarcophagi, altars and ecclesiastical furniture.

Baptistery of the cathedral Saint-Léonce in Fréjus.

At the death of Clovis, his kingdom was divided territorially by his four adult sons in such a way that each son was granted a comparable portion of fiscal land. Clovis's sons made their capitals near the Frankish heartland in northeastern Gaul. Theuderic I made his capital at Reims, Chlodomer at Orléans, Childebert I at Paris, and Chlothar I at Soissons. During their reigns, the Thuringii (532), Burgundes (534), and Saxons and Frisians (c. 560) were incorporated into the Frankish kingdom.

The partition of the Frankish kingdom among the four sons of Clovis

After Clovis I divided his kingdom between his four sons, Childebert I, after inheriting reigned as King of Paris from 511 to 558 and Orléans from 524 to 558. In the partition of the realm, he received as his share the town of Paris, the country to the north as far as the river Somme, to the west as far as the English Channel, and the Armorican peninsula (modern Brittany).

Statuette of Childebert from his abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés,
 13th century (Musée du Louvre)

Chlodomer (reigned 511 - 524 CE) received the kingdom of Orléans which included most notably, the bishoprics of Tours, Poitiers and Orléans. Chlodomer married Guntheuc, with whom he had three sons: Theodebald, Gunthar, and Clodoald. In 523-524 Chlodomer joined with his brothers in an expedition against the Burgundian. He was killed on his second expedition against the Burgundian, at the Battle of Vézeronce.

Battle of Vezeronce

Theuderic I inherited Metz in 511 at his father's death. Theuderic got involved in the war between the Thuringian King Hermanfrid and his brother Baderic. After making a treaty with his brother Childebert, Theuderic died in 534. Upon his death the throne of Metz, passed (without hindrance, unexpectedly) to his son Theudebert. His other son Theodechild founded the Abbey of St-Pierre le Vif at Sens.

18th century depiction of Theuderic I by Jean Dassier

Clothar I inherited two large territories on the Western coast of Francia, separated by the lands of his brother Charibert I's Kingdom of Paris. Chlothar spent most of his life in an unedifying campaign to expand his territories at the expense of his relatives and neighbouring realms in all directions. By the end of his life, Chlothar had managed to reunite Francia by surviving his brothers and seizing their territories after they died.

Bust of Chlothar

At the end of reign of Chlothar I in 561, the Frankish kingdom was at its peak, covering the whole of Gaul (except Septimania) and part of present-day Germany. He died at the end of 561 of acute pneumonia at the age of 64, leaving his kingdom to his four sons. They went to bury him at Soissons in the Basilica of St. Marie, where he had started to build the tomb of St. Médard.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Soissons

At the death of Chlothar I, his son Charibert received the ancient kingdom of Childebert I, between the Somme and Pyrénées, with Paris as its capital, and including the Paris Basin, Aquitaine and Provence. Guntram received Burgundy with a part of the kingdom of Orléans, where he established his capital. Sigebert received the kingdom of Metz with its capital Reims and Metz. Chilperic received the territories north of the kingdom of Soissons.

Breakup of the Frankish Kingdoms upon Chlothar's death in 561

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