Merovech, King of the Salian Franks
(Abt 415-457)
Queen Verica of the Franks
(Abt 419-)
Childeric I, King of the Salian Franks
Queen Basina of the Franks
(438-After 470)
King Clovis I the Great of the Franks


Family Links

Clotilda (St) of the Franks

King Clovis I the Great of the Franks

  • Born: 466, Rheims, Marne, Loire-Altantique, France
  • Baptized: 25 Dec 496, Rheims, Marne, Loire-Altantique, France
  • Marriage: Clotilda (St) of the Franks about 493
  • Died: 27 Nov 511, Church of Saint, Paris, Gaul at age 45
  • Buried: Church of Saint, Paris, Gaul

bullet   Another name for Clovis was Chlodovech.


bullet  General Notes:

Born: 466
Marriage: (1): Clotilda (St) of the Franks circa 493
Marriage: (2): Unknown
Died: 27 Nov 511, Paris, Gaul at age 45
General Notes:
"Clovis's most significant achievement was not the conquest of large parts of Gaul but the elimination of all rivals to his kingship." EDWARD JAMES Frankish king of the Merovingian line, who established Frankish power over Roman Gaul, and whose conversion to orthodox Christianity secured great advantages over possible rivals, gaining complete cooperation of orthodox clergy. BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY The Germanic peoples who entered the Roman Empire over a period of centuries--encountering and overcoming existing social, political, and military institutions--underwent many changes. The Franks were the product of some of these changes. One of their greatest kings, Clovis I, who inherited his throne when only 15, was more than a product of his times: he was a remarkably successful, single-minded, and ruthless leader who made full use of Romanized institutions and Germanic custom in solidifying and expanding the power and territory he inherited from his father, Childeric. The Franks were not included among the tribes or "nations" enumerated by the Roman and Greek historians who saw and described the early Germans. The result of a coalition of some Germanic peoples who settled in the Rhine Valley, the Franks developed distinctive weapons (i.e., the Francobard--a battle axe), their own dialect (now known as Early Frankish), and an ability to adapt to changing conditions. Because their war chieftains wore their hair long (possibly daring enemies to approach and take hold of it during battle), they became known as the "Long-Haired Kings." Roman Gaul, and parts of the Rhine Valley and lands north and west of that river, had been infiltrated by Germanic peoples for several centuries since the time of Julius Caesar. By the fifth century, those people who had become known as Franks had settled down in two distinct groupings in the Rhine Valley. To the northwest, in the area known today as Belgium and the Netherlands, the so-called Salian Franks held sway. The adjectival descriptor of Salian was given by Romans and referred to the source of their economic power: the salt flats near the mouth of the Rhine and the North Sea shores. Salt was a precious commodity in those days. Further up-river were the Ripuarian Franks, related through language, custom, and probably intermarriage. Their name was also derived from the Latin and signified that they lived on the river banks. The first so-called king of the Salian Franks, named Merovech (Merovecs, Merovic, Meroveus), received his power from at least two sources: descent from a tribal hero and confirmation of his leadership by a Roman or Roman-appointed official in northern Gaul. Probably a war chieftain who wore his hair long and braided in the Frankish-Germanic manner, Merovech's descendants became known as Merovingians. The first of these was presumably Clovis's father Childeric I, whose richly appointed grave was discovered in Tournai (located in present-day Belgium near the French border) in 1653, complete with Roman, Byzantine, Hunnic, and Germanic articles in gold, bejeweled, and with coins and seals which clearly indicated the identity of the body. It is thought that Childeric died in 481 or 482. The rule of Clovis over the Salian Franks was noteworthy for several reasons: he acquired and improved on the power and position he inherited from Childeric; he effected a union of Salian and Ripuarian Franks; he obtained, by conquest or diplomacy, lands and peoples of adjacent "kingdoms" including Gauls, Alemanni, Thuringians, Armoricans (Bretons), and Visigoths, creating a kingdom that included much of what is today France, Belgium, and Netherlands, as well as parts of western Germany. Many of his predecessors, in the act of conquest, either expelled or slaughtered the inhabitants of areas they acquired by war. Clovis did not. He seems to have made a conscious effort to include these conquered peoples under his rule, thereby gaining taxpaying subjects together with the products of their industry. One of the results of this policy was a distinct change in social and political practices among the Franks, who adopted many Roman or Gallo-Roman ways. The reign of Clovis may be seen as a period of considerable warfare. It also marks the foundations of the early French nation. Not all of the innovations were intentional; it is more likely that they were incidental to the desire to avoid unnecessary conflict which could dilute Clovis's almost single-minded objective of acquisition and subjugation of neighboring peoples and lands. To this end, Clovis affected Roman dress and manners when useful, authorized the drafting of laws based on Roman models, and adopted the religion of the majority of his new subjects: orthodox Christianity. The first of his conquests was the area under the rule of Syagrius, reportedly a Gallo-Roman who ruled the remnants of Roman Gaul. The 20-year-old Clovis defeated the forces of Syagrius (mostly Germanic warriors) near the site of present-day Soissons, forcing Syagrius to flee to the protection of Alaric II, king of the Visigoths, located in the south of what is now France. But on demand, Alaric quickly surrendered Syagrius, and Clovis secretly had the defeated king executed. A Germanic tribe called the Thuringians lived in a large area to the northeast of the Gallo-Roman and Frankish-controlled lands. Clovis's next target was a smaller group of Thuringians who had settled in the middle-Rhine Valley; he defeated them in 491. Sometime after the Thuringian conquest, Clovis's representatives, while visiting the Burgundian kingdom (to the southeast), discovered Princess Clotilde, one of two surviving daughters of a king named Chilperic, who had been killed by his brother Gundobad (or Gundobald). Since the brother had also drowned Clotilda's mother, the princess was in danger. But when the emissaries saw Clotilda and remarked on her beauty and intelligence to Clovis, he persuaded Gundobad to approve her removal to his kingdom, where she married the Frankish ruler and became his queen. Clovis Converts to Orthodox Christianity: Now Clotilda was orthodox Christian. In fact, the bulk of the Gallo-Roman population was orthodox Christian. But many of the Germanic peoples already living within what had been the Roman Empire were Arian Christians. Adjudicated a heresy by the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325, Arianism rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and held that Christ was mortal. Orthodox Christianity in the fifth and sixth centuries believed in a Triune God and the Deity of Jesus Christ and was followed by those who looked to Rome and to Constantinople for their religious leadership. (A later break between Rome and the East would produce the divisions known as Catholic and Greek Orthodox.) In the time of Clovis, orthodoxy prevailed in most of western Christendom, excepting the area inhabited by the Visigoths and some Ostrogothic remnants in Italy. Bringing with her orthodox Christian clergy, Clotilda lost little time working on her mate to convince him of the error of his ways. But it was not until Clovis encountered the Germanic tribe known as the Alemanni that he made any overt gesture in favor of Christianity. Occupying an area which today would include much of the Upper Rhine Valley, a sizable group of the Alemanni had begun to press westward. In an effort to halt that expansion, Clovis, with his Salian Franks and newly allied Ripuarian Franks, moved into the valley of the Moselle River to a place called Tolbiacum where they met a large force of Alemanni. According to Gregory, the late sixth-century bishop of Tours who wrote the history of the Franks, Clovis's forces were in danger of defeat when he called upon the God of his queen to help him, promising to convert to Christianity if he won. At that point, the Alemanni broke and ran. Since Clovis was apparently a man of his word, he began immediate arrangements with Remigius (Remì), orthodox bishop of Rheims, and along with some 3,000 of his warriors, was baptized in a ceremony at Rheims on Christmas day, in the year 496 (or 497 or 506). (The Christmas date may be the forerunner of the Frankish tradition to accomplish great things on that day.) It was this same bishop who had written to Clovis in 481-82, praising him for continuation of his father's policies and recommending that he follow the advice of his Christian bishops. The conversion to orthodox Christianity gave Clovis a decided advantage over all other candidates for high positions in western Christendom. The bulk of the population in the Christian West was not Germanic but Roman and Gallo-Roman. Encouraged by the clergy, they gave their loyalty to Clovis and his descendants, first as orthodox Christians, then as Catholics. The mastery gained by Clovis over the Armoricans was diplomatic rather than military. Armorica was the name given by the Romans to the coastal district of western Gaul which included much of the peninsula of Brittany and portions of what is now Normandy, Anjou, and Maine from the Seine to the Loire rivers. It is doubtful that even Clovis could have conquered the Armoricans, since their history was one of rugged independence. The success of Clovis in this matter is both surprising and decisive, the more so since it gave him positional advantage for his next step, which was subjugation of the Visigothic kingdom in southern Gaul. The Visigoth campaign was relatively lengthy. The most decisive battle took place in 507 at Vouillé, near Poitiers, where King Alaric II was killed. Although some further fighting was necessary to complete the task, the death of Alaric sealed the fate of the kingdom and ensured Clovis an unchallenged future. He Promulgates the Salic Law: With the Visigoths out of the way, Clovis could concentrate on cleanup. He authorized the drafting and promulgation of the Pactus Legis Salicae, the Salic (or Salian) Law which was to govern the Franks for centuries to come. This is roughly the same period which saw the production of Justinian's Code in Byzantium--the Eastern Roman Empire. The Burgundians, too, had worked at the fashioning of a law code to govern the kingdom. The accomplishment of Clovis in culminating his rule of some 30 years with the publication of the Salic Law is equal in importance with his territorial acquisitions and his religious alignment. When Clovis died at age 55 in the year 511, his death set another precedent: he was interred in Paris, presaging the position that city was to hold in the future for France. His was a charismatic leadership. The military victories, the political achievements, the social advances which witnessed the differing peoples--Germanic, Gallic, and Roman--settling and living in close proximity and in relative peace, laid the groundwork for the later Holy Roman Empire and the concept of a unified state that included many cultural and linguistic differences. There can be little doubt that Clovis was a blunt, direct, forceful leader, who had good counsel and listened to it. He benefited from the advice of men who were older and more experienced than he. It is also obvious that he possessed an instinctive flair for doing the right thing at the right time. Even though, following a strong Germanic tradition, he divided his kingdom among four surviving sons when he died, the precedent for unification was there and it manifested itself several times in the centuries ahead. The Belgian historian, Pirenne, has said that without Mohammed (the prophet of Islam) there would have been no Charlemagne (also king of the Franks). It is entirely probable that without Clovis there would also have been no Charlemagne. PERSONAL INFORMATION Name variations: Chlodovechs; Clodovic. Probable date of birth, 466; died in 511; son of King Childeric; descendant of Merovech, "legendary" king of Franks, from whom Merovingian line takes its name; married: Clotilda (Chlothilde, Chrotechildis; a Burgundian princess); children: (four; each inherited portion of kingdom) Theodoric, Chlodomer, Childebert, Chlothar. CHRONOLOGY 466-84 Euric, king of Visigoths c. 466 Probable birth of Clovis 476 Last Roman Emperor (Romulus Augustulus) deposed c. 481 Death of Childeric; Clovis ascended to Childeric's title and position 486 Defeated Syagrius near Soissons 491 Defeated Thuringians c. 497 Defeated Alemanni at Tolbac; Clotilda chosen as queen after death of her father c. 496-97 Conversion of Clovis to orthodox Christianity (reportedly after battle at Tolbac) 507 Defeated Visigoths at Vouillé 507-11 Pactus Legis Salicae ("The Salic Law") drawn up and promulgated 511 Clovis died; burial at Paris
Noted events in his life were:
• Acceded: 481. King of the Salian Franks until 486
• Acceded: 486. King of the Franks
Clovis married Clotilda (St) of the Franks, daughter of Chilperic and Unknown, circa 493. (Clotilda (St) of the Franks was born circa 474 in Lyons and died on 3 Jun 545 in Tours, France.)

his wife Clothilde, of Burgundy, "The girl of the French Vineyards.
It was she who led him to embrace Christianity, and mythically three thousand of his followers were baptized in a single day. When Clovis first listened to the story of Christ's Crucifixion, he was so moved that he cried, "If I had been there with my valiant Franks, I would have avenged Him".


Clovis married Clotilda (St) of the Franks, daughter of Chilperic and Unknown, about 493. (Clotilda (St) of the Franks was born about 475 in Bourgogne, France and died on 3 Jun 545 in Tours, France.)


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