The Shift From the Merovingian Dynasty to the Carolingian Dynasty

From the 5th to the 8th centuries, the kingdom of the Franks was ruled by the Merovingian family. The Merovingian dynasty was founded by Childeric I (r. 457-481), but it was his son, Clovis (r. 481-511) who united all of Gaul under one rule. Clovis was also very significant for having converted to Catholicism. He was baptized on Christmas day, and subsequently made what is now France the first of the barbarian kingdoms to become e Catholic. It was his wife, Clotilde, who was credited with converting Clovis, and for that she is venerated as a saint among both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Despite the early success of the Merovingian dynasty, it soon fell apart. After Clovis’s death, fighting ensued over control of the kingdom throughout the 6th century. Many of the Merovingian monarchs were very unskilled administrators. Some were unsuited to rule, being women, children, and the mentally subnormal. The church was also in terrible condition. People were buying church offices, some priests were not celibate, some carried weapons and killed people. There were even some priests that worshipped the old Germanic gods.

St. Boniface (c. 680-754) was very upset with the condition of the church in the Frankish kingdom, set about reforming the system, with the help of Pepin, and Carloman, who was mayor of the palace. These reforms took a long time to make any changes, but their most important effect is that they fostered the idea of Papal sovereignty among the clergy.

The Carolingian family held the title of mayor of the palace, and  wielded de facto power over the Frankish kingdom. Pepin the Short (c. 714-768), a Carolingian, was interested in becoming king and came to Pope Zachary I asking him if it was good that the man with no power should have the title, and the man with all the power should have no title. Zachary replied that it was not good, and agreed to bless the change in dynasty from the Merovingians to the Carolingians. And in 751, the last of the Merovingian kings had his hair ceremonially cut, was deposed, and Pepin the Short was made the first Carolingian monarch of the Frankish kingdom.



One thought on “The Shift From the Merovingian Dynasty to the Carolingian Dynasty

  1. Pingback: Lay Control in Medieval Europe | supererling

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