) was the first King of
to unite all the Frankish
under one king. He also introduced Christianity
. He was the son of Childeric I
. At age 16, he succeeded
his father, in the year 481. The Salian
Franks were one of two Frankish tribes who were then occupying
the area west of the lower Rhine, with their
center in an area known as Toxandria,
between the Meuse and Scheldt (in what is
now the Netherlands and Belgium).
power base was to the southwest of this, around Tournai and Cambrai along the
modern frontier between France and Belgium, Clovis
conquered the neighboring Salian Frankish kingdoms and established
himself as sole king of the Salian Franks before his death.
The small church in which he was baptized is now named Saint Remy,
and a statue of him being baptized by Remigius can be seen there.
Clotiar I and his son Sigebert I were both buried in Soissons, St
Waast. Clovis himself and Clothilde are buried in the St. Genevieve
church (St. Pierre) in Paris. An important part of Clovis' legacy
is that he reduced the power of the Romans in 486 by beating the
Roman ruler Syagrius in the famous battle of Soissons
Clovis was converted to Western
, as opposed to the Arian
common among the Germanic peoples
at the time, at the
instigation of his wife, Clotilda
. He was baptized in a
small church which was on or near the site of the Cathedral of
Rheims, where most future French
kings would be crowned.
This act was of immense
importance in the subsequent history of Western and Central Europe
in general, for Clovis expanded his dominion over almost all of the
old Roman province of Gaul
France). He is considered the founder of the Merovingian dynasty
which ruled the
Franks for the next two centuries.
In primary sources Clovis' name is spelled in a number of variants:
, from which came the Latin
, which evolved into the
ruled the Franks from 481 to 511 AD. The name features prominently
in subsequent history: Three other Merovingian Kings have been
, while nine Carolingian rulers and thirteen
other French kings and one Holy Roman
have been called Louis
. Nearly every European
language has developed its own spelling of his name. Louis
(French), "Chlodwig" and Ludwig
(English) are just seven of the over 100 possible
differ about the exact meaning of his (first) name. Most believe
is composed out of the Germanic
= (modern English)
, with its oldest connotation
= "fighter" (modern English).
Compare in modern Dutch luid
(hard sound or noise),
(verb - the oldest meaning is: to praise aloud) and
(verb - to fight). Chlodovech
with the help of Ragnachar, Clovis
defeated Syagrius, the last Roman official in northern Gaul, who ruled the area
around Soissons in present-day Picardie. This victory at Soissons extended
Frankish rule to most of the area north of the Loire.
After this, Clovis secured an alliance with the Ostrogoths
through the marriage of his sister
Audofleda to their king, Theodoric
. He followed this victory with another in 491
over a small group of Thuringians east of the Frankish territories.
with the help of the other Frankish sub-kings, he narrowly defeated
the Alamanni in the Battle of
Clovis had previously married the Christian Burgundian
(493), and, according to
Gregory of Tours
, as a result of
his victory at Tolbiac (traditionally set in 496), he converted to
faith. Conversion to
Trinitarian Christianity set Clovis apart from the other Germanic
kings of his time, such as those of the Visigoths
and the Vandals
who had converted from heathen
beliefs to Arian Christianity
. It also
ensured him of the support of the Catholic Gallo-Roman aristocracy
in his later campaign against the Visigoths, which drove them from
southern Gaul (507).
was baptised at Rheims on Christmas
496, 498 or 506 by Saint
The conversion of Clovis to catholic Christianity
religion of the majority of his subjects, strengthened the bonds
between his Roman subjects, led by their Catholic bishops, and
their Germanic conquerors. Nevertheless, Bernard Bachrach
has argued that this
conversion from his Frankish paganism
alienated many of the other Frankish sub-kings and weakened his
military position over the next few years. William Daly, in order
more directly to assess Clovis' allegedly barbaric and pagan
origins, was obliged to ignore the bishop Saint Gregory of Tours
and base his account
on the scant earlier sources, a sixth-century "vita"
and letters to or
concerning Clovis from bishops and Theodoric
In the "interpretatio
Gregory of Tours gave the Germanic gods that Clovis abandoned
the names of roughly equivalent Roman gods, such as Jupiter
. Taken literally, such usage
would suggest a strong affinity of early Frankish rulers for the
prestige of Roman culture, which they may have embraced as allies
of the Empire during the
fought a battle at Dijon in the year
500, Clovis did not successfully subdue the Burgundian kingdom. It appears that he
somehow gained the support of the Arvernia in the following years, for
they assisted him in his defeat of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in the Battle of
Vouillé (507) which eliminated Visigothic power in Gaul and
confined the Visigoths to Hispania and
Septimania; the battle added most of Aquitaine to Clovis' kingdom. He then established
Paris as his capital, and established an abbey dedicated
to Saints Peter and Paul on the south bank of the Seine.
was renamed Sainte-Geneviève Abbey, in honor of the patron
saint of Paris.
According to Gregory of Tours
following the Battle of
, the Byzantine Emperor
Clovis the title of consul
. Since Clovis'
name does not appear in the consular lists
, it is
likely he was granted a suffect
Gregory of Tours recorded Clovis' systematic campaigns following
his victory in Vouillé to eliminate the other Frankish
or sub-kings. These included Sigobert the Lame and his son Chlodoric the Parricide; Chararic, another king of the
Salian Franks; Ragnachar of Cambrai, his brother
Ricchar, and their brother Rignomer of Le Mans.
Later years and death
before his death, Clovis called a synod of Gallic bishops to meet
in Orléans to reform the church and create a strong link
between the Crown and the Catholic episcopate. This was the First
Council of Orléans.
Thirty-three bishops assisted and passed
thirty-one decrees on the duties and obligations of individuals,
the right of sanctuary, and ecclesiastical discipline. These
decrees, equally applicable to Franks and Romans, first established
equality between conquerors and conquered.
Clovis I is traditionally said to have died on 27 November 511;
however, the Liber Pontificalis
suggests that he was still
alive in 513. After his death, he was interred in Saint Denis
Upon his death his realm was divided among his four sons: Theuderic
. This partitioning
created the new political units of the Kingdoms of Rheims, Orléans, Paris and Soissons and inaugurated a period of disunity which was to
last, with brief interruptions, until the end (751) of his Merovingian dynasty.
Gaul after Clovis' death.
Clovis is remembered for three main accomplishments:
- his unification of the Frankish nation,
- his conquest of Gaul, and
- his conversion to the Roman
By the first act, he assured the influence of his people beyond the
borders of Gaul, something no petty regional king could accomplish.
By the second act, he laid the foundations of a later nation-state:
France. Finally, by the third act, he made himself the ally of the
papacy and its protector as well as that of the people, who were
Detracting perhaps, from this legacy, is his aforementioned
division of the state. This was done not along national or even
largely geographical lines, but primarily to assure equal income
amongst his sons after his death. While it may or may not have been
his intention, this division was the cause of much internal discord
in Gaul. This precedent led in the long run to the fall of his
dynasty, for it was a pattern repeated in future reigns. Clovis did
bequeath to his heirs the support of both people and church such
that, when the magnates were ready to do away with the royal house,
the sanction of the Pope was sought first.
- General information
- Daly, William M., "Clovis: How Barbaric, How Pagan?"
69:3 (1994), 619–664.
- James, Edward. The Origins of France: Clovis to the
Capetians, 500–1000. Macmillan, 1982.
- Kaiser, Reinhold. Das römische Erbe und das
Merowingerreich. Enzyklopädie deutscher Geschichte 26. Munich:
- Oman, Charles. The Dark Ages
476-918. London: Rivingtons, 1914.
- Wallace-Hadrill, J.
M. The Long-haired
Kings. London: 1962.
- The date 481 is arrived at by counting back from the Battle of
Tolbiac, which Gregory of Tours places in the fifteenth year of
- Frassetto, Michael, Encyclopedia of barbarian Europe,
(ABC-CLIO, 2003), 126
- "Etymolgisch Woordenboek vh Nederlands" for the words
luid (loud) and vechten (to fight)
- Patrick J. Geary, Before France and Germany. The creation
and transformation of the Merovingian world (Oxford 1988),
- Daly, William M., "Clovis: How Barbaric, How Pagan?"
Speculum 69.3 (July 1994:619-664)
- Edward James, "Gregory of Tours Life of the Fathers"
(Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1985), p. 155 n. 12.
- The abbey was demolished in 1802. All that remains is the
"Tour Clovis," a Romanesque tower which now lies within
the grounds of the Lycée Henri-IV, just east of
Panthéon, and the parish Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, which was built
on the abbey territory.
- Collins, Roger, Early Medieval Europe
- "The Rise of the Carolingians or the Decline of the