The Germans

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The Frankish Kingdom

   The most stable, and therefore important, German kingdom to emerge from the Germanic tribes was the Frankish kingdom (alternately called the Kingdom Of The Franks). The Frankish kingdom was the only one which, through its existence, continued to maintain a link to the original Germanic homeland bordering the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. While the other Germanic tribes had moved out of the homeland completely, the Franks simply expanded outward from the homeland. The other tribes were, therefore, more inclined to lose certain of their Germanic traits and customs, and instead to acquire different ones as they comingled with the indigenous peoples of the lands they invaded.

   The Frankish "kingdom" is said to have been formed out of the tribal Franks in the year 481 by a powerful and respected leader, Clovis. Through his leadership, the Frankish tribe developed into a kingdom which occupied practically all of modern-day Germany, Holland, Belgium and the northern half of France.

   Clovis descended through the Merovingian line and succeeded to the king’s position upon the death of his father, Meroveus. His mother was Basina, previously Queen of the Thuringians. Clovis was made king at the age of fifteen. He spent his first five years as king leading an army of Frank warriors. Clovis’ army was victorious over the Romans and the Frankish kingdom was extended southward to the Seine River.

   Prior to the time that Clovis was beginning his reign as king of the Franks (i.e. during the Third and Fourth Centuries A.D.), there were a number of sects vying for control of the fledgling Christian Church. The Christian Church had taken root in the Roman Empire long before the Germanic tribes began their migration southward. According to James W. Thompson, in his book, History Of The Middle Ages 300-1500, the Christian Church "had become a power in the Roman Empire before the German nations established themselves within it… By the year 100 probably every province that bordered the Mediterranean had a Christian community within it, and in many provinces there were several congregations." Thompson also noted that, "It is almost certain that by the end of the first century Christianity had acquired a loose foothold among the Roman aristocracy."

   By the time that the Germanic peoples made contact with the Roman Empire, the Christian Church was undergoing upheaval as the various sects vied for power. The two most prominent sects, in order of power at the time, were the Arian and the Catholic faiths. Arianism, started by a bishop named Arius, was based upon a creed that rejected the idea of the double nature of Jesus Christ, and by extension denied the possibility of a triune God. The number of Germanic tribes that embraced the Arian form of Christianity represented a threat to the Roman Catholic Church. By the time of Clovis' reign the spread of Arianism was so pervasive throughout Gaul that the majority of the bishoprics were Arian. Clovis, though, had confessed to neither Arianism or Catholicism.

   Clovis married the Burgundian Princess, Clotilde. She was a professed Catholic. Clotilde tried to convert her husband, but at first her efforts were to no avail. Then, in 496, as King Clovis was losing in a battle with an invading army of the Alemanni near the town of Cologne, he invoked the name of his wife's god. At that very instant the Alamanni king was struck down and his army took to flight before the Franks. Clotilde, of course, was convinced that it had been the intervention of Jesus Christ that had saved the Franks; Clovis, on the other hand, was not immediately persuaded. But through Clotilde's urging, Clovis agreed to be baptised into the Catholic sect. He did so under the agreement that the Romans in Gaul would recognize his authority and pledge allegiance to him and his descendants.

   The greater advantage to the Catholic sect than simply the conversion of King Clovis, was that, in allegiance to their king, the majority of the Franks likewise converted to Catholicism.