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The Merovingian dynasty () was the ruling family of the
Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the Lower Rhine and the Ems River, on the edge of the Roman Empire.H. Schutz: Tools, ...
from the middle of the 5th century until 751. They first appear as "Kings of the Franks" in the Roman army of northern
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe first described by the Romans. It was inhabited by Celts, Celtic and Aquitani tribes, encompassing present-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, most of Switzerland, parts of Northern Italy (only dur ...
. By 509 they had united all the Franks and northern Gaulish Romans under their rule. They conquered most of Gaul, defeating the
Visigoths The Visigoths (; la, Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, Wisi) were an early Germanic people who, along with the Ostrogoths, constituted the two major political entities of the Goths within the Roman Empire in late antiquity, or what is kno ...
(507) and the
Burgundians The Burgundians ( la, Burgundes, Burgundiōnes, Burgundī; on, Burgundar; ang, Burgendas; grc-gre, Βούργουνδοι) were an early Germanic peoples, Germanic tribe or group of tribes. They appeared in the middle Rhine region, near the R ...
(534), and also extended their rule into
Raetia Raetia ( ; ; also spelled Rhaetia) was a Roman province, province of the Roman Empire, named after the Rhaetian people. It bordered on the west with the country of the Helvetii, on the east with Noricum, on the north with Vindelicia, on the so ...
(537). In
Germania Germania ( ; ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania''), or Germanic Barbaricum to distinguish it from the Roman province of the same name, was a large historical region in nort ...
, the
Alemanni The Alemanni or Alamanni, were a confederation of Germanic tribes * * * on the Upper Rhine River. First mentioned by Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (), also known as Dio Cassius ( ), was a Roman historian and senator of maternal Greek ori ...
,
Bavarii The Baiuvarii or Bavarians (german: Bajuwaren) were a Germanic people. The Baiuvarii had settled modern-day Bavaria (which is named after them), Austria, and South Tyrol by the 6th century AD, and are considered the ancestors of modern-day Bavar ...
and
Saxons The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of Germanic peoples, Germanic * * * * peoples whose name was given in the early Middle Ages to a large country (Old Saxony, la, Saxo ...
accepted their lordship. The Merovingian realm was the largest and most powerful of the states of western Europe following the breaking up of the empire of
Theodoric the Great Theodoric (or Theoderic) the Great (454 – 30 August 526), also called Theodoric the Amal dynasty, Amal ( got, , *Þiudareiks; Medieval Greek, Greek: , romanized: ; Latin: ), was king of the Ostrogoths (471–526), and ruler of the independent ...
. The dynastic name,
medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Literary Latin used in Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local languages were also written to varying deg ...
or ("sons of Merovech"), derives from an unattested Frankish form, akin to the attested
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabita ...
, with the final -''ing'' being a typical Germanic
patronymic A patronymic, or patronym, is a component of a personal name based on the given name of one's father, grandfather (avonymic), or an earlier male ancestor. Patronymics are still in use, including mandatory use, in many countries worldwide, alt ...
suffix. The name derives from King
Merovech Merovech (french: Mérovée, Merowig; la, Meroveus; 411 – 458) was the King of the Salian Franks, which later became the dominant Franks, Frankish tribe, and the founder of the Merovingian dynasty. Several legends and myths surround his person ...
, whom many legends surround. Unlike the
Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies A number of royal genealogies of the Heptarchy, Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, collectively referred to as the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies, have been preserved in a manuscript tradition based in the 8th to 10th centuries. The genealogies trace the succe ...
, the Merovingians never claimed descent from a god, nor is there evidence that they were regarded as
sacred Sacred describes something that is dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity; is considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspires awe or Reverence (emotion), reverence among believers. The property is often asc ...
. The Merovingians'
long hair Long hair is a hairstyle where the head hair is allowed to grow to a considerable length. Exactly what constitutes long hair can change from culture to culture, or even within cultures. For example, a woman with chin-length hair in some cultures ...
distinguished them among the Franks, who commonly cut their hair short. Contemporaries sometimes referred to them as the "long-haired kings" (Latin ''reges criniti''). A Merovingian whose hair was cut could not rule, and a rival could be removed from the succession by being
tonsure Tonsure () is the practice of cutting or shaving some or all of the hair on the scalp as a sign of religious devotion or humility. The term originates from the Latin word ' (meaning "clipping" or "shearing") and referred to a specific practice in ...
d and sent to a monastery. The Merovingians also used a distinct name stock. One of their names, Clovis, evolved into Louis and remained common among French royalty down to the 19th century. The first known Merovingian king was
Childeric I Childeric I (; french: Childéric; la, Childericus; reconstructed Old Frankish, Frankish: ''*Hildirīk''; – 481 AD) was a Franks, Frankish leader in the northern part of imperial Roman Gaul and a member of the Merovingian dynasty, described ...
(died 481). His son
Clovis I Clovis ( la, Chlodovechus; reconstructed Old Frankish, Frankish: ; – 27 November 511) was the first List of Frankish kings, king of the Franks to unite all of the Franks, Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a ...
(died 511) converted to
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's ...
, united the Franks and conquered most of Gaul. The Merovingians treated their kingdom as single yet divisible. Clovis's four sons divided the kingdom among themselves and it remained divided—with the exception of four short periods (558–561, 613–623, 629–634, 673–675)—down to 679. After that it was only divided again once (717–718). The main divisions of the kingdom were
Austrasia Austrasia was a territory which formed the north-eastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks during the 6th to 8th centuries. It was centred on the Meuse, Middle Rhine and the Moselle rivers, and was the original territory of t ...
,
Neustria Neustria was the western part of the Kingdom of the Franks. Neustria included the land between the Loire and the Silva Carbonaria, approximately the north of present-day France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a ...
,
Burgundy Burgundy (; french: link=no, Bourgogne ) is a historical territory and former Regions of France, administrative region and province of east-central France. The province was once home to the Duke of Burgundy, Dukes of Burgundy from the early 11 ...
and
Aquitaine Aquitaine ( , , ; oc, Aquitània ; eu, Akitania; Poitevin-Saintongeais: ''Aguiéne''), archaic Guyenne or Guienne ( oc, Guiana), is a historical region of southwestern France and a former regions of France, administrative region of the count ...
. During the final century of Merovingian rule, the kings were increasingly pushed into a ceremonial role. Actual power was increasingly in the hands of the mayor of the palace, the highest-ranking official under the king. In 656, the mayor Grimoald I tried to place his son Childebert on the throne in Austrasia. Grimoald was arrested and executed, but his son ruled until 662, when the Merovingian dynasty was restored. When King Theuderic IV died in 737, the mayor
Charles Martel Charles Martel ( – 22 October 741) was a Frankish political and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Re ...
continued to rule the kingdoms without a king until his death in 741. The dynasty was restored again in 743, but in 751 Charles's son,
Pepin the Short Pepin the Short (french: Pépin le Bref; – 24 September 768), also called the Younger (german: Pippin der Jüngere), was King of the Franks from 751 until his death in 768. He was the first Carolingian The Carolingian dynasty (; known ...
, deposed the last king, Childeric III, and had himself crowned, inaugurating the
Carolingian dynasty The Carolingian dynasty (; known variously as the Carlovingians, Carolingus, Carolings, Karolinger or Karlings) was a Franks, Frankish noble family named after Charlemagne, grandson of Mayor of the palace, mayor Charles Martel and a descendant ...
.


Legendary origins

The 7th-century ''
Chronicle of Fredegar The ''Chronicle of Fredegar'' is the conventional title used for a 7th-century Franks, Frankish chronicle that was probably written in Burgundy. The author is unknown and the attribution to Fredegar dates only from the 16th century. The chronicl ...
'' implies that the Merovingians were descended from a sea-beast called a quinotaur:
It is said that while Chlodio was staying at the seaside with his wife one summer, his wife went into the sea at midday to bathe, and a beast of Neptune rather like a Quinotaur found her. In the event she was made pregnant, either by the beast or by her husband, and she gave birth to a son called Merovech, from whom the kings of the Franks have subsequently been called Merovingians.
In the past, this tale was regarded as an authentic piece of
Germanic mythology Germanic mythology consists of the body of myths native to the Germanic peoples, including Norse mythology, Anglo-Saxon paganism#Mythology, Anglo-Saxon mythology, and Continental Germanic mythology. It was a key element of Germanic paganism. ...
and was often taken as evidence that the Merovingian kingship was sacral and the royal dynasty of supernatural origin. Today, it is more commonly seen as an attempt to explain the meaning of the name Merovech (sea-bull): "Unlike the
Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a Cultural identity, cultural group who inhabited England in the Early Middle Ages. They traced their origins to settlers who came to Britain from mainland Europe in the 5th century. However, the ethnogenesis of the Anglo- ...
rulers the Merovingians—if they ever themselves acknowledged the quinotaur tale, which is by no means certain—made no claim to be descended from a god". In 1906, the British Egyptologist
Flinders Petrie Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie ( – ), commonly known as simply Flinders Petrie, was a British Egyptology, Egyptologist and a pioneer of systematic methodology in archaeology and the preservation of artefacts. He held the first ch ...
suggested that the Marvingi recorded by
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-gre, wikt:Πτολεμαῖος, Πτολεμαῖος, ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, and music theorist, who wrote about a dozen scientific Treatise, treatis ...
as living near the
Rhine The Rhine ; french: Rhin ; nl, Rijn ; wa, Rén ; li, Rien; rm, label=Sursilvan, Rein, rm, label=Sutsilvan and Surmiran, Ragn, rm, label=Rumantsch Grischun, Vallader and Puter, Rain; it, Reno ; gsw, Rhi(n), including in Alsatian dialect, Al ...
were the ancestors of the Merovingian dynasty.


History

In 486 Clovis I, the son of Childeric, defeated
Syagrius Syagrius (430 – 486 or 487 or 493–4) was a Roman general and the last ruler of a Roman rump state in northern Gaul, now called the Kingdom of Soissons. Gregory of Tours referred to him as King of the Romans. Syagrius's defeat by king Clovis I ...
, a Roman military leader who competed with the Merovingians for power in northern France. He won the Battle of Tolbiac against the Alemanni in 496, at which time, according to
Gregory of Tours Gregory of Tours (30 November 538 – 17 November 594 AD) was a Gallo-Roman History, historian and Bishops of Tours, Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of the area that had been previously referred to as Gaul by the Romans. He ...
, Clovis adopted his wife Clotilda's Orthodox (i.e. Nicene)
Christian faith Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion Religion is usually defined as a social- cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or religi ...
. He subsequently went on to decisively defeat the Visigothic kingdom of
Toulouse Toulouse ( , ; oc, Tolosa ) is the Prefectures in France, prefecture of the Departments of France, French department of Haute-Garonne and of the larger Regions of France, region of Occitania (administrative region), Occitania. The city is on t ...
in the Battle of Vouillé in 507. After Clovis's death, his kingdom was partitioned among his four sons. This tradition of partition continued over the next century. Even when several Merovingian kings simultaneously ruled their own realms, the kingdom—not unlike the late
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity, it included large territorial holdings aro ...
—was conceived of as a single entity ruled collectively by these several kings (in their own realms) among whom a turn of events could result in the reunification of the whole kingdom under a single ruler. Upon Clovis's death in 511, the Merovingian kingdom included all of Gaul except
Burgundy Burgundy (; french: link=no, Bourgogne ) is a historical territory and former Regions of France, administrative region and province of east-central France. The province was once home to the Duke of Burgundy, Dukes of Burgundy from the early 11 ...
and all of Germania magna except
Saxony Saxony (german: Sachsen ; Upper Saxon German, Upper Saxon: ''Saggsn''; hsb, Sakska), officially the Free State of Saxony (german: Freistaat Sachsen, links=no ; Upper Saxon: ''Freischdaad Saggsn''; hsb, Swobodny stat Sakska, links=no), is a ...
. To the outside, the kingdom, even when divided under different kings, maintained unity and conquered Burgundy in 534. After the fall of the
Ostrogoths The Ostrogoths ( la, Ostrogothi, Austrogothi) were a Roman-era Germanic peoples, Germanic people. In the 5th century, they followed the Visigoths in creating one of the two great Goths, Gothic kingdoms within the Roman Empire, based upon the larg ...
, the Franks also conquered
Provence Provence (, , , , ; oc, Provença or ''Prouvènço'' , ) is a geographical region and historical province of southeastern France, which extends from the left bank of the lower Rhône to the west to the France–Italy border, Italian border ...
. After this their borders with
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic, ) or the Republic of Italy, is a country in Southern Europe. It is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its territory largely coincides with the Italy (geographical region) ...
(ruled by the
Lombards The Lombards () or Langobards ( la, Langobardi) were a Germanic peoples, Germanic people who ruled most of the Italian Peninsula from 568 to 774. The medieval Lombard historian Paul the Deacon wrote in the ''History of the Lombards'' (written ...
since 568) and Visigothic
Septimania Septimania (french: Septimanie ; oc, Septimània ) is a historical region in modern-day Southern France. It referred to the western part of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis that passed to the control of the Visigoths in 462, when Septima ...
remained fairly stable.


Division of the kingdom

Internally, the kingdom was divided among Clovis's sons and later among his grandsons and frequently saw war between the different kings, who quickly allied among themselves and against one another. The death of one king created conflict between the surviving brothers and the deceased's sons, with differing outcomes. Later, conflicts were intensified by the personal feud around Brunhilda. However, yearly warfare often did not constitute general devastation but took on an almost ritual character, with established 'rules' and norms.


Reunification of the kingdom

Eventually,
Clotaire II Chlothar II, sometime called "the Young" (French language, French: le Jeune), (May/June 584 – 18 October 629), was king of Neustria and king of the Franks, and the son of Chilperic I and his third wife, Fredegund. He started his reign as an in ...
in 613 reunited the entire Frankish realm under one ruler. Later divisions produced the stable units of
Austrasia Austrasia was a territory which formed the north-eastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks during the 6th to 8th centuries. It was centred on the Meuse, Middle Rhine and the Moselle rivers, and was the original territory of t ...
,
Neustria Neustria was the western part of the Kingdom of the Franks. Neustria included the land between the Loire and the Silva Carbonaria, approximately the north of present-day France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a ...
, Burgundy and Aquitania. The frequent wars had weakened royal power, while the aristocracy had made great gains and procured enormous concessions from the kings in return for their support. These concessions saw the very considerable power of the king parcelled out and retained by leading ''comites'' and ''duces'' (
count Count (feminine: countess) is a historical title of nobility in certain European countries, varying in relative status, generally of middling rank in the hierarchy of nobility.L. G. Pine, Pine, L. G. ''Titles: How the King Became His Majesty'' ...
s and
duke Duke is a male title either of a monarch ruling over a duchy, or of a member of royalty, or nobility Nobility is a social class found in many societies that have an aristocracy (class), aristocracy. It is normally ranked immediately ...
s). Very little is in fact known about the course of the 7th century due to a scarcity of sources, but Merovingians remained in power until the 8th century.


Weakening of the kingdom

Clotaire's son
Dagobert I Dagobert I ( la, Dagobertus; 605/603 – 19 January 639 AD) was the king of Austrasia (623–634), King of the Franks, king of all the Franks (629–634), and king of Neustria and Burgundy (region), Burgundy (629–639). He has been described as ...
(died 639), who sent troops to Spain and pagan Slavic territories in the east, is commonly seen as the last powerful Merovingian King. Later kings are known as ''rois fainéants'' ("do-nothing kings"), despite the fact that only the last two kings did nothing. The kings, even strong-willed men like Dagobert II and
Chilperic II Chilperic II (c. 672 – 13 February 721), known as Daniel prior to his coronation, was the youngest son of Childeric II and his half-cousin wife, Bilichild. He reigned as king of Neustria from 715 and sole king of the Franks from 718 until his ...
, were not the main agents of political conflicts, leaving this role to their mayors of the palace, who increasingly substituted their own interest for their king's. Many kings came to the throne at a young age and died in the prime of life, weakening royal power further.


Return to power

The conflict between mayors was ended when the Austrasians under Pepin the Middle triumphed in 687 in the Battle of Tertry. After this, Pepin, though not a king, was the political ruler of the Frankish kingdom and left this position as a heritage to his sons. It was now the sons of the mayor that divided the realm among each other under the rule of a single king. After Pepin's long rule, his son
Charles Martel Charles Martel ( – 22 October 741) was a Frankish political and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Re ...
assumed power, fighting against nobles and his own stepmother. His reputation for ruthlessness further undermined the king's position. Under Charles Martel's leadership, the Franks defeated the
Moors The term Moor, derived from the ancient Mauri, is an Endonym and exonym, exonym first used by Christianity in Europe, Christian Europeans to designate the Muslims, Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily and Malta duri ...
at the
Battle of Tours The Battle of Tours, also called the Battle of Poitiers and, by Arab sources, the Battle of tiles of Martyrs ( ar, معركة بلاط الشهداء, Maʿrakat Balāṭ ash-Shuhadā'), was fought on 10 October 732, and was an important battle ...
in 732. After the victory of 718 of the Bulgarian Khan Tervel and the Emperor of Byzantium
Leo III the Isaurian Leo III the Isaurian ( gr, Λέων ὁ Ἴσαυρος, Leōn ho Isauros; la, Leo Isaurus; 685 – 18 June 741), also known as the Syrian, was Byzantine Emperor from 717 until his death in 741 and founder of the Isaurian dynasty. He put an en ...
over the Arabs led by
Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik Maslama ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ( ar, مسلمة بن عبد الملك, in Greek language, Greek sources , ''Masalmas''; – 24 December 738) was an Umayyad prince and one of the most prominent Arabs, Arab generals of the early decades of the 8th ...
prevented the attempts of Islam to expand into eastern Europe, the victory of
Charles Martel Charles Martel ( – 22 October 741) was a Frankish political and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Re ...
at Tours limited its expansion onto the west of the European continent. During the last years of his life he even ruled without a king, though he did not assume royal dignity. His sons Carloman and Pepin again appointed a Merovingian figurehead ( Childeric III) to stem rebellion on the kingdom's periphery. However, in 751, Pepin finally displaced the last Merovingian and, with the support of the nobility and the blessing of
Pope Zachary Pope Zachary ( la, Zacharias; 679 – March 752) was the bishop of Rome from 28 November 741 to his death. He was the last pope of the Byzantine Papacy. Zachary built the original church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, forbade the traffic of slave ...
, became one of the Frankish kings.


Government

The Merovingian king redistributed conquered wealth among his followers, both material wealth and the land including its indentured peasantry, though these powers were not absolute. As Rouche points out, "When he died his property was divided equally among his heirs as though it were private property: the kingdom was a form of patrimony." Some scholars have attributed this to the Merovingians' lacking a sense of '' res publica'', but other historians have criticized this view as an oversimplification. The kings appointed magnates to be '' comites'' (counts), charging them with
defense Defense or defence may refer to: Tactical, martial, and political acts or groups * Defense (military), forces primarily intended for warfare * Civil defense, the organizing of civilians to deal with emergencies or enemy attacks * Defense industr ...
,
administration Administration may refer to: Management of organizations * Management, the act of directing people towards accomplishing a goal ** Administrative Assistant, traditionally known as a Secretary, or also known as an administrative officer, admini ...
, and the judgment of disputes. This happened against the backdrop of a newly isolated Europe without its Roman systems of
taxation A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal person, legal entity) by a governmental organization in order to fund government spending and various public expenditures (regiona ...
and
bureaucracy The term bureaucracy () refers to a body of non-elected governing officials as well as to an administrative policy-making group. Historically, a bureaucracy was a government administration managed by departments staffed with non-elected offi ...
, the Franks having taken over administration as they gradually penetrated into the thoroughly Romanised west and south of Gaul. By the time of
Dagobert I Dagobert I ( la, Dagobertus; 605/603 – 19 January 639 AD) was the king of Austrasia (623–634), King of the Franks, king of all the Franks (629–634), and king of Neustria and Burgundy (region), Burgundy (629–639). He has been described as ...
, governmental documents were recognizably Roman, it is by then written in Latin on imported papyrus similar to Roman bureaucratic norms and where it also made use of the old legal formulae. While laymen made up most of the administrators, there was a gradual shift to a clerical presence from the reign of Clotaire II. The counts had to provide armies, enlisting their ''milites'' and endowing them with land in return. These armies were subject to the king's call for military support. Annual national assemblies of the nobles and their armed retainers decided major policies of war making. The army also acclaimed new kings by raising them on its shields continuing an ancient practice that made the king leader of the warrior-band. Furthermore, the king was expected to support himself with the products of his private domain (
royal demesne Crown land (sometimes spelled crownland), also known as royal domain, is a territorial area belonging to the monarch, who personifies the Crown. It is the equivalent of an Fee tail, entailed Estate (land), estate and passes with the monarchy, be ...
), which was called the ''
fisc Under the Merovingians and Carolingians, the fisc (from Latin ''fiscus,'' whence we derive "fiscal") applied to the royal demesne which paid taxes, entirely in kind, from which the royal household was meant to be supported, though it rarely was. ...
''. This system developed in time into
feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, cultural and political customs that flourished in medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structu ...
, and expectations of royal self-sufficiency lasted until the
Hundred Years' War The Hundred Years' War (; 1337–1453) was a series of armed conflicts between the kingdoms of Kingdom of England, England and Kingdom of France, France during the Late Middle Ages. It originated from disputed claims to the French Crown, ...
. Trade declined with the fall of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity, it included large territorial holdings aro ...
, and agricultural estates were mostly self-sufficient. The remaining international trade was dominated by
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233: ) is a geopolitical region commonly encompassing Arabian Peninsula, Arabia (including the Arabian Peninsula and Bahrain), Anatolia, Asia Minor (Asian part of Turkey except Hatay Pro ...
ern merchants, often Jewish
Radhanite The Radhanites or Radanites (; ar, الرذنية, ''ar-Raðaniyya'') were early Middle Ages, early medieval Jews, Jewish merchants, active in the trade between Christendom and the Muslim world during roughly the 8th to 10th centuries. Many tra ...
s.


Law

Merovingian law was not universal law equally applicable to all; it was applied to each man according to his origin: Ripuarian Franks were subject to their own , codified at a late date, while the so-called (
Salic Law The Salic law ( or ; la, Lex salica), also called the was the ancient Franks, Frankish Civil law (legal system), civil law code compiled around AD 500 by the first Frankish King, Clovis I, Clovis. The written text is in Latin and contains some ...
) of the Salian clans, first tentatively codified in 511 was invoked under medieval exigencies as late as the Valois era. In this the Franks lagged behind the Burgundians and the Visigoths, that they had no universal Roman-based law. In Merovingian times, law remained in the rote memorisation of ''rachimburgs'', who memorised all the precedents on which it was based, for Merovingian law did not admit of the concept of creating ''new'' law, only of maintaining tradition. Nor did its Germanic traditions offer any code of civil law required of urbanised society, such as
Justinian I Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus, ; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor, Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565. His reign is marked by ...
caused to be assembled and promulgated in the
Byzantine Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survi ...
. The few surviving Merovingian edicts are almost entirely concerned with settling divisions of estates among heirs.


Coinage

Byzantine coinage Byzantine currency, money used in the Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of the West, consisted of mainly two types of coins: the gold solidus (coin), solidus and a variety of clearly valued bronze coins. By the end of the empire the currency wa ...
was in use in
Francia Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire ( la, Imperium Francorum), was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It was ruled by the Franks dur ...
before
Theudebert I Theudebert I (french: Thibert/Théodebert) ( 500 – 547 or 548) was the Merovingian king of Austrasia from 533 to his death in 548. He was the son of Theuderic I and the father of Theudebald. Sources Most of what we know about Theudebert comes fr ...
began minting his own money at the start of his reign. He was the first to issue distinctly Merovingian coinage. On gold coins struck in his royal workshop, Theudebert is shown in the pearl-studded regalia of the Byzantine emperor;
Childebert I Childebert I (c. 496 – 13 December 558) was a Frankish King of the Merovingian dynasty, as third of the four sons of Clovis I who shared the kingdom of the Franks upon their father's death in 511. He was one of the sons of Saint Clot ...
is shown in profile in the ancient style, wearing a
toga The toga (, ), a distinctive garment of ancient Rome, was a roughly semicircular cloth, between in length, draped over the shoulders and around the body. It was usually woven from white wool, and was worn over a tunic. In Roman historiography, ...
and a
diadem A diadem is a type of Crown (headgear), crown, specifically an ornamental headband worn by monarchs and others as a badge of royalty. Overview The word derives from the Ancient Greek, Greek διάδημα ''diádēma'', "band" or "fillet", fr ...
. The solidus and
triens The triens (plural trientes) was an Ancient Rome, Ancient Roman bronze coin produced during the Roman Republic valued at one-third of an as (coin), as (4 Uncia (coin), unciae). The most common design for the triens featured the bust of Minerva a ...
were minted in Francia between 534 and 679. The
denarius The denarius (, dēnāriī ) was the standard Roman silver coin from its introduction in the Second Punic War to the reign of Gordian III (AD 238–244), when it was gradually replaced by the antoninianus. It continued to be minted in ver ...
(or denier) appeared later, in the name of
Childeric II Childeric II (c. 653 – 675) was the king of Austrasia from 662 and of Neustria and Kingdom of Burgundy, Burgundy from 673 until his death, making him sole List of Frankish kings, King of the Franks for the final two years of his life. Child ...
and various non-royals around 673–675. A Carolingian denarius replaced the Merovingian one, and the Frisian penning, in Gaul from 755 to the 11th century. Merovingian coins are on display at the
Monnaie de Paris The Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint) is a government-owned institution responsible for producing France's coins A coin is a small, flat (usually depending on the country or value), round piece of metal or plastic used primarily as a medium of ...
in Paris; there are Merovingian gold coins at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Médailles.


Religion

Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's ...
was introduced to the
Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the Lower Rhine and the Ems River, on the edge of the Roman Empire.H. Schutz: Tools, ...
by their contact with Gallo-Romanic culture and later further spread by
monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via Latin ) is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicat ...
s. The most famous of these
missionaries A missionary is a member of a Religious denomination, religious group which is sent into an area in order to promote its faith or provide services to people, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development.Tho ...
is St.
Columbanus Columbanus ( ga, Columbán; 543 – 21 November 615) was an Hiberno-Scottish mission, Irish missionary notable for founding a number of monastery, monasteries after 590 in the Franks, Frankish and Lombards, Lombard kingdoms, most notably Luxeu ...
(d 615), an Irish monk. Merovingian kings and queens used the newly forming ecclesiastical power structure to their advantage.
Monasteries A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of Monasticism, monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in Cenobitic monasticism, communities or alone (hermits). A monastery generally includes ...
and episcopal seats were shrewdly awarded to elites who supported the dynasty. Extensive parcels of land were donated to monasteries to exempt those lands from royal taxation and to preserve them within the family. The family maintained dominance over the monastery by appointing family members as
abbot ''Abbot'' is an ecclesiastical title given to the male head of a monastery in various Western religious traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not the head of a monastery. The ...
s. Extra sons and daughters who could not be married off were sent to monasteries so that they would not threaten the inheritance of older Merovingian children. This pragmatic use of monasteries ensured close ties between elites and monastic properties. Numerous Merovingians who served as
bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally responsible for the governance of dioceses. The role or offic ...
s and abbots, or who generously funded
abbey An abbey is a type of monastery used by members of a religious order under the governance of an abbot or abbess. Abbeys provide a complex of buildings and land for religious activities, work, and housing of Christians, Christian monks and nuns ...
s and monasteries, were rewarded with sainthood. The outstanding handful of Frankish saints who were not of the Merovingian kinship nor the family alliances that provided Merovingian counts and dukes, deserve a closer inspection for that fact alone: like
Gregory of Tours Gregory of Tours (30 November 538 – 17 November 594 AD) was a Gallo-Roman History, historian and Bishops of Tours, Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of the area that had been previously referred to as Gaul by the Romans. He ...
, they were almost without exception from the
Gallo-Roman Gallo-Roman culture was a consequence of the Romanization of Gauls under the rule of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the p ...
aristocracy in regions south and west of Merovingian control. The most characteristic form of Merovingian literature is represented by the ''
Lives Lives may refer to: * The plural form of a ''life'' * Lives, Iran, a village in Khuzestan Province, Iran * The number of Life (gaming), lives in a video game * ''Parallel Lives'', aka ''Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans'', a series of biographi ...
'' of the saints. Merovingian
hagiography A hagiography (; ) is a biography of a saint or an ecclesiastical leader, as well as, by extension, an adulatory and idealized biography of a founder, saint, monk, nun or icon in any of the world's religions. Early Christian hagiographies might ...
did not set out to reconstruct a biography in the Roman or the modern sense, but to attract and hold popular devotion by the formulas of elaborate literary exercises, through which the Frankish Church channeled popular piety within orthodox channels, defined the nature of sanctity and retained some control over the posthumous cults that developed spontaneously at burial sites, where the life-force of the saint lingered, to do good for the votary. The ''vitae et miracula'', for impressive
miracle A miracle is an event that is inexplicable by physical laws, natural or scientific lawsOne dictionary define"Miracle"as: "A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the ...
s were an essential element of Merovingian hagiography, were read aloud on saints’ feast days. Many Merovingian saints, and the majority of female saints, were local ones, venerated only within strictly circumscribed regions; their cults were revived in the High Middle Ages, when the population of women in religious orders increased enormously. Judith Oliver noted five Merovingian female saints in the diocese of Liège who appeared in a long list of saints in a late 13th-century psalter-hours. The ''vitae'' of six late Merovingian saints that illustrate the political history of the era have been translated and edited by Paul Fouracre and Richard A. Gerberding, and presented with '' Liber Historiae Francorum,'' to provide some historical context.


Significant individuals


Kings

*
Clovis I Clovis ( la, Chlodovechus; reconstructed Old Frankish, Frankish: ; – 27 November 511) was the first List of Frankish kings, king of the Franks to unite all of the Franks, Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a ...
, king of the Franks and founder of the dynasty (died 511) *
Guntram Saint Gontrand (c. 532 in Soissons – 28 March 592 in Chalon-sur-Saône), also called Gontran, Gontram, Guntram, Gunthram, Gunthchramn, and Guntramnus, was the king of the Kingdom of Orléans from AD 561 to AD 592. He was the third eldest and ...
, king of Burgundy (died 592) *
Sigebert III Sigebert III ( 630–656) was the Merovingian The Merovingian dynasty () was the ruling family of the Franks from the middle of the 5th century until 751. They first appear as "Kings of the Franks" in the Roman army of northern Gaul. By 5 ...
, king of Austrasia (died c. 656) * Dagobert II, king of Austrasia, son of the former (died 679)


Queens and abbesses

* Genovefa (died 502) * Clothilde, queen of the Franks (died 545) * Monegund (died 544) *
Radegund Radegund ( la, Radegundis; also spelled ''Rhadegund, Radegonde, or Radigund''; 520 – 13 August 587) was a Thuringian Thuringian is an East Central German dialect group spoken in much of the modern German Free State of Thuringia north of th ...
,
Thuringian Thuringian is an East Central German dialect group spoken in much of the modern German Free State of Thuringia north of the Rennsteig ridge, southwestern Saxony-Anhalt and adjacent territories of Hesse and Bavaria. It is close to Upper Saxon Ger ...
princess who founded a monastery at
Poitiers Poitiers (, , , ; Poitevin: ''Poetàe'') is a city on the River Clain in west-central France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of Overseas France, o ...
(died 587) * Rusticula, abbess of
Arles Arles (, , ; oc, label= Provençal, Arle ; Classical la, Arelate) is a coastal city and commune in the South of France, a subprefecture in the Bouches-du-Rhône department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, in the former provinc ...
(died 632) * Caesaria II, abbess of St Jean of Arles (died c. 550) * Brunhilda, queen of Austrasia (died 613) *
Fredegund Fredegund or Fredegunda (Vulgar Latin, Latin: ''Fredegundis''; French language, French: ''Frédégonde''; died 8 December 597) was the Queen consort of Chilperic I, the Merovingian Franks, Frankish king of Soissons. Fredegund served as regent ...
, queen of Neustria (died 597) *
Glodesind Glodesind (572−608) was a saint, nun, abbess, and founder of a convent in Metz, France, during the time of Childebert II, King Childebert II (575−596) of Austrasia. She was a member of the Carolingian dynasty, Carolingian nobility. When she ...
, abbess in
Metz Metz ( , , lat, Divodurum Mediomatricorum, then ) is a city in northeast France located at the confluence of the Moselle (river), Moselle and the Seille (Moselle), Seille rivers. Metz is the Prefectures in France, prefecture of the Moselle (de ...
(died c. 600) * Burgundofara, abbess of Moutiers (died 645) * Sadalberga, abbess of
Laon Laon () is a city in the Aisne Departments of France, department in Hauts-de-France in northern France. History Early history The holy district of Laon, which rises a hundred metres above the otherwise flat Picardy plain, has always held str ...
(died 670) * Rictrude, founding abbess of Marchiennes (died 688) *
Itta Itta of Metz, Benedictines, O.S.B. (also ''Ida'', ''Itte'' or ''Iduberga''; 592–8 May 652) was the wife of Pepin of Landen, Mayor of the Palace of the Kingdom of Austrasia. After his death, she founded the Nivelles Abbey, Abbey of Nivelles, whe ...
, founding abbess of
Nivelles Nivelles (; nl, Nijvel, ; wa, Nivele; vls, Neyvel) is a city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Sci ...
(died 652) *
Begga Saint Begga (also Begue, Begge) (b. 613 – d. 17 December 693 AD) was the daughter of Pepin of Landen, mayor of the palace of Austrasia Austrasia was a territory which formed the north-eastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Fr ...
, abbess of Andenne (died 693) *
Gertrude of Nivelles Gertrude of Nivelles, OSB (also spelled ''Geretrude'', ''Geretrudis'', ''Gertrud''; c. 628 – 17 March 659) was a seventh-century abbess who, with her mother Itta of Metz, Itta, founded the Nivelles Abbey, Abbey of Nivelles, now in Belgium. Lif ...
, abbess of Nivelles (died 658) presented in ''The Life of St. Geretrude'' (in Fouracre and Gerberding 1996) * Aldegonde, abbess of Mauberges (died c. 684) * Waltrude, abbess of
Mons Mons (; German language, German and nl, Bergen, ; Walloon language, Walloon and pcd, Mont) is a City status in Belgium, city and Municipalities of Belgium, municipality of Wallonia, and the capital of the Hainaut Province, province of Hainaut ...
(died c. 688) *
Balthild Balthild (; ang, Bealdhild, 'bold sword' or 'bold spear; around 626 – 30 January 680), also spelled Bathilda, Bauthieult or Baudour, was queen consort of Neustria and Burgundy by marriage to Clovis II, the King of Neustria and Burgundy (639 ...
, queen of the Franks (died ca 680), presented in ''The Life of Lady Bathild, Queen of the Franks'' (in Fouracre and Gerberding 1996) * Eustadiola (died 684) * Bertilla, abbess of Chelles (died c. 700) * Anstrude, abbess of Laon (died before 709) * Austreberta, abbess of Pavilly (died 703)


Bishops and abbots

''
Nota bene (, or ; plural form ) is a Latin language, Latin phrase meaning "note well". It is often abbreviated as NB, n.b., or with the Typographic ligature, ligature and first appeared in English writing style, English writing . In Modern English, ...
:'' All of the listed clergymen are venerated as
saint In religious belief, a saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness, likeness, or closeness to God In monotheistic thought, God is usually viewed as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of ...
s in the
Eastern Orthodox Church The Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Orthodox Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptized members. It operates as a Communion (Christ ...
and
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptized Catholics worldwide . It is among the world's oldest and largest international institutions, and has played a ...
. *
Amandus Amandus ( 584 – 679), commonly called Saint Amand, was a bishop of Tongeren-Maastricht and one of the great Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic ...
( 584–675) *
Arnulf Arnulf is a masculine German given name. It is composed of the Germanic names, Germanic elements ''arn'' "eagle" and ''ulf'' "wolf". The ''-ulf, -olf'' suffix was an extremely frequent element in Germanic onomastics and from an early time was perc ...
,
Bishop of Metz Metz ( , , lat, Divodurum Mediomatricorum, then ) is a city in northeast France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of Overseas France, overseas region ...
* Audouin of Rouen * Aunemond * Eligius (c. 588–660) chief counsellor to
Dagobert I Dagobert I ( la, Dagobertus; 605/603 – 19 January 639 AD) was the king of Austrasia (623–634), King of the Franks, king of all the Franks (629–634), and king of Neustria and Burgundy (region), Burgundy (629–639). He has been described as ...
and bishop of Noyon-Tournai *
Gregory of Tours Gregory of Tours (30 November 538 – 17 November 594 AD) was a Gallo-Roman History, historian and Bishops of Tours, Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of the area that had been previously referred to as Gaul by the Romans. He ...
,
Bishop of Tours The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tours (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then kno ...
and historian *
Hubertus Hubertus or Hubert ( 656 – 30 May 727 A.D.) was a Christian saint who became the first bishop of Liège in 708 A.D. He is the patron saint of hunters, mathematicians, opticians and metalworkers. Known as the "Apostle of the Ardennes", he was ...
, first Bishop of Liège * Lambert (c. 636 – c. 700),
bishop of Maastricht The Diocese of Maastricht (Latin Traiectum ad Mosam) was a Roman Catholic jurisdiction in parts of present Netherlands ) , anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subd ...
(
Tongeren Tongeren (; french: Tongres ; german: Tongern ; li, Tóngere ) is a City status in Belgium, city and Municipalities of Belgium, municipality located in the Provinces of Belgium, Belgian province of Limburg (Belgium), Limburg, in the southeastern ...
) *
Leodegar Leodegar of Poitiers ( la, Leodegarius; french: Léger; 615 – October 2, 679 AD) was a martyred Burgundian Bishop of Autun. He was the son of Saint Sigrada and the brother of Saint Warinus. Leodegar was an opponent of Ebroin, the Frankish Mayor ...
,
Bishop of Autun The Roman Catholic Diocese of Autun (–Chalon-sur-Saône–Mâcon–Cluny) (Latin: ''Dioecesis Augustodunensis (–Cabillonensis–Matisconensis–Cluniacensis)''; French language, French: ''Diocèse d'Autun (–Chalon-sur-Saône–Mâcon–Cluny ...
* Praejectus * Prætextatus, Bishop of Rouen * Remigius, Bishop of Reims who baptized Clovis I


Language

Yitzhak Hen stated that it seems certain that the Gallo-Roman population was far greater than the Frankish population in Merovingian Gaul, especially in regions south of the
Seine The Seine ( , ) is a river in northern France. Its drainage basin is in the Paris Basin (a geological relative lowland) covering most of northern France. It rises at Source-Seine, northwest of Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, ...
, with most of the Frankish settlements being located along the Lower and
Middle Rhine Between Bingen am Rhein, Bingen and Bonn, Germany, the river Rhine flows as the Middle Rhine (german: Mittelrhein) through the Rhine Gorge, a formation created by erosion, which happened at about the same rate as an tectonic uplift, uplift in ...
. The further south in Gaul one traveled, the weaker the Frankish influence became. Hen finds hardly any evidence for Frankish settlements south of the
Loire The Loire (, also ; ; oc, Léger, ; la, Liger) is the longest river in France and the 171st longest in the world. With a length of , it drains , more than a fifth of France's land, while its average discharge is only half that of the Rhône ...
. The absence of Frankish literature sources suggests that the
Frankish language Frankish ( reconstructed endonym: *), also known as Old Franconian or Old Frankish, was the West Germanic language spoken by the Franks from the 5th to 9th century. After the Salian Franks settled in Roman Gaul, its speakers in Picard ...
was forgotten rather rapidly after the early stage of the dynasty. Hen believes that for Neustria, Burgundy and Aquitania, colloquial Latin remained the spoken language in Gaul throughout the Merovingian period and remained so even well in to the Carolingian period. However, Urban T. Holmes estimated that a Germanic language was spoken as a second tongue by public officials in western
Austrasia Austrasia was a territory which formed the north-eastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks during the 6th to 8th centuries. It was centred on the Meuse, Middle Rhine and the Moselle rivers, and was the original territory of t ...
and
Neustria Neustria was the western part of the Kingdom of the Franks. Neustria included the land between the Loire and the Silva Carbonaria, approximately the north of present-day France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a ...
as late as the 850s, and that it completely disappeared as a spoken language from these regions only during the 10th century.


Historiography and sources

A limited number of contemporary sources describe the history of the Merovingian Franks, but those that survive cover the entire period from Clovis's succession to Childeric's deposition. First among chroniclers of the age is the
canonised Canonization is the declaration of a deceased person as an officially recognized saint, specifically, the official act of a Christianity, Christian communion declaring a person worthy of Cult (religious practice), public veneration and enterin ...
bishop of Tours The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tours (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then kno ...
,
Gregory of Tours Gregory of Tours (30 November 538 – 17 November 594 AD) was a Gallo-Roman History, historian and Bishops of Tours, Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of the area that had been previously referred to as Gaul by the Romans. He ...
. His is a primary source for the reigns of the sons of Clotaire II and their descendants until Gregory's own death in 594, but must be read with account of the pro-church point of view of its author. The next major source, far less organised than Gregory's work, is the ''
Chronicle of Fredegar The ''Chronicle of Fredegar'' is the conventional title used for a 7th-century Franks, Frankish chronicle that was probably written in Burgundy. The author is unknown and the attribution to Fredegar dates only from the 16th century. The chronicl ...
'', begun by Fredegar but continued by unknown authors. It covers the period from 584 to 641, though its continuators, under
Carolingian The Carolingian dynasty (; known variously as the Carlovingians, Carolingus, Carolings, Karolinger or Karlings) was a Franks, Frankish noble family named after Charlemagne, grandson of Mayor of the palace, mayor Charles Martel and a descendant ...
patronage, extended it to 768, after the close of the Merovingian era. It is the only primary narrative source for much of its period. The only other major contemporary source is the '' Liber Historiae Francorum'', an anonymous adaptation of Gregory's work apparently ignorant of Fredegar's chronicle: its author(s) ends with a reference to Theuderic IV's sixth year, which would be 727. It was widely read; though it was undoubtedly a piece of Arnulfing work, and its biases cause it to mislead (for instance, concerning the two decades between the controversies surrounding mayors Grimoald the Elder and
Ebroin Ebroin (died 680 or 681) was the Franks, Frankish mayor of the palace of Neustria on two occasions; firstly from 658 to his deposition in 673 and secondly from 675 to his death in 680 or 681. In a violent and despotic career, he strove to impose ...
: 652–673). Aside from these chronicles, the only surviving reservoirs of historiography are documentary sources (letters, charters, laws, etc.) and
hagiography A hagiography (; ) is a biography of a saint or an ecclesiastical leader, as well as, by extension, an adulatory and idealized biography of a founder, saint, monk, nun or icon in any of the world's religions. Early Christian hagiographies might ...
. Clerical men such as Gregory and Sulpitius the Pious were letter-writers, though relatively few letters survive. Edicts, grants, and judicial decisions survive, as well as the famous ''Lex Salica'', mentioned above. From the reign of Clotaire II and Dagobert I survive many examples of the royal position as the supreme justice and final arbiter. There also survive biographies of saints of the period, for instance Saint Eligius and
Leodegar Leodegar of Poitiers ( la, Leodegarius; french: Léger; 615 – October 2, 679 AD) was a martyred Burgundian Bishop of Autun. He was the son of Saint Sigrada and the brother of Saint Warinus. Leodegar was an opponent of Ebroin, the Frankish Mayor ...
, written soon after their subjects' deaths. Finally, archaeological evidence cannot be ignored as a source for information, at the very least, on the Frankish mode of life. Among the greatest discoveries of lost objects was the 1653 accidental uncovering of Childeric I's tomb in the church of Saint Brice in
Tournai Tournai or Tournay ( ; ; nl, Doornik ; pcd, Tornai; wa, Tornè ; la, Tornacum) is a city and Municipalities in Belgium, municipality of Wallonia located in the Hainaut Province, province of Hainaut, Belgium. It lies southwest of Brussels on ...
. The grave objects included a golden bull's head and the famous golden insects (perhaps bees, cicadas, aphids, or flies) on which
Napoleon Napoleon Bonaparte ; it, Napoleone Bonaparte, ; co, Napulione Buonaparte. (born Napoleone Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821), later known by his regnal name Napoleon I, was a French military commander and political leader who ...
modelled his coronation cloak. In 1957, the sepulchre of a Merovingian woman at the time believed to be Clotaire I's second wife,
Aregund Aregund, Aregunda, Arnegund, Aregonda, or Arnegonda (c. 515/520–580) was a Frankish queen, the wife of Clotaire I, king of the Franks, and the mother of Chilperic I of Neustria. She is one of the rare historical figures whose tomb has been ide ...
, was discovered in
Saint Denis Basilica The Basilica of Saint-Denis (french: Basilique royale de Saint-Denis, links=no, now formally known as the ) is a large former medieval abbey church and present cathedral in the commune of Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris. The building ...
in
Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,165,423 residents in 2019 in an area of more than 105 km² (41 sq mi), ma ...
. The funerary clothing and jewellery were reasonably well-preserved, giving us a look into the costume of the time. Beyond these royal individuals, the Merovingian period is associated with the archaeological Reihengräber culture.


Family tree


In popular culture

The Merovingians play a prominent role in French historiography and
national identity National identity is a person's identity or sense of belonging to one or more states or to one or more nation, nations. It is the sense of "a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, and language". National i ...
, although their importance was partly overshadowed by that of the Gauls during the Third Republic.
Charles de Gaulle Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (; ; (commonly abbreviated as CDG) 22 November 18909 November 1970) was a French army officer and statesman who led Free France against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government ...
is on record as stating his opinion that "For me, the history of France begins with Clovis, elected as king of France by the tribe of the Franks, who gave their name to France. Before Clovis, we have Gallo-Roman and Gaulish prehistory. The decisive element, for me, is that Clovis was the first king to have been baptized a Christian. My country is a Christian country and I reckon the history of France beginning with the accession of a Christian king who bore the name of the Franks." The Merovingians feature in the novel ''
In Search of Lost Time ''In Search of Lost Time'' (french: À la recherche du temps perdu), first translated into English as ''Remembrance of Things Past'', and sometimes referred to in French as ''La Recherche'' (''The Search''), is a novel in seven volumes by French ...
'' by
Marcel Proust Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust (; ; 10 July 1871 – 18 November 1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist who wrote the monumental novel '' In Search of Lost Time'' (''À la recherche du temps perdu''; with the previous ...
: "The Merovingians are important to Proust because, as the oldest French dynasty, they are the most romantic and their descendants the most aristocratic." The word "Merovingian" is used as an adjective at least five times in '' Swann's Way''. The Merovingians are featured in the book '' The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail'' (1982) where they are depicted as descendants of Jesus, inspired by the " Priory of Sion" story developed by Pierre Plantard in the 1960s. Plantard playfully sold the story as non-fiction, giving rise to a number of works of
pseudohistory Pseudohistory is a form of pseudoscholarship that attempts to distort or misrepresent the historical record, often by employing methods resembling those used in scholarly historical research. The related term cryptohistory is applied to pseudoh ...
among which ''The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail'' was the most successful. The "Priory of Sion" material has given rise to later works in popular fiction, notably ''
The Da Vinci Code ''The Da Vinci Code'' is a 2003 mystery thriller novel by Dan Brown. It is Brown's second novel to include the character Robert Langdon: the first was his 2000 novel '' Angels & Demons''. ''The Da Vinci Code'' follows symbologist Robert La ...
'' (2003), which mentions the Merovingians in chapter 60.Stephen Andrew Missick, ''The Hammer of God'', (self-published) p. 175. The title of "
Merovingian The Merovingian dynasty () was the ruling family of the Franks from the middle of the 5th century until 751. They first appear as "Kings of the Franks" in the Roman army of northern Gaul. By 509 they had united all the Franks and northern Gauli ...
" (also known as "the Frenchman") is used as the name for a fictional character and a supporting
antagonist An antagonist is a character in a story who is presented as the chief foe of the protagonist. Etymology The English word antagonist comes from the Greek language, Greek ἀνταγωνιστής – ''antagonistēs'', "opponent, competitor, vil ...
of the films ''
The Matrix Reloaded ''The Matrix Reloaded'' is a 2003 American science-fiction action film written and directed by the Wachowskis. It is a sequel to '' The Matrix'' (1999) and the second installment in the ''Matrix'' film series. The film stars Keanu Reeves, ...
'', ''
The Matrix Revolutions ''The Matrix Revolutions'' is a 2003 American Science fiction film, science fiction action film written and directed by the Wachowskis. It is the third installment in The Matrix (franchise), ''The Matrix'' film series, released six months follo ...
'' and '' The Matrix Resurrections''.


See also

*
List of Frankish kings The Franks, Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, were first led by individuals called dux, dukes and monarch, reguli. The earliest group of Franks that rose to prominence was the Salian Franks, ...
* Merovingian art and architecture *
Merovingian script Merovingian script or Gallo-Roman script ( la, Scriptura Merovingica/Francogallica) was a Middle Ages, medieval variant of the Latin script so called because it was developed in Gaul during the Merovingian dynasty. It was used in the 7th and 8th ...


References


Further reading

* * * * * * * * * *


External links


The Oxford Merovingian Page


at Genealogy.eu

{{DEFAULTSORT:Merovingian dynasty . 5th century 6th century in Europe 7th century in Europe Former monarchies of Europe Medieval Belgium Medieval France Medieval Germany Medieval Italy Medieval Luxembourg Medieval Netherlands Medieval Slovenia Medieval Switzerland