First Christian King of the Franksby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
In the latter part of the 5th century A.D., the Western Roman Empire was in its death throes. With Rome’s official defeat at the hands of the Germanic general Odovacar in 476, the inhabitants of the many territories conquered by the Romans now began to assert their independence. But it looked as though Christianity itself might be in danger. While many of the tribes and groups of people in Western Europe had assimilated various aspects of Roman civilization, most of them still believed in pagan gods. If Christianity had not become more strongly rooted in Europe, the fall of the Roman Empire would have brought about another wave of spiritual darkness.
One of the influential groups of people in Europe was the Franks, and they lived in the northern area of Gaul, now known as France. Eventually, the Franks would become one of the more dominant peoples of Western Europe. More importantly, though, God would use these people as a means of keeping Christianity alive throughout the Dark Ages. But the Franks’ rise to power and acceptance of Christianity could not have come about without a great leader. God gave them one, a young man named Chlodovocar, more commonly known as Clovis.
Clovis became chief of his tribe in 481, when he was around the age of sixteen. In spite of his youth, he proved a savvy leader and a powerful warrior. He was also very ambitious, and he soon managed to depose and eliminate other chiefs and seize control of their tribes. By uniting the well-armed and skilled Frankish warriors under his command, Clovis now had the opportunity to wage war against the other peoples of Europe.
In 486, Clovis began his campaign to expand his rule by wiping out the remnants of Roman control in Gaul. He smashed the army of the Roman general Syagrius near the city of Soissons. Having occupied Soissons, Clovis now solid control of Northern Gaul, and now could declare himself king of the Franks. However, in order to remain king, he would have to fight off the other tribes who bordered his territory. In 496, the Allemanni, an alliance of warriors from Germany, gathered together and invaded Gaul.
At this time, the Franks worshipped in the gods of Norse mythology. In fact, Clovis belonged to a family allegedly descended from Wotan, the highest of these gods. In light of this impressive lineage, it seemed no wonder that Clovis did not initially desire to embrace Christianity. The very crux of his rule had depended thus far on the Frankish belief in the Pagan gods, and he had no reason to throw this away for what he probably perceived as a foreign Roman deity. But God had plans for Clovis, and He prepared the king of the Franks for the acceptance of an even greater power. This process began with the influence of Clovis’s wife, Clothilde. She was the niece of the King of Burgundy, and more importantly, a strong believer in the one, true God. Many times she attempted to convince her husband of the truth of Christianity, but he still maintained his belief in the gods of his people. But all of this changed when Clovis fought the forces of the king of the Allemanni. When the battle began to turn against the Franks, Clovis prayed, not to the gods he had worshipped since his youth, but to the God of his wife, the Christ. He swore he would devote his life to God and become a believer if God would help him vanquish his enemies. According to historians, the Alemanni immediately fell under a deadly fear, and soon their king was killed, prompting their surrender. Awed by this incredible display, Clovis finally chose to become a believer in the God of his wife, the God of the Bible.
When he returned from the battle, he made good his promise, becoming baptized, encouraging his people to do likewise, and much more. He became very devout in his new faith, destroying the idols of the gods he had once worshipped. Another one of his accomplishments was the building of the Church of St. Genevieve in Paris, which he had made his capital. The borders of Clovis’s kingdom grew wider as he drove back the Allemanni to the east and the Visigoths to the west. Soon the Frankish Kingdom included nearly all of France, the northeastern part of Spain, and a great part of Germany. Already God was blessing Clovis and granting him and his kingdom prosperity.
In 511, Clovis died, leaving his kingdom to be split up between his sons. But his legacy of the large Frankish kingdom lived on. The line of Clovis became known as the Merovingian Dynasty, and the establishment of Frankish power prepared Europe for other great leaders, such as Charles Martel and Charlemagne. Most importantly, God used Clovis so that Christianity would not only survive, but thrive and flourish throughout the Dark Ages. As the Franks became the French, it was relatively recent that Christian influence has decreased in the region of were Clovis onced reigned.
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