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Clovis I

Clovis I (or Chlodowech, modern French "Louis") (c.466 - November 27, 511 at Paris), a member of the Merovingian dynasty, succeeded his father Childeric I in 481 as King of the Salic Franks, a Germanic people occupying the area west of the lower Rhine, with their own center around Tournai and Cambrai, along the modern frontier between France and Belgium, in an area known as Toxandria.

coin with obverse
legend "Clovis Roy
de France"

In 486, with the help of Ragnachar, Clovis defeated Syagrius, the last Roman official in northern Gaul, whose rule covered the area around Soissons, in present-day Picardie. This victory 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 the Great. He followed this victory with another in 491 over a small group of Thuringians east of his territories, then later, with the help of the other Frankish sub-kings, defeated the Alamanni in the Battle of Tolbiac. He had previously married the Burgundian princess Clotilde (493), and following his victory at Tolbiac[?] he converted in 496 to her Catholic faith. This was a significant change from the other Germanic kings, like the Visigoths and Vandals, who embraced the rival Arian beliefs.

The conversion of Clovis to Roman Catholic Christianity, the religion of the majority of his subjects, strengthened the bonds between his Roman subjects and their Germanic conquerors. However, Bernard Bachrach has argued that this conversion from his Frankish pagan beliefs alienated many of the other Frankish sub-kings, and weakened his military position over the next few years.

He fought a battle in Dijon in the year 500, but did not successfully subdue the Burgundian kingdom. It appears that he somehow gained the support of the Armoricans in the following years, for they assisted him in his defeat of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse at Vouillé[?] (507), a victory that confined the Visigoths to Spain, adding most of Aquitaine to his 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. All that remains of this great abbey (later named in honour of Paris' patron saint, Geneviève, it was demolished in 1802) is the Tour Clovis, a Romanesque tower which now lies within the grounds of the prestigious Lycèe Henri IV, just east of The Panthéon.

Following the Battle of Vouillé[?], according to Gregory of Tours, the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I, granted Clovis the title of consul. Since Clovis' name does not appear in the consular lists, it is likely he was granted a suffect consulship. Gregory also records Clovis' systematic campaigns following his victory at Vouillé to elimate the other Frankish reguli or sub-kings: these included Sigibert of Cologne and his son Chloderic; Chararic another king of the Salian Franks; Ragnachar of Cambrai, his brother Ricchar, and their brother Rigomer of LeMans[?].

Shortly before his death, Clovis called a synod of Gallic bishops to meet at Orleans to reform the church and create a strong link between the crown and the Catholic episcopate.

Clovis I died in 511 and is interred Saint Denis Basilica, Paris, France, whereas his father had been buried with the older Merovingian kings at Tournai. Upon his death, his realm was divided among his four sons, (Theuderic, Chlodomer[?], Childebert, Chlothar) creating the new political units of the Kingdoms of Reims, Orléans, Paris and Soissons, inaugurating a period of disunity which was to last with brief interruptions until the end (751) of his Merovingian dynasty.

Popular tradition, based on French royal tradition, holds that the Franks were the founders of the French nation, and that Clovis was therefore the first King of France.

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