6-THE RISE OF FRANCE

Shortly before the convening of the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, Emperor Constantine gave the Lateran Palace estate, the land where the Vatican stands today, to the bishop of Rome. For the western world, this was to be the center of power, religious, political and financial, right up to the City bankers’ takeover in 1688.

Shortly after the Council of Nicaea, the Christian bishops, supported by the Roman emperor, started Christianising the Arian ‘barbarians’ who occupied most of the empire. But the new Trinitarian religion that stated that the bishop of Rome was the representative of God on earth and that his authority had precedence over that of the ‘barbarian’ kings, was vigorously opposed by the latter. The Arian barbarians were followers of Apollonius, a holy man and prophet, and they found the concept of the Holy Trinity, where the son of God had come down on earth in person, totally absurd. They were more in tune with the doctrine that stated that Mother Earth was the ultimate source of power. They were prepared to accept the Roman administration, and even to live in harmony with the Roman civil servants, but they could not accept the archaic Roman religion nor the new Trinitarian religion.

That is why the bishop of Rome and the emperor had to resort to force. When, in 486, at the age of twenty, a certain Clovis, king of the Salian Franks, won the battle of Soissons against Syagrius, the bishops realized that they had found their strong man. In order to convert Clovis to Christianity, they arranged to have him meet Clotilde, a Christian Burgundian. He married her in 493, and once the kingdom of the Salian Franks was allied to the kingdom of the Burgundians and to that of Soissons, Clovis was able to go after the Alamans to the east and the Visigoths to the south.

During the Battle of Tolbiac against the Alamans in 496, the Frankish warriors, Salians and Ripuarians, were far outnumbered by their opponent. Clovis, seeing victory escape him, decided to invoke the God of his wife Clotilde, asking him to intervene. When the Alamans fled, their chief having been killed by a flying ax, the Franks claimed victory, and Clovis converted to Christianity.

On December 25, 498, Clovis was baptized and anointed king by Saint Rémi in Reims. From that moment onwards, the conquered Arians were not unhappy to have Christian Franks as masters, and Clovis adroitly exploited his status as the first king of divine right.

Later in 507, Clovis’ campaign against the Visigoths took on the appearance of a crusade, and the decisive battle took place in the plain of Vouillé, near Poitiers, a battle from which Clovis emerged victorious. Alaric II, king of the Visigoths, perished in the fray, and Clovis not only seized a big slice of the Visigoth kingdom but also managed to get his hands on Alaric’s treasure which was in Toulouse.

When Clovis died in 511, the vanquished Arians had by then accepted the Trinitarian religion, and the Frankish kingdom had become a Christian kingdom. France was an important part of the Holy Roman Empire, for it was not only its geographical centerpiece but it played a major role politically and militarily.

Clovis’ military successes against the Alamans and Visigoths, as well as those of his sons against the Burgundians, were such that Arianism disappeared almost completely from what is today Europe, the only exception being the Lombards in Italy. After Charlemagne defeated the Lombards in 770, Arianism was totally eradicated from the empire. When Charlemagne was crowned King of the Franks in 768, and especially when he was anointed Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in Rome, in 800, it meant the rule by kings of divine right was entrenched with France leading the way. It remained so for the next thousand years.

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