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The Conversion Of The Franks The





Chlodowech (Clovis, 481-511) was originally a king of the Salian Franks,
near Tournay. By his energy he became king of all the Franks, and,
overthrowing Syagrius in 486, pushed his frontier to the Loire. In 496 he
conquered a portion of the Alemanni. About this time he became a Catholic.
He had for some time favored the Catholic religion, and with his
conversion his rule was associated with that cause in the kingdoms subject
to Arian rulers. In this way his support of Catholicism was in line with
his policy of conquest. By constant warfare Chlodowech was able to push
his frontier, in 507, to the Garonne. His death, in 511, at less than
fifty years of age, cut short only for a time the extension of the
Frankish kingdom. Under his sons, Burgundy, Thuringia, and Bavaria were
conquered. The kingdom, which had been divided on the death of Chlodowech,
was united under the youngest son, Chlotar I (sole ruler 558-561), again
divided on his death, to be united under Chlotar II (sole ruler 613-628).
In Spain the Suevi, in the northwest, became Catholic under Carrarich in
550. They were conquered in 585 by the Visigoths, who in turn became
Catholic in 589.


(a) Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, II, 30. 31. (MSL, 71:225.)


Gregory of Tours (538-593) became bishop of Tours in 573. Placed
in this way in the most important see of France, he was constantly
thrown in contact with the Merovingian royal family and had
abundant opportunity to become acquainted with the course of
events at first hand. His most important work, the History of the
Franks, is especially valuable from the fifth book on, as here he
is on ground with which he was personally familiar. In Book II,
from which the selection is taken, Gregory depends upon others,
and must be used with caution.


The baptism of Chlodowech was probably the result of a long
process of deliberation, beginning probably before his marriage
with Chrotechildis, a Burgundian princess, who was a Catholic.
While still a pagan he was favorably disposed toward the Catholic
Church. About 496 he was baptized, probably on Christmas Day, at
Rheims, by St. Remigius. The place and date have been much
disputed of late. The earliest references to the conversion are by
Nicetus of Trier (ob. circa 566), Epistula ad Chlodosvindam
reginam Longobardorum (MSL, 5:375); and Avitus, Epistula 41,
addressed to Chlodowech himself. (MSL, 59:257). A careful
examination of all the evidence may be found in A. Hauck,
Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, fourth ed., I, 595 ff. Hauck
concludes that "the date, December 25, 496, may be regarded as
almost certainly the date of the baptism of Chlodowech. The
connection as to time between the first war with the Alemanni and
the baptism may have given occasion to seek for some actual
connection between the two events." The selection is therefore
given as the traditional version and is not to be relied upon as
correct in detail. It represents what was probably the current
belief within a few decades of the event.


Ch. 30. The queen (Chrotechildis) ceased not to warn Chlodowech that he
should acknowledge the true God and forsake idols. But in no way could he
be brought to believe these things. Finally war broke out with the
Alemanni. Then by necessity was he compelled to acknowledge what before he
had denied with his will. The two armies met and there was a fearful
slaughter, and the army of Chlodowech was on the point of being
annihilated. When the king perceived that, he raised his eyes to heaven,
his heart was smitten and he was moved to tears, and he said: "Jesus
Christ, whom Chrotechildis declares to be the Son of the living God, who
says that Thou wilt help those in need and give victory to those who hope
in Thee, humbly I flee to Thee for Thy mighty aid, that Thou wilt give me
victory over these my enemies, and I will in this way experience Thy
power, which the people called by Thy name claim that they have proved to
be in Thee. Then will I believe on Thee and be baptized in Thy name. For I
have called upon my gods but, as I have seen, they are far from my help.
Therefore, I believe that they have no power who do not hasten to aid
those obedient to them. I now call upon Thee and I desire to believe on
Thee. Only save me from the hand of my adversaries." As he thus spoke, the
Alemanni turned their backs and began to take flight. But when they saw
that their king was dead, they submitted to Chlodowech and said: "Let not,
we pray thee, a nation perish; now we are thine." Thereupon he put an end
to the war, exhorted the people, and returned home in peace. He told the
queen how by calling upon the name of Christ he had obtained victory. This
happened in the fifteenth year of his reign (496).

Ch. 31. Thereupon the queen commanded that the holy Remigius, bishop of
Rheims, be brought secretly to teach the king the word of salvation. The
priest was brought to him secretly and began to lay before him that he
should believe in the true God, the creator of heaven and earth, and
forsake idols, who could neither help him nor others. But he replied:
"Gladly do I listen to thee, most holy Father, but one thing remains, for
the people who follow me suffer me not to forsake their gods. But I will
go and speak to them according to thy words." When he met his men, and
before he began to speak, all the people cried out together, for the
divine power had anticipated him: "We reject the mortal gods, pious king,
and we are ready to follow the immortal God whom Remigius preaches." These
things were reported to the bishop, who rejoiced greatly and commanded the
font to be prepared. The king first asked to be baptized by the pontiff.
He went, a new Constantine, into the font to be washed clean from the old
leprosy, and to purify himself in fresh water from the stains which he had
long had. But as he stepped into the baptismal water, the saint of God
began in moving tone: "Bend softly thy head, Sicamber, reverence what thou
hast burnt, and burn what thou hast reverenced."

Therefore the king confessed Almighty God in Trinity, and was baptized in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and was
anointed with the holy chrism with the sign of the cross. Of his army more
than three thousand were baptized. Also his sister Albofledis was
baptized. And another sister of the king, Lanthechildis by name, who had
fallen into the heresy of the Arians, was converted, and when she had
confessed that the Son and the Holy Ghost were of the same substance with
the Father, she was given the chrism.


(b) Gregory of Tours, Hist. Francorum, II, 35-38. (MSL, 71:232.)


Clovis at the head of the anti-Arian party in Gaul.


Ch. 35. When Alarich, the king of the Goths, saw that King Chlodowech
continually conquered the nations, he sent messengers to him saying: "If
my brother wishes, it is also in my heart that we see each other, if God
will." Chlodowech was not opposed to this and came to him. They met on an
island in the Loire, in the neighborhood of Amboise, in the territory of
Tours, and spake and ate and drank together, promised mutual friendship,
and parted in peace.

Ch. 36. But already many Gauls wished with all their heart to have the
Franks for their masters. It therefore happened that Quintianus, bishop of
Rhodez, was driven out of his city on account of this. For they said to
him: "You wish that the rule of the Franks possessed this land." And a few
days after, when a dispute had arisen between him and the citizens, the
rumor reached the Goths who dwelt in the city, for the citizens asserted
that he wished to be subject to the rule of the Franks; and they took
counsel and planned how they might kill him with the sword. When this was
reported to the man of God, he rose by night, and with the most faithful
of his servants left Rhodez and came to Arverne.

Ch. 37. Thereupon King Chlodowech said to his men: "It is a great grief to
me that these Arians possess a part of Gaul. Let us go forth with God's
aid, conquer them, and bring this land into our power." And since this
speech pleased all, he marched with his army toward Poitiers, for there
dwelt Alarich at that time. King Chlodowech met the king of the Goths,
Alarich, in the Campus Vocladensis [Vouille or Voulon-sur-Clain] ten miles
from Poitiers; and while the latter fought from afar, the former withstood
in hand to hand combat. But since the Goths, in their fashion, took to
flight, King Chlodowech at length with God's aid won the victory. He had
on his side a son of Sigbert the Lame, whose name was Chloderich. The same
Sigbert, ever since he fought with the Alemanni near Zulpich [in 496], had
been wounded in the knee and limped. The king killed King Alarich and put
the Goths to flight. From this battle Amalrich, Alarich's son, fled to
Spain, and by his ability obtained his father's kingdom. Chlodowech,
however, sent his son Theuderic to Albi, Rhodez, and Arverne, and
departing he subjugated those cities, from the borders of the Goths to the
borders of the Burgundians, to the rule of his father. But Alarich reigned
twenty-two years.

Chlodowech spent the winter in Bourdeaux, and carried away the entire
treasure of Alarich from Toulouse, and he went to Angouleme. Such favor
did the Lord show him that, when he looked on the walls, they fell of
themselves. Thereupon when the Goths had been driven from the city he
brought it under his rule. After the accomplishment of these victories he
returned to Tours and dedicated many gifts to the holy Church of St.
Martin.

Ch. 38. At that time he received from the Emperor Anastasius the title of
consul, and in the Church of St. Martin he assumed the purple cloak and
put on his head a diadem. He then mounted a horse and with his own hand
scattered among the people who were present gold and silver in the
greatest profusion, all the way from the door of the porch of the Church
of St. Martin to the city gate. And from this day forward he was addressed
as consul, or Augustus. From Tours Chlodowech went to Paris and made that
the seat of his authority.(220)


(c) Third Council of Toledo, A. D. 589, Acts. Mansi, IX, 992.


This council is the most important event in the history of the
Visigothic Church of Spain, marking the abandonment of Arianism by
the ruling race of Spain and the formal acceptance of the doctrine
of the Trinity or the Catholic faith and unity. The Suevi had
accepted Catholicism more than thirty-five years before; see Synod
of Braga, A. D. 563, in Hefele, 285 (cf. also Hahn, 176, who
gives the text of the anathematisms in which, after a statement of
the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, the balance of the
anathematisms are concerned with Priscillianism). Reccared, the
Visigothic king (586-601), became a Catholic in 587, and held the
council of 589 to effect the conversion of the nation to his new
faith. For a letter of Gregory the Great on the conversion of
Reccared, see PNF, ser. II, vol. XII, pt. 2. p. 87, and two from
Gregory to Reccared himself (ibid., vol. XIII, pp. 16, 35). The
creed, as professed at Toledo, is the first instance of the
authorized use of the term "and the Son" in a creed in connection
with the doctrine of the "procession of the Holy Spirit," the form
in which the so-called Nicene creed came to be used in the West,
and the source of much dispute between the East and the West in
the ninth century and ever since.


I. From the Speech of Reccared at the Opening of the Council.


I judge that you are not ignorant, most reverend priests [i.e., bishops]
that I have called you into our presence for the restoration of

ecclesiastical discipline; and because in time past the existence of
heresy prevented throughout the entire Catholic Church the transaction of
synodical business. God, who has been pleased by our action to remove the
obstacle of the same heresy, warns us to set in order the ecclesiastical
laws concerning church matters. Therefore let it be a matter of joy and
gladness to you that the canonical order is being brought back to the
lines of the times of our fathers, in the sight of God and to our glory.


II. From the Statement of Faith.


There is present here all the famous nation of the Goths, esteemed for
their real bravery by nearly all nations, who, however, by the error of
their teachers have been separated from the faith and unity of the
Catholic Church; but now, agreeing as a whole with me in my assent to the
faith, participate in the communion of that Church which receives in its
maternal bosom a multitude of different nations and nourishes them with
the breasts of charity. Concerning her the prophet foretelling said: "My
house shall be called the house of prayer for all nations." For not only
does the conversion of the Goths add to the amount of our reward, but also
an infinite multitude of the people of the Suevi, whom under the
protection of Heaven we have subjected to our kingdom, led away into
heresy by the fault of an alien,(221) we have endeavored to recall to the
source of truth. Therefore, most holy Fathers, I offer as by your hands to
the eternal God, as a holy and pleasing offering, these most noble
nations, who have been attached by us to the Lord's possessions. For it
will be to me in the day of the retribution of the just an unfading crown
and joy if these peoples, who now by our planning have returned to the
unity of the Church, remain founded and established in the same. For as by
the divine determination it has been a matter of our care to bring these
peoples to the unity of the Church of Christ, so it is a matter of your
teaching to instruct them in the Catholic dogmas, by which they may be
instructed in the full knowledge of the truth, that they may know how to
reject totally the errors of pernicious heresy, to remain in charity in
the ways of the true faith, and to embrace with fervent desire the
communion of the Catholic Church. As it is of benefit to us to profess
with the mouth what we believe in the heart therefore I anathematize
Arius with all his doctrines so I hold in honor, to the praise and honor
and glory of God, the faith of the holy Council of Nicaea. I embrace and
hold the faith of the one hundred and fifty Fathers assembled at
Constantinople. I believe the faith of the first Council of Ephesus
likewise with all the Catholic Church I reverently receive the faith of
the Council of Chalcedon. To this my confession I have added the holy
constitutions [i.e., confessions of faith] of the above-mentioned
councils, and I have subscribed with complete singleness of heart to the
divine testimony.


Here follows the faith of Nicaea, the so-called creed of
Constantinople, with the words relating to the Holy Ghost, ex
Patre et Filio procedentem (proceeding from the Father and the
Son); the actual form filioque does not here occur.


III. From the Anathemas, Hahn, 178.


3. Whosoever does not believe in the Holy Ghost and will not believe that
He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and will not say that He is
co-essential with the Father and the Son, let him be anathema.


IV. From the Canons, Bruns, I, 212.


Canon 1. After the damnation of the heresy of Arius and the exposition of
the Catholic faith, this holy council ordered that, because in the midst
of many heretics and heathen throughout the churches of Spain, the
canonical order has been necessarily neglected (for while liberty of
transgressing abounded, and the desirable discipline was denied, and every
one fostered excesses of heresy in the protection and continuation of evil
times, a strict discipline was far off, but now the peace of the Church
has been restored by the mercy of Christ), everything which by the
authority of early canons may be forbidden is forbidden, discipline
arising again, and everything is required which they order done. Let the
constitutions of all the councils remain in their force, likewise all the
synodical letters of the holy Roman prelates. Henceforth let no one aspire
unworthily to ecclesiastical promotions and honors against the canons. Let
nothing be done which the holy Fathers, filled with the Spirit of God,
decreed should not be done. And let those who presume to violate the laws
be restrained by the severity of the earlier canons.

Canon 2. Out of reverence for the most holy faith and to strengthen the
weak minds of men, acting upon the advice of the most pious and glorious
King Reccared(222) the synod has ordered that throughout the churches of
Spain, Gaul, and Gallicia, the symbol of the faith be recited according to
the form of the Oriental churches, the symbol of the Council of
Constantinople, that is, of the one hundred and fifty bishops; and before
the Lord's prayer is said, let it be pronounced to the people in a clear
voice, by which also the true faith may have a manifest testimony, and the
hearts of the people may approach to the reception of the body and blood
of Christ with hearts purified by faith.





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