Early History

In the 400s, Rome had serious difficulties  to defend Gaul from Hun and Vandal invaders . Some Franks joined the Roman army . As the Roman Empire collapsed in western Europe, Frankish warriors claimed parts of it and established their own small kingdoms.  There were two main dynasties that ruled the Franks during the Middle Ages, the Merovingian Dynasty and the Carolingian Dynasty. 

King Clovis I

Clovis belonged to the ruling family of a Frankish kingdom in Belgium and northern France.  Franks had a  pagan religion that included horse sacrifices. At age 15, Clovis succeeded his father, Childeric.  He expanded  the kingdom southwards and overthrew the last Roman governor of Gaul. Clovis also battled the Visigoths. His kingdom  spread from the North Sea to the Pyrenees Mountains and from the Atlantic Ocean to  Germany

Clovis brought various tribes under his rule. He converted to Catholic Christianity in 496 in the city of Reims. Some historians say his decision to convert came after he tried praying and won battles against the Alemanni tribes. He  also married Clotilde, a  Burgundian  princess and a devout Catholic. In any case, his conversion won support from popes in Rome for the Frankish kings.

When Clovis died around 513, he left a kingdom which blended Roman and Germanic cultures.

According to Frankish custom, a ruler should divide his inheritance among his sons. This became one of the weak points of Frankish dynasty. Clovis’ four sons divided up the kingdom.

Charles Martel, “The Hammer”

By the 700s, the kings descended from Clovis ruled in name only and granted other nobles the right to govern. Charles Martel was born into one of these noble ruling families and went on to unite much of France. He is best known for leading an army against Muslim invaders at the Battle of Tours in 732. In this battle, Charles earned his nickname Martel, meaning “The Hammer.” The decisive Frankish victory at Tours discouraged Muslim armies from making other major invasions into the North.

Martel´s sons Carloman and Pepin appointed a Merovingian King . Pippin deposed the last Frankish King with the pope´s approval and became King of the Franks. This was the start of the Carolingian dynasty.

Pippin helped Pope Stephen II to fight against the Lombards.  The Frankish king also gave the church territories  near Rome and these areas would form the Papal States.

medieval biographies Martel

Pepin and Charlemagne Worksheet

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