This is the essay for the 17th week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering two questions. The first one is, how and why did the power shift from Merovingians to the Carolingians in the kingdom of the Franks and what was the significance of the Papal-Frankish alliance?
How and why the shift in power from the Merovingians to the Carolingians occurred in the kingdom of the Franks.
After the fall of Rome in 476, the region of Gaul, which is about modern-day France was ruled by new kings. These kings were from the Merovingian dynasty. The dynasty was started by Clovis I in 481. The Merovingian dynasty did many important things, like defending Gaul from the Arabs in 732. The important part was that when the Franks were converted to Christianity, they converted to Catholicism.
The reason this is important because most of the barbarian civilizations converted to Arianism or Arian Christianity. The problem with this was that Arianism was deemed a heresy by the Catholic church. The Arian belief is that Jesus Christ isn’t equal to God and Christ was subordinate to God. While in Catholicism they are both equal. Because the Franks converted directly to Catholicism without first converting to Arianism, the Catholic church was able to build better relationships with them. The Catholic church was also ready to work alongside the Franks because of this. The problem was that the Merovingians did a lot of fighting between themselves. As well as that later down the line, many of the Merovingians were made to rule from childhood and they were inbred so many had mental defects. This reduced their reputation with the Catholic Church, so they didn’t get to work together very much.
Eventually, the Carolingians came along, when the Merovingian kings were doing worse and worse. The Carolingians held the position of Mayor of the Palace and passed it down between themselves, which was illegal but it happened anyway. Slowly the Merovingian kings started doing less and less, while the Carolingians started doing more work for them, until the Carolingians were doing most of the work that the king should be doing. This had gotten to the point in 751 where the Carolingians wanted to become the new kings of the Franks. The problem was that if they became the new king then and there, the Franks would see them as illegitimate and untrustworthy. So one of the Carolingians, called Pepin would ask Pope Zachary “whether it was acceptable for the person with all the power to not have the title of king and the person with the title of king having no power”. Zachary answered that this should not be the case and that the ruling family of the Franks should be changed. After hearing this Pepin was able to take over the title of king, with the people on his side.
The Significance of the Papal-Frankish Alliance
After the Carolingians took control of the Frankish kingdom, the chance that the Catholic church would work together with the Franks became much more likely. Not only this, but the Catholic church was willing to go one step further. The Catholic church was willing to make an alliance with the Franks and crown their kings the Protector of the Church. This was important because before this the title of Protector of the Church had only been given to two countries previously. These countries were the western Roman empire and the eastern Roman empire, which is also known as the Byzantine empire.
The first reason they were considering this was because the Carolingingians were much more competent rulers than the Merovingians were and followed the rules of Catholicism well. The Carolingians were also willing to protect the Catholic church. The second reason they wanted to change the Protector of the Church was that the Byzantine empire didn’t give them the protection they wanted. During that time the Byzantine empire held the position of Protector of the Church. The problem was that the emperors of the Byzantine empire believed in Monothelism and Iconoclasm. These were two variants of Christianity, which were also considered heresies by the Catholic church. Monothelism, which is also known as Monothelitism is the belief that God only has one will. In Catholicism, God has two wills, a divine will and human will. The belief of Iconoclasm that religious icons should be destroyed. These icons were religious paintings, which in the Catholic view should be revered for what they depicted. Because the Catholic church was against these heresies, the Byzantine emperors would often not allow the popes to officially receive the title of the pope. Some of them also harassed the popes. After the Carolingians took over power in Gaul and Pepin became the king, the Catholic church had had enough of the Byzantine emperors. Because of all the good qualities of the Franks, they give Pepin the title of Protector of the Church instead.