Royal participation in episcopal elections in Merovingian Gaul

Johnson, Gary (1995) Royal participation in episcopal elections in Merovingian Gaul. Electronic Antiquity, III 3: .

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Author Johnson, Gary
Title Royal participation in episcopal elections in Merovingian Gaul
Journal name Electronic Antiquity
ISSN 1320-3606
Publication date 1995-12
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume III
Issue 3
Total pages 1 article
Editor Terry Papillon
Place of publication Blacksburg, VA, United States
Publisher Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Language eng
Formatted abstract
As the Western Roman Empire "fell" in the course of the fifth century, several barbarian kingdoms took its place. Roman Gaul came to be ruled by the kings of the Franks, a Germanic tribal group. After the very successful reign of Clovis in the early sixth century, all the kings of the Franks belonged to Clovis' family, the Merovingians. In the sixth and seventh centuries, the kings of the Franks were regular participants in the election of bishops. At this time, the episcopate was one of the most powerful institutions in Gaul, dominating most urban communities, and possessing great religious, political, economic and social influence as a result of the wealth, prestige, and importance of the Christian church. Given the power of the bishops, it is not surprising that the kings sought to control appointments to the episcopate.

In doing so, the kings were interfering with the Church's own procedures for electing bishops. These procedures derived from the canons of the church, i.e. the decisions made by councils of bishops assembling to discuss and formulate church law and policy on numerous issues. In the canons of the church councils we can see an ecclesiastical view of the ideal method for electing bishops; however, the historical works of Gregory of Tours, himself a Gallic bishop of the late sixth century, reveal how, time and time again, the kings ignored the prescripts of canon law, and how episcopal candidates and even incumbent bishops aided and abetted the exercise of power by the kings. Despite some opposition to flagrant breaches of canon law, we can see in Gregory of Tours' Ten Books of History (also known as the History of the Franks) and the canons of the Gallic church councils a general, albeit tacit, acceptance of the reality of royal authority over the church...
Keyword Merovingian kings
Episcopal elections
Early middle ages
Gregory of Tours
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Publications
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Created: Tue, 19 Jun 2012, 10:21:19 EST by Gary William Johnson on behalf of Faculty of Arts