The Significance of Clovis' Victory

Excerpted from Truth Triumphant, by Benjamin G. Wilkinson, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1944, pp. 147-149

The Teutonic kingdoms which had occupied other Roman provinces, as well as France, were either continuing in their idolatry or were converts to Christianity as taught by Ulfilas. They are usually catalogued as Arians. After his political conversion to Christianity as championed by the church at Rome, Clovis defeated the Burgundians, which people at this time were divided between paganism and Christianity. The desire to spread his new religion and to ruin Christian kingdoms which refused the new doctrines seemed to be the aim of his warlike temper. The barbarity and cruelty of his subsequent acts proved how much his conversion was political and not a surrender to truth in the heart. There is no question but that his new profession served the purpose of establishing and enlarging his kingdom, and for this reason he renounced idolatry for the Christianity of the church at Rome.

The climax of his rise to fame and power was attained when he reached out to take the rich and beautiful lands of southern France from the kingdom of the Visigoths. Step by step, supported by Rome and by the influence of the emperor of Constantinople, Clovis drove them back until the great and decisive battle of 507-508 was waged.... Rome watched with anxious heart the outcome of this decisive battle, for she well knew that her hopes of expansion in this world were vain if her only prince in the West failed.

The emperor at Constantinople also followed with breathless attention the news of this war. The emperor, faced by powerful enemies on the east and north, saw little future for the type of Christianity he was championing if Clovis failed to give the Franks a permanent place under the sun by this final victory.

The army of the Visigoths was routed by the Franks in the encounter of 507. It was necessary for Clovis to destroy the sources of further supply. He struck while the iron was hot, and in 508 pursued the Visigoths to their southern strongholds and overcame them. Clovis was named consul by the emperor; while by the church at Rome he was called the first Catholic Majesty and his successor "the Eldest Son of the Church." ... How great was the significance on the course of the world's history of the culmination in 508 of the establishment of the first Catholic kingdom in the West, let witnesses testify. Says R. W. Church:

          The Frank king threw his sword into the scale against the Arian cause, and became the champion and hope of the Catholic population all over Gaul.
     The invaders had at length arrived, who were to remain. It was decided that the Franks, and not the Goths, were to direct the future destinies of Gaul and Germany, and that the Catholic faith, and not Arianism, was to be the religion of these great realms.1

Again, from Dr. David J. Hill, former United States ambassador to Germany:

          Up to the time of Clovis the invading hordes of the East had moved steadily westward.... Thenceforth that tide was to be turned backward, and conquest was to proceed in the opposite direction....It was the Franks who, turning their faces eastward,... checked further advances of the barbarians.2     

As Prof. George Adams writes:

          Clovis...founded a political power which was to unite nearly all the continent in itself, and to bring the period of the invasions to an end.3     

1Church, The Beginning of the Middle Ages, pages 38, 39
2Hill, History of Diplomacy in the International Development of Europe, vol. 1, p. 55
3Adams, Civilization During the Middle Ages, pages 141, 142