Three Angel's Messages shared with the world

Head #3 - Merovingian Franks (Rev. 17)

Head #3 on the scarlet beast of Revelation 17

Revelation Time Period #3:
486 AD - 752 AD

The time during which Head #3 was the dominant ruling power in the realm corresponds to the 3rd time period of Revelation, which also corresponds to the 3rd Church, the 3rd Seal and the 3rd Trumpet.

Rise

The Franks were moving into the Roman realm by the 3rd century. They were integrated into the Roman armies early on, and rose to prominance. Having a thorough understanding of the Roman military, the Merovingian dynasty of the Salian Franks became the dominant power when they defeated the Roman army under the last magister militum (senior military officer) in the western empire in 486 AD (see Head #2 for details on the Merovingian take-over of the realm). This victory enabled them to take over the Kingdom of Syagrius, which was quickly followed by additional conquests. The Frankish kingdom went on to dominate much of central Europe, forcing other Germanic tribes to become tributaries.

The rule of the Franks, providing equality between Gallo-Roman natives and those of Germanic origin, along with a common religion, allowed the culture of Roman and Germanic peoples to meld together. Historians refer to the Franks as a continuation of the Western Roman Empire, and as providing the link to the future Holy Roman Empire. The Merovingian kings' authority came by right of heredity, and they "had the absolute authority of a late Roman emperor over all subjects".1

The Franks not only became the dominant political power, but allied with the dominant spiritual power. This began taking shape when Clovis, King of the Franks, was converted to Nicene Christianity sometime between 486 and 496. Although most of the population in Gaul were already Nicene Christians, Clovis became the only Catholic prince, helping to distinuish him from other Germanic kings of his time and strengthen the allegiance of his subjects.2

After Clovis defeated the Arian Visigoths in 507-508 AD, the Eastern emperor Anastasius gave Clovis an honorary distinction in 508 AD, and he became the first Christian king (note that this did not imply that Clovis was subject to the eastern emperor). The letter from Anastasius conferred upon Clovis the consular dignity, "from which time he was habitually called consul and [arguably] Augustus."3 This was the beginning of a partnership between the Franks and the papacy. Today, France is known as the "eldest daughter of the church."4

This event is an important milestone, for it marks the beginning of a union between church and state during the middle ages, which is specifically foretold in the Bible multiple times.

As the armies of the Franks spread out across Europe, they were the key force in the spread of Nicene Christianity (which later became known as Roman Catholic). The Arian form of Christianity disappeared, for the most part, by the 7th century.5

See map of the Frankish Empire 481 to 814.

Transition

The papacy began to rise to notable prominence during this time period. When the city of Rome fell in 410, during the papacy of Innocent I, the pope moved in to fill the vacuum of leadership. Its power continued to grow in both spiritual and temporal matters, especially when central rule in the western Roman empire crumbled and the people in Rome looked to it for leadership.

The Papal power was magnified when the the emperor in the east, Justinian, declared the Bishop of Rome the head of all the churches. This occurred in 533 AD as Justinian attempted to eliminate schisms and regain the empire. His "recognition of the Roman see as the highest ecclesiastical authority remained the cornerstone of his Western policy."6 The following is an excerpt from the letter from Emperor Justinian to the Archbishop of Rome:
"Therefore, We have exerted Ourselves to unite all the priests of the East and subject them to the See of Your Holiness, and hence the questions which have at present arisen, although they are manifest and free from doubt, and, according to the doctrine of your Apostolic See, are constantly firmly observed and preached by all priests, We have still considered it necessary that they should be brought to the attention of Your Holiness. For we do not suffer anything which has reference to the state of the Church, even though what causes the difficulty may be clear and free from doubt, to be discussed without being brought to the notice of Your Holiness, because you are the head of all the Holy Churches, for We shall exert Ourselves in every way (as has already been stated), to increase the honor and authority of your See."7
Justinian made it his mission to regain the western empire and he eventually overpowered the tribes that dissented from the beliefs of the papacy (Heruli, Vandals, Ostrogoths). The prophecy of Daniel 7, predicts the overthrow of these three tribes as a little horn grows stout and plucks up three other horns by the roots (Daniel 7:8,20). The last tribe to be uprooted, the Ostrogoths, occurred in 538 AD, when the siege of Rome, by general Belisarius, ended in victory after a year and nine days. The Ostrogoths finally withdrew from Rome on March 12, 538 AD. Though the siege was the first major encounter between the eastern Roman army and the Ostrogoths, it "played a decisive role in the subsequent development of the war... After their victory, gained over a numerically much superior enemy, the Romans gained the upper hand."8

This withdrawal of the Ostrogoths from Rome, freed the pope to exercise his spiritual power in the realm. This date of 538 marks the beginning of the papacy's ecclesiastical dominance, predicted in various Bible prophecies as continuing for 1260 years. The popes put forth that emperors should defer to the clergy in all matters that concerned the faith (though not all popes in later centuries agreed to defer to the emperors in secular matters).9

The papacy, though theoretically subject to the emperor in the east and involved in various disagreements with the other patriarchs, was given power to exercise authority as the Bible predicted (Rev. 13:2). He began to gain more and more influence in the realm and independent control in Rome.

In practice, the influence of the eastern emperor over western powers was minimal. When Theoderic took the city of Ravenna in 493, his rule was subordinate to the byzantine emperor in outward appearance, but he was in reality an independent monarch.10 Also, as the Germanic tribes formed "independent Christian kingdoms during the 6th and 7th centuries, the political authority of the Byzantine emperors became practically nonexistent in the West."11 Pope Agatho, in 678 AD, was the first Pope not to pay tribute to the emperor, which was customary at the time of election.12 The western and eastern portions of the old Roman Empire had become separate realms.

Though already exercising spiritual dominance (which was definitely accompanied by political influence), the papacy wasn't in a position to exercise political dominance, until the 8th century. It was then, that it began to exert influence in determining who would sit in the seat of power in the empire. In the meantime, the church system was being worked into the fabric of Frankish rule.
"At the same time [592-643 AD] we now find clerics playing a much more important role in Merovingian administration, both in royal chanceries and palatia and on the local secular administrative level, anticipating in some ways later Carolingian practices. Thus, in the nuclear regna clerics and especialy bishops became increasingly important as an official class, equal in significance to the dukes and patricians who were chosen from the same upper-class land-owning families."13
"The higher clergy there modeled themselves on the military landed aristocracy of feudalism and were rewarded with immense political power. The office of bishop became increasingly a matter of title by birth as aristocratic families sought to have relatives elected or appointed to episcopal office."14
The power of the Mervoingian dynasty had began to gradually decline after the Battle of Terty in 687. By the mid 8th century, the Merovingians had become quite weak in actual power, though the loyalty of the people to the ancient Merovingian house was strong and they were still the legitimate rulers of the empire. At the same time, the mayors of the palace (the manager's of the king's household) had risen in power and were posed to take advantage of opportunity to take control of the kingdom.

The opportunity came when Pope Zachary gave Pepin III, the Carolingian mayor of the palace, his blessing to depose Childeric and the Merovingian royal house.15 Pippen desired to more closely unite the papacy and Frankish kingdom. He had been looking for a way to take over the kingship from the Merovingians, but it was unlawful. The Pope, however, was the one power that could give this move legitimacy. The papacy was seen as a moral authority and interpreter of moral law. When the Pope said it was right for Pepin to take over the kingship, the new ruler could then be accepted as the rightful king.

The Papal legate then crowned Pepin as ruler. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that, "apart from Spanish examples, the earliest definite instance of unction of a Christian sovereign seems to be that of Pepin, who was first crowned by St. Boniface, the papal legate at Soissons in 752, and again, together with his sons Charles and Carloman and his wife Bertha, by Pope Stephen at St-Denis, Sunday, 28 July, 754."16

"The nature of the authority with which Pepin was invested was emphasized for the first time among the Franks, by the coronation ceremony, which imparted a religious nature to his power and imprinted upon him a sacred character."17 The consecration of Pepin "was a new departure and a significant one. It was a recognition of papal supremacy over the Catholic Church, it bound church and state closer together, and it placed Pepin in the pope's debt."18 Pepin paid his debt by subduing the Lombards in 754 and 756 and giving the conquered land to the pope. This gift is known as the Donation of Pepin and formed the core of the Papal States in Italy, which became the Popes' temporal domain. This gave them independence, prestige and influence among the kings of Europe. "It helped to exalt the Pope's spiritual authority over the heads of kings."19

This new era emphasized a united church and state in order to be a Christian kingdom. The functions of church and state were interwoven into the political and adminstrative fabric of government. The concept of a Christian kingdom became the driving force of politics. Thus, an emperor or other ruler desired to be crowned by the pope or church representative in order to legitimatize their authority. By 823 AD, the precendent set by earlier rulers and popes was firmly established as "no legitimate emperor was to be crowned without papal participation, and this in due course could come to mean without papal approval."20

By ecclesiastical anointing and ordination, kings were vested with a sacred authority. "Though men differed about the instruments to be employed, they all agreed that a universal coercive power resided in the church. Whether in the hands of pope, emperor, king, or community, the purpose of human government was to direct men into a single Christian path."21

The papacy, being small and weak, was in theory only powerful while secular rulers cooperated. These rulers, whether because of their own faith or due to the force of public opinion or threat of excommunication, did cooperate, and this made the Papal political entity immensely powerful, especially during the 4th period of Revelation.

Decline

When Pepin usurped the palace with the pope's blessing, the last Merovingian king was deprived of his symbolic long hair and banished to a monastery. Thus the political domimance of the Merovingian dynasty came to an end, and the time period of the third Head was brought to a close.
  • 1. A Survey of European Civilization, page 164.
  • 2. Henry Wace, A Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies, page 415.
  • 3. Henry Wace, A Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies, page 416.
  • 4. Wikipedia, accessed 11-15-13, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholicism_in_France.
  • 5. Wikipedia, accessed 11-15-13, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Christianity.
  • 6. Justinian I, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justinian_I.
  • 7. The Civil Law, S.P. Scott, A.M., http://www.constitution.org/sps/sps12.htm.
  • 8. Siege of Rome (537-538), Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Rome_(537-538).
  • 9. Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, Diarmaid MacCulloch, page 323.
  • 10. Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, Diarmaid MacCulloch, page 320.
  • 11. http://www.nobility-association.com/theholyromanempire.htm.
  • 12. Manual of the Lives of the Popes, John Charles Earle, B.A., Printed by Thomas Kelly, New York, page 54.
  • 13. Lewis, Archibald R.. "The Dukes in the Regnum Francorum, A.D. 550-751". Speculum 51.3 (1976): 381-410. Web, page 394.
  • 14. David J. Stagaman, Authority in the Church, page 81.
  • 15. http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsEurope/FranceFranks.htm.
  • 16. Thurston, Herbert. "Coronation." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 11 Sept. 2015 .
  • 17. Kurth, Godefroid. "The Franks." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 11 Sept. 2015 .
  • 18. A Survey of European Civilization, page 171.
  • 19. Manual of the Lives of the Popes, John Charles Earle, B.A., printed by Thomas Kelly, New York, page 61-62.
  • 20. Roger Collins, Early Medieval Europe, page 320.
  • 21. R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages, page 21.