(1) Discuss the shift in power from the Merovingians to the Carolingians. Why did it occur, and how?
The Franks were the most important of the various groups of Germanic people in western civilization. Unlike other barbaric civilizations, the Franks did not engage in the beliefs of Ariansim. After the conversion of their king, Clovis, to Christianity, in the year 496, there is a substantial growth of Christendom among the Frankish people.
The Franks were governed by the Merovingian family through the seventh century, and even into the early eighth century. However, the Merovingian dynasty had undergone corruption over the years. There were many problems that developed with the family and their leadership. Merovingian leaders were not skilled or effective in their administration, they lacked the ambition to accomplish significant conquests. Chaotic behavior began to arise within the family, they began to fight amongst each other and even slaughter one another.
The Frankish church was in desperate need of reform. The Frankish people, under influence of the Merovingian family, had brought corrupt practices into the church. With all of these accumulating issues at hand with the Merovingian family, the administrations were being handled by the Carolingian family.
The Carolingian family held the office of mayor in the palace, they exercised power in the kingdom of the Franks. Pepin the Short, a member of the Carolingian family, sees the need to legitimize his reign. Pepin confronts Pope Zachary I, and describes the situation. He asks the pope if it is good that, the men with the title have no power, and the men with the power have no title, Pope Zachary concludes that this is not a good situation. In 751, the pope blesses a change of dynasty, from the Merovingian family to the Carolingian family.
(2) What was the significance of the Papal-Frankish Alliance? What were two factors that helped make the alliance possible?
The papacy (referring to the office of pope), was seeking an ally and protector. The Byzantines who had protected the papacy in the past, grew unreliable. The Byzantines engaged in multiple heresies, and even harassed the popes at times. The papacy could not easily break away due the military threat the the Lombards. In the fall of 753, Pope Stephen the II, becomes the first pope to cross the alps, he does this in an attempt to negotiate with Aistulf, the leader of the Lombards, if that quest failed, he planned to address the Frankish leader, Pepin.
Upon meeting with Aistulf, the pope is unsuccessful in the negotiation, so he continues with his plan to meet Pepin. The pope meets with Pepin, in 754. Pepin was especially respectful and hospitable to the pope. They meet again several times throughout 754, and build a strong relationship. Pepin agrees to maintain the papacy’s rights, and also agrees to restore the land that was taken by the Lombard people. The pope performs a ceremony which declares Pepin to be the king. Pepin then goes after the Lombards, and he is ultimately successful in this conquest, land is restored to the papacy, and this becomes the origin of the papal states. The Franks and the Papacy had built an alliance and there were multiple factors leading up to the success of this alliance.
The rise of the Carolingian family was a factor that played a role in making the alliance between the Franks and the Papacy successful. The Carolingian family had ambitions that the Merovingian family did not have, and without the change of dynasties, the Frankish/Papal alliance would not have been successful.
Another important factor was the situation between the papacy and the Byzantine protectors. The Byzantine “protectors” were more of a threat to the papacy than they were protectors. Without this situation as it was, the papacy would not have actively sought out an alliance with the Franks.
The Frankish/Papal alliance was an important alliance for both parties.