For Clovis, the religious debate between Christianity and paganism turned on the question as to which God was the stronger one, a concern that since the days of Constantine had generally occupied pagan rulers in considering a conversion to the new faith. After an unexpected victory in a battle that appeared to have already been lost, Clovis thought that he could answer the question in Christ's favour. The scales were finally tipped by an encounter with the cult of St Martin of Tours. This must have been an overwhelming experience for the king: St. Martin subsequently became the patron saint of Clovis and the Merovingian dynasty to which he belonged. Having consulted the leaders of his army, upon whose loyalty he was dependent, Clovis was baptised by Bishop Remigius in Reims at Christmas 498 or 499, together with numerous members of his army.11
On the occasion of his baptism, Clovis received a message of congratulation from Avitus of Vienne, the leading bishop of the time in the Burgundian kingdom. Avitus' letter indicates that Clovis regarded his baptism as constituting a new religious legitimisation of his rule. Later, in West Frankish and French tradition, the anointment by Remigius - a traditional part of the baptismal rites - was interpreted as being an anointment as a king.
No less than the Catholics surrounding Clovis, the Arians also hoped to win him over. His decision in favour of the Catholic side has often been seen as having a purely political rationale. One aim that held considerable political significance for him was the elimination of his most powerful political opponent in Gaul, the Visigothic kingdom. It is often claimed that his decision in favour of Catholic Christianity enabled him to enlist the support of Catholic Christians under Visigothic rule. However, the idea ofthe Catholic elite in the Visigoth kingdom sympathising with the Frankish opponent rests solely on Gregory of Tours's biased narrative. There are no facts to support it. Clovis' decision gained its significance from his transformation of the Frankish confederation into a powerful Frankish kingdom by ruthlessly eliminating all rival Frankish kings. This kingdom was able to achieve and, despite its weaknesses, retain a position of supremacy in Europe for a considerable period of time.
The comprehensive political re-mapping of Western Europe that resulted from the rise of various Germanic kingdoms brought about ecclesiastical fragmentation. Regional churches with their own traditions with regard to ecclesiastical law and liturgy emerged. During 511, Clovis summoned a council to meet at Orleans and its canons testify to the sovereignty in ecclesiastical
11 The alternative date of 507/8 is far less probable; cf. Dieter Geuenich, 'Chlodwigs Alemannenschlacht(en) und Taufe'.
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