The Power Shift from the Merovingian’s to the Carolingian’s, and the Papal-Frankish Alliance

In the world of the Franks there were two important families, the Merovingian’s and the Carolingian’s. For a few centuries the Merovingian’s were the family that provided the kings, but the Merovingian’s as a family had some pretty obvious and problematic issues, eventually these problems led to a complete shift in power. This power shift switches the role of the king providing family to the Carolingian’s, an important family who had previously had members hold the position of Mayor of the Palace. But most importantly why did this power shift occur, and how did it occur? After Rome fell the Papacy became under the protection of the Byzantine empire(the eastern half of the Roman empire that had survived), but when time went on the Papacy and the Pope realized that the Byzantine empire was not an ideal protector. This causes them to seek for a new protector which leads the Papacy realizing that the Franks were an ideal protector, hence bringing upon the Papal-Frankish Alliance. But what were the two factors that helped make this alliance a reality?

The Power Shift

Merovingian’s like I mentioned above had some issues. These included: lack of skill in administration, during the mid 7th century an occurrence of human sacrifice occurred which was concerning due to the fact that the Franks were converted Christians(human sacrifice is an obvious no in Christianity), and most importantly the family fought among themselves throughout the 6th century physically to get closer to the title of king. This of course really indicated that a dynasty change was much needed.

The Carolingian’s were another prominent and respected family. During the time of the Merovingian’s reign, the Carolingian’s like I mentioned above held the title of Mayor of the Palace, and were in charge of a lot of the work to do with maintaining the kingdom, because the Merovingian’s were rather incapable. So in short the Carolingian’s were the behind the scene governing family. The reason why the Carolingian’s were prevented from taking over the title of kingship was because that title had to be gained by someone blessing the family to power. If the Carolingian’s had ignored this and had just stepped up and forced the Merovingian’s to hand them that title it would not look favorably to the Carolingian’s. 

So the only person that was deemed appropriate to do this blessing was Pope Zachary. So the Mayor of the Palace at the time Pepin the Short asked Pope Zachary if the situation of the Franks was a good situation, and also requesting the change of dynasty. Pope Zachary stated that the situation of the Franks was not a good one and gave his blessing for a change of dynasty readily, in 751. Which in turn was the power shift from the Merovingian’s to the Carolingian’s.

The Papal-Frankish Alliance

The first factor that brought about the alliance was the spread of Christianity. You see a lot of the Germanic tribes were now converting to Christianity, and to bring about more people converting an alliance between the church and the strongest Germanic tribe the Franks, would cause more people to convert. Because the Franks were a large influence and could influence the other tribes to convert.

The second factor was protection. Before the Papal-Frankish Alliance, the Papacy was under the protection of the Byzantine empire. But because the church was being under attack by the Lombard’s(a Germanic tribe that did not see eye to eye with the church), and also the Byzantine empire was under attack by Germanic tribes which left them unreliable, leaving the church lacking protection. The church’s relationship with the Byzantine empire wasn’t very friendly either at the time, because the empire would try to intervene with church affairs, and would even try to throw a Pope out. So this alliance with the Franks left the Church with new and reliable protection from their enemies.


The power shift from the Merovingian’s to the Carolingian’s occurred partly because the Merovingian’s had some issues including the family fighting among themselves, and also the Carolingian’s(the family who had held the title of Mayor of the Palace), at a certain point were the ones that were mainly in charge of maintaining the kingdom. So in 751, after a request from Pepin the Short, to Pope Zachary, the power was shifted to the Carolingian’s. The two factors that brought about the Frankish-Papal alliance were, spreading Christianity(the Franks were the strongest of the Germanic tribes so that would be influential in this), and protection.

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