The Conversion of Clovis, King of the Franks, During the Battle of Tolbiac

February 3, 2014

The Marriage of Clovis and St. Clotilde.

The Marriage of Clovis and St. Clotilda.

About the middle of the fifth century there lived in France a great and powerful King whose name was Clovis. He was not a Christian, but he was married to a noble Princess, who was not only a good Christian, but a great Saint. Her name was Clotilda.

Now, Clotilda loved her husband with the most tender affection, and the only thing that made her unhappy was that he was a pagan, and did not know about the true God. But she knew that God hears the prayers of those who pray to Him with confidence. So every day of her life she prayed to Him to bring her husband to the knowledge of the one true Faith.

Statue of St. Clotilda In The Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

Statue of St. Clotilda In The Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

God heard her prayer, and in His own good time granted it in a way which showed that nothing is impossible or difficult to Him….

In happened in the year 496 that a war broke out between the Franks, of whom Clovis was the King, and the Germans, who came with a great army into France to take part of it by force, and add it to their own kingdom. Clovis went out at the head of a powerful army to meet them, and a great battle was fought on the plains of Tolbiac….

Clotilda…wept, and her heart was full of grief, for she knew the danger he was so soon to be in, and she knew also that if he died on the field of battle, he would never see God in Heaven, because he was still a pagan.

Clovis and St. Clotilda, painting by Antoine-Jean Gros.

“My own dear husband,” said the pious Queen, “you are going to fight a great battle: if you want to gain the victory, call upon the God of the Christians; He alone is Master of the whole world, and is called the God of armies. If you call upon Him with confidence, no power on earth will over come you; you will certainly triumph over your enemies, even if their numbers were far greater than yours.”

The King promised to remember these parting words, and mounting on his war-horse, set out for the battle-field. Clotilda shut herself up in her oratory, and prayed without ceasing to God for him.

In the meantime the two armies met, and the conflict was terrible. For a long time it was doubtful which would gain the victory, for both armies fought with the greatest bravery. At length the Franks began to give way; the commander of the infantry was wounded, and the soldiers turned and fled.

Clovis

When the King saw this, he rode at the head of his cavalry to meet the victorious enemy, and soon drove them back. For some time the victory seemed to be on his side, but in the end he had the grief to see his brave horsemen also flying before the Germans. He called upon them to turn back; he promised them great rewards if they drove back the enemy; he threatened them with death if they refused; but to no purpose they seemed not to hear him, and fled away in terror.

At this moment Aurelian, a Christian General in his army, rode up to him, and said: “O my King, call upon the God of Clotilda, and you will yet gain the victory.”

Clovis at the Battle of Tolbiac in 496 and calling upon the God of his wife Clotilde to help him.

Clovis at the Battle of Tolbiac in 496 and calling upon the God of his wife Clotilde to help him.

Then the King, remembering the words of the Queen, remained for a moment in deep thought. After this he raised his hands and eyes to Heaven, and cried out: “O Jesus Christ, Whom Clotilda calls the Son of the Living God, Who comest to the help of those who call upon Thee, and givest the victory to those who hope in Thee, I ask Thee to help me, for now I believe in Thee. If Thou wilt grant me the victory to-day over my enemies, and if I obtain from Thee this proof of Thy power, I will at once become a Christian. I have called upon my gods, and they have not heard me; so I know they have no power to help me, because they will not come to the assistance of those that call upon them. Thee, O God of Clotilda, do I now call upon; in Thee I now believe; grant, then, that I may overcome my enemies.”

No sooner had he said these words than the Germans began to retreat. Their General was slain, and there was no one to command them. For a long time did the victorious Franks pursue them, and great was the slaughter. At length a herald ran to the King, saying: “O King, cease to slay our people, and we will all submit to you.” The King gave orders for an end to be put to the carnage, and then returned home with his victorious army.

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Clovis, mindful of his vow, embraced the Christian Faith, and was baptized by St. Remigius with great pomp, along with an immense multitude of his subjects.

 

Rev. D. Chisholm, The Catechism in Examples (London: R & T Washbourne, Ltd., 1919), 44-7.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 356

 

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