2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Regime “Sacralization”?:
The Coronation of the Frankish Kings

Phénix Chen

Department of History, National Taiwan Normal University

The coronation of Christian kings is, in fact, a successful institution in the maneuvers of political power in human history. The ceremony of coronationis highly symbolic in terms of theological ideology, which contributes to a well-grounded and flexible theoretical foundation for the discourse on the essence and value of regal power.

The old political, legal, and social systems of the Roman Empire were being forgotten in the Early Middle Ages. Politically, in the early phase of establishing their supreme power, the Franks could not detach themselves from pagan religious practices. During their gradual conversion to Christianity, the kings of the Merovingian dynasty still insisted on their descent from the Clovis lineage as the key principle of royal succession, which meant that the Germanic custom of kings dividing their realms among their sons still remained in force. The Roman concept of the state, defined as an organization of public interest, was replaced by the concept of the realm as the king’s personal asset. That is to say that the kingdom was viewed as an asset attached to ancestral heredity. Sons of kings, therefore, were equally entitled to royal land and titles. This practice lasted until the mid-ninth century. However, during the transition from the Merovingian to the Carolingian dynasty, a new practice came into being: the religious coronation, which was introduced to legitimize regime change. To be more precise, coronation transformed the traditional political framework that based royal succession on lineage; it rendered to successive regimes a more elevated and sacred definition of power so as to surpass the customs and universal political concepts of the age. This innovative definition of regal power, which was very much indebted to Christian universal ideology, rendered sacred and inviolable the essence of regal power. The concept of “king” thus gradually combined the connotations of spiritual office and secular rule. This “duality” is nothing but the outer manifestation of the sacralization of  the Carolingian Kings.

This essay thus studies the genesis of the sacralization of regal power by focusing on the coronations of the Frankish Kingdom between the eighth and tenth centuries. It begins with the origins of the coronation, and investigates the stake that the Frankish Kingdom held in the coronation in terms of political ideology and interests. The essay then examines the political and ideological impact that the king’s coronationexerted on the balance of power between the authorities of state and church. Finally, this essay attempts to elucidate and interpret the aggrandizement of regal power in the Middle Ages from the perspective of the sacralization of the Frankish Kingdom.


Keywords: the Frankish Kingdom, sacralization, anointment, coronation, the Merovingian Dynasty, the Carolingian Dynasty, temporal power, spiritual power