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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Raginfried and Duke Eudo fled into the south of France


[Sidenote:

719. KARL, STEWARD OF THE EMPIRE.]

He was now free to meet the rebellious Franks of France, who in the meantime had strengthened themselves by offering to Duke Eudo of Aquitaine the acknowledgment of his independent sovereignty in return for his support. A decisive battle was fought in the year 719, and Karl was again victorious. The nominal king, Chilperic II., Raginfried and Duke Eudo fled into the south of France. Karl began negotiations with the latter for the delivery of the fugitive king; but just at this time his own puppet, Clotar III., happened to die, and, as there was no other Merovingian left, the pretence upon which his stewardship was based obliged him to recognize Chilperic II. Raginfried resigned his office, and Karl was at last nominal Steward, and actual monarch, of the kingdom of the Franks.

His first movement was to deliver Germany from its invaders, and reestablish the dependency of its native Dukes. The death of the fierce Radbod enabled him to reconquer West Friesland: the Saxons were then driven back and firmly held within their original boundaries, and finally the Alemanni and Bavarians were compelled to make a formal acknowledgment of the Frank rule. As regards Thuringia, which seems to have remained a Dukedom, the chronicles of the time give us little information. It is probable, however, that the invasions of the Saxons on the north and the Slavonic tribes on the east gave the people

of Central Germany no opportunity to resist the authority of the Franks. The work of conversion, encouraged by Pippin of Heristall as a political measure, was still continued by the zeal of the Irish and Anglo-Saxon missionaries, and in the beginning of the eighth century it received a powerful impulse from a new apostle, a man of singular ability and courage.

He was a Saxon of England, born in Devonshire in the year 680, and Winfried by name. Educated in a monastery, at a time when the struggle between Christianity and the old Germanic faith was at its height, he resolved to devote his life to missionary labors. He first went to Friesland, during the reign of Radbod, and spent three years in a vain attempt to convert the people. Then he visited Rome, offered his services to the Pope, and was commissioned to undertake the work of christianizing Central Germany. On reaching the field of his labors, he manifested such zeal and intelligence that he soon became the leader and director of the missionary enterprise. It is related that at Geismar, in the land of the Hessians, he cut down with his own hands an aged oak-tree, sacred to the god Thor. This and other similar acts inspired the people with such awe that they began to believe that their old gods were either dead or helpless, and they submissively accepted the new faith without understanding its character, or following it otherwise than in observing the external forms of worship.

[Sidenote: 725.]

On a second visit to Rome, Winfried was appointed by the Pope Archbishop of Mayence, and ordered to take, thenceforth, the name of Bonifacius (Benefactor), by which he is known in history. He was confirmed in this office by Karl, to whom he had rendered valuable political services by the conversion of the Thuringians, and who had a genuine respect for his lofty and unselfish character. The spot where he built the first Christian church in Central Germany, about twelve miles from Gotha, at the foot of the Thuringian Mountains, is now marked by a colossal candle-stick of granite, surmounted by a golden flame.


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