Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Merovingian & Carolingian Origins of the Imperial Patriarchate

The ethnic heritage of the modern institution of the Imperial Patriarchate of St. Stephen stretch back over 1500 years to the ancients Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties that ruled much of Europe from after the fall of the Roman Empire until the Napoleonic era. The Merovingian dynasty was Frankish and considered the oldest ruling dynasty of modern-day France (which takes its name from the Franks). Clovis I, grandson of the founder of that dynasty, united Gaul (essentially modern-day France) under their rule in the fifth century. Their territory expanded to include much of the Germanic territory, as well as Burgundy. They were succeeded by the Carolingians, which takes its name from Charlemagne, crowned Emperor of the Romans by the Pope in the year 800. Charlemagne also conquered much of Italy from the Lombards and established the Imperial Kingdom of Italy. Charlemagne is considered the founder of the Holy Roman Empire.

Lothair I, son of Charlemagne, King of Italy
Two of the main territories within the ethnic heritage of the Anglo-Italian Imperial Patriarchate, Etruria (Tuscany) and Westphalia, have deep roots that go back to the Holy Roman Empire and beyond. During the Napoleonic era, those two territories were established as kingdoms within the French Empire. Their legacy came to the Imperial Patriarchate later via right of the Holy Roman Empire in a form of reclamation, and thus the heritage of the Napoleonic era remains by right as a valued part of that heritage. Etruria, due to its rule, also brings Spanish legacy.

Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain,
Queen of Etruria (center), with her
son Louis II, Napoleonic King of Etruria (left)
and daughter Princess Maria Luisa Carlotta.
Napoleon (himself an Italian), upon becoming Emperor, saw the new French Empire as a legitimate reestablishment of the ancient Merovingian dynasty. That dynasty is the oldest in France, even older than the Bourbons. Their symbol was the bee, and thus Napoleon made regular use of the bee as his own symbol. His other (and more famous) symbol of the Empire was the eagle, reminiscent of both the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.

Emperor Napoleon in regalia
as King of Italy
Also, as ecclesiastical claimant to the temporal patrimony of Florence and the ancient Margraviate of Tuscany in the Holy Roman Empire, the Imperial Patriarchate holds succession to the honorific title of Imperial Vice-King of Italy in the Holy Roman Empire. The Vice-King was the crowned, de facto ruler of the Imperial Kingdom of Italy (the title of King of Italy was usually held by the Holy Roman Emperor). Indeed, that title has links to the very origins of the Imperial Patriarchate’s patronage of St. Stephen the Deacon and Protomartyr. The first Vice-King of Italy, during the first period of Carolingian rule of Italy, was Bosone I d'Arles, King of Lower Burgundy and Provence. He was given the title by Charles the Bald, Holy Roman Emperor, King of West Francia, and King of Italy. There exists an image of Bosone humbling himself before Saint Stephen the Deacon and Protomartyr, celestial Patron of the Patriarchate of St. Stephen, in a fresco in the Abbey of Charlieu in Burgundy. Also, the Basilica of Arles was dedicated to St. Stephen. The Carolingian Kingdom of Arles succeeded the Merovingian Kingdom of Burgundy and is a major line of the Margraves of Tuscany and Kings of Italy. 

King Bosone of Lower Burgundy and Provence, Imperial Vice-King of Italy,
humbles himself before Saint Stephen the Deacon and Protomartyr,
celestial Patron of the Patriarchate of St. Stephen.
From a fresco in the Abbey of Charlieu in Burgundy.
Also within the heritage of the Imperial Patriarchate are direct Merovingian titles recognised and held by family right by the Imperial Patriarch and the Governor-General. Their family titles were given in time the Imperial Patriarchate and thus descend with the specific semi-hereditary, semi-elected ecclesiastical offices to which they are tied.

The descent from the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties is depicted in the Imperial Patriarchate’s symbology. The basic coat of arms of the Anglo-Italian Imperial Patriarch features a white eagle on a blue shield.  The Frankish eagle on the shield recalls both Carolingian heritage and the Merovingians, for the shield is similar to that of the Merovingian Kingdom of Burgundy. Holding imperial dignity and co-imperial rank, the shield is depicted upon a golden double-headed eagle.

Basic coat of arms of the 
Imperial Patriarch of St. Stephen
The Anglo-Italian Imperial Patriarchate of today has a rich ethnic heritage rooted in the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties stretching from the Italian peninsula to the northern Rheinland and spanning over 1500 years of history. Latino and Germanic, it is a composite of distinct and ancient legacies united together in one ecclesiastical sovereignty. The Imperial Patriarchate carries those legacies into the future.