Tournai

   Important early burial site that, like the site at Sutton Hoo for the Anglo-Saxons, offers important evidence for the early Frankish dynasty of the Merovingians. The tomb is that of the second king of the dynasty, Childeric (d. 481), the father of the dynasty's greatest king, Clovis (r. 481-511).
   The tomb was discovered in 1653 and given complete and careful descriptions and illustrations by Jean-Jacques Chifflet, an Antwerp doctor. It is most fortunate that Chifflet took such great care to document the artifacts of this discovery; most of them were stolen from the Cabinet des Medailles in Paris in 1831. A few pieces remain but the astonishing collection can only be appreciated by the account by Chifflet. The tomb contained a wide range of burial goods and was clearly identified as Childeric's by a gold signet ring bearing the king's name and his image showing him wearing his hair long (a tradition of the dynasty to come). The find also contained war goods including a spear, his horse's head with its harness, a battleaxe, and two swords exquisitely inlaid with gold and garnets. There was also a hoard of one hundred gold coins and two hundred silver coins. The burial site contained numerous other items such as a crystal globe, gold buckles, gold belt mounts, and a magnificent cloak embroidered with three hundred bees or cicadas of gold and garnet.
   
   Childeric's signet ring, cast, and impression (Ashmoleon Museum, Oxford)
   Chifflet's discovery is important because of the light it shines on the first Merovingian kings; it suggests something of the contacts and wealth they had. The use of garnets, for example, suggests Gothic influence; it became traditional in Frankish metalwork. The coin hoard and various decorative ornaments suggest contacts with Constantinople and the Eastern Empire. The coins also demonstrate the growing wealth of the emerging dynasty. The grave goods, furthermore, reveal something of the character of Childeric's court. Burial of the horse's head along with certain other goods clearly reveals the pagan character of the king and his court. But he was no wandering Germanic king searching for a livelihood. Instead, he was most likely a settled warrior king who had become an ally of the late Roman Empire. As recent archeological work around the area has shown, the grave at Tournai was close to a Roman cemetery and a Roman road, which suggests the influence of late Roman culture on this early Frankish king.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Geary, Patrick. Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
 ♦ Lasko, Peter. The Kingdom of the Franks: North-West Europe before Charlemagne. London: Thames and Hudson, 1971.
 ♦ Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. The Long-Haired Kings and Other Studies in Frankish History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982.
 ♦ Wood, Ian. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman, 1994.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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