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PhD ceremony Mr. J.L. Stegeman: The growth of an Austrasian identity. Processes of identification and legend construction in the Northeast of the Regnum Francorum, 600-800

When:Th 22-05-2014 at 16:15
Where:Doopsgezinde Kerk, Oude Boteringestraat 33, Groningen

PhD ceremony: Mr. J.L. Stegeman

Dissertation: The growth of an Austrasian identity. Processes of identification and legend construction in the Northeast of the Regnum Francorum, 600-800

Promotor(s): prof. D.E.H. de Boer

Faculty: Arts

In the 7th and 8th centuries the kingdom of the Franks was divided in three sub-kingdoms, ruled by the Merovingian dynasty: Neustria (West), Burgundy (Southeast) and Austrasia (Northeast). Hans Stegeman’s study addresses developments in and characteristics of Austrasia, concluding that a specific Austrasian identity developed between 600 and 800, which later deeply influenced the Carolingian period.

The characteristics of Austrasia are analyzed through three approaches: kingship, the way Austrasians dealt with the sacred, and the relationship between aristocrats and kings. The analysis uses mainly narrative sources, among which are the Chronicle of Fredegar (c. 660), the Annales Mettenses Priores (c. 805) and several saints’ Lives (Vitae Amandi I and II, Vita Arnulfi, others).

Concerning kingship, the study traces the development of the concept of kingship as an “office”, which is illustrated by Fredegar’s approval of a decent Austrasian kingship, carried by aristocratic counselors. The Austrasian way of dealing with the sacred – while contributing to a kingship concerned with orthodoxy and correctness – is characterized by the construction of a missionary ideology which became an important element of the Austrasians’ self-perception. Analysis of the relationship between Austrasian aristocrats and their kings shows the growing influence of aristocrats on Austrasian kings, which at the time when power was passing from the Merovingians to the Carolingians helped form Frankish kingship.

These developments regarding kingship, the sacred and the position of the aristocracy show how Austrasian kings and their aristocratic counselors, as well as Austrasian saints and monasteries, contributed to the formation of an Austrasian "Kulturraum”.

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