Reccared I

Reccared I
(d. 601)
   Son of the last Visigothic Arian king of Spain, Leovigild, and brother of the rebellious Hermenegild, Reccared was the first Catholic Christian king of Spain (r. 573/586-601). Although he broke from his father's religion, Reccared built upon Leovigild's efforts to unify the kingdom under one religious faith. He held an important church council to confirm the place of the new faith in the kingdom and promoted the ideal of sanctified kingship, with the support of the church. He also took great strides to enforce his authority over the Visigothic nobility in Spain and to extend the power of the Visigothic kingdom in Europe through marriage alliances and warfare.
   During the reign of Leovigild, both Reccared and his brother Hermenegild played important roles at court. Their father was a successful king who enjoyed victories over other peoples in Spain, including the Byzantines. He also cultivated an almost imperial ideal of kingship in Spain, a legacy Reccared later enjoyed. Reccared and his brother were made coregents with Leovigild in 573, a step designed to strengthen Leovigild's hold in the kingdom and to establish a royal dynasty in Spain. In 578, Leovigild, in imitation of the Roman emperors, founded a new city, now Toledo, which he named Reccopolis after his younger son. Perhaps because of the favoritism shown him by his father, Reccared remained loyal to Leovigild and did not join the rebellion of Hermenegild in 579. Under the influence of his Catholic Merovingian wife, Ingunde, and Leander of Seville, archbishop and older brother of Isidore, Hermenegild converted to Catholic Christianity. Conflict between father and son continued until 584, when the dispute was resolved. The murder of Hermenegild in 585 paved the way for the eventual succession of Reccared to the throne on his father's death in 586.
   As king in his own name, Reccared built on the legacy of his father. Even in terms of religion, Reccared can be seen to have continued his father's policies, with the exception that the unifying religion in Visigothic Spain was Catholic Christianity, not Arian Christianity as his father had hoped. In 587 Reccared converted to Catholic Christianity, which brought him and the kingdom in line with the Hispano-Roman population as well as with his sometime rival the Franks. His conversion also found support from the established Catholic church and the pope, Gregory the Great, with whom Reccared began to correspond. Although generally accepted in Spain, Reccared's conversion did meet some opposition from the Arian bishops, who were supported by the king's stepmother, Gosvintha. This opposition notwithstanding, Reccared converted the Visigoths to Catholic Christianity, and to celebrate and confirm his conversion Reccared held a great church council, the Third Council of Toledo, in 589. The council was attended by the five archbishops of Spain, some fifty Catholic bishops, eight former Arian bishops, and many Arian priests and secular nobles. All participants at the council confessed the Nicene Creed, confirming their acceptance of Catholic Christianity, and the council passed a series of laws for the church in Spain. The former Arian bishops were welcomed into the Catholic church and confirmed in their sees. Reccared had successfully unified the kingdom under the banner of religion and was recognized by contemporaries for his great accomplishment.
   Reccared's successes were not limited to the sphere of religion. He built on his father's policy of bringing the nobility to heel and asserting royal authority over point, he uncovered a conspiracy against him led by a leading noble. The rebel was captured and forced to endure the decalvatio (which was either the shaving of his head or scalping; the meaning is uncertain), had his right hand chopped off, and was led through Toledo on a donkey to send a warning to other possible rebels. The king also maintained good relations with the papacy and generally prospered in the international arena, especially in his dealings with the Merovingian Franks. His father had arranged a marriage for him with Rigund, the daughter of Chilperic I. But Chilperic's death ended the possibility of the marriage, and the revolt and death of Hermenegild further complicated relations with the Merovingians. Despite concerns over the fate of Hermenegild's wife and the enmity of Guntram, the most important Merovingian king of the day, Reccared arranged to marry a Merovingian princess. The marriage in fact failed to take place, and Reccared married a Visigothic woman, Baddo. Nevertheless, his ability to arrange the marriage in the first place demonstrates his stature in Merovingian eyes. Moreover, although Guntram approved the marriage, he later attacked Visigothic territory but was easily defeated by Reccared.
   Reccared also furthered his father's policy of enhancing the stature of Visigothic kingship, elevating it to almost imperial rank. Indeed, he clearly ruled as an emperor in his kingdom, as had Leovigild. Reccared also organized larger administrative units in the kingdom as subdivisions of an empire. His relationship with the church in Spain also resembled that of a Roman emperor with the church in the empire. Building upon the precedents of his father, Reccared left an important legacy to the Visigothic kingdom in Spain, a legacy that survived the murder of his son and successor, Liuva II, and the end of the dynasty in 603.
   See also
 ♦ Bury, John B. History of the Later Roman Empire: From the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian. 2 vols. 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 1959.
 ♦ Collins, Roger. Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity, 400-1000. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Gregory of Tours. History of the Franks. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1974.
 ♦ Heather, Peter. The Goths. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
 ♦ Isidore of Seville. Isidore of Seville's History of the Goths, Vandals, and Suevi. 2d rev. ed. Trans. Guido Donini and Gordon B. Ford. Leiden: Brill, 1970.
 ♦ Thompson, E. A. The Goths in Spain. Oxford: Clarendon, 1969.
 ♦ Wolfram, Herwig. History of the Goths. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
 ♦ ---. The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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