This article contextualizes the letter that Radegund (c. 520–587 CE), who had been married to the Merovingian king Clothar, wrote to the bishops of Gaul to establish her new convent. Gregory of Tours preserved this letter in his account of the rebellion that erupted in Radegund’s convent two years after she died. By analyzing this letter as a tool of Gregory’s historical narrative and then evaluating it as an independent source for Radegund’s life, this paper demonstrates that Gregory’s deliberate misinterpretation of Radegund’s letter illuminates the conflict between holy women and bishops for religious influence in Late Antiquity.

In 589 CE, about 40 nuns of the Convent of the Holy Cross at Poitiers staged a revolt against their abbess, Leubovera, whom they accused of cruelty, neglect, playing board games contrary to the monastic rule, using the altar cloth to make a dress for her niece, and keeping a castrated man at her side like an empress.1 The ringleaders of the rebellion, Frankish princesses Clotild and Basina, led their fellow sisters out of the monastery in violation of their vows. After several bishops of Gaul excommunicated the women for refusing to return to the cloister, the nuns’ supporters attacked the bishops inside the church of Saint Hilary. That mob, described by Gregory of Tours as consisting of “thieves, murderers, adulterers, and those guilty of every crime,”2 dragged the abbess out of the monastery, imprisoned her, and looted the sanctuary. Governing officials had to end the revolt by force. Only after the bishops declared Leubovera innocent, and permanently reinstated her as abbess, did the unrest finally end.

Gregory of Tours, one of the bishops who participated in the ecclesiastical investigation into the events at Holy Cross, had previously provided shelter to the rebel nuns on their journey.3 He justified his actions—and provided damage control for the episcopate as a whole—through his account of the rebellion in his Ten Books of Histories, or the Decem libri historiarum (henceforth the Histories).4 As Shane Bjornlie has shown, writing history was Gregory’s method of establishing authority and protecting himself from the constant political upheavals in his lifetime, in which Gregory himself played a significant role.5 In the Histories, Gregory distanced himself from the rebel nuns by interweaving the terrible events of 589 with lavish praise of Radegund, the founder of the convent who died two years before the insurrection.

Radegund was a Thuringian princess taken captive by Clothar, king of the Franks, after he conquered her people and massacred most of her relatives.6 After ten years of a childless marriage to Clothar, and soon after he killed her last surviving brother, Radegund left him to become a nun. She eventually founded the female monastery at Poitiers with Clothar’s financial assistance. In the Histories, Gregory quotes a long letter that Radegund sent to neighboring bishops, in which she entrusted them with the protection of her new convent.7 This paper highlights the invaluable information in Radegund’s letter related to the precariousness of her political and social position. At the same time, it will be clear that Gregory’s use of the letter served his own, very different rhetorical strategy within his narrative of the rebellion of 589.

Despite the rarity with which Gregory quoted documentary sources,8 Radegund’s letter has not been properly analyzed for its importance to the themes of Gregory’s historiography. E. T. Dailey’s article on Gregory’s intentional distortion of Radegund’s convent foundation narrative uses the letter only as evidence of Radegund’s adoption of the Rule of Caesarius, which required complete confinement of the nuns in her monastery.9 Jennifer Edwards, in her monograph on Radegund’s convent and the abbesses’ negotiation of authority down through the centuries, doubts the letter’s authenticity. Edwards argues that Gregory “certainly could have tailored its contents—and Radegund’s concerns—to that particular situation.”10 Robert Flierman, on the other hand, notes the risk that Gregory would have taken by tampering with the letter, considering the “multiple authors and/or recipients, some of whom were still alive by the time Gregory came to circulate his Histories.”11 There is a 13th-century copy of the letter preserved in the monastery’s archive that contains minor variations, but the chronological errors in the bishops’ signatures suggest that the changes were later interpolations.12 This article follows Flierman by assuming that Radegund did write a letter to the bishops at the start of her undertaking, and that the substance of that letter has been preserved in Gregory’s text.

This article contextualizes Radegund’s letter within the Histories. Its location in Gregory’s narrative of the rebellion stresses Radegund’s obedience to the episcopate, in contrast to her convent’s later intransigence. I investigate the letter’s contents based on what we know about Radegund’s life. Building on Suzanne Wemple’s work on Frankish marriage and inheritance law, as well as the works of Janet Nelson and E. T. Dailey on Merovingian queens, I argue that Radegund’s appeal to the bishops was a safeguard against multiple legal, social, and structural threats—both secular and episcopal—to the future abbesses’ autonomous control of the monastery.13

The dissonance between Radegund’s letter and Gregory’s surrounding narrative illustrates the gendered conflicts for religious influence in Late Antiquity. Bishops often formed uneasy alliances with holy women, promoting them even as they worked to subordinate them under episcopal authority.14 Gregory and Radegund provide a unique case study of this phenomenon, since Radegund’s own narrative voice survives to challenge his version. Her letter provides raw material for counternarratives of feminist historiography, which Blossom Stefaniw recently argued is a pressing need in the study of early Christianity.15 This article answers Stefaniw’s call by contextualizing the competing rhetorical strategies of Radegund and Gregory.

Gregory of Tours wrote ten books of history, covering from God’s creation of the world to 591 CE. However, Books 5–10 cover just 16 years of events in Merovingian Gaul (575–591 CE).16 As stated in his epilogue, Gregory completed it “in the twenty-first year after my ordination,” that is, 593/94 CE.17 A final revision of all ten books near the end of Gregory’s life makes the Histories a single, homogenous work.18 The Histories characterize sixth-century Gaul as a landscape of violent power struggles between different authorities, where kings regularly appointed bishops and summoned religious councils, while bishops frequently performed administrative and diplomatic roles.19 Focused on the roles of kings and bishops in improving the moral order of society, Gregory’s narrative alternated between good and evil deeds to judge the morality of different historical figures. He narrated human history not only to persuade Christians to live in accordance with God’s will but also to anticipate the coming of the Final Judgment and the end of all history.20

Abridged in later Carolingian manuscripts and titled “History of the Franks,” the Histories instead became famous as a chronology of Frankish kings.21 Lost in these versions was Gregory’s original intention to write history through a religious lens, rather than an ethnic or political history. In the words of Martin Heinzelmann, “Gregory’s stories were subordinated first and foremost to the spiritual finality of the Church.”22 The abridged versions, focused on kings and wars, exclude the narrative of the revolt at the Convent of the Holy Cross. However, Radegund and her convent played a major role in Gregory of Tours’s religious understanding of history. The rebellion signaled the devil’s interference with Radegund’s sacred undertaking, foreshadowing the future arrival of the Antichrist.23

Before resurfacing in the context of her convent and the revolt after her death (Books 9 and 10), Radegund’s introduction in Book 3 of the Histories is brief.24 After slaughtering and conquering the Thuringian people, Clothar returned home with a captive: Radegund, the young daughter of the late King Berthar. The next part of her life is listed in rapid succession: She married Clothar, lost her only surviving brother, and became a nun. Her life as a nun is Gregory’s main interest. He praised Radegund for surrendering the lofty title of Queen of the Franks and exchanging her royal garments for a nun’s habit. By becoming “wealthy in prayers, fastings, and almsgivings,” Radegund “shined forth so much that she was considered great among the people.”25 Her habitual almsgiving reflected Gregory’s ideal of Christian social morality, and he therefore prioritized it over the details of her life before her ascetic conversion.26 At the beginning of Book 9, Gregory briefly mentions Radegund’s funeral as a thematic counterpoint to the convent’s revolt at the end of the same book.27

Other sources reveal the personal relationship between Gregory and Radegund during her life.28 The poetry of their mutual friend Venantius Fortunatus records the frequent exchanges of gifts, visits, and verses between Fortunatus, Gregory, Radegund, and her foster daughter, Agnes. In one poem to Gregory, Fortunatus passes on the greetings of Radegund and Agnes, “dear women, bound in mind to him/whom they cherish…like daughters.”29 Radegund also played a role in securing Gregory’s irregular ordination to the bishopric of Tours. Gregory had been appointed not by the laity or clergy of Tours, as was usual, but by Sigibert I as a politically loyal outsider. Gregory thus required Radegund’s help in defending the legitimacy of his office.30

Although her introduction in the Histories is short, Gregory provides much more detail about Radegund’s funeral in the Glory of the Confessors, including his own major role in fulfilling the funeral duties of the bishop, since the bishop of Poitiers, Maroveus, was not in town at the time.31 The presence of “citizens and the rest of the distinguished men who had gathered for the funeral of the blessed queen,”32 who insisted that Maroveus would not mind if Gregory blessed the altar in his absence, prove Radegund’s fame and network of influence during her life. In contrast, the Histories focus on Radegund’s obedience and piety, to highlight how far her convent had gone astray after her death.

Below is a complete translation of Radegund’s letter:33

To the holy lords most worthy of the apostolic seat, fathers in Christ, all the bishops, Radegund the sinner. The beginning of a suitable arrangement has a strong impact when it is entrusted to all the fathers—physicians and shepherds—for the sake of the flock committed to them and is delivered to [the fathers’] hearing, whose participation can supply a plan for charity, the approval of authority, the intercession of prayer. And ever since I, released from secular bonds, with divine mercy providing and inspiring, seemed to be transferred—with Christ leading me—to the rule of voluntary religion, thinking, with the enthusiasm of a mind inclined to the success of other women as well, how—the Lord willing—my wishes for the other women might be fulfilled, and the most excellent lord king Chlothar providing and rewarding me, I established a monastery of girls in the city of Poitiers. Once it was founded, I endowed the institution with as much of a donation as royal generosity bestowed on me.34

In addition, for the congregation collected through me in the presence of Christ, I adopted the Rule under which the holy Caesaria lived, which the solicitude of blessed Caesarius, bishop of Arles, gathered suitably from the institution of the holy fathers. With the consent of the most blessed men, both of this city and even the other pontiffs, and by election of our congregation, I installed as abbess my lady and sister Agnes, whom I had raised and educated from an early age like a daughter. I committed myself to obeying her—second to God—because of her ordination and in accordance with the Rule. Observing apostolic form, both I and the sisters handed over to her by charter from the earthly substance that we were seen to possess, keeping back nothing of our own while in the monastery, out of fear of [the example of] Ananias and Sapphira.35 But because the movements and times of the human condition are uncertain—indeed, since the world is hurrying toward its end, when some people prefer to serve their own will rather than the divine will—I, led by zeal for God, devout and still living, put forth this page of my proposal, which is deserving of your apostolacy, in the name of Christ.36

And since I could not do it in person, I lay prostrate, as if cast down at your feet, through the proxy of a letter—invoking you through the Father and Son and Holy Spirit and the day of fearful Judgment—to ensure that no tyrant stands in the way, but that the legitimate King crowns [my undertaking], so that, if by chance after my death, any person or bishop of that place or power of a prince or anyone else—which we do not believe would happen—tried to disturb the congregation, by malevolent persuasion or legal maneuver, either to break the Rule or to [impose] any abbess other than my sister Agnes, whom the benediction of the most blessed Germanus consecrated in the presence of his brothers; or the congregation itself—which is not possible—should strive through complaint to change either certain powers within the monastery or the possessions of the monastery, whatever person or bishop of the place would be minded to claim something by a new privilege, beyond what the previous bishops or others had when I was alive; or anyone tried to go beyond the limits of the Rule [alternative: “tried to depart from the monastery in violation of the Rule”]; or about the property which the most excellent lord Clothar, or the most excellent lord kings, his sons, conferred, and [which] I bequeathed to the monastery for its possession, which had been permitted by [Clothar’s] instructions and through the authorities of the most glorious lord kings Charibert, Guntram, Chilperic, and Sigibert, of which I obtained confirmation with the inclusion of an oath and signatures of their own hands; or from these things, which others, for the healing of their souls or likewise for the souls of the sisters, conferred of their own property, that some king or bishop or power or some person from among the sisters might, due to their own impious desire, try either to diminish [the monastery’s land] or call it back to their own ownership, let [that person] run afoul of your sanctity and that of your successors after God, through my prayer and the will of Christ. Let them, just as plunderers and despoilers of the poor, be kept outside your grace. With you opposing, let them never be able to diminish or change anything from our Rule or the possessions of the monastery. I also beseech that, when God wants our designated lady sister Agnes to depart this world, that an abbess from our congregation should be ordained in her place who is pleasing to God and [the congregation] itself, guarding the Rule and taking nothing away from the intention of holiness. For neither her own will nor anyone else’s should take precedence.37

But if—far be it—anyone should wish to act against the command of God and the authority of kings about the aforementioned conditions entrusted to God and his saints by prayer, either to diminish [the monastery] in person or in substance, or [if anyone] should attempt to inflict my aforementioned sister abbess Agnes with any distress, let [that person] run afoul of the judgment of God, the Holy Cross, and the blessed Mary, and the blessed confessors Hilary and Martin—to whom, second to God, I entrusted my sisters to be protected—[that person] should consider them as opponents and prosecutors. And you also, blessed bishop, and your successors, whom I diligently adopt as patrons in the cause of God if—far be it!—there should be someone who would attempt to work against these things, let it not be displeasing, for the sake of repelling and refuting the enemy of God, to run to the king whom this place should regard as ruler at that time, or to the city of Poitiers, for the sake of the matter commended to you all before the Lord; and labor as prosecutors against the injustice of others and as defenders of justice, so that no Catholic king may allow such a sin to be committed during his reign in any way, nor let them permit to be uprooted that which was confirmed by the will of God and of me and of their own kings.38

Likewise, in the name of that King whose ‘kingdom will have no end’39 and at whose approval kingdoms exist, who allowed them to live and even to reign, I invoke the princes, whom God has ordained to survive after my death for the sake of governing the people, to order that the monastery—which I had constructed by the permission and support of the lord kings, their fathers or grandfathers, and [that I] regulated according to the Rule and endowed—be governed under their protection and word together with the abbess Agnes. Let [the successor] permit nothing, neither our frequently mentioned abbess, nor anything belonging to our monastery, be troubled, or disturbed, or later diminished or changed in any way. But rather, that in the view of God together with the lord bishops, with me as suppliant before the Redeemer of nations, they order, just as I commend it to them, that it be defended and fortified, that they protect the slave women [alternative: “servants”] of God in His honor, in order that they be allied with the Defender of the poor and the Bridegroom of virgins perpetually in the eternal kingdom.40

Also, I invoke you, holy bishops and most excellent lord kings and the whole Christian people, by the Catholic faith in which you were baptized and in which you preserve the churches, that when God has ordered me to depart from this light, my body be buried in the church—whether it is complete or not—which we began to build in honor of holy Mary, the mother of the Lord, where many of our sisters were laid to rest as well. But if anyone should wish or attempt to do anything else afterward let them incur divine vengeance by the cross of Christ and blessed Mary, and with your mediation, may I deserve to obtain a little burial plot with the congregation of sisters in the place of that basilica. Also, let this petition of mine—which I have signed with my own hand—be kept in the archive of the universal Church, I beg with an outpouring of tears: that if necessity should require help against any wicked people, that if my sister Agnes the abbess, or her congregation, should ever ask to be aided by you, that the pious solace of your compassion might supply help with pastoral solicitude. Let them not consider themselves left destitute by me, they for whom God has prepared the protection of your grace. Recalling this before all your eyes through Him who, from the glorious cross entrusted the glorious virgin, his own mother, to the blessed apostle John. Just as the command of the Lord was fulfilled by [John], so may it be with you in what I, unworthy and lowly, commend to my lord fathers of the Church and to apostolic men. When you have preserved worthily what I deposited with you, may you deserve to renew the apostolic example deservedly as partners of He whose command you fulfill.41

This letter is impossible to date securely, but it was written sometime after 567 CE, when Agnes was installed as abbess and Radegund had requested and obtained a fragment of the True Cross from Constantinople (among other unspecified relics).42 In the letter, Radegund appeals to the bishops by emphasizing her dependence on them. She asks for help, not only from these specific bishops but also from their successors, “whom I diligently adopt as patrons in the cause of God.”43 Using the modesty topos common in the writings of her contemporaries,44 Radegund casts herself as a humble suppliant: “And since I could not do it in person, I lay prostrate, as if cast down at your feet, through the proxy of a letter,”45 and later, her request for this document to be preserved in the church archive is made “with an outpouring of tears.”46 Radegund thus shows her pious deference by invoking the common gestures of petition and submission before men of authority.47 Unlike the rebels after her death, Radegund refused to break her vows by leaving the cloister to submit her petition in person.

In Radegund’s own lifetime, however, a monastic uprising was only one of several possible threats to her sacred undertaking. Her fledgling community, like many monasteries at the time, had to cope with the systematic intrusion of bishops. For example, church councils in sixth-century Gaul repeatedly asserted that monasteries were under episcopal authority.48 A monastery founded by a woman only increased bishops’ desires to meddle. There were few institutionalized monasteries for women at the time in Gaul, and many bishops believed that women were too weak to lead a monastic life without eventually abandoning their vows and getting married.49 To rally a group of bishops to her cause, Radegund had to convince them that they could trust her community to be pious and obedient. Her letter assures the bishops that she disapproved of any violation of the Rule.50

To add to episcopal anxiety, female ascetics had the potential to overshadow the fame of bishops. Jo Ann McNamara notes that consecrated women, despite frequently forming alliances with bishops, posed a threat to episcopal authority due to the social influence that their celibacy afforded them.51 The centuries before Radegund and Gregory are full of examples of bishops trying to assert their authority over consecrated virgins, urging them to veil themselves, stay silent and indoors, and not form alliances with other men in celibate marriages.52 In sixth-century Gaul, individual holy men and women confronted an episcopacy that saw them as a threat to their institutional power, at a time when bishops had already lost significant power with the rise of the Merovingian kings.53

Of all the cloistered nuns in Poitiers, Radegund was particularly influential, and therefore dangerous to episcopal authority. Kings and bishops had a tenuous relationship of cooperation and competition in sixth-century Gaul ever since the consolidation of royal power under the Franks.54 Despite renouncing her marriage to King Clothar, Radegund never relinquished her political connections to the royal family and—despite the convent’s strict enclosure policy—frequently met with important guests.55 Her familial connections were essential in obtaining the relic of the True Cross in 567. The letters of the embassy were addressed to her cousin Amalafrid, who resided in Constantinople after escaping Clothar’s attack on the Thuringians.56 In the Histories, however, Gregory focuses not on Radegund’s political connections but her humility and obedience to bishops.57

Despite Gregory’s characterization, Radegund had clashed with at least one bishop during her life, the local Maroveus of Poitiers. Maroveus refused to install the relic of the True Cross in the monastery, and Radegund had to appeal for help from her former stepson, King Sigibert, who had Eufronius of Tours install it instead.58 Ray Van Dam and Ian Wood argue that Radegund’s convent, with its new relic, threatened to overshadow the importance of Maroveus’s patron, St. Hilary of Poitiers. Marc Widdowson suggests that Maroveus was motivated primarily by political considerations,59 while Barbara Rosenwein argues that Maroveus was concerned about the local laypeople’s ability to access the relic.60 In any case, this conflict is an important example of the struggle of different groups over sacred spaces, as well as the prestige and revenue that accompanied noteworthy relics.61

In her letter, Radegund requests that the bishops inform the king (whoever he may be at the time) of any intrusion on the Convent of the Holy Cross. She expresses her hope “that no Catholic king may allow such a sin to be committed during his reign in any way.”62 In the context of Gregory’s narrative, Radegund’s respect for the royal family is framed as an extension of her characteristic obedience. Despite this appeal to the monarchy as her ally, however, Radegund had her reservations. On the list of people that she worries might seize the monastery’s land, she includes “the power of a prince.”63

This was a reasonable fear. Convents of sixth-century Gaul were often in danger of invasion. As centers of power and prestige for aristocratic clans, convents were primary targets for rival families. The abundant supplies of wealth and unmarried noblewomen within monastic walls could tempt a marauder of any rank.64 The monastery did not even have to be the intended target. After Clothar’s death, Poitiers was caught in the crossfire of the conflict that would eventually claim the lives of Clothar’s sons. The beleaguered city passed back and forth between Sigibert and Chilperic as they battled for control of the territory, and not even cult shrines escaped the general fire and pillage.65

Radegund’s letter to the bishops, however, expressed no fear of her monastery being looted, or the nuns being dragged out of the sacred precinct. This fear would have been reasonable, since Radegund was a survivor of an enemy invasion. As a young girl, her future husband, Clothar, took her captive after invading her native Thuringia and slaughtering most of her kinsmen. She was more than capable of describing such events (either by her own hand or with the help of Venantius Fortunatus), as demonstrated in De excidio Thoringiae.66 In her letter to the bishops, Radegund instead worries about the possibility of a “legal maneuver.”67 Without their intercession, “some king or bishop or power or some person from among the sisters might, due to their own impious desire, try either to diminish [the monastery’s land] or call it back to their own ownership.”68

Although Radegund includes bishops and her own nuns as possible threats to her monastic project, she names the king first. Radegund, as the former consort of a Merovingian king who became a nun, was a legal anomaly.69 Fortunatus and Baudonivia, her two hagiographers, made great metaphorical use of her image as the woman who rejected an earthly throne for the heavenly one and who renounced her royal husband to become a bride of Christ.70 This may have contributed to her qualifications for holiness, but during her lifetime, it would have placed her monastery in a legally ambiguous position.

By rejecting her marriage (whether willingly or not),71 Radegund defied easy categorization. From around 550, after the murder of her only surviving brother, until Clothar’s death in 561,72 Radegund was a consecrated woman with a living husband. When Clothar died, Radegund could have been considered a widow. Despite separating herself from Clothar, Radegund was careful never to go beyond the territories that he controlled, perhaps to emphasize the continuity of her legal ties to him.73 Under Frankish law, a childless widow gained full control of her dowry. She was also able to use a portion of her husband’s land and was required to relinquish it only if she remarried.74 As Radegund never remarried, the future abbesses of her convent could argue that they had a right to the land that their foundress received as her widow’s dower.

Alternatively, one of Clothar’s descendants could have claimed that she renounced this right when she renounced her marriage: she abandoned her husband before he died, so she was not technically a widow.75 A member of the Frankish royal family instead might have asserted that Radegund’s renunciation of her marriage was not valid. Under Frankish law, only the husband could procure a divorce without difficulty.76 The wife had no legal ability to initiate a separation, nor could she always rely on the help of bishops, who often supported this double standard. As Suzanne Wemple observes, “however her union was contracted, a married woman was subject to the authority of her husband.”77 A descendent of Clothar’s, then, might use legal arguments to claim the property and wealth of the Convent of the Holy Cross as an inheritance.

These hypothetical legal arguments are examples of how Radegund’s ambiguous status as a nun/wife, and later nun/widow, afforded her no legal precedent upon which to rely for the secure maintenance of her monastery at Poitiers. As Wood points out, although a woman could inherit property under the Lex Salica, Merovingian women relied far more on political maneuvers than on landholdings.78 Radegund’s letter is evidence of the different extralegal strategies that she employed to preserve her monastery’s autonomy—including its ability to choose its own abbesses—after her death.79

When contextualizing this letter within sixth-century Merovingian royal and marital practices, we can uncover the elements of Radegund’s appeal that Gregory ignores. Even Merovingian queens who stayed married held a precarious position, such as Galswintha, who was murdered by her husband Chilperic after she complained about his sexual relationship with Fredegund.80 With no legal protection of their status, aristocratic women had to rely on their personal connections. Wemple’s research illuminates two important ways that a Merovingian wife could counteract her nearly absolute dependence on her husband’s will: her natal family and important men of the church.81

Since the Franks had eliminated almost every member of Radegund’s family in the 531 slaughter, Radegund could not rely on the sense of honor that compelled Merovingian men to protect the interests of their female relatives. The fact that Radegund left Clothar (or Clothar dismissed Radegund) so soon after he killed her only surviving brother may attest to her vulnerability after losing the last defender from her natal family. She might have felt an even greater sense of danger due to the recent revolt of the Thuringians.82 As a result, when Radegund broke away from her husband, she sought protection in the church.83

Bishops were useful allies. In return for royal sponsorship, queens received the benefits of bishops’ social prestige, which arose from their perceived ability to mediate divine power.84 Even before she renounced her marriage, Radegund had been cultivating advantageous episcopal friendships, which were instrumental in releasing her from her marriage vows.85 Medard of Noyon and Germain of Paris, Wemple suggests, might have even played an important part in the settlement that Clothar granted her monastery.86 The intervention of these men, however, only reveals the threats that confronted Radegund in life and that she knew would continue after her death.

Therefore, while Gregory presents Radegund’s letter as a nun’s gesture of respect toward spiritual superiors, we must not forget its very political dimensions. She begs for the intercession of the bishops and conjures them by the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Judgment Day, “to ensure that no tyrant stands in the way, but that the legitimate King crowns [my undertaking].”87 It is in this light that we can understand her curse upon anyone who, after her death, should attempt to steal from the monastery’s property or trouble the presiding abbess: “Let [that person] run afoul of the judgment of God, the Holy Cross, and the blessed Mary, and the blessed confessors Hilary and Martin—to whom, after God, I entrusted my sisters to be protected—[that person] should consider them as opponents and prosecutors.”88

If this were merely a formulaic imprecation, Radegund might have limited herself to the invocation of God or Christ, who more typically occupy the role of Divine Judge. Instead, she lists more personal benefactors: the Holy Cross (the relic she brought to her convent), Mary (after whom she had named her monastery before receiving the relic), the patron saint of Tours, and the patron saint of Poitiers. As Van Dam notes, Radegund is careful to mention Hilary and Martin after her convent’s relic and patron. Radegund thus emphasizes the power of her own divine patronage compared to potential threats to her convent’s autonomy, such as the bishop Maroveus, whose patron was Hilary. As mentioned above, the cross itself was proof of her extensive political influence, since she had received it from the emperor and empress of Constantinople through the agency of King Sigibert.89 In Merovingian Gaul, there were multiple sources of religious authority, like bishops from competing aristocratic families and ascetics (male and female) who espoused opposing monastic ideals.90 Radegund formed alliances and even friendships with various bishops, but ultimately she was a player in a game for influence against the episcopacy as well.

In her letter, Radegund documents the royal ties that also had the potential to be helpful or dangerous to her convent. She makes a particular point to give the credit to “the most excellent lord king Chlothar.”91 She praises her late (ex?) husband, who helped her establish and endow the monastery “as much as royal generosity bestowed on me.”92 Nor is Clothar the only member of the Frankish monarchy that she invokes. “The most excellent lord kings, his sons” also provided their support.93 Radegund makes their roles explicit: “I bequeathed to the monastery for its possession, which had been permitted by [Clothar’s] instructions and through the authorities of the most glorious lord kings Charibert, Guntram, Chilperic, and Sigibert, of which I obtained confirmation with the inclusion of an oath and signatures of their own hands.”94

Radegund’s formal, legal language attempts to codify the only real power that a Merovingian queen had: her ability to win the favor of powerful men.95 Just like the rebel nun Clotild would do in the future, Radegund drew on her royal connections to legitimize her cause. It was vital for Radegund to keep her former husband’s favor while he was alive, and the favor of his sons after his death.96

The mothers of Clothar’s four sons were two sisters, Ingund (Charibert, Guntram, Sigibert) and Aregund (Chilperic).97 Clothar married Ingund soon after Radegund left and—according to Gregory—he took her sister Aregund after Ingund asked him to find a suitable husband for her (to which he responded that there was no husband more suitable than himself).98 Clothar’s sons—at least Sigibert—might have been favorable to Radegund,99 but their support would not have helped for long. All these kings died before she did, and two of their daughters ended up being the very leaders of the nun revolt: Clotild, daughter of Charibert and Basina, daughter of Chilperic. As much as Radegund emphasizes that Clothar and his sons guaranteed that the monastery would remain with the abbess, Radegund was experienced enough in the instability of Merovingian politics to know how quickly their promises could be forgotten.

With this uneasy situation in mind, it makes sense that Radegund never claimed the monastic property in her own name. While she was still alive, she deeded it to the monastery under the management of its abbess: at that time, her foster daughter Agnes, who had been consecrated by Germanus of Paris.100 Radegund and the other royal sisters, “observing apostolic form, handed over to [Agnes] by charter from the earthly substance that we were seen to possess, keeping back nothing of our own.”101 Radegund distanced herself from the monastic property as much as possible in order to avoid the potential complications created by her legal entanglements with the Merovingian royal family. Perhaps this, and not her exemplary humility, was her primary motivation for choosing the unmarried Agnes as abbess in the first place.102

Despite taking these measures, Radegund nevertheless expressed apprehensions that a crisis—such as the rebellion that occurred only two years after her death—might expose the sisters of her monastery to “wicked people.”103 Radegund feared that she would be blamed: “Let them not consider themselves left destitute by me.”104 She already declared that she did not own the monastery, since she signed all of her property over to Agnes. Radegund’s affiliation with this monastery, however, might tempt her royal kin to claim the property as rightfully theirs.

Radegund tried to prevent a legal maneuver of this kind by laying the groundwork for alliances with bishops: “I beg with an outpouring of tears…that if my sister Agnes the abbess, or her congregation, should ever ask to be aided by you, that the pious solace of your compassion might supply help with pastoral solicitude.”105

She designed her plea to appeal to the bishops as caretakers and guardians.106 By quoting her letter during his account of the rebellion, Gregory implies that Radegund would have approved of the bishops’ intrusion into the Convent of the Holy Cross. This was his justification for the fact that the bishops excommunicated several of the monastery’s nuns, demanded an account of all the rumors of misconduct, and permanently reinstated an abbess whom a considerable fraction of the monastery did not want. Radegund herself specified that the next abbess should be whoever “is pleasing to God and [the congregation] itself.”107 Even if Radegund had wanted the bishops to return Leubovera to her position, such a powerful foundress might not have approved of the extent of the bishops’ intrusion. Gregory’s citation of her letter distorts Radegund’s original priorities. He defends the bishops’ authority over the convent,108 and he limits Leubovera’s role in the narrative to being the living mouthpiece of Radegund.109

Clotild, daughter of the late king Charibert, and Basina, daughter of the late king Chilperic, started a revolt by leaving the convent alongside about 40 other nuns. Basina had entered the Convent of the Holy Cross after her stepmother, Fredegund, wanted her out of the way. Fredegund might have tried to kill Basina and her mother, Audovera.110 Little is known about Clotild. When she left the convent, determined to replace the current abbess, Clotild announced her intention to tell her royal relatives about the insults they were suffering: “We are humiliated as if we were the spawn of wretched slave girls, and not the daughters of kings.”111

As aristocratic women and Radegund’s nieces, Clotild and Basina could have seen themselves as operating in the tradition of Radegund.112 As discussed above, Radegund made frequent use of her royal status and connections for the sake of her convent. Gregory’s historical writing, however, characterizes the rebels and Radegund as opposites. To undermine the rebels’ cause, Gregory contrasts Clotild with the late foundress: “Unhappy woman, easily not remembering in what humility the blessed Radegund—who established this monastery—presented herself!”113 His use of Radegund’s letter stresses this difference.

Gregory quotes Radegund’s letter when his narrative of the rebellion reaches a tipping point.114 Clotild has just taken over the convent’s estates and threatened to “throw the abbess from the wall to the ground.”115 King Childebert has instructed Macco, count of Poitiers, to put down the revolt. Meanwhile, bishop Gundegisel of Bordeaux—the metropolitan center for Poitiers—has written to several other bishops reporting the events. In their response, which Gregory quotes in full, the other bishops approved of Gundegisel’s decision to excommunicate the nuns and expressed outrage that the nuns had left the cloister.116 Immediately following this document, the endangered abbess Leubovera reads aloud Radegund’s letter (thus reaffirming its importance as a founding document for the convent)117 and sends copies to the neighboring bishops who were not with Gundegisel at the time.

Radegund’s letter, when quoted in the Histories, acts as a reprimand from beyond the grave. The mutinous nuns have just invaded the property that Radegund bequeathed to the abbess. Gregory follows this invasion with the document excommunicating the rebels and their followers. Gregory places Radegund’s appeal for protection immediately afterward, so that the foundress appears to concur with this decision to excommunicate members of her monastery. Moreover, Gregory puts the words of the late Radegund into the mouth of Leubovera, portraying the current abbess as the foundress’s living representative.

The Histories asserts that Radegund never hesitated to obey her ecclesiastical superiors. Gregory, as a character in his own story, laments that Clotild “will not listen to priestly advice.”118 By using the literary device of an arrogant person who spurns good advice, Gregory justifies his attempts to intervene in the rebellion.119 Gregory as narrator reminisces about the good old days under King Clothar, “when the blessed Radegund had established this monastery, and was always subject and obedient to those earlier bishops, along with her whole congregation.”120 This illustration removes Radegund from the context of the royal hierarchy and places her in Gregory’s vision of an ecclesiastical elite, where she is safely below the bishops in status.121 Moreover, Gregory does not name the specific bishops whom Radegund addressed, simply calling them “the bishops who were in her own time.”122 This creates the illusion of a unified and harmonious episcopal body, while also erasing Radegund’s disparate relationships with individual bishops.

In the letter, Radegund expresses anxiety that someone might try to impose “any abbess other than my sister Agnes.”123 She also mentions the possibility of internal strife: that someone might “try to go beyond the limits of the Rule,” or another possible translation, “try to depart from the monastery in violation of the Rule.”124 It is no wonder that the beleaguered abbess Leubovera read this letter aloud.125 It condemns the crimes that Clotild and her followers had just committed. By referring to a possible walkout of the sisters and usurpation of the abbess, Radegund’s letter would seem almost prophetic.

Gregory’s account of the 589 rebellion stresses the need for united episcopal intervention. When Maroveus—the bishop of Poitiers who had clashed with Radegund throughout her lifetime—sought permission to administer communion to the excommunicated nuns and have an audience with them, Gundegisel of Bordeaux, along with the bishops of the province who had received the order of excommunication, rejected his request.126 Maroveus therefore showed an interest in listening to the complaints of the nuns and compromising with them.127 After his strained relations with the late Radegund, he might have seen the advantages of forming an alliance with the rebels, especially if one of them became the new abbess of the Holy Cross. Other bishops, however, refused to revoke the nuns’ penalty. They asserted their right to excommunicate the nuns, even in defiance of royal authority. King Childebert, harassed by nuns on both sides of the dispute, tried to reinstate the rebels’ right to communion after their ringleader Clotild refused to come to him until this was accomplished.128 The other bishops, however, would not yield.

Gregory of Tours, who had benefited from the patronage of Sigibert, could have had political motives for working against Basina, the daughter of Sigibert’s brother and opponent, Chilperic.129 On the other hand, Gregory had harbored the nuns at Tours immediately after they left the convent, so he had been at least neutral in the beginning. Perhaps he came to regret helping them after several nuns became pregnant during their separation from the convent.130 Moreover, Gregory condemned the revolt’s use of organized violence, probably not least because of the harm done to his own niece, Justina, one of the nuns who had stayed in the convent. The rebels’ supporters had mistaken Justina for the abbess in the chaos of the attack and abducted her. They returned her and took Leubovera once they realized their error.131

It is also possible that Gregory and the rest of the bishops’ council ruled against the aristocratic faction to prevent any future rebellions. Of the women at the Convent of the Holy Cross, only two are not attributed royal parentage in the Histories: the first abbess and Radegund’s foster daughter, Agnes, and the next abbess, Leubovera.132 Because Leubovera did not seek help from royal connections, it is reasonable to conclude that she had none. Leubovera relied on the bishops’ support to keep her office and, as the results of the council will show, was more amenable to their suggestions.

When the narrative resumes in Book 10, Gregory seeks to prove that the rebellion would not have been resolved without episcopal intervention. First, he heightens the drama to underscore that the rebels’ violence has gotten completely out of control. Once Clotild’s armed retainers had the (real) abbess in their custody, after dragging her out of the walls of the convent, Maroveus tried again to negotiate with Clotild. His attempt only made Clotild order one of her men to “strike [Leubovera] with a sword immediately” if anyone tried to free her.133 The other leader of the revolt, Basina, repented for her sins and reconciled with the abbess, but her feelings did not last long, and they fought again. “Hardly a day passed without a murder,” Gregory tells us.134

Kings Childebert and Guntram finally reached a solution: “that, of course, the bishops, joined together from both kingdoms, should by means of canon law correct what was happening.”135 Gregory introduces these kings by name into the narrative only to have them realize that episcopal help was the only solution. The kings were right to turn it over to the bishops, as Gregory portrays: the tribunal was efficient and thorough. They investigated every accusation that Clotild threw at Leubovera, including keeping a eunuch, allowing the servants to use the nuns’ latrines, and playing a board game, which was prohibited by the monastic rule.136 Gregory’s account goes through each accusation in detail. He documents Leubovera’s defense and includes the testimony of third-party witnesses who confirmed her innocence.

Gregory’s narrative thereby justifies the bishops’ decision to restore the abbess and to keep Clotild and Basina excommunicated until they did penance.137 However, he has not left us with the feeling that the conflict had been permanently resolved. Although the more outrageous accusations were false, Gregory’s account exposes Leubovera’s lesser faults, about which the bishops “appealed to her with paternal advice, that she might in no way seek out a cause for criticism in the future.”138 Clotild and Basina continued to make accusations against Leubovera after this trial. These were found to be groundless, in another investigation conducted by the bishops.139 Gregory makes it clear that episcopal interference at the Convent of the Holy Cross would continue to be necessary.

Gregory had his own political agenda when writing the Histories. The social position of bishops in Merovingian Gaul was often as precarious as that of royal women.140 As mentioned above, Gregory’s irregular episcopal ordination required the political support of King Sigibert, as well as that of Radegund. After Sigibert was killed amid the civil war between him and his brother Chilperic, Gregory faced trial for the charges of treason and accusing Chilperic’s wife Fredegund of adultery.141 In this unstable political environment, Gregory needed to maintain his influence among several competing sources of authority.142 Gregory’s historical writings were one method of establishing his legitimacy, and Radegund’s letter was one of many tools that he used to accomplish this.

In the Histories, Radegund’s letter is a shining representation of the foundress’s piety and obedience to ecclesiastical authority. When seen in the context of Radegund’s own life, however, the letter proves to be fraught with anxiety over the autonomy of her monastery. Powerful and influential Radegund may have been, but the circumstances of her life made that power and influence incredibly unstable, and she had to use multiple strategies to maintain them. Gregory undermined the original purpose of Radegund’s letter to defend the authority of bishops against the royal family, against nuns with royal connections, and against the abbess. In the Histories, Gregory appears to cite Radegund’s letter to praise her but in fact uses her words to affirm the united power of the episcopate over her convent. Although she was no more than a memory by the time of the revolt, Radegund was another royal nun that the bishops needed to subdue.

An earlier version of this paper was presented to the Georgia Medievalists’ Group held at Columbus State University (Columbus, GA) in October 2014. I express my sincerest gratitude to Sarah Bogue (particularly for reading through the letter translation), Judith Evans Grubbs, Laura Lieber, Clare Woods, and the journal’s external reviewers for their valuable feedback. All errors are my own.

1.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 10.15–16, in Gregorii episcopi Turonensis libri historiarum X, ed. Bruno Krusch and Wilhelmus Levison, Monumenta Germaniae historica [MGH], Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum [SRM], vol. 1.1, Libri historiarum X, revised edition (Hanover: Hahniani, 1951 [1884]). For a timeline and analysis of each accusation, see Jennifer Edwards, Superior Women: Medieval Female Authority in Poitiers’ Abbey of Sainte-Croix (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 77–84.

2.

“Furibus, homicidis, adulteris omniumque criminum reis.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.40 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:466). All translations are mine unless otherwise specified.

3.

For Gregory’s possible motives, see Erin Thomas Dailey, “Misremembering Radegund’s Foundation of Sainte-Croix,” in Erfahren, erzählen, erinnern: Narrative Konstruktionen von Gedächtnis und Generation in Antike und Mittelalter, ed. Hartwin Brandt, Benjamin Pohl, W. Maurice Sprague, and Lina K. Hörl (Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2012), 117–40 at 132–33.

4.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.39–43, 10.15–17 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:460–75, 501–9); Helmut Reimitz, History, Frankish Identity and the Framing of Western Ethnicity, 550–850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 31–39. On Gregory’s role in the scandal and how it shaped his account, see Dailey, “Misremembering Radegund’s Foundation,” 119–23.

5.

Shane Bjornlie, “Gregory of Tours and the Decem Libri Historiarum: Between Religious Belief and Rhetorical Habit,” Studies in Late Antiquity 4, no. 2 (2020): 153–84 at 182–84; Allen Jones, Social Mobility in Late Antique Gaul: Strategies and Opportunities for the Non-Elites (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 65.

6.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 3.7 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:103–5); Venantius Fortunatus, Vita Radegundis 2, in Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati presbyteri italici opera poetica, ed. Fridericus Leo, Monumenta Germaniae historica, Auctorum Antiquissimorum, vol. 4.2 (Berlin, 1881), 38–39.

7.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:470–74).

8.

Martin Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours: History and Society in the Sixth Century, trans. Christopher Carroll (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 73.

9.

Dailey, “Misremembering Radegund’s Foundation,” 129–32 and E. T. Dailey, Queens, Consorts, Concubines: Gregory of Tours and Women of the Merovingian Elite (Leiden: Brill, 2015).

10.

Edwards, Superior Women, 25–28, 49–50, 84–85.

11.

Robert Flierman, “Gregory of Tours and the Merovingian Letter,” Journal of Medieval History 47, no. 2 (2021): 119–44 at 138.

12.

Flierman, “Gregory of Tours and the Merovingian Letter,” 138, n118; Jean Marie Pardessus, ed., Diplomata, chartae, epistolae, leges, aliaque instrumenta ad res Gallo-Francicas spectantia, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 151–54. I have provided all textual variations, except for minor spelling differences, in the footnotes.

13.

Suzanne Wemple, Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500 to 900 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981); Janet Nelson, “Queens as Jezebels: The Careers of Brunhild and Balthild in Merovingian History,” in Medieval Women, ed. Derek Baker and Rosalind M. T. Hill (Oxford: Blackwell, 1978), 31–77; Dailey, Queens, Consorts, Concubines.

14.

By no means exhaustive: Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988); Joyce Salisbury, Church Fathers, Independent Virgins (New York: Verso, 1991); Susanna Elm, Virgins of God: The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996); Jane Schulenburg, Forgetful of Their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500–1100 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Dyan Elliott, Bride of Christ Goes to Hell: Metaphor and Embodiment in the Lives of Pious Women, 200–1500 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

15.

Blossom Stefaniw, “Feminist Historiography and Uses of the Past,” Studies in Late Antiquity 4, no. 3 (2020): 260–83 at 260–64, 280–81.

16.

Joaquin Pizarro, “Gregory of Tours and the Literary Imagination: Genre, Narrative Style, Sources, and Models in the Histories,” in A Companion to Gregory of Tours, ed. Alexander Callander Murray (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 337–74 at 342.

17.

“Hos enim libros in anno XXI. ordinationis nostrae perscripsimus.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 10.31 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:536).

18.

Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours, 115.

19.

Yitzhak Hen, “The Church in Sixth-Century Gaul,” in Murray, Companion to Gregory of Tours, 232–55 at 238–44.

20.

Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours, 123, 209; Jones, Social Mobility in Late Antique Gaul, 56–57.

21.

Walter Goffart, The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550–800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988) 121–27; Helmut Reimitz, “Social Networks and Identities in Frankish Historiography: New Aspects of the Textual History of Gregory of Tours’ Historiae,” in The Construction of Communities in the Early Middle Ages: Texts, Resources and Artefacts, ed. R. Corradini, M. Diesenberger, and H. Reimitz, 229–68 (Boston: Brill, 2003), 234.

22.

Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours, 102–23.

23.

Heinzelmann, 145.

24.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 3.7 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:105).

25.

“Mutata veste…. Quae orationibus, ieiuniis atque elymosinis praedita, in tantum emicuit, ut magna in populis haberetur.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 3.7, MGH, SRM, 1.1:105.

26.

Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours, 178.

27.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.2 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:415); Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours, 65–66.

28.

Flierman, “Gregory of Tours and the Merovingian Letter,” 137–39; Jones, Social Mobility in Late Antique Gaul, 48–51.

29.

“Feminae carae, sibi mente nexae/quem colunt, Agnes, Radegundis: idem/sicut exposcunt vice filiarum/solve salutem.” Venantius Fortunatus, Carmina 9.7.ll.77–80 (Leo, Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati, MGH, Auctorum antiquissimorum, 4.1:214). Other poems to/about Gregory: Carmina 5.3, 5.7, 5.8, 5.13, 5.17; 8.12 (and 8.12a), 8.18–21. To Radegund: Carmina 8.2, 8.6–7, 11.6, 11.8, 11.11, 11.13–14, 11.19, 11.23, 11.25–26.

30.

Fortunatus, Carmina 5.3.ll.14–16 (Leo, Auctorum antiquissimorum); Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours, 33–38; Tamar Rotman, “Imitation and Rejection of Eastern Practices in Merovingian Gaul: Gregory of Tours and Vulfilaic the Stylite of Trier,” in Merovingian Kingdoms and the Mediterranean World: Revisiting the Sources, ed. Stefan Esders, Yitzhak Hen, Pia Lucas, and Tamar Rotman (London: Bloomsbury, 2021), 113–23 at 119–21; Flierman, “Gregory of Tours and the Merovingian Letter,” 137–38.

31.

“Sacerdotali benedictione sacratus.” Gregory of Tours, Gloria confessorum 104, in Gregorii Turonensis opera, ed. Bruno Krusch, Monumenta Germaniae historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum, vol. 1.2, Miracula et opera minora (Hanover: Hahniani, 1885), 365.

32.

“Tunc cives et reliqui viri honorati, qui ad exsequias beatae reginae convenerant.” Gregory, Gloria confessorum, 104 (Krusch, Gregorii Turonensis opera, MGH, SRM, 1.2:365)

33.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:470–74). The footnotes are broken into paragraphs for easier reference to the Latin.

34.

Dominis sanctis et apostolica sede dignissimis in Christo patribus, omnibus episcopis Radegundis peccatrix. Congruae provisionis tunc roborabiliter ad effectum tendit exordium, cum generalibus patribus, medicis ac pastoribus ovilis sibi conmissi causa auribus traditur, cuius sensibus conmendatur; quorum participatio de caritate consilium, de potestate suffragium, de oratione ministrare poterit interventum. Et quoniam olim vinclis laicalibus absoluta, divina providente et inspirante clementia, ad relegionis normam visa sum voluntariae duce Christo translata, ac pronae mentis studio cogitans etiam de aliarum profectibus, ut, annuente Domino, mea desideria efficerentur reliquis profutura, instituente atque remunerante praecellentissimo domno rege Chlothario, monastirium puellarum Pectava urbe constitui conditumque, quantum mihi munificentia regalis est largita, facta donatione, dotavi.

35.

From the story in Act 5.1–11.

36.

Insuper congregationem per me, Christo praestante, collectae regulam, sub qua sancta Casaria deguit, quam sollicitudo beati Caesarii antestites Arelatensis ex institutione sanctorum patrum convenienter collegit, adscivi. Cui, consentientibus beatissimis vel huius civitatis vel reliquis pontificibus, electione etiam nostrae congregationis, domnam et sororem meam Agnitem, quam ab ineunte aetate loco filiae colui et eduxi, abbatissam institui ac me post Deum eius ordinatione regulariter oboedituram conmisi. Cuique, formam apostolicam observantes, tam ego quam sorores de substantia terrena quae possedere videbamur, factis cartis, tradedimus, metu Annaniae et Saffirae in monastirio positae nihil proprium reservantes. Sed quoniam incerta sunt humanae conditionis momenta vel tempora, quippe mundo in fine currente, cum aliqui magis propriae quam divinae cupiant voluntate servire, zelo ducta Dei, hanc suggestionis meae paginam mereto apostulatus vestri in Christi nomen supraestis porrego vel devota.

37.

Et quia praesens non valui, quasi vestris provoluta vestigiis, epistulae vicarietate prosternor, coniurans per Patrem et Filium et Spiritum sanctum ac diem tremendi iudicii, sic repraesentatos vos non tyrannus obpugnit, sed legitimus rex coronet, ut, si casu post meum obitum, si quaecumque persona vel loci eiusdem pontifex seu potestas principis vel alius aliquis, quod nec fieri credimus, congregationem vel suasu malivolo vel inpulsu iudiciario perturbare temptaverit aut regulam frangere seu abbatissam alteram quam sororem meam Agnitem, quam beatissimi Germani praesentibus suis fratribus benedictio consecravit, aut ipsa congregatio, quod fieri non potest, habita murmoratione, mutare contenderit, vel quasdam dominationes in monasterio vel rebus monastirii quaecumque persona vel pontifex loci, praeter quas antecessores episcopi aut alii, me superstete, habuerunt, novo privilegio quicumque affectare voluerit, aut extra regulam exinde egredi quis temptaverit; seu de rebus, quas in me praecellentissimus domnus Chlotharius vel praecellentissimi domni reges, filii sui, contulerunt et ego ex eius praeceptiones permisso monastirio tradidi possedendum et per auctoritates praecellentissimorum domnorum regum Chariberthi, Guntchramni, Chilperici et Sigiberthi cum sacramenti interpositione et suarum manuum subscriptionibus obtenui confirmari; aut ex his, quae alii pro animarum suarum remedio vel sorores ibidem de rebus propriis contulerunt, aliquis princeps aut pontifex aut potens aut de sororibus cuiuslibet personae aut minuere aut sibimet ad proprietatem revocare sacrilego voto contenderit, ita vestra sanctitatem successorumque vestrorum post Deum pro mea supplicatione et Christi voluntate incurrat, ut, sicut praedones et spoliatores pauperum extra gratiam vestram habeantur, numquam de nostra regula vel de rebus monasterii, obsistentibus vobis, inmenuere valeat aliquid aut mutare. Hoc etiam depraecans, ut, cum Deus praedictam domnam sororem nostram Agnitem de saeculo migrare voluerit, illa in loco eius abbatissa de nostra congregatione debeat ordinare, quae Deo et ipsi placuerit, custodiens regulam, et nihil de proposito sanctitatis imminuat; nam numquam propria aut cuiuscumque voluntas praecipitat.

38.

Quod si, quod absit, contra Dei mandatum et auctoritatem regum aliquis de suprascriptis condicionibus vobis coram Domino et sanctis eius praecabiliter conmendatis agere aut de persona aut substantiam minuenda voluerit aut memoratae sorore meae Agnite abbatissae molestias aliquas inferre temptaverit, Dei et sanctae Crucis et beatae Mariae incurrat iudicium, et beatus confessores Helarium et Martinum, quibus post Deum sorores meas tradidi defendendas, ipsos habeat contradictores et persecutores. Te quoque, beati pontifex, successoresque vestros, quos patronos in causa Dei diligenter adscisco, si, quod absit, exteterit, qui contra haec aliquid moliri temptaverit, pro repellendo et confutando Dei hoste non pigeat ad regem, quem eo tempore locus iste respexerit, vel ad Pectavam civitatem pro re vobis ante Dominum conmendatam percurrere et contra aliorum iniustitia exsecutores et defensores iustitiae laborare, ut tale nefas ullo modo suis admitti temporibus rex patiatur catholicus, ne convelli permittant, quod Dei et mea et regum ipsorum voluntate firmatum est.

39.

Luke 1.33.

40.

Simul etiam principes, quos Deus pro gubernatione populi post discessum meum superesse praeceperit, coniuro per Regem, ‘cuius non erit finis’ et ad cuius nutum regna consistunt, qui eis donavit ipsum vivere vel regnare, ut monasterium, quod ex permisso et solatio domnorum regum patres vel avi eorum construxisse visa sum et ordinasse regulariter vel dotasse, sub sua tuitione et sermone una cum Agne abbatissa iubeant gubernare; et a nullo neque saepe dictam abbatissam nostram neque aliquid ad nostrum monasterium pertenentem molestari aut inquietari vel exinde imminui aut aliquid mutari permittat; sed magis pro Dei intuitu una cum domnis episcopis ipsi, me supplecante coram Redemptorem gentium, sicut eis conmendo, defensari iubeant et muniri, ut, in cuius honore Dei famulas protegunt, cum defensore pauperum et sponso virginum perpetualiter aeterno socientur in regno.

41.

Illud quoque vos sanctos pontifices et praecellentissimos domnos reges et universum populum christianum coniuro per fidem catholicam, in qua baptizati estis et ecclesias conservatis, ut in basilica, quam in sanctae Mariae dominicae genetrices honore coepimus aedificare, ubi etiam multae sorores nostrae conditae sunt in requie, sive perfecta sive inperfecta, cum me Deus de hac luce migrare praeceperit, corpuscolum meum ibi debeat sepeliri. Quod si quis aliud inde voluerit aut fieri temptaverit, obtenente cruce Christi et beata Maria, divinam ultionem incurrat, et, vobis intercurrentibus, in loco ipsius basilicae merear cum sororum congregationem obtenere loculum sepulturae. Et ut haec supplicatio mea, quam manu propria subscripsi, ut in universalis aeclesiae archevo servetur, effusis cum lacrimis depraecor, quatinus, si contra inprobos aliquos necessitas exerit, ut vestra defensione soror mea Agnis abbatissa vel congregatio eius, quo succurri sibi poposcerint, vestrae misericordiae pia consolatio opem pastorali sollicitudine subministret, nec de me distitutas se proclament, quibus Deus praesidium vestrae gratiae praeparavit. Illud vobis in omnibus ante oculos revocantes, per ipsum, qui de cruce gloriosam virginem, suam genetricem, beato Iohanni apostolo commendavit, ut, qualiter ab illo conpletum est Domini de mandato, sic sit apud vos indigna et humilis dominis meis aeclesiae patribus et viris apostolicis quod commendo; quod cum dignanter servaveritis deposito, meretis participes, cuius impletis mandatum, apostolicum digne reparetis exemplum.

42.

Gregory of Tours, Gloria Martyrum 5 (Krusch, Gregorii Turonensis opera, MGH, SRM 1.2:34–111). Smith suggests that Radegund sent this letter at a later point in the same year: Julia Smith, “Radegundis Peccatrix: Authorizations of Virginity in Late Antique Gaul,” in Transformations of Late Antiquity: Essays for Peter Brown, ed. Philip Rousseau and Emmanuel Papoutsakis (Burlington: Ashgate, 2009), 303–26 at 307n20. See also Jo Ann McNamara, John E. Halborg, and E. Gordon Whatley, eds. and trans., Sainted Women of the Dark Ages (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992), 62: Radegund probably addressed it to the Council of Tours in November of 567 CE. For the suggestion of 570 CE, see René Aigrain, Sainte Radegonde: Vers 520–587 (Paris: Gabalda, 1918), 71.

43.

“Te quoque, beati pontifex, successoresque vestros, quos patronos in causa Dei diligenter adscisco.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:472). Cf. Pardessus, Diplomata, 152: paternos.

44.

Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Middle Ages, trans. Willard Ropes Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), 84–85.

45.

“Quia praesens non valui, quasi vestris provoluta vestigiis, epistulae vicarietate prosternor.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:471).

46.

“Effusis cum lacrimis depraecor.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42, MGH, SRM, 1.1:474.

47.

53 Ray van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), 104.

48.

Council of Agde (506), canons 27 and 28, and Council of Epaone (517), canon 10, as referenced by Aigrain, Sainte Radegonde, 87.

49.

Lisa Bailey, “Within and Without: Lay People and the Church in Gregory of Tours’ Miracle Stories,” Journal of Late Antiquity 5 (2012): 119–44 at 133; Brian Brennan, “Deathless Marriage and Spiritual Fecundity in Venantius Fortunatus’s De Virginitate,” Traditio 51 (1996): 73–97 at 77.

50.

Rhetoric that the rebels themselves seem to have used as well: see E. T. Dailey, “Confinement and Exclusion in the Monasteries of Sixth-Century Gaul,” Early Medieval Europe 22.3 (2014): 304–35 at 312–14.

51.

Jo Ann McNamara, “Chastity as a Third Gender in the History and Hagiography of Gregory of Tours,” in The World of Gregory of Tours, ed. Kathleen Mitchell and Ian Wood, Cultures, Beliefs and Traditions 8 (Boston: Brill, 2002), 199–210 at 206.

52.

E.g., Basil, Epistula 46 (Sources Chrétiennes 95.1:117–19); John Chrysostom, De sacerdotio 3.17, French translation from Sur le sacerdoce, trans. Anne-Marie Malingrey, Sources Chrétiennes 272 (Paris: CERF, 1980), 214–16; Ambrosius, Epistulae et acta 56.5 and 57.6, in Epistulae et acta: Epistularum libri VII–IX, ed. O. Faller and M. Zelzer, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum [CSEL] 82.2 (Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1990), 84–97, 98–111; Augustine, Epistula 211, in S. Aureli Augustini, Hipponiensis Episcopi: Epistulae, ep. 185–270, ed. A. Goldbacher, CSEL 57 (Leipzig: F. Tempsky, 1911), 369. Sample of the literature: Elizabeth A. Clark, “John Chrysostom and the Subintroductae,” Church History 46, no. 2 (1977): 171–85; Brown, Body and Society; Salisbury, Church Fathers, Independent Virgins; Dyan Elliott, Spiritual Marriage: Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Elm, Virgins of God; Elliott, Bride of Christ Goes to Hell. A comprehensive study by the author is forthcoming.

53.

Patrick J. Geary, Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 147–50; Rotman, “Imitation and Rejection,” 118–19.

54.

Hen, “Church in Sixth-Century Gaul,” 234–37.

55.

Edwards, Superior Women, 43–45; Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450–751 (New York: Longman, 1994), 139.

56.

De excidio Thoringiae and Ad Artachin, Appendix 1 and 3 in Fortunatus, Vita Radegundis 2 (Leo, Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati, MGH, Auctorum antiquissimorum 4.1:271–75, 278–79); Edwards, Superior Women, 63.

57.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.39 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:460); Georg Scheibelreiter, “Königstöchter im Kloster: Radegund (+ 587) und der Nonnenaufstand von Poitiers (589),” Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 87, no. 1 (1979): 1–37 at 21–22; Edwards, Superior Women, 45–52; McNamara, “Chastity as a Third Gender,” 206–9. On the softening of Radegund’s image, see Lynda Coon, Sacred Fictions: Holy Women and Hagiography in Late Antiquity (Philadephia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 126–35.

58.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.40 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:464); Baudonivia, Vita Radegundis 16, in Fredegarii et aliorum chronica: Vitae sanctorum, ed. Bruno Krusch, Monumenta Germaniae historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum, vol. 2 (Hanover: Hahniani, 1888), 377–95; Yitzhak Hen, Culture and Religion in Merovingian Gaul, A.D. 481–751 (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 110.

59.

Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles, 33; Wood, Merovingian Kingdoms, 73; Marc Widdowson, “Merovingian Partitions: A ‘Genealogical Charter’?” Early Medieval Europe 17, no. 1 (2009): 1–22 at 13–14.

60.

Barbara Rosenwein, Negotiating Space: Power, Restraint, and Privileges of Immunity in Early Medieval Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 56.

61.

For the miracles attributed to this relic, see Gregory, Gloria Martyrum, 5; Baudonivia, Vita Radegundis 16 (Krusch, Fredegarii et aliorum chronica, MGH, SRM, 2:379–95).

62.

“Ut tale nefas ullo modo suis admitti temporibus rex patiatur catholicus.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:472–73).

63.

Potestas principis.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42, MGH, SRM 1.1:471.

64.

Sylvie Joye, La femme ravie: Le Mariage par rapt dans les sociétés occidentales du Haut Moyen Age (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), 245.

65.

Gregory Halfond, “Negotiating Episcopal Support in the Merovingian Kingdom of Reims (561–75 CE),” Early Medieval Europe 22 (2014): 1–25 at 15; Widdowson, “Merovingian Partitions,” 13–14; McNamara et al., Sainted Women of the Dark Ages, 62; Aigrain, Sainte Radegonde, 83–84.

66.

On the debates over the authorship of De excidio Thoringiae, see McNamara et al., Sainted Women of the Dark Ages, 65, n22, and Julia Hillner, “Empresses, Queens, and Letters: Finding a ‘Female Voice’ in Late Antiquity?” Gender & History 31, no. 2 (2019): 353–82 at 358–59. On Radegund’s (or Venantius Fortunatus’s) allusions to classical and Germanic poetry, see Karen Cherewatuk, “Radegund and Epistolary Tradition,” in Dear Sister: Medieval Women and Epistolary Genre, ed. Karen Cherewatuk and Ulrike Wiethaus (Philadephia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), 20–45.

67.

“Inpulsu iudiciario.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:471).

68.

“Aliquis princeps aut pontifex aut potens aut de sororibus cuiuslibet personae aut minuere aut sibimet ad proprietatem revocare sacrilego voto contenderit.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:472). Cf. Pardessus, Diplomata, 152: ausi minuere.

69.

For the terminology used to describe sexual partners of Germanic kings, see Ruth Karras, “The History of Marriage and the Myth of Friedelehe,” Early Medieval Europe 14, no. 2 (2006): 119–51 at 144–45.

70.

Fortunatus, Vita Radegundis 3–11 (Leo, Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati, MGH, Auctorum antiquissimorum 4.1:271–75, 278–79); Baudonivia, Vita Radegundis 1–7 (Krusch, Fredegarii et aliorum chronica, MGH, SRM, 2:379–82).

71.

For the view that Clothar was the one who dismissed Radegund on grounds of infertility, see Dailey, Queens, Consorts, Concubines, 105. My argument below does not depend on the actual circumstances of the dissolution of the marriage but how later Merovingians might have interpreted it.

72.

McNamara et al., Sainted Women of the Dark Ages, 62.

73.

McNamara et al., 76n59.

74.

Leges Alamannorum 54, in Leges Alamannorum, ed. Karl Lehmann and Karl Eckhardt, Monumenta Germaniae historica, Legum nationum Germanicarum, vol. 5.1 (Hanover, 1966), 112; Leges Burgundionum 74.1, in Leges Burgundionum, ed. Ludwig Rudolf von Salis, Monumenta Germaniae historica, Legum nationum Germanicarum 2.1 (Hanover, 1892), 98. For context on the legal evidence, see Wemple, Women in Frankish Society, 27–37, 44–50.

75.

Asceticism was one of the few ways that Merovingian wives could leave their husbands: Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles, 101.

76.

Leges Burg. 34.1–4, 68. See also Wemple, Women in Frankish Society, 38–44.

77.

Wemple, Women in Frankish Society, 38, 42–43. However, see also Jo Ann McNamara and Suzanne Wemple, “Marriage and Divorce in the Frankish Kingdom,” in Women in Medieval Society, ed. Brenda Bolton and Susan Mosher Stuard (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1976), 95–124 at 100.

78.

Wood, Merovingian Kingdoms, 120.

79.

“Illa in loco eius abbatissa de nostra congregatione debeat ordinare, quae Deo et ipsi placuerit, custodiens regulam, et nihil de proposito sanctitatis imminuat.” Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:472). For other strategies employed by Radegund, see Edwards, Superior Women, 25–28.

80.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 4.28 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:291–92). See also Nelson, “Queens as Jezebels,” 31–77 at 35; Jones, Social Mobility in Late Antique Gaul, 67–68. On the multiple sexual relationships of Merovingian kings and their desire to maintain a choice of heirs, see Ian Wood, “Deconstructing the Merovingian Family,” in Corradini et al., Construction of Communities, 149–72 at 68–69; E. T. Dailey, “Gregory of Tours and the Paternity of Chlothar II: Strategies of Legitimation in the Merovingian Kingdoms,” Journal of Late Antiquity 7 (2014): 3–27 at 20.

81.

Wemple, Women in Frankish Society, 58.

82.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 3.7 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:105); Aigrain, Sainte Radegonde, 49; Scheibelreiter, “Königstöchter im Kloster,” 34–35. On the importance of family networks, see Christian Laes and Ville Vuolanto, “Household and Family Dynamics in Late Antique Southern Gaul,” in Mediterranean Families in Antiquity: Households, Extended Families, and Domestic Space, ed. Sabine R. Huebner and Geoffrey S. Nathan (Newark: John Wiley & Sons, 2016), 258–82 at 277–79. While Baudonivia asserts that Clothar wanted Radegund to return to him (Vita Radegundis 4, 6, 7 [Krusch, Fredegarii et aliorum chronica, MGH, SRM, 2:380–82]), Fortunatus claims that Clothar was the one who sent Radegund to Medard (Vita Radegundis 12 [Leo, Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati, MGH, Auctorum antiquissimorum, 4.1:41]).

83.

“Te quoque, beati pontifex, successoresque vestros, quos patronos in causa Dei diligenter adscisco.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:472). Cf. Pardessus, Diplomata, 152: paternos.

84.

Janet Nelson, “Queens as Jezebels,” 52, 55, 73. On the social status of bishops, see Peter Brown, “Relics and Social Status in the Age of Gregory of Tours,” The Stenton Lecture for 1976 (Reading, UK: University of Reading, 1977); Claudia Rapp, “The Elite Status of Bishops in Late Antiquity in Ecclesiastical, Spiritual, and Social Contexts,” Arethusa 33, no. 3 (2000): 379–99; Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Adam Izdebski, “Bishops in Late Antique Italy: Social Importance vs. Political Power.” Phoenix 66, no. 1/2 (2012): 158–75.

85.

A royal Merovingian widow often relied upon the patronage that she distributed before her husband’s death: Wood, Merovingian Kingdoms, 125.

86.

Fortunatus, Vita Radegundis 12 (Leo, Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati, MGH, Auctorum antiquissimorum 4.1:41); Baudonivia, Vita Radegundis 3, 5 (Krusch, Fredegarii et aliorum chronica, MGH, SRM, 2:380–82); Wemple, Women in Frankish Society, 61.

87.

“Coniurans per Patrem et Filium et Spiritum sanctum ac diem tremendi iudicii, sic repraesentatos vos non tyrannus obpugnit, sed legitimus rex coronet.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:471).

88.

“Dei et sanctae Crucis et beatae Mariae incurrat iudicium, et beatus confessores Helarium et Martinum, quibus post Deum sorores meas tradidi defendendas, ipsos habeat contradictores et persecutores.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42, MGH, SRM, 1.1:472.

89.

Halfond, “Negotiating Episcopal Support,” 16; Widdowson, “Merovingian Partitions,” 13–14; van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles, 31, 33; Andriani Georgiou, “Helena: The Subversive Persona of an Ideal Christian Empress in Early Byzantium,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 21, no. 4 (2013): 597–624 at 611–12; Sylvie Joye, “Basine, Radegonde et la Thuringe chez Grégoire de Tours.” Francia 32, no. 1 (2005): 1–18 at 9.

90.

Geary, Before France and Germany, 122–23, 139–40.

91.

“Praecellentissimo domno rege Chlothario.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:470).

92.

“Instituente atque remunerante praecellentissimo domno rege Chlothario, monastirium puellarum Pectava urbe constitui conditumque, quantum mihi munificentia regalis est largita, facta donatione, dotavi.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42, MGH, SRM 1.1:470.

93.

“Praecellentissimi domni reges, filii sui.” Gregory of Tours, SRM 1.1:471.

94.

“Ego ex eius praeceptiones permisso monastirio tradidi possedendum et per auctoritates praecellentissimorum domnorum regum Chariberthi, Guntchramni, Chilperici et Sigiberthi cum sacramenti interpositione et suarum manuum subscriptionibus obtenui confirmari.” Gregory of Tours, SRM 1.1:471–72. Cf. Pardessus, Diplomata, 152: per auctoritatem.

95.

Smith, Radegundis Peccatrix, 308.

96.

Wemple, Women in Frankish Society, 69; Nelson, “Queens as Jezebels,” 35. Nelson’s description is less applicable to this situation, since she specifies a sexual component for the Frankish queens who desired to remain married to their husbands. On the Holy Cross’s status as a monastery under royal protection, see Scheibelreiter, “Königstöchter im Kloster,” 12–13, 35.

97.

For a detailed family genealogy, see Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms, 334–35.

98.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 4.3 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:137).

99.

Aigrain, Sainte Radegonde, 82. Smith, on the other hand, suggests that Radegund’s presence could have been one cause of her stepsons’ drawn-out conflict over the possession of Poitiers: Radegundis Peccatrix, 305.

100.

“Sororem meam Agnitem, quam ab ineunte aetate loco filiae colui et eduxi.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:470). Rosenwein, Negotiating Space, 53; Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles, 31.

101.

“Cuique, formam apostolicam observantes, tam ego quam sorores de substantia terrena quae possedere videbamur, factis cartis, tradedimus…in monastirio positae nihil proprium reservantes.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:471).

102.

This does not exclude the possibility that she was also deferring to Agnes’s virginal status: Brennan, “Deathless Marriage,” 83.

103.

“Contra inprobos aliquos necessitas exerit.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:474). Cf. Pardessus, Diplomata, 153: exegerit.

104.

“Nec de me distitutas se proclament.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:474). See also Baudonivia, Vita Radegundis 16 (Krusch, Fredegarii et aliorum chronica, MGH, SRM, 2:389): “in spiritu sentiens, quod post eius transitum parum habere possent.”

105.

“Depraecor…ut vestra defensione soror mea Agnis abbatissa vel congregatio eius, quo succurri sibi poposcerint, vestrae misericordiae pia consolatio opem pastorali sollicitudine subministret, nec de me distitutas se prodament (proclamaent), quibus Deus praesidium vestrae gratiae praeparavit.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:474).

106.

On the expected roles of bishops in Merovingian Gaul, see Wood, Merovingian Kingdoms, 75–77.

107.

“Illa in loco eius abbatissa de nostra congregatione debeat ordinare, quae Deo et ipsi placuerit.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:472). Cf. Pardessus, Diplomata, 152: “quae Deo et ipsi congregationi placuerit.”

108.

On Gregory and the episcopal office, see Pizarro, “Gregory of Tours and the Literary Imagination,” 340–42. On the political role of bishops, see Geary, Before France and Germany, 122–24. On the role of bishops in the cult of the saints, see Hen, Culture and Religion in Merovingian Gaul, 107–9. For the threat of independent ascetics to episcopal authority, see Rotman, “Imitation and Rejection,” 116–18.

109.

Jones, Social Mobility in Late Antique Gaul, 70–73.

110.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 5.39 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:247).

111.

“Vado ad parentes meos regis, ut eis contumeliam nostram innotiscere valeam, quia non ut filiae regum, sed ut malarum ancillarum genitae in hoc loco humiliamur.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.39, MGH, SRM, 1.1:460. Dailey, Queens, Consorts, Concubines, 64n1 and 67, asserts that the leaders of the rebellion were royalty. For the opposite argument, see Widdowson, “Merovingian Partitions,” 4, and Ian Wood, “Deconstructing the Merovingian Family,” 158. On status difference as a cause of conflict in monasteries, see Maureen Tilley, “Caesarius’s Rule for Unruly Nuns: Permitted and Prohibited Textiles in the Monastery of St John,” Early Medieval Europe 26 (2018): 83–89 at 88–89.

112.

Edwards, Superior Women, 79; Wood, Merovingian Kingdoms, 139.

113.

“Infilex ac facilis non recordans, in qua se humilitate beata Radegundis, quae hoc instituit monastyrium, exhibebat.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.39 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:460).

114.

For more on the scenic style of Gregory’s narrative of events, see Pizarro, “Gregory of Tours and the Literary Imagination,” 342–51.

115.

“Abbatissam de muro proiectam terrae deiecerit.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.41 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:467).

116.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.41, SRM, 1.1:467; Edwards, Superior Women, 48.

117.

Adriaan Breukelaar, Historiography and Episcopal Authority in Sixth-Century Gaul: The Histories of Gregory of Tours Interpreted in Their Historical Context (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), 172–73, n107.

118.

Sacerdotale monitum non auditis. Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.39 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:460).

119.

Pizarro, “Gregory of Tours and the Literary Imagination,” 354–61.

120.

“Tempore Chlothari regis, cum beata Radegundis hoc monasterium instituisset, semper subiecta et oboediens cum omni congregatione sua anterioribus fuit episcopis.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.40 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:464).

121.

Peter Brown, “The Study of Elites in Late Antiquity,” Arethusa 33.3 (2000): 321–46 at 337 and 345.

122.

“Episcopis, qui suo tempore erant.” Decem libri historiarum 9.40 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:470). The Pardessus copy contains signatures of specific bishops, but errors (e.g., two bishops of Poitiers) make them unreliable: Flierman, “Gregory of Tours and the Merovingian Letter,” 138, n118.

123.

“Abbatissam alteram quam sororem meam Agnitem.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:471).

124.

“Aut ipsa congregatio, quod fieri non potest, habita murmoratione, mutare contenderit…aut extra regulam exinde egredi quis temptaverit.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.42 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:471).

125.

Flierman, “Gregory of Tours and the Merovingian Letter,” 141–42.

126.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.43 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:474–75).

127.

Dailey on Maroveus’s willingness to help during this crisis, in contrast to Gregory’s portrayal of him: “Misremembering Radegund’s Foundation,” 123–28. See also Rosenwein, Negotiating Spaces, 57–58.

128.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.43 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:474).

129.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.39, SRM, 1.1:460; Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours, 38–43.

130.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 10.16, SRM, 1.1:507.

131.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 10.15, SRM, 1.1:501; Dailey, “Confinement and Exclusion,” 335.

132.

Leubovera is called abbatissa and Agnes, only named in Radegund’s letter, is abbatissa or soror throughout: Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.39, SRM, 1.1:460 and 9.42, SRM, 1.1:470–71. Geary, Before France and Germany, 147, mentions Agnes but not Leubovera.

133.

“Statim eam gladio percutite.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.43 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:502).

134.

“Vix praeteriit dies sine homicidio.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.43, SRM, 1.1:503.

135.

“Ut scilicet episcopi, coniuncti de utroque regno, haec quae gerebantur sanctione canonica emendarent.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 9.43, SRM, 1.1:503.

136.

The game was called tabulae; see Hen, Culture and Religion in Merovingian Gaul, 213.

137.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 10.16 (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:508).

138.

“De levioribus causis paterna communitione contestati sumus, ut haec nullatinus deinceps pro reprehensione repeteret.” Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 10.16, SRM, 1.1:507.

139.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 10.17, SRM, 1.1:509.

140.

Dailey, Queens, Consorts, Concubines, 64–67; Wood, Merovingian Kingdoms, 87; Bjornlie, “Gregory of Tours and the Decem Libri Historiarum,” 162–64.

141.

Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 5.49, (Krusch and Levison, Gregorii episcopi Turonensis, MGH, SRM, 1.1:259). Gregory also accused Fredegund of orchestrating Sigibert’s murder: Gregory of Tours, Decem libri historiarum 4.51, SRM, 1.1:188. For more context, see Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours, 46–47; Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles, 70.

142.

Rotman, “Imitation and Rejection,” 118–19.