Throughout the sixth century, saints stood between the conquered people and their rulers, mitigating the effects of their ongoing fratricidal wars. Radegund extended Genovefa’s role as an advocate for prisoners and for humble people. Repeatedly, she begged God to help the sick and begged the king to help the needy, establishing a ritual whereby women could express the merciful side of royalty without softening the fierce warrior image of the king. This became a traditional role for Merovingian queens. Even Queen Fredegund, whose ruthlessness was far more widely celebrated than her tender heart, persuaded her husband to burn the old Roman tax records, claiming that God sent a plague that threatened her children in revenge for their oppression of the poor. The seventh-century queen Balthild took Radegund as her model and cultivated her spiritual power after she left her throne for a monastery. These holy women and the models they presented through their vitae thus played a vital role in the final amalgamation of Franks and Gauls into a working community.

Jo Ann McNamara, Sainted Women of the Dark Ages


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