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Radegund

(c. 518—587)


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(518–87),

queen. The daughter of Berthaire, king of Thuringia, she was brought up in an environment of violence and intrigue. At the age of twelve she was captured by the Franks; she became a Christian and, at eighteen, married King Clotaire, son of Clovis, whose nominal Christianity seemed to affect very little his native tendency to violence and immorality. Though Radegund united beauty with piety, Clotaire was repeatedly unfaithful, taunted her for her childlessness, and even murdered her brother. So, after six years of marriage, Radegund left the court, took the veil at Noyon, and became a deaconess. Later she founded the monastery of Holy Cross at Poitiers under the Rule of Caesarius of Arles. The arrival of a relic of the cross there from Constantinople was the occasion for Venantius Fortunatus composing the hymn ‘Vexilla Regis prodeunt’. This monastery was a centre of scholarship (the nuns spent two hours a day in study), but also of Radegund's various peace-making activities.

Surrounded by her 200-strong community, she died on 13 August; miraculous cures were soon reported at her tomb; her feast was celebrated in France, especially Tours, from the 9th century or earlier; in England five ancient churches were dedicated to her, as well as the Cambridge College now known as Jesus. A late-15th-century Life, by Henry Bradshaw, provides additional evidence for English interest in her. Feast: 13 August.

Contemporary Lives by the nun Baudovinia and Venantius Fortunatus, with a later one, in AA.SS. Aug. III (1737), 67–92; Life by Henry Bradshaw (ed. F. Brittain, 1926); modern studies by F. Brittain (1925), R. Aigrain (1952), and L. Schmidt (1956).

Subjects: Christianity — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).


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