Historical setting: 584 C.E. Ligugè
Just before the silence Brother August was telling me of the women’s convent which I thought was named for St. Mary, Abbaye de Sainte-Marie, at Poitiers. He said it was renamed after a relic of the true cross that the abbess, Radigund, a queen, was able to acquire for the monastery.
Had I only known of the pagan ooze of belief in magical talisman that is seeping into Christianity in these times, I would have stuffed my travel bag with much more of the refuse of that earlier time. In my own grief for my friend and teacher I never gave a thought to chipping off a wedge of the bloody wood of that godless torture tool. Maybe the cup Jesus used when he shared the wine, simple pottery as it was, would have been a meaningful souvenir for me to keep. I mean, he did say, “remember me” when he shared the cup. And for a very long time I did have that washbasin from our house. As might be expected I used it as a washbasin never considering its significance as the relic of the washing of the disciple’s feet.
The part I do keep deep and dear in my heart is Jesus. He is the resurrection, as I know it to be in spirit, and the life as I know it to be in spirit. Thank you God for the mystical bond I share with this forever friend and teacher.
Silence lifts and Brother August continues telling me about the queen who established that monastery. “She and her brother, Thuringian princess and prince, were kidnapped by the Franks when she was only a young child. All of the others of her tribe were annihilated by this atrocity at the hands of the Frankish King. When Radigund was of age the king killed her brother to extinguish any possible Thuringian heir to the lands; and King Cloitaire married Radigund. That’s how she became queen and how she acquired the portion of land she gave for a holy purpose. [Footnote 1]
August explains it, “Respected as queen, she herself took the responsibility as abbess. She requires literacy for the women, and is, herself, a poet. It is said that after the death of her brother she wept with a poet’s tears — words, naming the atrocities of King Cloitaire. In her eulogy for her brother and her people she writes, “Each one had her own tears: I alone have them all.” (Line 33, The Thuringian War, Translated by JoAnn McNamara[Footnote 2])
[Footnote 1] Armstrong, Dorsey, “The Medieval World” Lecture #6 (The Great Courses, © the teaching company, 2009.)
[Footnote 2]) (Following is a brief excerpt from “The Thuringian War”
https://epistolac.ctl.columbia.edu/letter/947.html retrieved 4-2-21)
For her brother she wrote,
“As your father’s blush plays prettily on your face.
Kinsman, believe, you are not gone while a word remains:
Send a speaking page to act as a brother to me.
Some have every gift while I lack even tears for solace,
Oh cruel fate that the more I love, the less I have!”
Translator, JoAnn McNamara
This poem was published among Fortunatus’ poems, on the assumption that he had written it for and in the voice of his friend Radegund. Translators of the poem, JoAnn McNamara, Marcelle Thiebaux (The Writings of Medieval Women [New York: Garland, 1987]), accept Radegund’s authorship, as do Charles Nisard, Fortunatus, Opera Poetica (Paris: Nisard, 1887) and Karen Cherewatuk, Dear Sister, Medieval Women and the Epistolary Genre, ed. Cherewatuk and Ulrike Wiethaus (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1993). Since Fortunatus himself speaks of the poems she has written and sent to him, and Gregory of Tours cites a letter written by her in his History of the Franks, 9.42, I [McNamara] see no reason to deny her authorship. The translation presented here is by JoAnn McNamara, …