Historical setting: 589 C.E. Metz
Sweet fragrance of vineyards hums a placid summer’s gloss over any purpose for this journey. As we leave the vintner’s wife tells us we are seeking a dark old Roman basilica with baths. It will be dreary and damp, seeping with the laments chanted by women.
In Metz our expectation is fulfilled. [Footnote] The leftovers of Romans, then Graoully and other snakes still cast shadows on the stern gray walls here. And this city owns both king and bishop of Austrasia. We are out of the reach now of Father Columbanus’s friend, King Guntram. And so royal boundaries may be one reason for the politics of complaint in the messages the father answers. Here in a far corner of this basilica we find the Bishop of this see who keeps his own political stature. Ana is given audience with the abbess, the wife of the bishop, whom it is well-known, is of a more noble lineage than even the bishop. Awe abounds.
In times such as this religious communities are numerous and rich yet seemingly bleak and dreary with collections of nuns and monks and relics speaking for them of appropriate suffering. Here Christians are sent to find Jesus among the poor and the sick and the imprisoned so the aristocracy clothes themselves in poverty and suffering to encourage laity of Christian duty when the poor make their tithes.
I deliver the scroll to Bishop Agilulf, himself, who is seated on a carved throne in a small room. Proper protocols in place, I genuflect for his cross, not for his person. I’ve not broken the seal on these scrolls I carry, so I haven’t read the letter Columbanus sends with me. The bishop reads it and speaks to its content.
“So this ruffian from a far distant island, barely Christianized, considers that he has now come into a ‘wilderness’ for his spiritual withdrawal. Yet he thinks the disruption he brings with his haphazard tonsure and random, uncensored calendar of Christian ritual should be excused in the name of Christ. And you have come here with this message for me, and you have also brought us a ruffian woman you expect us to tame?”
“No, your holiness. The woman who is with me is my wife, and she herself is a literate scholar in the medical arts. She is seeking a library with the writings of the ancients so that she may better her learning and her skills. Have you such a library?”
Footnote: https://www.spottinghistory.com/view/5314/basilica-of-saint-pierre-aux-nonnains/ retrieved 1-18-22.