Historical setting: 589 C.E. Reims to Châlons
I know Bishop Gregory is not one to use his high ecclesiastical office to make political accusations, but in his secular writings, like the “History of the Franks” for example, he might float rumors supporting his own grudges. All these twisty tales of kings and bishops settling with the dusts of Gaul in the ruins of Rome could be completely ignored by an Irish father, a foreigner to these shores. Columbanus came here for his wilderness pilgrimage. He was seeking desolation and solitude. But, unknown to the father, Columbanus’s journey might have turned political when he and his followers stopped to ask permission from King Guntram to establish an isolated community for his little band of Irish monks. Now it is obvious this so-called, “wilderness” that seemed to belong to no one is really the heartland of Gaul with roads and bridges, rivers and cities and overlapping boundaries of three kingdoms of the Merovingians. Here boundaries are usually settled by annihilating warfare, assassinations and atrocity.
I can see here what happened. The humble, but well-spoken father from the Celtic islands took his request to the King, and Guntram graciously offered him the Roman Ruin of a fort in the Vosges mountains. The desert father saw it as a wilderness. The king saw it as a far away, hard to reach borderland he wished to secure because it pushes into the kingdom of Austrasia. So here I am delivering the father’s kind letters to a bevy of power hungry bishops in the midst of it all trying to reconcile details of tonsure style and the choice for an Easter date.
Our Journey to Reims has nothing for Ana’s quest, and my simple task of handing a letter to the bishop was hardly successful either. But we’ve learned a bit more about the nature of this place.
We are heading to the last stop on the iron seller’s map, Châlons.
From there we will go on as best as we can find our way with no map. From Sens we will be but a day’s ride to the headwaters of the Loire.
This leg of our journey will take us a few days and will have less of the aristocratic accommodations like city inns, so we prepare by purchasing some oats and several loaves of barley bread to accompany our foraging through an ironically well-populated “wilderness.”
(Continues Tuesday, July 26)