Historical setting: 589 C.E. Châlons
This morning I deliver Father Columbanus’s message to Father Felix a bit hesitantly, asking him for whom it might have been intended. Even though it is addressed to “The Bishop of Châlons” he opens it and glances over the letter while we wait; then he explains to us that he knows Father Columbanus and he addressed it “Bishop” with a glimmer of humor. He showed me the letter. It begins “Greetings, Father Felix.” [Footnote 1] So now I see two church fathers who oversee monasteries subtly mocking the pomp of an elevated title.
While we are here, also, Ana continues her relentless search. She asks the young priest if this building houses an ancient library. He suggests we ask about books at the King’s castle as the king has a number of recent acquisitions. And he also affirms what we heard yesterday. The king often stays in Châlons so I will be able to deliver that last message I have for the king directly to him while we are here.
Now at the king’s castle the gatekeeper adds us to the list of visitors as ‘Envoy from Father Columbanus.’ I hand the gatekeeper the message I have brought from Tier without the same care I have for safe delivery of the father’s message to the king.
Here Ana again asks about books. The King’s library, Ana discovers, is very much the same as King Chilperic’s. Actually Ana finds a whole section of volumes that King Chiperic once owned. We can only suppose that is because King Guntram inherited the books when his half-brother, Chilperic, was assassinated.
King Guntram is the last surviving son of Clothar I who divided these lands of the Franks into the four kingdoms that now battle each other incessantly. The next generation of kings of Franks are yet very young and are ruling under regencies, whom it happens are the wives of Guntram’s brothers.[Footnote 2]
One nephew of Guntram, Childebert II, rules Austrasia, the kingdom with all the disgruntled bishops we’ve been visiting on this journey. In the Vosges, Austrasia and Burgundy share a vague border. In some places the southern border of Austrasia is more clearly defined with Nuestra, which was Chilperic’s kingdom, and Nuestra also borders Burgundy.
The books are not the only thing King Guntram has of Chilperic’s. He also has his son. He adopted that nephew to be his heir, as he has no sons. Clothar II is a young child now, living in Orleans with his mother, who is currently the regent of Chilperic’s swath.
[Footnote 1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_of_Burgundy retrieved 12-1-2022. It is an enigma for historians, but a fiction writer’s ‘ah-ha’ that Châlons of Burgundy, while missing a bishop, did have a “Felix” who showed up several decades later in Britain, as a bishop, then a saint, related to St. Columbanus. He was called Felix of Burgundy. (The bishop’s portrait copied into the art of this blog is from St. Peter, Mancroft, Norwich. posted in this wikipedia article noted.)
[Footnote 2] Navigating the political scene of the Merovingian dynasty is easier with a genealogy chart. A good one is Appendix A, (p. 232-233) of Geary, Patrick J. Before France & Germany: the Creation & Transformation of the Merovingian World, New York: Oxford Press, 1988.
(Continues Tuesday, August 9, 2022)