Introduction
~
,~
Behold,hereyouhavethedeeds
ofa
saintwhichyouhavereadorheardpiouslythatyoumay
imitatethem.Stillinthemaidenstate,shedespisedtheworldanddesiredheaven.Shetamed
thelustsofthefleshtolovevirginity.Sheharnessedtheconcupiscenceoftheeye,whichis
curiosity,bymeditatingondivinereadings.Shetrampleddownlife'sambition,whichispride,
withherhumility,Shedespiseda
mortalspousetochooseonewhowiUneverdie.Whenshe
hadriches,sheputnohopesin treasuresofmoneybutwiselydistributedaUtothepoor.. . .
Therefore,imitatewhatyouhaveread.Liveasshelived.Walkasshewalked
andthereisno
doubtthatyouwiU gowhereshehasgonewiththehelpoftheCreatorwhoworksHismercyin
HissaintsandgivesvirtueandfortitudetoHispeople,blessed
beGodforever.Amen.'
Here are the biographies of eighteen women who lived in the sixth and
seventh centuries, sometimes called the Dark Ages.At the beginning of this
book, the land they inhabited was called Roman Gaul.The population were
the survivors of a vanished empire. Catholic Christianity defined their sense
of identity, and their bishops struggled to maintain the remnants of civil
authority againstpagan Huns and Franks aswell asother Germanic kingswho
had been converted by Arians,Christiansbranded asheretics by the Catholics
because of their divergent ideas concerning the Trinity.This book introduces
noble women who participated in Gaul's violent transformation into the
Merovingian kingdoms of Neustria, Burgundy, and Austrasia. It ends just
before Frankland, unified at last by the noble ancestors of Charlemagne,
began its long career as "eldest daughter of the Roman church," Catholic
Christianity'schampion againstthe pagans of the north and the heretics of the
south.
It is rare for any age to preserve so large a group of sources dedicated
to women's achievements and rarer still for a period so impoverished in
sources of anykind. Merovingian hagiography was aflourishing literary genre
that offered a rough and inexperienced ruling class a new set of Christian
I.
Hucbald of Saint-Amand. VitaS.Aldegundisvirginis, 35.AS.January 3D,662.
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