Date of Graduation
As a queen, nun, cult leader, and patron saint, Radegunde (A.D. 520-587) takes her place in history from three narrative texts about her life written between 575 and 610 by Gregory of Tours, a senatorial Gallo-Roman bishop and historian; Venantius Fortunatus, a provincial Italian poet-priest; and, Baudonivia, a Frankish nun and scribe. Each writer was closely associated with Radegunde and the Sainte Croix nunnery she established for two hundred women in Poitiers. The activities surrounding Radegunde, the three writers, and the Sainte Croix nuns generated a dominant influence during the christianization of Frankish Gaul. In this historiographical study, my critical triangulation of Gregory's Historia Francorum, Fortunatus' Vita Sanctae Radegundis, Liber I, and Baudonivia's Vita Sanctae Radegundis, Liber II, demonstrates that each writer created a specific context to interpret Radegunde's example and that each context, in turn, revealed the different social circumstances and personal experiences of the writer. Bishop Gregory favored Radegunde's compliance with the episcopal hierarchy. Fortunatus praised Radegunde's contemplative retreat from the world. Baudonivia emphasized the benefits of a separatist community for women. In 590-591, a faction of Sainte Croix nuns broke their Rule and crossed the forbidden convent walls. The kings appointed six bishops, including the Bishop of Poitiers, to judge the nuns. However, the central issue of this trial was to award jurisdiction over nunnery property. The bishops' verdict reversed the independent status of Sainte Croix, placing the nunnery under the control of the Bishop of Poitiers. Although each writer's context was different, all were compatible with the male dominant goals of christianization. The writers' three-fold image of Radegunde simultaneously confirmed women's roles in the supportive spheres of teaching, care-taking, and peace-making; denounced women's participation in the ruling hierarchies of the court, the military, and the Church; and, stipulated that women's activities be subject to the authority of the ruling hierarchies. Adding a feminist perspective to the Merovingian writers' contexts reveals how Radegunde's textual image distorted contemporary understanding and perpetuated historical prejudices about women's full participation in society.
White, Duey (Janette), "Complementary contexts for the life of Saint-Queen Radegunde." (1989). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 10005.