Radegund was born in Thuringia, the daughter of a pagan king of central Germany. Around 530, her father's people were defeated by the Franks, and among the booty taken was Radegund, then about eight years old. Even at this age, she was considered, politically and personally, a valuable prize: the three Frankish kings fought over her, and the winner, Chlotar, sent her to a royal estate to be raised as a future queen. While there, Radegund learned Latin and read deeply in the lives of the saints. When Chlotar reclaimed and married Radegund about 540, he found that his barbarian wife had become a dedicated Christian and was determined to live an ascetic life of prayer.
Chlotar was not pleased, but like other royal Franks of this period he had other wives, and he tolerated Radegund's piety. Radegund, however, eventually ran away from her unwanted marriage and forced a terrified bishop to consecrate her as a nun. Chlotar and Radegund struggled for years more over her desire for a religious life, until Radegund finally won her point. Chlotar endowed Radegund with property near Poitier where she set up a convent, which she ruled until she died in 587.
In Radegund's time her house became an important center of the Frankish kingdom. She surrounded herself with other high-ranking women who wished a life of godly independence. Radegund's friendship was sought by literary and religious men. Her austerities gained her a reputation for personal holiness, too. Her standing as Christian leader allowed her to talk the Emperor Maurice into sending her a piece of the True Cross.
Radegund used the monastic vocation as a way out of the unpleasant obligations that her family history and her femaleness had saddled her with. Her position as an abbess allowed her far more autonomy, as the head of a wealthy aristocratic household, than would have been available to her in any other way. In a contemporary phrase she "changed her garments" (to modest clothing appropriate for a renunciate), and thus gained access to another world, where the usual gender-based restrictions were not so great. At the same time, however, her position in the world of the religiously dedicated reflected her pre-monastic status. continued to regard herself as a member of her husband's family, and acted as something of a godmother for the Frankish kings: Not every nun received gifts from an emperor, or could defy her bishop in the way Radegund sometimes did, trading on her queenly rank. Also, Radegund's biographer, the nun Baudonivia, makes it clear that Radegund
Because she loved all the kings, she prayed for the life of each and instructed us to pray without interruption for the stability [of the kingdoms]. Whenever she heard that they had turned against each other with hatred, she was greatly shaken and sent letters to the one and the other [imploring them] not to wage war and take up arms against each other...In the same way, she sent great men to give salutary advice to the illustrious kings so that the country should be made more salubrious both for the king and the people.
Baudonivia also reports that Radegund's regarded her relic of the true cross "as an instrument whereby the salvation of the kingdom would be secured and the welfare of the country assured." For all the talk of withdrawing from the world, Radegund like other monastic leaders had merely withdrawn to a different position in the world, from which she could exercise special functions: intercession with God for her kin and neighbors, and mediation among quarrelling Christians. In this way she paid for her privileges and acquired further respect.http://www.nipissingu.ca/department/his ... OVC4s6.htm
During the Merovingian period, nuns, like monks, as intercessors provided comfort and divine protection for the villages and villagers around their communities, as well as aid for travelers and the needy. At the same time, it was easy for them to become enmeshed in the political intrigues, partly because of the aristocratic bloodlines of monastics, but also because of the dependence of secular leaders upon their intercessory powers.
So, despite the desire to keep holy persons separate from the world, reality often came knocking on the monastery door. And in the reality of the Merovingian world, the ways in which nuns interacted with the world did not always meet expectations. Queen Radegund, founder of a convent, St. Croix, at Poitiers in 561 after a daring escape from her captor-husband, provides an example of the expectations placed on women monastics and the reality of how these expectations were met.
Early on, Radegund had requested a copy of the Rule of St. Caesarius of Arles for her nuns to follow.(24) Caesarius' rule carried commands of such severe cloistering that it might be expected that Radegund, who had longed to establish a monastery and then sought out this strict rule to govern it, to retreat into the cloister, never to be heard from or seen again. Radegund, however, proved not to be the retiring sort.(25) Instead, the former queen kept abreast of the activities of her earthly relatives and had dinners and visitors in her convent, despite the prohibition of banqueting in Caesarius' rule.(26) For example, Radegund and her foster daughter, Agnes, frequently entertained a romantic poet/priest, Venantius Fortunatus, with lavish dinners in the convent.
Where her nuns were concerned, however, Radegund seemed to support the spirit of Caesarius' rule. Gregory of Tours recounts that at one point the nun Basina refused to leave the monastery even though her father, King Chilperic, had ordered her to do so in order to marry.(27) Radegund supported Basina's decision: "It is not seemly," she said, "for a nun dedicated to Christ to turn back once more to the sensuous pleasures of this world.(28) For Basina's part, it is unclear whether she refused her father because of the conventual vow of cloistering, or, perhaps, she just did not want to marry.(29)
Radegund's personal decision to ignore aspects of Caesarius' rule may have stemmed from her reasons for accepting it in the first place. As foundress of her newly established monastery, Radegund did not get along with the local bishop, Maroveus, who was trying to bring St. Croix under his sway. In an attempt to break away from this acrimonious relationship, Radegund chose to place her convent under the rule of Caesarius of Arles, which, in turn, placed the convent under the protection of the king, her kinsman, rather than under the bishop.(30)
Overall, it seems that Radegund adopted Caesarius' rule more as a convenience to avoid having to deal with the bellicose Maroveus than with any desire to retreat permanently behind the walls of a monastic community. And Radegund's decision to turn to her family rather than the Church represents how family connections often were used to obtain whatever the monastery needed.(31) Because it was the abbess or abbot who provided for the material and spiritual welfare of the monastery, she or he needed to maintain lies with the outside world through the resources of kin.
Radegund's relationship with the world, particularly with its rulers, demonstrates the intercessory role that kings and other nobles often desired of holy persons. Because monasteries were nearly the only places of learning during this period, those inhabiting these communities were often the most educated and, thus, best able to give advice. Secular leaders assumed that these nuns and monks had available to them all of God's wisdom, and as His earth-bound representatives of the heavenly family, they surely could bring His divine aid to earth. Hilda of Whitby, according to Bede, counseled kings of Anglo-Saxon England: "So great was her prudence that not only ordinary folk, but kings and princes used to come and ask her advice in their difficulties and take it."(32) Gregory of Tours provides the example of Nicetius, bishop of Trier, who, as a monk, earned the favor of a Frankish king and was then promoted to his bishopric by the king.(33)
In addition to advice, monastics were sought after for their intercession. In return for prayers from the holy community, the wealthy bestowed gifts upon the monastery. This is why Radegund, who fled from her husband, Lothar, later received his aid to establish the convent at Poitiers.(34) No doubt, the Frankish king hoped for spiritual rewards in return.(35)
For her own part, Radegund involved herself and the convent in the temporal affairs of the kingdom, praying for peace in the land. Baudonivia, who wrote a vita of Radegund, presents the clearest picture of the former queen's connection with the outside world:
She was always solicitous for peace and worked diligently for the welfare of the fatherland. Whenever the different kingdoms made war on one another, she prayed for the lives of all the kings, for she loved them all. And she taught us also to pray incessantly for their stability. Whenever she heard of bitterness arising among them, trembling, she sent such letters to one and then to the other pleading that they should not make war among themselves nor take up arms lest they should perish. And, likewise, she sent to their noble followers to give the high kings salutary counsel so that their power might work to the welfare of the people of the land. She imposed assiduous vigils on her flock tearfully teaching them to pray incessantly for the kings. And who can tell what agonies she inflicted on herself? So, through her intercession, there was peace among the kings.(36)http://organizations.ju.edu/fch/1994hamilton.htmhttp://www.ignatius.com/Books/Supplemen ... spx?SID=1&