Page 15, 1st June 2007

1st June 2007
Page 15
Page 15, 1st June 2007 — SAINT OF THE WEEK

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Locations: Paris


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St Clotilde (June 3)

CLOTILDE (475-545) was a Burgundian princess who married Clovis, the King of the Franks, whom she converted to Catholic Christianity.

With the break-up of the Roman Empire a number of Germanic tribes established themselves in Western Europe, sometimes claiming to be representatives of the vestigial imperial authority. As part of this process, they might adopt Christianity, albeit frequently of the heretical, Arian, variety.

The Burgundians were exceptional in that Catholic orthodoxy was predominant among them. By contrast the Salian Franks around the Rhine delta, while affecting Roman symbols of authority, were still pagan (though possibly touched by Arianism) when the warlike Clovis succeeded as their king in 481. Clovis took possession of the whole country between the Somme and the Loire, establishing his capital at Soissons. Around 493 he married the Burgundian Clotilde, who (as Gregory of Tours related a century later) immediately began chivvying him to abandon his idols and convert to Catholic Christianity. It did not help whom Clovis had allowed to be baptised, immediately died. Nevertheless, the second son. Clodomir, was also christened, and he recovered from a serious illness.

The crunch came when Clovis, hard-pressed in Clotilde" that he would be baptised if he emerged victorious. The prayer was granted and the bargain sealed. On Christmas Day 498, not merely Clovis, "the new Constantine". but 3,000 of his followers, were baptised by Remigius, bishop Clovis died in 511; Clotilde, however, survived him by 30 years, grieviously tormented by internecine family quarrels. After her son Clodomir was killed in battle, she brought up his children, only to see two of them murdered by her remaining sons, Childebert and Clotaire. Clodimir's third boy, Cloud, escaped, became a monk, and was canonised. Meanwhile Clotilde's daughter had died after her husband Amalric, King of the Visigoths, had been defeated by Childebert and subsequently murdered.

Clotilde ended her days in the abbey of St Martin's at Tours. She was buried with Clovis in the church they had founded together at Paris, their new capital; the site is now occupied by the church of St Etienne-duMont (alongside the Pantheon), where Pascal and Racine are buried. Relics of Clotilde which survived the Revolution are now at the church of Saint-Leu in Paris.

Clotilde 'S great-granddaughter Berta married Ethelbert of Kent, and most probably assisted in his conversion by St Augustine.

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