Radegund of Thuringia loved Amalfred in Jerome’s way

Radegund of Thuringia, a sixth-century Germanic princess, queen, and founder of the Abbey of the Holy Cross at Poitiers, was a highly privileged woman like those who sought Jerome’s spiritual and intellectual guidance in late-fourth-century Rome. Radegund’s letter-poem About the destruction of Thuringia {De excidio Thoringiae} draws upon the Aeneid’s epic imagery of Troy’s destruction and elegiac lament in Ovid’s Heroines {Heroides} and Sorrows {Tristia}.[1] Many classical authors drew upon Virgil and Ovid. De excidio Thoringiae more distinctively follows Jerome’s way in shocking use of biblical and classical learning, passionate literary rhetoric, and concern for men’s disadvantaged gender position.

Radegund recognized still-prevalent gender bias toward violence against men. The epic tradition rooted in the Iliad tells of massive violence against men within the institutionally gendered violence of war. Some recently have declared that women are the primary victims of war because they lose their men, evidently valued as possessions or instruments.[2] Radegund depicted a woman’s suffering in war:

The married woman with torn hair was bound and carried away,
not even being able to say a sad farewell to her household gods,
nor was the captive permitted to press a kiss to her threshold,
nor turn her gaze back and see again familiar places.

{ hinc rapitur laceris matrona revincta capillis,
nec laribus potuit dicere triste vale.
oscula non licuit captivo infigere posti
nec sibi visuris ora referre locis. }[3]

In addition to drawing upon Virgil’s telling of Troy’s destruction, Radegund here exemplified Jerome’s outrageous wit with an allusion to Lot’s wife. Lot’s wife was turned to stone when she looked back at the home she had lost. This captive wife wasn’t allowed to look back. She thus survived, but her husband apparently was massacred:

The wife’s naked foot trampled her husband’s blood,
and the alluring sister stepped over her fallen brother.
The boy seized from his mother’s embrace weighed on her face.
With her lament, she did not confer any tears at his death.

{ nuda maritalem calcavit planta cruorem
blandaque transibat fratre iacente soror.
raptus ab amplexu matris puer ore pependit,
funereas planctu nec dedit ullus aquas }[4]

Wife, sister, and mother lived, while husband, brother, and son died. The wife dominated her husband even amid the tragedy, while the sister’s sexual value raised her fate above her brother’s. The horror was such that a mother couldn’t even manage to cry for her son seized from her and killed. As Prudentius transgressively highlighted in his Psychomachia and Radegund equally understood, epic violence is overwhelmingly violence against men.

Radegund liberating prisoners

In De excidio Thoringiae, Radegund mourned men’s deaths generally and expressed ardent love for a particular man. Like the young Greek woman lamenting Maximianus’s impotence (“I’m lamenting not a private, but universal chaos {non fleo priuatum, set generale chaos}”), Radegund declared to Amalfred:

Each person has grieved, but I alone have all their griefs.
This sorrow is to me both public and private.
Fortune was mindful of the men whom the enemy struck down,
such that I, remaining as one female survivor, weep for them all.

{ Quisque suos habuit fletus, ego sola sed omnes:
est mihi privatus publicus ille dolor.
consuluit fortuna viris quos perculit hostis;
ut flerem cunctis una superstes ago. }

Men’s love for women is vitally important for women and for the general flourishing of human society. Radegund grieved for all the men that the enemy killed.[5] She also grieved for being separated from Amalfred:

One whose tender looks solaced me with love
is released from my embrace by hostile fate.
Does care for me not gnaw at you in my absence?
Has the bitter disaster removed your sweetness of feeling?
At least remember from your earliest years what
I, Radegund, was then to you, Amalfred —
how much you, a sweet child, once loved me,
you, my loving relative, begotten from my father’s brother.
What my dead father could have been, what mother,
sister or brother could have been, only you were to me.
Taken in your kindly arms, ah!, hanging on your alluring kisses,
I, a starving little girl, was soothed by your calmness.
Barely less than an hour’s length passed without my mind recalling you.
Now ages fly and I don’t have your words.
Crushed with cares in my tortured heart, I spin
about when you will return and from where, my relative.

{ cuius in aspectu tenero solabar amore
solvit ab amplexu sors inimica meo.
an, quod in absenti te nec mea cura remordet,
affectum dulcem cladis amara tulit?
vel memor esto, tuis primaevis qualis ab annis,
Hamalafrede, tibi tunc Radegundis eram,
quantum me quondam dulcis dilexeris infans
et de fratre patris nate, benigne parens.
quod pater extinctus poterat, quod mater haberi,
quod soror aut frater tu mihi solus eras.
prensa piis manibus heu blanda per oscula pendens
mulcebar placido famine parva tuo.
vix erat in spatium, quo te minus hora referret;
saecula nunc fugiunt, nec tua verba fero.
volvebam rabidas inliso in pectore curas,
ceu revocareris, quando vel unde, parens }[6]

Radegund urgently desired to be with Amalfred:

If father, mother, or cares of the royal house held you,
though you hurried back, you would already be too late for me.
Fate was indicating how I might quickly lose you, my dear.
Urgent love doesn’t know to endure for long.
I was vexed with anxiety when one house didn’t cover us.
When you went outside, I thought you had gone far away.

{ si pater aut genetrix aut regia cura tenebat,
cum festinabas iam mihi tardus eras.
sors erat indicium, quia te cito, care, carerem:
importunus amor nescit habere diu.
anxia vexabar, si non domus una tegebat;
egrediente foris rebar abisse procul. }[7]

Radegund’s love for Amalfred didn’t arise from personal weakness. As a strong, independent, and intelligent woman, Radegund was fully capable of founding a new convent and maneuvering politically to deal with a hostile bishop.[8] But she also was perceptive enough to recognize the importance, personally and socially, of expressing ardent love for men.

Radegund wasn’t seeking sexual relations with Amalfred. At the writing of De excidio Thoringiae, she was about fifty years old and hadn’t seen Amalfred or communicated with him for about forty years. Moreover, she was then an eminent nun vowed to chastity. Years earlier she had been married to the Merovingian King Chlothar I. Their marital relations had been rather cold:

At night, when she lay with the king, she would ask to rise to ease herself according to human necessity. Then leaving their bedroom, she would lie in prayer on a hair rug thrown down in front of the outhouse. The penetrating cold would lie upon her such that only her spirit remained warm. All her flesh prefigured death. Not running from bodily torment, her mind was intent on Paradise. What she endured she counted as trivial, such that Christ wasn’t cheapened. Subsequently returning into their bedroom, she could scarcely become warm by the fireplace or in bed. Because of this, to the king it was said that he had married a nun rather than a queen. By her goodness itself the king was thus irritated and bitter. But by in part soothing and in part making offerings, she modestly bore the complaints from her husband.

{ nocturno tempore, cum reclinaret cum principe, rogans se pro humana necessitate consurgere, levans, egressa cubiculo, tam diu ante secretum orationi incumbebat iactato cilicio, ut solo calens spiritu, iaceret gelu penetrata, tota carne praemortua: non curans corporis tormento mens intenta paradiso, leve reputans quod ferret, tantum ne Christo vilesceret. Inde regressa cubiculum, vix tepefieri poterat vel foco vel lectulo. De qua regi dicebatur habere se potius iugalem monacham quam reginam. Unde et ipse irritatus, pro bonis erat asperrimus, sed illa pro parte leniens, pro parte tolerabat modeste rixas inlatas a coniuge. }[9]

Radegund apparently was the sort of woman who preferred to have cold penetrate her than to have her husband penetrate her. Given Radegund’s apparent desire for sexless marriage to King Chlothar and her subsequent profession as a nun, she surely wasn’t seeking to bed Amalfred.

Radegund leaves her husband Chlothar in bed and lies on the ground in prayer

Radegund followed Jerome in expressing ardent love for men friends. Shortly before spending five years as a Christian hermit, Jerome wrote to the monk Rufinus. Jerome expressed ardent love for Rufinus and a strong desire to see him:

Oh, if only the Lord Jesus Christ would suddenly transport me to you as Philip was transported to the eunuch, and Habakkuk to Daniel, with what a close embrace would I clasp your neck, how fondly would I press kisses upon that mouth which has so often joined with me in error or in wisdom. … I send this letter to meet you instead of coming myself, that it might bring you here to me caught in the meshes of love’s net. … Believe me, brother, I would like to see you more than the storm-tossed mariner looks for his haven, more than the thirsty fields long for showers, more than the anxious mother sitting on the curving shore expects her son.

{ o si mihi nunc dominus Iesus Christus vel Philippi ad eunuchum vel Ambacum ad Danihelum translationem repente concederet, quam ego nunc arte tua stringerem colla conplexibus, quam illud os, quod mecum vel erravit aliquando vel sapuit, inpressis figerem labiis! … has mei vicarias et tibi obvias mitto, quae te copula amoris innexum ad me usque perducant. … credas mihi velim, frater, non sic tempestate iactatus portum nauta prospectat, non sic sitientia imbres arva desiderant, non sic curvo adsidens litori anxia filium mater expectat. }[10]

Jerome neither had nor sought an erotic relationship with Rufinus. They were men friends.

Use of erotic language in friendship with men supports men’s equal human dignity. Men are gender-disproportionately burdened with the risks of soliciting amorous heterosexual relations. Among those risks is simple rejection; that is, amorous rejection without any criminal or social-media charges of malfeasance. Men endure the pain of such rejection, as well as criminalization, much more frequently than women do. Using erotic language in friendship with men supports men’s equal right, as fully human beings, to feel ardently loved. Radegund, following Jerome, understood the importance of expressing ardent love for men friends.[11]

Radegund recognized men’s disproportionate gender burden in love with women and sought to remedy that injustice. As a learned woman, Radegund surely knew that Leander many times swam across the sea to be with his beloved woman Hero. Hero not even once swam across the sea to Leander. Radegund insisted that she, like Malgherita Spolatina, was different:

If the sacred cloister of my convent didn’t hold me,
I would arrive unexpected in whatever region you dwell.
I would have eagerly gone by ship through storms of smashing waves
and gladly traveled on waters in winter gales.
Bravely I would have pushed to hang upon piled swells
and for love of you would not have dreaded what the sailor fears.
If the waves broke my ship in raging rains,
with a plank as oar I would aim for you in traveling across the sea.
If by unfortunate fate I was prevented from seizing a timber,
I would come to you swimming with weary arms.
At sight of you, I would deny the journey’s dangers —
immediately with sweetness you would ease the woes of shipwreck —
or if my ultimate fate deprived me of my troublesome life,
at least the sand on my tomb would be carried by your hands.

{ Sacra monasterii si me non claustra tenerent,
improvisa aderam qua regione sedes.
prompta per undifragas transissem puppe procellas,
flatibus hibernis laeta moverer aquis.
fortior eductos pressissem pendula fluctus,
et quod nauta timet non pavitasset amans.
imbribus infestis si solveret unda carinam,
te peterem tabula remige vecta mari.
sorte sub infausta si prendere ligna vetarer,
ad te venissem lassa natante manu.
cum te respicerem, peregrina pericla negassem —
naufragii dulcis mox relevasses onus —
aut mihi si querulam raperet sors ultima vitam,
vel tumulum manibus ferret harena tuis. }[12]

In writing Theophrastus’s Golden Book on Marriage {Aureolus liber de nuptiis}, Jerome outrageously told women how to help men. With similar concern for men, Radegund told Amalfred she would undertake what had been exclusively Leander’s burden. Radegund compassionately rejected men’s historical gender burden of undertaking dangerous love quests.

In imploring Amalfred to write to her, Radegund followed the example of Jerome in showing loving appreciation for men friends through letters. Jerome wrote to his fellow monk Antony:

Unless I’m mistaken, I’ve already sent you ten affectionate and earnest letters, while you have not deigned to make for me even a single line. The Lord speaks to His servants, but you, my brother servant, refuse to speak to me. “You are too insulting,” you say. Believe me, if reserve did not check my pen, I could show annoyance in such invective that you would have to write back to me, even if in anger. But since anger is of a worldly person, and a Christian must not do injury, I revert again to the ancient practice of entreaty. I beg you to love one who loves you, and to share words as a servant should with his fellow servant.

{ decem iam, nisi fallor, epistulas plenas tam officii quam precum misi, cum tu ne muttum quidem facere dignaris et domino loquente cum seruis frater cum fratre non loqueris. “nimis,” inquies, “contumeliose.” crede mihi, nisi stili uerecundia prohiberet, tanta laesus ingererem, ut inciperes mihi rescribere uel iratus. sed quoniam et irasci hominis est et iniuriam non facere Christiani, ad antiquum morem reuertens rursus precor, ut et diligentem te diligas et conseruo sermonem conseruus inpertias. }[13]

Showing Christian belief in the equal human dignity of women and men, Jerome expressed similar aggrievement to women who didn’t respond to his letters. To his “dearest sisters {sorores carissimae}” of the Roman colony at Aemona, he wrote:

I implore you, moreover, to forgive one hurting. I speak truly as an aggrieved man. I speak in tears and in anger. You indeed have not offered to me a single syllable for the many times I have bestowed upon you the service of writing.

{ uos autem ignoscite, obsecro, dolenti; dico enim laesus, dico lacrimans et irascens: ne unum quidem apicem totiens uobis tribuenti officium praestitistis. }

Radegund similarly chided and implored Amalfred:

Burdened by grief’s weight, I am even more tormented
because you send me no token of yourself in parchment.

Believe me, my relative, if you sent word, you wouldn’t be wholly absent:
the sent page would speak to be part of my brother to me.
All have their due, yet I have not even tears for solace.
O what injustice — that the more I love, the less I receive!

I ask, serene relative, that now at least a page of yours speed to me,
so that your kindly tongue would ease my heavy sickness.

{ Hinc potius crucior validis onerata querellis,
cur mihi nulla tui mittere signa velis.

crede, parens, si verba dares, non totus abesses:
pagina missa loquens pars mihi fratris erat.
cuncti munus habent, ego nec solacia fletus.
o facinus, quae dum plus amo, sumo minus!

quaeso, serene parens, vel nunc tua pagina currat,
mitiget ut validam lingua benigna luem. }

Jerome and Radegund regarded letters as providing artifacts of a man’s presence. As Jerome and Radegund understood, men need to know that they are appreciated, even if just through ardently desired reception of letters from them.[14]

holy Radegund curing a blind woman

Jerome’s importance to Radegund hasn’t been adequately recognized. Jerome was a Christian ascetic who spent time living in a Syrian desert. Radegund of Thuringia was a princess and queen who had a privileged life as a woman in western European cities. Radegund nonetheless was a follower of Jerome. Radegund received praise in explicit comparison to Jerome’s elite women followers:

She surpasses Eustochium in her meager diet and Paula in her self-restraint,
while Fabiola is a guide who shows her how to cure wounds of marriage.
Modeling Melania in zeal and Blesilla in piety,
becoming equal to Marcella in vigor of prayer,
she renews Martha in devotion and Mary with her tears.
She wants to be Eugenia in vigils and Thecla in enduring.

{ parca cibo Eustochium superans, abstemia Paulam,
vulnera quo curet dux Faviola monet;
Melaniam studio reparans, pietate Blesillam,
Marcellam votis aequiperare valens,
obsequio Martham renovat lacrimisque Mariam,
pervigil Eugeniam, vult patiendo Theclam. }[15]

Eustochium, Paula, Fabiola, Blesilla, and Marcella were women in Jerome’s circle of followers and supporters. As Radegund shows, Jerome’s teaching and example didn’t only foster women’s spiritual and intellectual aspirations. Jerome’s example taught women to seek gender justice for men and express love for men. Radegund of Thuringia, a woman leader in sixth-century Gaul, remains a worthy leader for women and men today.

* * * * *

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Notes:

[1] About 525 GC, Hermanfred killed his brother King Bertachar to seize the Germanic realm of Thuringia. Princess Radegund, Bertachar’s daughter, was captured. Captive maidens historically have fared much better than men massacred in a conquered realm. The captive Princess Radegund, living a life of royal privilege, became a close friend of Hermanfred’s son Amalfred. Then about 532 the Frankish armies of Chlothar and Theuderic ravaged Thuringia and killed Hermanfred. Radegund again was not killed but taken captive. About 568, Radegund, as a nun and the founder of the Abbey of the Holy Cross at Poitiers {Abbaye Sainte-Croix de Poitiers}, sought to reestablish a relationship with her childhood companion Amalfred by sending him the letter-poem De excidio Thoringiae.

Wasyl (2015) analyzes the influence of Ovid’s Heroides on De excidio Thoringiae. Surviving Latin elegy after Ovid lacks erotic themes. Wasyl perceives Maximianus’s elegies and De excidio Thoringiae as exploring “dialectics between asceticism and corporeality.” Id. p. 74. Jerome’s prose works likewise explore that interplay. More importantly, these works of Jerome, Maximianus, and Radegund of Thuringia show sympathetic awareness of personal and social problems affecting men as a gender.

[2] See note [5] in my post on the troubadour Marcabru’s perspective on medieval conscription of men.

[3] Radegund of Thuringia, About the destruction of Thuringia {De excidio Thoringiae}, incipit “The sad affair of war, the cruel lottery of things {Condicio belli tristis, sors invida rerum},” vv. 21-4, Latin text (with insubstantial changes) from Roberts (2017) Appendix poem 1, my English translation, benefiting from that of id. and McNamara & Halborg (1992). Cf. Aeneid 2.403-4 (Cassandra dragged by her hair), Aeneid 2.489-90 (women clinging to doors), Genesis 19:24-6, Luke 17:32 (Lot’s wife looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed).

De excidio Thoringiae survives to the present in only the ninth-century MS Parisinis lat. 13048. Scholars believe that this poem was either published posthumously from Venantius Fortunatus’s papers or published by Fortunatus himself. Roberts (2009) p. 286. On the transmission of this poem and other appendix poems, Williard (2016) pp. 144-51.

Scholars undoubtedly are better off crediting Radegund of Thuringia rather than Fortunatus for De excidio Thoringiae. For such crediting, see e.g. Nisard (1888) and Cherewatuk (1993) p. 20. Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters, “Historical Context” section, states:

Since Fortunatus himself speaks of the poems she {Radegund} has written and sent to him, and Gregory of Tours cites a letter written by her in his History of the Franks, 9.42, I see no reason to deny her authorship.

Radegund surely was an author. McNamara & Halborg, however, didn’t as readily deny Fortunatus’s authorship of De excidio Thoringiae: “It is likely that she {Radegund} composed the poem, or Fortunatus composed it for her….” McNamara & Halborg (1992) p. 65, n. 22. Wasyl pointed out:

it can be hardly ignored that in terms of poetic language and style De excidio strongly resembles other pieces by Fortunatus, especially those exploiting various elegiac stylistic features and topoi. … the very form is simply perfectly concordant with Fortunatus’s literary interests and tastes.

Wasyl (2015) p. 66, footnote omitted. Wasyl stretched to be agreeable:

The relationship – a deep, affectionate friendship indeed – between Radegund and Fortunatus was an unprecedented fact, hence it would be unfair not just to exclude but even to doubt that they did discuss the text together and that it does reflect Radegund’s true feelings, confessed directly to Fortunatus. She must have, at least, consulted the poem once it was ready and gave the final approval before it was to be ‘published’. In this respect, she should certainly be defined as its (co-)author.

Id. p. 66. Wasyl nonetheless argued that De excidio Thoringiae doesn’t “reflect Radegund’s true feelings, confessed directly to Fortunatus”:

Radegund as pictured in De excidio is wholly fictionalized (hence it cannot derogate from the reputation Radegund-the-nun deserves) and, indeed, used only as a literary ‘costume’: a careful reader can easily notice that the speaking ego does not fully identify with the role of a ‘lovelorn maiden’. This ostentatious literariness makes the whole situation justifiable and attractive for the readership.

Id., Abstract. Id. p. 66 also characterizes De excidio Thoringiae as displaying “ostentatious literariness.” Strenuous scholarly effort to declare Radegund “(co-)author” of De excidio Thoringiae really isn’t necessary. If Cynthia can be credited with creating Propertius’s elegies, Radegund certainly can be credited with authoring De excidio Thoringiae.

Venantius Fortunatus was born in the 530s near Treviso in present-day Italy and died between 600 and 610. He received a thorough classical education in Ravenna. In the mid-560s he became a court poet in Merovingian Gaul.

Fortunatus’s poetry was greatly admired in the Carolingian period. His poem “Sing, my tongue {Pange lingua}” (Carmina 2.1) became a hymn in the Christian liturgy. Pange lingua provided the meter for Angelbert’s ninth-century war-grief poem, “Aurora cum primo mane tetra noctis dividet {At the first light, dawn will separate the horrors of night}.” Fortunatus’s Pange lingua was parodied in the second stanza of the early-thirteenth-century Carmina Burana 77, “Were I to speak with the tongues of angels and men {Si linguis angelicis loquar et humanis}.” Fortunatus’s poem “Vexilla regis prodeunt {Banners of the king fly}” / “Hymn in honor of the Holy Cross {Hymnus in Honore Sanctae Crucis}” (Carmina 2.6) also entered the Christian liturgy and was used in Dante’s Inferno, Canto 34.

portrait of Venantius Fortunatus from late eleventh-century instance of his life of Radegund

For freely available earlier Latin editions of Fortunatus’s works, Leo (1881) and Migne (1849). Roberts’s Latin edition closely follows that of Leo. Fortunatus’s poetry survives in many manuscripts. See Leo (1881), Prologue.

Several modern English translations of Fortunatus’s works are available. George (1995) translates into English some of Fortunatus’s poems, with notes focusing on the political and social aspects. Den Boer & Den Boer (2009) provides an English translation of a small selection of Fortunatus’s poems. Pucci (2010), with keen insight into the literary sophistication of Fortunatus’s poetry, provides a free-verse English translation. None of these English translations includes De excidio Thoringiae. Roberts (2017) is a nearly complete English translation of Fortunatus’s works. Translations of Fortunatus into modern English were relatively late. Charles Nisard translated Fortunatus’s poetry into French in 1890.

Subsequent quotes above from De excidio Thoringiae are similarly sourced. Those quotes are vv. 25-8 (The wife’s naked foot…), 33-6 (Each person has grieved…), 43-58 (One whose tender looks…), 59-64 (If father, mother, or cares of the royal house…), 105-18 (If the sacred cloister of my convent…), 73-4, 79-82, 157-8 (Burdened by grief’s weight…).

[4] Cf. Aeneid 2.551 (Priam slipping in his son’s blood). “Through indirect comparison with the Aened Radegund shows the suffering of the Thuringian women surpassing that of the Trojan women.” Cherewatuk (1993) p. 27. The point seems to me rather to emphasize that epic violence predominately concerns killing men.

[5] McNamara & Halborg (1992) translated v. 35 using the genderless “those” for “men {viri}”: “Fate was kind to those whom the enemy struck down {consuluit fortuna viris quos perculit hostis}.” Just as the word “man” has been used as a genderless term for humanity, men’s deaths are commonly obscured. Consider, e.g., newspaper reports such as “Eleven persons were killed in the attack, including one woman.”

[6] Jerome wrote of love for another having developed from childhood. Jerome declared of his dear man friend Bosonus:

He and I grew up together from tender infancy to vigorous manhood, such that we were fostered in the bosoms of the same nurses and carried in the arms of the same bearers. After studying together at Rome, we lodged in the same house and shared the same food by the half savage banks of the Rhine.

{ ego et ille a tenera pariter infantia ad florentem usque adoleverimus aetatem, ut idem nos nutricum sinus, idem amplexus foverint baiulorum et, cum post Romana studia ad Rheni semibarbaras ripas eodem cibo, pari frueremur hospitio }

Jerome, Letter 3, “To Rufinus {Ad Rufinum},” from paras. 5, Latin text of Hilberg (1910-1918), English translation (modified) from Freemantle (1892).

[7] Radegund further lamented:

Between us lovers is interjected all of the globe.
The world divides us whom once no place separated.
So much earth holds my lover divided from me.

{ inter amatores totusque interiacet orbis:
hos dirimit mundus quos loca nulla prius.
quantum terra tenet tantum divisit amantem }

De excidio Thoringiae vv. 67-9. In De excidio Thoringiae, the language used to describe Radegund and Amalfred’s relationship is “very affectionate.” Wasyl (2015) p. 68.

Radegund used similarly affectionate language in writing to Amalfred’s son Artachis after he had written to her of Amalfred’s death. She declared to Artachis, “be in your love to me what he was before {sis amore meus quod fuit ille prius}.” Radegund, “To Artachis {Ad Artachin}” v. 36, Latin text and English translation from Roberts (2017) Appendix poem 3. Here’s an alternate online edition.

[8] Radegund operated effectively at the highest political / religious levels. She successfully pressured the Bishop of Soissons to dissolve effectively her marriage to King Chlothar I. She perhaps secured the help of Bishop Bermanus of Paris to prevent Chlothar from regaining her as wife. When the Bishop of Poitiers didn’t allow her Abbey of the Holy Cross to possess a relic of the holy cross, she successfully appealed to the Merovingian King Sigebert I. Moreover, she then associated her abbey with the Diocese of Arles rather than the Diocese of Poitiers. For Radegund biography, Duvall (1996) and Epistolae.

[9] Venantius Fortunatus, The Life of Holy Radegund {De vita sanctae Radegundis} para. 5, Latin text from Leo (1881), English translation (modified) from McNamara & Halborg (1992) p. 73. Here’s the Latin edition of Migne (1849).

In Fortunatus’s poem About virginity {De virginitate}, God praises a virgin laying on cold ground and praying:

Through the night she lay awake, ready if I by chance should happen to come,
she pressing her chilled limbs to the marble, which now took on warmth.
Though ice-cold, she retained fire for me in her bones.
Her heart was warm with love though her flesh was frozen stiff.

{ pervigil incubuit, si forte alicunde venirem,
marmore iam tepido frigida membra premens.
haec gelifacta meum servavit in ossibus ignem;
visceribus rigidis pectus amore calet. }

Fortunatus, Carmina 8.3, vv. 211-4, Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Roberts (2017). Fortunatus also wrote hagiographic lives of six bishops. On Fortunatus’s prose hagiography in relation to ecclesiastical concerns, Navalesi (2020).

Baudonivia, a nun of Radegund’s Abbey of the Holy Cross, also wrote a life of Radegund. For the Latin text, Leo (1881) pp. 378-95. For an English translation, NcNamara & Halborg (1992). For comparison of these two lives of Radegund, Coates (1998) and Rinaldi (2014).

The sixth-century Pavian bishop Ennodius apparently influenced Fortunatus. Fiske (1955) p. 183. Ennodius had great respect for men’s seminal blessing. Among thoughtful Christians of antiquity, including Jerome, appreciation for men’s seminal blessing coexisted with appreciation for chastity.

[10] Jerome, Letter 3, “To Rufinus {Ad Rufinum},” from paras. 1 & 2, Latin text of Hilberg (1910-1918), English translation (modified) from Freemantle (1892). Cf. Acts 8:26-40 (Philip going to the Ethiopian court eunuch) and Daniel 14:33-6 (Habakkuk going to Daniel).

Writing about 716-720, the learned woman Egburg drew upon Jerome’s figure of longing in her letter to her “holy father and true man-friend {abbas sanctus veroque amicus}” Boniface:

Believe me, more than the storm-tossed sailor longs for the harbor, more than the thirsty fields desire rain, or the anxious mother watches by the shore for her son, do I long for the sight of you.

{ crede mihi, non sic tempestate iactatus portum nauta desiderat, non sic sitientia imbres arva desiderant, non sic curvo litore anxia filium mater expectat, quam ut ego visibus vestris fruere cupio. }

MGH, Epistolae Merovingici et Karolini Aevi, 6, S. Bonifacii et Lulli Epistolae, ep.13, Latin text and English translation via Epistolae.

[11] Women expressing ardent love for men friends should be careful not to foster misunderstanding. Men tend to be romantically simple. Before expressing ardent love for a man friend, a woman might frankly explain to him that she recognizes men’s gender disadvantage in love and that she affirmatively seeks to help men via her verbal expression. Disclosing that she’s professed to chastity would also help to clarify the intent of her communication with him. Some progressive men avoid misunderstanding with an informal prefatory clause, e.g., “No homo — I just want to say that you’re a beautiful man.”

[12] Fortunatus wrote to his friend Dynamius of Marseille:

The Saône and the Rhône may block our way, but we swim them inspired by love.
Though they stop our path, they cannot obstruct the movement of minds.

{ nos licet obstet Arar Rhodanusqne, natamus amore,
nec vetat ire animum qui vetat ire gradum. }

Fortunatus, Carmina 6.10, vv. 55-6, Latin text and English translation from Roberts (2017). Fortunatus had a virgin declare to her bridegroom God:

If my feet had the power, I would readily come in haste to the stars,
and suspended in air make a journey to heaven.

{ ipsa venire velim, properans si possit in astris
pendula sideream planta tenere viam. }

Fortunatus, Carmina 8.3, vv. 233-4, sourced similarly.

Jerome similarly proposed extraordinary journeys. For example, Jerome wrote to his man friend Rufinus: “Oh, if only the Lord Jesus Christ would suddenly transport me to you as Philip was transported to the eunuch, and Habakkuk to Daniel {o si mihi nunc dominus Iesus Christus vel Philippi ad eunuchum vel Ambacum ad Danihelum translationem repente concederet},” quoted above from Jerome, Letter 3, “To Rufinus.” To the bishops Alypius and Augustine, Jerome wrote:

I call God to witness that, if it could be done, I would become a dove and with wings fly to be enfolded in your embrace, as indeed always, because of the merit of your virtues, but now especially because your cooperation and your leadership is strangling the heresy of Celestius

{ testem inuocans deum, quod, si possit fieri, adsumptis alis columbae uestris amplexibus implicarer, semper quidem pro merito uirtutum uestrarum sed nunc maxime, quia cooperatoribus et auctoribus uobis heresis Caelestina iugulata est }

Jerome, Letter 143, “To the bishops Alypius and Augustine {Ad Alypium et Augustinum episcopos},” from para. 1, Latin text of Hilberg (1910-1918), English translation (modified) from Freemantle (1892).

[13] Jerome, Letter 12, “To Antony the Aemonian monk {Ad Antonium monachum Haemonae},” excerpt, Latin text of Hilberg (1910-1918), English translation (modified) from Freemantle (1892). The subsequent quote is similarly from Jerome, Letter 11, “To the young Aemonian women {Ad virgines Haemonenses}.”

[14] Fortunatus wrote of Agnes’s presence to him through the material substance of a gift of milk:

I spied fingers splayed through a milky gift,
a cast of your hand where you snatched some cream.
I must know: what made your soft nails sculpt it so?

{ Aspexi digitos per lactae munera fixos,
et stat picta manus hic ubi crama rapis.
dic, rogo, quis teneros sic sculpere conpulit ungues? }

Fortunatus, Carmina 11.14, Latin text of Roberts (2017), beautiful English translation by Pucci (2010) p. 99.

[15] Venantius Fortunatus, Carmina 8.1, “In his name to various people {Ex nomine suo ad diversos},” incipit “You who drink in the Boeotian Muses {Aonias avido qui lambitis ore Camenas},” vv. 41-7, Latin text and English translation (modified) from Roberts (2017).

Fortunatus had a warm friendship with Radegund and enjoyed her patronage. At least in his mind, he was her Jerome. Fiske associated Jerome and Fortunatus briefly at a high level of abstraction: “both had women friends, to whom they wrote, as to friends.” Fiske (1955) p. 186.

[images] (1) Radegund frees prisoners. Illustration from late-eleventh-century instance of Fortunatus’s Life of Holy Radegund {De vita sanctae Radegundis}. From folio 25v of Poitiers, Bibliotheque municipale, MS. 250. Subsequent images are similarly from this manuscript of De vita sanctae Radegundis. For analysis of its illustrations, Carrasco (1990). (2) Leaving her husband in bed, Radegund gets out of bed and lies down on the cold floor to pray. Illumination from folio 24 of De vita sanctae Radegundis. (3) Radegund curing a blind woman. Illumination from folio 34 of De vita sanctae Radegundis. (4) Portrait of Fortunatus beginning his De vita sanctae Radegundis. Illumination from folio 21v of De vita sanctae Radegundis.

References:

Carrasco, Magdalena Elizabeth. 1990. “Spirituality in Context: The Romanesque Illustrated Life of St. Radegund of Poitiers (Poitiers, Bibl. Mun., MS 250).” The Art Bulletin. 72 (3): 414-435.

Cherewatuk, Karen. 1993. “Radegund and Epistolary Tradition.” Pp. 20-45 in Karen Cherewatuk and Ulrike Wiethaus, eds. Dear Sister: Medieval Women and the Epistolary Genre. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Coates, Simon. 1998. “Regendering Radegund? Fortunatus, Baudonivia and the Problem of Female Sanctity in Merovingian Gaul.” Studies in Church History. 34: 37-50.

Den Boer, James and Maria Den Boer, trans. 2009. Small Gifts Great Grace: The Personal Poems of Venantius Fortunatus. Elk Grove, CA: Bald Trickster Press.

Duvall, Onnie. 1996. “Radegund of Poitiers (ca. 518-587).” Entry in The ORB: On-Line Reference Book for Medieval Studies.

Fiske, Adele M. 1955. The Survival and Development of the Ancient Concept of Friendship in the Early Middle Ages. Ph.D. Thesis, Fordham University (New York City).

Freemantle, William Henry, trans. 1892.  The Principal Works of St. Jerome.  Philip Schaff, ed. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, vol. 6. Oxford: Parker.

George, Judith W., trans. 1995. Venantius Fortunatus: Personal and Political Poems. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Hilberg, Isidorus, ed. 1910-1918. Sancti Eusebii Hieronymi Epistulae {Letters of Saint Eusebius Hieronymus (Jerome)}. Vindobonae: Tempsky. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (CSEL) 54 (Epistulae 1-70), 55 (Epistulae 71-120), and 56 (Epistulae 120-154).

Leo, Friedrich, ed. 1881. Venanti Fortunati Opera Poetica (Pars Prior), Venanti Fortunati Opera Pedestria (Pars Posterior). Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi IV. Berlin: Weidmann. Another copy.

McNamara, Jo Ann, and John E. Halborg, ed. and trans., with E. Gordon Whatley. 1992. Sainted Women of the Dark Ages. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Nisard, Charles, 1888. “Des poésies de Sainte Radegonde attribuées jusqu’ici à Fortunat.” Revue Historique. 37 (1): 49-57.

Navalesi, Kent E. 2020. The Prose Lives of Venantius Fortunatus: Hagiography, lay piety and pastoral care in sixth-century Gaul. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Pucci, Michael, trans. 2010. Poems to Friends: Venantius Fortunatus. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co.

Rinaldi, R. 2014. “The Lives of St. Radegund.” Online at David M. Reis’s Medieval Christianity course website.

Roberts, Michael. 2009. The Humblest Sparrow: The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Review by John Moorhead.

Roberts, Michael, ed and trans. 2017. Venantius Fortunatus. Poems. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 46. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Reviews by Hope Williard and by Lionel Yaceczko.

Wasyl, Anna Maria. 2015. “An Aggrieved Heroine in Merovingian Gaul: Venantius Fortunatus, Radegund’s Lament on the Destruction of Thuringia, and Echoing Ovid’s Heroides.” Bollettino di Studi Latini. 45 (1): 64-75.

Williard, Hope Deejune. 2016. Friendship in the Works of Venantius Fortunatus. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Leeds, UK.

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