Autopsies and Philosophies of a Merovingian Life:Death, Responsibility, Salvation
In the seventh century a cluster of problems about death, agency, and accountability arose in conjunction with new ideas about the afterlife. Merovingian intellectuals challenged and adapted late antique theories of moral responsibility and eschatology in view of the increasingly attractive possibility that the soul’s destination after death could be influenced by earthly actions. These changes were informed by an increasingly social understanding of human choice and behavior, and that whole knot of related philosophical propositions surfaced in hagiography, when authors began to explain more fully how and why their protagonists died.
There is more than one way to divide Gaul into three parts. If we split Gaul according to culture, the Merovingian “part” of its intellectual history seems dwarfed by the literary and philosophical profiles that flank it. But the Merovingian period was more inventive and subtle than its reputation might suggest. It was a culture with a late antique legacy and an early medieval trajectory, and at the same time its ideas were a distinctive approach to a new set of concerns that are worth examining in their own right.
The learned culture of the late sixth through the mid-eighth centuries in particular has not been easy to notice because most Merovingian authors [End Page 113] did not favor categorical or expository forms of argument and reflection; or, if they did, that material does not exist today. The sources that do survive cannot always be dated with certainty, and after filtering out the texts that continue to provoke substantial disagreement about provenance and age, we are left with a very modest collection—although most of Rome’s successor states left far fewer texts behind than Gaul did.1 These are not ideal conditions for intellectual history, but it does not mean that philosophy or theology or any other kind of critical evaluation did not exist. Although the extant material is not transparently “theoretical,” historians have begun to notice that Merovingian writers preferred to think about the human condition through different modes of representation.
What moved modern readers to rethink their categories, and what occasioned their reconsideration of post-imperial culture, was their interest in a new literature that had been born on the British Isles and on the Continent. These were visions with a twist: individual Christians saw their souls make journeys to the afterlife and back again, and afterward they told their communities what they had seen. This genre was a distinctive creation of the seventh century, and it alerted historians to a concomitant reconfiguration of the landscape of heaven.
To sum up this change, as others have characterized it: God’s pardon was no longer assured (although his favor was still required for salvation), heaven grew more distant and difficult to reach, and a place of post-death purification became a subject of serious consideration. These changes point to a more fundamental one, which was rippling not only through northern Europe but throughout the Mediterranean world: educated clergy, but also lay congregations and even potential converts, were asking more pointedly how they might improve the odds of getting into heaven—not just for themselves but for those who had already died. The rough consensus was that salvation was uncertain but potentially open to remedy, but there were radically different ideas about what remedies worked, and when and how they did.2 The vision texts did not necessarily [End Page 114] articulate all of this in rhetorical forms we might expect or prefer, but they endorsed these views through their narratives all the same, which is why they have proven to be a valuable source for theological change in the early Middle Ages.
The intensified interest in the afterlife and its implications for life on earth was not confined to accounts of visions. It was part of a larger cluster of concerns about human action and responsibility, which in Gaul were discussed principally in the pages of hagiography. The vitae are the most abundant source we have for the intellectual culture of the Merovingian kingdoms after the time of Gregory of Tours, and the hagiographers’ concerted interest in death, agency, and accountability can sharpen our understanding of how and why Christian eschatology changed. It also suggests that beyond the local, regional, or personal frameworks of each vita and passio, their authors were also participating in a conversation that crisscrossed the whole realm and extended past it, although they did not always converge in agreement. And in Gaul this conversation reached two conclusions: first, that the soul’s journey after death could be influenced by earthly actions, including the act of dying itself; and second, that moral responsibility for these actions lay not only with the individual soul, but also with the society that had influenced it.
While hagiography is the best source for these discussions, the concerns that the hagiographers addressed, and even some of their conclusions, do find parallels in contemporary historical, liturgical, and diplomatic texts. The extent to which the majority of Merovingian subjects joined in this conversation is hard to know, but the consequences would have affected anyone who participated in the Christian community. As I will suggest, the transformation of the concepts of heaven and salvation—and the fiscal and liturgical practices that attended it—was as much a consequence of the philosophy of accountability as it was a prompt for further contemplation. To participate in the social practices that grew up around the new view of the afterlife was to concede, or even to embrace, the views of action and responsibility that informed and supported them. [End Page 115]
Death and Damages
The Felix Exitus
The death scene became a favored set piece for hagiographers who were interested in the new notion of responsibility for the soul. Death was a balance line. It brought the rushing momentum of thoughts and deeds to a sensible stop, to the point at which the sum of a person’s experience could be calculated. And that rhetorical potential of the death scene raised an obvious question: what was the right way to handle it—in texts and in real life?
One option was a death that Jonas of Bobbio, the fiercely ambitious author of the Vita Columbani, called the felix exitus or fortunate departure.3 Such a death usually began with a divine warning or vision, which gave the dying person (and the hagiographer) the impetus and opportunity to make his or her priorities clear through a burst of self-disciplined actions, in the expectation that these final moments could affect the soul’s fate.
The second book of the Vita Columbani is full of fortunate departures. Sisetrude, the cellarer of Evoriacas (later Faremoutiers, after its founding abbess Burgundofara), was the first of her monastery to go.4 As Jonas tells it, Sisetrude learned that she was going to die through a revelation. She was warned that she had forty days to prepare for her journey, and so she improved her ways and made amends for her life—mores corrigeret, vitam emendaret. She also fasted, prayed, wept, and kept vigil, Jonas said, “to see more clearly the path of the journey to come.”5 It worked: Sisetrude had another vision. She saw two youths in white separate her soul from her body and bring her to heaven, where she stood before the court of the merciful Judge. She was told to return in three days, and she used that time to ask for her community’s prayers and to make sure that they would be present with her when she died. And on the third day, as the nuns stood around her bed, Sisetrude told them that the youths in white had returned to escort her back to heaven. She said her goodbyes to the abbess and the others, and at the moment she died everyone present heard the faint singing of angels. [End Page 116]
More felices exitus followed this one.6 Jonas packaged them as part of a companion volume to the Vita Columbani, to account for the monasteries that the famous Columbanus had founded personally, as well as the monasteries that he had inspired others to build. Sisetrude’s death was not just a form of instructive encouragement (exhortatio) to her fellow nuns, as Jonas said it was. It was also part of a great institutional hagiography, a telescopic series of stories that attested to the value of a particular monastic enterprise.7 What the fortunate death of Sisetrude had demonstrated, and what her sisters’ deaths continued to confirm, was that a focused commitment to cultus religionis, to specific forms of attention to the divine order, made a difference, even when performed at the last possible moment.8 Or as Jonas said of his brothers at Bobbio, it was not just their fortunate lives, but also their more fortunate deaths that served as examples for others.9
Jonas’s felix exitus embraced a view of responsibility and agency that was both comprehensive and precise, and he drew on the Merovingian language of torts to explain it: to emend a life, vitam emendare, was to make compensation for a lifetime of damages.10 In her final forty days Sisetrude rendered this compensation in omni religione, following every spiritual protocol, to the satisfaction of the merciful Judge. And in return, Sisetrude saw her soul’s path—“more clearly” or “easily” not only because God eventually unveiled it, but also because she had finally and carefully cleared it herself, by seizing the opportunity to admit and redress her prior transgressions. From Jonas’s perspective the moment of death was a unique opportunity for a protagonist to make up for her spiritual deficits as thoroughly as she could, and to impress upon others the value of understanding their lives and futures in the same terms. [End Page 117]
Merovingian hagiographers before Jonas had not dwelled for long on the deaths of their protagonists. The protagonists in Venantius Fortunatus’s prose vitae, for example, die without making much of a scene. Albinus of Angers is alive in one chapter and dead the next. The deaths of Hilary of Poitiers and Marcellus of Paris occur in the final sentence of each vita.11 Fortunatus’s most extensive treatment was his account of the deaths of two close friends, Bishop Paternus of Avranches and Scubilio, a monk at the monastery of Maudanense (now Saint-Malo, in Brittany). The two men fell sick at the same time, but Scubilio died en route to see Paternus one last time, and Paternus died that night, too. Fortunatus saw the episode as one among many examples of the bond between lifelong friends and holy men, who even entered the “heavenly senate” together. (Later on, their funeral cortèges would unexpectedly run into each other, unaware that they were heading to the same basilica.)12 Death itself was not a moment of any particular importance. Fortunatus’s saints were astounding precisely because death did not seem to faze them: as he said of Paternus and Scubilio, these were men “who keep on living after burial, through their blessed deeds.”13 It was one of his favorite antitheses.14
Gregory of Tours, our other prolific hagiographer from the sixth century, was hardly more interested in saints’ deaths than Fortunatus was. This was true even of martyrs: Gregory’s account of Julian of Brioude makes short work of his life, and even shorter work of his death to move on to the more important business of Julian’s postmortem miracles.15 Gregory’s book on the martyrs of biblical and ancient times, Liber de gloria martyrum, is almost exclusively devoted to the miraculous activity that occurred at their tombs or in churches consecrated in their names. Although Gregory often mentions that he had access to written accounts of his subjects’ suffering, he rarely gives that moment in their lives more than a perfunctory mention—although in the case of particularly creative imperial punishments, [End Page 118] he was willing to divulge details. (The teacher Cassianus, for example, was handed over to his own students, who slashed him with their styluses and beat him to death with their wax tablets.) Not even Jesus’ passion detains Gregory for long: he was much more interested in the miraculous properties of Jesus’ cross, the instruments of his torture, and his tunic.16 It was not that martyrdom did not matter. Far from it: Gregory believed that the persons who endured it were made worthy to enter heaven.17 But rather than focus on such a death as a signal, significant moment, Gregory focused on its miraculous consequences instead.18
One conspicuous exception to Gregory’s disinterest in the death scene is his account of the death of Gallus of Clermont—Gregory’s uncle, although he refrains from saying so directly. (Gallus’s parents, whom Gregory names in the process of praising Gallus’s senatorial lineage, were Gregory’s grandparents.)19 Toward the end of Gregory’s short biography of Gallus in his Liber de vita patrum, a collection dedicated to confessors from more recent history, Gallus received a revelation that he was going to die in three days, and he took that time to break bread with his populus, perform Sunday lauds, and say his goodbyes. And then he sent his spirit to the Lord.20 Among Gregory’s many illustrious protagonists, Gallus’s death distinguishes him.21
In the early decades of the seventh century, hagiographers would set very similar scenes: Baudonivia departed from Fortunatus’s version of [End Page 119] Radegund’s death (which happened “off screen”) and explained that the queen had received a year’s advance warning before she died, and for that entire year her mind ceaselessly reached out to God in prayer.22 The abbess Rusticula of Arles made a similar exit: her hagiographer, a priest named Florentius, emphasized that even when her body began to break down, she kept praying and performing the liturgy, and she died surrounded by her nuns, who prayed for her as she lay dying.23
In these scenes, death is a time of deliberate conclusion, in a way that it had not typically been before. But they lack the sense of fatefulness that Jonas would bring to the felix exitus: the deaths that Gregory, Baudonivia, and Florentius described were admirable because they were a final confirmation of commitments that had already been made—of Gallus to his city, of Radegund to intense meditation, of Rusticula to her monastery. To represent the eve of death as an opportunity to remedy old mistakes seems to have been exactly what Gregory wanted to avoid. He had concluded the Gloria martyrum by suggesting that the modern equivalent to ancient martyrdom was the act of appealing to the martyrs through the sign of the cross, for their help in resisting the body’s pulls toward vice. God would not condemn dedicated clients of the martyrs, Gregory was certain: he would pardon them, or at least lighten their punishments.24 Whatever uncertainty a person had about God’s judgment, death was not the time to address it, neither from the dying person’s point of view, nor the hagiographer’s.
After the Vita Columbani, which Jonas wrote between 639 and 643, other hagiographers departed from the older models available to them and chose to elevate the death scene as Jonas had, if not exactly as he had.25 In the mid-century Vita Arnulfi, Arnulf of Metz asked his fellow monks to beseech God to pardon him because he feared that when he appeared before his Judge, he would not know how to plead (Quid faciam?): “I am burdened by all my crimes and surrounded by my sins.” His hagiographer, however, saw Arnulf’s anxiety itself as a sign of his innocence, according to the proverbial logic that a just man is the first to accuse [End Page 120] himself in court.26 Arnulf may have been exaggerating his own offenses for hyperbolic effect—certainly his hagiographer was—but even so, the account acknowledges the possibility that a soul’s pardon depended on what damages it accumulated on earth, and whether it owned up to them before it was too late.
The Vita Sadalbergae, written a few decades later, shared this sense of personal liability when it came to salvation, but its author promoted a more active approach to rectifying damages done—and as in the Vita Columbani, the threshold of death was an ideal time to do this.27 Sadalberga herself had every reason to believe that she was going to heaven: the abbess of St. John of Laon received three separate visions in the two years before her death, all of which confirmed her place in the city of God. But Sadalberga’s and her sisters’ reactions to those visions are striking. Sadalberga received her first vision in the middle of a serious illness. When she recovered, the first thing her nuns asked her was why she had received such a correctio. Sadalberga refused to answer and instead told them what she had seen. And yet, even though the abbess had dismissed the nuns’ interest in knowing why God had “straightened her out,” her hagiographer could not let the matter drop. The author analyzed her vision for her, reading its hidden meanings to conclude that in a kind of spiritual metallurgy, God had refined Sadalberga to the purest gold, aurum obrizum purgaverit. He was cleansing his creature, plasma suum … purgaret, in order to bring her into the saints’ fold.28 The vita returns to the question of correction after Sadalberga’s third vision. In that vision, Waldebert, Sadalberga’s beloved late mentor and abbot of Luxeuil, had appeared to her and assured her (once again) that the abbess would be rewarded after her death. He told her she would die in one hundred days and that she should prepare herself by going through the Psalter one hundred times. [End Page 121] In that time, her hagiographer noted, Sadalberga kept vigil, fasted, recited psalms, and prayed more than usual: “the stronger her expectation, the brisker her obedience.”29
These reactions tell us a lot about why dying in particular could be such a significant frame of action. The remark about Sadalberga’s “brisker” obedience not only expresses the theological conviction that final actions affect the soul; it is also an astute psychological observation about the motivational difference that a surer, nearer thing makes. Even Sadalberga, who was previously reluctant to inquire into divine rationale, does not hesitate here to assume that her behavior has some bearing on God’s final verdict, and her heightened resolve is all the more significant in light of the repeated confirmations that God had already decided in her favor: a final visionary confirmation, this time tagged with a death date, made it easier for the abbess to run her psalmodic marathon because she expected it to pay off, and soon. But it was not only Sadalberga who was supposed to rest assured. Her entire experience was itself a promise—a surer thing—to others: her audience could expect human actions to make a difference because Sadalberga had acted as though they did, even when her soul’s case had seemed to be closed. Or as the abbess put it to her nuns on her deathbed: “it is not the one who started off according to divine revelation, but the one who stands firm to the end who will be saved.”30 This was only the finishing touch to an entire sequence of scenes that were built to make Sadalberga’s imminent death an immanent death among the living (to borrow Frank Kermode’s distinction).31
The nuns of St. John may have internalized such a moral-philosophical framework even before Sadalberga confirmed it. This is at least what their response to her first vision suggests: they had assumed that her prior sickness represented some divine adjudication. They were already primed to discern, or at least to try to discern, the circumstances in which the Judge made his decisions. For an audience that was on the lookout for signs that God was keeping score and even floating conditional verdicts, Sadalberga’s felix exitus would have been more of a reassurance than a novel argument. And her nuns do not seem to have been the only ones with expectations. In the Vita Geretrudis, written around 670 (so about a decade before the [End Page 122] Vita Sadalbergae), the prelude to the death of the abbess of Nivelles follows the familiar pattern: she received a vision that foretold her death, and she turned to ceaseless prayer. But when the eremitic Ultan of Fosses pinpointed her death date and asserted confidently that Geretrude would be going to heaven, the monk that Geretrude had sent to obtain this information could not restrain himself from asking if Ultan had learned this through divine revelation. Ultan dismissed the question and the messenger. What mattered was that Geretrude knew exactly when she would die.32 But the monk was entitled to his curiosity: he was not the only one in Gaul who was reading death as a final settlement between a soul and its Judge.
As we will see, some vitae from the later Merovingian period feature the more traditional style of death that Fortunatus and Gregory had preferred. And yet, although the number of extant sources is much too small to draw any statistically significant conclusions, it is at least evident from the texts we do have that Jonas’s concept of the felix exitus made an impression on hagiographers across the Merovingian kingdoms. Besides Arnulf, Sadalberga, and Geretrude, the abbot Wandregisel of Fontenelle and the queen and abbess Balthild each received visions before they died that confirmed their salvation, and each intensified their spiritual activity once they knew they were going to die—Balthild by praying “more attentively” (attentius) than she had before, and Wandregisel by giving lengthy instructions to his community.33 A copyist of the Vita Wandregesili (the only Merovingian vita to survive in a Merovingian manuscript) even singled out the abbot’s death scene with a line of colorful display capitals, while echoing the language that Gregory of Tours had used to introduce his one special death scene, for his uncle Gallus.34
Several of these vitae and the deaths they feature were unmistakably influenced by the Vita Columbani or by the monastic institutions that [End Page 123] Columbanus had founded. The authors of the Vita Sadalbergae and the Vita Wandregiseli had obviously read their Jonas, and Balthild’s hagiographer was especially interested in the monasteries the queen had built in the image of Luxeuil.35 But in other cases the line of influence is less certain: Geretrude certainly knew elites with connections to the Neustrian court at Paris, where the Columbanian network was strongest, but she was also a member of the ambitious Pippinid family, who were based in the eastern Merovingian kingdom of Austrasia and somewhat self-consciously saw themselves as outsiders to the Paris-Luxeuil system.36 And Arnulf of Metz, although a trusted advisor to the kings at Paris, may have even sided against the version of Columbanian orthopraxis that Jonas advocated. He was, at the very least, a best friend with Romaric, a magnate and monk who was deeply involved in Columbanian monasticism but who supported Luxeuil’s opponent when disagreements arose about what exactly that monasticism should look like. (Romaric did later reconcile with the abbot of Luxeuil, or so Jonas said.)37
Jonas was not entirely forthcoming about the reasons for this division within the Columbanian system; he hints only faintly, for example, that [End Page 124] it mirrored the fault lines of the Merovingian courts.38 But the dispute may have also turned on theological issues that were reverberating across the Mediterranean, which Matthew Dal Santo has highlighted in a new study of Gregory the Great’s Dialogues. The fifth ecumenical council of Constantinople had determined in 553 that “the living could intervene in the world of the dead and vice versa.” Not everyone was persuaded, so forty years later Gregory wrote the Dialogues to push the point, to demonstrate that souls—both saintly souls and average ones—were capable of acting with and reacting to the physical world after their bodies had died. But as Dal Santo shows, theologians in the eastern Mediterranean were still working out (and contesting) the implications of this ruling into the seventh and eighth centuries.39
The council occasioned debate in Gaul, too. But it is difficult to know what disagreements exactly it had provoked, because its other, more sensational provisions tend to dominate our sense of its impact. The council of Constantinople is most famous for its endorsement of Justinian’s condemnation of the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia and select writings of Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa—the “Three Chapters”—and for the fissiparous Christological and political disagreements this decision reactivated (although the goal had been to reconcile groups who had been in disagreement since the council of Chalcedon in 451). Ian Wood has shown that, in Gaul, it was not entirely clear to the clergy or the crown which side of the council’s ruling better represented the Chalcedonian viewpoint with which they had traditionally identified—and given the council’s somewhat clunky attempt at a compromise, one can hardly blame them. But it was widely believed that the bishops of Rome had been pressured to support the council’s condemnation, and consequently the council of Constantinople received a chilly reception in the Merovingian world.40 Columbanus had been sympathetic to the anti-Tricapitoline position, and one branch [End Page 125] of his followers was, too—a branch that Jonas was anxious to discredit.41 But by looking to a less notorious consequence of the council of Constantinople, Dal Santo’s work raises the possibility that it was not just politics or a misunderstanding that polarized Columbanus’s followers: perhaps in Gaul, as in Gregory’s Italy, the Three Chapters controversy had unfurled a divisive debate about agency and the afterlife.
An episode in the Vita Columbani lends credit to this hypothesis: it seems that Jonas, at least, associated the controversy with these issues. Right before his account of Faremoutiers, Jonas dedicates one of the longest sections in the vita to his bête noire Agrestius, a monk and extremely well connected magnate who objected to the direction that Columbanian monasticism had taken at Luxeuil and Bobbio after the death of their founder.42 In addition to his powerful Merovingian network Agrestius also had allies in Aquileia and at the Lombard court, where the opposition to the council of Constantinople had held firm. Jonas says that he will not discuss the disagreement surrounding the Three Chapters, and we do not have the benefit of Agrestius’s own perspective (Jonas “lost” the letter he sent to the abbot of Bobbio)—although as Ian Wood has suggested, even when refracted through Jonas’s report Agrestius’s views seem more in line with what Columbanus himself had advocated!43 But the conflict between the two Columbanian factions came to the fore at a council convoked at Mâcon in 627/28—where Agrestius faced off with Eustasius, the abbot of Luxeuil—and Jonas does describe the substance of those debates in some detail. To Jonas’s mind, one of the definitive features of the Columbanian cultus was its attention to detail, and this was exactly what Agrestius had overlooked. Just as Columbanus would cross himself continually while walking and thinking in the woods, the monks at Luxeuil habitually made the sign of the cross over their lamps and cups and in rooms that [End Page 126] they entered or left. Their masses included more prayers than the masses of other liturgical centers in Gaul. Jonas identified these systematic precautions, which very neatly anticipate the comprehensive compensations of the nuns at Faremoutiers, as the central issue under discussion at the Mâcon council: Agrestius had criticized the extra gestures and prayers as superfluous.44 These disagreements may have been rooted in different ideas about what kinds of actions were necessary for the soul’s salvation: when Agrestius was eventually axed to death by his own freedman, Jonas concluded with unrestrained enthusiasm and great irony that he would have been saved, if only he had performed penance for his many sins. Jonas also made a point of correcting what he saw as misguided explanations for why Agrestius died the way that he had. Popular opinion held that God had punished him because he had continued to have sex with his wife, even though he was a monk, but Jonas begged to differ. Just as God judged Solomon for everything he had done, good and bad, so was Agrestius’s death a sentence upon his entire life.45
The Columbanian debates about meticulous self-monitoring and end-of-life redress do not correspond directly to the eschatological concerns that Constantinople had raised. Jonas was not interested in what his penitential subjects could do or feel after they died. But given the Three Chapters’ multifaceted and ambiguous legacy in Gaul, it is possible that Jonas’s argument for a comprehensive and proactive accounting was responding to concerns that a theological controversy had set off almost a century ago. Other Merovingian hagiographers were at least indirectly familiar with the issues about the soul and its care that the council of Constantinople had raised because they were avid readers of Gregory’s Dialogues.46
In any case, the intellectual shift toward a death that made good on prior faults was only partly a function of the politics of Luxeuil and Bobbio. The fortunate death encapsulated a new way of understanding human action that was not necessarily restricted to a particular kind of cultus, however Jonas might have insisted it was. A death that included anticipation, intensified preparation, and heavenly assurance of salvation was a death that confirmed the long-term consequences of human action, while [End Page 127] also creating the opportunity for final remedy and resolution. This model of death and the theory of responsibility that it ventured were so attractive that other hagiographers incorporated it into martyrs’ passions, where the narrative “fit” was much more awkward. Some of these authors were clearly influenced by Jonas; others were not. More importantly, regardless of the line of influence, the Merovingian passion texts show the extent to which the philosophy of the fortunate death had permeated Christian culture. Not only were writers advocating it and adapting it to new circumstances; they were also relying on the rhetorical and moral force of a good death in order to enhance their protagonists’ profiles.
A satisfactory death was all the more critical when the saint in question had a complicated, even controversial career: these persons—and there were several in the Merovingian period—stood to benefit from unambiguous conclusions.47 But a hagiographer could not simply manufacture a good death scene to punctuate a difficult story, for a couple of reasons. First, the hagiographers in this period usually wrote within a decade or so after their subjects had died. As Paul Fouracre has pointed out, they could not take too many liberties with the truth when there were a lot of people still around who could remember it differently: the margins of plausibility were narrower than they would have been for saints who had died a long time ago. This was true of any recently dead person, martyr or not.48 But for martyrs the performance of the felix exitus was additionally complicated by a second and more technical problem, which was that a martyr was not supposed to try to die but only to face death resolutely when it seemed like the only acceptable option left. A person who saw his murder coming from too far off and spent his efforts readying his soul instead of avoiding conflict could easily be suspected of having been overeager to be decorated as a hero.49 The only Merovingian (or early Carolingian) hagiographer [End Page 128] who praised a saint for “gladly hurrying to martyrdom” was able to do so because his protagonist was never martyred!50
The caution expected of martyrs was not just a nod to patristic policy: contemporaries were suspicious of individuals who sought out martyrdom because they recognized its potency as a political weapon. When King Dagobert (r. 623–39) raised his sword to strike Arnulf of Metz in an argument, another magnate stayed his hand with the interjection: “Don’t wrong yourself, oh good king! Don’t you see that the man is destined to be holy and that he wants martyrdom?”51 Theuderic II (596–613) showed a similar wariness in his conflict with Columbanus in the Vita Columbani, in a remark that the Chronicle of Fredegar repeated verbatim about two decades later: “You are hoping that I will bestow the crown of martyrdom upon you.” But Theuderic was not, Jonas and Fredegar observed, so insane as to perpetrate a crime like that.52
Hagiographers who wrote about long-dead saints, by contrast, did not have to deal with either of these difficulties. The Passio Iusti is a case in point. Justus was a child-saint and part of a popular group of saints from northern Gaul who were said to have been killed by the same prefect.53 [End Page 129] In his Merovingian incarnation the boy acts with the calm determination of a man in charge. Not even decapitation diminishes his commanding confidence: after he is killed, Justus’s body stands purposefully to retrieve its head, and then the head begins to speak, asking God to take the soul that Justus was sure was heaven-bound and directing his relatives to manage his body properly.54
The lustrous examples of old martyrs like Justus pressured other authors to conform their own saints to the code of holiness. Hagiographers whose martyrs were not yet part of the unofficial canon in Gaul—unlike the saints who were repeatedly and widely commemorated through the dedication of altars or even churches, masses, relics, vitae, or references in other saints’ vitae—met this pressure with noticeable difficulty. The challenge of representing a satisfactory death without testing the limits of credibility or opportunism is especially evident in the Passio Leudegarii, a text written in Autun in the 680s or early 690s that historians regard as the single most important record of the Merovingian kingdom’s turbulent politics of the 670s.55 Its historical detail comes at a price: the hagiographer’s efforts to be comprehensive in his account of the injustices done to his protagonist aggravated the difficulty of ending it definitively.
Leudegar was a bishop of Autun who served as an advisor to the Merovingian king Childeric II (662–75). Despite or because of these positions he eventually fell afoul of a group of elites, who (as Leudegar’s hagiographer tells it) resented that the bishop’s sense of right and wrong impeded their own political machinations. The principal antagonist here is Ebroin, who as mayor of the palace held the second highest position in the kingdom, and he found Leudegar to be enough of a threat that he eventually had him murdered. [End Page 130]
This is a tidy summary of the Passio’s main plot points, but it severely compresses the sequence of events that unfold within it. The narrative space between the time that Leudegar learns he is wanted dead, and the moment when he is actually killed, is exceptionally circuitous. In the interim, he is captured and sent to a monastery. The king’s plans to take him out of exile to kill him at Ebroin’s urging are derailed twice, first because Leudegar’s successor intervenes on his behalf, and second because two dukes who had originally intended to kill Leudegar decides instead to put him under their protective custody. Leudegar then reconciles with Ebroin, only to find his city under siege by Ebroin’s agents later. The bishop surrenders himself to spare Autun, but Ebroin’s men blind him and leave him to die in the woods—but then Leudegar is rescued by yet another duke, who has a change of heart.
It keeps going: Ebroin summons Leudegar from this duke’s custody and accuses him of orchestrating a regicide (Childeric II, by the way, had been murdered by this point). After a sort of sham trial, Ebroin orders his men to cut off Leudegar’s lips and tongue—although they grow back again later—and then they drag him through the streets, parade him around in his degraded state on a horse, and put him under armed surveillance. Leudegar’s guard, a royal official named Waning, comes to sympathize with the bishop, and he takes him to his home and then later to a convent that Waning had built himself, rather than carry out the orders he had been given to torture Leudegar to death. After a couple of years Ebroin accuses Leudegar of regicide again, and this time he divests him of episcopal authority and orders a royal agent named Chrodobert to execute him. Chrodobert too brings Leudegar to his home, and he and his whole household confess to him and do penance. Ebroin issues another death sentence, but Chrodobert, like so many men before him, cannot bring himself to do it personally, so he delegates the job to two subordinates. These men take Leudegar to the woods, where he is finally slain with a sword—but not before one of his executioners has second thoughts and asks Leudegar for pardon.56
The Passio has kept us holding our breath for a long time. At one point its author even admits that our expectations of the narrative are continually thwarted. “God did his servant the honor of this grace,” he wrote, [End Page 131] “that wherever he was handed over as an exile to be harmed, everyone extended him their respect and support instead.”57
We can blame this in part on Ebroin, who vacillated between his ambition and his fear of the consequences of killing a man of Leudegar’s status: a lot of the story’s twists reflect what was probably a very real and hesitant political strategizing. These events took place in an unusually tumultuous decade, in which the push and pull of factions that were normally kept in check by the crown swung out of hand.58 The hagiographer himself was a strategist, too: as Paul Fouracre and Richard Gerberding have shown in their analysis of this text, each detour and knot in the narrative represents an effort to carefully maneuver the argument to Leudegar’s advantage, and to the advantage of Leudegar’s successor, Hermenar of Autun, who commissioned the Passio in the interest of dispelling suspicions about his own role in Leudegar’s death.59 And their reputations required more finegrained reconstruction than most.
But like many vitae from this period, this one is polysemic. The author’s obligations to his political arguments and sensitivity to contemporary political networks were not exclusive, although they did make it harder to satisfy the more modern philosophical expectations of death. Rather than abandon that style of death and its implicit theology in frustration, however, the hagiographer improvised. He made a point of showing that in response to the atmosphere of uncertainty, Leudegar assumed a continuous state of readying. Over and over he prays, he offers what might be his last words of exhortation and devotion, and he humbles his body to receive punishment. When his death did actually arrive, he could therefore meet it with adequate preparation and even confidence. It is not quite as clear-sighted and calculated as a felix exitus, but it is close. These efforts are all the more striking because the Passio Leudegarii is not obviously affiliated with the Vita Columbani or Luxeuil’s brand of monasticism. It was not only the Columbanian circle that valued the moments before death as a claim for (some) control over salvation. [End Page 132]
If other martyrs seemed better able to “control their destiny,” as Philippe Buc has remarked, it was only because their hagiographers had the benefit of considerable hindsight.60 In Leudegar’s case, historical friction roughed up what might have otherwise been a streamlined story, but this grit and texture allowed the Passio Leudegarii and other texts like it to accomplish what the hagiography of the more burnished ancients could not. A complicated narrative could be an asset: Leudegar’s life was the life of an active Merovingian aristocrat, and when it came to the matter of dying his experience better approximated the intrigues and dangers that worried his peers.
For just about everybody, death seemed selfish and impulsive. Gravestones called it inveda mors, a jealous death that snatched up “youths” in their late thirties and “infants” in their twenties.61 A late antique oracular text that was recopied (and possibly modified) in the sixth or seventh century offered one option for dealing with such uncertainty. The text provides answers in sets of twelve that were tailored to specific questions. A person who wanted to know, for example, Am I going to die soon? could roll the dice and look up his or her answer from the appropriate set of responses. Depending on the roll, it might be “There is a lot of time left for living”; “You don’t have a long time to live, so live while you can”; or more flatly, “You have time left to live, but not much.” Will I recover from my illness? “You will overcome it, but you will be sick for a long time” or “You are not well: summon a doctor and pray to the Lord.”62
The hagiographers’ frank confrontation with the opacity of the future spoke to the same concerns. The finales of the Merovingian martyrs show a mix of hastiness and assurance: they kneel, they pray, they appeal to God’s thorough and just accounting that will right things in the end, and then they are speared or decapitated. It was this kind of concerted vigilance that gave Desiderius of Vienne a measure of control in his own untimely death, according to his (second, Merovingian) hagiographer: when a group that had assembled to kill him began to have second thoughts, the bishop still knelt down to pray and offered his head to the executioner, which [End Page 133] meant that he was, in an important sense, ready for the stray rock that one magnate hurled at him while the others debated their plans. (The rock knocked Desiderius to the ground, and the magnate who had thrown it broke the bishop’s neck with a club.) Not even a surprise ending had gotten the best of the bishop.63
That hagiographers in the later Merovingian period would make a point of presenting their martyrs as prepared, despite all uncertainties, is an indication that some final statement and a measure of order, no matter how brief, had become essential to concluding a saint’s life properly. This may reflect in part a desire (on behalf of the saint or hagiographer or both) for the protagonist to die with a degree of control and fearlessness: the virtue of readiness in death reflected a widely shared concern in antiquity and the Middle Ages to be “in complete control of your style points,” as William Ian Miller has put it.64 But the Merovingian martyrs also died as they did because it was as felix an exitus as was possible under the circumstances. They were trying to meet and reinforce what were relatively new expectations about the turning point between life and the afterlife, which were tied to the theological position that humans had to account for themselves as part of the process of salvation.
At the same time, the martyr’s death was a verdict for others about how to live, before they died. As an exemplum it was supposed to prompt the audience to reconsider their own priorities and to see the world through a Christian physics of cause and effect well before their own times were up. To write about the end of life was to imply that life itself required introspection and emendation before it was too late to make improvements. In this respect, a martyr’s death or any saint’s death was functionally equivalent to the preacherly advice to “Hold the day of death right in front of your eyes, every day.”65 At least a few audiences seemed to be [End Page 134] doing exactly that: starting around the turn of the century, some private donors’ grants to monastic foundations explained that their deaths—and sometimes even the end of the world—loomed large over their generosity. As one Udo began his grant to the monastery of Wissembourg in 743, “As long as the weakness of humankind fears that the end of life will come as a sudden death, it is important that it not catch anyone unprepared.”66 Or as the mayor of the palace Pippin II and his wife Plectrude had put it more bluntly in a donation to Echternach in 706, “We are thinking about the end of human weakness and how we can wash away our sins.”67
What we can see in both felix exitus and the martyr’s finale, then, was that death served as a rhetorical-moral trigger but also as an unbeatable opportunity to recast the arc of the life that had preceded it. In the long view, the Merovingians owed this matrix of ideas to the Stoics, who had seen death as the best kind of argument by example. To seize control over one’s own death—which for the Stoics often but not unequivocally meant suicide—was to offer incontrovertible proof of one’s moral resolve and personal credibility, and through that testimonium it was the ultimate exemplum, an unparalleled encouragement for others to show similar resolve. Death, in short, “authenticates.”68
Daniel Boyarin has pointed out that martyrdom was decidedly un-Stoic on the finer points of motive. (Although both the Stoic and the martyr [End Page 135] died in the service of their convictions, the Stoic did so in order to remain master of his passions, whereas the martyr acted out of unbounded love for God.) As he and others have shown, the concept of martyrdom did not descend from one single philosophical tradition but was forged from many Mediterranean traditions and debates.69 Even so, the Stoic elements are still on view in the Merovingian material. Possibly the hagiographers were reading their Seneca and Tacitus—Merovingian authors were no strangers to classical and late antique literature70—or maybe the resonance was just a product of that original philosophical hybrid. But what was bracingly new in the literature of the seventh century was that, for some hagiographers, death was a point of orientation toward the future as much as the past. It confirmed a protagonist’s endorsement—and reward for—a theology of “self-advocacy” in salvation.
The Burden of Culture
The hagiographers who emphasized the potential of human agency to alter the soul’s journey faced a follow-up question: how much responsibility did one have for oneself? When the soul appeared before the Just Judge as Sisetrude’s had, what specifically would it be accountable for?
On the one hand, her responsibility seems to be total. The hagiographical view of action and responsibility was overtly centered on the individual. Each person received rewards and punishments commensurate with her own behavior. Rather than being assessed situationally, morality seemed to emanate from a single, stable source—God himself—that every individual could choose to accept or reject at her peril. It was as single souls that [End Page 136] Sisetrude and everyone else approached the divine tribunal, to answer for the faults that had been performed by their bodies or to receive the profits of their own hard work. When the soul of an aristocrat-turned-monk named Barontus was dragged by a pair of demons up to the fourth gate of paradise, Saint Peter asked them why they had brought him up there. The demons began to recount every single sin that Barontus had committed since he was a baby, although the demons (and probably Barontus) preferred to spare the audience most of the details. And when Peter told Barontus what his penance should be, which was to give away the twelve gold coins he had secretly kept to himself after becoming a monk, he seemed to be suggesting that Barontus’s faults were his alone to acknowledge and correct.71 Not just Peter’s response but the very idea of penance itself seemed to insist on an arithmetic, linear view of morality.
But penance, it was often said, was a medicine, and that very metaphor admits room for contagion—or in an age before microbiology, for vulnerability to interference. Not every misfortune was assumed to be selfinflicted. Even authors who saw disaster as part of a divine schema noticed that some victims got caught in the crossfire. Historians throughout the Merovingian period took note of such incidents. As Martin Heinzelmann has argued, Gregory of Tours dedicated the fifth book of his Histories to suggesting that a single king, Chilperic I, was the root cause of one of the civil wars that afflicted Gaul.72 Subsequent revisions of Gregory’s work magnified the disastrous consequences of royal greed even further.73 Similarly, historians and hagiographers noticed that children sometimes suffered for their parents’ flaws: Clovis and Chrodechild’s first child died on account of their father’s obstinacy, as did two sons of Chilperic and Fredegund, and one son of Clothar II.74 And the son of a wealthy woman named Adula was said to have drowned simply because his mother was the sort of sanctimonious layperson who took a stricter view of religious practice than the professionals did: Adula had refused to celebrate Geretrude’s [End Page 137] feast day with the nuns of Nivelles because it fell during Lent!75 Unlike the princes, Adula’s son was revived, but in most cases there was no reversing these sad if symbolic tragedies.
Such “accidents” were dramatic examples of a more mundane point that was almost too obvious to articulate: everyone was subject to influences and constraints that affected the patterns and outcomes of their lives. One could be more “athletic” in mind and body and therefore more resilient—in top shape “a kind of natural gymnasium of spirit and flesh”76—but the hagiographers were also ready to grant that social circumstance created advantages for some and disadvantages for others. History might have been a genre better suited to communicate the extent to which this was true, but it was hagiography that canvassed its implications most fully in the seventh century. And the hagiographers’ systemic view of responsibility and action indicates that identifying and adjudicating reasons or causes was an operation more akin to algebraic geometry than it was to arithmetic.
The vita of Segolena, founder and abbess of Troclar (near Albi), factored in many such variables as part of its total portrait.77 Her hagiographer places great emphasis on the strength of Segolena’s will to dedicate herself to God, not least because her desires were delayed or thwarted in manifold ways. It was not some weakness of sex that hampered her. Unlike earlier hagiographers, who were more committed to the idea that women were at a biological disadvantage, the hagiographers of the seventh century embraced a nearly opposite idea. The new monastic models of the seventh century (drawing in part on prior theories of Caesarius of Arles and the example of the Holy Cross monastery that Radegund founded in Poitiers) operated on the understanding that the prayers of a community of ascetic women were potentially more powerful than the prayers of their male counterparts. Consequently there was a greater proportion of female to male monasteries built in this century than in any other period before 1100 (by Jane Tibbetts Schulenburg’s count, female foundations ranged from 24.5 to 32.7 percent, more than double the ratios before and after this [End Page 138] century); and, even more tellingly, the female model of purity and seclusion was adapted for male institutions, through new forms of discipline, corporate cohesiveness, and an equally firm boundary between sacred and profane space. The strength that women derived from their bodies, in other words, prompted men to look for ways to match it.78
No physical or moral disadvantage underlay Segolena’s struggles. It was rather her social dependence that posed a challenge. Not only was Segolena pressured to marry; executing major property transactions, becoming or staying celibate, and leaving the world of marriage altogether also required a husband’s consent—and sometimes even parental and clerical permission in widowhood. To be “free” to act as she wanted, Segolena and her hagiographer knew, was to bargain with men who were freer.79 The Vita Segolenae leaned heavily on the example of Radegund, as many seventhcentury vitae did, and sometimes the text even quotes Fortunatus directly. But it did not import his sense of female fragility: whereas Fortunatus’s Radegund went to torturous lengths to discipline her body, Segolena did not. What her hagiographer did preserve was Radegund’s ethic of hard and humiliating work, and the sense of continual and unavoidable interruption that male relatives made to each heroine’s plans.80 It was a struggle that was familiar to other hagiographers of female saints.81 And to a lesser extent, men also faced what Praeiectus of Clermont’s hagiographer called [End Page 139] humana obstacula, lords or opponents or impersonal circumstances that prevented their plans from coming to fruition.82
The hagiographers conceded that actions and outcomes were not always possible to control completely, but, even more profoundly, they recognized that the will itself was subject to social conditioning. The average human being was highly impressionable, snared by the devil’s saccharine promises and recovered through the saint’s good example.83 Barontus saw it as a literal tug-of-war: the demons holding fast to his soul, Saint Peter beating them on the head with his keys. His image captivated several of the text’s copyists.84
The formative imprint that a society made upon its members was an issue that Augustine had addressed repeatedly in his own biography: whether it was the empty discipline of the schoolmaster or the status-generating engine of the cursus honorum, all too many human systems (he lamented) were set in motion by social logic rather than moral compulsion.85 But although conventional customs and values were profoundly difficult to breach, they did not lift any part of the burden of responsibility. It was up to an individual to choose the alternative, to surrender to God, in order to receive the strength—the grace—to resist the selfish and social forces that led to the soul’s neglect.86 As Peter Brown has recently suggested, Augustine approached the question of personal responsibility under pressure from two directions. On one side was the radical Roman-Pelagian view that certain actions (such as renouncing all of one’s wealth) could definitively, completely free a soul from sin. On the other was the popular attitude, [End Page 140] especially prevalent in Gaul and Italy, that salvation was a relatively straightforward process of divine pardon, something that God granted readily and regularly. Both views, Augustine worried, risked a sense of complacency about sin. And because no one could shake off sin entirely, an easygoing confidence in God’s pardon or some single dramatic gesture were inadequate forms of preparation. Only the daily damage control of prayer and alms made salvation possible.87
If Merovingian thinkers were also increasingly reluctant to envision salvation as an unconditional amnesty, as we have seen, they had Augustine to thank for it.88 They also shared his attendant conviction in the indispensability of divine support, although they usually preferred to describe it as God’s “will” (voluntas, nutus) rather than his “grace.”89 But later Merovingian hagiographers also acknowledged that the surrender to divine will and the continual acts of expiation that followed that surrender were never entirely spontaneous. Society could be a force of friction that resisted an individual’s contrary motion, and yet it could also be a source of guidance that informed and encouraged spiritual progress. The hagiographers counted themselves among such beneficial society. They took seriously the power of their own words and social models to persuade. They experimented with different rhetorical strategies in an effort to move their audiences, to make minds “boil” to do good.90 They praised their protagonists for providing similar leadership: education, preaching, regulating, or more generally setting an example were all transformative processes that gave shape and strength to others’ desires and abilities. (Failing that, there was always the option of physical restraint: when the devil moved a nun in Segolena’s monastery to run away, her sisters brought her back and tied her down. “It was not an inappropriate punishment,” the hagiographer decided. “Ropes held her back as faith had not.”91) [End Page 141]
The hagiographers tempered their emphasis on guidance and control with the conviction that persons who wielded those forms of power would be held to stricter standards than those who were ignorant, simple, and powerless. Bishops, abbesses, and abbots were held responsible not only for themselves, but for every soul under their care, which were entrusted to them, as Sadalberga’s hagiographer said, by God.92 This responsibility was a cause for celebration but also for apprehension. A shepherd could save many sheep from the devil’s clutches, as Wandregisel was said to have done, but the absence of a good leader exposed a darker side to dependency. When Sulpicius of Bourges died, the poor that he had spent a lifetime protecting recognized this risk, and they wept that their pastor and guardian had abandoned them. “We will all die in your death!”93
This notion of collective and uneven responsibility ran deep in Merovingian intellectual culture: it was not exclusive to hagiographers interested in death as a special accounting opportunity. Because the fate of a flock was so firmly tied to that of its shepherd, it was also seen to be true the other way around. Leaders who took their obligations lightly could expect exponentially worse punishments, in light of what God had said to Ezekiel (33.8): If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. According to Fortunatus, Radegund had threatened Médard of Noyon by alluding to this passage: if Médard refused to consecrate her, “it is your hand, shepherd, which will have to pay for the soul of this sheep.”94 Eligius of Noyon called this the “danger” inherent in his pastoral position.95 One wonders whether the hagiographers thought they risked the same. Perhaps the Merovingians learned their heavy sense of leadership from Caesarius of Arles, who shared their fondness for the Ezekiel verse. But the hagiographers of the seventh and eighth centuries were also interested in the [End Page 142] salvific potential of responsibility that a community shouldered together, and in this regard they more resembled what another homegrown tradition, the Eusebius Gallicanus sermon collection, had espoused.96
Whatever the particular channels of influence, the later Merovingian period featured a view of action and responsibility that was simultaneously individual and social. Even the Visio Baronti, alongside its personal and remedial sense of sin and salvation, attests to the Merovingian interest in an ongoing social responsibility for souls: the whole time that Barontus was in his deathly stupor, experiencing his vision and being presented with a life-list of sins, his fellows monks surrounded his deathbed and were strenuously praying, as the vision text puts it, “for the heavenly doctor to send his soul back to his body.”97 And in the first part of his visionary journey, Barontus could still keep time to the chimes back home that signaled the start of a new liturgical hour.98 This was not a view that hagiographers alone held. Monasteries were operating (and booming) on the premise that monks could transcend their own shortcomings through collective discipline, which in turn enabled monastic communities to act as advocates for the populations that supported them with pious donations—sometimes the same donations that anxiously looked toward the end of life.99 The path of the soul was a solitary one, and yet it was still guided by the acts and energies of communities on earth. If penance was a medicine, culture could be, too.
The positive effects of persuasion and social praxis, and the part they play in an individual’s fate, are also on view in hagiographical texts that celebrate multiple or even mass martyrdoms, but more than the other Merovingian sources we have for this philosophical position, these texts underscore the difficulty of calculating such a geometric view of responsibility. In these [End Page 143] passion texts, protagonists who faced death encouraged their beleaguered companions, households, or, in ancient settings, even entire settlements to stay steadfast when they came under attack. Sometimes thousands of people spoke in unison in dialogues with their persecutors. Texts about more distant events, such as Eucherius of Lyon’s enduringly popular Passio Acaunensium martyrum or the seventh-century Martyrium Prisci et sociorum (about a third-century persecution) characterized the crowds who were moved in these moments as inspired, strengthened, encouraged, consoled. As a result, they faced their executioners readily and willingly.100 But the sidekicks of more recent history were somewhat less responsive. Germanus of Granval asked his traveling companion to be at peace in the presence of their aggressors, but Bobolenus (his hagiographer) does not record how this advice was received.101 When Praeiectus of Clermont was besieged in his home, his friend Amarinus, who happened to be there, suggested that perhaps God actually wanted them to surrender. Praeiectus told him to be quiet and take the singular opportunity to die as a martyr. This is the last we hear of Amarinus before he was killed by men who mistook him for Praeiectus.102
The late Merovingian Vita Landiberti, written around 740, is even more ambivalent about the moral implications of mutual martyrdom. Landibert too finds his villa under attack, but sandwiched between the start of the siege and the bishop’s actual death is a long scene in which Landibert tries to persuade his nephews and the rest of his household to welcome death as he intended to do. It is not at all clear that anyone was convinced by his words: Landibert repeats himself nearly verbatim, as if his first speech did not land the way he had hoped, and the account is unspecific about whether his words made a difference. His hagiographer says that everyone at the villa was slaughtered, but this is only a brief sentence that precedes the main scene of the bishop’s own spectacular death, when an assailant breaks through the roof of his bedroom and gores Landibert with a spear.103 [End Page 144]
This section of the Vita Landiberti not only recalls how difficult it was to represent a recent murder in a genre that privileged certainty, on the part of both actor and author; it also suggests that hagiographers had their reasons for being inexact about the social and ethical dimensions of situations like these. The two problems were partly related: the elements of accident and unpredictability meant that a person could be forgiven for wavering, whether as a soon-to-be saint seeking to maximize the good he performs, or as the saint’s companion concerned mostly about himself. The room that this text leaves for hesitation is compounded by its quotations from the Vita Eligii, a text whose protagonist was not a martyr but a confessor who died of natural causes. This borrowing forms the core of Landibert’s argument for why his household ought to follow his lead. Like Eligius he knows that it is his time to die, and like Eligius he recommends that his men love Christ just as they love him. For Eligius, this was simply a fatherly farewell, a way of guiding the lives that his followers would continue to lead in his absence; but for Landibert it is a somewhat artificial imperative for others to tie their fate to his.104 And the very presence of the Vita Eligii in this proposition made it more complicated, because it recalled the possibility of the felix exitus as an alternative form of a definitive death, and this different but equally valid form of moral testimonium was all the more attractive a mode of Christian proof and adjudication in an age when a defiant death rarely seemed to be absolutely necessary to further the cause of faith.
In addition to underscoring the problems of knowing when and how to die, the tendency for recent martyrs’ companions to fade quickly into the background delimits the protagonists’ responsibility for their deaths (and by extension their lives) almost as soon as it raises the possibility that the characters’ choices and actions might be conjoined. But that quick moment—the collective confusion, and the leader’s voice that cuts through it—admits the great forces of circumstance and society that pressed upon every soul, right up to the end.
This is not to say that a person was any less responsible for the list of faults that he or she, like Barontus, would hear recited in the divine court: conceding external influences was not the same thing as suspending [End Page 145] judgment altogether. In this respect, these centuries uphold Bernard Williams’s observation that Christianity, unlike archaic Greece or even the modern West, posited a moral system that was neither situation- nor character-specific; and its notion of a universal morality, Williams argued, depended in particular on the understanding that the system was fully comprehensible and rational, and that a failure to comply with its ethics represented only the lack of individual will to do so.105 The martyrs and the literature that celebrated them hung on this model of action and morality: as Jaś Elsner has suggested, it was the martyrs who turned the matter of religious practice into a question of choice—a choice for or against God.106 Even if one did not answer as a martyr would, the question was on the table all the same.
On the other hand the Merovingian perspective undercuts this account of Christianity in some interesting and nontrivial ways. The nun who was tied down by her sisters in the Vita Segolenae may strike readers today as unaccommodating if not sinister, but the hagiographers saw social support as a potentially liberating alternative to the accidents, ignorance, and limitations that could befall any individual without good reason. Consequently the hagiographers sought to alter Merovingian social structures in ways that would make it easier and likelier for individuals to act ethically. The valuation of female monastic practice as an alternative to more traditional options for women (as we saw in the Vita Segolenae) is just one well-known example of this. The philosophical framework that the felix exitus was supposed to foster was another.
Not only was it understood that individuals were deeply influenced by the world around them; the moral system that they were expected to apprehend and choose was somewhat situational. Eucherius of Lyon had recognized this centuries earlier in his exegetical works, which subsequent generations continued to copy and read.107 Scripture, Eucherius had [End Page 146] observed, was a fixed point of reference, but it was not always clear how to understand this divine communication, and figuring out what exactly it was that God commanded was a necessarily social enterprise. As Eucherius put it in his Instructiones, unlocking the spiritual meaning of Scripture was something his friends from Lérins had done in concert (and as he admits, some of their answers were more like educated guesses, and still others ended in disagreement). The passages he chose to analyze in that book were themselves part of a dialogue: Eucherius presented the Instructiones as a response to questions that his son Salonius (later bishop of Geneva) found most in need of clarification, plus a few other things that Eucherius thought he might like to know.108 Divine law may have been immutable, but the knowledge and application of it was highly conditional.
One only had to read the Bible itself to see this. The animal sacrifices that God was said to enjoy in the Old Testament were by the fifth century unacceptable, but this was no reason to think that one society was in the wrong, or that God was subject to change. Rather:
These things were transformed to suit the times. For a year changes by seasons, and the span of a life by ages. The system of divine providence that established all that is not what changes. The system of agriculture is not transformed by a farmer when he has one kind of work done in the field in the summer and another in winter. It’s not the man doing this who would appear to have changed—it’s the time in which he does it. And so God commands what is appropriate to any given time. That is why he made these commandments about sacrifices, not for the sake of his own pleasure but, like everything else he did, for human benefit.109 [End Page 147]
Merovingian hagiography was predicated on this historically and socially inflected understanding of Christian ethics. As the hagiographer of Sulpicius of Bourges said, God provided saints and miracles across many places and times in order to provide continual reassurance and inspiration to others, which implied that although God’s presence was assumed to be continuous and constant, the forms in which he made it manifest for human benefit necessarily varied.110 What the hagiographers could not afford to admit openly, however, was that articulating the specific constellation of virtues that had yielded miraculous endorsement was an inherently editorial process. The texts present themselves as rational argument for a fixed body of logic and values—that is, for the Christian religion—and yet the specific form that these principles were supposed to take in practice was very much open to debate, as even the anxiety about a satisfactory death shows. Because the correct course of action was to some degree indeterminate so long as societies changed, ethical behavior was unavoidably a matter of interpretation, even if the moral system by which it was measured seemed to be itself unchanging.
The accommodation for chance and influence did not substantially modify the emphasis on personal responsibility, and in this regard hagiography preserves a touch of the tragedy that the Greek dramatists had exploited much more fully: humans are subject to a wide range of forces and controls, and yet in the end they are accountable for whatever their bodies bring about.111 But in the seventh- and eighth-century vitae, this was a tragedy of the short term: in the hagiographers’ long view, responsibility was an asset because it allowed for the possibility of control over one’s eternity.
Some hagiographers found the penitential eschatology so persuasive that they even retroactively applied it to late antiquity. In a Merovingian version of the martyrdom of Afra, the saint worried—at the stake!—that she had not performed the penance that she was supposed to do for a lifetime of [End Page 148] prostitution.112 But others remained unimpressed by the special significance that their contemporaries invested in the final moments of life on earth. For these writers, death was not necessarily an action or accounting. It was hardly an event at all: Audoin of Rouen, although he was a dedicated ally of Columbanian monasticism, died without the soteriological sculpture of visions and speeches.113 Gaugeric of Cambrai, Sulpicius of Bourges, and the missionary-bishop Amand did not even take the opportunity to pray one last time—or if they did, their hagiographers did not think it worth mentioning.114 And yet this did not preclude the possibility of philosophical common ground: we have seen, for example, that the Vita Sulpicii was inflected with the same sense of social dependency that other sources had examined more comprehensively.
These variations are a reminder that there was more than one way to answer the questions that arose when assurance about the afterlife receded. In one sense this is not at all surprising: no one claimed to know for sure what would happen to the soul, and by extension what could help the soul, so there was always room for learned conjecture. But in another sense such disagreements indicate how the hagiographers examined the live issue of human responsibility with an unexpectedly supple set of questions and answers. And I would suggest that the altered landscape of the hereafter was not just a prompt but also a result of these conversations: the more that Christianity seemed to be a matter of both personal choice and social-structural conditioning, the more it seemed necessary to tally and adjudicate those efforts in order to improve upon them. Uncertainty about the soul’s fate, in other words, may have actually been a solution as much as a problem in itself, a rational consequence of the hagiographers’ intensive focus on the highly varied circumstances in which each individual confronted a moral system that was supposed to be invariant.
The conversation outlived the Merovingian dynasty. It is well known, for example, that education was a core component of Carolingian Christianity.115 The Merovingian philosophy of culture and responsibility was surely one of the principal precedents for that development. The Merovingian period also saw a conspicuous increase in prayers offered to benefit the [End Page 149] dead and even the introduction of entire masses composed expressly for that purpose.116 These liturgies reflect a more extreme form of confidence in the power of collective advocacy: communities and their clergies were endorsing the idea that salvation was a group enterprise that continued even after a soul had left its body. If the hagiographers had any part in this transformation, the practice seems to have quickly outstripped their more cautious considerations.
The continuities are in any case visible in the hagiographical record. The early Carolingian Passio Salvii, for example, proceeds as awkwardly as any Merovingian martyrdom, and yet this text too puts its jagged narrative in the service of philosophical reflection on action and responsibility—even more transparently than the Merovingian passions had. Here, it is a jailer who obstructs a straight shot to death. Salvius and a traveling companion had been robbed and taken prisoner by an impetuous petty noble named Winegard, who then tasked a guard named Winegarius with killing them. But Winegarius was reluctant to do it. He told the two men about Winegard’s orders, and he urged them to escape under cover of night. Winegarius would even run away with them. Salvius responded cryptically: “I think that everything you have said is a lie. Your master did not order you to do what you said he did, because he thinks and speaks [End Page 150] only justly, not treacherously—let alone would he command you to perpetrate this crime.”117
Is this gallows humor or naïveté? Surely the bishop had a better grasp of his captor’s character? Surely he had not forgotten the future that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him in an earlier scene?118 Salvius’s logic may be inscrutable here, but by pulling readers down to the character’s field of vision it also prompts for reflection on precisely the same issues that had troubled previous hagiographers. Perhaps not even an informed hero could really know when his time was up. And whether Salvius was speaking sardonically or not, the question still lingered: why wait around for death if it was possible to avoid it?
In the Passio Salvii the one who bears the burden of these questions most is Winegarius, not Salvius, because the jailer has to reconcile three sets of competing interests (his, Winegard’s, and Salvius’s) in his attempt to choose the correct course of action. Winegarius eventually convinced Salvius to take the situation seriously, but Salvius still refused to bolt, now on different lines of reasoning. He argued that it was wrong to flee Christ’s reward; and what was more, it was wrong for Winegarius to disobey his master. Winegarius eventually agreed to kill Salvius, not because he found these reasons particularly convincing, but because he saw that he could not change the bishop’s mind and because he feared being beaten for his disobedience should Winegard find the bishop alive. But he made a point of insisting—as God was his witness—that he was not acting voluntarily.119 After a few more delays he finally, fearfully made Salvius a martyr.120
In this moment Winegarius became carnifex, an executioner, and it is clear from the protracted dialogue and debate preceding it that it was an act he had deliberately chosen against other options. And although a confluence of events, social structures, and even the Christian culture [End Page 151] of martyrdom itself had restricted these options and made it impossible for him to act entirely freely, Winegarius was still held responsible for what he had done: when the crime was uncovered, the king had the jailer blinded. But what the hagiographer does not have to explain is that the many forms of compulsion that moved Winegarius to act against his own desires entitled him to an alleviated punishment and even partial pardon. The comparatively worse fates of the other men involved spoke for themselves: Winegard was not only blinded but castrated for Salvius’s murder (and so was his father, who had abetted him). Conveniently and in Carolingian fashion, these royal judgments matched almost exactly God’s own verdicts when it came to assigning relative responsibility for the crime: although all three men lived the rest of their lives in some kind of deference to Salvius and his basilica, only Winegarius got some of his sight back.121 The hagiographer could attest that Winegarius worked for the basilica until the day he died. We do not know what happened next. [End Page 152]
Jamie Kreiner is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Georgia
My thanks to Henry Cowles, Jorah Dannenberg, and Jeff Miner for bringing their curiosity to bear on this material: it made all the difference. The article also owes a lot to its two anonymous readers at JECS; to Peter Brown, Bill Jordan, Helmut Reimitz, and Ian Wood; to Barbara Pitkin and the Religious Studies Colloquium at Stanford University; and to John Gager and the fellows in the 2010–11 Religion and Culture workshop that was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.
1. In this article, texts that do not exist in modern editions, and texts that have been substantially re-dated since they were edited, are cited with references to updated source criticism.
2. Frederick S. Paxton, Christianizing Death: The Creation of a Ritual Process in Early Medieval Europe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990), 47–91; Claude Carozzi, Le voyage de l’âme dans l’au-delà d’après la littérature latine (Ve–XIIIe siècle) (Rome: École française de Rome, 1994), 13–297; Isabel Moreira, Dreams, Visions, and Spiritual Authority in Merovingian Gaul (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), esp. 136–68; Peter Brown, “The Decline of the Empire of God: Amnesty, Penance, and the Afterlife from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages,” in Last Things: Death and the Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, ed. Caroline Walker Bynum and Paul Freedman (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000); Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, a.d. 200–1000, 2nd ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003), 248–66; Moreira, Heaven’s Purge: Purgatory in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Matthew Dal Santo, Debating the Saints’ Cult in the Age of Gregory the Great (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), esp. 85–148, 237–320. On the many forms of contact between Ireland, England, and Gaul in this period see Ian Wood, “The Continental Connections of Anglo-Saxon Courts from Æthelbert to Offa,” in Le relazioni internazionali nell’ alto medioevo, Settimane di studio della Fondazione centro Italiano studi sull’alto medioevo 57 (Spoleto, 2011).
3. Felix exitus: Jonas, Vita Columbani abbatis discipulorumque eius 1.17, 2.12, 2.13, 2.25, MGH SS rer. Germ. 37, ed. Bruno Krusch (Hannover and Leipzig: Hahn, 1905), 184, 261, 264, 290.
4. V. Columbani 2.11 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:257–59).
5. …Exitum vitae per revelatione agnovit, quadragintaque dierum spatio interiecto, quo iter pararet, ammonita, mores corrigeret, vitam emendaret, et se ut in omnibus paratam habeat, imperatur. Transierant triginta et septem dies in omni religione peracti; ieiunio et oratione cum fluenta lacrimarum vigiliarumque labore corpus adtriverat, ut facilius venturi itineris viam aperiret: V. Columbani 2.11 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:258).
6. Section on Faremoutiers, V. Columbani 2.11–22 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:257–79). Gisela Muschiol has argued that the Faremoutiers stories mark the start of a more formalized funerary ritual, and I suggest that these liturgies were one result of the philosophical developments I follow here. See Muschiol, Famula Dei: Zur Liturgie in merowingischen Frauenklöstern (Münster: Aschendorff, 1994), 313–29.
7. On which see Albrecht Diem, “Monks, Kings, and the Transformation of Sanctity: Jonas of Bobbio and the End of the Holy Man,” Speculum 82 (2007): 521–59; Ian Wood, “The Vita Columbani and Merovingian Hagiography,” Peritia 1 (1982): 63–80.
8. Hanc primam huius coenubii exhortationem Dominus famulabus suis voluit demonstrare, ut ceterae, quae superstites essent, omni intentione ad cultum religionis aspirarent. V. Columbani 2.11 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:259).
9. V. Columbani 2.25 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:290).
10. E.g., J. F. Niermeyer and C. van de Kieft, Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus, rev. ed. J. W. J. Burgers (Leiden: Brill, 2003), s.v. “emendare,” nos. 6, 7: the Merovingian sources for this usage include a capitulary of Clothar II (the entry incorrectly has Clothar I) and the formularies of Angers, Sens, and Marculf.
11. Vita et miracula Albini 19–20, MGH AA 4.2, ed. Bruno Krusch (Berlin: Weidmann, 1885), 32–33; Vita Hilarii 14.54 (MGH AA 4.2:7); Vita Marcelli 10.50 (MGH AA 4.2:54).
12. Fortunatus, Vita Paterni 18–19 (MGH AA 4.2:37).
13. Qui beatis operibus vivunt integre post sepulchrum: V. Paterni 19.54 (MGH AA 4.2:37). See also Vita Germani episcopi Parisiaci 76, MGH SS rer. Merov. 7, ed. Bruno Krusch and Wilhelm Levison (Hannover and Leipzig: Hahn, 1920), 417–18; Vita Severini episcopi Burdegalensis 5 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 7:222); Vita Radegundis 38, MGH SS rer. Merov. 2, ed. Bruno Krusch (Hannover: Hahn, 1888), 376.
14. In his poetry, too: see Michael Roberts, The Humblest Sparrow: The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009), 213–16.
15. Gregory, Liber de passione et virtutibus Iuliani 1, MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.2, ed. Bruno Krusch (Hannover: Hahn, 1969 ), 113–14.
16. Liber in gloria martyrum 1–7 (Jesus), 42 (Cassianus) (MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.2:38–43, 66–67).
17. E.g., Gloria martyrum 54 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.2:75): Timotheus et Apollinaris apud Remensium urbem consummato martyrio, caelestia regna meruerunt.
18. On Fortunatus’s and Gregory’s preponderant interest in postmortem miracles, which provided an influential model for later hagiographers (especially after the Merovingian period), see Martin Heinzelmann, “Une source de base de la littérature hagiographique latine: Le receuil de miracles,” in Hagiographie, cultures et sociétés, IVe–XIIe siècles, ed. Évelyne Patlagean and Pierre Riché (Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1981), 242–46.
19. Liber vita patrum 6.1 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.2:230). On Gregory’s subtle genealogical work, see Ian Wood, “The Individuality of Gregory of Tours,” in The World of Gregory of Tours, ed. Kathleen Mitchell and Ian Wood (Leiden: Brill, 2002); Helmut Reimitz, “Social Networks and Identities in Frankish Historiography: New Aspects of the Textual History of Gregory of Tours’ Historiae,” in The Construction of Communities in the Early Middle Ages: Texts, Resources and Artefacts, ed. Richard Corradini, Max Diesenberger, and Helmut Reimitz (Leiden: Brill, 2002).
20. Vita patrum 6.7 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.2:235).
21. Nicetius of Trier learns before he dies that he will be going to heaven, but he does not do anything to prepare in the meantime: Vita patrum 17.6 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.2:283).
22. Baudonivia, Vita Radegundis 20–21 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:391–92)—composed between 609 and 614.
23. Florentius, Vita Rusticulae sive Marcia abbatissae Arelatensis 22–23, MGH SS rer. Merov. 4, ed. Bruno Krusch (Hannover and Leipzig: Hahn, 1902), 348–49—composed in 632/33.
24. Gloria martyrum 106 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.2:111).
25. For the date: Wood, “The Vita Columbani and Merovingian Hagiography,” 63.
26. “Nihil bone gessi in hoc saeculo; omnibus sceleribus et peccatis vallatus, coartor, pro quibus Dominum, ut veniam merear, obsecro, supplicate.” Haec vir sanctus, quia scriptum est: Iustus in primordio sermonis accusator sui est. V. Arnulfi 22 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:442); cf. Prov 18.17. For the text’s date see Monique Goullet, “Les saints du diocèse de Metz,” Sources hagiographiques de la Gaule 10, in Miracles, Vies et réécritures dans l’occident médiéval, ed. Goullet and Martin Heinzelmann (Paris: Thorbecke, 2006), 216–24.
27. Hans Hummer has definitively dated this text to the later seventh century, ca. 680: “Die merowingische Herkunft der Vita Sadalbergae,” Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 59 (2003): 459–93.
28. V. Sadalbergae abbatissae Laudunensis 24, MGH SS rer. Merov. 5, ed. Bruno Krusch and Wilhelm Levison (Hannover and Leipzig: Hahn, 1910), 63–64.
29. Ab illa igitur die coepit vigiliis, ieiuniis, psalmis et orationibus plus solito Domino libare, quanto firmior de promisso, tanto alacrior de obsequio: V. Sadalbergae 27 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:66).
30. Quia non qui ceperit iuxta divinum oraculum, sed qui perseveraverit usque in finem, hic salvus erit: V. Sadalbergae 28 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:66); cf. Matt 24.13.
31. Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), esp. 24–28.
32. Vita Geretrudis 6–7 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:459–64). Most manuscripts do not include the name of the prophetic monk at Fosses, but I have used it both because it is convenient and also because it is probably true: the mid-seventh-century Vita or Transitus Fursei names one Ultan as the half-brother of Foillan, who in the companion text to this vita (Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano) is identified as the abbot of Fosses and friend of Geretrude: Vita Fursei 8 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:438); Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:449–50).
33. Vita Balthildis 12–15 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:497–502); Vita Wandregiseli abbatis Fontanellensis 18–20 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:22–24).
34. The V. Wandregiseli manuscript is Paris, BNF Ms. Lat. 18315, death scene starting at f. 24v, line 10. Cf. Veniamus ad illum locum, in quam Dominus incletum suum de laboribus huius mundi in caeleste quiete perducere voluit (V. Wandregiseli 18 [MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:22]); and Sed veniamus ad illud tempus, cum eum Dominus de hoc mundo iussit adsumi (Vita patrum 6.7 [MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.2:235]).
35. Alexander O’Hara, “The Vita Columbani in Merovingian Gaul,” Early Medieval Europe 17 (2009): 126–53, at 130–34; Hummer, “Die merowingische Herkunft der Vita Sadalbergae,” 463–77; Eugen Ewig, “Das Privileg des Bischofs Berthefrid von Amiens für Corbie von 664 und die Klosterpolitik der Königin Balthild,” Francia 1 (1973): 62–114.
36. Geretrude was on good terms with the bishop of Amand (V. Geretrudis 2 [MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:455]), who was well acquainted with Jonas himself (Jonas, prologue to V. Columbani 1 [MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:145]) and also Sulpicius of Bourges, Eligius of Noyon, and Audoin of Rouen (Vita Amandi episcopi 5, 17 [MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:433, 441–42]), who in turn were closely associated with the Parisian court and who (with the possible exception of Sulpicius) were proponents of Columbanian foundations: Friedrich Prinz, Frühes Mönchtum im Frankenreich: Kultur und Gesellschaft in Gallien, den Rheinlanden und Bayern am Beispiel der monastischen Entwicklung (4. bis 8. Jahrhundert) (Munich and Vienna: Oldenbourg, 1965), 124–41; Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms, 451–750 (London: Longman, 1994), 184–94; Barbara Rosenwein, “Francia and Polynesia: Rethinking Anthropological Approaches,” in Negotiating the Gift: Pre-Modern Figurations of Exchange, ed. Gadi Algazi, Valentin Groebner, and Bernhard Jussen (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003), esp. 371–79. On the Pippinids’ distance from Paris-Luxeuil: Paul Fouracre, “The Origins of the Carolingian Attempt to Regulate the Cult of Saints,” in The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Essays on the Contribution of Peter Brown, ed. James Howard-Johnston and Paul Antony Hayward (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); with Geretrude’s ambiguous associations in Prinz, Frühes Mönchtum, 185–87.
37. Romaric: Vita Arnulfi 6, 19, 22 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:433–34, 440, 442); V. Columbani 2.10 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:252–55); Prinz, Frühes Mönchtum, 138–40.
38. For these politics see now Yaniv Fox, “The Bishop and the Monk: Desiderius of Vienne and the Columbanian Movement,” Early Medieval Europe 20 (2012): 176–94.
39. Dal Santo, Debating the Saints’ Cult; Dal Santo, “The God-Protected Empire? Skepticism towards the Cult of Saints in Early Byzantium,” in An Age of Saints? Power, Conflict and Dissent in Early Medieval Christianity, ed. Peter Sarris, Dal Santo, and Phil Booth (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), quotation at 145.
40. Wood, “The Franks and Papal Theology, 550–660,” in The Crisis of the Oikoumene: The Three Chapters and the Failed Quest for Unity in the Sixth-Century Mediterranean, ed. Celia Chazelle and Catherine Cubitt (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007); see further Richard M. Price, “The Three Chapters Controversy and the Council of Chalcedon”; and Robert Markus and Claire Sotinel’s introduction to the same collection.
41. Ian Wood, “Jonas, the Merovingians, and Pope Honorius: Diplomata and the Vita Columbani,” in After Rome’s Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History. Essays Presented to Walter Goffart, ed. Alexander Callander Murray (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), 100–102; Wood, “The Vita Columbani and Merovingian Hagiography,” 64–65.
42. For the entire string of Agrestius episodes see Jonas, V. Columbani 2.9–10 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:246–57).
43. See n.41. Jonas, V. Columbani 2.9 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:248): postea mea neglegentia perdidi. Agrestius may have been the original compiler of the Fredegar Chronicle, although the subsequent revisions to this history make it impossible to get a clear shot of Agrestius’s views even if he was in fact the text’s first author: see Gustav Schnürer, Die Verfasser der sogenannten Fredegar-Chronik (Freiburg: University of Freiburg Press, 1900), 85–88. My thanks to Helmut Reimitz for the reference to Schnürer’s work.
44. For this ‘precedent’ in Columbanus’s own behavior: Jonas, V. Columbani 1.8, (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:166).
45. V. Columbani 2.10 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:254).
46. See Gregory’s repeated appearance in Walter Berschin’s discussion of the Merovingian vitae, Biographie und Epochenstil im lateinischen Mittelalter (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1988), 2:8–111. There were also several theories of the soul’s premortem nature on offer in this period: see Leslie Lockett, Anglo-Saxon Psychologies in the Vernacular and Latin Traditions (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011).
47. The number of martyrs in the seventh and eighth centuries reflects the episcopate’s high level of involvement in the factional politics of the Merovingian court: see Paul Fouracre, “Why Were So Many Bishops Killed in Merovingian Francia?” in Bischofsmord im Mittelalter, ed. Natalie Fryde and Dirk Reitz (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003).
48. Fouracre, “Merovingian History and Merovingian Hagiography,” Past and Present 127 (1990): 3–38, at 9–11.
49. As Daniel Boyarin makes clear, it was an open question in late antiquity as to whether it was better to die for one’s principles or to avoid death in order to continue God’s work. Christians eventually settled on “provoked martyrdom” as the only acceptable kind, which Boyarin credits to the Rabbis’ influence: see Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), quotation at 121. But it was also a distinction that Augustine sharpened in order to undermine the suicidal dissidence of the Donatists and the stricter sense of purity on which it was based: Brent Shaw, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 587–720; Michael Gaddis, There Is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ: Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire (Berkeley, CA and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005), 111–19; Collin Garbarino, “Augustine, Donatists and Martyrdom,” in An Age of Saints? Power, Conflict and Dissent in Early Medieval Christianity, ed. Peter Sarris, Matthew Dal Santo, and Phil Booth (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011).
50. Ad martyrium libentissime properabat: Vita Amandi episcopi 23 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:446). On this text, which is a revision of a Merovingian original that survives in very fragmentary form, see Alan Dierkens, “Notes biographiques sur saint Amand, abbé d’Elnone et éphémère évêque de Maastricht († peu après 676),” in Saints d’Aquitaine: Missionnaires et pèlerins du haut Moyen âge, ed. Edina Bozoky (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2010).
51. Noli impie contra temet ipsum agere, o bone rex; annon vides virum sanctum destinatum et cupidum esse ad martirium: V. Arnulfi 17 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:439).
52. “Martirii coronam a me tibi inlaturam speras”; non esse tantae demenciae, ut hoc tantum patraret scelus: Jonas, V. Columbani 1.19 (MGH SS rer. Germ. 37:191); Fredegar, Chronicae 4.36 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:136).
53. On this “Rictiovarus cycle,” see Brigitte Meijns and Charles Mériaux, “Le cycle de Rictiovar et la topographie chrétienne des campagnes septentrionales à l’époque mérovingienne,” in Les premiers temps chrétiens dans le territoire de la France actuelle, ed. Dominique Paris-Poulain, Sara Nardi Combescure, and Daniel Istria (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009); Michèle Gaillard, “Remarques sur les plus anciennes versions de la Passio et de l’Inventio des saints Fuscien, Victoric et Gentien (manuscrits Paris, BnF, lat. 12598 et Wien, ÖB, 371),” in Parva pro magnis munera: Études de littérature tardo-antique et médiévale offertes à François Dolbeau par ses élèves, ed. Monique Goullet (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009); Martin Heinzelmann, “L’hagiographie mérovingienne: Panorama des documents potentiels,” in L’hagiographie mérovingienne à travers ses réécritures, ed. Monique Goullet, Heinzelmann, and Christiane Veyrard-Cosme (Paris: Thorbecke, 2010), 44–45, with further bibliography.
54. Passio Iusti, ed. Maurice Coens, “Aux origines de la céphalophorie: Un fragment retrouvé d’une ancienne passion de S. Just, martyr de Beauvais,” AB 74 (1956): 86–114, at 94–96.
55. Passio Leudegarii episcopi et martyris Augustodunensis (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:282–322). For these dates: Paul Fouracre and Richard Gerberding, Late Merovingian France: History and Hagiography, 640–720 (New York: Manchester University Press, 1996), 196–202, and see the authors’ excellent introduction and commentary to this text more generally, which accompanies their English translation of the Passio.
56. This last change of heart is probably a nod toward Luke’s “good thief.” But whereas Jesus tells the bandit that he will join him that day in paradise, Leudegar tells the servant to confess his sins to a bishop and do penance in order to escape blame (evadere culpam)—one of many examples of how this hagiographer deftly repurposed topoi. Passio Leudegarii 35 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:316–17); cf. Lk 23.41–43.
57. Hanc enim gratiam suo famulo Dominus inlustraverat, ut ubicumque exsul fuisset traditus, ut ei inferentur nequitiae, versa vice famulabilem illi omnes inpenderent reverentiam: Passio Leudegarii 33 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:315).
58. On which see Eugen Ewig, “Die fränkischen Teilreiche im 7. Jahrhundert (613–714),” in Spätantikes und fränkisches Gallien, ed. Harmut Atsma, vol. 1 (Munich: Artemis, 1976); Richard Gerberding, The Rise of the Carolingians and the Liber Historiae Francorum (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987), 66–91; Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms, 255–72; Paul Fouracre, “Attitudes towards Violence in Seventh- and Eighth-Century Francia,” in Violence and Society in the Early Medieval West, ed. Guy Halsall (Rochester, NY: Boydell, 1998).
59. Fouracre and Gerberding, Late Merovingian France, 200–202.
60. Buc, “Martyre et ritualité dans l’Antiquité tardive: Horizons de l’écriture médiévale des rituels,” Annales: Histoire, sciences sociales 48 (1997): 63–92, at 74.
61. Recueil des inscriptions chrétiennes de la Gaule antérieures à la renaissance carolingienne, vol. 8, ed. Françoise Prévot (Paris: CNRS, 1997), no. 23 (Clermont, during reign of Clothar II); Recueil des inscriptions chrétiennes de la Gaule, vol. 15, ed. Françoise Descombes (Paris: CNRS, 1985), no. 104 (Vienne, a.d. 657).
62. Die Orakelsprüche im St. Galler Palimpsestcodex 908 (die sogenannten “Sortes Sangallenses”), ed. Alban Dold, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften 225/4 (Vienna: Rohrer, 1948), 26.8, 25.7, 25.8, 89.6, 88.7.
63. Passio Desiderii episcopi et martyris Viennensis [II] 9, MGH SS rer. Merov. 3, ed. Bruno Krusch (Hannover: Hahn, 1896), 641. By contrast, Desiderius’s first hagiographer, the Visigothic king Sisebut, reported that Desiderius was stoned to death by a raving mob, who show no sign of having doubts. The element of ambivalence is absent, and so are concerns about the bishop’s readiness: Desiderius had already delivered a speech in which he pleads for his life while also expressing confidence that if he were to die, he would be avenged by all of heaven. Sisebut, Vita vel passio Desiderii episcopi Viennensis [I] 17–18 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 3:635–36). Jacques Fontaine suspected that the Merovingian life was closer to the truth here: “King Sisebut’s Vita Desiderii and the Political Function of Visigothic Hagiography,” in Visigothic Spain: New Approaches, ed. Edward James (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980), 114.
64. William Ian Miller, Losing It (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 215, and chapter 16 (“Defying Augury”) more generally.
65. Diem mortis suspectum cotidie ante oculos habeatis: Eligius of Noyon, Praedicatio de supremo iudicio 1 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:751).
66. Dum fragilitas humani generis pertimescit ultimum vite temporis subitaneam transposicionem venturam, oportet ut non inveniat unumquemque imparatam: Traditiones Wizenburgenses: Die Urkunden des Klosters Weissenburg, 661–864, ed. Anton Doll (Darmstadt: Hessischen Historischen Kommission, 1979), no. 5; see further nos. 9 (23 March 735/36), 45 (20 June 719), 233 (30 March 712), 235 (1 December 741). The Formulary of Marculf, drawn up in the second half of the seventh century, also includes a soteriological framing device in its model private charters for a large ecclesiastical donation: Marculfi formularum libri duo, ed. Alf Uddholm (Uppsala: Eranos, 1962), 2.2, 2.3, 2.4. On this collection and on the function of the formularies more generally see Alice Rio, Legal Practice and the Written Word in the Early Middle Ages: Frankish Formulae, c. 500–1000 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), esp. 81–101. By contrast, the arengae of the royal charters do not mention death as an impetus for their generosity: cf. Die Urkunden der Merowinger, vol. 1, ed. Theo Kölzer (Hannover: Hahn, 2001). Nor does what is likely the earliest Gallic formulary, from sixth- or seventh-century Angers, ed. Karl Zeumer, Formulae Merowingici et Karolini aevi, MGH Leges 5 (Hannover: Hahn, 1886), 4–25; Rio, Legal Practice, 67–80.
67. Cogitantes casum humane fragilitatis, qualiter peccata nostra possimus abluere: Die Urkunden der Arnulfinger, ed. Ingrid Heidrich (Hannover: Hahn, 2011), no. 4; see further nos. 5 (13 May 706—Pippin and Plectrude again) and 12 (1 January 723—Charles Martel).
68. Catherine Edwards, Death in Ancient Rome (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007).
69. Boyarin, Dying for God, esp. 95–96.
70. Denuta Shanzer, “The Tale of Frodebert’s Tail,” in Colloquial and Literary Latin, ed. Eleanor Dickey and Anna Chahoud (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Helmut Reimitz, “Cultural Brokers of a Common Past: History, Identity and Ethnicity in Merovingian Historiography,” in Strategies of Identification: Ethnicity and Religion in Early Medieval Europe, ed. Walter Pohl and Gerda Heydemann (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013); Joaquín Martínez Pizarro, A Rhetoric of the Scene: Dramatic Narrative in the Early Middle Ages (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), 19–61. There is a tantalizing scrap of Seneca’s Medea (now at Milan, Ambros. G 82 sup.) that tells us the text was at Bobbio in the seventh century—but it was used to patch up a copy of the Book of Kings (E. A. Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores: A Palaeographical Guide to Latin Manuscripts prior to the Ninth Century [Oxford: Clarendon, 1934–71], 3:346)! If anyone at Bobbio got to the text before the repairmen did, he might have noticed, as Catherine Edwards has, that this play is absorbed by the Stoic concern that “the self” depended upon dramatic actions in order to be fully realized: see Death in Ancient Rome, 150.
71. Visio Baronti monachi Longoretensis 12–13 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:386–88).
72. Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours: History and Society in the Sixth Century, trans. Christopher Carroll (Cambridge, UK Cambridge University Press, 2001), 139–45.
73. Jamie Kreiner, “About the Bishop: The Episcopal Entourage and the Economy of Government in Post-Roman Gaul,” Speculum 86 (2011): 321–60, at 321–32.
74. Son of Clovis and Chrodechild: Gregory of Tours, Historiae 2.29, MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.1, ed. Bruno Krusch and Wilhelm Levison, 2nd ed. (Hannover: Hahn 1951), 74–75; Fredegar, Chronicae 3.20 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:101); Liber historiae Francorum 14 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:260–61). Sons of Chilperic and Fredegund: Gregory, Historiae 5.34:238–41; Liber historiae Francorum 34:299–301. Son of Clothar II: Florentius, V. Rusticulae 12, 15 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:345, 346).
75. Virtutes Geretrudis 11 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:469–71). This text is an addition to Geretrude’s original vita that was written around 700.
76. Cernetes, si adesses; in sancto viro ingenuam quamdam spiritus carnisque palaestram; invictam dico animi fortitudinem, imbecillitati corporeae concertantem. Vita Germani [interpolata] 66, AASS July 7:217. On this seventh-century source see Wolfert S. van Egmond, Conversing with the Saints: Communication in Pre-Carolingian Hagiography from Auxerre (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006), 107–24.
77. V. Segolenae, ed. Jean Mabillon, AASS July 5:630–37. For a review of the literature on this later-seventh-century vita and on Segolena: Isabelle Réal, “Vie et Vita (1) de sainte Ségolène, abbesse du Troclar au VIIe siècle,” Le Moyen-âge: Revue d’histoire et de philologie 101:3–4 (1995): 385–406.
78. Muschiol, Famula Dei; Albrecht Diem, Das monastische Experiment: Die Rolle der Keuschheit bei der Entstehung des westlichen Klosterwesens (Münster: Lit, 2005); Régine Le Jan, “Convents, Violence, and Competition for Power in Seventh-Century Francia,” in Topographies of Power in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Mayke de Jong and Franz Theuws with Carine van Rhijn (Leiden: Brill, 2001); John Kitchen, Saints’ Lives and the Rhetoric of Gender: Male and Female in Merovingian Hagiography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 101–53; Brown, Rise of Western Christendom, 226–31; Susanne Wittern, Frauen, Heiligkeit und Macht: Lateinsiche Frauenviten aus dem 4. bis 7. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1994), 88–107; Schulenburg, Forgetful of Their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500–1100 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 77–83. In the Carolingian period monastic models would shift to a more masculine frame of reference—a masculinity partly defined by notions of female vulnerability: see Lynda L. Coon, Dark Age Bodies: Gender and Monastic Practice in the Early Medieval West (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011); Julia H. M. Smith, “The Problem of Female Sanctity in Carolingian Europe, c. 780–920,” Past & Present 146 (1995): 3–37.
79. V. Segolenae 5, 9–11 (AASS July 5:631, 632).
80. Both Fortunatus and Baudonivia stress that Clothar was reluctant to let his wife leave, but only Baudonivia saw it as a problem that continued even after Radegund entered her monastery: Fortunatus, V. Radegundis 12; Baudonivia, V. Radegundis 4, 6–7 (both MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:368, 380–81, 382).
81. Florentius, V. Rusticulae 3 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:341); V. Geretrudis 1 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:454–55); and above all V. Sadalbergae 6, 9–10, 12 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:53–55, 57)—a text that also uses Radegund’s example selectively.
82. Passio Praeiecti episcopi et martyris Arverni 17 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:236).
83. E.g. Florentius, V. Rusticulae 9, 11, 13 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:343–44, 345–46); V. Audoini 12 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:561–62); V. Sadalbergae 16 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:59); V. Wandregiseli 8, 15 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:16–17, 20–21).
84. Visio Baronti 12, also 3, 7 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:379–80, 382–83, 386–87). Bruno Krusch and Wilhelm Levison picture some of the keys in their edition; for more elaborate images from a Carolingian manuscript, including both the demons and Peter in action, see the reproductions and discussion in Lawrence Nees, “The Illustrated Manuscript of the Visio Baronti (Revelatio Baronti) in Saint Petersburg (Russian National Library, cod. lat. oct. v.I.5),” in Court Culture in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Catherine Cubitt (Turnhout: Brepols, 2003); and John J. Contreni, “‘Building Mansions in Heaven’: The Visio Baronti, Archangel Raphael, and a Carolingian King,” Speculum 78 (2003): 673–706.
85. These two examples: Confessions 1.9.14–1.18.29, 6.6.9–6.6.10, ed. James J. O’Donnell (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 8–14, 62–64.
86. For this theological position that informs the Confessions in the context of Augustine’s exegetical and polemical work, see James Wetzel, “Snares of Truth: Augustine on Free Will and Predestination,” in Augustine and His Critics: Essays in Honor of Gerald Bonner, ed. Robert Dodaro and George Lawless (London: Routledge, 2000).
87. Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350–550 a.d. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 359–68.
88. See esp. Moreira, Heaven’s Purge.
89. E.g., Gregory of Tours, Passio et virt. Iuliani 1 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 1.2:114); Fredegar, Chronicae 3.18 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:99); Vita Segolenae 5 (AASS July 5:631); Vita Sadalbergae 23 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:63).
90. This particular metaphor is from V. Wandregiseli 1 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:13): Nunc ergo, qui haec legit, in studium boni operis adque in fervore eius animus incalescat. For an introduction to the rhetorical character of the vitae see Berschin, Biographie und Epochenstil, vol. 2; and further Jamie Kreiner, The Social Life of Hagiography in the Merovingian Kingdom (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014), esp. ch. 2, “The Style and Science of Persuasion.”
91. Non immerita poena fuit fugitivae, ut quam non cohibuerat fides, funis cohiberet: V. Segolenae 26 (AASS July 5:635).
92. Animabus a Deo sibi commissis: V. Sadalbergae 14 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:57).
93. V. Wandregiseli 19 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:23). Pastor bone et custos populi, cur nos deseris aut cui nos hodie relinquis? In morte tua omnes moriemur: Vita Sulpicii episcopi Biturigi 8 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:378). The B version (also Merovingian) reads Hodie in morte tua omnes nos constat mori.
94. Si me consecrare distuleris et plus hominem quam Deum timueris, de manu tua, pastor, ovis anima requiratur: Fortunatus, V. Radegundis 12 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 2:368).
95. Si cui forte displicio, quod tam frequenter vobis predicare contendo, rogo, non mihi molestus exsistat, sed magis periculum meum consideret et audiat Dominum per prophetam terribiliter sacerdoti comminantem: Si non adnunciaveris, inquid, iniquo iniquitatem suam, ipse quidem in iniquitate sua morietur; sanguinem autem eius de manu tua requeram: Eligius, Praedicatio 1 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:751).
96. On the contrast between Caesarius and Eusebius Gallicanus on this point see Lisa Bailey, Christianity’s Quiet Success: The Eusebius Gallicanus Sermon Collection and the Power of the Church in Late Antique Gaul (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), 39–59, and 56 n.102 for Ezek 33.8 in Caesarius’s sermons.
97. Ut caelestis medicus mitteret animam in corpore: Visio Baronti 2 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:378).
98. Visio Baronti 3, 5 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:379, 381).
99. See above all the work of Albrecht Diem: Das monastische Experiment; “Van liefde, vrees en zwijgen: Emoties en ‘emotioneel beleid’ in vroegmideleeuwse kloosters,” Groniek 173 (2006): 409–23; and “Disimpassioned Monks and Flying Nuns: Emotion Management in Early Medieval Rules,” in Funktionsräume, Wahrnehmungsräume, Gefühlsräume: Mittelalterliche Lebensformen zwischen Kloster und Hof, ed. Christina Lutter (Vienna: Böhlau; Munich: Oldenbourg, 2011). On the uptick in monastic construction in the seventh century in particular, see Prinz, Frühes Mönchtum im Frankenreich, 121–316.
100. Eucherius of Lyon, Passio Acaunensium martyrum 8–9 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 3:35–37); Martyrium Prisci et sociorum 1, AASS May 6:365–66.
101. Bobolenus, Vita Germani abbatis Grandivallensis 12 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:38–39). Bobolenus had read Jonas’s V. Columbani, and one of his dedicatees was the current abbot of Luxeuil: O’Hara, “The Vita Columbani in Merovingian Gaul,” 128–29.
102. Passio Praeiecti 30 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:243). Praeictus’s hagiographer was also familiar with the V. Columbani, though not necessarily the section on Faremoutiers, which makes this episode another case for a philosophy that was not strictly tied to Columbanian monasticism: see O’Hara, “The Vita Columbani in Merovingian Gaul,” 129–30.
103. Vita Landiberti episcopi Taeiectensis vetustissima 15–17, MGH SS rer. Merov. 6, ed. Bruno Krusch and Wilhelm Levison (Hannover and Leipzig: Hahn, 1913), 368–70.
104. Cf. Vita Eligii 2.34–5 (PL 87:565–66; partially edited in MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:718–20). This vita was originally completed by Audoin of Rouen between 660 and 684, but the extant version represents a few phases (both Merovingian and Carolingian) of light retouching and interpolating. The passages that the V. Landiberti quotes here are identical to the text as it stands. The best study is T. Kloník, “Vita Eligii,” in Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, ed. Johannes Hoops (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2009), 35:461–524.
105. Williams, Shame and Necessity, Sather Classical Lectures 57 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993), esp. 21–49, 75–102, 130–67.
106. Elsner, “Beyond Compare: Pagan Saint and Christian God in Late Antiquity,” Critical Inquiry 35 (2009) [= Faith without Borders: The Curious Category of the Saint, ed. Françoise Meltzer and Elsner]: 655–83.
107. The manuscript evidence from Gaul and Bobbio up to the mid-eighth century: Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores, 3:352 (Milan, Ambrosiana 1.101 sup), 5.589 (BNF Ms. Lat. 9550), 9.1363 (Dombibliothek Trier 133c), and likely 7.965 (Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen, Cod. Sang. 908). The Paris manuscript is full of seventh- and eighth-century marginal notes flagging passages to read (Lege!). Eucherius’s recurring discussions of Adam seem to have been a consistent source of interest (39r, 40r, 74r), as was the subject of the afterlife (20v, 62r, 70r), to name just a few. For a study of the manuscript, which was probably produced at Condat in the Jura mountains in the second half of the sixth century, see Louis Holtz, “La tradition lyonnaise d’Eucher de Lyon et le manuscrit Paris, BNF, Lat. 9550,” Revue d’histoire des textes, n.s. 3 (2008): 135–200.
108. Introduction to Instructiones (CCL 66:77–78). The symbols that Eucherius explains in the Formulae frequently feature multiple explanations: e.g., turtur, Formulae spiritalis intelligentiae 4, ed. C. Mandolfo, CCL 66 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 27. Eucherius’s uncertainty about the afterlife is a good example of his willingness to concede that a question remains unresolved: Instructionum libri duo I, De Luca 9 (CCL 66:152). For an example of expert disagreement see, e.g., Instructiones I, Ad Ephesios 3 (CCL 66:169). For the community at Lérins see Prinz, Frühes Mönchtum, 47–84; Salvatore Pricoco, L’isola dei santi: Il cenobio di Lerino e le origini del monachesimo gallico (Rome: Ateneo & Bizzarri, 1978), esp. 40–59; Ralph W. Mathisen, Ecclesiastical Factionalism and Religious Controversy in Fifth-Century Gaul (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1989), 69–140; Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle, 411–32.
109. …Non ideo Deus uideri possit mutabilis, quia haec pro temporum oportunitate mutata sint; nam et annus temporibus et uitae spatium uariatur aetatibus. Nec idcirco quae ista instituit diuinae prouidentiae ratio uariatur, nec agricola si aestate aliud hieme aliud in exercendo agro iusserit, agriculturae ratio mutatur; non quod is sui uideatur esse dissimilis qui facit, sed tempus quo facit; praecipit ergo Deus quae apta sint suis quibusque temporibus. Sicut etiam hinc de sacrificiis praecepit non causa suae delectationis sed humanae ut cetera utilitatis. Instructiones I, De Levitico 39 (CCL 66:98–99).
110. V. Sulpicii, prologue (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:371): Ab initio usque in finem per singula loca et generationes reor non defuisse viros a Deo electos, in quibus gratia sancti Spiritus refulgeret et per quos signa miraculorum Dominus et consolationem et provocationem se quaerentium manifestare videretur.
111. For this view in Greek epic and tragedy see Williams, Shame and Necessity, 50–74.
112. Passio Afrae vetustior 6 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 7:203–4).
113. Vita Audoini episcopi Rotomagensis 15 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:563–64).
114. Vita Gaugerici episcopi Camaracensis 13 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 3:657); V. Sulpicii 8 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 4:377–78); V. Amandi 26 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5:449).
115. For a good overview see Marios Costambeys, Matthew Innes, and Simon MacLean, The Carolingian World (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 131–53.
116. Scholars have proposed a number of different causes of this development, but Éric Rebillard’s suggestion—that these prayers were an accommodation the clergy made to expectations that families had fostered for centuries—is one of the most compelling, and it could help explain what else prompted hagiographers to reshape their own soteriology (Sadalberga’s nuns and Geretrude’s monk, for example, may well have been representatives of a widespread view of death that the hagiographers were scrambling to set in a more philosophically rigorous framework). See Rebillard, Religion et sépulture: l’Église, les vivants et les morts dans l’antiquité tardive (Paris: École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2003). See further Karl Schmid and Joachim Wollasch, “Der Gemeinschaft der Lebenden und Verstorbenen in Zeugnissen des Mittelalters,” Frühmittelalterliche Studien 1 (1969): 17–63; Otto Gerhard Oexle, “Memoria und Memorialüberlieferung im früheren Mittelalter,” Frühmittelalterliche Studien 10 (1976): 70–95; Arnold Angenendt, “Missa specialis: Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Entstehung der Privatmessen,” Frühmittelalterliche Studien 17 (1983): 153–221, at 189–203; Angenendt, “Theologie und Liturgie der mittelalterlichen Toten-Memoria,” in Memoria: Der geschichtliche Zeugniswert des liturgischen Gedenkens im Mittelalter, ed. Karl Schmid and Joachim Wollasch (Munich: Fink, 1984); Patrick Geary, “Échanges et relations entre les vivants et les morts dans la société du haut Moyen âge,” Droit et cultures 12 (1986): 3–17; Meghan McLaughlin, Consorting with Saints: Prayer for the Dead in Early Medieval France (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1994); Bonnie Effros, Caring for Body and Soul: Burial and the Afterlife in the Merovingian World (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002); Dal Santo, Debating the Saints’ Cult, 85–148.
117. Sed ego ut puto, per temetipsum haec omnia mendaciter loqueris. Dominus enim tuus non iussit tibi haec agere quae loqueris, quia neque dolosum verbum cogitat neque dicit, nisi quod rectum est, quanto magis ut hoc scelus tibi perpetrare praecepisset. Passio Salvii 6, ed. Maurice Coens, “La passion de saint Sauve, martyr à Valenciennes,” AB 87 (1969): 134–87, at 171–72.
118. The second point is Maurice Coens’s: “La passion de saint Sauve,” 172 n.1; cf. Passio Salvii 4 (AB 87:169).
119. Tamen testis mihi sit rex caelestis et angeli eius quia non faciam quicquam ex his sponte mea: Passio Salvii 7 (AB 87:173).
120. Passio Salvii 8–9 (AB 87:173–76). Winegarius tried to convince Winegard to change his mind, which prompted Winegard to send Winegarius back to the cell with another man to insure that he followed orders; and even then, both men hesitated, despite additional morale boosting from Salvius.
121. Passio Salvii 14, 18 (AB 87:181, 185–86).