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May 29, 2020

36 – The Medieval Transformation Part 1: Cults, Miracles and Saints

36 – The Medieval Transformation Part 1: Cults, Miracles and Saints

In an age of anxiety early Christians developed cults to their saints. Power, politics and the fear of God remake Gaul.


Hello everyone. Quick reminder my debut novel The Maiden Voyage of New York City is out through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you are looking for a character-driven, speculative science-fiction story, please check it out and support yours truly.

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Today’s episode will be the first in a series examining the transformation of society from Antiquity to the early medieval period. The Gallo-Romans left behind a number of traditions that continued or were copied by the Franks, but the fall of the Roman Empire and the triumph of Francia led to major changes which had a ripple effect that transformed all of society to one degree or another.

The two most immediate and large-scale differences between antiquity and the medieval period were the composition of the army and the organizational division of society. First, the Roman Empire had a professional army. Even at its lowest point, Rome maintained a professional military that was paid through taxation and could be sent anywhere within the empire and even beyond its borders. The barbarian kingdoms could not reliably raise the funds required to sustain professional armies due to their poor organization, and lack of records; itself caused by their own illiteracy. Instead, Frankish armies were assembled on the spot when a lord ordered the local healthy, adult males to assemble into their militias. These local forces usually refused to march too far beyond their hometowns since they had crops to harvest and families to care for. Because of this, medieval society was much smaller in scope, as everyone but the elites lived, fought and died within 50 miles of where they were born.

These irregular armies weren’t paid through taxation but by plunder. As such, wars in the medieval period were always devastating. As you’ll recall, Roman wars were often brutal, but the worst Roman atrocities were committed against non-Romans; in medieval society Frankish cities regularly plundered their neighbors as was the case with Orléans attacking Blois, while Châteaudun fought Chartres.

Every healthy, adult male was expected to fight, and naturally everyone had weapons, even if it was just modified farm equipment like axes. This meant life was more brutal. Localities could fight against each other whenever one of the numerous Merovingian kings died, or when tensions between cities reached a boiling point. Likewise, murder became much more common.

The second major difference between antiquity and the medieval period was the division of society. The Roman Empire was divided between civilian and military spheres. The barbarian kingdoms were divided between the secular and religious. The political leaders of Francia were the Merovingian kings, who issued laws, administered justice, defended the realm and collected and distributed taxes. Beneath them were the duces, with individuals having the title dux; these were the precursors to ‘dukes.’ Each dux ruled over a region and beneath him were the comes. ‘Comes’ has often been translated as ‘count,’ and while they occupied a similar space in the secular hierarchy beneath duces, comes had very different roles from counts and usually heard lawsuits. Kings and duces commanded the loyalty of leudes, the only professional fighters in Francia, who were sworn to their lords. The leudes were the precursors to knights. Nearly everyone outside of the political hierarchy was a peasant or lowly merchant and were the subjects of political power while exercising virtually none of their own.

The religious side of society was naturally dominated by the Catholic Church. At its head was the Bishop of Rome and the College of Cardinals, yet these were far-off and with poor communication and transport they played very little role in domestic happenings in Francia. Next were the bishops. Beneath them were priests. Occupying their own contested space were abbots, who led monasteries, and beneath them the individual monks and nuns. Monasteries were a relatively late addition to Christianity, becoming widespread in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. The Merovingians subjected monasteries to bishops in the 7th century but before then abbots with powerful relics and widely-followed cults could contend with bishops.

The medieval split between secular and religious rule was never concrete. Merovingian kings appointed loyalist bishops who were often the secular heads of cities. In contrast, while comes were the judicial leaders of cities serving on the king’s behalf, bishops could offer sanctuary, and absolving people of sins through public penance or miraculous healing was often seen as more legitimate than a courtly sentencing. Nevertheless this division of society was markedly different from Roman society. Romans were largely concerned with their political rights and powers. Throughout Rome’s history numerous wars and uprisings were fought over the Latin Rights and citizenship. In medieval society, roughly 95% of the population was excluded from the political process and could only accept the decisions made by their lords or reject them through crime or rebellion. But even though peasants could not assert political agency they could engage in spiritual activities, including rites of passage, festivals, prayer, communion, worship, pilgrimage and the adoration of saints’ cults.

In summation, medieval life was markedly different from antiquity because the bases of society were fundamentally different. Roman society was split between civilian and military spheres and had a professional army, while medieval societies were split between secular and religious, and all healthy men were expected to fight. The next few episodes will start from this point and examine how these two major changes transformed every part of medieval life. Today’s episode will focus on religious life, and particularly on a new phenomenon: cults. Saints’ cults presented new opportunities and challenges to the Catholic Church. But before we get into the cults, let’s talk about the established church.

Perhaps the most important institution in Francia was the Catholic Church, which was very different from how we conceive of it today. The Catholic Church was theoretically a unified organization with one central faith. However, there were many problems that guaranteed a measure of disunity within the church. First, church dogma was still being settled so there were still minor theological disputes even among those who rejected Arianism and other heresies. Second, church hierarchy wasn’t settled. The Bishop of Rome, the Pope, was nominally in charge and beneath him were bishops. Yet, as monasteries developed abbots contested power with bishops and resisted early attempts to submit to their authority. Third, secular powers regularly interfered with church appointments. The Merovingian kings frequently appointed bishops and as long as they remained strong the church struggled to assert its own authority against them. Fourth and finally, poor communication and transportation meant that church authority proceeded slowly across Francia. Bishops usually responded to cults after they had developed a substantial following since they were usually preoccupied with their own duties.

Now that we’ve talked about what the church wasn’t, let’s look at what it was. By Clovis I’s death, Arianism was a persecuted heresy, meaning that the Catholic Church could claim dominion over all people within Francia. The only exception were the relatively small population of Jews, who were a recognized religious minority and which I will cover in a later episode. Church organization was split into dioceses made during the Roman period.

Bishops were remarkably powerful figures since the fall of the Western Roman Empire. They were the leading secular authorities of cities, they administered welfare, famine relief and negotiated prisoner release, which was very important during the frequent wars which took place during the Merovingian period. Bishops also had legal expertise and were highly educated. The judicial powers Constantine originally gave bishops were curtailed in the 4th and 5th century, but bishops could still serve as legal counsels. Bishops even minted coins with their image on them, which were usually meant to be given as alms to the poor. Yet, since the Merovingian governments were chaotic and often poorly run, these coins went into general circulation. Kings appointed bishops until the late 7th century, when the Merovingians became nothing more than figureheads. However, the 6th to mid 7th century Merovingians were sometimes challenged during bishopric elections when they tried to appoint a complete outsider as bishop.

Beneath the bishops were the priests who administered the sacraments, took confession and were most people’s direct link to the church. Interestingly, there were some women priests in Northern Francia, due to Gaul’s long-standing tradition of female spiritual leaders. Eventually, the misogynistic Greco-Roman worldview spread northward and women have since been prohibited from ordination.

Now that we’ve talked about the official Roman Catholic Church, let’s talk about saints’ cults. Saints’ cults go back to at least the 4th century with Saint Martin of Tours. These cults occurred when a saint was revered within a locality and upon their death people prayed to them as an intercessor between themselves and God. Their bones, clothes and other instruments could become relics which the faithful claimed had miraculous powers. These relics were consecrated, installed in set places and developed into pilgrimage sites which could become well-traveled nodal points for believers.

Saints’ cults posed a challenge and an opportunity for the Catholic Church. On the one hand, these saints localized Christianity and gave people across Francia a personal connection to religious feeling. On the other hand, the central church didn’t approve of every cult, particularly when the priests and abbots who oversaw a cult used their popular following to contest the power of their neighboring bishop. However, many bishops took ownership of popular cults in order to increase their power and prestige. Thus the development of cults for saints and holy relics could have three different origins: First, masses of people adoring a holy person and passing on oral traditions of their life and miracles. Second, from a priest, monk or other clergy member preaching on a saints’ life. Third, noble families could acquire a relic and sponsor a shrine, increasing their prestige by doing so.

That last part is worth examining as it plays an important part in the political and cultural development of Francia. By the death of Clovis I in the early 6th century the Frankish nobility were the political masters. However, the Gallo-Roman elite composed the overwhelming majority of priests of all levels. As such, power was divided between Franks and Gallo-Romans along secular and spiritual lines. One way that Franks could garner spiritual power was by sponsoring religious projects, among them saints’ cults. By sponsoring these, Frankish nobility proved their piety, endeared themselves to a community and attached themselves to the history of these holy figures. Thus, the Franks heavily sponsored saints’ cults as a means of acquiring spiritual power from the Gallo-Roman priesthood, and led to the proliferation of saints. So, if you ever wondered why there’s thousands of French saints, you can say it was because the Frankish conquerors used them to bridge the spiritual-cultural gap between their Gallo-Roman subjects and seize ecclesiastical authority from them…And I’m sure everyone at the party will look at you like a weirdo and move to another side of the room.

I want to share two more notes on saints’ cults before we get into individual cases. My main secondary sources come from Peter Brown’s pivotal work The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity and Raymond Van Dam’s Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul, both essential works in this field. Brown makes the point that saints’ cults connected the living faithful to the dead unlike any previous religion had done. The Roman and Celtic religions paid far less attention to the afterlife than Christianity, which said that the material and spiritual worlds were intricately connected. In Brown’s own words, saints’ cults connected the altar and the tomb, and were a living reminder to remain faithful and true to Biblical teachings because what we do in life echoes throughout eternity. It’s no coincidence that the flourishing of saints occurred during the prolonged chaos of the Merovingian kingdoms, during which civil wars, raids and violence were much worse than during the Roman period. The notion that the dead were watching and caring for the living, and that if a person lived piously they could have eternal rewards was especially appealing in a world were half of all children didn’t live to the age of ten and many of those who became adults died violently.

Finally, Brown makes the point that the development of saints’ cults bears a particularly Roman stamp, because it is essentially a spiritual patronage system. As you’ll recall from previous episodes, Roman politics and culture was founded on interpersonal linkages between aspiring politicians and artists to wealthy benefactors. These benefactors tied up-and-coming public figures to themselves by sponsoring their projects and political campaigns and in exchange they received their expertise and public support. Saints’ cults operated in a very similar fashion. First, saints themselves are patrons and people from certain regions and professions pray to saints who in turn perform miracles on their behalf. Saint Martin is the patron of beggars, cavalry, hotel-keepers, innkeepers, quartermasters, reformed alcoholics, riders, soldiers, tailors, vintners, wine growers, wine makers, and of course, the city of Tours. Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve are the patron saints of Paris and people from there have prayed to them for protection during the many attacks on the city. Saint Amabilis, who preached in Clermont and died in 475, protects against fire, snake bites, demonic possession, mental illness, poison and wild beasts. Each saint has their own portfolio of who they protect and bless based on location, occupation and condition, and much like the Roman patronage system, these saints patronize people on behalf of their great patron, God.

Likewise, saints’ cults were managed like Roman patronage. The leaders of churches, monasteries and shrines that controlled the holy sites and relics, amassed wealth and popular support from their communities, pilgrims and nobles. In exchange, they offered welfare for the poor, miraculous healing for the sick, a sense of community for locals, a connection to a broader world for and through pilgrims, spiritual authority for wealthy patrons, and spiritual consolation for all. In an incredible, yet curious way, saints’ cults translated the Roman political and cultural patronage system into a spiritual system that linked people to God through saintly intermediaries while creating a model for the upkeep and use of shrines for Christian communities.

That’s enough intro to saints’ cults in general, now let’s examine two of the most popular cults, starting with Saint Martin of Tours. Unlike most saints, Martin’s cult began before his death. His followers took threads from his clothes and straw he slept on to use to stave off illness. One person put a letter from him on his daughter’s head when she was sick and she recovered. Chronicler Sulpicius Severus even composed a Vita, retelling of a man’s life, on Martin before he passed away.

Saint Martin was so popularly recognized as a living saint that in 397 as he lay ill the cities of Tours and Poitiers both claimed his body even before he died! Poitiers claimed since he lived in the region the body belonged to them, while Tours claimed that he had revived two dead men before becoming bishop of Tours and one after, and thus he still had one more person to revive in the city and couldn’t be removed until his work had finished. I suppose resurrections happen in pairs? When Martin died citizens from Tours snuck his body out a window and carried it to their own church. As they did a lavish funeral procession of hundreds of worshippers followed.

Initially, local bishops refused to honor Martin because he had quarreled with them in life. Martin’s successor, Bishop Brictio had accused Martin of being senile, and in turn Martin accused him of being influenced by demons. Despite official church opposition, monks and local aristocrats promoted Martin’s veneration. Sulpicius constructed two churches in southern Gaul, one of which had Saint Martin’s image and he also collected and retold miracle stories, which furthered Martin’s popularity and his own as his chronicler. Moreover, Marmoutier, a monastery founded by Martin, became an important shrine and pilgrimage site. Martin’s cult rapidly became the most popular in Gaul, later Francia, and at one point Tours was among the most popular pilgrimage sites in Western Europe, behind only Rome and Santiago de Compostela. Martin was so popular that the people of Tours accused Brictio of infidelity and forced him to resign.

His replacement was much wiser. Rather than fight against Martin’s cult he decided to remake it and claim it. The church promoted Martin while emphasizing his life as a bishop, rather than as a monk or wandering holy man. Likewise, they remade his image into that of a Gallo-Roman aristocrat; nevermind that he was actually a soldier from Pannonia. They also characterized him as a hero in the Catholic-Arian conflict, although he largely avoided that issue in life. By the mid-5th century the bishops built a church over his tomb and naturally claimed guardianship over his cult and relics. Then they announced a feast of Saint Martin, today held November 11, which they hosted. Finally, posthumous miracles that occurred at the shrine were retold and further elevated the church at Tours.

By the time Clovis had conquered Tours he recognized that he needed to associate himself with the saint, and gave gifts to the local bishop in 507 before his Visigothic campaign and in 508 after success. Now I’m going to read a passage from Van Dam’s book, which recounts:


“Subsequent kings usually respected the power of St. Martin, in particular by granting immunity from taxation to the citizens of Tours. They also released a captive who called on the assistance of St. Martin, threatened to execute men who robbed the saint’s church, and sealed their treaties by citing the saint as one of the “judges and avengers” who guaranteed compliance. But most would probably have tacitly agreed that the price of deference for St. Martin’s support was too high. During the sixth century only Chlothar ever again visited Tours during his reign to pray at the tomb of St. Martin, in part perhaps because he was still upset over his wife Radegund’s departure, in part too because he needed forgiveness for having been responsible for the death of his son Chramn. Renegade sons of the royal family might come to Tours to seek sanctuary at the church of St. Martin, and dowager queens such as Clotild, Clovis’s widow, might serve at the saint’s church and even influence the selection of bishops at Tours, but the ruling kings (and queens) kept their distance, never even bringing their ill sons to the saint’s tomb. Even when a king wanted to consult with St. Martin, he did not go in person. King Chilperic instead sent a letter that was placed on the saint’s tomb, along with a blank sheet of paper for the saint’s response; but St. Martin did not reply. Only King Childebert may have built a church dedicated to St. Martin, but then in such an obscure spot in northern Gaul that modern scholars cannot identify it with certainty.

During the sixth century the cult of St. Martin was not closely associated with the Merovingian kings. Instead, Clovis and his royal successors preferred to promote new cults for new saints. His father Childeric had once granted the requests of Genovefa (Geneviève), an ascetic at Paris; after her death in ca. 502, Clovis and his queen Clotild constructed a church near her tomb. By the time Clovis was buried in this church in 511, it was dedicated to the Holy Apostles, perhaps in imitation of the church that the emperor Constantine had similarly dedicated in his new capital city of Constantinople and in which he had been buried; and by the time Clotild, a daughter, and two grandsons were buried in this church, it had also been dedicated to St. Peter, a patron saint of Rome. So in the process of adopting the new cult of a recent Gallic saint, Clovis had furthermore expanded his pretensions by linking himself and his dynasty with the Roman Empire.”


Saint Martin was far too important a saint not to honor, but the Franks were loathe to do so. The Merovingians after Clovis I preferred Frankish saints and for 150 years they generally avoided Tours. In the 6th century the Merovingians promoted cults in Paris, Soissons and Chalons-Sur-Saone. However, these saints weren’t as popular and the Merovingians eventually became closer to Martin’s cult and other Gallo-Roman saints such as when Dagobert I patronized the cult of Saint Denis, whose basilica is the current resting place for most kings of France.

Thus, the cult of Saint Martin was one of consistent spiritual conflict, compromise and negotiation from all possible parties. The masses adored Martin and defended him and his cult against the Catholic Church who initially opposed him. Monks and abbots promoted him to amass popularity and thus power against the Catholic Church. All this opposition meant that the church accepted Saint Martin but they did so on their terms by remaking him in their image. Clovis I associated himself with Martin in order to claim divine sanction and a historical legitimacy, though he did so reluctantly as he and his successors wanted to promote Frankish saints, rather than Gallo-Romans who they saw as their subjects, not their equals, and certainly not their superiors. Finally, Clovis I’s wife Clotilde personally supported the cult, which set an important precedent as later Frankish noblewomen sponsored religious activities and acquired power through patronage.

Our second saint is Hilary of Poitiers, who was the city’s bishop until 367. In life, he was an established enemy of Arianism. In death numerous stories spread about how he revived the dead. His cult grew as Saint Martin’s did because Hilary was Martin’s mentor. Also, because Poitiers and Tours are close together, pilgrims who went to Saint Martin’s tomb also visited Poitiers. Hilary’s cult was important for the Catholic Church in Poitiers, though it faced a remarkable challenge in the 6th century by an eastern German princess who was on a mission for Christ.

A little back-story. In 520, princess Radegund was born in Thuringia, today, south-central Germany. Frankish King Theuderic reduced Thuringia to a vassal state and she was married off to Frankish King Clotaire I, one of his six wives. She lived a solemn and sad life, bearing no children and spending her time caring for the poor rather than with her brutish husband. In 550, Clotaire I had her brother and one of her last living relatives, murdered. This was the final straw and Queen Radegund fled to Poitiers and pleaded with the church to give her refuge. The church recognized her piety and plight and ordained her as a deacon. At first she was a welcome addition to the church, if somewhat odd due to her circumstances as a foreign princess, ex-Queen and the wife of a polygamous king. To add to this, she practiced a severe form of ascetism, eating only vegetables and drinking only water. At one point she heated a brass cross and burned the impression onto her skin.

But the real turning point in her relationship to the church came in 560 when she sent an envoy to Byzantium asking for a piece of the True Cross, which Jesus Christ was crucified on, the holiest relic in all of Christendom. The Byzantine court agreed and sent her a small piece of which Radegund made the centerpiece of her monastery at Sainte-Croix. People from across Francia and beyond flocked to the cross and miracle stories abounded. So many people were going to Sainte-Croix that it overshadowed the cult of Saint Hilary, which went into decline. The bishop of Poitiers even refused to sanction the True Cross at the monastery because he knew it would lead to competition with Hilary’s cult.

The nuns of Sainte-Croix understood the power and popularity they acquired as protectors of this piece of the True Cross. These women submitted to the king for protection rather than the antagonistic bishop, which the king accepted because he had a history of fighting for secular power against the bishops of Poitiers. Thus, the Frankish king gave the nuns a degree of political autonomy, while they gave him spiritual authority, and both worked against the established Catholic Church and its claim to autonomy in the region.

But the nuns eventually went too far in criticizing the bishop, and Queen Chrodechild ordered her men to invade the convent and bring order to the rebellious nuns. This caused a riot which was harshly suppressed. A tribunal of bishops oversaw the aftermath and the nuns were excommunicated, thus asserting the power of bishops over these monastic women. The tide had turned, and the Merovingians were supporting bishops’ attempt to put monasteries under their control. The controversy at the monastery weakened its popularity, as the church blasted these upstart women who tried to compete with male authority and subvert the divine order. The True Cross waned in influence, and Saint Hilary’s cult revived. Thus, Saint Hilary’s cult provides another example of the secular and spiritual politics involved in the creation of saints’ cults while also providing an example of how women practiced agency in a misogynistic culture.

During the Merovingian period numerous queens and noblewomen supported religious projects. The Irish Saint Columbanus inspired Chagneric’s daughter Burgundofara to found the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Faremoutiers  with men and women in the early 7th century. Clovis II’s wife Balthild founded Chelles which became the most prestigious nunnery in Francia. This and other nunneries in Francia attracted noblewomen from England, which had few nunneries. Itta, wife of Pippin I, founded Nivelles. Its first abbess was St. Gertrude, the first saint belonging to the Carolingian family. Still many more supported nunneries, churches and shrines because of their own piety and as a means of creating a legacy in a culture were women were pushed to the background of society.

These and other cults demonstrate the complex nature of the Frankish settlement. The Franks, Gallo-Romans, nobles, the Catholic Church, monks and nuns, the poor masses and women created stories and retold them as a means of attaining spiritual fulfillment and contesting earthly power. So far we’ve focused on the temporal aspect but as we end this episode let’s explore the supernatural foundation of these saints’ cults, which is miraculous healing. Miraculous healing was a nuanced phenomenon and played numerous roles in early medieval society.

Many 21st century people define miracles as a suspension of the natural order, and consider them to be impossibilities believed by superstitious people. What we must understand about the medieval period is that there was no clear distinction between the earthly and spiritual worlds; while they were separate, people believed that they overlapped. Thus, angels, demons, saints and God could occupy space in the physical world. Moreover, unexplainable, everyday phenomena like rain, earthquakes, childbirth and more could contain a spiritual element. While all of these were part of a natural cycle, medieval people believed that God sent rain to the just, earthquakes to the wicked and healthy childbirth to pious women.

To the medieval person, there was nothing more inexplicable than sickness. Greco-Roman medicine tried to make a science of the body using the theory of humors, but until the 1800s physicians were more likely to kill their patients than save them. Folk remedies were often more effective than Greco-Roman medicine, which meant that superstitious beliefs were still widespread in Francia. Folk healers, wise women and holy people sold natural remedies, charms and amulets to assuage physical problems while warding off the evil spirits that brought the illness. As the Catholic Church grew in prominence, priests cracked down on these heretical people. However, their belief system was entrenched, and instead of selling charms and amulets, which were deemed heretical, they sold relics, which were sanctioned by the church, in order to ward off the demons causing illnesses. The church persecuted those who sold fake relics, but this was done rarely and usually to repeat offenders, meaning that the core superstitions remained.

In order to understand why medieval people believed what they did about illness and the body we must realize that there was no rational explanation for illnesses, and every illness could be fatal. Some maladies were purely temporary like flu, colds, even blisters on the feet; but in a world where even minor cuts could become infected and cause disfigurement or death people didn’t know which was fatal and which was minor, and what may seem like trivial sicknesses could have been life-threatening. Since secular thinkers couldn’t explain illnesses people turned to religion. At the time, most Christians believed that physical illnesses were caused by sins. While this clearly isn’t always the case, scientists in our current age have shown that people with a guilty conscience have weakened immune systems, and positive-thinking people are quicker to heal, so the correlation between health and a positive attitude naturally led people to equate goodness with health and sickness with sin.

The medieval process of healing could be very effective, however inadvertent. People who claimed to be sick could get time off work to rest in sacred places. Priests, monks and nuns administered aid to those who came to them. The sick received community support as people prayed for them. All of this positive reinforcement and time to rest also had a positive impact on a person’s mental health. So while medieval people did not understand the root of diseases they developed methods to address them, however rudimentary they were.

Just like everything else we’ve looked at today, there was a political aspect to miraculous healing. The Catholic Church claimed authority and possessed immense public support because people believed that they could heal them. This monopoly on healing challenged the power of the Frankish nobility. Moreover, healing was an egalitarian process as anyone could go to a holy place and be healed. If a person was accused of wrongdoing, fell ill, then recovered, they could then claim that a saint healed them because they were good. Through miraculous healing, accused peoples could claim that legal charges against them were false. Again, this must sound strange to a modern person, but bear in mind that at the time most legal cases didn’t depend on evidence. Court cases were determined by a person’s reputation, which inevitably meant rich patrons were always innocent and the poor workers they accused were always guilty. While secular courts were rigged against the poor, divine justice through miraculous healing gave poor peasants the ability to contest legal authority. Even if miraculous healing wasn’t recognized legally, when the community and the priest or even bishop rallied behind a poor person who had been healed that could be enough to save a peasant from harsh judgement. Slaves could even gain freedom through healing. If they claimed a saint healed them they could argue that they no longer deserved slavery. Thus, healing wasn’t a purely religious phenomenon, but another way to rally communities to action and contest political and legal power.

But healing was limited by a church’s financial means. The Merovingian period encompassed numerous civil wars, border skirmishes and raids, and this taxed the church’s ability to administer aid. During this time poor drifters were driven out of town because priests only wanted to provide for their own poor, and churches and shrines kept registers of those they healed.

I hope this episode illuminated the mindset and cultural practices of the early Frankish kingdom. So often we regard our ancestors as backward, superstitious and even stupid. While they did not possess the information we have they cleverly used the mental tools available to them to care for themselves and their communities and contest power with their new Frankish overlords, while incorporating them into a new identity, and all this during an incredibly tumultuous period. Their ideas and beliefs weren’t perfect but they developed in response to the violent and unpredictable world around them and gave all people, even the poor, women and slaves a measure of power, security and justice.




The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity by Peter Brown, 1981

Encyclopedia Britannica

History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours

The Merovingian Kingdoms 450 – 751, by Ian Wood, 1994

New Advent, (The Catholic Encyclopedia)

Perceiving War and the Military in Early Christian Gaul (Ca. 400-700 A. D.) by Laury Sarti, 2013.

Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul by Raymond Van Dam, 1993