Clotilda, St.

(d. 544)
   The wife of the great Merovingian king Clovis, Clotilda is traditionally thought to have played a key role in the conversion of her husband to Catholic Christianity. She may also have influenced his foreign policy by encouraging a war of conquest against her uncle in Burgundy. She fulfilled her primary obligation as a Merovingian queen by providing Clovis with four sons, three of whom survived their father (Chlodomer, Childebert I, and Chlothar I), and a daughter, Clotilda. After the death of Clovis, Clotilda took the veil and entered a convent. She was later recognized as a saint because of her religious life and her influence on her husband.
   Clotilda was the daughter of the king of Burgundy, Chilperic, and his Gallo-Roman Catholic wife, Caretena. As a result of her mother's influence, Clotilda was raised as a Catholic Christian, even though most of the Burgundian royal family was Arian Christian. It is possible that Clotilda's Catholic faith attracted Clovis to her because he hoped it would smooth relations with the powerful Catholic bishops of his kingdom. Late sixth and early seventh century sources, however, offer a less mundane picture of the courtship. Clotilda was orphaned and in exile by the time she came to Clovis's attention, her mother and father having been murdered by her uncle Gundobad. Clovis sent his envoys to secretly observe the exiled princess, and they informed him of her beauty, elegance, and intelligence. He then sent her a ring inscribed with his name, a portrait of himself, and a proposal of marriage. She hesitated because Clovis was still a pagan, but the following year, when he approached Gundobad to ask for her hand, Clotilda's uncle would not refuse the powerful Frank, and she married Clovis.
   As queen, Clotilda desired nothing more than the conversion of her husband to Catholic Christianity, and according to the late sixth-century bishop and historian Gregory of Tours, she was pivotal to that conversion. She encouraged Clovis to accept Christianity and denounced the immorality and belief in the pagan gods. She argued that her God was the creator of all things and that her husband's gods were nothing more than idols of wood or metal. When their first son, Ingomer, was born Clotilda had him baptized. The child died shortly after the baptism, which angered Clovis, who claimed the baptism caused his son's death. But Clotilda held firm and thanked God that he chose to take Ingomer after baptism, ensuring the child's entry into heaven. Clotilda baptized their second son, Chlodomer, who became ill shortly after the baptism. Clovis blamed Christ again, but Clotilda prayed for her son's recovery, and Chlodomer regained his health. She continued to urge Clovis to convert, and when faced with certain defeat against the Alemanni, Clovis agreed to accept baptism should he emerge victorious. Winning the battle, he accepted instruction and baptism from St. Remigius, bishop of Rheims, who had been ordered to the court by Clotilda. Although it is a wonderful story, most historians generally discount Gregory's version of events and note that Clovis probably converted to Arian Christianity before finally accepting the Catholic faith. It is still likely, however, that his decision was influenced by Clotilda and her domestic proselytizing.
   Clotilda's influence on Merovingian affairs extended beyond her likely influence on the conversion of Clovis. According to work praising her sanctity, Clothild encouraged Clovis to destroy pagan shrines and to build churches, and also to support the poor, widows and orphans. She also influenced affairs in the kingdom during the reigns of her sons. Gregory of Tours notes that she called on her sons to make war against the Burgundians, allegedly to avenge the murder of her parents. Her son Chlodomer led the war, which ended with the defeat of the Burgundians and the death of Chlodomer, whose children were then raised by Clotilda.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1974.
 ♦ Schulenburg, Jane Tibbetts. Forgetful of Their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500-1100. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
 ♦ Wemple, Suzanne. Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500 to 900. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985.
 ♦ Wood, Ian. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman, 1994.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • CLOTILDA, ST. —    the wife of Clovis I.; persuaded her husband to profess Christianity; retired into a monastery at Tours when he died (475 545). Festival, June 3 …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Clotilda — n. female first name …   English contemporary dictionary

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