Feast of Sts. Sigismund of Burgundy, Clotilda, and Clodoald (May 2)   Leave a comment

Above:  Gaul in 511 Common Era


King of Burdundy

His feast transferred from May 1

cousin of


Queen of Francia

Her feast transferred from June 3

grandmother of 


Roman Catholic Abbot

His feast transferred from September 7


This is a tale of royal politics, murder, and general cruelty amid sanctity.  I spent hours consulting reference works, taking notes, pondering those notes, and telling apart people with similar names.  Now I invite you, O reader, to learn some French history.

We begin with the old Kingdom of Burgundy (411-532/534).  (Reference works disagree about the end date.  Should not that matter be settled by now?)  Burgundy was in modern-day Switzerland and eastern France, by the way.  Gundiac, King of Burgundy, died in 473.  His four sons came to power, each in his own section of the realm.  Two of the sons were Gundibald and Chilperic I.  Gundibald murdered Chilperic I and his (Chilperic’s) wife, leaving their daughters as orphans.  The daughters found refuge with their uncle Godesegil in Genveva.  These young women were Catholics, but uncle Gundibald was Arian.

St. Clotilda (died 545), one of the daughters of Chilperic I, married Clovis I (reigned 481-511), the (Arian) Frankish king and founder of the Frankish monarchy, in 492/493.  She persuaded him to convert to Catholicism in 496/506 (depending on the scholar whose work one consults).  It seems that Clovis I’s conversion was superficial, for he was as ruthless afterward as he was before.  Encyclopedia articles about him mention people he had murdered until the end of his life.  The widowed St. Clotilda (511-545) relocated from Paris to Tours.  She founded many churches and was renowned for her holiness and almsgiving.

St. Clotilda’s first cousin was St. Sigismund of Burgundy (died 524), son and immediate successor of Gundibald.  St. Sigismund, a Catholic since 515, came to the throne in 516.  About a year into his reign, the saint did something he regretted for the rest of his life.  Enraged, he ordered the murder of his son, Sigeric, who had rebuked Sigismund’s second wife (and Sigeric’s stepmother).  The penitent monarch gave generously to the poor and to the Church.  And he restored and endowed the Monastery of St. Maurice d’Agaune in the Valais region.

It was also Frankish custom to divide the kingdom among princes.  So, after Clovis I died in 511, four sons became kings.  Theodoric I (reigned 511-534) ruled from Metz, Chlodomer (reigned 511-524) from Orleans, Childebert I (reigned 511-558) from Paris, and Lothair/Clotaire I (reigned 511-561) from Soissons.  The latter was briefly the king of all Franks from 558 to 561.  The sons of Clovis I fought Burgundy, defeating St. Sigismund, who spent his last days as a hermit at St. Maurice d’Agaune.  Those days ended in 524, when Chlodomer killed him.  The Merovingian Frankish war on Burgundy seems to have been a blood feud, for the sons of Clovis I were grandsons (via St. Clotilda) of the murdered Chilperic I, killed by his brother, Gundibald, father of St. Sigismund.  That blood feud had one more chapter, for Gondmar, bother of St. Sigismund and last King of Burgundy, killed Chlodomer in battle later that year.

Chlodomer had three surviving sons:  Theodoald, Gunther, and St. Clodoald (522/524-560).  Their uncle, Lothair/Clotaire I (reigned 511-561), seeking successfully to guarantee the royal succession for this lineage, had Theodoald (aged ten years) and Gunther (aged seven years) killed.  The protection of their grandmother, St. Clotilda, and their uncle, Childebert I, proved insufficient.  Yet St. Clodoald (aged eight years) survived in Provence.  He grew up, achieved the age of majority, and never sought the throne.  Instead the saint founded and served as abbot of a monastery–Nogent-sur-Seine–near Paris.  After he died it became St. Cloud Monastery in his honor.

We, O reader, have learned of murderous monarchs, a penitential king, a prince who became an abbot, and a queen who used her rank for the most good she could accomplish.  It has been a dramatic tale–one which I hope has not been too confusing.  May you accomplish as much good as possible in your life, may you repent of your sins, and may you favor God more than prestige.






 Lord God, you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses.

Grant that we, encouraged by the examples of your servants

Saint Sigismund of Burgundy,

Saint Clotilda,

and Saint Clodoald,

may persevere in the course that is set before us and,  at the last, share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 9:1-10

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Luke 6:20-23

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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