chapter  29
2 Pages

Gregory of Tours: The Story of Ingitrude and Berthegund (6th c.)

The matter between Ingitrude and her daughter I think it well to relate from its beginning. When, some years before, Ingitrude founded the convent [in the city of Tours], . . . she sent a message to her daughter, to the following effect: "Leave thy husband, and come to me, that I may make thee abbess of this flock which I have assembled." Her daughter, on receiving this foolish advice, came with her husband to Tours, where she entered her mother's nunnery, saying to him: "Return hence and look after our property and our children; I shall not go back with thee. For none that is joined in wedlock shall behold the kingdom of God." But the husband sought me out and told me all that his wife had said. Thereupon I went to the nunnery and there read aloud those canons of the Nicene Council in which it is said: "If a woman abandon her husband, and spurn the nuptial state in which she hath lived with honour, on the plea that she who hath been joined in wedlock shall have no part in the glory of the celestial kingdom, let her be accursed." When she heard this, Berthegund was afraid of excommunication at the hands of the bishops of God; she therefore quitted the convent and returned home with her husband. But after three or four years her mother again sent her a message, entreating her to come to her. Thereupon she loaded vessels with her own goods and those of her husband, who was away from home, took one of her sons with her, and came to Tours. But her mother could not keep her there on account of the husband's obstinate pursuit; she also feared to become involved in the charge to which her daughter had exposed them both by her dishonesty. She therefore sent her to Bertram, bishop of Bordeaux, her own son, and brother of Berthegund. The husband following her, the bishop said to him: "She shall no longer

be thy wife, because thou didst wed her without the assent of her parents." At this time, be it said, they had been married nearly thirty years. The husband came several times to Bordeaux, but the bishop always refused to give her up. On the occasion of King Guntram's visit to Orleans, of which I have written above, this man bitterly accused the bishop, saying: "Thou hast taken from me my wife, together with her servants; and behold thou hast done that which ill beseemeth a bishop, for thou hast sinned with her handmaids, and she with servants of thy household." The king at this was furious, and forced the bishop to promise the restoration of the wife to her husband. "She is my kinswoman," he said; "if she hath committed any evil in her husband's house, I will punish her; but if she hath not, why should the husband be exposed to all manner of humiliation, and his wife be taken from him?" Then Bishop Bertram gave his promise, saying: "Certainly my sister came to me, after the lapse of many years, and I kept her with me as long as she cared to stay, out of my affection and love for her. She hath now left me; let him seek her and take her whither he will; I shall not stand in his path." Although he made this statement, he sent her a private message to put off her secular garb, do penance, and withdraw to the church of the holy Martin; which things she straightway did. Her husband then came with a following of many men to remove her from the sacred place. She was in the habit of a nun, and declared that she was vowed to penitence; she therefore refused to go with him. Meanwhile Bishop Bertram died at Bordeaux. She now came to her senses and said: "Woe is me, that ever I hearkened to the advice of a wicked mother. My brother is dead; I am forsaken by my husband and separated from my children. Whither shall I go in my misery; what shall I now do?" After reflecting for a while, she decided to go to Poitiers; and though her mother [wished] to keep her with her, she altogether failed in this. In consequence enmity arose between them and they were always coming before the king in a dispute about property, the daughter claiming that which came to her from her father, the mother her part in the estate of her late husband. Berthegund produced a deed of gift from her brother Bertram, saying: "This and this my brother bestowed upon me." But her mother would not recognize the deed, seeking to secure all for herself, and sent emissaries to break into her daughter's house and take her effects, the deed among them. At a later time she was proved in the wrong as to this action, for she was forced to restore some of these effects upon her daughter's demand. The king sent letters to my brother, Bishop Maroveus, and myself urging us to bring about a reconciliation. When Berthegund came to Tours and appeared