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A contemporary source concerning St Geretrud's monastery at Nivelles is a short one and was named the Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano by Bruno Kursch, who edited it for the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. It was written as a complement to the Vita Fursei and could actually be slightly older than the Vita Sanctae Geretrudis and its continuations. Heinrich Bonnell, who was a pioneer in delivering the history of Charlemagne's ancestors from the realm of late medieval fancy and basing it on more trustworthy contemporary sources, misjudged the Vita Sanctae Geretrudis. He put forward a very convincing argument for considering it to have been written in the eleventh century in the course of a local Brabantine political dispute. Denying historical authority to Geretrud's vita also meant erasing any basis upon which the middle Meuse in Brabant could claim to have been the area of the family's origins.
In the middle of the seventh century Aunemund held one of the most important positions in the Frankish Church: he was Bishop of Lyons. The Acta Aunemundi do display features strongly suggestive of genuinely early composition. Alfred Coville argued that the description of Aunemund as of 'Roman stock' was an indication of early composition, early because it showed that there were people around who saw themselves as 'Roman', a consciousness which scholars had thought to have hardly stretched beyond the seventh century. The story of the martyrdom of Bishop Aunemund provides us with a valuable lesson in Merovingian history. It was by the name Aunemund that the Bishop of Lyons was known to his contemporaries in the Frankish kingdom. Aunemund certainly was one of the powerful elite who frequented the Merovingian courts. His power had two sources: his family's position in Lyons, and his own position within the Merovingian Church.
Queen Balthild appears in several trustworthy contemporary souces, but it is the Vita Domnae Balthildis which gives us the most information about her. The Vita Balthildis is about as contemporary a Merovingian source as has survived. The key to Merovingian high politics was co-operation between the Crown and some faction or factions of the powerful Frankish nobility. The 'slave' Balthild will play a key role in these politics. Balthild's hagiographer, of course, saw divine will as the reason for her rise to the status of queen, but providence may well have had some significant help from the contemporary politics of the British Isles. A seventh-century hagiographical work whose author is concerned about 'friends' and 'detractors' of a saintly queen, is a strong reminder of the period's intricate relationship between political power and Christian sanctity.
This introduction presents an overview of the historical context, the translated histories and their authors and a discussion of Merovingian Latin. The eight texts translated in the book represent a selection from what is in fact a far wider range of written sources for Merovingian history. The eight texts includes Liber Historiae Francorum (LHF), Vita Domnae Balthidis, Vita Audoini Episcopi Rotomagensis, Acta Aunemundi, Passio Leudegarii, Passio Praejecti, Vita Sanctae Geretrudis and the Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano, and Annales Mettenses Priores.
The Liber Historiae Francorum (LHF) is our most valuable guide through the last half of the seventh century and the first two decades of the eighth. The LHF was written while a Merovingian king ruled over the Franks and by someone geographically very close to the political centre of that realm. In the LHF the advent of the Pippinids into Neustria was a major political event. For the LHF, even after the Pippinids had made their political weight felt in Neustria, the most important expression of proper rule is a hereditary Merovingian king, reigning cum consilio of the Frankish nobility. For part of the period the Passio Leudegarii is of great help in adding to what can be gleaned from the LHF.
Janet nelson was born in 1942 and grew up in Blackpool, Lancashire. After graduation she proceeded directly to postgraduate research under Professor Walter Ullmann, completing a PhD in 1967. Her thesis title was 'Rituals of Royal Inauguration in Early Medieval Europe. The research gave her an understanding of the political resonance of the liturgy in the early Middle Ages and a thorough grounding in that intellectually rigorous scholarship which is the hallmark of her work. Janet Nelson's concern with how ideology, ritual and political thought might be combined in practical action, and with how individuals made choices according to needs and opportunities, led her to work on the reign of Charles the Bald, a figure rather in need of historical rehabilitation. The result was a model of political history that set the pace for a series of studies that rethought the history of the later Carolingians.