This book provides a collection of documents in translation which brings together the seminal sources for the late Merovingian Frankish kingdom. The collection of documents in translation includes Liber Historiae Francorum, Vita Domnae Balthidis, Vita Audoini Episcopi Rotomagensis, Acta Aunemundi, Passio Leudegarii, Passio Praejecti, and Vita Sanctae Geretrudis and the Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano. The Liber Historiae Francorum was written while a Merovingian king still ruled over the Franks and by someone geographically very close to the political centre of that realm. Late Merovingian hagiography tends to emphasise miracles which heal and eliminate the maladies of the life, and the Vita Audoini follows the pattern. The Vita Sanctae Geretrudis makes no mention at all of Columbanus and his mission among the Franks, a strange omission if the Irish were all one group. The Passio Praejecti provides information on the relationship between the politics of the locality and the politics of the centre, for a land dispute between Praejectus and Hector, the ruler of Marseilles, was heard at the royal court at Autun at Easter 675. The Passio Leudegarii has an overt peace-making element, although the issue of who was on which side is much clouded by the complexity of the political narrative.
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.
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.
Audoin, powerful nobleman, bishop of Rouen, and saint, was the most influential and the most famous of the Frankish nobility in mid seventh century. Audoin plays an important role in the hagiographical literature. Late Merovingian hagiography tends to emphasise miracles which heal and eliminate the maladies of the life, and the Vita Audoini follows the pattern. Perhaps through the religious influence of Columbanus, or perhaps for reasons which escape us, Audoin was given a literary education, something which was becoming increasingly rare even among the highranking Merovingian nobility in the course of the seventh century. In fact the events of Audoin's 'Life' upon which the author lavished the most attention were his death, his burial and the translation of his body. The author's primary concern in writing the vita was to display the divine power manifest in Audoin's acts of holy self-denial and especially evident in his deeds of wonder.
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.
The turbulent career of Leudegar, bishop of Autun from 662 to 676 is central to the history of later Merovingian Francia. This chapter looks at how the oldest text of the Passio Leudegarii can be reconstructed and focuses on the context of the work. This will allow us to appreciate the difficulties faced by its author in presenting Leudegar's saintly credentials to an audience which may have had good reason to doubt them. The chapter assesses the value of the Passio as an historical source. In it is a Passio Leudegarii written at Poitiers, home of the saint's cult from the end of the seventh century onwards. Leudegar's family background therefore made him a member of that supra-regional elite which had connections throughout the Merovingian kingdom, and whose vested interests lay in unity rather than in separatism.
The frank details of the Passio Praejecti afford us a unique glimpse into the workings and tensions of Praejectus's native community. Earlier scholars had seen, and published, two versions of the Passio contained in various manuscripts dating from between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries. One version told of Praejectus's career from the time he became bishop until his death; the other related his whole life, and in addition that version had a stylish prologue, evidently from the Merovingian period. It also contained a series of posthumous miracles. Despite its early prologue, the longer version seemed generally to be later than the version of the Passio which dealt merely with Praejectus's career from the time he became bishop. Documenting the endowment of Praejectus's cult was a way of demonstrating the public acknowledgement of his sanctity.
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.
The Annales Mettenses Priores open with an account of Pippin II. Even though he was a secular figure, their treatment of him often resembles the way in which hagiographers portrayed their saintly subjects. Although Charles Martel's early life, and indeed his whole career, are expressly guided by God's will, nowhere is he adorned with the most Christian virtues that Pippin and his holy ancestors had sported. In Annales Mettenses Priores's early pages they treat many of the political events of the late Merovingian age in engaging detail, they were actually written more than half a century after the Carolingians had ursurped the Merovingian throne. Be that as it may, the first section of the Annales Mettenses Priores is clearly far more of an historical justification for the traditional and Frankish system of succession by division than for any idea of united empire.