Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Radegundis, Queen of France

Saint RadegundeArticle

Radegundis, the holy spouse of King Clotaire of France, was born a princess of Thuringia, but, having been made prisoner in her tenth or eleventh year, she was taken to France, as the French army had devastated her home. Her beauty and other remarkable gifts, which, at that tender age, already gave great promise for the future, interested King Clotaire in her and induced him to give her an education suitable to her rank. Radegundis made great progress in all feminine arts, but still greater in the wisdom necessary to salvation, which she learned from devout books, the reading of which gave her the greatest pleasure. Besides her angelic modesty, her fervor in prayer, her love for the poor, and her other virtues, she had already begun, at that time, to mortify her tender body by abstaining from all delicacies, by rigorous fasts and other penances. She esteemed virginal chastity more than the crown, and when she afterwards heard that the king intended to take her as his wife, she endeavored to save herself by flight. Being brought back, she was obliged to yield to his wishes, but made the resolution to serve God most zealously and to labor for the salvation of her soul in the exalted station in which she was placed against her desire. She kept her word. The splendors of royalty could neither blind her, nor make her depart, in the least, from the path of virtue, in which she had always walked. She had her appointed time for prayers, devout reading and other pious exercises; she was extremely kind and tender towards the poor and sick, but very severe towards herself. Beneath her royal garments she wore a rough penitential robe. Even when sitting at a most sumptuously spread table, she always took the plainest food, and very little of it, but was careful to hide this abstinence from all present. She kept Lent more strictly than any religious in a convent, and on fast days ate only of one dish, and this either at noon or in the evening. Clotaire was at first greatly pleased with the virtuous conduct of his queen, but afterwards blamed her for it, at the instigation of those to whose licentiousness the queen’s piety was a constant reproach. They at last succeeded so well by their slanders, that the king lost his affection for her and frequently wounded her deeply by his injustice. She plainly perceived the king’s growing aversion to her, and when she found that he had caused her brother to be assassinated, she begged his permission to leave the court and retire into a convent. She readily obtained leave, and full of joy went to Saint Medard, bishop of Noyon, whom she acquainted with her intention. She then made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Martin, and proceeded to Sais, an estate the king had given her, and thence Poictiers, where, with the permission of the king and of the presiding bishop, she built the Convent of the Holy Cross, one of the most famous in France. In this convent she led even a more holy life than before, and, refusing to become abbess, she bestowed this dignity on one of her former maids of honor, named Agnes, to whom she submitted in perfect obedience as one of the last of the community. The most menial and tiresome work, she begged as a favor, might be reserved for her, and hence allowed no one else to sweep the house or serve the sick, but executed all such work with untiring energy. Towards herself she was more severe than ever. Her whole sustenance was bread and water and roots, and her bed a rush-mat spread over boards. She seldom slept more than two hours. Besides the rough-hair garments, which she never laid aside, she wore a sharp-pointed girdle, which at last grew into her flesh and had to be cut out, causing great pain. All this did not satisfy her desire to suffer, which the sight of her crucified Saviour augmented more and more. She once pressed on her bare breast an iron crucifix, which had been made red-hot. She often wished she might be tortured like the holy martyrs and envied them their happiness in being able so effectually to prove their love for Christ. While the holy queen practiced these and other virtues, the former affection for his wife returned to the heart of the king. He regretted having given her leave to go to the convent, and he resolved to take her back to the court. For this purpose, he made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Martin, with the intention of going to Poitiers, and carrying the queen back with him, before informing her of his design. God decreed, however, that she should be apprised of his coming. She most fervently prayed that the Almighty would prevent the loss of the holy peace she enjoyed, by her returning to the dangers of the world. Offering renewed penances to heaven for this end, she also requested many other servants and handmaids of the Lord to pray for her. Her prayers were heard; the king, persuaded by Saint Germanus, bishop of Paris, changed his mind and, allowed Radegundis to remain undisturbed in the convent. For this mercy she gave humble thanks to God, and continued to serve Him until her 66th year.

Our Lord Himself announced her approaching death to her, in a vision, and the joy she felt was seen in her countenance. She desired to be strengthened with the Sacraments, and received them with deep humility, reverence, and love. Taking her crucifix in her hand, and fixing her eyes upon it, she poured forth sighs of devotion, until her soul took its flight to Heaven, in the year of Our Lord, 587, on the 13th of August. Saint Gregory of Tours, to whom the great virtues of this holy queen were known, performed the funeral rites with great solemnity. Her holy body, with other sacred relics, was burnt by the heretics, in 1562, after God had, for many centuries, honored her tomb with many miracles.

Practical Considerations

The life of the holy Queen Radegundis presents a wonderful example of austerity, mortification and penance. To sleep only two hours, to wear a rough penitential garment and a pointed iron girdle, to abstain from all delicate food, to observe Lent more strictly than we are obliged, to live on bread, water and undressed roots, and to practice other similar penances, are, in truth, especially in a tenderly reared princess and a great queen, acts which should cover our faces with the blush of shame. To advise you to imitate them, would, of course, be useless; but could you not, for the love of your Saviour, or out of a desire to atone for your sins, sometimes deny yourself some pleasure? Could you not shorten your sleep? Could you not sometimes refuse yourself certain food or drink? Could your body not endure some discomfort in the service of God, in the depth of winter or the heat of summer? Take courage. Try to conquer yourself. You can do much more than you think. “Practice self-denial in small things. Refuse your flesh that which it desires inordinately, and choose that which it loathes;” thus speaks Saint Francis Xavier. Saint Cyprian writes: “They, who thus deny themselves, force an entrance into Heaven.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Radegundis, Queen of France”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 April 2018. Web. 20 November 2018. <>