Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Bathildes, Queen of France and Nun

illustration of Saint Bathildes, Queen of France and Nun, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberBathildes belonged to the race of Anglo-Saxon kings. While a mere child she was carried into Gaul and sold to Erkenwald, who was Major Domo to the King. She grew up very beautiful, and when she came to a marriageable age, her master wished to make her his wife, but Bathildes would not consent, and fled from the palace. Afterwards, having charmed the young King Clovis II by her innocence and piety, she consented to be united in marriage with him. As a Queen, she was as humble and pious as she had been as a handmaid, and as mother and nurse to her children she excelled in virtue. Her liberality knew no bounds; daily she distributed alms of every sort to the sick and the poor, and many monasteries were founded by her zeal. During the absence of her husband, she would retire to a convent, and spend the time in singing psalms and in prayer. After the death of the King, her husband, Bathildes governed the kingdom of Gaul as Regent during the minority of her son, with marvellous prudence and piety. She founded the great Convent of Chelles for nuns, and the Abbey of Corby, which was renowned as a seat of learning.

When her son was old enough to take the reins of government, the pious Queen-mother retired to the Monastery of Chelles, where she put off all that belonged to her worldly rank, in obedience to the command of Saint Eligius, who appeared to her in a vision after his death. Henceforth she could no longer have been recognized as a Queen, but she worked among her sisters as if in station she had been the humblest of them all. She would cook, wash, iron, clean the grates, cut wood; indeed, there was no work, however humble, that she did not cheerfully perform for the love of God. Although she suffered great pains of body, which were increased by her great austerities, she never murmured or complained, but always gave thanks to God for His mercy and His love. As her illness increased, so also did her fervent love of God, and in all her suffering, her soul remained fixed in contemplation of Heaven. The Saint was rewarded by a vision, which came to console her at her last end. She saw, above the Altar of our Lady, a ladder reaching to Heaven, up which she herself appeared to be guided by angels’ hands. This vision she accepted gratefully, as a happy presage of her future bliss, and with prayers and holy aspirations her spirit passed to God on January 30th, in the year of our Lord 680; but her name occurs in the Roman Martyrology on the 26th of January.

– text and illustration taken from Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict by Father Aegedius Ranbeck, O.S.B.