Saint Gontran, King and Confessor

March 28

Today is the feast day of Saint Gontran. Ora pro nobis.

Saint Gontran also called (Gontrand, Gontram, Guntram, Gunthram, Gunthchramn, and Guntramnus) was son of King Clotaire, and grandson of Clovis I and St. Clotilda. Being the second son, while his brothers Charibert reigned at Paris, and Sigebert in Austrasia, residing at Metz, he was crowned King of Orleans and Burgundy in 661, making Challons on the Saone his capital. When compelled to take up arms against his ambitious brothers and the Lombards, he made no other use of his victories, under the conduct of a brave general called Mommol, than to give peace to his dominions.

He protected his nephews against the practices of the wicked dowager queen, Brunehault of Sigebert, and Fredegonde of Chilperic, the firebrands of France. The putting to death of the physicians of the queen at her request, on her death-bed, and the divorcing of his wife Mercatrude, are crimes laid to his charge, in which the barbarous manners of his nation involved him : but these he effaced by tears of repentance. He governed his kingdom, studying rather to promote the temporal happiness of others than his own, a stranger to the passions of pride, jealousy, and ambition, and making piety the only rule of his policy. (2)

The prosperity of his reign, both in peace and war, condemns those who think that human policy cannot be modeled by the maxims of the gospel, whereas nothing can render a government more flourishing. He always treated the pastors of the church with respect and veneration, regarding them as his fathers, and honoring and consulting them as his masters. He was the protector of the oppressed, and the tender parent of his subjects, whom he treated as his children. He poured out his treasures among them with a holy profusion; especially in the time of a pestilence and famine. He gave the greatest attention to the care of the sick. He fasted, prayed, wept, and offered himself to God night and day, as a victim ready to be sacrificed on the altar of his justice, to avert his indignation, which he believed he himself had provoked, and drawn down upon his innocent people. He was a severe punisher of crimes in his officers and others, and, by many wholesome regulations, restrained the barbarous licentiousness of his troops; but no man was more ready to forgive offenses against his own person. He contented himself with imprisoning a man who, through the instigation of Queen Fredegonde, had attempted to stab him, and he spared another assassin sent by the same wicked woman, because he had taken shelter in a church. (2)

This good king died on the 28th of March, in 593, in the sixty-eighth year of his age, having reigned thirty-one years and some months. (1)

The Huguenots scattered his ashes in the sixteenth century: only his skull escaped their fury, and is now kept there in a silver case. He is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology. (3)

Image:  Entretien entre saint Gontran et Childebert II. (4)

Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff


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