Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Gontran, King and Confessor
HE was son of King Clotaire, and grandson of Clovis I. and St. Clotildis. Being the second son, whilst his brothers Charibert reigned at Paris, and Sigebert in Austrasia, residing at Metz, he was crowned King of Orleans and Burgundy in 561, 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 queens, Brunehault of Sigebert, and Fredegonde of Chilperic, the firebrands of France. The putting to death the physicians of the queen at her request, on her death-bed, and the divorcing 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. The prosperity of his reign, both in peace and war, condemns those who think that human policy cannot be modelled 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 honouring 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 offences 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. With royal magnificence he built and endowed many churches and monasteries. St. Gregory of Tours relates many miracles performed by him, both before and after his death, to some of which he was an eye-witness. This good king, like another penitent David, having spent his life after his conversion, though on the throne, in the retirement and penance of a recluse, (as St. Hugh of Cluny says of him, exhorting King Philip I. to imitate his example,) died on the 28th of March, in 593, in the sixty-eighth year of his age, having reigned thirty-one and some months. He was buried in the church of St. Marcellus, which he had founded. 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. See St. Gregory of Tours, Fredegarius, and Baillet.