Patron saint of divorced people and reformed murderers – Saint Gontrand

Saint Gontrand was born around 532 in Soissons was the king of the Kingdom of Orléans from 561 to 592. He was the third oldest and second oldest surviving son of Chlothar I and Ingunda. When his father died in 561, he became king of a fourth of the Kingdom of the Franks and made his capital at Orléans. His name means “War Raven”.

St. Gregory of Tours, often called him “good king Gontrand” The king Gontrand first took a mistress,  Veneranda, a slave belonging to one of his people.   He had a son, Gundobad, with her.  He later married Marcatrude and sent his son Gundobad to Orléans. She had a son Marcatrude and was jealous so she arranged for Gundobad’s death. She sent poison and poisoned his drink. Her son later died, with the king hating her.  She was dismissed by him and died soon after.   Then he took Austerchild, also named Bobilla. They had two sons Clothar and Chlodomer.

Gontrand became overcome with remorse for the sins of his past life and spent the rest of his life repenting of them for himself and for his nation. He fasted, prayed, wept, and offered himself to God. For the rest of his time as king, he tried to govern by Christian principles. According to St. Gregory of Tours, he was the protector of the oppressed.  He cared for the sick caregiver to the sick and cared for his subjects. He was generous with money, especially in times of plague and famine. He strictly and justly enforced the law, no matter who the person was.  He was also quick to forgive offenses against himself, including two attempts to assassinate him.  Gontrand provided funds to build and endow several churches and monasteries. St. Gregory related that the king performed many miracles both before and after his death, some St. Gregory claimed to have witnessed himself.

In 567, his older brother Charibert I died and his Kingdom of Paris lands were divided between the surviving brothers: Gontrand, Sigebert I, and Chilperic I. They shared his realm.  At first, they agreed to share Paris. Charibert’s widow, Theudechild, proposed marriage with Gontrand, the oldest remaining brother.  A council had been held in Paris in 557, had forbidden those kinds of relationships as incestuous. Gontrand decided to house her in a monastery in Arles.

In 573, Gontrand was in a civil war with his brother Sigebert I of Austrasia,  In 575, he formed an alliance with Chilperic I of Soissons. He reversed this allegiance later, because of Chilperic’s character.  He then remained an ally of Sigebert, his wife, and his sons until his death. In 575, when Sigebert was assassinated Chilperic invaded the kingdom, but Gontrand sent his general to remove him.

In 577, Chlothar and Clodomir, his two surviving children, died of dysentery and he adopted as his son and heir Childebert II, his nephew, Sigebert’s son, whose kingdom he had saved two years before.  Childebert wasn’t always faithful to his uncle. In 581, Chilperic took many of Gontrand’s cities, and in 583, he allied with Childebert and attacked Gontrand. This time Gontrand made peace with Chilperic and Childebert retreated.

In 584, he invaded Childebert’s land and captured Tours and Poitiers, but he had to leave to attend the baptism of Chlothar II, his other nephew.  Chlothar II, now ruled in Neustria.

In 584 or 585, Gundowald claimed to be an illegitimate son of Chlothar I and proclaimed himself king, taking some major cities in southern Gaul, including Poitiers and Toulouse, which belonged to Gontrand.

In 587, Fredegund attempted to assassinate him but failed.
Gontrand died at Chalon-sur-Saône in 592, and his nephew Childebert II succeeded him. He was buried in the Church of Saint Marcellus, which he had founded in Chalon. Almost immediately, his subjects proclaimed Gontrand a saint. His feast day is on March 28.