Saint Clotilda’s suffering prayers secure the conversion of Clovis

February 14, 2011

Statue of St. Clotilda in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

Two great saints, Clovis’s wife Clotilda and Bishop Remigius, worked with energy and tact to bring Clovis into the Church, attesting that few of the great works of Christian civilization are the products of power or genius but rather the result of sanctity. Clotilda, a Catholic Burgundian princess, brought to their marriage an indomitable faith and a huge reservoir of patience, and she used the example of her devout, virtuous life to influence the turbulent warrior into recognizing the power of the Church. His confidence in her and her religion was manifested when he allowed their first-born son to be baptized.

Then the baby died. In this hour of terrible trial that plumbed the depths of human endurance, the heroic queen resisted the temptation of bitterness, swallowed her sorrow, and continued her prayers and devotions. A year later another boy was born; another baptism and another illness followed. But this time God answered her passionate prayers and the boy lived….

Still Clovis procrastinated until circumstances forced his hand. In 496, the Alemanni, a confederation of Germanic tribes equaling the Franks in ferocity, began to encroach on the latter’s territory. A decisive battle for the control of Gaul ensued. As the clash wore on, the wild charges of the Alemanni drove their rivals back. The Franks began to give way and a general rout seemed imminent. When Clovis at the head of his troops failed to lead them forward, he cried out in desperation, “Jesus Christ,…help me in my distress, and if Thou givest me victory, I will be baptized in Thy name.”

The baptism of Clovis in Rheims in 496. Painting by François-Louis Dejuinne .

Suddenly the fortunes of battle dramatically changed. The Franks returned to the charge with such force that the Alemanni turned and fled. When they saw their king dead on the battlefield, they surrendered. A sudden movement of soul towards Christ had given birth to a Catholic nation. After a period of instruction, Bishop Remigius baptized Clovis, his sister, and 3,000 of his most reliable troops on Christmas Day, 496.

Jeremias Wells, History of Western Civilization (n.p., n.d), pp. 155-157.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 49

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