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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

February 1

St. Sigebert II., French King of Austrasia, Confessor

DAGOBERT I., king of France, led for some time a very dissolute life, but was touched by an extraordinary grace upon the birth of his son Sigebert, and from that time was entirely converted to God. Bagnetrude, our saint’s mother, is only styled the concubine of Dagobert, though he was publicly married to her. The father desiring to have his son baptized by the most holy prelate of his dominions, recalled St. Amand, bishop of Maestricht, whom he had banished for his zeal in reproving his vices, fell at his feet at Clichi, near Paris, to ask his pardon, promised amendment, and by the advice of St. Owen and St. Eligius, then laymen in his court, engaged him to initiate his son in the sacrament of regeneration. The ceremony was performed with great pomp at Orleans, Charibert, king of part of Aquitain, and brother to Dagobert, being god-father. The young prince’s education was intrusted by the father to the blessed Pepin of Landen, mayor of his palace, who being forced by the envy of the nobility to withdraw for some time, carried Sigebert into the dominions of Charibert in Aquitain, where he enjoyed a considerable estate, the paternal patrimony of his wife the blessed Itta. Pepin remained there about three years; after which term he was recalled to the court of Dagobert, who declared his son Sigebert, though only three years old, in 633, king of Austrasia, and gave him for his ministers, St. Cunibert, archbishop of Cologne, and duke Adelgise, and committed the administration of the whole kingdom to Pepin, whom he always kept near his own person. Dagobert’s second son, Clovis II., was born in the following year, 634, and to him the father allotted for his inheritance all the western part of France, containing all Neustria and part of Burgundy. 1 Austrasia, or Eastern France, (in which sense Austria retains a like name in Germany,) at that time comprised Provence and Switzerland, (dismembered from the ancient kingdom of Burgundy,) the Albigeois, Auvergne, Quercy, the Cevennes, Champagne, Lorraine, Upper Picardy, the archbishopric of Triers, and other states reaching to the borders of Friesland; Alsace, the Palatinate, Thuringia, Franconia, Bavaria, Suabia, and the country which lay betwixt the Lower Rhine and Old Saxony. Dagobert died in 638, and was buried at the abbey of St. Denys, of which he was the munificent founder. According to the settlement which he had made, he was succeeded in Austrasia by St. Sigebert, and in the rest of France by his youngest son Clovis II. Pepin of Landen, who had been mayor of the palace to the father, discharged the same office to his death under St. Sigebert, and not content to approve himself a faithful minister, and true father to the prince, he formed him from the cradle to all heroic Christian virtues. By his prudence, virtue, and valour, St. Sigebert in his youth was beloved and respected by his subjects, and feared by all his enemies. Pepin dying in 640, the virtuous king appointed his son Grimoald mayor of his palace. He reigned in perfect intelligence with his brother, of which we have few examples among the Merovingian kings whenever the French monarchy was divided. The Thuringians revolting, he reduced them to their duty; and this is the only war in which he was engaged. The love of peace disposed his heart to be a fit temple of the Holy Ghost, whom he invited into his soul by assiduous prayer, and the exercise of all Christian virtues. His patrimony he employed in relieving the necessitous, and in building or endowing monasteries, churches, and hospitals. He founded twelve monasteries, the four principal of which were Cougnon, now a priory, not far from Bouillon; Stavelo and Malmedi, two miles from each other, and St. Martin’s, near Metz. St. Remaclus brought from Solignac the rule of St. Columban, which king Sigebert in his charter to Cougnon calls the rule of the ancient fathers. This that holy abbot established first at Cougnon, and afterwards at Malmedi and Stavelo. A life filled with good works, and devoted all to God, can never be called short. God was pleased to call this good king from the miseries of this world to the recompense of his labours on the 1st of February, in the year 656, the eighteenth of his reign, and the twenty-fifth of his age. 2 He was interred in the abbey of St. Martin’s, near Metz, which he had built. His body was found incorrupt in 1063, and placed in a monument on the side of the high altar: and in 1170 it was enshrined in a silver case. The monastery of St. Martin’s, and all others in the suburbs, were demolished by Francis of Lorraine, duke of Guise, in 1552, when Charles V. laid siege to Metz. The relics of St. Sigebert are now deposited in the collegiate church of our Lady at Nancy. He is honoured among the saints in a great part of the dominions which he governed, and in the monasteries and churches which he founded. See Fredegarius and his continuator, Sigebert of Gemblours, in his life of this saint, with the learned remarks of Henschenius, p. 40. Also Calmet, Hist. de Lorraine, t. 1. p. 419. Schoëpflin, Alsatia Illustrata, Colmariæ, an. 1751. Sect. 2. p. 742.  1
Note 1. Charibert, though he took the title of king, and resided at Toulouse, held his estates of his brother Dagobert, and by his gift. After Charibert’s death, Chilperic, his eldest son, was put to death by Dagobert; but his second son, Boggis, left a numerous posterity, which was only extinguished in Lewis d’Armagnac, duke of Nemeurs, slain at the battle of Cerignole, where he commanded for Lewis XII. against Gonzales de Cordova, surnamed The Great Captain, for the Catholic king Ferdinand in 1503, by which the French lost the kingdom of Naples. So long did the family of Clovis II. subsist. See Vaissette, Hist. de Languedoc. Henault, Abr. de l’Hist. de France, t. 1. p. 36. and 818. [back]
Note 2. St. Sigebert left his son Dagobert, about seven years old, under the care of Grimoald, mayor of his palace, who treacherously sent him into Ireland, and placed his own son Childebert on the throne. This usurper reigned seven months, as Schoëpflin proves from the express testimony of Chronieon Brevissimum, and from circumstances mentioned by Fredegarius, against the mistake of the authors, l’Art de vérifier les Dates, p. 481, who say he only reigned seven days. By an insurrection of the people, Grimoald and his son were deposed, and both perished in prison; but Dagobert not being found, Clovis II. united Austrasia to his other dominions. Dagobert II., by the assistance of St. Wilfrid, afterwards archbishop of York, returned into France eighteen years after the death of his father, and recovered Alsace and some other provinces by the cession either of Childeric II., son of Clovis II., (then monarch of all France,) or of his brother Theodoric III., who succeeded him before the month of April, in 674: for the reign of Dagobert II. must be dated from the latter end of 673, with Henault, or from 674, with Schoëpflin. The spirit of religion and piety, which he had learned in the school of afflictions, and under the great masters of a spiritual life, who then flourished among the Scots and Irish, was eminently the distinguishing part of his character. As he resided chiefly in Alsace, he filled that country, in the first place, with monuments of his devotion, being so liberal in founding and endowing monasteries and churches, that though his reign was only of six years, Schoëpflin assures us the French church is not more indebted to any reign than to this, at least in those parts, (p. 740.) St. Wilfrid, bishop of York, had exceedingly promoted his return into France; and when that prelate was compelled to leave England, Dagobert entertained him with the most cordial affection, and, upon the death of St. Arbogastus, earnestly pressed him to accept of that see. St. Wilfrid declined that dignity, promising, however, to call upon this good king in his return from Rome, where he obtained a sentence of pope Agatho in his favour. But coming back into France, he found his royal friend cut off by a violent death. It is the general persuasion of the French historians, that the impious Ebroin, mayor of the palace to Theodoric III., king of Burgundy and Neustria, was the author of his death, with a view to seize his dominions. Dagobert was murdered by assassins at Stenay upon the Meuse, now the best town in the duchy of Bar in Lorraine. The people, however, chose Pepin and Martin dukes or governors of Austrasia, who defended their liberty against Ebroin. Martin was afterwards assassinated by the contrivance of Ebroin, and Ebroin by Ermenfrid: but Pepin, in 687, defeated Theodoric III. at Testry, took Paris, and the king himself; from which time, under the title of mayor, he enjoyed the supreme power in the French monarchy. The death of St. Dagobert happened in 679, on the 23rd of December, on which day he is commemorated in the Martyrology of Ado and others, and honoured as a martyr at Stenay, in the diocess of Verdun, ever since the eighth century. The church of Strasburg was much enriched by this prince, as may be seen in Schoëpflin’s Alsatia Illustrata. The same author gives an account of some of the monasteries which were founded by this prince in those parts, (c. 11. s. 254. p. 736.) and shows from his charters that the palace where he chiefly resided was at Isenburg in Alsace. (Sect. 1. c. 10. s. 146. p. 693.) The year of the death of Dagobert II. is learned from the life of St. Wilfrid, who returned from Rome when St. Agatho sat in St. Peter’s chair. See on this holy king the lives of St. Wilfrid and St. Salaberga; also his charters; and, among the moderns, Dan. Schoëpflin, professor of history and eloquence at Strasburg, in his Alsatia Illustrata, anno 1751. Sect. 2. c. 1. s. 3. p. 740. 743. and s. 1. c. 10. s. 146. p. 693. c. 11. s. 254. p. 736. Also Calmet. Hist. de Lorraine, t. 1. l. 10. n. 16. p. 432. The first edition of this work was given in 1728, in three volumes folio, but the second edition is so much enlarged as to fill six volumes folio. The reign of Dagobert II. escaped most of the French historians; which omission, and a false epoch of the beginning of the reign of Dagobert I. brought incredible confusion into the chronology and history of most of the Merovingian kings, which Adrian Valcis, Henschenius, Le Cointe, Pagi, Longuerue, and others, have taken great pains to clear up. [back]