Source Translation: Odorannus of Sens, “The Origins, Deeds and Death of Queen Theodechild”

Odorannus of Sens was a prolific author of mid-eleventh-century France, writing works on musical theory, political and monastic history, canon law, ordines for bishops and archbishops, and other assorted texts. He compiled a selection of his various writing in a single autograph manuscript, which he himself describes as an opusculus, a little collection of works.

Below is a translation into English of the first work in his collection, which he introduces in his prologue as ‘the origins and death of the domina Theudechild and the place of our foundation, which I have covered with a few words from my pen at the urging of the most pious King Robert and the prompting of Archbishop Leotheric.’ Odorannus begins his story with a summary of the origins of the Franks, the rise of the Merovingian dynasty and their conversion to Christianity. He then discusses the foundation and endowment of his monastery, Saint-Pierre-le-Vif by Theudechild, who he describes as the daughter of King Clovis and Queen Clotild. In particular, he refers his reader to a charter she provided for Saint-Pierre-le-Vif which can be found in his monastery’s archive in order to verify his account. He concludes by citing a poem written for a Queen Theudechild by Venantius Fortunatus and two epitaphs for her. While this all seems convincing at first glance, quite a few elements of this monastic origin story had been invented: Theudechild was not the daughter of Clovis and Clotild and her charter – which was indeed in the archive of the monastery – was a forgery that has been dated to the late 960s/early 970s.

There is a detailed analysis of why Odorannus creates this monastic foundation story in an earlier blog post, which lays out how the memory of ‘Queen Theudechild’ had evolved at the monastery she founded and why Odorannus presents this particular version.

Odorannus of Sens, The Origins, Deeds and Death of Queen Theodechild, and the Construction of the Monastery of Saint-Pierre-le-Vif

After the Franks, who had been chased to Sicambria by Emperor Valentinian, began to live in the area on the far part of the Rhine, they elected a man called Faramond to be their king with their common resolve. Faramond was the son of Marcomir, who was of the line of Priam, king of Troy. After Faramond’s death they made his son, Clodio, king; when he died, his son, Meroveus, was raised to the throne. When he too died, his son Childeric took up the kingship. After his death, the Franks set up his son Clovis, who was quick-witted, energetic in combat, and prudent in counsel. This man, who was still a pagan, married a Christian woman named Clothild, who was the daughter of the king of the Burgundians, Chilperic, who was  the brother of Duke Gundebold; their father, Gundoveus, had been the king of the Burgundians. However, after King Clovis was baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity, as a result of the encouraging of his wife and the preaching of Saint Remi, Bishop of Reims, Queen Clothild followed Clovis’s command and constructed a monastery with marvellous work in honour of the holy apostles Peter and Paul to the southern part of the city of Paris, on the other side of the River Seine.[1] And Clovis, having vanquished many great kings, died peacefully and was buried in the above-mentioned basilica of Saint Peter where the blessed Genovefa was also buried. He died five years after he killed Alaraic, king of the Goths, in the thirtieth year of his reign. There were 112 years from the death of Saint Martin to the death of King Clovis. And after his death, his four sons – that is, Theoderic, Chlodomir, Childebert and Clothar – divided the kingdom between themselves.

While Clothar, the youngest, still survived after his three brothers had died, his sister named Theodechild, with his approval, built a monastery in honour of the above-mentioned apostles in sight of the city of Sens, like the one which her parents had constructed in Paris. She established that the monks in that place would pass all their days serving God under holy religion and the authority of an abbot, and she ordered her body to be granted to that place for burial. Moreover, whatever property she possessed on this side of the Loire (i.e., in Francia) or on the other side of the Loire (i.e., in Aquitaine), either from seizure or from acquisition, she bestowed upon this same house of God under the title of her will. But if someone desires to know about this to their satisfaction, if the archives[2] of this monastery are unlocked for them, then they will be able to know it for certain.

At that time, the priest Fortunatus, who was Italian by birth and a man of exceeding eloquence, was famous throughout almost all of Gaul. After the death of King Clothar, when his son Sigebert received the kingdom, this man Fortunatus produced a little work (opuscula) in praise of this Sigebert and Queen Brunhild, which we possess. This same Fortunatus beautifully described the domina Queen Theodechild, how much she overflowed with an inner spring of piety, and the laudable life that she led, writing the following verses to her.

Odorannus of Sens, Opera Omnia, edited by Robert-Henri Bautier and Monique Gilles (Paris, 1972), pp. 76-83.


[1] This is an abridged version of the the Liber Historiae Francorum, c. 17.

[2] This is glossed with armaria cartarum: the chest or cupboard of charters.