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Chrodielde (fl. 590)

French nun and warrior. Flourished 590 in Poitiers, France; never married; no children.

A nun with an unusual life story, Chrodielde fought a war to become an abbess. She joined the convent of St. Radegund of Poitiers (518–587) as a child and nothing is known of her family background. Chrodielde began her military career around 590, when she tried to force the abbess, Leubevere of Cheribert , out of office in an effort to become abbess herself, and Leubevere defended her position with force. While the position of abbess may seem to contemporary minds a weak motivation for a war, in medieval times an abbess was not simply the austere head of a convent who gave sermons and counseled her nuns. Instead, the abbess of a large establishment like the abbey of St. Radegund had the same duties as a wealthy noblewoman: she was a spiritual leader but also managed the estates of the abbey (which included supervising the agricultural and manufacturing processes which brought the abbey income), entertained and provided for traveling nobility, and often had authority over an attached monastery as well.

Though Chrodielde's political efforts to discredit Leubevere were unsuccessful, she was determined to become abbess, and soon Leubevere found herself keeping an army to ward off attacks by Chrodielde's armed supporters. After several battles, Chrodielde was evicted from the convent. She took refuge in a cathedral and raised an even larger army, as more people from Poitiers and the countryside took up her cause. Leubevere meanwhile continued to defend herself and was supported by the church hierarchy.

When it became clear that neither side would capitulate, King Childebert of France was forced to send peacekeeping troops to Poitiers. These troops managed to quell the violence and to defeat Chrodielde's army, although this was no easy task. Chrodielde's political and military career came to an end when she was excommunicated for her warlike behavior.

sources:

King, William C. Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Springfield: King-Richardson, 1900.

Laura York , Riverside, California

Chrodielde (fl. 590)

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