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Bertrada and Pepin in Basilica of St. Denis

Thirteenth-century effigies depict Charlemagne’s parents, Bertrada and Pepin, at the Basilica of St. Denis. (From Wikimedia Commons, used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, photo by Sailko.)

In my post about Charlemagne and Fastrada for the Lovers theme on Unusual Historicals, I omitted something: where Fastrada is not buried.

What? I hear you ask. Where she’s not buried? Why would that matter?

Well, it doesn’t, but I’ve seen nonfiction authors place meaning in the fact that Charlemagne’s fourth wife is not buried at Basilica of St. Denis near Paris, the resting place of many monarchs, including the king’s parents. Apparently, we should interpret this as a sign that Fastrada was hated and was the cause of rebellions against her husband, as his posthumous biography says.

But this supposition starts to fall apart when we put this in context. Fastrada was interred within a church, the most desired of hallowed ground. In her case, she is at Mainz, near Frankfort, where she died.

When we look at the other two wives Charles loved and outlived, we see a similar pattern. Hildegard, Charles’s third wife, was entombed at Metz, near the relics of St. Arnulf. Charles’s fifth wife, Liutgarda, was buried in Tours, where she and her husband were praying to St. Martin.

Charles himself was not buried at St. Denis. Rather, he was interred in a basilica at Aachen.

Scants written sources, all of them biased, have researchers searching for clues and reading between the lines, but we should take into account which clues are valid.

Sources

“Paul the Deacon’s ‘Gesta Episcoporum Mettensium’ and the Early Design of Charlemagne’s Succession,” Walter Goffart, Traditio

Einhard’s The Life of Charlemagne, translated by Evelyn Scherabon Firchow and Edwin H. Zeydel

Carolingian Chronicles, which includes the Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories, translated by Bernhard Walter Scholtz with Barbara Rogers

A History of Charles the Great (Charlemagne), Jacob Isidor Mombert

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