Died January 30, 680; Roman Martyrology sets her feast as January 26.
Bathild, like Saint Patrick, had been a slave. An Anglo-Saxon by birth,
in 641 she was captured by Danish raiders and sold to Erchinoald, the
chief officer of the palace of Clovis II, King of the Franks. She
quickly gained favour, for she had charm, beauty, and a graceful and
gentle nature. She also won the affection of her fellow-servants, for
she would do them many kindnesses such as cleaning their shoes and
mending their clothes, and her bright and attractive disposition
endeared her to them all.
The officer, impressed by her fine qualities, wished to make her his
wife, but Bathild, alarmed at the prospect, both by reason of her
modesty and of her humble status, disguised herself in old and ragged
clothes, and hid herself away among the lower servants of the palace;
and he, not finding her in her usual place, and thinking she had fled,
married another woman.
Her next suitor, however, was none other than the king himself, for when
she had discarded her old clothes and appeared again in her place, he
noticed her grace and beauty, and declared his love for her. Thus in
649, the 19-year-old slave girl Bathild became Queen of France, amidst
the applause of the court and the kingdom. She bore Clovis three sons:
Clotaire III, Childeric II, and Thierry III--all of whom became kings.
On the death of Clovis (c. 655-657), she was appointed regent in the
name of her eldest son, who was only five, and ruled capably for eight
Saint Eligius (f.d. December 1)
as her adviser.
She made a good queen and ruled wisely. Unlike many who rise suddenly to
high place and fortune, she never forgot that she had been a slave, and
did all within her power to relieve those in captivity. We are told that
Queen Bathild was the holiest and most devout of women; her pious
munificence knew no bounds; remembering her own bondage, she set apart
vast sums for the redemption of captives.
Bathild helped promote
Christianity by seconding the zeal of
Saint Ouen (f.d. August 24),
Saint Leodegardius (f.d. October 2),
and many other bishops.
At that time the poorer inhabitants of France were often obliged to sell
their children as slaves to meet the crushing taxes imposed upon them.
Bathild reduced this taxation, forbade the purchase of Christian slaves
and the sale of French subjects, and declared that any slave who set
foot in France would from that moment be free. Thus, this enlightened
women earned the love of her people and was a pioneer in the abolition
A contemporary English writer, Eddius (the biographer of Saint Wilfrid),
asserts that Queen Bathild was responsible for the political
Bishop Saint Annemund (Dalfinus) of Lyons (f.d. September 28)
and nine other bishops. What actually happened is obscure,
and it is unlikely that Bathild was guilty of the crime.
She also founded many abbeys, such as Corbie, Saint-Denis, and Chelles,
which became civilised settlements in wild and remote areas inhabited
only by prowling wolves and other wild beasts. Under her guidance
forests and waste land were reclaimed, cornland and pasture took their
place, and agriculture flourished. She built hospitals and sold her
jewellery to supply the needy. Finally, when Clotaire came of age, she
retired to her own royal abbey of Chelles, near Paris, where she served
the other nuns with humility and obeyed the abbess like the least of the
She died at Chelles before she had reached her 50th birthday. Death
touched her with a gentle hand; as she died, she said she saw a ladder
reaching from the altar to heaven, and up this she climbed in the
company of angels.
Her life was written by a contemporary. Chelles convent had many
contacts with Anglo-Saxon England, which led to the spread of her cultus
to the British Isles
Saint Bathildis is generally pictured as a crowned queen or nun before
the altar of the Virgin, two angels support a child on a ladder (the
ladder implies the pun
) and also the vision she is
said to have had at her death. She might also be shown: (1) holding a
broom; (2) giving alms or bread; (3) seeing a vision of the crucified
Christ before her; or (4) holding Chelles Abbey, which she founded
She is the patroness of children