Around 584, a man named Lupentius, the abbot of the church of Saint Privatus in Javols, was accused of slandering Queen Brunhild. As the queen was the wife of the Frankish King Sigebert (r. 561-575) and mother of King Childebert II (c. 575-595), an allegation of slander against Brunhild was a serious charge. In response to the rumors of slander, Abbot Lupentius was summoned to appear before Queen Brunhild in order to answer for the allegations. Lupentius was put to question, but the interrogators apparently could not produce proof or a confession that pinpointed Lupentius as the originator of the slanders. The only concrete fact interrogators ferreted out during Lupentius’ time in Brunhild’s custody was the revelation that a certain Count Innocentius was the one who had lodged the allegations of slander against Lupentius. Unfortunately for the abbot, Count Innocentius was in the good graces of Queen Brunhild, and therefore no punitive action was taken against the count and little protection was given to the abbot to fend off further harassment. In this precarious situation, the abbot was released and sent on his way.
Count Innocentius apparently did not like that his name was mentioned or that the abbot was released. According to bishop and historian, Gregory of Tours (c. 539-594), the count sent troops to intercept Abbot Lupentius on the road. The abbot was captured and brought to a manor owned by Count Innocentius. At this estate, located somewhere near the River Aisne in France, Lupentius was said to have been “grievously maltreated” at the hands of the count’s henchmen (History of the Franks, VI.37). After some time, Count Innocentius decided to set Lupentius free, and, once again, the beleaguered abbot resumed his travels back toward his church at Javols.
Gregory of Tours, in his account of this story, did not go into detail on the cause of the feud between Count Innocentius and the abbot, but the count was evidently out to get poor Lupentius. Innocentius apparently soon regretted letting his enemy go and decided to gather a posse and again pursue the abbot. As the story goes, the count’s troops found Abbot Lupentius camping beside the River Aisne and the abbot was yet again arrested. This time, however, the arrest ended in the abbot’s execution. Count Innocentius, it was alleged, not only led the posse that killed the abbot, but he was also said to have personally killed Lupentius. Gregory of Tours described the murder of the abbot and the subsequent disposal of the body, saying “Innocentius cut off his head, put it in a sack weighted with stones and threw it in the river. He tied the body to a rock and threw that, too, into the water” (History of the Franks, VI.37).
Although the count had tried to make sure the remains would stay at the bottom of the river, Lupentius’ head and body eventually washed up on the bank of the Aisne. Upon this discovery, locals gave the late abbot a proper burial, and rumors quickly spread that it was Count Innocentius who was responsible for the murder. Despite the allegations, the count faced no known repercussions and he continued his career unimpeded. Ironically, Count Innocentius would later decide to join the church, and, with the backing of Queen Brunhild, he became Bishop of Rodez.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (scene depicting the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket of Canterbury, from a manuscript (dated to 1200) in the National Library of the Netherlands, [Public Domain] via picryl.com and Creative Commons).
- The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.