Bobolen, Domnola, And A Massacre In A Vineyard

Around the year 585, two powerful people clashed over rights to a vineyard in the vicinity of Angers, France. On one side was Domnola, a remarried widow who had many friends among the nobles administering the Frankish lands of the Merovingian Dynasty. As an example of her connections, Domnola was the daughter of Bishop Victorius of Rennes, and her first husband had been a brother-in-law to a duke. It was the ties to her father, Victorius, that embroiled Domnola in the vineyard dispute, as she claimed that the farmland in question had belonged to her father and therefore was now her property.

Domnola’s opponent in the vineyard dispute was a man named Bobolen. He was a figure of little note to his peers, as nothing laudatory was written or recorded about his family or his feats prior to or after the events in question here. Although not a man of fame, Bobolen was still a man of some power, as he had managed to become employed as an official or agent for Dowager Queen Fredegund, the widow of King Chilperic (r. 561-584) and the mother of King Chlotar II (r. 584-629).

Unfortunately for Domnola, her social connections proved less powerful than Bobolen’s government leverage during the vineyard dispute. Despite Domnola’s unresolved claims to the property, Bobolen seized the disputed region and banned his rival from setting foot on the land. In protest, Domnola and a group of her supporters broke into the vineyard and refused to leave. This act of defiance, regrettably, inspired Bobolen to hatch a horrific plot.

Bobolen soon arrived on the scene, backed by a pack of armed henchmen, and he confronted the protesters. What happened next was recorded by Bishop (and historian) Gregory, from nearby Tours, who wrote, “Bobolen started an affray and attacked Domnola with a band of armed men. He had her murdered, claimed that the vineyard was his and stole all the movable property. All the men and women who were with Domnola were put to the sword: none was left alive, except a few who ran away” (History of the Franks, VIII.32).

The massacre did not go unnoticed. Although Bobolen had the support of Fredegund and child-king Chlotar, there was a bigger fish in the Merovingian Dynasty’s Frankish empire at that time—King Guntram of Burgundy (r. 561-593). Guntram, who was young Chlotar’s uncle and the undisputed patriarch of the dynasty, was greatly displeased with what occurred at the vineyard in Angers. He tasked an agent named Antestius to hunt down those responsible for the massacre. Gregory of Tours recounted this man’s efforts, saying, “Antestius was sent to Angers by King Guntram. He punished severely all those who had been involved in the death of Domnola, wife of Nectarius. The goods of Bobolen, who had been the ringleader in this outrage, were confiscated to the public treasury” (History of the Franks, VIII.43). Whether or not Bobolen suffered any more severe punishments besides confiscation of property because of the murders was unfortunately left unmentioned by Bishop Gregory.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (tree in wine country, [Public Domain] via publicdomainpictures.net and Creative Commons).

 

Sources:

  • The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.
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