Arnulf of Metz, St.

Arnulf of Metz, St.
   Bishop, saint, and traditionally the founder, with Pippin I, called Pippin of Landen, of the Carolingian family, Arnulf is generally thought to have been an important figure in the political life of the Frankish kingdoms in the seventh century. The marriage of Arnulf's son to one of Pippin's daughters is traditionally thought to have joined two of the most powerful aristocratic factions in Austrasia, the eastern realm of the Merovingian Franks, and Pippin II of Herstal was the product of this marriage. Arnulf's reputation for sanctity, no doubt, strengthened the family's position, and, according to the early ninth-century Annals of Metz, Arnulf of "all the Franks is held before God and men to be a special patron" (Fouracre and Gerberding 19976, 352). Much of what is known of Arnulf's life, however, is shrouded in mystery and myth created by later Carolingian writers, and the exact relationship between Arnulf and the two Pippins is uncertain.
   According to the traditional account, Arnulf was born in 580 to an aristocratic family with extensive land holding between the Mosel and Meuse Rivers. He early on showed an inclination toward the religious life, possibly inspired by Irish missionaries who established a monastery nearby, and was taught to read and write. He later joined the court of the mayor of the palace (major domo) and then the court of the Merovingian king, Theudebert II. He assumed important administrative duties over royal domains and rose to prominence at court. His youth and early years at court occurred during a time of unrest and often brutal civil war between the queens Fredegund and Brunhilde. After Fredegund died, Brunhilde was the real power in the Merovingian kingdoms, even though she ruled through her sons and grandsons. In 613, Arnulf, along with Pippin and other Austrasian nobles, joined Chlotar II in a revolt that overthrew and savagely executed Brunhilde.
   During the reign of Chlotar (613-629), both Arnulf and Pippin played influential roles and were rewarded for their service to the king. Indeed, the alliance they had forged during the revolt had drawn the fortunes of the two ancestral Carolingian leaders closer together. Joined by rebellion, they also were joined by the marriage of Arnulf's son, Ansegisel, and Pippin's daughter, Begga. Moreover, as the Annals of Metz note, Arnulf "very often strengthened [Pippin] with sacred admonitions and divine and human learning so that he would be strengthened for more important matters" (Fouracre and Gerberding 1996, 352). Pippin became mayor of the palace, thus acquiring the office that provided the foundation for later Carolingian success. Arnulf was rewarded by Chlotar with the office of bishop of Metz, perhaps as a result of Arnulf's religious inclinations as well as of his administrative talents. As bishop he controlled sizable estates and wealth that would have been important to the king, who allowed Arnulf to retain possession of his administrative posts at the royal court. He was also entrusted with the responsibility of tutor to Chlotar's young son, the future Dagobert I.
   In his later years Arnulf yearned to resign from his official religious and secular duties to take up the life of a monk. He was prohibited from doing so by Chlotar, who valued Arnulf's talents. On the death of Chlotar, however, Arnulf was allowed to retire to a monastery, where he died some time between 643 and 647 after years of pious service. The pious life he led at the monastery contributed to his reputation as a saint, and his feast day is celebrated on August 16 or 19 at his former monastery. Although Arnulf's life may have been subject to Carolingian mythologizing, which makes some of the exact details of his life certain, he was surely an important figure in the early years of the Carolingian family and in the Frankish kingdoms of the seventh century.
   See also
   Brunhilde; Carolingian Dynasty; Chlotar II; Fredegund; Merovingian Dynasty; Pippin I, Called Pippin of Landen; Pippin II, Called Pippin of Herstal
 ♦ Fouracre, Paul, and Richard A. Gerberding. Late Merovingian France: History and Hagiography, 640-720. Manchester, UK: University of Manchester Press, 1996.
 ♦ Fouracre, Paul. The Age of Charles Martel. 1996.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Wood, Ian. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman, 1994.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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