This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29 -- Feast of Saints Salome and Judith

Queen Eadburh, sans cup.
It seems that every version of these medieval women's lives is different.  Mine, therefore, will be no different.  But be warned: if you read it alone, you must know that it is a fiction built from other fictions.  The facts of their stories are beyond my reach.

Once upon a time, in southeastern Britain, lived a beautiful princess named Salome.  Her real name was Eadburh, but she was nicknamed Salome because she was such a fine dancer.  She was the daughter of King Offa, whose wife Cynethryth had a beautiful younger sister called Judith.  Salome and Judith were best friends through their whole lives.

King Offa was a powerful warlord, hell-bent to unite as much of Britain as he could under his control.  If he could not conquer a neighboring country, he found some way to make an alliance with it.  That was how King Beorhtric of Wessex happened to marry Salome.  They were very happy together and supported Offa's work, helping his allies and attacking his enemies.  Once, Beorhtric planned a banquet to which he invited a bitter enemy.  He proposed that the dinner would be a peace conference, but in truth, he wanted his wife to poison his enemy's wine.  Sadly, Salome poisoned her husband as well as his enemy.  In terror, she fled to France, which was at the time governed by Charlemagne.
Charley: "You'd really rather have Pepin the Short?

Charlemagne was impressed by the young English princess.  Widow or not, murderess or not, he thought she'd make a fine wife but he figured he would put her to the test first.  He brought her to the his palace and introduced her to one of his sons.  Then he asked which she would prefer to marry, him or his son.  She answered honestly that, given the age difference, she would rather have the son.  Too bad for her.  It was out the door and down the road to a nunnery.

To be fair, Charlemagne was not too hard on her.  He did appoint her abbess of the convent, a softer gig than she might have expected.  But it didn't take her too long to blow that too.  Caught in bed with a visiting Saxon, she was hustled out the door and into the gutter.  That was when she figured a pilgrimage would be a good idea.

As she set off for the Holy Land, her aunt Judith set off from Mercia to find her.  At this point, you need to picture the yellowed map with red lines forming as two small dots move across it.  When the first reaches the Holy Land, it turns to head west.  The second keeps following the first.

Blue Danube, Columbus OH: this Danube won't make you a blind leper
The pilgrim's life did not diminish Salome's beauty, but it changed her perspective. Although she no longer wished for the pleasures of married life -- with or without the marriage itself -- she was still desired by men.  As she was traveling through Regensburg, she prayed that she might suffer some disease which would make her less appealing to men.  She was struck blind, fell into the Danube River, and shortly afterwards was diagnosed with leprosy.  Careful what you wish for.

She moved into the convent attached to the church in Niederaltaich, which is where Aunt Judith found her.  Judith too decided to spend her remaining years in that convent, where they lived so ascetically and penitently that they continue to be revered as saints there.

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