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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10 -- Feast of Two Saints named Amalburga

As is often the case, two separate saints who share a name, celebrated on the same feast day, often get mixed up.  Let's take the one from the seventh century first. 
It says "widow and nun," but note fish

Saint Amalburga of Maubeuge is a little tough to pin down.  Even though Maubeuge is in France, she was Lotharingian, which would probably make her Flemish today. Born royal, she married Witger of Lotharingia (alternatively identified as Duke or Count, but clearly the Underboss for the Frankish kings).   They had four daughters and a son, all of whom wound up being canonized.  [There's some dispute about whether they had three or four daughters.  Ermelindis seems to be pretty poorly attested, but Emebert, Reineldis, Gudula, and Pharaildis are solid.]  When the children were grown and settled, Witger and Amalburga parted to join monasteries.  Amalburga became a Benedictine and passed the rest of her life in contemplation of and service to God.  Not much of a story: just Good Wife, Good Mom, Good Nun, Good Saint. 

Saint Amalburga of Temse was an eighth century woman.  A good looking woman, she caught the eye of Pepin the Short, who suggested her as a wife to his son Charles, later Blessed Emperor Charlemagne.  The idea that Charlie pursued her for seven years strikes me as improbable and undignified.  Let's say seven months instead.  [Truth is an elusive concept in hagiography -- I only try to be try to the story rather than bound by the facts.]  The terminus of their unidirectional romance came when he cornered her in a church and tried to abduct her.  She latched onto the altar and would not let go.  He tugged hard enough to break her arm, after which he felt bad and gave up.  Then he felt really bad -- sick, even.  A wasting illness. He sorely repented and asked her forgiveness.  She granted it, he was healed, and he moved on to find other fish in the sea. 
Sturgeon are big fish -- big enough to carry a petite saint across a river or to feed a hungry village

Speaking of fish, Amalburga had a peculiar connection with sturgeon.  There is a reference to a time when she needed to cross the Escant River and a sturgeon swam up and carried her off on its back.  I'm going to embellish the story by saying that she was fleeing the amorous Prince Charles at the time and he stood on the bank of the river, panting and cursing and swearing he'd get her eventually.  During a famine, she summoned sturgeon upriver to feed the hungry people.  And sturgeon were seen escorting her funeral barge.  In addition to being invoked against bruises and broken bones, fishermen in the Benelux countries enlist her favor.  A sturgeon is offered in her chapel each year on July 10.  Although they are seldom found in the Escant anymore, one presents itself annually on the tenth as a voluntary sacrifice. 

Given the more colorful details of Saint Amalburga of Temse's life, it is easy to imagine how folks discussing the Other Amalburga might misappropriate parts of the legend.  Nonetheless, life's not always full of  fish-summoning and dramatic escapes from royal suitors.  Being a good parent, a good spouse, and a good person is good enough. 

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