Prætextatus (bishop of Rouen)

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Frédégonde visite Prétextat sur son lit de mort (Fredegund visits Prætextatus on his deathbed), painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, of the bishop's enemy enjoying his suffering.

Saint Prætextatus (died 25 February 586), also spelled Praetextatus, Pretextat(us), and known as Saint Prix, was the bishop of Rouen from 549 until his assassination in 586.

He was present at the councils of Paris (557), where marriages within certain degrees of consanguinity were declared incestuous, and at Tours (566). However, he is less remembered for his ecclesiastical involvement than for his political connections. He wed the lovers Merovech of Soissons, son of King Chilperic I of Neustria, and Brunhilda, widow of King Sigebert I of Austrasia, in order to prevent their affair from scandalising them, their families, and his city. This, however, led to his downfall. Merovech had risen against his father and Chilperic called the bishop to a council at Paris in the church of St Peter. There he was charged with high treason and with distributing gifts to enemies of the king to instigate revolt. His friend, the great Gregory of Tours, came to his defence, but eventually, persuaded by Chilperic's men, he pleaded guilty and confessed to joining the revolt because Merovech had been his godson. He was promptly banished to Jersey (577).

In 584, upon Chilperic's death, Guntram, king of Burgundy, assumed the regency for Chilperic's son, Clotaire II. Guntram returned Prætextatus to his old see. In 585, he was at the council of Mâcon, where he tried to reform the rules for clerical discipline which had served him so poorly. In 586, he was assassinated by order of Fredegund, the mother of Clotaire, whom, resident in Rouen, he had often reproved for her wicked conduct, including the murders of Sigebert, her brother-in-law; Chilperic, her husband; Clovis, her stepson; and Merovech, Prætextatus' godson. He died at his altar on 25 February and has been canonised by the Roman Catholic Church.


Preceded by
Bishop of Rouen
Succeeded by