Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of Month Date, 2007
Once a Queen, she became a saint
Queen Radegonde escaped a vile husband and entered religious life
St. Radegonde – August 13
By TED FITZGERALD
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
The photo captures the east (apse) end of the 13th century Church of Sainte-Radegonde.
Today, an idea of convent life can be gained from a comprehensive exhibition of artefacts and information that occupies the 13th century former sacristy in the church.
At her death in 587, Radegonde was buried in the church of Sainte-Marie outside the walls, near her beloved Holy Cross Convent. The collegiate church was soon rededicated to the holy woman and became the focus of pilgrimages to honour her. It was replaced in 1099 by a new structure, but today's church dates from only the 13th century.
Relics of the saint still exist in her tomb in the crypt.
The holy woman's church can easily be found by following the blue line painted on the streets of Poitiers. It's one of three colour-coded tours designed to direct walkers to the city's important historic sites.
The bourgh and stately Church of Sainte-Radegonde are about eight blocks from the city centre Tourism Office and the important church of Notre-Dame-le-Grande and just east of the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre.
Its apse overlooks the placid Le Cain River, since the building traditionally faces west away from the rising sun.
Inside, a 17th century statue of the saint in her religious habit occupies a place of honour to the right of the main altar, while an ancient marble statue shows Radegonde crowned and garbed in royal robes as queen.
Today, the nearby Mus‚e Sainte-Croix occupies a modern building on the site of Radegonde's early convent and is a showcase for archaeological and art works, some of which date from the time of the convent.
The order founded by the saint continues to be active and their Abbaye-de-Sainte-Croix still exists now at Saint-Benoit just south of the city.
The saint's image is familiar to most Poitevins and she is portrayed in statues and stained glass in the city's many churches. Because of an event when Poitiers was saved from a siege, she is shown in places in the company of Notre-Dame-le-Grande and Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand, other city patrons.
As far away as Brittany and Normandy in the north, her intercession is sought at selected shrines by those suffering from diseases of the skin. She was also the original patron of Jesus College, the former (1133) Saint-Radegonde Convent in England's Cambridge.
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