Gregory of Tours’s depiction of king Chilperich I of Neustria (561-584), in the last chapter of Book Six of the Histories, has much darkened the image of the Frankish king. Until recently it was more or less a commonplace in Merovingian historiography that king Chilperich represented the evil and bad king of the Merovingian kingdom. Contrary to common opinion, in this paper we will suggest that Gregory of Tours’s characterisation of king Chilperich as a personification of the evil, conceived in Christian terms and parallel to the models of kingship represented by Nero and Herod, does not correspond to reality, as can be suggested by other passages in Gregory of Tours’s text itself and other Merovingian sources. Reconsidering Gregory’s damnatio memoriae of king Chilperich, we will suggest that it was related to Merovingian politics as well as to the author’s wider conceptions of the composition of his work.
It is rarely acknowledged that the feast of the Exaltation of the True Cross, though celebrated annually on the same date (14th century) both in the Eastern and Western Christian traditions, had rather different origins and meaning. Recent scholarship proved that the events of Heraclius’s age (610-641), i.e. the recovery from Persia and restoration of the True Cross in Jerusalem in 630, were crucial for the introduction of this feast to the West, where it did not exist before this date. The earliest Byzantine liturgical sources however, dating from the 4th century onwards, know this feast and connect it to the finding of the True Cross by Helena. No textual references to the deed of Heraclius are known also in the later Byzantine liturgical texts, while they abound in their Western counterparts. This deliberate forgetting will be discussed here in the context of the condemnation of Heraclius’s Monothelitic doctrine as a heresy in 681.