ST. PRETEXTATUS, OR PRIX, M. ARCHBISHOP OF ROUEN.
HE was chosen archbishop of Rouen in 549, and in
557 assisted at the third council of Paris held to abolish incestuous
marriages, and remove other crying abuses: also at the second council
of Tours in 566. By his zeal in reproving Fredegonda for her
injustices and cruelties, he had incurred her indignation. King
Clotaire I., in 562, had left the French monarchy divided among his
four sons. Charibert was king of Paris, Gontran of Orleans and
Burgundy, Sigebert I. of Austrasia, and Chilperic I. of Soissons.
Sigebert married Brunehault, younger daughter of Athanagilde, king of
the Visigoths in Spain, and Chilperic her elder sister Galsvinda; but
after her death he took to wife Fredegonda, who had been his
mistress, and was strongly suspected to have contrived the death of
the queen by poison. Hence Brunehault stirred up Sigebert against her
and her husband. But Fredegonda contrived the assassination of king
Sigebert in 575, and Chilperic secured Brunehault his wife, her three
daughters, and her son Childebert. This latter soon made his escape,
and fled to Metz, where he was received by his subjects, and crowned
king of Austrasia. The city of Paris, after the death of Charibert in
566, by the agreement of the three surviving brothers, remained
common to them all, till Chilperic seized it. He sent Meroveus, his
son by his first wife, to reduce the country about Poitiers, which
belonged to the young prince Childebert. But Meroveus, at Rouen, fell
in love with his aunt Brunehault, then a prisoner in that city; and
bishop Prix, in order to prevent a grievous scandal, judging
circumstances to be sufficiently cogent to require a dispensation,
married them: for which he was accused of high treason by king
Chilperic before a council at Paris, in 577, in the church of St.
Peter, since called St. Genevieve. St. Gregory of Tours there warmly
defended his innocence, and Prix confessed the marriage, but denied
that he had been privy to the prince’s revolt; but was
afterwards prevailed upon, through the insidious persuasion of
certain emissaries of Chilperic, to plead guilty, and confess that
out of affection he had been drawn in to favor the young prince, who
was his godson. Whereupon he was condemned by the council, and
banished by the king into a small island upon the coast of Lower
Neustria, near Contances. His sufferings he improved to the
sanctification of his soul by penance and the exercise of all heroic
Christian virtues. The rage and clamor with which his powerful
enemies spread their slanders to beat down his reputation, staggered
many of his friends: but St. Gregory of Tours never forsook him.
Meroveus was assassinated near Terouanne, by an order of his
stepmother Fredegonda, who was also suspected to have contrived the
death of her husband Chilperic, who was murdered at Chelles, in 584.
She had three years before procured Clovis, his younger son by a
former wife, to be assassinated, so that the crown of Soissons
devolved upon her own son Clotaire II.: but for his and her own
protection, she had recourse to Gontran, the religious king of
Orleans and Burgundy. By his order Prix, after a banishment of six
years, was restored with honor to his see; Ragnemond, the bishop of
Paris, who had been a principal flatterer of Chilperic in the
persecution of this prelate, having assured this prince that the
council had not deposed him, but only enjoined him penance. St. Prix
assisted at the council of Macon in 585, where he harangued several
times, and exerted his zeal in framing many wise regulations for the
reformation of discipline. He continued his pastoral labors in the
care of his flock, and by just remonstrances often endeavored to
reclaim the wicked queen Fredegonda, who frequently resided at Rouen,
and filled the kingdom with scandals, tyrannical oppressions, and
murders. This Jezabel grew daily more and more hardened in iniquity,
and by her secret order St. Prix was assassinated while he assisted
at matins in his church in the midst of his clergy on Sunday the 25th
of February. Happy should we be if under all afflictions, with this
holy penitent, we considered that sin is the original fountain from
whence all those waters of bitterness flow, and by laboring
effectually to cut off this evil, convert its punishment into its
remedy and a source of benedictions. St. Prix of Rouen is honored in
the Roman and Gallican Martyrologies. Those who with Chatelain, &c.
place his death on the 14th of April, suppose him to have been
murdered on Easter-day; but the day of our Lord’s Resurrection
in this passage of our historian, means no more than Sunday. See St.
Gregory of Tours, Hist. Franc.1. 5, c. 10, 15. Fleury,1. 34, n. 52.
Gallia Christiana Nova, t. 11, pp. 11 and 638. Mons. Levesque de la
Ravaliere in his Nouvelle Vie de S. Gregoire, Evêque de Tours,
published in the Mémoires de l’Académie des
Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, An. 1760, t. 26, pp. 609, 60. F.
Daniel, Hist, de France, t. 1, p. 242.