Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume II: February. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Pretextatus, or Prix, Archbishop of Rouen, Martyr
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 Burgandy, 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 marriages, but denied that he had been privy to the princes 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 favour 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 Coutances. His sufferings he improved to the sanctification of his soul by penance and the exercise of all heroic Christian virtues. The rage and clamour 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 step-mother 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 honour 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 labours in the care of his flock, and by just remonstrances often endeavoured 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 whilst 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 labouring effectually to cut off this evil, convert its punishment into its remedy and a source of benedictions. St. Prix of Rouen is honoured 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 Lords Resurrection in this passage of our historian, means no more than Sunday. See St. Gregory of Tours, Hist. Franc. l. 5. c. 10. 15. Fleury, l. 34. n. 52. Gallia Christiana Nova, t. 11. p. 11. and 638. Mons. Levesque de la Ravaliere in his Nouvelle Vie de S. Gregoire, Evêque de Tours, published in the Mémoires de lAcadémie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, An. 1760, t. 26. p. 609. 60. F. Daniel, Hist. de France, t. 1. p. 242.