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May 1 Saints of the Day – Tamar of Georgia and Sigismund of Burgundy

On this date in 1930, the (then) planet Pluto was officially named. Rejected names included Goofy, Daffy, and Ignatz.

Tamar of GeorgiaThe Holy Righteous Queen Tamar (წმიდა კეთილმსახური მეფე თამარი) of Georgia (1166 – 1213) was the first female king of that country, because they had no word for “queen regnant.” Proclaimed heir by her father, she coreigned with him for six years amid some grumbling. After his death the grumbling became a major tussle with the aristocracy, and she was forced to make concessions in the power of the crown. Perhaps the greatest indignity was her first husband, Yuri — a minor Russian nobleman selected for her by the Georgian nobility. They said she needed heirs; they said the army needed a leader — the usual spiel. Yuri turned out to be a good enough warrior, but a miserable husband — often drunk, and “inclined toward immoral deeds” (we don’t even want to know what that means). As Tamar grew into the job, she was able to stand up to the nobles, regather some of the lost prerogatives of the kingship, and dump the bum. Yuri was sent packing with a severance check and a “Don’t come back.” (Considering what some medieval kings did to their spouses, I’d say he got off lightly.) The next husband proved to be less of a problem. He knew he’d better.

When the Muslim Persians of Azerbaijan (don’t ask) looked ready to invade, Tamar mustered the army, then took her shoes off. She walked to the Metehki Church of the Theotokos in Tbilisi, and prayed on her knees until word reached her that the Georgian army had staved off the invasion. The army kept going, and soon Georgia was the big kid on the block in that part of the world. So much so that neighboring Sultan Rukn al-Din felt a bit insecure, and brought up an army to challenge her. He first sent an emissary, though, tendering a gracious offer: If she would surrender without a fight, he’d let her join his harem. One of the Georgian noblemen slapped the emissary unconscious. Tamar gave the nobleman a dirty look, the emissary a pile of generous gifts (by way of apology for the K.O.), and the sultan this message: “Pbbbth. The Almighty God of the Christians will whup your behind.” (Paraphrased for effect.) She took off her shoes and led the army to the city gates, and they went out and whupped the Sultan’s army’s behind.

A woman of prayer and action, generous towards the poor (she even provided needlework and embroidery from her own hand for church rummage sales), and hard on herself (she slept on a bed of rock and from all reports just didn’t wear shoes a lot) — her reign marks the “golden age” of the Georgian monarchy. Her relics are supposedly in the Gelati monastery, but recent attempts to locate them have been unsuccessful. Perhaps, knowing what has happened to other saints’ relics, they are hiding somewhere. Barefoot.

Sigismund of BurgundySigismund, King of Burgundy (d. 523) was more orthodox than his dad Gundobald (an Arian), but still had that Teutonic temper, and when his second wife and his son from his first marriage had a falling out, he ordered the son strangled. When the red mist lifted, he was horrified by what he had done, and went off to spend some quality prayer time at a monastery he had earlier founded. He emerged a champion of the poor, spending much of his kingly lucre easing their lives, but still unable to ease his guilty conscience. When the grandchildren of a Frank whom Gundobald had killed came to exact revenge, the Frankish army won the field, and the king fled to a nearby monastery, donning monastic garb and a fake nose. It didn’t work — he was discovered, dragged off, executed, and unceremoniously dumped in a well. He was later hauled out (much to the relief of the people who depended on the well for drinking) and enshrined as a martyr, only to be moved in the fourteenth century to Prague. Why Prague, you ask? I wish I could tell you.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

May 1 (Wikipedia)
Right-believing Tamara, Queen of Georgia (OCA) – Main source
Tamar of Georgia (Wikipedia)
Sigismund of Burgundy (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Sigismund of Burgundy (Wikipedia)


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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