May 1 – Tamar of Georgia; Sigismund of Burgundy

The Holy Righteous King (Queen) Tamar of Georgia (1166–1213) (წმიდა კეთილმსახური მეფე თამარი) 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. After his death, the aristocracy forced her to make concessions in the power of the crown. Perhaps the greatest indignity was Yuri—a minor Russian nobleman selected for her husband by the nobility. 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 stood up to the nobles, regathered some of the lost prerogatives of the kingship, and sent Yuri 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 threatened invasion, 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 she learned that the Georgian army had prevailed. The army kept prevailing, and soon Georgia was the major power in the region. Neighboring Sultan Rukn al-Din raised an army, then sent an emissary to offer a gracious offer: If Tamar 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: “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 forth to whup the Sultan’s behind.

Tamar was generous towards the poor (she even provided needlework and embroidery from her own hand for the twelfth-century Georgian equivalent of church rummage sales) and strict with herself (she slept on a bed of rock and from all reports just didn’t wear shoes a lot), and 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, of course.

Jeremiah the Prophet (VII cent. BC(E)) was, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, a mild-mannered kind of guy—the sort who in less turbulent times might have owned an ice cream shoppe and given free samples to kids walking home after school. About this we can only speculate, however, since he lived in turbulent times, and was called upon by the LORD to prophesy disaster for the nation of Judah (that, and ice cream hadn’t been invented yet). He was commanded not to take a wife or have children, which enabled him to devote his life full-time to preaching the Bad News. And Bad News it was: the temple at Jerusalem was going to be destroyed if the people didn’t, to paraphrase Carlos Santana, “change [their] evil ways[1].” Nobody likes to be told this, of course, and Jerry became very unpopular. So unpopular that he stood trial for prophesying the destruction of the temple. He defended himself at trial by (pause for effect) prophesying the destruction of the temple. He was acquitted when “certain elders of the land” (who perhaps asked not to be named) noted that Micah the prophet had said basically the same thing. “Oh, well, then it’s okay,” said the judges, and that was that. Jeremiah is also credited with writing Lamentations, a biblical book of, well, jeremiads (look it up).

[1]In the interest of historical accuracy, I feel I must clarify that there is no evidence that Jeremiah ever listened to Santana, or that he even liked Latin rock.