Chlothar II needed a new place to sit, a throne befitting his station as the new King of the Franks. He already had a throne that was to his liking in his original palace in Neustria, but now that he had won the crowns of Austrasia and Burgundy, he wanted to commission a piece that would, in no uncertain terms, tell the world that he was the new sovereign of both of these kingdoms as well.
Unfortunately, Chlothar’s desires, while sensible in a certain light, outstripped his resources. Raising armies was expensive work, and the payoffs he had had to make to ensure the loyalty of large groups of men had depleted his coffers. Another issue he had was figuring out where to put the new throne. If he put the throne in Metz, he would make the Burgundians believe he favored that northern kingdom above theirs. The same problem would arise if he did the reverse and placed a throne in Orléans. In the best of all worlds, he could have a seat in both.
Eligius was able to take the gold and gems that other craftsmen said would only make one throne - if even that - and instead returned to the King with two amazing new seats. His craftsmanship and his honesty in not stealing any of the source material launched his career at the Merovingian court, and became the origin story for a man who would ultimately become a Saint!
However, there are depictions of Eligius and the thrones that show him providing the King with... two saddles? Like, horse saddles. Heavy, back-breaking, lovely but functionally useless golden saddles. How did this come to pass? It ends up that the Latin for throne and saddle is remarkably similar; this has led to depictions of the Saint providing the King with both! I obviously err on the side of thrones, but as we'll see today, translations are often in the eye of the beholder. That's how we've also ended up with Lancelot fighting a flaming dwarf, Moses wearing horns, and kings being declared "Unready," even if they weren't!
For more on Eligius and the perils of translations, listen to the episode! And if you're ready for Season Two of Thugs and Miracles, well, I have good news! We're back on 6 September, so be sure to catch us then. We're jumping right into all sorts of court politics and machinations with the Mayors of the Palace; it's so good, and we hope you'll join us when we return! 6 September!
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