Saint of the Day – 18 September – Saint Richardis (839-c 895) Holy Roman Empress, Benedictine Abbess – born in 839 at Andlau, Alsace, France and died in c 895 at Andlau, Alsace, France of natural causes. Patronages – Andlau, protection against fire. She was renowned for her piety and was the first abbess of Andlau. Repudiated by her husband, Richardis later became a Christian model of devotion and just rule.
She was born in Alsace, the daughter of Erchanger, count of the Nordgau, of the family of the Ahalolfinger. She married Charles in 862 and was crowned with him in Rome by Pope John VIII in 881. The marriage was childless.
Charles’ reign was marked by internal and external strife, caused primarily by the constant plundering of Norman raiders on the northern French coast. These attacks had intensified as the aggressors, no longer content to pillage the coastline, had moved their attentions to cities and towns along the rivers. The Carolingian world was unable to effectively deal with these external threats.
By 887, Charles appears to have succumbed to fits of madness. During this crisis, Richardis attempted to rule in her husband’s stead but was unsuccessful. In an effort to bring down the over-powerful and hated Liutward, Charles’ Archchancellor, he and Richardis were accused by Charles and his courtiers of adultery. Charles asserted that their marriage was unconsummated and demanded a divorce. She was put to the ordeal by fire, which she passed successfully.
Protected by her family, she then withdrew to Andlau Abbey, which she had founded on her ancestral lands in 880 and where her niece Rotrod was abbess. (Richardis herself was previously lay abbess of religious houses at Säckingen and Zurich). She died at Andlau on 18 September and was buried there.
Richardis was later Canonised and remains translated in November 1049 by Pope Leo IX to a more impressive tomb in the newly rebuilt abbey church. The present tomb dates from 1350.