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Theodelinda in a fresco by Zavattari

Theodelinda, (also spelled Theudelinde) queen of the Lombards, (c. 570-628 AD) was the daughter of duke Garibald I of Bavaria. She was a Frank and Nicene Christian, and became the wife of two consecutive Lombard rulers, Autari and then Agilulf, she won over Autari from paganism and converted him to Christianity.[1] For well over thirty years, she exercised influence across the Lombard realm, which comprised most of Italy between the Apennines and the Alps.


Born a Bavarian princess to King Garibald, Theodelinda's heritage included being descended on her mother's side from the previous Lombard king, Waco, whose family had ruled seven generations prior according tradition.[2] Theodelinda was married first in 588 to Authari, king of the Lombards, son of King Cleph. There are indications that Pope Gregory I may have had an interest in encouraging this marriage as it would tie a Nicene Christian from Bavaria with the Arian Lombards,[a] something he did previously, when he promoted the marriage between the Frankish princess Bertha—great-grandaughter of Clovis—and the Kentish Aethelbehrt.[4] Theodelinda's time with Authari was brief for he died in 590.[5] So highly esteemed across the Lombard kingdom was Theodelinda that when Authari died, she was asked to remain in power and to choose a successor.[6] Historian Roger Collins has misgivings with the reliability of this claim—which stems from Paul the Deacon—and instead, asserts that both political bargaining or naked force were more likely attributable to her choice.[7] Whatever the real situation, a mere two months after Authari's death, Theodelinda picked Agilulf as her next husband and the two were wed,[8][b] she thereafter exerted much influence in restoring Nicene Christianity to a position of primacy in Italy against its rival, Arian Christianity. Her reach extended across most of the Italian peninsula between the Apennines and the Alps.[5]

While her husband Agilulf retained his Arian faith, he allowed his son with Theodelinda to be raised as a Nicene Christian;[10] the Lombard king faced trouble from his dukes, who were convinced that he had consigned himself instead to the faith of the conquered.[1] Agilulf did not permit Theodelinda's faith to shape his policies against the Byzantines.[10] Nonetheless, Theodelinda started building churches in Lombardy and Tuscany, and the first Baptistery of Florence.[citation needed] They were all dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.[citation needed] Frequently, Theodelinda corresponded with Pope Gregory (590–604) in letters, some of which are recorded by the eight-century historian, Paul the Deacon;[6] some of the content in these letters concerned her husband's conversion.[11] To further promulgate Nicene Christianity, she also welcomed missionaries across her realm.[6] Taking full advantage of her piety and possibly to incentivize her continued Nicene proclivities, Pope Gregory sent her a series of silver ampullas of Syro-Palestinian craftsmanship, a gospel casket, and a golden cross from Byzantium.[12]

When Agilulf died in 616, Theodelinda was named regent for their son Adaloald and once he reached maturity, she remained co-ruler over the kingdom.[13][6] Perhaps to further exhibit her faith, she constructed a Nicene cathedral dedicated to St. John the Baptist at Monza (near Milan) and richly endowed it, her support for the Nicene faith also included the establishment of monasteries—one at Bobbio,[14] and later one at Pedona, among others according to Paul the Deacon.[15] Within "the treasure house" that is the cathedral at Monza, one finds a splendidly detailed sculpture of a mother hen and her chicks made of gilded silver, which was likely another gift from Pope Gregory.[16][c]



  1. ^ Maintaining a relationship with Theodelinda was in the interest of the papacy as it provided Gregory with a toehold on the Lombard court.[3]
  2. ^ The same year that Agilulf assumed the Lombard throne, the Pope Pelagius II had died and Gregory the Great became pontiff.[9]
  3. ^ The famous treasure of Monza contains the Iron Crown of Lombardy and the theca persica, enclosing a text from the Gospel of John, sent by Pope Gregory to her for her son Adaloald. Another of the gifts of this pope to the Lombard queen was a cruciform encolpion (reliquary) containing a portion of the True Cross; the history of the queen and her connection with the famous Iron Crown of Lombardy are narrated in the frescoes painted in the Theodelinda Chapel in the Monza Cathedral, work by Ambrogio and Gregorio Zavattari (1444).


  1. ^ a b Silva 1913.
  2. ^ Collins 1999, p. 208.
  3. ^ Duffy 2006, p. 65.
  4. ^ Wallace-Hadrill 2004, p. 53.
  5. ^ a b Marina 2013, p. 386.
  6. ^ a b c d Frassetto 2003, p. 341.
  7. ^ Collins 1999, p. 209.
  8. ^ Hartmann 1913, p. 201.
  9. ^ Bauer 2010, p. 256.
  10. ^ a b Todd 2004, p. 228.
  11. ^ Brown 1995, p. 42.
  12. ^ Wallace-Hadrill 2004, pp. 53–54.
  13. ^ Hartmann 1913, p. 202.
  14. ^ Frassetto 2003, pp. 341–342.
  15. ^ Wallace-Hadrill 2004, p. 54.
  16. ^ O'Donnell 2008, p. 346.


  • Bauer, Susan Wise (2010). The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-39305-975-5.
  • Brown, Thomas (1995). "The Transformation of the Roman Mediterranean, 400–900". In George Holmes (ed.). The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19960-582-8.
  • Collins, Roger (1999). Early Medieval Europe, 300–1000. New York: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 978-0-31221-886-7.
  • Duffy, Eamon (2006). Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes. New Haven; London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-30011-597-0.
  • Frassetto, Michael (2003). Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe: Society in Transformation. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-263-9.
  • Hartmann, L.M. (1913). "Italy under the Lombards". In H.M. Gwatkin; J.P. Whitney (eds.). The Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. III [The Rise of the Saracens and the Foundations of the Western Empire]. New York: Macmillan & Co.
  • Marina, Areli (2013). "The Langobard Revival of Matteo il Magno Visconti, Lord of Milan" (PDF). I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance. University of Chicago Press. 16 (1/2): 377–414.
  • O'Donnell, James (2008). The Ruin of the Roman Empire. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-078741-7.
  • Silva, Paolo (1913). "Lombardy". In Charles G. Herbermann; Edward A. Pace; Conde B. Fallen; Thomas J. Shahan; John J. Wynne (eds.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. Robert Appleton Company and Encyclopedia Press. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  • Todd, Malcolm (2004). The Early Germans. Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell publishing. ISBN 978-1-40511-714-2.
  • Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. (2004). The Barbarian West, 400–1000. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-63120-292-9.

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