Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Saint Begga of Landen
615 - 17 December 693
Great Great Great Grandmother of Emperor Charlemagne
My 38th Great Grandmother

As with many saints from whom I descend, the family of Saint Begga is rife with other saints, both ancestrally and among their descendants.  I am fervently praying that some of this sanctity will rub off on me! Begga's mother was Saint Itta (Saint Ida) and her older sister was Saint Gertrude of Nivelle. Mother and sister established a monastery of Benedictine nuns at Nivelles, which is now in Belgium.  Saint Gertrude was Abbess.  She is the patron saint of travelers, gardeners and cats.  If you have a rat infestation, she's the saint to call upon, and she is also invoked for intercession in cases of mental illness.   Gertrude died at a young age, no doubt due to illnesses induced by exhaustion from too rigorous a program of austerities such as long vigils and short rations.  This aspect of a saint's life has no appeal for me whatsoever.  I would like to live for a long time so I have a chance to make up for all the mistakes in the early years, before I became a Christian and when I was lost in my sin.

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, Begga's sister
Photograph of the statue at Nivelles 
by Jean-Pol Grandmont

Begga's father was Pepin of Landen, who was mayor of the palace of Austrasia, which was in the northeastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks in the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries.  The Frankish tribes occupied this territory until Clovis I unified them.  During the Carolingian Empire, the territorial character of the region dissipated.  (For more information about the time period in question, and a rather good dissertation on the main historical events and personages of the area of Austrasia, see the Wikipedia page HERE)

Begga also married into a saintly family when she took Ansegise as husband, who was the son of Saint Arnulf (sometimes "Arnoul" or "Arnold," depending on the language of the person referring to him.)

Painting by an anonymous artist who loosely 
copied a Reubens painting of the saint and
her husband. It is in the Royal Museum of 
Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium

Begga's son, Pepin of Herstal, was the founder of the Carolingian dynasty of the rulers of France, also my ancestors.

When her husband was killed by his enemy Gundewin during a feud, Begga made a pilgrimage to Rome, then took the veil, rapidly founded seven churches and built a convent at Andenne on the Meuse River.  Her sister supplied her with a small number of nuns who laid the foundation of the monastic observance in that institution.  Begga was abbess there for the rest of her life, dying in 693 at the age of 78, which was quite an advanced age at that time.  The Monastery was thereafter converted into a "collegiate church"  of thirty two canonesses from the noble families.  According to the definitions I have been able to find, a "collegiate church" is a church in which the daily office and worship is maintained by a college of canons.  It is a lay institution presided over by a dean or provost.  I will have to research it some more because it doesn't sound quite Catholic, does it?

Convent at Andenne

Collegiate Church at Andenne,
Where Saint Begga is buried.

Saint Begga has two feast days: September 6 and December 17.  Some people attribute the founding of the Beguines to Saint Begga, but this is almost certainly myth.  The Beguines are thought to have gotten their name from Father Lambert le Begue, whose protection they enjoyed.

The thing that impresses me about these saints is that they joyfully abandon prestige, money, fame and comfort to pursue what was usually an extremely hard life of monastic penance. I wonder if the certainty of judgment day and the possibility of hell was more real to them than it is to many of us. Did they have more faith, or were the austerities and penances a fad of the time?

Bust in the entrance gate of the beguinage in the Turnhout
District, Antwerp.  Stone bust is in a large round niche in
the gate of the Begijnhof (beguine house.)  Bust was donated 
by J.B. Cleeren in 1768
Image found on "Statues - Hither & Thither"



Catholic Online

National Society of Saints and Sinners

Saints and Blesseds who Left Descendants

Find a Grave Memorial Page

Satues - Hither & Thither

Emerson Kent - World History for the Relaxed Historian

Silver "Rose" Parnell
(c) 2015
All rights reserved.


  1. We have gone back trough our ancestry and discovered St. Begga on our lineage also! Thank you for the really nice blog with so much interesting information!

    1. Bless you for your kindness! I really enjoy researching the saints. Currently, I am writing a book about a saint to whom I am related. It's a lot of fun. Thank you for taking the time to leave a message. I apologize for not responding sooner, but I have had computer and internet issues for a long time. Stay in touch, my cousin!

  2. My family has us ibdexed through Saint Begga as well. She is lovely and I enjoy learning about her and her life. Was St. Arnulf a brother to Bishop Gandolf?

  3. Saint Begga was my 37th great grandmother

    1. Hello, my cousin! Great to hear from you. I love hearing from all my distant cousins, especially those descended from the saints!

  4. She is an ancestor of mine as well.....also St. Helena who died around 330.

  5. She is my 37th great grandmother, as well! Can anyone tell me what she was patron saint of? I see St. Gertrude was patron of travelers, gardners and cats... Would it be the same for St. Begga or no?

    1. In that case, Jennifer, you and I are cousins. Sorry for the long delay in replying. It's been a tough few weeks. What I know of this saint is included in this blog, but there is plenty of information about her on the internet. You know what they say..."Google is your friend!"

  6. I grew up in a military family (not counting ancestors such as Charlemagne or Constantine the Great), so I was never close to my family. Now, as I research my genealogy, I love meeting family members and learning more about family members.

    Thank you for the information about St. Begga, my 38th Great-Grandmother.

  7. I'm glad to have come across your website. I'm also a distant cousin to you and others who have commented -- St. Begga is my 37th great-grandmother. Thanks for your work!

  8. So exciting. St. Begga is my 39th great grandmother. I want to learn so much more. Hello cousins.

  9. Another distant cousin here. St.Begga also is my 39th great-grandmother and I am descended from her through my Montoya ancestors from New Mexico and Spain. The genealogy journey has been enlightening and exciting. Praised Be Jesus Christ!

  10. Greetings! Another distant cousin here! Was at my family reunion yesterday and was trying to learn some of my family history when this was brought up! Thank you so much for what you have shared here! I am excited to learn about the people I came from. What you have shared means so much to me.. Thank you!