Tales and legends
The " Enervés " of Jumièges.
presented by F. ALLAIS
Saint Philibert founded Jumieges Abbey in 654. King Clovis II and QueenBathilde's generosity allowed him to build three cllurches. The first one was
dedicated to the Virgin. Its altar was decorated with gold, silver and gemsthanks to the help of Saint Bathilde 's munificence and devotion.
These royal donations favoured Saint Philibert. Then he sent for seventyBenedictine monks who led edifying lives.
A large number or lords, attracted by the food name of the monastery cameto devote their lives to Cod after giving their property to the Abbey.
In ten years, the religious community grew up to eight hundred people. Inspite of the Abbey's wealth their rule of lift was most austere.
As early as the Middle Ages, the monks had claimed that Clovis II andBathilde had granted the monastery one fourth of the income of the crown
until it had enough means to support a great deal of monks.the " Enerves " Legend, just as the Wolfs we told you about in the previous
book is said to date back to the foundation of the Abbey. indeed the Kingand the Queen had to give their royal assent and a financial assistance for
such a monument to be built.As a tribute to these generous sovereigns, the monks imagined this
wonderful and dramatic legend between the twelfth and the thirteenthcentury. As early as those days a fresco was painted on the walls of the
cloister. In numerous paintings it depicts the different episodes of thistragedy. Low reliefs located at the feet of Clovis and Saint Bathildes statues
show the princes collected by Saint Fhilibert from their small boat and the
presentation of the clerical dress.The tomb of the " Enervés " , also seems to date back to the same period. They
are dressed in the same way as the heirs of the French realm at the beginningof the thirteenth century as they can be seen today in Saint Denis Basilica.
An · " Enervé " is a personn whose nerves have been stripped off.
The head of one of the "Enervés" of Jumièges
The " Enervés " in the " Franciade "
In the sixteenth century, the most famous French poet, Pierre de Ronsard,mentioned this legend in his Fourth Canto of the Franciade in 1562.
" Puis (le roi) retourné pour quelque trouble en FranceDe ses enfants punira l'arrogance,Qui, par flatteurs, par jeunes gens deceus (trompeurs)
Vers celle ingrats qui les avait conçusDe tout honneur dégraderont leur mère,Et donneront la bataille à leur père.Leur mère adonc,ah!mère sans merci !l (pitié)
Fera bouillir leurs jambes, et ainsyTous meshaignez (mutilés) les doit jeter en SeineSans guide iront où le fleuve les meine,
A l'abandon des vagues et des ventsGrave supplice afin que les enfants,Par tel exemple, apprennent à ne faire
Chose qui soit a leurs parents contraire. "This canto strives toward a moral design whose aim is to show the respect
that children owe to their parents. No redeeming or religious promise forthese rebellious and insubordinate sons. The Queen herself brings justice
against them in the most rigorous way. No leniency softens their tragic end.
The Legend of the " Enervés " after Adrien Langlois
The version we have decided to submit to yous by far the most completeand the noblest one. It is attributed to Dom Adrien Langlois who had been
elected prior of Jumièges Abbey in 1615." It is in this holy place (Jumièges Abbey) that the two eldest sons of
Clovis II and St Bathilde were sent by heaven to repent "The hand written history cluotes that Clovis was very young when he
succeeded to the French throne after the death of his father Dagobert. Hemarried a foreigner, a Saxon called Bathilde, who was canonised by the
Church as one of its saints. Clovis had five sons by her through thechroniclers never mentioned the two youngest ones because of their infamy
and they considered them as unworthy to come down to posterity as royalchildren.Some historians declared that Clovis was full of piety and devotion.
As aresult he decided to go and visit the Holy Sepulchre of Our Lord as well asother places in the Holy Land. It fell to Bathilde, his wife, to rule over the
realm in which she was supported by the council and the authority of a fewprinces and lords.But as soon as he had set our
on his journey with the majority of the nobleshe had chosen to assist him, several jealous lords who considered they were
treated as unworthy felt unhappy because the King had left them behind sothey began to conspire against the Queen. They aroused several others to
insurrection and to revolt. They considered that it was not for a woman,moreover a foreign one, to rule the French realm. They even managed to
turn her two eldest sons aga Lnst her obed ience.The Queen, who had been informed of this conspiracy warned her husband
as soon as possible. The minute he learnt of this news, he turned back andtried to get back to his realm by way of forced marches. Under the two
perfidious son's authority the conspirators raised large armies in order toprevent the return of the King. They appeared on the battle field against
their lather.But Clovis and his loyal servants placed themselves for help in the hands ofGod who never abandons his own. He put to rout the multitude
of rebelswho were killed for a great part of the spot. The others succeeded inescaping but the two sons and the main conspirators were held prisoners
and taken away to Paris.There, the King gathered his counsellors, princes and lords so that theyshould all try the rebels. They were sentenced to death
each one in adifferent way according to his rank and the Fart he Flayed in the uprising.With regard to the trial of their princes, they besought the King
to impugnthem upholding that it is only up to the sovereign and the Queen to chastisetheir childrenAs the King did not like to condemn them himself,
their mother was askedto judge them which relieved Clovis II all the more.Then St Bathilde inspired by the spirit of God preferred her children being
punished in their bodies to knowing they were submitted to eternal sufferingas God could not let such a crime go unpunished.
With harshness however tempered with mercy and to satisfy the demands ofdivine justice, Bathilde declared them incapable to succeed to the throne.
Asthey had risen up against their father thanks to their strength and theirphysical power, she ordered that their nerves should be stripped off their
bodies to leave them disabled. Then she led them to a skiff or a boat withoutany oars and loaded with supplies on the Seine. Only one servant went
along with them to support them. She handed over the small boat toprovidence and to the mfrcy of God. Thanks to this protection the vessel
sailed rapidly to Newstria.It reached the chore near a monastery called Jumièges by the Ancients andwhich had been founded under King Dagobert's
reign.St Phillbert, the chief abbot who had been informed went there to welcomethem, accompanied by his brethren.He recognised the Princes and was
toldabout their act of treachery. But he admired their composure and hearing. Hekindly welcomed them and receive them in his monastery. He offered
prayers to God until they recovered.They were taught monastic discipline and spiritual life.Nevertheless, after being informed of the happy outcome of
the journey, theKing and the Queen came with the utmost urgency to Jumieges monastery.They were greatly soothed and comforted. They gave thanks
to God andagreed that their children s! should take their vows in accordance with theirwishes.They firmly believed that the Lord had decided that their
fate should be tobecome monks and that they should lie and die in this holy place to whichtheir grandfather Dagobert had already devoted his heart an
set hisaffection.The King and the Queen attended the ceremony of their children takingorders.They thought that they had sufficiently paid for their
crime by takingorders and entering religious life which is a second baptism. They decided todeprive them in no wav of their inheritance and their estate
in a spiritcontrary to the severity of the first sentence.But instead of their rights to succeed to the throne they gave the monastery
large privileges and many possessions in order to expand the properties ofthe monks and also to increase the number of brethren.
Such was the end of the life of those two children of France. They livedhappily in this monastery which, to keep their memory, was called, m the
chronicle of France a the Abbey of the " Enerves ".
The tomb of the " Enervés "
Nowadays, the only trace of this wonderful story is the tomb of the" Enerves " which can be seen by the public in the abbey church as well as a
painting by Luminais from the nineteenth century which is reproduced onour book-cover. This painting can be seen in the Arts museum of Rouen.
However the legend is persistent and the inhabitants of Jumieges are oftencalled " Enervés ", (in this case " Enervés ", means over excited). So, it is not
because of their dispositions ( as they are rarely hostile and even oftenhospitable if people make the effort of meeting them ) but because of the
sound association between the two words.Hyacinthe Langlois devoted a scholarly and well documented study to the
story of this legend. His study is called : " Essay about the Jumièges Enervés " published in 1.838. This too rare book does not seem to have been
published again. We are borrowing from it the main elements about theauthor's reflection to clarify the pseudo-historical fact which is " only
founded on the inventions of some monks who will, according to ancientcustom, have embellished the deeds of St Bathilde " .
Here is the tomb of the " Enervés " Princes such as Father Duplessisdescribed it:" it represents two young lords aged sixten or seventeen at the most,
lyingfull length on their backs. Their outfit is noble: they are wearing long dresseswhich come down to their feet " .
Dom Adrien Langlois completed this description in an interesting way in hisShort collection of Jumièges antiques.
" They are the two figures and effigies of the two sons carved clad in long
clothes nettled and sprinkled with many fleurs-de-lis in the way old Kingswore them "
_The thesis of Dom Adrien Langlois
The thesis of Dom Adrien Langlois claims they are the sons of Bathilde and
Clovis II. This thesis is demolished by the description Langlois himself made
of it. Indeed, in the seventh century, the House of France was not
represented by the lily yet. It only appeared in the twelfth century under the
reign of Philippe de Valois.
In the case of Clovis II, he is only remembered in History by the following
details : he was "a voluptuous, half imbecile prince, one of the most
sedentary of all our idle Kings. He got married in 649 and died in 656 aged
only twenty two or twenty six according to the most optimistic sources. He
had three children who were all Kings ".
It turns out quite clearly that he could not have had sons old enough to be
able to revolt against him. Moreover, this stay-at-hare King would not have
had the time enough to conceive five children, all born at different dates, and
to go to the crusades. So it could not refer to the children of Clovis and of
Bathilde. History belies the legend, and a number of assumptions then take
the shape to explain the existence of the tomb.
The thesis of Father Duplessis
The thesis of Father Duplessis insists on the youth of the two martyrs.
According to him, they would appeared to be Carloman's sons, the brother
of Pepin Le Bref. He upholds that they became their Uncle Cripon's allies.
The latter did revolt against Carloman to try to seize hold of the kingly
Power but his attempt was a failure. Have again, history has no solution. It
does not mention that the two sons were involved in the insurrection nor
than they were obviously locked up in Jumièges. Duplessis takes the
advantage of the fact that the life of these two children was related nowhere
to found his theory. He fills in his own way a historical gap on condition that
the possible opponent proves with documents that his theory is inaccurate.
Now, the records of this period are very poor except those about tile blood
ties of the royal families or of the nobility. Indeed the Church drew up
registers of all the religious ceremonies which punctuated the big events of
court life such as baptisms, marriages, or funerals. One can manage thanks
to these documents, to piece together the lineages of the French families.
However when an individual did not win fame neither on a political scene
nor from a religious point of view, no official act allowed him to leave an
historical trace of his life. For these people excluded from history a multitude
of more or less serious hypotheses can sometimes give substance to an
exceptional or marvellous life. Duplessis seems to have chosen this way of
seeing it. Carloman is known to have abdicated to the advantage of Pepin Le
Bref, the father of Charlemagne. He had several children who became monks
and then he devoted hitnself to monastic life. These are the only objective
elements which support the argumentation of Duplessis.
The thesis of Father Mabillon
Father Mabillon gives us a more truthful demonstration backed up with
historical facts which are better known.
According to him, it would be the tomb of a Bavière Duke called Tassillon
and of his son Théodon. The Benedictine annals report that they came to end
their days as obscure penitents in the Jumièges monastery. They had risen
up against Charlemagne at the end of the eighth century and they had been
condemned to the death penalty However, considering their blood ties with
the Emperor, the latter pardoned them but had them locked up in varied
convents in order that they should atone for their cowardice and their act of
treachery. They died at the Jumièges monastery and were buried in the
To reinforce Mabillon's thesis, it must be noted that in the place where the
tomb located was found a four foot deep excavation in which were lying two
skeletons one by the other. Their feet were turned to the east which clearly
points to the fact that they were not priests or monks whose heads are
always turned to the Orient but seculars or recluses who do not show this
characteristic. The Abbey would not have been for them a place for devotion
but doubtless a jail.
Moreover when the best preserved skull was examined it turned out that the
individual it beloged was an old man.
The weak points of these theses
In spite of the quality of Mabillon's proposition with regard to the historical
context we must be worry of not rushing to conclusions because this
proposition creates new problems. Why and how was not their tomb
destroyed during the Danish invasions which in the ninth century " stripped
the churches or the dormitories of all the things they could take away, set fire
to the buildings, undermined their foundations and only left the places after
seeing the churches and all the other constructions crumbling amidst the
While the Abbeys were being ransacked the tombs were often plundered
Seine was in the hands of the Bretons who left their name to the Brotonne
forest. A power had to be established which would be able to resist indeed to
repel this " barbarian " invasion. It is why two abbeys were erected
simultaneously : St Wandrille and Jumièges.
Finally the catholic religion enjoyed at that period a significant expansion. A
protected abbey represented for the people a guarantee of safety. At the
same time it brought steady work and some affluence. The royal crown also
drew benefits from it; peace could be brought to the country and in this wav
the influence of the realm could be increased. Then one can realise that
factors of a political nature have played as important a role as royal piety in
the construction of Jumieges Abbey. Bathilde, after her husband's death,
became regent of the realm. Thanks to her prodigality she managed to gain
the support of the Church because many people coveted her crown. Her
authority which was accepted in the religious field enabled to establish her
political power. The fact that she was clear-sighted enough to set up
Jumiègcs Abbey shows that she considered the Seine· as an insufficient
defence to insure the safety of the royal property. The Danish and Norman
invasions of the following centuries proved that her reflections were true.
But the myth of the " Enervés " had no reason to exist yet.
The rebirth of the legend
in the Seventeenth century
The last question is about the text itself of the legend such as it was described
by Dom Adrien Langlois and was presented to you at the beginning of the
Why did the Frier of the abbey choose in 1615 to unearth this prodigious
story which already dated back to nearly ten centuries ?
It must be noticed that at the beginning of the seventeenth century, Balthazar
Poittevin was Abbot of Jumièges. He had been put at the head of the abbey
by the King but it was the prior who administered it !
Dom Langlois wanted thus to introduce here the Saint Vannes Reform better
known under the name of Saint-Maur Reform. However, most of the monks
of the peninsula lived with slackening moral standards and they refused
straightway to restore the original discipline in their religious order.
However he implemented rules which rorbade monks to let women come
into the precinct of the convent on pain of excommunication. Many
cenobites were not convinced by his arguments. But a tragic event helped
him : eight of his opponents happened to die in a wat. which was as sudden
as untimely - was it poisoning ? - but the fact remains that their deaths made
the others believe that God himself was asking this change. Thanks to this
divine help, Dom Langlois was re-elected Prior and two monks from Saint
Vannes assisted him in his task. Three years were required to quieten down
the most recalcitrants but in 1618 the reform was adopted. With this agitation
the monks lost the confidence of the people. They hardly felt concerned by
the inner struggles of the Church because the wars of religion between
Catholics and protestants had just ended with the Edit de Nantes. The
Reformists had, as much as the Traditionalists, to draw closer to the people
of their country in order that the latter should not divert from the Church.
Then this legend was a good opportunity to present Jumièges, already
chosen by the Crown, as the guardian of royal religious fervour. The
inhabitants of the region then made large donations to restore the monastery
which improved during the whole seventeenth century despite the
Moreover, Dom Langlois wrote a petition to the King and the Queen mother to encourage new monks to
came. He took the opportunity to remind them that the Abbey was a royal
gift and that the monarchy had to provide for its upkeep and its splendour.
The legend of the " Enerves " , was just what he needed to help his plans.
The reintroduction of this story allowed Dom Langlois to assert his authority
over the Abbey property and over the local population. He found on the
King's side the money necessary to increase the influence of the monastery
throughout the country.
Myth and poetry
The reality of the facts matters little today.
We are left with a beautiful story which constitutes on its own a jewel in the
case of the Abbey and in the collective memory of the inhabitants of
It is partly thanks to its legend that Jumieges is famous all around Europe.
its stones have a soul or a mystery which captivates all the visitors and the
episode of the · " Enervés " of Jumièges is doubtless one of the most beautiful
pieces of its history.
C.A DESHAYES: L'Abbaye royale de Jumièges·, Ed. Gerard Monfort, Brionne.
E.H LANGLOIS: · Essai sur les enervés de Jumièges , Ed; Edouard Frere, Rouen 1830
Chamoine JOUEN: Jumièges à travers l'histoire, à travers les ruines, Roucn 1954
Congrés scientifique du Xlllème centenaire. Rouen 1955.