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Entry by Noëlle Deflou-Leca, 2006.

Itte belonged to a great aristocratic family whose poorly-positioned estate was very extensive. It is likely that her father was a count or duke in the Aquitaine, and her brother, Modoald, became the bishop of Trèves. She married Pépin I of Landen, who owned an abundance of land in the region of Metz, in Brabant and in Namurois.Named Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia by King Clothar II, he governed that part of the kingdom, and, alongside Arnoul, the bishop of Metz, oversaw the guardianship of Dagobert, a minor at the time, who had been sent away to Austrasia by his father in order to satisfy the local aristocracy. When Clothar died in 629, Dagobert, who had become king of the whole Frankish kingdom, kept Pepin at his side and withdrew his official Austrasian duties. After the death of the king in 639 and under the reign of his son, Sigebert III, the couple returned to Metz and settled in the Austrasian court, but Pepin died shortly thereafter in 640. He left behind three children: Begga, who married the son of Arnoul of Metz; Anségise, who gave the Pippinids their successors, the future Carolingians; Grimoald, who took over his father's duties as the Mayor of the Palace; and Gertrude who was brought up by her mother.

Widowed, Itte retired to Nivelles, one of the family estates which is today situated in the Walloon Brabant. There she led a pious life with her daughter Gertrude, who refused any other husband than Christ. Circa 648-649, she met the missionary Amand, the future bishop of Tongres-Maastricht who suggested that she found a monastery there. Immediately thereafter, Itte received the veil and had an abbey for women erected. At the time, she met with numerous oppositions, undoubtedly from families who were, nevertheless, counting on entering into a marriage covenant with Gertrude. Confronted with these threats, Itte cut her daughter's hair, thereby dedicating her to religious life. The peace thus restored, Itte ensured that Gertrude and her companions received the veil in turn, and she then installed her daughter as the abbess of the new community. According to the events related in The Life of Saint Gertrude, which was written shortly after the Saint's death, Itte is supposed to have helped her daughter in the running of the community without, however, using the title of abbess. Her experience, her moral character, her concern for asceticism and prayer, as well as her care for the poor, made Itte an inspiration and a paragon. She also oversaw the education and the training of the nuns, ordering works from Rome and from across the Channel.

That was how two Irish monks, Feuillen and his brother Ultain, who had travelled to the continent, ended up in Nivelles shortly after 650; and probably with the consent of her son Grimoald, Itte gave them a piece of land, around thirty kilometers from Nivelles on which to found a monastery which would take the name of Fosses. The links forged between Itte and the Irish monks are likely to be behind the foundation of the male community at Nivelles, which thus became a double abbey under the direction of the abbess herself. Notably, missions beyond the monastery walls were entrusted to the brothers. The links between Fosses and Nivelles were encouraged by Itte and remained strong. Itte died aged sixty at Nivelles on 8 May 653. She was buried at Saint-Pierre, one of the three churches of the monastery.

Itte was typical of those great aristocratic widows who, from the end of the sixth century to the start of the eighth, took part in the spread of female monasticism, and who made the foundation of monasteries part of family strategy regarding development and the religious underpinning of aristocratic power. (translated by Sharon Deane-Cox)

Selected bibliography

- Dierkens, Alain, «Saint Amand et la fondation de l'abbaye de Nivelles», dans Saint Géry et la christianisation dans le nord de la Gaule Ve-IXe siècles, Actes du colloque de Cambrai (5-7 octobre 1984),Revue du Nord, 269, avril-juin 1986, p.325-334.

- Moreau de, Édouard, Histoire de l'Église en Belgique, I, La formation de la Belgique chrétienne des origines au milieu du Xe siècle, Bruxelles, L'Édition universelle, 1945 (2e éd.).

- Santinelli, Emmanuelle, Des Femmes éplorées. Les veuves dans la société aristocratique du haut Moyen Âge, Villeneuve d'Ascq, Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2003.

- Thiellet, Claire, Femmes, reines et saintes (Ve-XIe siècles), Paris, Presses de l'Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2004.

Also known as Iduberga
sainte Ide
Birth date around 592
Death 652
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