Christian Prisoners in the Middle Ages (301–1200)

[ABOVE—St. Sigismund of Burgundy, by Georges Jansoone (JoJan) (Own work (own photo)) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. After a bloodthirsty reign, he became a monk, was imprisoned around 523, and executed in captivity.]

During the Middle Ages we encounter the sad spectacle of people who called themselves Christians incarerating (and even killing) others who bore the same name—a practice which would only become more common in successive centuries.

The prisoners featured in this section seem to have been innocent of the crimes alleged against them. To be in prison for a crime is bad; to be in prison for no wrongdong is worse in one sense but more blessed in another. All three rose above the injustice done them; two used their hours of incarceration to produce triumphant works of literature.

These prisoners are listed chronologically by year of death.

Chrysostom (c. 347–407) Exiled, Forced to Walk Until He Drops

Boethius (c. 480–c. 525) Writes His Philisophical Masterpiece on Death Row

Stubborn Maximus the Confessor (c.508–662) Insisted Christ Has Two Wills

Theodulf of Orleans (750–821) Pens a Praise-Hymn in Prison