January 23 – St. Bernard

January 22, 2018


Ambronay Abbey, where St. Bernard of Vienne retired.

Archbishop of Vienne, France. Born in 778; died at Vienne, 23 January, 842. His parents, who lived near Lyons and had large possessions, gave him an excellent education, and Bernard in obedience to the paternal wish, married and became a military officer under Charlemagne. After seven years as a soldier the death of his father and mother recalled him. Dividing his property into three parts — one for the Church, one for the poor and one for his children — he retired to the wilderness of Ambronay where there was a poor monastery. Bernard bought the monastery, enlarged it, and become one of its inmates. Upon the death of the abbot he was elected (805) to the vacant position. In 810 he was chosen Archbishop of Vienne to succeed Volfère, but it was only upon the command of Pope Leo III and of Charlemagne that he accepted the honour. He was consecrated by Leidtrade, Archbishop of Lyons, and distinguished himself by his piety and learning. He took part in drawing up the Capitularies of Charlemagne and aided Agobard in a work upon Jewish superstitions.

Photo of the outside of the Abbey by Thierry de Villepin.

Bernard was a member of the Council of Paris (824) convoked by Louis the Pious, at the request of Eugenius II, in the hope of bringing about an agreement between the Church of France and that of the East as to the devotion to be paid to images. Bernard took an unfortunate position in the quarrels between Louis the Pious and his sons over the partition of the empire between the three sons of his first marriage, to which the monarch had agreed. Like Agobard of Lyons, Bernard sided with the oldest son, Lothair, and was one of the prelates who deposed the emperor at Compiègne and condemned him to make a public penance. Louis soon regained his authority and another council of bishops annulled the action of the one of Compiègne. Agobard and Bernard were deposed, but the sentence of deposition was never carried out, owing to the intervention of Lothair, who had been reconciled to his father. From this time on, the archbishop devoted himself entirely to the duties of his pastoral office. Towards the end of his life he loved to retire to a solitary spot on the banks of the Isère where stands to-day the town of Romans which owes its origin to him. On the approach of death he had himself removed to Vienne. He is honoured in Dauphiny as the patron saint of agricultural labourers.

Acta SS. (3d ed.), January, 111, 157-197; Bibl. hag. lat. (1898), 149-150; CHAPHUIS, St. Bernard ,Archévêque de Vienne (Grenoble, 1898).

A. FOURNET (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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