Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Aubert, Bishop of Cambray and Arras, Confessor
THIS great prelate was one of the greatest ornaments of the seventh age, and eminent promoters of learning and piety in the Gallican Church. His youth, that most precious season of life, he dedicated to God by the mortification and the absolute conquest of sensual appetites; he was careful to employ all his time usefully, and was a great proficient in sacred learning. Having with great zeal served the Church for many years, he was consecrated bishop of Arras and Cambray on the 24th of March in 633.1 Though solitude, in which he conversed in heaven, and consulted God on his own necessities, and those of his people, was his delight, yet he knew what he owed to others; his door was always open to persons of all ranks and conditions, and he was ever ready to afford every one all comfort and assistance, spiritual and corporal, especially the poor, the sick, and distressed. With extraordinary watchfulness and sagacity he discovered the roots of the disorders which reigned among the people: his prudence and zeal applied the remedies, and all the obstacles he met with, he surmounted by his courage and constancy. His instructions, supported by the wonderful example of his own life, had incredible success in reforming the manners of his numerous flock. It was the first part of his care to train up a virtuous clergy, and to qualify them for their sacred functions by learning and good habits: ignorance, especially in those who are the teachers of others, being a most fatal enemy to virtue, and a rooted and experienced piety being necessary in all youth, that when they attain manhood and are exposed to the dangers of public life in a corrupt world, they may be able to resist the influence of vice and bad example. St. Aubert converted to God innumerable sinners, and induced many persons of quality of both sexes, to renounce the world. The great King Dagobert often resorted to the saint to be instructed by him in the means of securing to himself an eternal kingdom. He listened to him with respect and attention, always rejoiced exceedingly in his heavenly conversation, and received from it the greatest comfort and edification. Out of respect for him he bestowed on his church of our Lady the royal estate and manor of Oneng. St. Landelin was drawn by St. Auberts tears and prayers from apostacy from a religious state, and from a most abandoned course of life into which he fell, at the head of a troop of licentious soldiers, or rather robbers: and in expiation of his crimes, he founded four monasteries, Lobes on the Sambre in Haynault, in 653, which was long very famous; but being secularized, the canons removed their chapter, in 1408, to Binche, three leagues from Mons, towards Charleroi. In 686, leaving St. Ursmar abbot of Lobes, he founded the abbeys of Ane, St. Guislains, and Krespin, near Valenciennes, in which last he died. St. Aubert gave his benediction to St. Guislain, and blessed his cell on the river Hannau or Haine, (which gave name to the province,) in the place which since bears his name, but was then called Ursdung or Ursidonc, i. e. Bears Kennel.
The blessed Count Vincent, called in the world Madelgare, his wife the blessed Waldetrude, and her sister St. Aldegundes received the religious habit from the hands of St. Aubert, and the latter founded the monastery of Maubeuge, the former that of Mons. Our saint built himself many churches, and some monasteries, as Hautmont, in 652, &c. The translation of the relics of St. Vedast at Arras, was performed by him in 666, to a church at that time without the walls of the city, and St. Aubert laid there the foundation of the great monastery which still flourishes. It was soon after most munificently endowed by King Thierry or Theoderic III. who, dying in 691, after a reign of twenty-one years, was buried in this monastery with his second wife, Doda, where their monuments are seen to this day.
By St. Auberts zeal, religion and sacred learning flourished exceedingly in all Haynault and Flanders. Having worthily sustained the burden of the episcopal charge for the space of thirty-six years, he died in 669,2 and was buried in St. Peters church, now a famous abbey of regular canons in Cambray, which bears his name, founded in 1066, by St. Lietbert, bishop of Cambray, who also founded the Benedictin abbey of St. Sepulchre in Cambray, and died on the 23d of June, 1076. St. Auberts shrine is the richest treasure of this magnificent church and abbey.
His festival was kept from the time of his death, on the 13th of December, as appears from the most ancient calendars of that and neighbouring churches; from the Libellus Annalis Domini Bedæ Presbyteri, published by Martenne from a MS. of St. Maximins at Triers, upwards of eight hundred years old, (Anec. t. 3. col. 637.) &c. This festival is a holiday at Cambray, where are also kept two other annual feasts in his honour: the elevation of his relics when they were first enshrined on the 24th of January: and that of their translation the 5th of July. When Guy or Guiard of Laon was bishop of Cambray,3 William the Abbot of St. Auberts, in 1243, removed them into a new rich shrine which he had caused to be made by Thomas, a goldsmith of Douay, as we are informed by an inscription on the shrine. From which time this feast has been kept. The same inscription mentions that this shrine was enlarged and improved in 1275, by James, a goldsmith at Eskierchin, then a considerable town. Gerard I. the learned and zealous bishop of Cambray and Arras, about the year 1020, employed the most eminent Doctor Fulbert to write the life of St. Aubert. This could be no other than Fulbert the celebrated bishop of Chartres, who died in 1028, and had been fellow-scholar with Gerard, in the great school at Rheims under Gerbert of Orleans, afterwards archbishop of Ravenna, and lastly Pope Sylvester II.4 This life of St. Aubert is given imperfect by Surius: copied in MS. entire with notes and preliminary disquisitions, by M. Henry Dionysius Mutte, dean of the metropolitical church of Cambray, and vicar-general of the diocess; who added three authentic relations of miraculous cures of persons struck with a palsy, blind, lame, &c. with a particular detail of the circumstances of each, wrought by the intercession, and by the touch or presence of the relics of St. Aubert: the first wrote under the same bishop Gerard I. and by his order: the second was compiled in the eleventh; and the third relation of miracles in the twelfth century, in part by eye-witnesses. We have also an account of miracles wrought by the intercession of this saint in the parish church of Hennin Lietard, in which is preserved the relic of his jaw-bone.
We have another accurate life of St. Aubert in the Chronicon Camaracense et Atrebatense, published by Dr. Colvenerius at Douay, in 1615, under the name of Baldericus, bishop of Noyon and Tournay. But the author declares that he had been brought up and had always lived in the service of the church of Cambray, and that he wrote it by the order of his bishop Gerard I. Whereas the clergy of Noyon, in their letter concerning the election of Baldericus, to the clergy and Church of Arras, (apud Balus. Miscell. t. 5. p. 309) assure us, that he had always lived in the church of Noyon. Baldericus of Noyon was only a boy when Gerard I. died. The author of this Chronicon afterwards compiled the life of St. Gerry, as appears from the preface. See Boschius the Bollandist, Præv. Comment. in vitam S. Gaugerici, 11 Aug.5 Also see the life of St. Aubert, written by a monk in Mabillon, Act. Ben. t. 2. p. 873.
Note 1. His predecessor, Ablebert or Adelbert, the fifth bishop of Cambray and Arras, from St. Vaast or Vedast, and second from St. Gerry, was born in Brabant; being son of Witger, count of Condate, near Antwerp, (who died a monk at Lobes,) and of St. Amalberge, who in her widowhood received the religious veil at the hands of St. Aubert, died a nun at Maubeuge, and was buried at Lobes: her relics were translated to Binche, three leagues from Mons. She is honoured at Binche and Maubeuge, on the 10th of July. Adelbert was brother to St. Raineld, virgin, martyred by the Huns at Santhes, (which manor she had given to Lobes, where her relics were honoured, and her festival kept the 16th of July,) and to St. Gudule, virgin, patroness of Brussels, honoured the 8th of January. Some make two other holy virgins their sisters, St. Pharaildes, (whose relics are at St. Bavos in Ghent, and whose feast is kept on the 4th of January,) and St. Ermelinde, virgin, who served God at Merdaert, on the frontiers of Brabant, and is honoured on the 29th of October. This holy bishop died at Ham in Brabant, about the year 633. His remains were afterwards translated to Maubeuge, where the canonesses kept an office in his honour on the 15th of January. Molanus, Miræus, and some others place the consecration of St. Aubert in 640, or later. But King Dagobert died on the 19th of January, 639, and Fulbert and all other authors testify that St. Aubert was bishop some years before his death. Le Cointe, Abbé Mutte, &c., show he must have been called to that dignity in 633. [back]
Note 2. Thierry III. succeeded his brother, Clotaire III. in 670, and soon after appointed Hatta the first abbot of St. Vedasts at Arras. St. Aubert died in December the foregoing year, whilst Clotaire III. still reigned. See Mutte. Præv. Comment. § 2. [back]
Note 3. Guiard, descended from the counts of Laon, and Charibert, whose daughter was married to King Pepin, father of Charlemagne, was chancellor of Paris, made bishop of Cambray in 1238, and died in 1248. Guiard was eminent for his great learning and piety; wrote on the Divine Offices, on the Duties of Priests, on the Passion of Christ, and Sermons. (See Oudin, t. 3, p. 126.) He assisted at the famous conference at Paris on the plurality of benefices, in 1238, and declared, that he would not be possessed of two benefices one single night for all the gold of Arabia. [back]
Note 4. Fulbert of Chartres left us several monuments of his learning in his epistles, sermons, penitentiary, sacred hymns, &c. [back]
Note 5. The epistle and inscription, upon the authority of which Colvenerius ascribed the Chronicon of Cambray and Arras to Baldericus of Noyon, precentor of Terouenne, are spurious. (See Boschius in vitam S. Gaugerici, 11 Aug. et Mutte. § 1, Comment. prævii in vitam S. Auberti. Upon the same apocryphal authority Colvenerius, Foppens, &c., mention a Chronicon Tarvanese of Baldericus; but no such book appears ever to have existed. [back]