Robert of Arbrissel, Bl.
ROBERT OF ARBRISSEL, BL.
Founder of the Order of Fontevrault; b. Arbrissel, Brittany, France, c. 1055; d. Orsan, France, Feb. 25, 1117. He studied at Paris under anselm of laon, was archpriest of Rennes from 1085 to 1090, taught at Angers from 1090 to 1092, and then withdrew to the forest of Craon in Anjou to live as a hermit. Here he met bernard of tiron and vitalis of savigny, and attracted a number of disciples whom he formed into a community of canons regular at La Roë. In 1096 Pope urban ii visited Angers and enjoined on Robert the work of itinerant public preaching, commending him as "second only to himself as a sower of the Word of God in men's hearts" (Mt 13.3–8). Robert resigned as abbot of La Roë and spent the rest of his life in preaching. He enjoyed a particular success with the poor, prostitutes, and lepers, and converted many men and women to the religious life. In c. 1100 he built a double monastery at fontevrault and later founded additional priories, until at the time of his death the congregation numbered about 3,000. In 1116 he drew up a constitution for the order and placed it under an abbess, Petronilla (d. 1150), in accordance with the gospel precept (Jn 19.26–27). Robert was buried at Fontevrault. He was praised by his contemporaries for his sanctity and for the apostolic simplicity of his life, and although many miracles were attributed to him, the efforts to bring about his canonization came to naught.
Feast: Feb. 25.
Bibliography: Writings ascribed to Bl. Robert, Patrologia Latina 162:1079–88 and Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes 15 (1853–54) 209–235. Lives by Baldric of Dol and Andrew the Monk, in Acta sanctorum 3:608–613. s. hilpisch, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 8:1335–36. l. a. picard, Le Fondateur de l'Ordre de Fontevrault: Robert d'Arbrissel (Saumur 1932). r. niderst, Robert d' Arbrissel et les origines de l'ordre de Fontevrault (Rodez 1952). Histoire de l'ordre de Fontevrault, 1100–1908, 3 v. (Auch 1911–15). a. m. zimmermann, Kalendarium Benedictinum 1:254–255. Bibliographica hagiographica latina 7259–60. b. m. kerr, Religious Life for Women c. 1100–1350: Fontevraud in England (Oxford 1999).
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