Saint-Bertin, Abbey of
SAINT-BERTIN, ABBEY OF
The Abbey of Saint-Bertin is the former Benedictine monastery, Saint-Omer, France (modern Diocese of Arras). When St. omer became bishop of Thérouanne, he sent to luxeuil for three Columban monks, whom he established in a cella, or small monastery, on the River Aa, under the direction of Mommelinus. When the latter became bishop of Noyon-Tournai, St. Omer gave the monks a new monastic site a league upstream, the island of Sithiu, which was formed by a meander in the river. St. bertinus was the first abbot of this monastery dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul. On a neighboring hill was Omer's chapel of Sainte-Marie, which he gave to the monks (663) with a privilege of immunity on condition that he be buried nearby. The abbey prospered, but after a century it needed reform. Abbot Fridogisius, imitating chrodegang of metz, dismissed any monks lacking docility, restored the rule of the monks on the island, and made the monks of Sainte-Marie canons regular under his authority. The area between these two monasteries became the city of Saint-Omer, France (1127).
The monastery of Sithiu, which became completely Benedictine under the name of Saint-Bertin, prospered for 11 centuries, under 83 abbots, until the French Revolution (1791). It survived pillaging by the normans (860,878), fires, wars, and epidemics. It was reformed by gerard of brogne (944), and Richard of Saint-Vanne (1201). From the time of Abbot lambert of saint-bertin (1095) until 1139 it was part of the cluniac re-form. This affiliation was resumed in 1776. In order to have "regular visitors" as recommended by the Council of Trent, the abbey joined the "Congregation of the Exempt of Flanders" in 1569. It usually had 60 monks, but at one time as many as 150. Thanks to gifts, purchases and exchanges of property, and the good administration of its abbots, Saint-Bertin was one of the great French abbeys. It also had extensive properties in England and the Rhineland.
The abbey was a famous cultural center. From the earliest times, the monks had a school at the abbey, and later in every parish under their patronage. In the 16th century Abbot Gerard d'Haméricourt founded a school for the poor of Saint-Bertin (1561), which drew an intellectual elite from the lower classes. He also founded a college at the University of louvain. The scriptorium of Saint-Bertin was famous, the illuminated manuscripts of Abbot Odbertus being especially noteworthy. It was constantly producing, buying, and exchanging manuscripts. Consequently, by the 12th century Saint-Bertin's library possessed more than 400 manuscripts, one of the richest collections in France. The abbey's chroniclers and historians such as folcwin of lobbes, lambert of saint-omer, and Abbot John V of Ypres (1365–83) were famous. It was there that two chapters of the Golden Fleece were held. It was also the scene of princely weddings, great receptions, and tournaments. Its third abbey church (1365–83) was especially grand and superbly decorated.
Bibliography: h. de laplane, Les Abbés de Saint-Bertin, 2v. (Saint-Omer 1854–55), old but accurate. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 15.1:1499–1501. v. redlich, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 2:269–270. r. rau, ed., Jahrbücher von St. Bertin, v. 2 of Quellen zur karolingischen Reichsgeschichte (Berlin 1956–).