Today is the feast day of Saint Fulbert of Chartres. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Fulbert was born between 952 and 962. Mabillon and others think that he was born in Italy, probably at Rome; but Pfister, his latest biographer, designates as his birthplace the Diocese of Laudun in the present department of Gard in France. He was of humble parentage and received his education at the school of Reims, where he had as teacher the famous Gerbert who in 999 ascended the papal throne as Sylvester II.
As a student at the Cathedral School of Rheims, he was purportedly one of its most distinguished scholars for when the celebrated Gerbert d’Aurillac, professor of mathematics, became Pope Sylvester II, he summoned Fulbert to Rome.
Upon his return to France, Bishop Odo of Chartres appointed him Chancellor. Under Fulbert’s care and direction, the cathedral schools became the greatest educational center in Europe. His pupils esteemed him so highly as a teacher that they called him “venerable Socrates”.
He was a strong opponent of the rationalistic tendencies which had infected some dialecticians of his times, and often warned his pupils against such as extol their dialectics above the teachings of the Church and the testimony of the Bible. Still it was one of Fulbert’s pupils, Berengarius of Tours, who went farthest in subjecting faith to reason.
In 1007 Fulbert succeeded the deceased Rudolph as Bishop of Chartres and was consecrated by his metropolitan, Archbishop Leutheric of Sens. He owed the episcopal dignity chiefly to the influence of King Robert of France, who had been his fellow student at Reims. As bishop he continued to teach in his school and also retained the treasurership of St. Hilary. When, about 1020, the cathedral of Chartres burned down, Fulbert at once began to rebuild it in greater splendour.
In this undertaking he was financially assisted by King Canute of England, Duke William of Aquitaine, and other European sovereigns. Though Fulbert was neither abbot nor monk, as has been wrongly asserted by some historians, still he stood in friendly relation with Odilo of Cluny, Richard of St. Vannes, Abbo of Fleury, and other monastic celebrities of his times. He advocated a reform of the clergy, severely rebuked those bishops who spent much of their time in warlike expeditions, and inveighed against the practice of granting ecclesiastical benefices to laymen.
Fulbert’s literary productions include 140 epistles, 2 treatises, 27 hymns, and parts of the ecclesiastical Office. His epistles are of great historical value, especially on account of the light they throw on the liturgy and discipline of the Church in the eleventh century.
Fulbert had a great devotion to Our Lady and composed many hymns in her honor. When the beautiful new cathedral was consecrated, he celebrated the recently introduced feast in honor of her nativity with great solemnity.
He was an outspoken opponent of simony and of bestowing ecclesiastical endowments upon laymen. Fulbert was also a prolific writer and his epistles have great historical value, especially on the subject of the liturgical practices of the eleventh century.
After nearly twenty-two years as Bishop of Chartres, he died on April 10, 1029.
Image: Fulbert of Chartres, circa: 11th century, artist: André de Micy (3)
Research by Ed Masters. REGINA Staff