Saint Bertin Abbey

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Ruins of the St. Bertin Abbey

The Saint Bertin abbey ( fr. Abbaye Saint-Bertin ) is a former monastery in the region of Hauts-de-France in northern France . It is located about 30 km from the channel coast between Calais and Dunkirk in the city of Saint-Omer, named after the founder of the monastery .



In the first half of the 7th century Audomar (also called Otmar , French Omer ) was appointed Bishop of Tarvanna (also Teruana, today Thérouanne ), the Roman Colonia Morinorum , by King Dagobert . Audomar probably sent the monks Mummolinus , Bertinus and Ebertramnus ("Bertram") to the swampy area north of the episcopal city to proselytize the population in order to build a monastery there. This is how the Vetus monasterium ("Old Monastery", today St-Momelin ) , led by Mummolinus, came into being . However, the place was too swampy, and Audomar persuaded the local Franconian landowner Adroald, who had recently converted to Christianity , to give him the 21-meter-high Sithiu hill   directly on the banks of the Aa for the new monastery . There the monks built the monastery "Sithiu".

Abbot Bertinus

Bertinus officiated after Mummolinus, who was appointed bishop of Noyon as successor to Eligius around 660 , as the first abbot of the new foundation. He managed the monastery successfully and named it after his teacher Audomarus, the initiator of the establishment. Both apparently came from the same place of birth in what is now Normandy . Bishop Audomar died in Sithiu around 670 and was soon considered a saint .

How Audomar and the other missionaries Bertinus was through his training in the of the Irish Columbanus founded († 615) Luxeuil Abbey from iroschottischen monasticism coined. The way of life of the monks of Sithiu was probably determined by a Benedictine - Colomban mixed rule, which combined Irish Scottish and Roman elements. Bertin was later considered the "apostle" of today's Pas-de-Calais department and was venerated as a saint as early as 745. The monastery got its name from around 1100, while the place around the abbey was named after Audomar and is still called Saint-Omer today . The city grew rapidly and at the beginning of the 14th century already had around 40,000 inhabitants.

Early independence

Audomar granted its employees extensive freedom and laid the foundation for the monastery to be independent. Already blind, he signed a document in 663 with which he withdrew the property of the Sithiu monastery from the bishop's disposal, i.e. his own, and freed the monks from their disciplinary suzerainty. In 691 King Clovis III confirmed . the monastery for its part also has immunity. The exemption of the monasteries from the episcopal power of disposal was a much discussed issue within the church in the 8th and 9th centuries.

Connection to the Franconian nobility

From 737, the year of death of King Theuderic IV , the Merovingian Childeric III. imprisoned at Saint-Bertin as heir to the throne of Charles Martel ; In 743 brought back to the government by his son Karlmann , in 751 deposed by Pippin the Younger and again, this time as a monk, brought to Saint-Bertin. In the years that followed, the monastery remained very closely linked to the leading aristocratic circles of the Frankish Empire , such as Bishop Folcuin von Thérouanne , a grandson of Karl Martell.

The activity of Abbot Fridugis , who was a high-ranking advisor to Louis the Pious , is described by the chronicler Folcuin von Lobbes (a relative of the older Folcuin von Thérouanne) , who himself came from high Franconian nobility, in the 10th century differently from the work of the subsequent abbots Hugo and Hilduin extremely negative. Regardless of the extent to which Folcuin's allegations are true or based on unhistorical projections, there were negative memories of Fridugis that were cultivated in his time, which probably reflect early conflicts between the (then usually lay ) monks and the priestly group of canons who participated in the Marienkirche, which was adjacent to the monastery, was supposed to be preferred by Fridugis.

The later cathedral of Saint-Omer developed from the St. Mary's Church, donated by the founding bishop Audomar, in which his burial place was also located . Their competitive situation with the abbey remained formative in the later Middle Ages and led to numerous disputes, which particularly frequently concerned the whereabouts and safekeeping of Adomar's remains.

The abbey was an important center of Anglo-Saxon book illumination as early as the 8th century . In the 12th century it was captured by the Cluniac reform and incorporated into the Congregation of Cluny .

Literary center

The abbey around 1756

Saint-Bertin was an important center of monastic historiography. The annals of St. Bertin are an important source for the history of the 9th century: the battle of Brissarthe (866), the first mention of the city of Montreuil (898), the history of the Rus etc. are described here. These annals get their name from the oldest surviving manuscript of the work from the monastery. However, it was neither written by a monk from St. Bertin nor does it tell the history of the abbey.

In the 10th century the Gesta Abbatum Sithiensium des Folcuin were created , which describe the life and work of the first abbots of Sithiu.

In the 14th century, the chronicler Johannes Longus of Ypres (called Iperius or Yperius , † 1383) worked at the abbey, whose history of the monastery ( Chronicon Bertinianum seu Sithiense ), based on ancient sources, also includes numerous other important traditions from the history of Flanders put together. The style of writing points from the medieval chronicle to the learned histories and compilations of the early Renaissance.

By Antoine de Berghes the Abbey into a major literary center of was Renaissance humanism .

Cancellation and reuse

Replica of the former abbey church

With the beginning of the French Revolution , monastic life was stopped and the Abbey of Saint-Bertin was closed on August 16, 1791. The bones of the founder of the monastery and patron of the city, for whose possession there had been disputes between the abbey and the city cathedral chapter for several centuries since the Middle Ages , were lost during the revolution because his shrine was brought from the cathedral of Saint-Omer to Paris and there was melted down. After the fall of Napoleon, the stones of the monastery buildings that existed at that time and date from 1250 to 1520 were used as material for public buildings in Arras . In 1830 the complex was demolished by the municipality.

In the 19th century there was a college on the site of the monastery, in which, among others, the later French general and head of state of Vichy-France Philippe Pétain received his training from 1867 before he moved to the military academy of Saint-Cyr in 1876 .

In the ruins of the abbey in the urban area of ​​Saint-Omer there is now a walk-in labyrinth .

List of Abbots

Abbots of the Saint-Bertin monastery were:


  • Placidus Heider: Bertin (us) . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 2 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1994, Sp. 293 f .
  • Karine Ugé: Creating the Monastic Past in Medieval Flanders. York Medieval Press, York 2005, ISBN 1-903153-16-6 (therein: “Part I. Saint-Bertin”, pp. 17-94).

Web links

Commons : Saint-Bertin Abbey  - collection of images


  1. In the Annales Mettenses the place Sidiu is mentioned ( et in monasterium sancti Otmari, quod dicitur Sidiu ).
  2. Wilhelm Pückert : The misdeeds of Abbot Fridugis zu Sithin (forgeries of St. Bertin). In: ders .: Aniane and Gellone. Diplomatic-critical investigations into the history of the reforms of the Benedictine order in the IX. and Xth centuries. Leipzig 1899, pp. 259-292 (esp. 281).
  3. ^ A b Philippe Depreux : Prosopographie de l'entourage de Louis le Pieux (781-840). Jan Thorbecke Verlag, Sigmaringen 1997, pp. 199–203 (“104. Fridugise”, esp. 200 f.).
  4. ^ Francis Palgrave (author), Inglis Palgrave (ed.): The History of Normandy and of England. Volume IV. Cambridge 1921, pp. Xxi .
    For evaluation: Ernst SteindorffBalduin V. In: General German Biography (ADB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1875, p. 9.

Coordinates: 50 ° 45 ′ 1.1 ″  N , 2 ° 15 ′ 52.3 ″  E