Saint of the Day – 6 October – St Bruno (c 1030-1101) – Priest, Confessor, Hermit, Monk, Mystic, Founder, Philosopher, Theologian, Teacher, Advisor, Writer (c 1030 at Cologne, Germany – 1101 at Torre, Calabria, Italy of natural causes). His body was buried in the church of Saint Stephen at Torre. He was Beatified in 1514 by Pope Leo X and Canonised on 17 February 1623 by Pope Gregory XV. Patronages – Germany, Calabria, monastic fraternities, Carthusians, trade marks, Ruthenia, possessed people. Attributes – Skull that he holds and contemplates, with a book and a cross, Carthusian habit. St Bruno was the founder of the Carthusian Order, he personally founded the order’s first two communities. He was a celebrated teacher at Reims and a close advisor of his former pupil, Pope Urban II.
St Bruno was born at Cologne about the year 1030. According to tradition, he belonged to the family of Hartenfaust, or Hardebüst, one of the principal families of the city. Little is known of his early years, except that he studied theology in the present-day French city of Reims before returning to his native land.
His education completed, Bruno returned to Cologne, where he was most likely ordained a priest around 1055 and provided with a canonry at St Cunibert’s. In 1056 Bishop Gervais recalled him to Reims, where the following year he found himself head of the episcopal school, which at the time included the direction of the schools and the oversight of all the educational establishments of the diocese. For eighteen years, from 1057 to 1075, he maintained the prestige which the school of Reims attained under its former masters, Remi of Auxerre, and others. Bruno led the school for nearly two decades, acquiring an excellent reputation as a philosopher and theologian. Among his students were Eudes of Châtillon, afterwards Pope Urban II, Rangier, Cardinal and Bishop of Reggio, Robert, Bishop of Langres and a large number of prelates and abbots.
On the verge of being made bishop himself, Bruno instead followed a vow he had made to renounce secular concerns and withdrew, along with two of his friends, Raoul and Fulcius, also canons of Reims. Following a vision he received of a secluded hermitage where he could spend his life becoming closer to God, he retired to a mountain near Chartreuse in Dauphiny. The area was desolate and mountainous and received few visitors. Under Saint Bruno’s leadership, the first house of the Carthusian Order was established, complete with an oratory and individual cells for the brothers. They Order generally followed the rule of Saint Benedict, although they had no official written rule. Brothers embraced a life of poverty, manual work, prayer, and spent their days transcribing manuscripts. Rather than complete solitude, however, Saint Bruno felt that the rigours of the solitary life needed occasional companionship and so solitary meditation with occasional brotherly congregation became the structure of their lives. They built an oratory with small individual cells at a distance from each other where they lived isolated and in poverty, entirely occupied in prayer and study, for these men had a reputation for learning and were frequently honoured by the visits of St Hugh who became like one of themselves.
At the time, Bruno’s pupil, Eudes of Châtillon, had become pope as Urban II (1088). Resolved to continue the work of reform commenced by Gregory VII and being obliged to struggle against Antipope Clement III and Emperor Henry IV, he was in dire need of competent and devoted allies and called his former master to Rome in 1090.
It is difficult to assign the place which Bruno occupied in Rome, or his influence in contemporary events, because it remained entirely hidden and confidential. Lodged in the Lateran with the pope himself, privy to his most private councils, he worked as an advisor but wisely kept in the background, apart from the fiercely partisan rivalries in Rome and within the curia.
Clearly drawn back to his quiet and contemplative life, Pope Urban released Saint Bruno from his service, allowing him to resume his eremitical state… although first offered him the archbishopric of Reggio. aint Bruno declined the honou, promptly founding another hermitage: aint Mary’s at La Torre (in Calabria). e remained there, until his death, writing commentaries on Holy Scripture and leading his brothers in their pursuit of piety.
The place for his new retreat, chosen in 1091 by Bruno and some followers who had joined him, was in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Squillace, in a small forested high valley, where the band constructed a little wooden chapel and cabins . His patron there was Roger I of Sicily, Count of Sicily and Calabria and uncle of the Duke of Apulia, who granted them the lands they occupied and a close friendship developed. Bruno went to the Guiscard court at Mileto to visit the count in his sickness (1098 and 1101) and to baptise his son, Roger (1097), the future King of Sicily. But more often Roger went into retreat with his friends, where he erected a simple house for himself. Through his generosity, the monastery of St Stephen was built in 1095, near the original hermitage dedicated to the Virgin.
At the turn of the new century, the friends of St. Bruno died one after the other: Urban II in 1099; Landuin, the prior of the Grande Chartreuse, his first companion, in 1100; Count Roger in 1101. Bruno followed on 6 October 1101 in Serra San Bruno.
After his death, the Carthusians of Calabria, following a frequent custom of the Middle Ages, dispatched a roll-bearer, a servant of the community laden with a long roll of parchment, hung round his neck, who travelled through Italy, France, Germany,and England, stopping to announce the death of Bruno and in return, the churches, communities, or chapters inscribed upon his roll, in prose or verse, the expression of their regrets, with promises of prayers. Many of these rolls have been preserved but few are so extensive or so full of praise as that about St Bruno. A hundred and seventy-eight witnesses, of whom many had known the deceased, celebrated the extent of his knowledge and the fruitfulness of his instruction. Strangers to him were above all struck by his great knowledge and talents. But his disciples praised his three chief virtues — his great spirit of prayer, extreme mortification and devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Both the churches built by him in the desert were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin: Our Lady of Casalibus in Dauphiné and Our Lady Della Torre in Calabria; faithful to his inspirations, the Carthusian Statutes proclaim the Mother of God the first and chief patron of all the houses of the order, whoever may be their particular patron.
Bruno was buried in the little cemetery of the hermitage of Santa Maria. In 1513, his bones were discovered with the epitaph “Haec sunt ossa magistri Brunonis” (these are the bones of the master Bruno) over them. Since the Carthusian Order maintains a strict observance of humility, Saint Bruno was never formally canonised with a ceremony.
A writer as well as founder of his order, Saint Bruno composed commentaries on the Psalms and on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle. Two letters of his also remain, his profession of faith, and a short elegy on contempt for the world which shows that he cultivated poetry. St Bruno’s Commentaries reveal that he knew a little Hebrew and Greek; he was familiar with the Church Fathers, especially Augustine of Hippo and Ambrose. “His style,” said Dom Rivet, “is concise, clear, nervous and simple, and his Latin as good as could be expected of that century: it would be difficult to find a composition of this kind at once more solid and more luminous, more concise and more clear.”
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