Saint of the Day – 24 November – St Albert of Louvain (1166-1192) Bishop, Cardinal and Martyr. Born in c 1166 in Brabant (in modern Belgium) and died by stabbing on 21 November 1192 on the road outside Rheims, France.
Albert de Louvain was born in 1166 as the second of two sons to Duke Godfrey III, Count of Leuven and his first wife Margareta van Limburg. He was the brother of Henry I, Duke of Brabant.
Albert was educated at the cathedral school of Saint-Lambert in Liège. Saint Albert of Louvain entered into religious life at the age of 12. However, he left the Canonric at the age of 21 to become a knight of Count Baldwin. In 1187, when news of the fall of Jerusalem reached Liege, Albert resigned his offices, took the cross and had himself knighted in order to become a Crusader. The following year Cardinal Henry of Albano, restored his ecclesiastical status, within the Church and he received the sub-diaconate in 1191. That same year he was elected Bishop of Liège and despite the fact that he had not reached the canonical age of 30, his appointment was widely approved. Gilbert of Mons, chancellor of Count Baldwin V of Hainaut, who attended the election, along with other princes and nobles, described the proceedings as a power struggle between Albert’s brother Henry and Baldwin.
Albert’s appointment was opposed by Baldwin, who had a second group of canons elect his own relative, Albert de Rethel. Albert took the matter to Rome and appealed to Pope Celestine III. In May 1192, Pope Celestine III made Albert a Cardinal and ordained him in Rome as a Deacon on 30 May 1192. He was then Ordained to the Priesthood on 19 September 1192 by Cardinal Guillaume de Champagne. He received episcopal Consecration the next day and celebrated his first Mass on 21 September in the Rheims Cathedral.
Albert met three German knights in 1192 who persuaded him to ride on horseback with them outside of Rheims. Outside of the city they attacked Albert with their swords and struck him on the head which crushed his skull and caused him to fall, where they made sure they killed him prior to making an escape.
The immediate reaction to the murder was an uprising of the princes of Lower Lorraine led by the dukes of Brabant and Limburg, brother and uncle respectively of the slain bishop. They formed a group that eventually came to include the archbishops of Cologne and Mainz and other princes and laid waste the territory of Dietrich of Hochstaden. Faced with the hostility of the people of Leige, Bishop-elect Lothar fled to the imperial court. He was excommunicated by Pope Celestine. The assassins, including one Otto of Barenste, fled to the imperial court, where Henry seems to have taken no particular action against them. Historians are divided as to the part the Emperor may or may not have played in planning the murder of the Bishop Albert.
The reputation of the holiness of Albert de Louvain soon spread after his death and was hailed as a Martyr, thus, leading to the opening of his cause for Canonisation. Pope Paul V Canonised him on 9 August 1613 and instituted his feast day as the date of his death. His body reposed at Rheims until 1921, when it was moved to Brussels. Below is an image of his Crozier which is kept at his shrine in Brussels.
St Albert’s life was written around 1194 or 1195 by an anonymous monk of Lobbes, from information supplied by Abbot Werrich, who knew Albert well.