Saint of the Day – 26 April – St Richarius of Celles (c 560-645) Priest, founder of Monasteries, spiritual adviser, apostle of the poor, the sick and prisoners and finally, a Hermit – born at Centula, France and died on 26 April 645 at Foret-Moutier, France of natural causes. In France he is known as St Riquier. Patronages – the cities of Saint-Riquier, Centula and Saint-Riquier-en-Rivière in France.
Richarius was born a pagan in the late 6th century in the county of Ponthieu near Amiens in Picardy in the north-west of France. According to the vita written by St Alcuin, Richarius gave shelter to two Welsh missionaries, Caidocus and Frechorius, who were treated with great hostility by the local people who blamed the strangers for crop failure. Because he “welcomed God in the persons of the travellers… this was why he was granted God’s mercy.”
Richarius converted to Christianity under their influence. After his conversion, he fasted on barley bread mixed with ashes and drank only water. He was ordained a Priest and travelled to England, preaching the Gospel and curing the sick. Travelling by donkey rather than horse, he read the psalter as he rode.
In 638, after some years in England, Richarius returned home and founded a Monastery in his hometown in Ponthieu that was named Centule (or Centula, alteration of Latin Centum Turres – hundred towers). This monastery practised according to the Rule of Saint Columbanus.
A city developed around this Monastery, also named Centule. In the Middle Ages it was renamed to Saint-Riquier. Nowadays it has some 1200 inhabitants, who still refer to themselves as Centulois. The Frankish king Dagobert I once came to visit the Monastery, and Richarius offered the king advice. He was frank and clear in his speech to the king, speaking without fear or flattery and the king thereafter, became a benefactor of the Monastery. Others also gave generously to Richarius’s Monastery and he was able to use the money to help lepers and the poor and to ransom prisoners held by England.
Richarius eventually founded a second Monastery called Forest-Montier. He made a shelter in the forest of Crécy, fifteen miles from his Monastery. He lived there as a hermit with his disciple Sigobart. On 26 April 645, he bid farewell to Sigobart and died.
His relics were first put in a coffin made of an oak trunk and then translated to the Abbey of Centula. One hundred and fifty years later, Charlemagne built a golden shrine to enclose the relics and had the Saint-Riquier Gospels made for the shrine. In 950 Count Arnulf I transferred the bones to Montreuil, then to the Abbey of Saint Bertin in today’s St-Omer. In 980, Hugo Capet returned them to St-Riquier. Above the tomb of Richarius, an Abbey was built, which was later named after him, as was the city.
Aside from Saint-Riquier, the city of Saint-Riquier-en-Rivière in Normandy bears his name and there is one church in England St Ricarius Church, Aberford, a town the saint is supposed to have visited in 630.