Saint of the Day – 17 September – St Lambert (c 635-c 700) Bishop and Martyr, Bishop of Maastricht, Confessor, Missionary. Born in c635 at Maastricht, Netherlands and died by stabbing through the heart by a javelin in c 700 at the Chapel of Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian, Liège, Belgium while celebrating Mass. Patronages – Liège, Belgium, Diocese of Middelaar, Netherlands,Freiburg , Gladbeck and Lambrecht in the Palatinate; of farmers, surgeons, dentists, against kidney disease, against diseases of domestic animals, as well as against hernia, gallstones and epilepsy. Finally, he is the patron saint of fowl. St Lambert is also known as Lambert of Liege or of Maastricht, Lamberto, Lambertus, Landebertus.
Lambert was from a noble family of Maastricht, the supposed son of Apre, lord of Liège, and his wife Herisplende, both from noble families. The child was Baptised by his godfather, the local bishop, Remaclus and educated by Landoald, Archpriest of the city. Lambert was also related to the seneschal Hugobert, father of Plectrude, Pepin of Herstal’s lawful wife and thus an in-law of hereditary mayors of the palace who controlled the Merovingian kings of Austrasia.
Lambert appears to have frequented the Merovingian Court of King Childeric II and was a protégé of his uncle, St Theodard, who succeeded Remaclus as Bishop of Maastricht. He is described by early biographers as “a prudent young man of pleasing looks, courteous and well-behaved in his speech and manners, well-built, strong, a good fighter, clear-headed, affectionate, pure and humble and fond of reading.” When Theodard was murdered soon after 669, the councillors of Childeric made Lambert Bishop of Maastricht. After five years he was involved in the political turmoil following the death of Childeric II. Lambert was then exiled from his seat by Ebroino, the previous mayor of the Neustria palace.
He withdrew to the Monastery of Stavelot where he lived for seven years as one of the Monks, claiming no privileges despite his office. Once, getting up to pray during the night, he accidentally disturbed the monastic silence.
The Abbot called out for whoever was responsible, to do penance by standing barefoot in the snow, before a Cross outside the Monastery Church. In the morning, the Abbot was dismayed to see the Bishop standing barefoot, covered with snow, before the Cross, his face shining. The Abbot sought to apologise but Lambert replied that he was honoured to serve God like the Apostles, in cold and nakedness.
When King Pepin of Heristal took power in 681, he restored Lambert to his See, despite the Saint’s desire to remain in obscurity. The holy Bishop renewed his pastoral labours with vigour, visiting the most distant parishes and preaching the Gospel to the pagans who still inhabited the area, despite danger and threats.
In company with St Willibrord, who had come from England in 691, Lambert preached the gospel in the lower stretches of the Meuse, in the area to the north. In conjunction with St Landrada, he founded a female Convent at Munsterblizen. Lambert was also the spiritual director of the young noble Hubertus, eldest son of Bertrand, Duke of Aquitaine. Hubertus would later succeed Lambert as Bishop of Maastricht.
Lambert seems to have succumbed to the political turmoil that developed when various clans fought for influence as the Merovingian dynasty gave way to the Carolingians. Historian Jean-Louis Kupper says that the Bishop was the victim of a private struggle between two clans seeking to control the Tongres-Maastricht see. Lambert is said to have denounced Pepin’s adulterous liaison with Alpaida, who was to become the mother of Charles Martel. This aroused the enmity of either Pepin, Alpaida, or both. The Bishop was murdered at Liege by the troops of Dodon, Pepin’s domesticus (manager of state domains), father or brother of Alpaida.
The year of his death is variously given for some time between 700 and 709. Lambert came to be viewed as a Martyr for his defence of the Sacrament of Marriage and marital fidelity. Lambert’s two nephews, Peter and Audolet, were also killed defending their uncle. They too, were viewed as saints.
Although Lambert was buried in his family’s vault in the cemetery of Saint Peter, Maastricht, Netherlands, his successor as Bishop, St Hubertus, translated his relics to Liège, to which the see Maastricht was eventually moved. To enshrine Lambert’s relics, Hubertus, built a Basilica near Lambert’s residence which became the true nucleus of the city. The shrine became St Lambert’s Cathedral which was destroyed in 1794. Its site is the modern Place Saint-Lambert. Lambert’s tomb is now located in the present Liège Cathedral. The Cathedral of Our Lady and St Lambert in Liege was built in his honour.
Saint Lambert is one of the best-loved Saints of Belgium, where many Parish Churches are dedicated to him. St Lambert’s admiration was also particularly widespread in the Archdiocese of Cologne. Near Lambrecht in the Palatinate Forest, in Germany now but bordering on France, is the Lambert Cross, a stone cross, which bears the name of Lambert, from which the town takes its name.