Saint of the Day – St Anthelm of Belley O. Cart. (c 1105-1178) Bishop of Belley, France, Prior of the Carthusian Grand Chartreuse. Reformer, talented Administrator, founder of the female Carthusians and originated of the Carthusian Rule, apostle of the poor, the sick and the needy. Born in c 1105 near Chambéry, Savoy, France. and died in 1178 at Belley, France. Also known as – Anthelm de Chignin and Anthelme, Anthelmus.
Anthelm was a nobleman, born in the Castle of Chignin. He became a Priest early in life but after visiting the tranquil Carthusian Monastery of Portes, he decided to become a Monk and joined the Carthusians about 1137.
He was elected as the 7th Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, two years later, in 1139. Anthelm was responsible for guiding the Carthusians in their evolution into a unique religious order separate from the Benedictines. Charter houses had previously been separate and independent, subject only to local Bishops. Not only did he revitalise the Order, he also restored the physical facilities of the Charterhouse.
He summoned the first General Chapter and Grande Chartreuse became the Motherhouse. Anthelm commissioned Blessed John the Spaniard to draw up a Constitution for a community of women who wished to live under Carthusian rule.
He resigned as Prior in 1152 to live as a Hermit but was made Prior of Portes Monastery instead. During this time (1154-1156) he ordered the bounty that had accumulated as a result of the Monastery’s prosperity. to be distributed to those in need.
He returned to Grande Chartreuse, still wishing to live a solitary life but then he actively entered the conflict over the nomination of Pope Alexander III, whom he supported, against Emperor Frederick Barbarossa’s choice, Victor IV. With the Cistercian Abbot Geoffrey, Anthelm galvanised support for Pope Alexander III, who then nominated him to the See of Belley in 1163.
There he set out to reform the clergy, a particular concern being that of celibacy because some Priests practiced their priestly duties, while, at the same time, being openly married. He also punished evil-doers. So much did Anthelm endear himself to the people, that, after his death, the City was renamed Athelmopolis.
When Count Humbert III of Maurienne violated the Church’s jurisdiction over the clergy by imprisoning a Priest, Anthelm sent a clergyman to handle the matter. After the Priest was killed in a scuffle to rearrest him, Anthelm excommunicated the Count. The Pope invalidated the ban but Anthelm would not relent and returned to Portes in protest. Relations between the Pope and Anthelm remained open, however. He was asked by the Pope to go to England to try to bring about a reconciliation between King Henry II and Saint Thomas a Becket but unfortunately was unable to travel due to ill health.
Anthelm established a community for women solitaries. To the end of his life, his heart was in his beloved Charterhouse, which he visited on every possible occasion.
The good Bishop spent his last years tending to the lepers and the poor. He was distributing food in a famine when he was felled by fever. As Anthelm lay dying, he was visited by Count Humbert who sought his forgiveness.
Miracles occurred at his tomb, one being. that, as he was lowered into the tomb, a lamp lit only for great festivals kindled spontaneously and shone brightly for some weeks.