Saint of the Day – 6 March – Saint Chrodegang of Metz (c 714-776) First Bishop of Metz, Protector and Father of the poor and orphans, Reformer of the Clergy, a relative of King Pepin and of Prince Charles Martel, both of whom he was Court Chancellor, Royal Diplomat, Saint Opportuna of Montreuil was his brother. Born in c 714 at Hesbaye, Brabant, near Liege, Belgium and died on 6 March 776 at Metz, France. Also known as – Chrodegand, Chrodegangus, Chrodegrang, Chrodegrangus, Chrodogand, Chrodogandus, Chrotgang, Chrotgangus, Droctegangus, Godegrand, Godegrandus, Grodegandus, Grodegangus, Grodogangus, Gundigran, Krodegandus, Ratgang, Rodigang, Rudigangus, Ruggandus, Ruodgangus, Ruotgangus, Rutgangus, Sirigang and Sirigangus. Additional Memorial – 3 October (Augustinians).
The Roman Martyrology states: “In Metz in Austrasia, in today’s France, St Crodegango, Bishop, who arranged for the Clergy to live as if within the walls of a cloister under an exemplary rule of life and greatly promoted liturgical chant.”
Chrodegang was born in c 714 at Hesbaye, Brabant, near Liege, Belgium into a noble family. His parents, of Frankish origin, sent him to be educated at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Trond.
Chrodegang was good-looking young man, very educated and an excellent linguist. Charles Martell, Duke and Prince, noticed his great skills and appointed him head of the diplomatic and juridical corps at his service. When Charles Martel died in 742, his successor, Charlemagne, also appointed him Bishop of Metz. Codregando, however, was still a layman and, therefore ,had to receive Diaconal and Priestly Ordinations and Episcopal Consecration. He retained his political office and took advantage of the prestige achieved by the exercise of the two offices and exploited his influence for a good purpose.
As King Pepin’s Ambassador to Pope Stephen II, Chrodegang carried out a profound reform of the Clergy, which at that time was in a deadly moral crisis. Determined to intervene in the difficult situation, he began with the Priests of his City. He ,therefore, gathered all the Clergy in houses and established for them a rule of life inspired by that of St Benedict. The code that he applied to Metz was made up of thirty-four chapters and everyday, in the presence of the whole community, one was read – hence these meetings took the name of “Chapter.” Soon, this name was extended to the people who attended the readings, while all those who were linked to the canons were called “Canons” and those who followed a rule began to define themselves as “Regular,”
Other norms of community life were inserted later, concerning enclosure, domicile, study, liturgy, dress and meals and were aimed at providing the ecclesiastics with mutual support in remaining faithful to the vow of chastity and other commitments proper to the Clergy. The main difference from the friars was in the possibility of retaining their possessions, a habit that was later questioned. The Rule of Chrodegang was then adopted by other Diocese and finally, extended by Charlemagne to all Priests, who were thus required to be either Monks or Canons. This Rule also found success abroad and over the centuries it repeatedly returned to vogue, albeit not in its original form.
On the initiative of Chrodegang, the Roman Rite and Chant were also introduced in Metz, the repertoire of which returned to Rome enriched by French compositions and from there, spread throughout Europe. The “schola cantorum” – “School of Singers'” of Metz, fame lasted for centuries. In 805 Charlemagne even ordered that all singing teachers should be trained in Metz.
Chrodegang laboured earnestly for the welfare of Church and State and was ever solicitous of strengthen the bonds of union between the temporal and spiritual Rulers. He founded (748) the Abbey of Gorze (near Metz), and remained its friend and protector. He also established St Peter’s Abbey, on the Moselle and did much for the Abbeys of Gengenbach and Lorsch. For the latter, he is said to have obtained the relics of St Nazarius, and for Gorze those of St Gorgonius The holy Bishop also distinguished himself in the construction and restoration of Churches, Monasteries and charitable institutions. After the death of St Boniface, Pope Stephen conferred the Pallium on Chrodegang (754-755), thus making him an Archbishop but not elevating the See of Metz.
Chrodegang was a man of imposing appearance, of a mild, though firm, character, of great liberality to the poor, and of more than ordinary abilities in many fields and was extremely well versed in Latin and German.
In 762, during a dangerous illness, he introduced among his Priests a Confraternity of Prayer, known as the League of Attigny. The ‘Rule of Chrodegang‘ spread far and wide and it seems probable that the Rule was brought by Irish monks to their native land from the Monasteries of north-eastern Gaul and that Irish anchorites originally unfettered by the rules of the cloister bound themselves by it. In the course of the 9th century mention is made of nine places in Ireland (including Armagh, Clonmacnoise, Clones, Devenish and Sligo) where communities of Culdees were established as a kind of annex to the regular Monastic institutions. They seem especially to have had the care of the poor and the sick and were interested in the musical part of worship.
On his death, on 6 March 766, he received burial at the Abbey of Gorze, which he himself had founded and loved more than any other. Tradition has it that some of his relics are also kept at the Saint-Symphorien Church in Metz.