Saint of the Day – 16 July – Saint Fulrad of Saint Denis (c 710-784) Abbot of Saint Denis Monastery, Chaplin and Counsellor of both King Pippin the Younger and King and Emperor Charlemagne, Founder of numerous Monasteries, Writer/Historian,, he oversaw the construction of a Basilica at St Denis. Born in c 710 in Alsace, France and died on 16 July 784 of natural causes. Also known as – Fulrade, Fulradus.
Fulrad was the son of Riculf and Ermengard, who had rich estates in Alsace and the Meuse-Moselle region of modern France and was closely connected to the powerful families and the Carolingians. In 749, he was already one of the closest confidants of Hausmeier Pippin the Younger, who, together with Bishop Burkard of Würzburg, entrusted him with the highly important journey to Rome that initiated the disempowerment of the Merovingians and assisted Pippin’s rise to the throne.
Fulrad entered the Monastery of St-Denis and in 750 Fulrad received – apparently in gratitude for this service – the dignity of Abbot of the powerful Royal Abbey. When Pippin was actually made King in 751, he appointed Fulrad to lead his Court orchestra. Fulrad maintained ties with the Pope and served as an expert on Italy for Pippin and then for Charlemagne .
In his new position, Fulrad increased the size of the Abbey with his inheritance from his parents;. As a Benedictine Abbot of St-Denis , Fulrad regained many territories lost to his Monastery and gained new ones, often using his own inheritance to acquire land and build Monasteries. In these regions, he founded Monasteries which became centres of radiance and devotion. In the beginning, Fulrad administered the new Monasteries himself. The Monasteries were located in Alsace-Lorraine and Alemannia. Each Monastery possessed relics, which made them pilgrimage destinations.
Fulrad’s Testament, gives an account of early Carolinian society. In the “Testament”, Fulrad presents a survey of certain places and gives a detailed account of the religious, political and economic differences between the towns.
Abbot Fulrad was the Chaplin and Counsellor of King Pippin III, the Younger. The connection between these two figures goes beyond just friendship but, as two strong figures who helped each other and had great respect for each other’s service. Historians have written about this great friendship, and examples of it are seen in distinctively in certain dealings with the Papacy and with Pippin’s burial. Fulrad had such an impact on Pippin that the latter’s final wishes and resting place were all connected to Fulrad and his Abbey of S-Denis. Pippin became very ill at his campaign in the City of Saintes. He managed to travelled to St-Denis where he would be buried. Pippin, at his own request, asked to be buried at Saint-Denis next to the saint; also he wanted to be buried at the Abbey where Fulrad, his Arch-Chaplin and “one of his staunchest allies” was the Abbot.
Fulrad was also the Arch-Chaplin and Counsellor to Charlemagne. Charlemagne gave Fulrad’s Abbey many riches and more land. Fulrad’s Monastery of St-Denis became the “Royal Mausoleum” of the Frankish Kings. Fulrad oversaw the new construction of the Basilica of St-Denis. Construction began in 754 and was completed under Charlemagne, who was present at its Consecration in 775.
Abbot Fulrad died on 16 July 784 and was buried at St-Denis, where his tomb became a pilgrimage site. St Alcuin of York wrote St Fulrad’s epitaph.
When Fulrad died, Charlemagne chose Angilram, the Bishop of Metz to be the new Abbots of St-Denis and to carry on the work of the zealous and holy Abbot Fulrad.