Saint of the Day – 2 March – Blessed Charles the Good (c1083-1127) Martyr, Duke, Apostle, protector and defender of the poor, selling his and his kingdom’s riches to help those in need, wherever he could, a fair and just Ruler who made laws to accommodate the poor rather than the rich (the eventual cause of his Martyrdom), Knight who assisted in Secomd Crusade. Born in c1083 and died by being beheaded on 2 March 1127 at Bruges, Belgium. Patronages – of Dukes, Counts, the Diocese of Bruges,Crusaders.Also known as – Charles of Flanders. Blessed Charles cultus was officially confirmed by his Beatification in 1883 by Pope Leo XIII.
Charles was the son of St Canut, King of Denmark and of Alice of Flanders, who, in 1086, after the death of his father, carried him, then an infant of 3 years, into Flanders. His cousin, Baldwin the Seventh, Earl of Flanders, dying without issue in 1119, appointed Charles as his heir, on account of his extraordinary valour and merit.
The young Earl was a perfect model of all virtues, especially devotion, charity and humility. Among his friends and courtiers, he loved those best who admonished him of his faults. He frequently exhausted his treasury to the benefit of the poor and often gave the clothes off his back to be sold for their relief. He served them with his own hands and distributed clothes and bread to them wherever he travelled. It was observed that in Ipres he gave away, in one day, no less than seven thousand eight hundred loaves.
Charles took care, for the sake of the poor, to keep the price of corn and provisions always low and he made wholesome laws to protect them from the oppressions of the great. This exasperated Bertulf, who had tyrannically usurped the provostship of St Donatian’s in Bruges, to which dignity was annexed the Chancellorship of Flanders. Between Bertulf and and his wicked relatives, the exercised a great oppressors of their country.
In this horrible conspiracy they were joined by Erembald, Castellan or Chief Magistrate of the territory of Bruges, with his five sons, who were provoked against their Sovereign Charles because he had repressed their unjust violence.
The holy Earl went every morning barefoot and very early, to perform his devotions before the Altar of the Blessed Virgin in St Donatian’s Church. On the morning of 2 March 1127, following his usual practice he left to walk to the Church. Before he left, he was informed of a conspiracy but answered; “We are always surrounded by dangers but we belong to God. If it be His will, can we die in a better cause than that of justice and truth?”
While he was reciting the Penitential Psalms before the Altar, the conspirators rushed in and hacked him to death with broadswords. These enemies were Fromold Borchard, nephew to Bertulf.
The brutal and sacrilegious murder of the popular Duke provoked widespread public outrage, and he was immediately regarded as a Martyr and Saint, although not formally Beatified until 1882.
The Erembalds, who had planned and carried out the murder of Charles, were besieged inside the castle of Bruges by the enraged nobles and commoners of Bruges and Ghent. All the conspirators were defeated, captured and tortured to death. King Louis VI of France, who had supported the uprising against the Erembalds, used his influence to select William Clito as the next Duke of Flanders., Charles having died without issue.
Charles was buried in St Christopher’s Church at Bruges, not in that of St Donatian See the remarkable painting above created by Jan van Beers. To view clearly click on the image. In 1600, Charles’s Shrine was placed, by an order of Charles Philip Rodoan, the fourth Bishop of Bruges, in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin in the St Saviour’s Cathedral in Bruges. Ever since the year 1610, a Solemn High Mass in honour of the Blessed Trinity, is sung on his festival.