Saint of the Day – 14 April – St Bernard of Tiron (c 1046-1117) French Monk, Hermit, Abbot, Founder of the the Tiron Abbey and the Tironensian Order. St Bernard had a deep devotion to the Passion of Christ, teaching and instruction his disciples in the love of the Holy Cross. Also known as – Bernard of Ponthieu, Bernard of Abbeville, Bernhard…
The Roman Martyrology reads: “In the Monastery of Tiron near Chartres in France, Saint Bernard, Abbot, who on several occasions gave himself up to a hermit life in the woods and on the Island of Chausey but also dedicated himself to instructing and guiding the disciples, who in great numbers, flocked to him.”
Bernard was born near Abbeville in 1046. Having already made good studies and knowing the Sacred Scriptures, in particular, Bernard, at the age of around 19, was accepted at the Monastery of Saint-Cyprien, near Poitiers. He remained there for ten years, before being transferred to Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe to fill the position of Prior. When the Abbot was convicted of simony in 1082, Bernard assumed the responsibilities of superior. For fear of being elected Abbot, Bernard escaped secretly, becoming a Hermit in the Craon forest, on the borders of Brittany and the Maine, in a place called Tiron.
Being discovered after three years by the Monks of St Savin, who still wished to have him as their Abbot, Bernardo again disappeared and went to live in perennial contemplation on the Island of Chausey. Only after three more years, having learned that the Monks of St Savin had elected another as Abbot, did Bernard return to Tiron. He did not stay there for long, however, for, he gained many followers to his hermit way of life, including St Adelelmus of Flanders. The community grew into a centre for hermits, with many building cells around his. Bernard fame grew eventually gaining the attention of the Saint Cypriene Monastery. (Bernard’s first Monastery) . Abbot Renault then called for Bernard to return to the Monastery bringing with him his new followers. Bernard returned and resumed the habit as well as being appointed Renault’s successor. Bernard accepted the office of Prior of that Monastery and then, on the death of Rinaldo, that of Abbot.
He took part in the Council of Poitiers in 1100 and obtained from Rome, permission of independence from Cluny, for his Monastery of St Cypriene. He returned to the Island of Chausey, which he again had to leave because he was disturbed by the pirates and then accepted the land of Brunelles, given to him by a benefactor, in the forest of Tiron, founding a new Monastery there (1109). However, since a quarrel arose with the Monks of Nogent, of the Cluniac Congregation, who demanded a tithe, instead of agreeing to this demand, he abandoned the Monastery and went to found another at the mouth of the Tiron (1113/14).
With the aid of donations from the kings and nobles of France, England and Scotland, Bernard established the Abbey of the Holy Trinity of Tiron in 1114. From here Bernard founded the Tironensian Order, based on a strict observance of the Rule of Saint Benedict and an emphasis on manual labour. This Abbey was so succesful, that the Monks there soon reached the number of five hundred!
The Tironensian Order, spread to Germany, England, Scotland and elsewhere. The Order ceased to exist in the 17th Century.
Bernard remained there until his death on 14 April 1117. His cult, previously limited to Tiron, extended to the whole of his Congregation. Pope Pius IX authorised the Diocese of Chartres and Amiens to celebrate the Feast on 14 April, a Feastwhich is also found in toitiers, Séez, Lavai and Bourges.