Saint of the Day – 17 April – St Robert de Chaise-Dieu OSB (c1000-1067) Priest, professed religious of the Order of St Benedict, Monk, Abbot, Apostle of Charity, Marian devotee. He was of noble stock, was related to Saint Gerald of Aurillac (c 855–c 909) and was a descendant of St Caesarius of Arles (470-543). He is best known for the establishment of the Benedictine Convent of La Chaise-Dieu (‘Home of God’) and for his total commitment to the poor. He became a spiritual inspiration for Pope Clement VI (1291–1352) – whose own origin,s in the religious life ,were based at that Convent – and it was Pope Clement who confirmed the Canonisation of the Benedictine Abbot on 19 September 1351 in Avignon. He is also known as Robert de Turlande, Robert of Casa Dei. Patronages – Abbots, Monks, Hermits, the Monastery of Chaise-Dieu.
St Robert was born in 1000 to a family of Margeride nobility and became the Canon Count of Brioude. His mother went into labour while in the forests near the castle she lived in and so gave birth to him there, locals perceived this as a sign that the child would become a hermit.
Robert’s education was overseen at the Church of Saint-Julien in Brioude where he later became its canon after he was ordained to the priesthood in 1026 – it was there that he founded a hospice for the poor of the region. He later became a monk at Cluny and placed himself under the direction of Saint Odilo, (c 962–1049), the fifth Abbot of Cluny, also a a relative of St Robert.
Dissatisfied with canonical life and his relative, St Odilo, Robert wished to found a monastery. After a pilgrimage to Rome, Robert went with two of his companions to Monte Cassino for further training in the Rule of St Benedict.
When he returned to France, upon reaching the bleak Livradois plateau he settled next to a chapel dedicated to Saint Vital and Saint Agricole to live in solitude with God. He named this place ‘Casa Dei’ ‘House of God’, which later became known as La Chaise-Dieu.
In 1046 he and two of his companions received the permission of Pope Gregory VI to establish a hermitage and embark on a life of commitment to the poor. It was Gregory VI who suggested that the trio consider the contemplative life as a greater method of achieving their aim of providing for the poor, this prompted him to move to Auvergne. He has been credited for the construction and the restoration of around a total of 50 churches in his region.
Robert’s influence was such that at the time of his death in 1067, the Abbey and its dependent priories numbered some 300 monks. He inspired others through his faith, he placed great emphasis on the cult of Mary and his charity through which he made the Abbey a welcoming and giving place – which became its enduring symbol and undoubtedly, his dynamism (as early as 1052 he had gained the protection of the King of France, Henry I and also that of Pope Leon IX).
Robert died on 17 April 1067 and his funeral was set on 24 April due to the large numbers of people who desired visiting his remains. Hundreds of miracles were reported to have been performed due to his intercession which started a local ‘cultus’ to him. He was interred in his own convent, though most of his relics were burnt due to the Huguenots. He was Canonised in 1070 and his tomb became a place of pilgrimage. So much so, that in 1095 before beginning his first Crusade from Clermont, Urban Pope II insisted on praying at Robert’s Tomb.
There is a beautiful village called Saint Robert after our Saint. It is rich in history and heritage and ranks among the most beautiful villages in France. It is organised around its Romanesque church of the twelfth century (also named after St Robert and probably built by his Monks) and its narrow streets are lined with old shops and manor houses in stone. To see wonderful images of this village, visit here: https://decouvrir-la-france-en-photos.blogspot.com/2017/09/70-saint-robert-correze-19.html
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