Fulbert of Chartres
|Saint Fulbert of Chartres|
|Died||10 April 1028|
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Controversy||Fulbert was never canonized, but permission was granted by Rome to celebrate his day in Chartres and Poitiers|
Fulbert of Chartres (French: Fulbert de Chartres; 952-970 –10 April 1028) was the bishop of the Cathedral of Chartres from 1006 till 1028. He was a teacher at the Cathedral school there, he was responsible for the advancement of the celebration of the Feast day of “Nativity of the Virgin”, and he was responsible for one of the many reconstructions of the Cathedral. Most of the information we have about him is found in the letters he wrote from 1004–1028, to both secular and religious figures of the day.
There is no conclusive evidence as to the exact date or location of Fulbert’s birth, the sources vary from 952-970. As to his place of birth the majority of information places it in northern France, possibly Picardy, although some say northern Italy. The sources do agree however that he was of humble birth. Information from several sources place him at the Cathedral school in Rheims in the 980’s, where one of his fellow students was the future King Robert II (the Pious) of France. In the early to mid 990’s Fulbert arrived in and began his involvement with the Cathedral school there. His position is variously described as schoolmaster or assistant at the school. He also assumed some minor ecclesiastical roles in the Cathedral but he was not a monk. In 1004 he became deacon and in 1006 he was appointed the Bishop of Chartres. He remained as Bishop until his death on 10 April 1028 or 1029, again the sources vary, but the majority seem to settle on 1028. There is some dispute over Fulbert’s “Sainthood”, which rises from his contemporaries describing him as having a saintly nature, and this was carried on by others after his death. Fulbert was never officially canonized by the Church, but permission was given by Rome for the diocese of Chartres and Poitiers to celebrate his life on 10 April.
Of the writings that can be verifiably attributed to Fulbert, the bulk consists of his letters. His most famous letter was to Duke William V of Aquitaine on the duties of a Lord and a Vassal. He also wrote to fellow churchmen on a variety of liturgical issues including, the appointment of Bishops, excommunication, and obedience. His letters also include correspondence about the mundane issues of everyday life such as thanking people for medicine and setting up meetings. These letters provide insight into a variety of issues in the late tenth and early eleventh century France.
Like the recent millennium change, the one during Fulbert’s lifetime also created a fear of the end of the world. The adoration of the Virgin Mary was already established in the Church, and Fulbert would use this as teaching on her importance. The results were twofold, it helped to ease the peoples fears and greatly expanded the Marian Cult and Chartres’s position in it. Chartres was already involved due to its being the holder of a sacred relic of Mary’s, the “Sancta Camisia”, (Holy Tunic), which has been variously described as being worn by Mary during the Annunciation or during the birth of Christ. This tunic was already the subject of a miracle, it was used by an earlier Bishop of Chartres, Gauscelinus, in 911 to ward off the invading Normans. Fulbert expanded on the theme of miracles involving Mary especially ones where she had mediated between sinners and God, in this way the people could pray to Mary to intercede on their behalf, with God, in the perceived coming apocalypse. Fulbert himself was involved in one of these miracles, when he was gravely ill Mary had healed him with a drop of her milk because of his devotion to her. This also served to give Mary the image of not only the mother of Christ, but for all who believed in her, their mother too. All of these things led to Fulbert’s ultimate goal of promoting a special feast day to celebrate Mary’s Nativity.
To gain popular support for this feast, Fulbert wrote his famous sermon “Approbate Consuetudinis” in which he outlines Mary’s miracles. He also brings in the evidence of Mary’s family linage which can be traced back to King David. In his sermon Fulbert used the symbolism of the “Stirps Jesse” (Tree of Jesse) to help explain Mary’s familial relationship to the great men of the past and how it was determined, as described in scripture, that she would be the one to whom Christ would be born. This again served to enhance her importance to the world and convince people of the need to celebrate her birth. This sermon led to a number of liturgical changes throughout the next few centuries in Europe. The sermon itself, or variations of it, and the chants associated to it, were to become part of the service for the feast day of Mary’s Nativity on Sept. 8. By promoting the Feast day of Mary’s Nativity, Fulbert was able to advance the importance of Mary and therefore the cult of her worship grew. This in turn enhanced the importance of the Cathedral of Chartres as a centre for worship of her, and also gave the people a spiritual symbol for them to turn to in their time of need at the turn of the millennium.
During his time in Chartres Fulbert played an important role in the development and spread of the ideas that led to the Gregorian church reforms of the eleventh century, under Pope Gregory VII. These reforms concerned the division between the powers of the church and state, especially in the appointment of new Abbots and Bishops. In the eleventh century the secular rulers had a habit of appointing who they wanted to fill vacant church positions. Fulbert and some of his students such as Abbot Albert of Marmoutier routinely wrote that it was up to the clergy and the citizens of the diocese involved to vote for a replacement. The authority for this could be found in the rulings from the First Council of Nicaea (325) and the Council of Antioch (264-272). These reforms also stated that the Church was in charge of disciplining the clergy not the state. The issue of simony (the buying of church offices) and immoral clerics was also addressed by Fulbert. Although the reforms were issued by Pope Gregory VII, some of the ideas that came from Fulbert which were then disseminated through his students writing can be found in them.
After the Cathedral in Chartres burned in 1020, Fulbert devoted his energies to raising funds for its rebuilding, and it was completed in 1037, nine years after his death. In 1194 the Cathedral was again almost completely destroyed by fire, only the crypt, some of the west facade and two towers remained. The crypt has been incorporated into all subsequent reconstructions.) The construction of the Gothic style Cathedral that stands to-day began after this. It is in this Cathedral that we see Fulbert’s influences that resulted from his promotion of the Feast day of Mary’s Nativity and the cult of the Virgin Mary. The sculptures around the three portals depict the life cycle of Mary and he is the central figure in the Royal Portal. Inside one of the stained glass windows depicts the Tree of Jesse, which traces Mary’s and Christ’s family, again a reference to Fulbert’s teachings in regards to the Feast of Mary’s Nativity.
- Mac Kinney, p. 5 and Behrends, p. xvi
- Wellman, p. 136
- Behrends, p. xvii
- Fassler, p. 403
- Mac Kinney, p. 6
- Behrends, p. xvii, Wellman, p. 136
- Mac Kinney, p. 7
- Behernds p. xxi esp. footnote 17, Butler p. 63
- Mac Kinney p.40-41 esp. footnote 142
- Behernds, p. 1-239
- Behernds, p. xxv
- Schulman, p. 152
- Butler, p. 64
- The Book of Common Praise, p. 122, Hymn #169
- Fassler, p. 406
- Fassler, p. 404
- Wellman, p.136
- Wellman, p. 138-40
- Wellman, p. 140
- Fassler, p. 405
- Fassler, p. 406
- Fassler, p. 410
- Fassler, p. 433
- Wellman, p. 146
- Ziezulewicz, p. 401
- Ziezulewicz, p. 385
- Ziezulewicz, p. 393
- Behrends, p. xix
- Wellman, p. 136-37
- Frankl, p. 33
- Spitzer, p. 144-45
- Spitzer, p. 132
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- Latin texts and English translations:
- ISBN 0-19-822233-5 Letters and Poems