Saint Fulbert, Bishop of Chartres (c. 960-1029)

Saint Fulbert, Bishop of Chartres (c. 960-1029)

Saint Fulbert was of humble extraction, but we know little of his early years beyond the fact that he was born in Italy and spent his boyhood there. He was later a student in Rheims and must have been one of its most distinguished scholars, for when the celebrated Gerbert, who taught him mathematics and philosophy, was raised to the papacy under the title of Silvester II, he summoned Fulbert to his side. When another pope succeeded, Fulbert returned to France, where Bishop Odo of Chartres bestowed upon him a canonry and appointed him chancellor. Moreover, the cathedral schools of Chartres were placed under his care, and he soon made the greatest educational center in France, attracting pupils from Germany, Italy and England. Upon the death of Bishop Roger, Fulbert was chosen to succeed him in the see of Chartres.

 

Fulbert's influence was now immense, for besides retaining direction of the school he became the recognized counsellor of the spiritual and temporal leaders of France. Yet external affairs were never allowed to interfere with the duty he owed to his diocese: he preached regularly from his cathedral pulpit and exerted himself to spread instruction in the territories under his jurisdiction. When, soon after his elevation, the cathedral of Chartres was burnt down, he at once set about rebuilding it with great magnificence, though this is not the cathedral which is now one of the glories of Christendom; people of all classes came to his assistance, including Canute, King of England, who contributed a large sum. St Fulbert had a great devotion to Our Lady, in whose honor he composed several hymns, and when the beautiful new cathedral was opened he caused the recently introduced feast of her birthday to be celebrated there with great solemnity, as well as to be observed throughout the diocese.

 

Like most of the more eminent churchmen of his century he was an outspoken opponent of simony and of bestowing ecclesiastical endowments upon laymen. After an episcopate of nearly twenty-two years, he died on April 10, 1029.

 

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Taken from Butler's LIVES OF THE SAINTS, HarperOne, 1956, pp. 108-9 (originally published in 1756-9)