Translation is the copyrighted property of Sarah Brush (nee Hamilton)
Vita Ansberti Episcopi, ed. W. Levison, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum V pp. 613-643.
HERE BEGINS THE PREFACE TO THE LIFE OF THE HOLY AND VENERABLE ANSBERT, THE HONOURABLE BISHOP AND CONFESSOR FOR HILDBERT, THE PRIEST OF CHRIST, ABBOT OF THE MONASTERY OF FONTANELLA AS WRITTEN BY AIGRADUS, LESSER SERVANT OF THE SERVANT OF THE LORD.
By the benevolence of divine mercy, we come to narrate the acts of the excellent sanctity of Ansbert, pontiff of the church of Rouen, thus humbly fulfilling the command of your holy devotion. However I am pressed truly on account of two things in the preliminaries of such a work; on the one hand, I feel I should turn aside from this work because of the lack of sense in it and the worthlessness of my discourse, and, on the other hand, I am encouraged by the order of your loving fatherly care and, if I were to be disobedient of this order I would be performing wickedness. However, through this faith by which his clear speech and acts became known to us and with the help of his intercessions, although my text may be awkward I may produce an eloquent text for the faithful. Indeed, as the angel said to Tobias “It is good to keep close the secret of a king but it is honourable to reveal the works of God.” For, to conceal the works of the elect of the Lord through silence and not to make them manifest through the illumination of writing to the use and edification of the listeners, is believed to be an act of the greatest laziness and torpor. Indeed praise of Him is cultivated through the acts of the saints and the edification of innocent desire is kindled in the minds of the faithful people. Lest a long prologue produces loathing ¬– and because brief narration excites greater fervour for listening – with God commanding, we attend to your orders and we will tread upon the journey of narration. For even if serene eloquence of mind should attend me and language should be prepared with proper service, it is not possible for my eloquence to offer praise worthy of his speech and sanctity, which remain in your pious memory.
HERE ENDS THE PREFACE.
HERE BEGINS THE LIFE OF THE HOLY ANSBERT.
1. Therefore at that time when Chlothar, son of Clovis and his queen Balthild, steered the kingdoms of the Franks together with his brothers, that is to say Childeric and Theuderic, Bishop Ansbert of good memory of the holy church of Rouen was born to a noble family at a paternal estate called Chaussy, in the district of the Vexin. He was shining with virtue and worthy for the office of priest. His father was called Siwinus. However disdaining from the nobility of his forefathers, as soon as he was of age he chose to be rated only by the fatherly love of the Creator. At that time, his father performed military service under the aforesaid king and he fulfilled the debt of his present life to all mortals communally. However it is not necessary to calculate and to number the origin of his earthly dignity or of the blessed man’s glorious father. Indeed he possessed all the glory of the love of truth and contempt for the world. For, as if loathing the nobility of his descent even then in boyhood, he strove only for the love of Christ and loathed all superfluous honours. Indeed his parents handed him over to vigorous teachers in order that he should be taught letters. He was taught without the example of anyone else. For indeed, he was in this a charming infant, a modest child and a noble young man. When he became an adult, his worldly father loved only him and was keen for him to be employed in hunting and to be armed for the charms of the world. However, the young son loathed everything which delighted the aged father.
2. In these days there was a certain illustrious man by the name of Hrotbertus, who was from a good line of birth and was also a ring-bearer to King Chlothar. The aforesaid distinguished Siwinus sought this man’s daughter, the most religious and noble Agadrisma, because he wished her to be married to his son. There was no delay. He proffered his approval to the request of the aforesaid noble Hrotbertus and when the day had been fixed, the pure girl was pledged to the pure young man. Then, because they both desired to retain whole minds and pure bodies, they prayed earnestly to almighty God that he might deign to repel the poisons of delight from their hearts. The blessed virgin Agadrisma prayed that her beauty might be turned to deformity and straightaway the Lord granted her prayers. Her face soon appeared ulcerated and was completely covered with a most foul leprosy so that anyone who saw her would instantly judge that she should be segregated away from the community of men. Then her father quickly sent orders to his doctors. He said that if they were able to bring aid to his dear offspring through remedies they might be rewarded with just recompense. Yet, however much they pressed upon this work, instantly, by Christ’s work, she appeared so much more deformed and ulcerated. Then her father sensed that his daughter had been struck by this affliction through the work of divine power. He asked her whether she had chosen through her prayers to end her life in virginity. “My father,” she said, “I chose it that way and I beg with all exertion and through the piety of the most high that I should deserve to be a maidservant to abstinence and chastity and not to unbridled luxury. For Christ is the betrothed whom I desire and he himself brings this molestation to my body so that he should bestow splendour to my soul. For he is a perpetual guard over me and he concedes to preserve one intended to be placed in perpetual virginity. This present life entices me, pious father, but it deceives because all that is in the world is vanity and longing of the eyes and the world and its desire will pass away but whoever will have committed to the wish of God remains in eternity just as the Lord remains in eternity.” Hearing this, her father summoned the noble Siwinus and unfolded the circumstances surrounding his daughter in clear terms. To this Siwinus replied, “It is proper to follow the wish of God in all things and not to will anything contrary to his command. His judgements may be secret but they are always just.” Having been called there, the blessed Ansbert was present when the agreement was changed, so that the holy virgin Agadrisma was called to be the bride of Christ and not his own. When this was done, she was sent to the town of Rouen to the holy Bishop Audoin so that, having been promised in virginity, she might merit to be consecrated by the precepts of his benediction and dressed in sacred garments. This was concluded and she was returned to pristine beauty and elegance of appearance straightaway so that all might call her a teacher since Christ himself had chosen her for his betrothed and perennial maidservant.
3. After this, the holy governess was sent to the nunnery at Oroër, which is situated in the district of Beauvais next to the wall of the town of Beauvais. Furthermore, the noble Hrotbertus, father of the holy virgin and his brother Haltbertus, were uncles to the holy Father Lantbert, the successor of the holy Wandrille in the governing of the order who led his life in the territory of Thérouanne. Following a time in Fontanella, one of these, the aforesaid Haltbertus was made a monk in the monastery under the aforesaid abbot Lantbert.
4. After this, Ansbert, the man of the Lord, was led by his father into the king’s court, against his wishes. As he was renowned for the sharpness of his intelligence, he became a skilled court scribe, the compiler of the royal privileges and a royal ring-bearer by which the same privileges were indicated. Having been placed there, he turned himself to the Lord with the examples and humility of pious doctrines. He longed to leave the world behind and to enter a monastery. Up till then he had been dressed in the habit of the laity. He had invited many others to the prize of eternal happiness by exhorting them through the aforesaid holy and wise doctrines. Thus, as he advanced everyday and grew in the Lord, he sought to increase the grace granted to him from Christ. Indeed, in the presence of the king and princes the divers music of combining instruments was heard, by accustomed practice, resounding in strings and pipes. He said to himself, “Oh good author you will hear the unfailing canticles of angels in the heavens which are performed charmingly and delightfully with such diligence. In this way praise to you may be created unceasingly by the resounding of these choruses. For if you prove such great ability to mortals they might provoke the souls of those listening by the knowledge of arts and sweet songs. In this way, they may praise you, Lord, Creator of all things, with such devotion!” Furthermore he added, “Praise the lord, all you faithful on the drums and on strings, praise him in strings and pipes,’ and so forth until the end of the psalm.
5. Although he remained at the royal court he did not forget the gospel-writer who says, Unless you leave everything behind you will not be able to be my disciple, Being inspired by divine providence, he chose to leave the earthly military service and to serve as a soldier for the heavenly King. Then he burned with the fire of divine love and he was bathed with the light of the Holy Spirit. Having gone out from the palace without any of his fellows or his servants, he wished to confess his desire. He took up the road which leads to the province of Rouen and he came to the convent at Fontanella in the territory of Rouen. There, on the great river Seine, the noble priest of the Lord Wandrille had built a monastery. There he led a laudable life with a great cohort of monks under the yoke of a holy rule. Indeed, when Ansbert had received hospitality in that same monastery, by the order of the holy man and according to the monastic law, he began to implore them humbly as if he were a servant until he was deemed worthy to see the holy father of the monastery. When the ministers of the father had announced the request to that pious man, at length he ordered the aforesaid elegant young man to be led into his presence. Having prostrated himself on the ground, he humbly adored the waiting Christ in such a great father and asked that he would make him a monk. He said that he would renounce the worldly body and mind and he said that he wished the hair to be cut off from his head, in the love of Christ, as it was ordered. Thus he violently entreated that he might be adopted as a monk. However the venerable father heard his holy and worthy postulation to God and said that he wished to have an end to consideration, so that, just as the apostolic and monastic rules teach, he should know to what he came. When this had been fulfilled, the renowned father received a spiritual brother in the spirit. They fulfilled his pious wishes, just as he had asked, and they handed him over to be dressed in the habit of clerical office.
6. Therefore from that time, the man of God started to burn with a love of reading the holy scriptures and he began to harvest those most sweet fruits with great zeal for the sake of understanding them. When the blessed father Wandrille perceived that the aforesaid young man possessed a sharpness of intelligence, he quickly ordered him to be given an abundance of volumes of different kinds. When Ansbert had hastened through them by diligently reading, he found the opinion of a certain holy father written in this way; “A monk lives in the monastery under one discipline of the father and the fellowship of many, so that he may learn humility from one and patience from another.” He read these and other things, hastening through them with his eyes which overflowed with tears like rain. He began to conduct himself most attentively so that he should be strong enough to fulfil what he read. Firstly, he took care to lay down a certain fundamental custom of all virtue and humility in his heart, imitating he who says: Learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart. Thus he submitted his devoted neck to the yoke of sweet Jesus and to his light burden. He was confirmed in the meeting of all the monks, being most humble and obedient to all. He was frequent in vigils, perpetual in prayers and fervent in spirit. He gloried in hope and served the Lord without intermission. He was also given an excess of tears due to the compunction of his heart which was infused with the Holy Spirit. When he had risen before the hour of vigils and prostrated himself with devoted prayers, he grew weary and he was touched with a sign which told him that he should rouse his brothers in order that they should sing repeatedly to the Lord. In the convent of prayers, he presented himself before all the others. In this also, just as in other acts, he demonstrated an imitable life to the monks. Thus the man of God who ruled over the government of the place, chided many by reproving them, and proved them guilty of their faint-heartedness. On account of this, though only recently converted into the work of God, the aforesaid young man outstripped them by his observation of the law. According to the monastic pattern, Wandrille began to love Ansbert more dearly because was worthy of high esteem, in every way, on account of his religious devotion. One day in the meeting of all the monks he humbly entreated Wandrille the noble priest of the Lord that he should grant him paternal licence to apply himself to work with his hands everyday outside the customary work of the brothers so that he might mortify his limbs which were his earthly hindrances. When he had made this request, the brothers were astonished at his worthy devotion to God and gave thanks to God. Indeed the spiritual father from whom he sought indulgence for himself praised him and began to fulfil his request with great devotion.
7. At that time, through the encouragement of the man of God, the blessed Wandrille began to plant and cultivate some vines approximately five hundred paces south of the aforesaid monastery. Once, while Ansbert, the aforementioned man of God, was working there with his brothers, Theuderic the young, future king, came upon them whilst he was hunting, as was the custom of the young men of the time. He came up to that man of God who converted him again to be prudent through doctrine, humble in custom and most holy by imitation. For the prince had already been consecrated a priest by Audoin, the holy pontiff of the church of Rouen. The same man of Christ fortified him with holy pious benediction and instructed him with encouragement through the priestly authority of many holy doctrines. Moreover, he predicted that he would be the future king. When Theuderic made some attempt to deny that this would come about, the man of God responded, “You know that you will be elevated to the honour of kingship; but you will know many in the kingdom who are turned against you and you will bear it. In this way you will obtain a victory from your enemies yet only after much labour.” The events that followed later proved what he said To this the young Theuderic said, “If the pious command of omnipotent God does establish me at the height of power in the kingdom I shall make you a worthy bishop of God so that the church of the faithful may grow through your holy doctrine.” Since the priest of the Lord said that he was unworthy of carrying such a great burden, the holy man announced that he would ascend fully to the height from the hereditary succession of the kingdom. Doubting him somewhat thus far he persisted, saying, “In this you will have sown the seeds of faith through my words. Although today at this wintry time, the place where your tent was pitched now seems beaten-down on account of the signs of trampling feet, it will produce green vegetation. Thus, near to the remains of those same tent skins, it will remain more green than other parts of the district for a long time.” In this way it happened exactly according to what the man of God decreed in the presence of those there. Indeed, that place where the tent was once fixed appears greener than any other part of the district, both in winter and in summer up till this day. Oh how great was the renowned glory of that holy man! The Almighty wished to demonstrate his praiseworthy merit by such signs, so that his virtue was made manifest to the people by such a presage and he blossomed just like a palm in the house of Christ. When the aforesaid man of the Lord had completed his manual work he was revived by very little sleep yet he exerted himself again with meditation of all that is holy. He shone with the light of such great humility, obedience and devotion and his heart burned with the fervour of true love of all those around him that he was venerated by everyone with wonder. Indeed he was always burning with desire for future glory, and was unfailing in the work of God.
8. Therefore the material of this work is now seen to tell how the holy man was chosen and constituted in the ruling of the place. When Wandrille, the renowned priest of the Lord had held the rule of that convent for a space of nearly twenty years, ever since the first day of its foundation, he was placed in a state of decrepitude. Before crossing over from this life, one day he was seized with languor and he came near to the end. Before the meeting of all the monks, with a voice full of tears, someone asked him whom they should elect from one another as leader. The following answer is said to have been returned, “There are two in our presence, my most shining sons, and these rectors have been chosen in my place. Protect my fragile retreat with your prayers and always remember our admonitions. By the great Christ I commit the care to our pastor who will conserve you with vigilance perpetually until the end.” When he had been received into the heavenly kingdom by the community of angels, the band of all the monks prayed to the Lord Christ for piety and celebrated three days of fasting. When they had done this, by the order of God they elected Lantbert, the servant of the Lord who was splendid in piety and noble in origins. He was born in the territory of Le Ternois to a father by the name of Erlebertus who had happily donated much treasure on the aforesaid Fontanella in that same region of le Ternois. That same venerable father Lantbert was full of charity, prominent in chastity and firm in faith. He was a provider of counsels who was laudable in goodness. Moreover he was affable in conversation as well as becoming in face and stature. Furthermore he was worthy of veneration by all because he was fervent in the Christian religion. Having been inspired by the grace of divine charity, the same father Lantbert laudably venerated Ansbert the servant of Christ like a father and he loved him as his son. In the sight of the Lord they were to each other one heart and one soul. Furthermore he who received the care of government sought the consultation of the holy Father Ansbert in managing the flock of the Lord. According to the rule of the holy fathers he acted strenuously and without blame in all things. Having incited many people by his examples of pious actions and by the sedulous exhortations of his words they seized the path of holy living.
9. King Theuderic, son of King Clovis, and Queen Balthild bestowed a certain paternal estate called Donzère on this venerable father Lantbert. The estate was beyond the river Rhône in the region which is properly called Provence. That is to say he gave this gift to the monks living in the convent of Fontanella so that, they could provide the church with oil for lamps and other things which were necessary. In this aforementioned place, the father built a noble convent of monks directed by monks from the convent of Fontanella who executed their work laudably and diligently. From this small gift a great monastery arose there and was distinguished in that region above all the others. This place was subject to the said monastery of Fontanella for many years until the time of the division of the kingdom, the discord of princes and the invasion of the wicked people of the Arabs. Then, along with other venerable places it was depopulated for some time and this brought an end to the subjection.
10. Also under his rule, the blessed Ermenlandus from the aforesaid monastery of Fontanella, as directed by the same father Lantbert, sought a certain island in the middle of the river Loire in the same region of Nantes which is called Indre from the venerable Pontiff Pascarius of Nantes. There he built a venerable convent of monks of the same name. In bestowing this gift, the aforesaid bishop Pascarius had ordered that after the death of the same venerable father Ermenlandus of the monastery of Fontanella they should establish for him rectors who were inhabitants from the aforesaid place through all successive generations. Likewise they should declare most openly the funds of the same place which till then were preserved in the aforesaid monastery of Fontanella.
11. Also the blessed pontiff of Christ, Erembertus of Toulouse, and the holy priest Condedus and the anchorite from the island of Britain assumed the habit, name and dignity of a monk of God from the aforementioned father Lantbert, in the aforesaid monastery of Fontanella, when he held the rule of the place. Indeed there were many more things about this great father which happened through him or under his rule which we could recount, if we did not have to hurry on to other things for the sake of God and for the use of this place. We described these more fully, some time ago, in the Book of Deeds as an example to those to come and for their memory.
12. We shall describe briefly how, indeed, he was elected to the rule of Lyons, the most celebrated town of Gaul. Therefore when Genesius, the holy bishop of the town, had died, Lantbert’s laudable acts commended his worthy life to God in that very place. The pious King Theuderic and the famous Pippin, son of Ansegislus, that is to say the cousin of the blessed father Wandrille, took counsel with the leading men of the palace. Thus with divine providence and with the unanimous vote of the people of that town and of that region they elected him as bishop. Although he resisted it for a long time on account of his humility and did not wish to receive it he was compelled by royal command and by priestly election. Thus he was ordained the metropolitan pontiff of that town. Having been directed to that province with the worthy honour of his priests, he ruled the flock of Christ irreprehensibly and humbly by means of his accustomed holy piety and exemplary acts and speech. Having been called by God, he was stripped of the earthly chains of corruption and passed happily and with joy to the supernal city.
13. In the aforesaid monastery of Fontanella, after the departure of the same holy pontiff, Lantbert, by divine will, the monks of that same congregation unanimously elected the blessed Ansbert to be placed over them as rector. When he received the care of government he meditated assiduously, as if he had received a great burden, that is to say to rule the souls of the flock committed to him by the Lord and to take care for the morals of many. Since, he was skilled more than all in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, incessantly he gave out the food of eternal vigour to the flock which was committed to him and he showed them the way of holy life through his words and actions. For, just as other leaders, so he was more humble than all. He was meagre in dress, moderate in food and devoted to perpetual abstinence. He was also richly adorned with chastity, cheerful of heart and healthy in body. He yielded to the virtues of patience and charity and having heaped up an abundance of riches he also indulged in the largesse of almsgiving. Being thus adorned by the works of holy virtue, he shone with fire like a lamp among the brothers. Indeed, one day, as he was reciting the proclamations of divine law to the whole monastery, as was his usual custom in the same way that the flaming hearts of those listening were turned to the ardour of charity by the abundance of his eloquence, so many of them were compelled to tears. They gave great thanks to the omnipotent God, saying, “Blessed omnipotent God, though we do not deserve such a thing, you have given to us such a master by the inspiration of your piety.” He was highly esteemed by all as a true father and they acted towards him as devoted sons. But he always took care to be loved more than feared and to pledge his soul to the ever-watchful care for the saving of souls. Therefore, when the prerogatives of the merits of the same blessed father became known further away, many people flocked to him from every direction and sought salvation through his beneficial counsels. Since he shone with the dignity of the priesthood, he received the confessions of those flocking to him. He gave advice for their spiritual health and told them how they could be saved. He told them that they should keep immovably to the ways of justice without failure due to any weariness. Through his doctrine and prayers many who were strengthened and fortified, rushed to the grace of conversion. Many brought gifts wrought from different kinds of precious metals and other possessions as well as much land in divers places and territories. The curious reader may easily find out about all of these by inspection of the wills and donations of the faithful. Also it is common knowledge that the gifts amount to thousands. For he passed through everything with the sanctity of religion according to God. He was prudent with the power of argument and news of his laudable, or more precisely imitable, goodness and religious devotion spread everywhere.
14. In the aforesaid venerable monastery of Fontanella among the happy deeds of his goodness he founded a hospital for the weak and infirm poor. Furthermore, in resemblance of the number of the apostles he established twelve men as deputies for that same matter, and these men gave out alms generously. Also he founded two other houses for the poor and infirm of Christ in the same monastery. According to the sacred number, he made these in eight days, and eight people lived in each one. In these places he resolved to lavish food for the needs of those without, everyday for ever. There was no other freedom of hours for them. During the hours which were set aside day and night they resided in the house of the Lord and followed the divine oration and freedom devotedly. At that time they offered the Saviour and Victim of the holy sacrifices for the salvation of the people of Christ and the universal church everywhere. Oh what great and glorious works of this holy father which cannot be described so well, with such words, as they stand together with virtues!
15. Meanwhile, laying these aside, with the help of supernal grace of piety, I set out to narrate how this same venerable man ascended to the grade of pontiff. In those days it fell about that the blessed Audoin, the pontiff of the town of Rouen who was full of virtues and holy acts, was called by the Lord and happily departed this world. The blessed father Ansbert attended this man’s funeral, together with some of the other monks and with many cohorts of the clerics and priests of Christ. They solemnly celebrated the vigils of his sacred departure and honoured him with the proper dignities of the funeral service. After his holy burial, so that the church should not endure the loss of the pastor who had died, all the citizens of the town of Rouen sent a petition to the glorious King Theuderic. Then with his permission and authority, they elected the blessed Ansbert to be consecrated bishop over them. The king rejoiced at his election because he knew that wisdom overflowed abundantly in that holy father and because he also knew that he was strong in religious devotion. There was no delay. Some legates came to the blessed father Ansbert and disclosed the order of the king. The king was holding his royal court in the villa of Clichy-la-Garenne, which is in the Parisian territory. There he considered the profit and defence of the kingdom with a great convention of people around him. These legates compelled Ansbert to go there in order that the king might consult him as to how he should conduct the business of the kingdom, as he was accustomed to do – for Ansbert was the king’s confessor. However, when the aforesaid man of God heard this, he knew well that he would not be summoned to that place unless it was for the king to proffer his assent to his election to the town of Rouen. Furthermore it is said that, on account of humility, he responded to the legates of the king that he was exempt because he was not worthy of the office of pastoral care. They hurriedly carried back to the king and announced the response which they had received. Following this the king sent them to him again. Cunningly the king said that he would do nothing against his wishes after they had talked together over what he wished to do about the office of pontiff. As he was full of the wisdom of holy simplicity, he resolved to go to visit the king. Then he was elected by the unanimous vote of the holy priests, the king and his princes and by the citizens of the aforesaid metropolitan town. He was taken into the palace by the holy archbishop Lantbert of the see of Lyons and by other holy bishops who had convened together in that place and he was consecrated in the pontificate of the church of Rouen. This was done by order of divine providence so that he who had been faithful in a few things was set over many by the Lord so that he might give an abundant measure of food to his household at the proper time.
16. Then, having been elevated to the pontifical honour and burden, he began to shine more fully with works of holiness. He began to radiate with the light of preaching and, just like the burning light no longer under a bushel but placed on a stand, he dispelled the shadows of errors and showed the true way to all. He began to act in piety and mercy to all, to care for the poor incessantly, to defend the cause of widows and orphans, to take particular care of pilgrims and guests, to administer the distribution of alms to all, generously and joyfully. At all times, he hastened to demonstrate these things and similar examples to those people subjected to him. For he blossomed under that church of Christ just as he had flourished before at the monastery. He grew with graces, and decreased in wealth. Sometimes he came into the place where the treasures of the church were stored away and ordered some to be presented to him and he ordered others to be noted down. He reserved a great deal so that the pious giving of alms from the purse of the holy mother of the church might proceed with the benign fruit of piety. For he sent out those things which had been collected together and for a long time had been without occupation, in order to curb the penury of true hunger, which then gravely pressed the people everywhere and he sent out the treasure which had been useless for a long time for the proper use of the needy. At another time, he made his dispensation with prayers. For it then fell about that a crowd of poor people clamoured together outside, seeking alms. Hearing this and recollecting the divine sentence which says, “A man who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry and not be heard” he gave them alms, generously and made all of them return home rejoicing. Therefore at that time when he solemnly celebrated the solemnities of the mass in his see, the people of the diocese came together from all over in a great multitude of both men and women. Having read the reading of the holy gospel, he turned to the people and began to predict many things to come, both things which were good, bad or to be feared. In order that he might not bruise one or extol the other, he impressed on them that the avid longing for profits of eternal happiness should be sought. Since he predicted many things to them about the present and the future through the illustration of the Holy Spirit on account of that great and excellent grace of prediction which had been given to him, they were all compelled and, having been kindled by the fire of divine fear, they were set on fire to do penance and other exercises of good works. They gave thanks to the great dispenser of all good things who gave them such a cure. Not because of their own merit but because of his personal piety he conceded that they might temper their memory of the pastor whom they had recently sent away, by vision of his body. Since the whole church rejoiced over the pious pastor, the town celebrated in the illustrious prophet and all of the country exulted magnificently in such wisdom and prudence from the counsellor. Yet having completed the solemnities of the mass, he ordered all the citizens, that is to say the noble and common people, to be led in for the feast which had been prepared. There, when he had made them all lie down in their places in a proper manner, he himself sat at the table of the poor, imitating the one who, although he was rich, was made poor on our account and who also promised in retribution of just words, saying whatever you did for one of the least of these you did for me. Oh what a shining pontiff who gave double nourishment to his household everyday! He filled their bodies with earthly food and refreshed their souls with the food of the divine word.
17. Indeed, since he kept vigils most attentively for the health of souls, also he would call the archdeacons together and remind them that they should diligently take great care of the people and the restoration of churches with great honour. Also, they were accustomed to exempt that part of the town owned by the pontiff from the census of the public districts, according to canon laws and they most benignly granted free benevolence in the restorations of churches by the priest of the same temple of God. He was also eager to rule more with love than to hold dominion with terror. Then as he had obtained the first pontifical grade it was agreed that inviolate fraternal love should be held as his first care and special labour. Now indeed no-one was ever able to deny with his tongue that Ansbert’s charity flowed fully in all things.
18. Meanwhile, while I remember his grace in all things, he also exercised great solicitude and ever-vigilant care over the holy congregation of monks at the convent of Fontanella, in many ways. Among other remaining deeds of his prerogative, the authority of his privilege is published by the inhabitants of the aforesaid convent with great devotion, out of love for God and reverence for the saints. Since he was consecrated in the pontificate by the election of the holy priests and of all the citizens of Rouen and with the consent of the glorious King Theuderic, due to his great fervour of love, he always held the aforesaid convent venerably and published the authority of his privilege. For, through the succession of time, according to the rule of the holy father Benedict and as was their privilege under the authority of the preceding kings, that is to say of Clovis, Chlothar, Childeric and Theuderic, which described the authority of their privilege that they might elect for themselves an abbot from among themselves, this law ordered, by the word of binding justice, that both those under his rule and those before and after, who were to serve the Lord as soldiers, should zealously and faithfully serve Christ, according to the rule of the holy Father Benedict, just as it was under his rule. If anyone in the future tried to deviate, or were driven to deviate, from the proper way and observation of the rule of the holy Benedict either through culpable sin or through the negligence of the shepherd, then the convocation of remaining holy priests and soldiers of Christ should come together, and those failing should be led back through the council to a pristine state. If indeed, with him placed in pontifical authority, they had scorned his authority and chosen to lead the wicked life and way of living, they should know that they were eternally damned under the chains of anathema. However the authority of this privilege was declared in the general synod in the town of Rouen in the 682nd year after the incarnation of the Lord in the tenth year of the indiction, which was the sixteenth year of the reign of the aforesaid glorious Theuderic and the fifth year of the episcopate of the aforesaid venerable bishop. There, many things being acceptable to God were discussed for the future usefulness of the church. Also present were other holy pontiffs and venerable men who had been called out especially by the bishop from each of their parishes and sees. Their names are written below:
I, Ansbert, archbishop of the town of Rouen, and the following people presided over this council. Bishop Ratbertus, Bishop Regulus, Bishop Ageradus of the town of Chartres, Ansoaldus, Bishop of the town of Poitiers, Aquilinus, bishop of the town of Evreux, Bishop Chadoenus, Bishop Armonius, Bishop Salvius, Bishop Desiderius, Bishop Fulcramnus, Bishop John, Bishop Willibertus, Gerebaldus, bishop of the town of Bayeux, Bishop Taurinus, Aunobertus, bishop of the town of Sées, Abbot Celsus, Abbot Audomarus, Abbot Scladio, Abbot Bosochindus, Genardus, the glorious deputy of the aforesaid great bishop, the venerable Archdeacons Ermentramnus, Ferrocinctus and Forcianus. Also there was present a great number of priests and deacons residing there and from the surrounding area. By order of the holy pontiff, Ragnomirus the reader certified and recorded the acts of this holy council and the authority of this privilege.
19. When these powerful men had gathered together to him, the same venerable bishop exhorted the great men always to serve fervently with souls devoted to the commands of Christ. He also urged them that they should always give thanks to Christ who, by his own death and resurrection, breathed life into our death with the hope of resurrection, offering eternal life and shaking the horror of eternal death. Thus he persuaded them that they should hold onto life and should not fear the end of life.
20. However among those remaining acts of his goodness, which he performed during his episcopate, we come to narrate how, for Christ’s sake, he also translated the body of the venerable and holy Bishop Audoin to a more eminent place in the church of the holy Peter which is in the suburb of the town of Rouen. Thus, since he had gathered together many craftsmen from different provinces, he put together a tomb of amazing magnitude. This can be seen with the human eye, even now, decorated with precious metals of gold and silver and adorned with precious gems. Therefore, a day was chosen and during the solemnities of the Ascension of the Lord Christ, with a multitude of priests and monks and other clerics united together, he ordered that holy body to be raised with great reverence. It was re-entombed with a great amount of honour in the apse of the aforesaid church of the holy Peter with the praise of hymns and with the clerics singing happily and with joy. Among the other venerable men in this holy convent there was also Genardus, the most excellent deputy of Ansbert. It was he who had made the preparations for a great feast since such an innumerable group of people had come together from many places for the holy translation of so venerable a bishop. However when the solemnities of the mass had been completed, by order of the holy pontiff, the aforesaid Genardus sat to eat with the noble men while, according to his usual custom, the excellent pontiff Ansbert lay down with the pilgrims and poor people with whom he rejoiced to take his feast. For, in performing the office of ministry on that day, he humbly showed his allegiance to the poor and needy by restoring them. He was most agreeable with a merry face and appearance. He deserved to be the minister of the poor man or more precisely he deserved to be the minister of the Lord Christ who promised that anyone who gives to the needy would be given more treasure in heaven. Great care was given to those visiting there or who were there as guests. Meanwhile his character was equal to the munificence of his soul and his ministry was equal to his faith. Not only did he give sufficient food to those in need, but he also gave covering to their bodies and generously gave them money. Therefore, a host of divers people frequently came to him from various regions. He enriched them both personally and, through excellent men, with both the wealth of encouragement and the worthy pontifical blessing from God. He joyfully distributed the necessary subsistence for the body without want. Indeed many wondered how the pious giver afforded to support such a flow of giving. For even though the substance of the giver had been exhausted, however, through faith, there was always money for alms. Indeed, at the aforesaid translation of the venerable and blessed pontiff Audoin, all the citizens of the town of Rouen and the inhabitants of the surrounding monasteries, that is to say the clerics and nuns, merited to be made anew from the abundant gift of the venerable bishop. Thereafter, the anniversary of the translation was always celebrated by all the citizens of the town with solemn celebrations in commemoration of the blessed pontiff Audoin. Yet that same pontiff of distinguished life always remembered the people committed to him by the Lord. According to the order of his ministry, he frequently went around his own parishes, for the sake of delivering the dew of holy preaching and the sweetness of holy living into their minds. Also, he always surrounded himself with men of excellent life for this work of holy ministry. With their help secured, he could lead the believing people to the kingdom through the eternal vision. Thus he held together many servants of God by the grace of preaching.
21. However that enemy who is the adversary of humankind and the rival of good deeds pledged death to men because of his envy. He worked with most cunning arts so that a man who was splendid in the world and more splendid in Christ should be deprived of his proper pontifical see and that there should be pain for the people through the loss of such a great pastor. For when savage discord arose among the princes of the Franks from various divisions in the kingdom, the cunning enemy of mankind caused the envy of wicked men to be waged against the servant of God. Through the devil, they fraudulently suggested to Prince Pippin that the holy man had plotted wicked deeds against him. For with the illustrious Warratto withdrawn from the first place of order he was supplanted by his wicked son Giselmarus and, by the Lord’s command, Pippin achieved the position of the prefect of administration. At that time, having been accused by that same prince, the aforesaid holy pontiff was found at fault. He was sent into exile at the monastery of Hautmont, which is in the territory of Famars, and Hinaut on the river Sambre. At this time, the venerable abbot Aldulfus presided there. Therefore, with no crime extant, he humbly entered upon the hardship of exile.
[One MS adds in verse:
Clement, a little while ago sent from Rome by Trajan the Caesar and Ansbert here from Rouen by the prince of the Franks. He saved many people by his holy dogma and here he leads many by virtue to the heavenly path. In coming to him all of them were saved at the insula and also thereafter many were saved at the river Sambre. For the enemy strove to strike against them with hurts. On account of this Christ gave him great profits like those of a soldier]
22. Indeed, when Ansbert arrived at the aforesaid monastery, he began to show the example of light to all the local inhabitants by his accustomed holy life and by his works of pious religion. He found them fervent in the divine religion but after a little space of time by his example and doctrine he rendered them even more fervent. Indeed, he frequently prostrated himself by passing the night in long, enduring fasts and vigils and he was stiffened with an assiduous rain of prayers and of tears. The Almighty blessed him so that all the local inhabitants immediately sensed his imitable devotion to Christ and loved him with a singular affection and wished that he would be with them for a long time. Indeed he declared the works of usefulness to many of the inhabitants among those around him at the convent and his lessons remain useful today. However by the cunning instigation of the ancient enemy the envy of some wicked men burned against that same man of God. They endeavoured to suggest to the aforesaid prince that he should inflict a greater pain of exile on him. Wherefore the same shining pastor sent for the aforesaid venerable father Aldulfus and directed him to the aforesaid most excellent prince together with other venerable men, humbly satisfying the wishes of his heart. Ansbert cast aside the grade of bishop which he had not received through his own will as he had received that ministry by the order of the prince and by election by the people. On account of this, the aforesaid father of the monastery proceeded to that same celebrated prince. Secure in God’s help, he succeeded in accomplishing what he had sought by urging. The same prince recalled that he was closely related to Wandrille, the holy father, under whose holy discipline the aforesaid holy Pontiff Ansbert had risen some time ago to the rule of the order. As the deeds were done wrongly, he yielded over the matter with clemency and gave him licence to return to his own see. Yet this was not to be because it was prevented by divine order, as we shall continue to describe.
23. On his return, the aforesaid venerable Abbot Aldulfus published the command of the prince. In response, the same holy pontiff said, “I thank you good Jesus who broke the chains of your servant and gave pleasing words to the prince. You freed me from the hand of those rising against me and you also threw me into this hardship of exile through your love.” Indeed, he remembered what he had read somewhere, that great men endure many things and that, being living examples themselves, they should instruct others to endure. Therefore he did not cease to afflict himself incessantly with humble spirit and contrite heart, offering worthy oblation to the Most High everyday with praise. For if he had lived during the time of the persecutions of Nero or of Decius there is no doubt that he would have held no great fear of the power of fire nor the savaging of beasts nor the suspension from a young colt, nor the tip of a sword of the persecutors on account of confession of the Lord Christ.
24. Indeed, knowing from divine revelation that the day of his calling was imminent – for he merited an angelic visitation – again he sent his humble petition to the aforesaid religious prince asking that he should grant licence for the remains of his body to be carried to the monastery of Fontanella where some time ago he had commanded the rule of the order for the Lord. That prince agreed to the petition and so that it might be done freely, he conceded immediately. Although a few of those with him differed from him, however many were comforted by the Lord even though, the same father stood in little need for human consolation because he delighted in angelic obsequies. Indeed on the 9th February, when the hour of his calling was imminent, he called his cohort of brothers together and celebrated the solemnities of the mass for himself. Then, having taken the body and blood of the Lord, he prepared himself. Signing himself and all those around him with the sign of the cross he received his last rest and sleeping in the quietness of death he crossed happily from the world. His holy soul, which was generous and sincere and uncontaminated by all contact with the world, was received by the angelic chorus into the consort of the holy so that it might be established there for ever in perpetual happiness.
25. When they had washed the body and came to dress him in the shroud, they found the skin in the bends of his knees and elbows hardened as a result of his constant prayers. Thus what he had done living, his limbs sought to do in death and the discharged flesh stretched itself out. Thus that holy body was dressed in the great ambition of faith and covered all over from above with only a wax linen as he himself had foretold. This was accomplished for him by the Lord so that his bones would be taken to be buried in the aforesaid monastery of Fontanella. For the brothers took care that he should be dressed just as he was accustomed to be when he assisted at the holy altars of Christ. However when they wished to place the waxed cloth from his head, they saw that his eyes were open so that he looked like one who was living. Some even said that he was alive again. Indeed his face was flushed with a rosy coloured glow. Furthermore certain men said that it was as if he was indignant at the prospect of the imposition of the wax cloth. For they saw that he was not without his glory which is the glory of God in his holy triumph. His funeral rites were performed with the religious dedication of faith. That place was so blessed to have possessed such a patron and so unfortunate to have lost so much. Afterwards they buried him with great and worthy honour.
26. Indeed, when the lamps of oil before his tomb were full of liquid and had been lit by faithful men, they not only burned unceasingly day and night but also overflowed. The brothers wondered at this fact and thought that it was sent by divine glory. They placed another vessel which was filled by the trickles of that divine gift of oil. Oh great and renowned pastor! Most celebrated Ansbert, you glorious personification of happiness! For your merit did not need to be proven by signs since the operation of your glorious and admirable way of life which was full of virtues afforded a perpetual sign of your holy virtue. But what more need I say? The Lord allowed many miracles and signs to be worked through him in that place.
27. Indeed when seventeen days had passed, the legates who had been sent to the aforesaid prince returned with the licence which they had received from him so that his body might justly be transferred by them to Fontanella according to his wish without any impediment of law. When they opened his tomb, they thought that his venerable body would now stink after it had been buried for such a long time. However the whole church was filled with such a most sweet fragrant smell like the aroma of various flowers. Moreover little drops of balsam flowed from the tomb. The brothers who had come from their own provinces to see him and those he had kept with him in exile wished to change his clothes and to dress him with new garments. Having taken off his clothes before he was put back in the tomb just as previously they found the sign of the Lord’s cross on his arms and a similar rosy colour so that all the faithful understood clearly that because he had carried the armour of Christ in his heart while he was living, marks of the cross were shown on his body in death.
28. Then he was dressed in pontifical garments and placed on a litter. The prelates went before him with spices and incense. The citizens of Rouen and monks of the convent of Fontanella who had come to him lifted up that venerable body and bearing that precious burden and praising with tears, they took up their way. Also, the aforesaid venerable abbot Aldulfus along with a large cohort of his monks and innumerable people of both sexes attended him. They carried banners of the holy cross, as well as candles and lamps of different kinds. As they went they all sang the melody of hymns, canticles and religious poems in his sweet praise. The choruses of love resounded together with the discordant sounds of divers languages. Since that place was truly happy to have had such a pastor and had received such a patron so sweetly as they carried his holy and venerable bones over the earth, they were confident that he was in the heavens and giving them his protection. The venerable body of the precious confessor was carried to the monastery of Fontanella by these troops of faithful people, surrounded and honoured with music. However, the venerable abbot Aldulfus, together with his counts who were his companions on the journey, acted as servants to the body with great honour as far as the royal town of Venette which is situated in the region of Beauvais by the river Oise.
29. When they came to a town called Solèsmes on the river Selle in the territory of Hinaut, they turned aside in search of hospitality because they were fatigued from the long journey there and in need of refreshment. There a certain man ran up to them carrying his daughter who was destroyed by a paralysing malady of her limbs. She did not even have the strength to move her feet and walk so that she seemed as if she was dead. Calling with great prayers and with weeping this man implored the holy bishop Ansbert to bring health back to his only daughter. Since the ministers and custodians of the most holy body permitted that the bier might stay the night, they spent the whole night in vigils and singing divine hymns. In the morning the man found his daughter healthy. Thus he rejoiced and gave thanks to God and to Ansbert, the holy bishop, in many different ways. He returned home with his daughter, rejoicing. Oh God how awesome are you in your holiness who worked a miracle through your servant Ansbert in this way with glorious merit.
30. Therefore, when they reached the place at which they were supposed to stop, for the sake of resting, instead, coming to another town, they chose to pass the coming night resting there. However when they wished to divert to that place, the body of the most holy bishop remained immovable in the hands of those carrying it like a great heavy burden. Then most of the other men came and tried to help but nevertheless the body remained as immovable as before. When they had understood that the body was divinely acted upon, they changed their journey to another place. Having moved there with speed, attended by divine virtue, they came through to the appropriate place. It was believed that they were made to wait by holy God for the sake of the dignity of the bishop. Thereafter, throughout the whole of the pious journey, the almighty Lord showed his attendants places which were suitable for the limbs of his servant.
31. Indeed, when they came to the aforementioned town of Venette, a great crowd of people from the same province of the town of Rouen was at hand to greet the body of the holy bishop. Among them were the bishops and fathers of the holy monasteries along with the neighbouring clergy of their venerable lord, that same holy pontiff as well as innumerable common people both men and women. They came to him with great devotion and with the singing of psalms. From that place, the venerable abbot Aldulfus and those accompanying him on his journey turned back to their own monastery.
32. The miracle which was performed through the servant of Christ in the town of Fresnoy, which is situated in the region of Beauvais, is one which my pen rejoices to describe among these things which have been written together. When his holy body had been carried to that same town, a certain local woman who was bound in chains and was vexed by an unworldly spirit was led to the body. “Why,” she said, “Have you brought Ansbert the servant of Jesus Christ our Lord into this province who expelled me from my proper see?” When the same woman had approached and had touched the covering which covered the body, she shouted with a great voice and at once by the merits of the holy pontiff, she spewed out the enemy of humankind with blood and gore. Thus a great miracle was done. Indeed she gave thanks to Almighty God and to the holy Ansbert through whom she had been cured from a pernicious spirit and had received health and been returned to herself. Oh blessed Lord Christ, King of all the world and creator and guardian of all that is holy you deigned to perform miracles through the great merit of his servant. Then in the same town, in honour of the holy bishop Ansbert, a church was built by the faithful people. His bed remained in the same church from a long time and signs of virtue were performed there on account of the divine merit of that same holy man.
33. When approximately twenty days and more had passed they came into the territory of Rouen in a place which is called Paldriac. There the Almighty Lord deigned to show a miracle in the same way through the merits of his same holy bishop, this time to more senior men. A certain woman who had been seized by a demon was led by her parents, bound in chains, to seek the protection of the holy man. When she came to the bed where the body of the holy man was preserved she touched the cloth with which it was covered. Raising her voice to the stars, straightaway she was freed from the demon and made most healthy by the grace of God and by the merits of the holy Ansbert. Now healthy, she turned back to her own home by her own powers. Glory honour and power be to our God, who thus triumphs in the merits of the holy bishop with signs of miracles.
34. Indeed, in this place in which the Almighty performed this miracle there was a paternal estate of certain illustrious men, namely Bertold and Radamastus, some four miles distant from the monastery of Fontanella. Indeed, it is said that when they tried to lift the most sacred body, it was held immovable, as if they strove with a great stone with iron nails and bands. Since it was not able to be moved, Radamastus, the possessor of the place is reported to have said, “Alas, Ansbert, faithful servant of Christ who is stationed among the train of his worshippers, remember us whom you loved in life and defend us from the joys of the world. Now, Christ returns you to us here. For that reason, I offer this treasure to Almighty God and to you, most holy bishop. I give it to you for all time.” Indeed, Radamastus, that honourable man himself, and his brother Bertold immediately gave up everything which they possessed in treasure and material things. They delivered it all to the blessed Bishop Ansbert and also to the monastery of Fontanella. Thus they shook off the yoke of liberty and they received the yoke of service to the Lord with subjected necks. In that very place they assumed together the name and habit of monks. Indeed on the aforesaid property of the men, that is to say on the public road and the paved area which lies next to Rouen and leads to the town, a wooden cross was erected by the faithful where the body of the holy and venerable pontiff Ansbert paused, in honour and in memory of him. There, many infirm people, who were vexed by diverse illnesses, frequently received the gift of health through the generosity of the Lord and because of the merits of the holy Ansbert. There, around the anniversary of day of that he paused there or came to that place which is the 10th March, innumerable people come together to honour him and pray to him. They solemnly render prayers to the pious Lord with great devotion of vigils, divine hymns and diverse gifts. In that same place through his many merits signs of miracles were constantly performed which surpass the knowledge of this narrator by their great number. For there those deprived of light received their sight and the lame received the power of walking. Those whose tongues were bound also received the power of words. People without the office of their ears received hearing. Demons were frequently expelled from the human bodies which they possessed.
35. Indeed on the 8th April, a certain woman who had been paralysed for many years came to that same place where the symbol of the holy cross had been erected. Coming there with true faith, she was restored to pristine health and her limbs which had not pressed the earth for a long time because they were feeble were suddenly changed as soon as she was touched with the relics. We thank God without measure because he deigned to show such miracles on account of his aforesaid servant. Also, following this time in that place, a church was built in honour of the holy Bishop Ansbert by the august and excellent work of the venerable Abbot Hiltbertus the successor of the same holy father in the ruling of the order at Fontanella.
36. Yet passing over these things, we set our pen to the order of the translation of the aforesaid servant of Christ. Those who came with his body and who transferred him to the monastery of Fontanella, carried him into that church of the holy apostle Paul. The old and young, the boys and infants and the whole chorus of monks wept. Indeed, the venerable abbot Hiltbertus who was strong in holiness and had assumed the upright life along with the brothers, approached the venerable body, thinking that it would smell from so long a time in the tomb – for it was nearly thirty days since it had been buried. Yet when they had removed the garment covering his holy head such a sweet smell flowed out from it that the church was filled with the odour of divers spices and incense. Indeed his face was turned red as if he was in a deep sleep, giving the impression of one living. Many holy bishops and venerable fathers surveyed the face. It seemed to all the people who were there that it was a stupendous sign of a miracle. Then they wrapped the body in clean muslin and an intricate covering. They placed his venerable body in the tomb which they had prepared for him in the same church of the holy Apostle Paul next to the tomb of the most holy Father Wandrille with all diligence, fear and praise. This was on the 11th March in the 695th year from the incarnation of Jesus Christ our lord God to whom is honour and power, right and order through all eternity for ever and ever. Amen
[One MS adds:
In the fourth year of the reign of Childebert, king of the Franks which was eighth of the leadership of duke Pippin the elder, the fifth year of the presidency of Sergius as apostolic pope, year ten of the rule of Emperor Justinian II, which is the year of our Lord 695, the nourish-giving man, Ansbert of glorious memory and pontiff of the town of Rouen sought the kingdom of heaven, in the octave of the 9th of February in the territory of Hagnau and monastery of Hautmont under the abbot Hadulfus and where he was worthily consigned to the tomb. Then seventeen days after, he was lifted up and was carried away to the monastery of Fontanella accompanied with signs of virtue. On the thirtieth day the teacher of the people was buried in the church next to his fellow angelic man and famous Father Wandrille. Here ends the Life of the holy Archbishop Ansbert.]