Tuesday, June 7, 2011
June 7 -- Feast of Saint Robert of Newminster
The lengths to which a biographer (hagiographer, to be precise) might go to aggrandize his subject can be pretty funny. Robert of Newminster's life seems to have been customarily impressive for a twelfth century saint. He was educated at the University of Paris, became a parish priest and then founded the Cistercian Monastery at Fountains. He then went on to found five abbeys in Britain: Newminster, Morweth, Pipewell, Roche, and Sawley. They say he had the gift of visions, and that he struggled with demons. As I say, pretty standard stuff for the twelfth century.
But here's the really cool part of the story. One of his hagiographers wanted to establish a link between Robert and Bernard, the great Bishop of Clairvaux. To do so, Robert had to have had a reason to travel to the continent since there was no record of Bernard traveling to Britain. The invention: a charge of sexual impropriety with a female parishioner. In the story, the charge was a scurrilous rumor started by resentful brothers; Bernard of course was said to have acquitted Robert of all charges. But really, wouldn't it have been better to have left his reputation unsullied than to besmirch it so it could be wiped clean by a greater, more famous saint?
Posted by Tom Major at 4:00 AM