Galen Broeker In the Footsteps of Saint Gilles and Saint Robert

La Chaise-Dieu

There is an awful lot I could be posting about tonight, but I’ve discovered that my internet connection here comes with a total data used limit, and I’m getting precariously close.  As a result, let’s return to yesterday, when I went to La Chaise Dieu.

Robert of Turlande, founder of La Chaise Dieu, was born in 1001 to a noble family.  He was a canon of Saint-Julien of Brioude for most of his early life, rising to the post of treasurer of the abbey sometime before the 1040s.  It was then that he got very sick, and went on pilgrimage to Rome and Monte Cassino to pray for his health.  His health restored miraculously, he decided that he needed to found his own monastery out in the wilderness of the Livradois:

His monastery, La Chaise Dieu, was founded (according to tradition) on the 28th of December, 1043, and quickly became a major site in the region:

The original tiny hermitage quickly became this beast of a monastery, as early as 1050, and by 1057 Robert was able to found a daughter-house at Lavaudieu, which ,by the way, was the Abbey of St. Andre-le-Comps–not that I’m particular to anything in southeastern France dealing with the same saint who guided Peter Bartholomew, an Auvergnois, to the Holy Lance, of course.

The church itself is magnificent, and magnificent especially within it’s relative isolation.  I’m going to do a little bit of a photodump here, and I hope you don’t mind too much:

Main Door to La Chaise Dieu

Side view of the church, sadly under construction

Saint Robert’s Tomb with a Pilgrim’s Hole to touch his relics

View of the Church from the front door.

Pope Clement VI, as it happens, was a monk of La Chaise-Dieu before he became pope, and was a grreat patron of the church.  When he died, he was buried in it:

I only have two more pictures to post.  The first has, as a physical object, relatively little meaning, being significantly (18th c?) later than the item in mind,  But when Raymond of Saint Gilles was on his death-bed in the Levant, his final charter was a request that (I believe) a chalice he had been given of Saint Robert’s from La Chaise Dieu be returned there.  This is from Rohricht‘s Regesta Regni Heirosolmitani, I believe. So I give you a chalice of La Chaise-Dieu:

And finally, before I go to my rest in preparation for another glorious day in the archives tomorrow (have I not mentioned that I handled a parchment from Urban II to the church of Auvergne from 1097 today? because it’s amazing), let me say that like all historians, I write about southeastern France because I became enamored with not just a place and a history but with the people who I study.  And for me, Raymond of Saint-Gilles is very much my protagonist, and following in his footsteps, however removed is an amazing thing.  He very much did come to La Chaise-Dieu before setting out on the First Crusade, and Saint Robert of Turlande’s tomb has not moved from its position at the doorstep of the abbey since his death, so when I went to that place I was, quite literally, in the footsteps of my hero.  And that is an incredibly powerful thing.  And I may be a skeptic and religiously ambiguous, but there was something very powerful in that moment for me.  So here’s a picture of it, because that’s how the modern era memorializes powerful moments:

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

 

Thomas Lecaque

Thomas Lecaque

Thomas W. Lecaque (History) is a PhD student in Medieval Europe. His research interests include the Crusades and Crusader States, Occitanian literature, music and history, the cult of saints, the Peace of God, vernacular literature, and Latin-Greek-Syriac Christian relations. His current research focuses on the Toulousain experience in the First and Second Crusades and the socioreligious background to the founding of the County of Tripoli.

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