St. Leo IX. Pope and Confessor
THIS great pope received in baptism the name of Bruno. He was born in Alsace, in 1002, with his body marked all over with little red crosses: which was attributed to the intense meditation of his pious mother on the passion of Christ. 1 He was of the illustrious house of Dapsbourgh, or Asbourgh, in that province, being the son of Hugh, cousin-german to the mother of the pious Emperor Conrad the Salic. He had his education under Berthold, the virtuous and learned bishop of Toul; and, after his first studies, was made a canon in that cathedral. 2 His time was principally divided between prayer, pious reading, and his studies: and the hours of recreation he employed in visiting the hospitals and instructing the poor. When he was deacon, he was called to the court of the Emperor Conrad, and was much honoured by that prince. The young clergyman displayed an extraordinary talent for business; but never omitted his long exercises of devotion, or his usual fasts and other austere mortifications. In 1026, he was chosen bishop of Toul. The emperor endeavoured to persuade him to defer his consecration till the year following: but the saint hastened to the care of the church, of which he was to give an account to God, and was consecrated by his metropolitan, the archbishop of Triers; but refused to take an unjust and dangerous oath which he exacted of his suffragans, that they would do nothing but by his advice. Bruno began to discharge his pastoral office by the reformation of the clergy and monks, whom he considered as the most illustrious portion of the flock of Christ, and the salt of the earth. By his care the monastic discipline and spirit were revived in the great monasteries of Senones, Jointures, Estival, Bodonminster, Middle-Moutier, and St. Mansu or Mansuet. He reformed the manner of celebrating the divine office, and performing the church music, in which he took great delight. A soul that truly loves God, makes the divine praises the comfort of her present exile. The saint was indefatigable in his labours to advance the service of God and the salvation of souls. Amidst his great actions, it was most admirable to see how little he was in his own eyes. He every day served and washed the feet of several poor persons. His life was an uninterrupted severe course of penance, by the practice of secret austerities, and a constant spirit of compunction. Patience and meekness were the arms by which he triumphed over envy and resentment, when many strove to bring him into disgrace with the emperor and others. Out of devotion to St. Peter, he visited once a year the tombs of the apostles at Rome. After the death of Pope Damasus II. in 1048, in a diet of prelates and noblemen, with legates and deputies of the church of Rome, held at Worms, and honoured with the presence of the pious Emperor, Henry III. surnamed the Black, Bruno, who had then governed the see of Toul twenty-two years, was pitched upon as the most worthy person to be exalted to the papacy. He being present, used all his endeavours to avert the storm from falling on his head; and at length begged three days to deliberate upon the matter. This term he spent in tears and prayers, and in so rigorous a fast, that he neither ate nor drank during all that time. The term being expired, he returned to the assembly, and, hoping to convince his electors of his unworthiness, made a public general confession before them of the sins of his whole life, with abundance of tears, which drew also tears from all that were present: yet no man changed his opinion. He yielded at last only on condition that the whole clergy and people of Rome should agree to his promotion. After this declaration, he returned to Toul, and soon after Easter set out for Rome in the habit of a pilgrim; and alighting from his horse, some miles before he arrived at the city, walked to it, and entered it barefoot. He was received with universal acclamations, and his election ratified. He took possession of the see on the 12th of February, 1049, under the name of Leo IX. being about forty-seven years old. He held it only five years, but they were filled with good works. He laboured strenuously in extirpating simony, and the incestuous marriages which many noblemen had presumed to contract. In a journey which he made into Germany, he signalized all his steps with religious actions, held a council at Rheims, and consecrated the new church of St. Remigius, belonging to the abbey, in 1049: and returned from Mentz, by mount Vosge and Richenow, to Rome. In 1050, in a council at Rome, 3 he condemned the new heresy of Berengarius, archdeacon of Angers, a man full of self-conceit, and a lover of novelty, who preached against the mystery of transubstantiation in the holy eucharist. 4 1
St. Leo held another council at Vercelli the same year, composed of prelates from several countries, who unanimously confirmed the censure passed at Rome on Berengarius and his tenets, and condemned a book of John Scotus Erigena to be cast into the fire. 5 In 1051 the pope made a second visit to his ancient see of Toul, and favoured the abbey of St. Mansu with great presents and exemptions. In 1052 he went again into Germany to reconcile, the Emperor Henry III. and Andrew, king of Hungary. In 1053 Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople, began to renew the schism of the Greek church, which had been formerly commenced by Photius, but again healed. Cerularius and Leo, bishop of Acrida, wrote a joint letter to John bishop of Trani, in Apulia, in which they objected to the Latins, that they celebrated the holy eucharist in unleavened bread, fasted on the Saturdays in Lent, refrained not from eating blood, omitted to sing halleluia in Lent, and other such like points of discipline. 6 Malice must be to the last degree extravagant, which could pretend to ground a schism upon such exceptions. St. Leo answered him by an exhortation to peace, alleging for these practices of discipline the ancient law and tradition from St. Peter, especially for the use of unleavened bread in the holy eucharist. He sent cardinal Humbert, his legate, to Constantinople, to vindicate the Latin Church against the exceptions of the Greeks, and preserve them in union with the Latins. He composed a learned and ample apology for this purpose; 7 but was not able to overcome the obstinacy of Cerularius, whose artifices drew the greater part of the Oriental churches into his schism. By his factious spirit he also embroiled the state: for which Isaac Comnenus himself, whom he had raised to the throne the year before, was preparing to chastise him, when his death prevented his punishment, in 1058. 8 2
The Normans, in the eleventh century, expelled the Saracens and Greeks out of the kingdom of Naples, but became themselves troublesome and enterprising neighbours to the holy see. Pope Leo implored against them the succours of the Emperor Henry III. to whom he made over Fuld, Bamberg, and other lands, which the popes then possessed in Germany, receiving in exchange Benevento and its territory in Italy. With these succours his holiness hoped to check the Normans, but his army was defeated by them, and himself taken prisoner in a certain village, and detained near a year, though always treated with great honour and respect. He spent his time in fasting and prayer, wore a hair-cloth next his skin, lay on a mat on the floor with a stone for his pillow, slept little, and gave large alms. Falling sick, he was honourably sent back to Rome, as he desired. Perceiving his end to draw nigh, he made moving exhortations to his prelates; then caused himself to be carried into the Vatican church, where he prayed long, and discoursed on the resurrection on the side of his grave. Having received extreme unction, he desired to be carried to the altar of St. Peter and set down before it: where he prayed an hour prostrate: then being lifted up again upon his couch he heard mass, received the viaticum, and soon after calmly expired, on the 19th of April, 1054, being fifty years old, and having held the pontificate five years and two months. 9 Miracles which followed his death, proclaimed his glory with God. His name is inserted in the Roman Martyrology. 3
The devil has ever laboured with so much the greater fury to rob the church and each particular Christian soul of the most holy sacrament of the altar, or at least of its fruits, as in this adorable mystery Christ has displayed in our favour all the riches of his mercy and love, and has bestowed on us the most powerful means of grace and spiritual strength. It therefore behoves every Christian to exert his zeal in maintaining the honour of this divine sacrament, and ensuring to himself and others such incomparable advantages. Besides the general sacred deposit of faith, here love and gratitude lay us under a particular obligation. St. John, the disciple of love, lays open the true characteristics of this adorable mystery of love by a short introduction to his account of the last supper, soaring above the other Evangelists, and penetrating into the divine sanctuary of our Lord’s breast to discover the infinite charity with which he was inflamed for us, and which prompted him to invent and institute it, saying, that Jesus, knowing the moment was come for his leaving us and returning to his Father, out of that love which he always bore us, and which he continued to bear us to the end, when it exerted itself in such a wonderful manner as to seem to cast forth all its flames, he bequeathed us this truly divine legacy. Love called him to heaven for our sake, that he might prepare us places there, and send us the holy Paraclete to perfect the great work of our sanctification. And the same boundless love engaged him to exhaust, as it were, his infinite wisdom and power to remain always corporally among us, and most intimately unite himself with us, to be our comfort and strength, and that we may most perfectly be animated by his spirit, and live by him. Shall we receive such a present with coldness and indifference? Shall we be so basely ungrateful to such a lover, as not to burn with zeal for the honour of this mystery of his love and grace, and unite ourselves to him in it by the most devout and frequent communion; and by our continual desire, and most frequent daily adoration of Jesus in this holy sacrament, endeavour to make him all the amends we are able for the insults he receives in it, and to appropriate to ourselves a greater share of its treasures, by a perpetual communion as it were with his Holy Spirit, and a participation of all his merits, graces, treasures, satisfaction, love, and other virtues? 4
Note 1. By what means the imagination, under the violent impression of some strong image or passion, in pregnant mothers, should impress visible marks on the organs of the child in the womb, whilst the circulation of fluids is the same through the body of the child and that of the mother; and the former is so tender in its frame, that if blown upon by wind, it would retain the mark; is a problem which we can no more account for than we can understand the general laws of the union between the soul and body in ourselves. But whatever some late physicians have said to the contrary, innumerable incontestible facts might be gathered to evince the truth of the thing. Probably the spirits or sinews of the mother receive a power of conveying a sensible image, and strongly impressing it on the inward parts of the tender embryo: of the fact Dr. Mead is an unexceptionable voucher.
Note 2. Wibert, in Vita Leonis IX. l. 1, n. 10.
Note 3. Herm. Contract. Chron. ad an. 1050. Lanfranc. in Bereng. c. 4.
Note 4. Berengarius, a native of Tours, studied first in the school of St. Martin’s in that city, afterwards at Chartres, under the famous Fulbert, its bishop. Returning to Tours with great reputation for his skill in grammar and dialectic, about the year 1030, he commenced Scholasticus in that city, by which title we are to understand master of the school, not, as Baillet mistakes, (Jugements des Sçavants,) the Ecolatra, or Scholasticus among the canons of the cathedral, (which seems not then to have been erected into a dignity in chapters,) much less the Theologal, certainty of a more modern institution. (See Menage. Anti-Baill. t. 1, c. 39, p. 134.) Many eminent men were formed in his school; among others Eusebius Bruno, who, in 1047, succeeded Hubert of Vendome in the bishopric of Angers, and the learned Hildebert, who became bishop of Mans, and afterwards archbishop of Tours. Berengarius was honoured with the priesthood, and, about the year 1039, nominated by Hubert of Vendome, archdeacon of Angers, though he continued to govern the school of Tours, and often resided there till his retreat, eight years before his death. He enjoyed the esteem of many learned and holy men, till jealousy and ambition blasted many great qualities with which he seemed endowed, and transformed him into another man. Guitmund, from the testimony of those who best knew him, says that the confusion he felt for having been worsted in a disputation which he had with Lanfranc, and the envy which he bore him when he saw his school at Bec daily more and more crowded, and his own almost deserted, first made him seek to distinguish himself by advancing novelties. (Guitm. de Euch. l. 1, p. 441, t. 4, Bibl. Patr.) Eusebius Bruno, formerly his scholar, entreated him to examine his own heart, whether it was not owing to a desire of distinguishing himself that he had begun to dispute against the holy eucharist, (Ap. De Roye, p. 48,) and Lanfranc ascribes his fall to vain-glory (in Bereng. c. 4.) About the year 1047 he first broached errors against marriage, and against the baptism of infants; but soon corrected himself. He immediately after fell into others concerning the blessed eucharist, in which he made use of the erroneous book of John Scotus Erigena. Hugh, bishop of Langres, who had formerly been his schoolfellow at Chartres, in a conference with Berengarius, discovered that he denied the mystery of the real presence, and transubstantiation, and wrote him a beautiful dogmatical letter on that subject before October, in 1049. (in Append. Op. Lanfr. p. 68.) Adelman, who had been also his schoolfellow in the same place, and was afterwards bishop of Brescia, wrote to him an excellent letter before the year 1050, in which he says that two years before, the churches of Germany and Italy had been exceedingly disturbed and scandalized upon the rumour that so impious an error was advanced by him. (Ap. Martenne, Anecdot. t. 1, p. 196.) Berengarius openly declared his erroneous doctrine in certain letters which he wrote to Lanfranc about that time, in which he espoused the errors of John. Scotus Erigena, and condemned the doctrine of Paschasius Radbertus, which was that of the church, (in vitâ Lanfr. c. 3, et Lanfr. in Bereng. c. 4, p. 22.) The news of this new heresy no sooner reached Rome, but St. Leo IX. condemned it in a council which he held in that city after Easter, in 1050. But as Berengarius could not be heard in person, the pope ordered another council to meet at Verceli three months after, at which the heresiarch was summoned to appear. He was soon informed of the condemnation of his error at Rome, and immediately repaired into Normandy to the young Duke William the Bastard. In a conference before that prince at Brione, he and a cleric who was his scholar, and on whom he much relied in disputation, were reduced to silence by the Catholic theologians, and revoked their errors. But Berengarius insolently renewed them at Chartres, whither he withdrew, as we are informed by Durand, abbot of Troarn. (L. de Corpore Domini, p. 437; see also Mabillon, Acta Bened. n. 16, et Annal. l. 59, n. 74.) St. Leo IX. opened the council at Vercelli in September, at which Berengarius did not appear, but only two ecclesiastics in his name, who were silenced in the disputation: the doctrine which they maintained was condemned, and the book of John Scotus Erigena thrown into the flames. In October the same year, 1050, a council at Paris, in the presence of King Henry, unanimously condemned Berengarius and his accomplices, and the king deprived him of the revenue of his benefice. In 1054, Victor II. having succeeded the holy Pope Leo IX. held immediately a council at Florence, in which he confirmed all the decrees of his predecessor. He caused another to be assembled the same year at Tours by his legates, Hildebrand and Cardinal Gerard, in which Berengarius made his appearance according to summons. He at first began to vindicate his error, but at length solemnly retracted it, and bound himself by oath to maintain with the Catholic Church the faith of the real presence in the blessed eucharist. This retractation he signed with his own hand, and thereupon was received by the legates to the communion of the church. (Lanfr. p. 234, Anonym. de Multiplic. Condemn. Bereng. p. 361. Guitm. l. 3, t. 18. Bibl. Patr. p. 462. Mabillon, &c.) Yet the perfidious wretch, soon after he was come from the council, made a jest of his oath, and continued secretly to teach his heresy. To shut every door against it, Maurillus, archbishop of Rouen, made an excellent confession of the Catholic faith, which he obliged all to subscribe: in which many other prelates imitated him. (See Mabillon, Act. t. 9, p. 226, and Annal. t. 2, p. 460, &c.) Eusebius Bruno, bishop of Angers, in his letter to Berengarius, mentions a second council held at Tours against him. After the death of Pope Stephen, who had succeeded Victor, Nicholas II. assembled at Rome, in 1059, a council of one hundred and thirteen bishops, at which Berengarius was present, signed the Catholic confession of faith on this mystery, presented him by the council, and having kindled himself a fire in the midst of the assembly, threw into it the books which contained his heresy. The pope sent copies of his recantation to all places where his errors had raised a disturbance, and admitted him to communion. Nevertheless the author being returned into France, relapsed into his error, and spoke injuriously of the see of Rome, and the holy Pope Leo IX. Alexander II. wrote him a tender letter, exhorting him to enter into himself, and no longer to scandalize the church. Eusebius Bruno, bishop of Angers, formerly his scholar, and afterwards his friend and protector, did the same. In 1076, Gerard, cardinal bishop of Ostia, presided in a council at Poitiers against his errors. Maurillus, archbishop of Rouen, had condemned them in a council at Rouen, in 1063. (Mabillon, Analect. pp. 224, 227, and 514.) Hildebrand having succeeded Alexander II. under the name of Gregory VII. called Berengarius to Rome in 1078, and in a council there obliged him to give in a Catholic confession of faith. The bishops of Pisa and Padua thinking afterwards that he had not sufficiently expressed the mystery of Transubstantiation, and his former relapses having given reason to suspect his sincerity, the pope detained him a year at Rome, till another council should be held. This met in February, 1079, and was composed of one hundred and fifty bishops. In it Berengarius declared his firm faith that the bread and wine are substantially changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and prostrating himself, confessed that he had till then erred on the mystery of the eucharist. (See Martenne, Anecdot. t. 1, p. 109.) After so solemn a declaration of his repentance he returned to the vomit when he arrived in France. Then it was that Lanfranc, who had been nine years bishop of Canterbury, in 1079, wrote his excellent confutation of this heresy, in which he mentions the pontificate of Gregory VII. and the last council at Rome, in 1079. From which, and other circumstances, Dom. Clemencez demonstrates, that he could not have published this work whilst he was abbot at Caen, as Mabillon and Fleury imagined. About the same time Guitmund, afterwards bishop of Aversa, near Naples, a scholar of Lanfranc, published also a learned book on the Body of Christ, against Berengarius. Alger, a priest and scholastic at Liege, afterwards a monk of Cluni, who died in 1130, wrote also an incomparable book on the same subject, by the reading of which Erasmus says his faith of the truth of that great mystery, of which he never doubted, was much confirmed, and he strongly recommends to all modern Sacramentarians the perusal of these three treatises preferably to all the polemic writers of his age. Durand, monk of Fecam, afterwards abbot of Troarn, about the year 1060, likewise wrote on the Body of our Lord, against Berengarius, which book is published by D’Achery in an Appendix to the works of Lanfranc.
These treatises of Lanfranc and Guitmund doubtless contributed to open the eyes of Berengarius, who never pretended to make any reply to either of them, and whose sincere repentance for the eight last years of his life is attested by irrefragable authorities of the same age, as by Clarius the monk, who died ten years after him, and almost in his neighbourhood, (Spicileg. t. 2, p. 747.) Richard of Poitiers, a monk of Cluni, (Ap. Martenne, Ampl. Collect. t. 5, p. 1168,) the chronicle of Tours, (Ap. Martenne, Anecd. t. 3,) and others. These eight years he spent in prayer, alms-deeds, and manual labour, in the isle of St. Cosmas, below the city, then belonging to the abbey of Marmoutier, where he died in 1088. William of Malmesbury writes, that he died trembling, after making the following declaration: “This day will my Lord Jesus Christ appear to me either to glory, by his mercy, through my repentance; or, as I fear, on the account of others, to my punishment.” Oudin, the apostate, betrays a blind passion in favour of the heresy, which he had embraced, when he pretends to call in question his repentance, (De Script. Eccles. t. 2, p. 635.) Cave carries his prejudices yet further, by exaggerating, beyond all bounds, the number of his followers. If it amounted to three hundred, this might seem considerable to Malmesbury and others, who complain that he seduced many. Not a single person of note is mentioned among them. Cave says, his adversaries were only the monks. But Hugh, bishop of Langres, Theoduin of Liege, Eusebius Bruno of Angers, the two scholastics of Liege, Gossechin and Adelman, many of the bishops who condemned him, and others who confuted his error were not of the monastic order. Never was any heresy more universally condemned over the whole church. The unhappy author is convicted from his writings of notorious falsifications, (Martenne, loc. cit. p. 111, &c.,) and of perfidy from his three solemn retractations falsified by him, viz. in the Roman council of Pope Nicholas II., (Conc. t. 9, p. 1101,) and in those of St. Gregory VII., in 1078 and 1079; not to mention that which he made before William the Bastard, duke of Normandy. From the fragments and letters of this heresiarch which have reached us, it appears that his style was dry, harsh, full of obscure laconisms, no ways equal to the reputation which he bore of an able grammarian, or to that of the good writers of the same age, Lanfranc, Adelman, St. Anselm, &c. His manner of writing is altogether sophistical, very opposite to the simplicity with which the Christian religion was preached by the apostles. We have extant the excellent writings of many who entered the lists against him; Hugh, bishop of Langres, Theoduin, bishop of Liege, Eusebius Bruno, bishop of Angers, (who had been some time his protector,) Lanfranc, Adelman, scholastic of Liege, afterwards bishop of Brescia, Guitmund, monk of the Cross of St. Leufroi, afterwards bishop of Aversa, B. Maurillus, archbishop of Rouen, Bruno, afterwards bishop of Segni, Durand, abbot of Troarn in Normandy, B. Wholphelm, abbot of Brunvilliers, near Cologn, Ruthard, monk of Corwei, afterwards abbot of Hersfield, Geoffrey of Vendome, whose first writing was a treatise on the Body of our Lord; St. Anastasius, monk of St. Michael, afterwards of Cluni, Jotsald, monk of Cluni, Albert, monk of Mount Cassino, Ascelin, monk of Bec, Gozechin, scholastic of Liege, an anonymous author published by Chifflet, &c. See the history of Berengarius, written by Francis le Roye, professor in laws at Angers, in 4to. 1656; and by Mabillon in his Analecta, t. 2, p. 477, and again in his Acta Bened. t. 9. Fleury, Histor. Eccles. and Ceillier, t. 20, p. 280, have followed this latter in their accounts of this famous heresiarch. But his history is most accurately given by FF. Clemencez and Ursin Durand, in their continuation of the Histoire Litérarie de la France, t. 8, p. 197, who have pointed out and demonstrated several gross mistakes and misrepresentations of Oudin and Cave, the former in his Bibl. Scriptor. Eccles. t. 2, the latter in his Hist. Liter.
Note 5. Lanfr. in Bereng. c. 4
Note 6. Cerular. ep. et Sigeb. de Script, c. 349.
Note 7. T. 9, Conc. p. 949, and Sigebert de Script. Eccl. c. 349, Baron. Annal. t. 9; Leo Allat. l. de Lib. Eccles. Græc.
Note 8. Cedrenus, Zonaras, Curopal, &c. See Baronius, &c.
Note 9. That Leo IX. had taken the monastic habit before he was chosen bishop, Mabillon proves from these words of this pope in his last moments: “The cell in which I lived when a monk, I have seen changed into a spacious palace. Now I must enter a narrow tomb.” Mabill. t. 4, Annal.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume IV: April.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.