Richard of Verdun

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Richard of Verdun (970–1046) was the abbot of the influential northeastern French Monastery of St. Vanne from 1004 to 1046. [1] Richard entered the monastery of St. Vanne as a young man, and upon his arrival he was shocked and dismayed by the relatively poor state of the monastery. So great were his feelings that he had attempted to be transferred from St. Vanne, but was eventually talked out of it by Odilo of Cluny. [2]

Odilo of Cluny Benedictine Abbot of Cluny

Saint Odilo of Cluny was the fifth Benedictine Abbot of Cluny, holding the post for around 54 years. During his tenure Cluny became the most important monastery in western Europe. Odilo actively worked to reform the monastic practices not only at Cluny, but at other Benedictine houses. He also promoted the Truce of God whereby military hostilities were temporarily suspended at certain times for ostensibly religious reasons. Odilo encouraged the formal practice of personal consecration to Mary. He established All Souls' Day in Cluny and its monasteries as the annual commemoration to pray for all the faithful departed. The practice was soon adopted throughout the whole Western church.

Richard succeeded Fergenius as abbot of St. Vanne in 1004. Due to his intimate connections with the local nobility, notably Gerard of Florennes, Bishop of Cambrai and Poppo of Stavelot, Richard was able to transform the simple monastery into a truly monumental repository of a variety of relics. [3] His network of connections and contributors even included William the Conqueror and Robert II, Duke of Normandy. [4] Modeling St. Vanne after Cluny Abbey, Richard undertook a number of building projects which some felt were overeager at best and needlessly wasteful and extravagant at worst. Peter Damian commented "...he had expended almost all his efforts constructing useless buildings and had wasted much of the Church's resources in such frivolities". [4]

Gerard of Florennes, bishop of Cambrai as Gerard I, had formerly been chaplain to Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, and helpful to the latter in his political negotiations with Robert the Pious, King of France. In 1024 Gerard called a synod in Arras to confront a purported heresy fomented by the Gundulfian heretics, who denied the efficacy of the Eucharist. The records of this synod, the Acta Synodi Atrebatensis, preserve a summary of orthodox Christian doctrine of the early eleventh century, as well contemporary peace-making practices. According to this text's author, the heretics were convinced by Gerard's explanation of orthodoxy, renounced their heresy, and were reconciled with the church.

William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. A descendant of Rollo, he was Duke of Normandy from 1035 onward. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England six years later. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.

Robert Curthose 11th and 12th-century Duke of Normandy, crusader, and claimant to the English throne

Robert Curthose, sometimes called Robert II, succeeded his father, William the Conqueror as Duke of Normandy in 1087 and reigned until 1106. Robert was also an unsuccessful claimant to the throne of the Kingdom of England. The epithet "Curthose" had its origins in the Norman French word courtheuse "short stockings" and was apparently derived from a nickname given to Robert by his father; the chroniclers William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis reported that William the Conqueror had derisively called Robert brevis-ocrea.

Despite his critics, Richard was generally well-regarded and considered to be a man knowledgeable of "...corporate religious ideals and the needs of a whole community". [5] Like many of his Benedictine contemporaries, Richard viewed the cult of saints to be the best means of transmitting the Christian ideal to a nominally Christian populace. [6] In fact, his most extravagant construction was built especially to house the bones of the monastery's many patron saints and former bishops. [7] In 1027, he carried out his own pilgrimage to Jerusalem (at the head of a large group of pilgrims), further demonstrating his interest in the cult of saints and relics.

Many of Richard's reliquary acquisitions during his tenure as abbot of St. Vanne seem to be highly suspect; at times even illegal. [2] According to Patrick Geary, Richard "...saw nothing contradictory or immoral about his theft or falsification of important relics". [8] Instead, the overall spiritual power and protection that the relics of saints could offer outweighed any misgivings about the "rightness" of theft or falsification. In Richard's viewpoint, if the relic had not have chosen him to acquire it, it would have interceded on behalf of its original possessors. [9]

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  1. Geary, Patrick "Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in The Central Middle Ages." Princeton University Press,1990, p. 65
  2. 1 2 Geary 1990, pp. 65-66
  3. Geary 1990, pp. 66-67
  4. 1 2 Geary 1990, pp. 67
  5. Geary 1990, pp. 68
  6. Geary 1990, pp. 68-69
  7. Geary 1990, pp. 69
  8. Geary 1990, pp. 65
  9. Geary 1990, pp. 65, 70