Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Aubert, Bishop of Cambray and Arras, Confessor

Article

This great prelate was one of the greatest ornaments of the seventh age, and eminent promoters of learning and piety in the Gallican Church. His youth, that most precious season of life, he dedicated to God by the mortification and the absolute conquest of sensual appetites; he was careful to employ all his time usefully, and was a great proficient in sacred learning. Having with great zeal served the Church for many years, he was consecrated bishop of Arras and Cambray on the 24th of March in 633. Though solitude, in which he conversed in heaven, and consulted God on his own necessities, and those of his people, was his delight, yet he knew what he owed to others; his door was always open to persons of all ranks and conditions, and he was ever ready to afford every one all comfort and assistance, spiritual and corporal, especially the poor, the sick, and distressed. With extraordinary watchfulness and sagacity he discovered the roots of the disorders which reigned among the people: his prudence and zeal applied the remedies, and all the obstacles he met with, he surmounted by his courage and constancy. His instructions, supported by the wonderful example of his own life, had incredible success in reforming the manners of his numerous flock. It was the first part of his care to train up a virtuous clergy, and to qualify them for their sacred functions by learning and good habits: ignorance, especially in those who are the teachers of others, being a most fatal enemy to virtue, and a rooted and experienced piety being necessary in all youth, that when they attain manhood and are exposed to the dangers of public life in a corrupt world, they may be able to resist the influence of vice and bad example. Saint Aubert converted to God innumerable sinners, and induced many persons of quality of both sexes, to renounce the world. The great King Dagobert often resorted to the saint to be instructed by him in the means of securing to himself an eternal kingdom. He listened to him with respect and attention, always rejoiced exceedingly in his heavenly conversation, and received from it the greatest comfort and edification. Out of respect for him he bestowed on his church of our Lady the royal estate and manor of Oneng. Saint Landelin was drawn by Saint Aubert’s tears and prayers from apostacy from a religious state, and from a most abandoned course of life into which he fell, at the head of a troop of licentious soldiers, or rather robbers: and in expiation of his crimes, he founded four monasteries, Lobes on the Sambre in Haynault, in 653, which was long very famous; but being secularized, the canons removed their chapter, in 1408, to Binche, three leagues from Mons, towards Charleroi. In 686, leaving Saint Ursmar abbot of Lobes, he founded the abbeys of Ane, Saint Guislain’s, and Krespin, near Valenciennes, in which last he died. Saint Aubert gave his benediction to Saint Guislain, and blessed his cell on the river Hannau or Haine, (which gave name to the province,) in the place which since bears his name, but was then called Ursdung or Ursidonc, i. e. Bear’s Kennel.

The blessed Count Vincent, called in the world Madelgare, his wife the blessed Waldetrude, and her sister Saint Aldegundes received the religious habit from the hands of Saint Aubert, and the latter founded the monastery of Maubeuge, the former that of Mons. Our saint built himself many churches, and some monasteries, as Hautmont, in 652, etc. The translation of the relics of Saint Vedast at Arras, was performed by him in 666, to a church at that time without the walls of the city, and Saint Aubert laid there the foundation of the great monastery which still flourishes. It was soon after most munificently endowed by King Thierry or Theoderic III who, dying in 691, after a reign of twenty-one years, was buried in this monastery with his second wife, Doda, where their monuments are seen to this day.

By Saint Aubert’s zeal, religion and sacred learning flourished exceedingly in all Haynault and Flanders. Having worthily sustained the burden of the episcopal charge for the space of thirty-six years, he died in 669, and was buried in Saint Peter’s church, now a famous abbey of regular canons in Cambray, which bears his name, founded in 1066, by Saint Lietbert, bishop of Cambray, who also founded the Benedictin abbey of Saint Sepulchre in Cambray, and died on the 23d of June, 1076. Saint Aubert’s shrine is the richest treasure of this magnificent church and abbey.

His festival was kept from the time of his death, on the 13th of December, as appears from the most ancient calendars of that and neighbouring churches; from the Libellus Annalis Domini Bedæ Presbyteri, published by Martenne from a manuscript of Saint Maximin’s at Triers, upwards of eight hundred years old, etc. This festival is a holiday at Cambray, where are also kept two other annual feasts in his honour: the elevation of his relics when they were first enshrined on the 24th of January: and that of their translation the 5th of July. When Guy or Guiard of Laon was bishop of Cambray, William the Abbot of Saint Aubert’s, in 1243, removed them into a new rich shrine which he had caused to be made by Thomas, a goldsmith of Douay, as we are informed by an inscription on the shrine. From which time this feast has been kept. The same inscription mentions that this shrine was enlarged and improved in 1275, by James, a goldsmith at Eskierchin, then a considerable town. Gerard I the learned and zealous bishop of Cambray and Arras, about the year 1020, employed the most eminent Doctor Fulbert to write the life of Saint Aubert. This could be no other than Fulbert the celebrated bishop of Chartres, who died in 1028, and had been fellow-scholar with Gerard, in the great school at Rheims under Gerbert of Orleans, afterwards archbishop of Ravenna, and lastly Pope Sylvester II. This life of Saint Aubert is given imperfect by Surius: copied in manuscript entire with notes and preliminary disquisitions, by M. Henry Dionysius Mutte, dean of the metropolitical church of Cambray, and vicar-general of the diocess; who added three authentic relations of miraculous cures of persons struck with a palsy, blind, lame, etc. with a particular detail of the circumstances of each, wrought by the intercession, and by the touch or presence of the relics of Saint Aubert: the first wrote under the same bishop Gerard I and by his order: the second was compiled in the eleventh; and the third relation of miracles in the twelfth century, in part by eye-witnesses. We have also an account of miracles wrought by the intercession of this saint in the parish church of Hennin Lietard, in which is preserved the relic of his jaw-bone.

We have another accurate life of Saint Aubert in the Chronicon Camaracense et Atrebatense, published by Dr. Colvenerius at Douay, in 1615, under the name of Baldericus, bishop of Noyon and Tournay. But the author declares that he had been brought up and had always lived in the service of the church of Cambray, and that he wrote it by the order of his bishop Gerard I. Whereas the clergy of Noyon, in their letter concerning the election of Baldericus, to the clergy and Church of Arras, assure us, that he had always lived in the church of Noyon. Baldericus of Noyon was only a boy when Gerard I died. The author of this Chronicon afterwards compiled the life of Saint Gerry, as appears from the preface. See Boschius the Bollandist, 11 August. Also see the life of Saint Aubert, written by a monk in Mabillon.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Aubert, Bishop of Cambray and Arras, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 December 2013. Web. 20 November 2017. <>