Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Ouen, or Audoen, Archbishop of Rouen, Confessor

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He was otherwise called Dadon, and was son of Autaire, a virtuous French nobleman, who was settled in Brie. Saint Columban being courteously entertained by him, gave his blessing to his two sons, Ouen and Adon, then in their infancy. Autaire placed them both, during their youth, in the court of King Clotaire II, where they contracted a friendship with Saint Eloi, and by his example conceived a great contempt for the world, and both resolved to devote themselves to the service of God. Adon executed his design some time after, and founded upon an estate which he had near the river Marne, the double monastery of Jouarre, then called Jotrum, which he endowed with his own estate. It is at present a Benedictin nunnery. Saint Ouen was in great credit with king Clotaire II, and with his son and successor Dagobert I. who made him keeper of his seal, in quality of his referendary or chancellor; and original acts signed by him by virtue of this office are still extant. He obtained of the king a grant of a piece of land situated in the forest of Brie, between the greater and lesser Morin; where, in 634, he erected a monastery called, from the brook near which it stands, Resbac, at present Rebais. By the advice of Saint Faro, bishop of Meaux, he sent for Saint Agil, a disciple of Saint Columban, and got him appointed the first abbot by a council held at Clichi in 636; but in this he was forced to make use of the king’s authority; for the cities of Metz, Langres, and Besan├žon had at the same time requested Saint Agil to be their bishop, and the monks of Luxeu desired to have him for their abbot. Saint Ouen would have retired himself to Rebais, there to embrace a monastic life; but king Dagobert and his nobles could by no means be induced to give their consent. Saint Ouen and Saint Eloi, though yet laymen, were for their zeal, piety, and learning considered as oracles even of the bishops, and they exceedingly promoted the cause of religion and virtue through the whole kingdom. Dagobert dying in 638, Clovis II. his son and successor, testified the same esteem for Saint Ouen, and continued him for some time in the office of referendary, by virtue of which all the letters and edicts of the king were brought to him, and he put the king’s seal upon them, says Aymo├»nus. At length this prince was prevailed upon to give Saint Ouen leave to receive the clerical tonsure, and he was shortly after elected archbishop of Rouen, in the room of Saint Romanus; and at the same time his friend Saint Eloi was chosen bishop of Noyon and Tournay. They took a considerable time to prepare themselves for this dignity by retirement, rigorous fasting, and prayer, and received the episcopal consecration together at Rheims in 640.

Saint Ouen in this new dignity increased, not his pomp, but his humility, austerities, and charities. His zeal was indefatigable, and, by his affability and patience, he was truly all to all. He exerted his zeal in extirpating simony and other abuses, and promoted every where the reformation of discipline, especially in the third council of Challons in 644. King Theodoric III. employed him in many charitable important commissions, especially in pacifying those who were at variance, and in calming seditions. The saint having procured a peace between the French in Austrasia and Neustria, went to carry the news thereof to king Theodoric at Clichi near Paris, where an assembly of prelates and lords was held; and falling there sick of a fever, he besought the king that Saint Ansbert, abbot of Fontenelle, who was the king’s confessor, and whom the clergy and people of Rouen desired to have for their pastor, should succeed him. He died at Clichi, in great sentiments of holy compunction and joy on the 24th of August, in 683, having possessed the episcopal dignity forty-three years. See his life in Surius, and another more ancient in the Bollandists, and Du-Plessis. See a long history of miracles performed by the intercession and relics of Saint Ouen, written by the monk Fulbert in 1066; also the poem of Thierri, the learned monk of Saint Ouen in 1050, upon the life of this saint in F. du Moustier’s Neustria Pia. Henschenius confounded Saint Ouen with Saint Owin, a monk of Lichfield, when he ascribed his life to an English writer of the tenth age, named Fridegorius, as Dom. Rivet observes, t. 8, p. 366. On his translations and miracles, see Martenne, Anecd.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Ouen, or Audoen, Archbishop of Rouen, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 August 2014. Web. 21 November 2018. <>