Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Blessed Yvo, Bishop of Chartres, Confessor


May 20

The Order of Regular Canons of Saint Austin gave to the church a bright light in the person of this holy and learned prelate, one of the greatest ornaments of the eleventh age. Yvo was of an illustrious family, and born in the territory of Beauvais. His first studies of grammar and philosophy he performed in his own country, in which, by carefully cultivating a rich genius, he made great progress. Holy meditation and prayer were at the same time his favourite daily exercises, and accompanied with the love of silence, recollection, humility, and great abstemiousness. A constant attention to the divine presence was a practice which he had always much at heart, this being the method by which he happily consecrated all his time, studies, and even necessary recreation to God. For it was his constant endeavour to make all his employments and actions serve this end, to promote the sanctification of his soul and advance the glory of God. In all he did he had this only aim. This manner of life he continued in the monastery of Bec, in which he studied theology under the celebrated Lanfranc. Guy, bishop of Beauvais, having founded a monastery of Regular Canons of Saint Austin’s Order near that city under the patronage of Saint Quintin in 1078, Yvo took there the clerical habit, bestowed on that house a part of his estates, and was employed in teaching theology and expounding the canons and holy scriptures. Some time after he was chosen superior under the title of provost or abbot, and governed that community about fourteen years. He was careful in the first place to give his scholars a great ardour for the practice of devout prayer, frequently repeating this great maxim which students who desire to become truly disciples of Christ ought always to have deeply imprinted in their minds, that “A spirit of prayer and interior compunction give more of that divine science which contributes to the sanctification of souls than studies,” to use the words of the devout Richard of Saint Victor. The discipline of this Order was at that time very austere. The pious F. Simon Gourdan has demonstrated that these canons never ate either flesh or fish, and observed almost perpetual silence unless duties of charity obliged them to speak. Compunction and prayer were their first and principal employment, though they also applied themselves to the instruction of the people and the study of sacred sciences. So perfect was their obedience to their diocesans or bishops that it may be justly proposed as a model for imitation. The monastery of Saint Quintin’s was raised to such a pitch of reputation for discipline, piety, and learning, under the government of Saint Yvo, that to satisfy the demands of bishops and princes from all sides, he was obliged to send many of his canons to other places, either to reform ancient chapters or to found new ones.

Geoffrey, bishop of Chartres, being accused of simony and other crimes, and deposed by Pope Urban II in 1091, the clergy and people demanded Yvo for their bishop. This election was confirmed by the pope, and King Philip gave him the investiture by putting a crosier into his hand. Yvo set out immediately for Rome, and was consecrated by the pope, who checked the endeavours of Richer, archbishop of Sens, then metropolitan of Chartres, to re-establish Geoffrey. King Philip falling in love with Bertrarde, third wife of Fulk count of Anjou, resolved to marry her, and to divorce his Queen Berta, though he had by her two children. Yvo was invited by the king with other prelates to a conference on that subject. He strenuously endeavoured to divert the prince from so scandalous a project; and when he found all he could say or do to prevent it was to no purpose, he refused to be present at the marriage. Philip caused him to be imprisoned, and sent his officers to plunder his lands. He was, however, released some time after upon the remonstrances made to the king by the pope and several prelates of the kingdom. During his custody he prevented a sedition being raised against the king by the principal noblemen of his diocese, and he concealed for a long time the letters of the pope against that prince’s adulterous marriage, lest the malecontents should make them a pretence for taking up arms against him. For the same reason, he for a considerable time did not publish the sentence of excommunication which the pope had fulminated against the king. But he assisted with joy at the council which Richard the legate of the holy see held at Baugenci in 1104, for that prince’s absolution. Philip dying the year following, his son Lewis, to prevent seditions, was consecrated at Orleans by Daimbert, archbishop of Sens. Yvo by a circular letter answered the complaints made by the archbishop of Rheims. 8 Saint Yvo died on the 23rd of December, in 1115, having governed his see twenty-three years. Pope Pius V in 1570 granted an office in his honour to the whole Order of Regular Canons on the 20th of May; and his name is commemorated on this day in the Martyrology of that Order confirmed by Benedict XIV. His festival is kept in the diocese of Chartres; and the large shrine in which his sacred remains are exposed to public veneration is shown in the rich treasury belonging to the stately cathedral. See Saint Yvo’s letters and his life, compiled by F. Fronteau, the learned Genevevan Regular Canon, and prefixed to his works. The Bollandists have inserted the same in their great work with remarks.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Blessed Yvo, Bishop of Chartres, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 19 May 2012. Web. 26 September 2020. <http://catholicsaints.info/butlers-lives-of-the-saints-blessed=yvo-bishop-of-chartres-confessor/>