Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict – Saint Angilbert, Abbot

illustration of Saint Angilbert, Abbot, from the book 'Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict', designed by Father Amandus LiebhaberNature was generous of her choicest gifts to Saint Angilbert, one of the foremost nobles of his time in France. Tall and graceful in person, handsome in countenance, and expert in every manly exercise, he was no less remarkable for the accomplishments of his mind, which had been trained by careful study. No wonder such gifts won the favour of King Pepin, who did not rest till he secured for his court so brilliant an ornament. Angilberts learning and modest disposition obtained for him the charge of the King’s Chapel. (He had previously taken Minor Orders.) After he was ordained Priest, Charlemagne, King Pepin’s successor, appointed him Chaplain-in-chief to the Palace.

As Angilberts early training had fitted him equally for the duties of war and peace, to him was confided the defence of the coast of France, then ravaged by the incursions of the Danes. His vigorous measures were successful in driving off the barbarians. In the province under his charge was the Monastery of Centula, in Picardy, France, famous for the relics of Saint Bercharius. Thither the governor made many a visit, and the peace and holiness that reigned within the monastic precincts made him doubt whether his present life was the one most conducive to his salvation. His doubts were soon solved by the Almighty; for the governor, being seized by a dangerous illness, which all the skill of the physicians failed to cure, vowed that, if he recovered, he would embrace the monastic life. The Evil One, however, was determined to place every obstacle in his way. No sooner was he restored to health than the fierce hordes from the North again swarmed into the province. How at such a time could he desert the post entrusted to him; how fulfill his vow? In his difficulty the governor implored the help of Saint Bercharius, promising, if the Saint would aid him against the Danes, that he would immediately join the Community at Centula. In the battle that followed, those of the enemy who escaped the sword of Angilbert were struck by thunderbolts, hurled against them from every quarter of the heavens, so that not even one was left to take home the news of their annihilation.

Immediately after this victory Angilbert entered Centula, and by a life of the greatest rigour and mortification gained such a reputation for sanctity that, when the Abbot, Symphorianus, died, the monks would have none but him for their head. As soon as the new Abbot was installed, he turned his attention both to the religious and material improvement of his house. No relaxation of the Rule of Saint Benedict was permitted, and one of the most stringent of his regulations was that there never should be any interruption in singing the praises of God in choir. To provide a worthy temple for the worship of the Almighty was his next care. A magnificent church arose, whose arches rested on columns of Parian marble. The last pillar – and that the most beautifully carved – was being lifted to its proper position, when, through the carelessness of one of the workmen, the fastenings gave way, and it was dashed to pieces on the ground. Saint Angilbert, in despair, sought aid from Heaven. After having fasted for three days, he spent the third night in prayer in the church. As he prayed, an angel descended through the dome and restored the pillar to its place so perfectly, that no trace of its injuries was visible.

Saint Angilbert died A.D. 814. Twenty-eight years after his death his remains were disinterred by his successor, Gervinus. When the coffin was opened, the Saint’s body was found in a state of perfect preservation.

– text and illustration taken from Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict by Father Aegedius Ranbeck, O.S.B.