4) Robert of Arbrissel (Bl.; d. 1116). We know about the monastic founder R. chiefly from two closely posthumous Vitae (BHL 7259, 7260), the first by Baldricus, archbishop of Dol (better known to some as Baudri of Bourgeuil; BHL 7259) and the second by Andreas, a monk of Fontevrault; this survives in an abbreviated Latin version (BHL 7260) and, in fuller form, in a sixteenth-century French translation. R. was born at today’s Arbrissel (Ille-et-Vilaine) in Brittany, where he succeeded his father as the village priest. After study in Paris R. was for four years archpriest at Rennes, where he is said both to have settled quarrels and to have pursued the sort of reform agenda that is likely to have provoked ill feelings (e.g. opposing lay ownership of churches, simony, and married priests).
The appointment of a new bishop led to a change of venue. R. taught for a few years at Angers, after which became an hermit in the forest of Craon, where in short order he founded a community of canons and developed a reputation as an exceptionally effective preacher. In 1095 Urban II heard R. preach at Angers and, it is said, commanded him to devote himself to preaching. R. pursued this course for the remainder of his life, traveling from place to place and attracting a following of both sexes, with some of whom he is said to have slept (chastely in the view of his defenders, sinfully in the view of his detractors). In 1101 he founded a double monastery — with the women clearly outnumbering the men — at today’s Fontevraud-l’Abbaye (Maine-et-Loire) in Pays de la Loire.
When in 1115 R. ceased to direct the community he placed it under the rule of an abbess. R. wrote a Rule that was adopted by other houses that became priories of this mother house in what quickly became the Order of Fontevraud with many new foundations. The Rule was approved by Calixtus II in 1119. Andreas’ Vita probably was submitted with it in the hope of a canonization that never came. R. entered the RM in 2001 at the level of _Beatus_.
A view of the originally eleventh-century église Notre-Dame de l’Assomption at Arbrissel, where R. began his sacerdotal career:
Some views of the originally twelfth-century abbey church of Fontevrault/Fontevraud, restored in the later twentieth century after having served, along with other monastic buildings, as a prison from the late eighteenth century onward. R. had been buried next to the main altar. Now the place is famous for its _gisants_ of some later notables.
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