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Liber Floridus

The collegiate church and St. Bertin abbey

Lambert was a canon at the Church of Our Lady at St. Omer. The collegiate church was built on a hill in 649, some 800 metres west of Sithiu (later the site of St. Omer), by order of Saint Audomar, bishop of Thérouanne. In 663, he consigned the church to St. Bertin’s Abbey on condition that he would be buried at the site and that church would serve as a burial place for the monks. A second abbey came into existence, built around the church.

Sint Audomarus

Ghent University Library, Ms. 92, f. 12v: Saint-Omer

As a result of the reforms issued by Louis the Pious, Abbot Fridogisus separated the collegiate church from the abbey of Saint Bertin in 820. The Anglo-Saxon Fridogisus was a pupil of Alcuin of York and had been one of the court scholars whom Charlemagne, Louis the Pious’s father, had gathered at his court. As a result of the separation, the number of monks at St. Bertin’s Abbey fell from 83 to 60. The chapter would, henceforth, have 30 canons instead of 40 monks.

The separation of church and abbey not only formally divided the monks into two groups, but also redistributed their estates. According to the historian Folcuin, Fridogisus was too greedy during the division, and the brotherly love between the two institutions evaporated but there was probably less discord than Folcuin tried to make us believe. There had already been differences in the observation of the monastic rules even before Fridogisus carried through the separation. Moreover, this separation was by no means absolute: both communities kept goods in joint possession and until the end of the eleventh century, the abbot of St. Bertin was usually also the provost of the church of Our Lady.

In 1069 Lambert writes: Ernulfus advocatus apud Arda (Ardres) canunicos esse. In exchange for the donation of a tooth of St. Omer to the church of St. Omer in Ardres, Arnulf, Lord of Ardres provided for four canons at the chapter.

Bibliography:

Ghent University Library, Ms. 92, f.43v

Bédague, J.-C., Naissance et affirmation d’une collégiale: Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer, du début du IXe au début du XIIIe siècle, Paris,  Ecole nationale des chartes, 2009

Meijns, B., Aken of Jeruzalem? Het ontstaan en de hervorming van de kanonikale instellingen in Vlaanderen tot circa 1155, Leuven, Universitaire Pers Leuven, 2000.

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