Abbot of St. Omer, b. near Constance about 615; d. about 709. At an early age
he entered the monastery of Luxeuil in France where, under the austere Rule of
St. Columban, he prepared himself for his future missionary career. About the
year 638 he set out, in company with two confrères, Mummolin and Ebertram, for
the extreme northern part of France in order to assist his friend and kinsman,
Bishop St. Omer, in the evangelization of the Morini. This country, now in the
Department Pas-de-Calais, was then one vast marsh, studded here and there with
hillocks and overgrown with seaweed and bulrushes. On one of these hillocks,
Bertin and his companions built a small house whence they went out daily to
preach the word of God among the natives, most of whom were still heathens.
Gradually some converted heathens joined the little band of missionaries and a
larger monastery had to be built. A tract of land called Sithiu had been donated
to Omer by a converted nobleman named Adrowald. Omer now turned this whole tract
over to the missionaries, who selected a suitable place on it for their new
monastery. But the community grew so rapidly that in a short time this monastery
also became too small and another was built where the city of St. Omer now
stands. Shortly after Bertin's death it received the name of St. Bertin.
Mummolin, perhaps because he was the oldest of the missionaries, was abbot of
the two monasteries until he succeeded the deceased St. Eligius as Bishop of
Noyon, about the year 659. Bertin then became abbot. The fame of Bertin's
learning and sanctity was so great that in a short time more than 150 monks
lived under his rule, among them St. Winnoc and his three companions who had
come from Brittany to join Bertin's community and assist in the conversion of
the heathen. When nearly the whole neighbourhood was Christianized, and the
marshy land transformed into a fertile plain, Bertin, knowing that his death was
not far off, appointed Rigobert, a pious monk, as his successor, while he
himself spent the remainder of his life preparing for a happy death. Bertin
began to be venerated as a saint soon after his death. His feast is celebrated
on 5 September. In medieval times the Abbey of St. Bertin was famous as a centre
of sanctity and learning. The
Annales Bertiniani (830-882; Mon. Germ. Hist.:
Script., I, 419-515) are important for the contemporary history of the West
Frankish Kingdom. The abbey church, now in ruins, was one of the finest
fourteenth-century Gothic edifices. In later times its library, archives, and
art-treasures were renowned both in and out of France. The monks were expelled
in 1791 and in 1799 the abbey and its church were sold at auction. The valuable
charters of the abbey are published in Guerard,
Cartulaire de l'abbaye de St.
Bertin (Paris, 1841; appendix by Morand, ibid., 1861). The list of abbots is
Gallia Christiana nova, III, 485 sqq. See Laplane,
Abbés de St.
Bertin (St. Omer, 1854-55).
MABILLON, Acta SS. O. S. B., sæc. III, I, 93-150; Acta SS., 2 September, 549-630; BUTLER, Lives of the Saints, 5 Sept.; MONTALEMBERT, Monks of the West (Boston), I, 628 sqq.; GUÉRIN, Vies des Saints (Paris), X, 492 sqq. The earliest sources are two anonymous biographies, one of them written before the middle of the ninth century, the other somewhat later. They are published by MABILLON and by the Bollandists, loc. cit.
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