Raoul of Saint-Sépulcre, The Life of St. Lietbertus, Bishop of Cambrai
Translated by John S. Ott. ©Not for use or citation without permission.
| To John Ott's Homepage | To the HST 399 Homepage |
Excerpted and translated from the Vita Lietberti episcopi Cameracensis auctore Rodolfo monacho S. Sepulchri Cameracensis, ed. A. Hofmeister, MGH SS 30.2 (Leipzig, 1934), pp. 838-66.
A note to readers:
I undertook this translation because I wanted to make part of this valuable text, namely that concerned with Lietbert's 1054 pilgrimage to Jerusalem, available to students in my classes. A good deal of the biography has been omitted here, chiefly those parts concerned with Lietbert's upbringing and education, his dealings with the castellans of Cambrai and the count of Flanders, his local reforms of religious houses, and his death and burial. This translation remains in its intent and level of preparation an "in-house" production. There are still bugs in the translation, and it is overly literal, although I think in the main it is accurate.If you would like to make personal use of the text, please feel free. If you wish to use it for other purposes, including citation, please contact me at email@example.com. I also welcome comments, amendments, and criticisms from my colleagues on the translation itself.Prefatory notes to the text:
The in-text notes [in brackets] are at the end of the document.
The bishop Lietbert de Lessines, born ca. 1000 C. E., was an archdeacon and provost of the cathedral of Cambrai before his election to the episcopate of that city, which he ruled from April 1051 - 23 June 1076. The diocese of Cambrai sat on the political border between the German Empire, the Kingdom of France, and the County of Flanders, north and to the east of Paris. Although religiously subordinate to the archdiocese of Reims, which was closely allied with the French crown, politically Cambrai pertained to the German Empire. Its bishops, including Lietbert, traveled to the imperial court to receive the episcopal regalia from the emperor's hands. Its situation was unique among the dioceses attached to Reims, and once the Investiture Controversy erupted, Cambrai found itself torn between the competing interests of the pope and the emperor. Lietbert seems to have walked a fine line between the two powers: he appears as a witness in French royal charters as well as at the German court. It may well have been a political falling out with Emperor Henry III during the monarch's military campaign through Flanders in 1054 that was the immediate inspiration for Lietbert's pilgrimage. He was gone for two full years.
Extended pilgrimages to the Holy Land became more and more common in the century preceding the First Crusade. Lietbert's is one of the better documented of such voyages; but other journeys also attracted attention, notably that of a large group led by German prelates, including Siegfried, archbishop of Mainz, and Otto, bishop of Bamberg, in 1064.
Virtually nothing is known of the author of the Vita sancti Lietberti apart from his name, Raoul (or Radulf, Radulfus); that he wrote at an advanced age and was well-schooled (he had a fondess for the work of Virgil and Cicero); that he accompanied Lietbert on his pilgrimage; and that he was a monk at Saint-Sépulcre of Cambrai, a monastery reformed by Lietbert in 1064. The editor of the Latin text believes that Raoul was a younger contemporary of the bishop, and composed his life sometime between the years 1094 and 1133. Its date of composition was almost certainly about 1099-1100, however, after the death of Anselm of Ribemont on the First Crusade shortly before the conquest of Jerusalem in July 1099.
Lietbert's cult was confined to his diocese and its principal city.
Prologue to the Vita sancti Lietberti episcopi Cameracensis
The reverence and permanence of the Christian religion is, I have no doubt, constituted from this: to believe in faithfully carrying out the splendid bounty of omnipotent God, and in believing to sincerely preach. Faith in this religion strengthens to the greatest possible degree, first on account of the universal precepts by which the authority of the same religion is understood, and next because it shines throughout all the ends of the earth, and is called catholic or universal. Indeed, true devotion is the worship of one God, one among all princes and the wisdom with which man is made wise. . . . Moved by this consideration, and also by the charitable encouragement of our brothers and lords, we prepared ourselves to bring to our ears the life of our lord and patron Lietbert, bishop of the church of Cambrai, and the labors which he sweated for the same church, and the end of his life; and to establish a burning lamp of faith for the ecclesiastic candelabra by the grace of the septiform spirit, so that it may shine upon everyone who is in the house of God. In this charitable act, let hazy eyes not go blind with biting jealousy, nor place the left hand of wickedness upon a wrinkled brow, nor impute its usefulness in the public interest to arrogance or pride, but for this and his other blessings may they praise the Lord for all time. . . .
27.  The worthy bishop [of Cambrai, Lietbert], well stirred . . . by God to follow the saying of the apostle "Let us go to him outside the camp, bearing his stigma. For here we have no proper home, but seek the future" [Hebrews 13:13], conceived through a profound movement of his spirit the desire to travel to Jerusalem, not for the sake of seeing the stones of the towers or the rooftops of the houses, but in order to embrace and kiss the pathways once trod by Jesus' feet. He believed it would indeed be a blessed thing to see the humble dwellings; to adore in spirit with the shepherds the whimpering Christ-child; to celebrate in the church of Golgotha the sacraments of the blessed passion, crucifixion, and death; to lament the death with the blessed women at Christ’s tomb; to utterly wash with tears both his and their wounds inside its walls; and to follow with the most profound and heartfelt passion, on the Mount of Olives above the heavens, the ascending Christ with Mary his mother and the blessed apostles. But, in order to go about it wisely, he pondered how he might leave the city and church committed to him tranquil and peaceful and make precautions for there to be a suitable defender and protector for the entire region.
. . . .
29. Thus the bishop, having established Anselm [a member of the hereditary family of the castellans of Cambrai] as protector and defender of the county of Cambrai, and with full confidence in his faithfulness and diligence, little by little relinquished his duty in public affairs and looked after the journey's projected expenditures with all his mental energy. Meanwhile, he concerned himself greatly with how he might be able to keep [his departure] secret, for he knew that, if found out, he would without any doubt be opposed. But because, as the Scripture says, "frequent meditation afflicts the flesh,"  his subdued aspect, drawn face, persistence in vigils, and frequent solitude disclosed what he wished to conceal. At last a meeting of his closest friends exposed his heart's secret, and he sought counsel. All were troubled in spirit, several dissuaded [him], and the various hazards were laid out: the [possible] intervention of [his] death, the destruction of the region, together with the destitution of the church committed to him. The wiser mind agreed on this, [but] those weighing the bishop's lofty proposal were afraid to speak against [it], fearing they might experience the wrath of God or their lord over it. The bishop thus affirmed [his vow] to the Lord, [saying]: "I shall redeem my vow to God which my lips promised,"  [and] everyone alike assented—though not without distress.
30. This counsel having been confirmed, the companions made covenant. Foremost among them were those whose names we have added below: lord Galcherus the archdeacon and provost of the [episcopal] court; Hugh the chaplain, whose sanctity the cloister of canons of the mother church and the monastery of Anchin demonstrated; Erlebald the judge and procurator of the city; and another Erlebald surnamed "the Red," whom the church of Sainte-Croix praised for the kind of man he was.  And two of these men, namely lord Galcherus and the judge Erlebald, were supporters of such goodness and helpers of the lord bishop, as we shall tell in the appropriate place if God wills it.
31. In the year of the Lord's incarnation 1054, the mission having only been agreed to with difficulty by the clergy and people, the bishop Lietbert, the freedom of the country, worthy to the church and to God, departed his city of Cambrai and took the path toward Jerusalem. People of all ages and both sexes followed him with tears and immense groans for nearly three miles. Passing through cities and fortified towns—regions and provinces, the hazards of the mountains and the dangerous cults of forests, foreign in customs and language, which the Huns maintained [that is, Hungary]—he traversed the country. And so that the profit of his numerous travels might be enriched, after crossing the Danube he entered Pannonia, [a land] esteemed by the blessed birth of Saint Martin. 
32. It was announced to the King of Hungary [Andreas I, r. 1047-1061] that certain men wearing pilgrims' habits had come from distant lands to the borders of his kingdom and wished to cross. He ordered them to be presented to him immediately. On seeing the bishop, the king, moved by God’s will, rose quickly from his throne and invited him with a most courteous greeting into the consistory. He inquired after the reason for the journey, marveling at what he heard and that such a distinguished man should bear the weight of so difficult a labor. And because in those days scarcely anyone—virtually no one—took up this path, he thought they might be faking it under the guise of other business. For that reason, he secretly called together his men and ordered [the party] to be carefully observed on the road in order that they should not stir up any kind of wickedness. After observing the rigorous sanctity of the bishop for several days, and hearing of his most liberal largesse in sustaining the poor and his devotion in vigils, prayers, and fasting, the devout king offered his service and whatever the bishop from him and his men, he extended willing aid. Now, in his companionship, such a large concourse of people gathered that it should have been called the Lord's army (exercitus Domini). Thus, having rendered his protection to the farthest borders of his kingdom, through God's mercy, he bid him to depart in safety.
33. Crossing the frontiers of the Pannones [Hungarians], [Lietbert] entered the wooded wilderness known as the Bulgarian wildlands, which the thieving Scythians inhabit. These people, living like wild animals, are not bound by any laws or contained by any cities. They live in the open air assaulting passersby whom the night forces to make camp; some on the road they kill, others they capture. They move about like herds, carrying everything with them all covered in skins, children and wives [alike]. They are bound by the divine cult of no religion, nor by any identifiable branch of heresy; nevertheless, as we saw one of them deceased, [we know] the barbarians are circumcised following the custom of Saracens. Cruel, murderers, they are without goodness, without piety.
Entering this deadly place, the bishop, alone with his same company, was met by a number of people on the run, tearfully relating the cause of their flight. Many [of the pilgrims] were terrified and contemplated retreating along with the refugees. [The refugees] told them that they had run into a pack of thieves, that many of them had been killed and others gravely wounded to the point of death, and so, as he could see, had barely escaped. All were greatly distraught and tearfully begged the mercy of divine dispensation, although they were ignorant of what his plan might be. The lord bishop, having heard the tearful lamentation of the distraught multitude—for he walked alone in order to pay more attention to his psalms and prayers—came to a stop and asked why they were crying. On learning the cause he lifted his right hand and made to himself the sign of the holy cross, and made a blessing in the direction he was about to go. Afterward, remembering the words of the psalm by which he had prayed, he came upon this verse: "Rescue me from evildoers and deliver me from men of blood."  At this the warrior of Christ (miles Christi) gradually proceded and spoke briefly to those who went with him: "My fellow warriors (conmilitiones), do not allow your adversary the devil, who "like a lion prowls about looking for someone to devour," deter you. "Resist him, firm in your faith."  "If God is with us, who is against us?"  For that reason, "clothe yourselves in the armor of God so that you may stand firm and be perfect in all things,"  because your God tempts you so that he may know if you love him. "But he will provide a way out along with the temptation, so that you are able to sustain it."  Hastening down the road you have taken up, quicken the pace [still more], because "no one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."  In this way the warrior of Christ with his company of servants and companions incited the prince to continue and the army of God not be afraid. For ten days or more they wandered through those wastes, through which, as was said, the Saracens [sic: "Scythians"], nomad-like, constantly roved here and there.
34. On the seventh day, when they thought they had avoided danger, they suddenly saw horse- and camel-riders within a thicket of woods, bandits with crested and bound hair and half-clothed, wearing mantles and broad boots. Quivers hung from their shoulders and they carried bows and long spears. On seeing them the others took fright, but the lord bishop became more cheerful in the hopes of obtaining the prize for which he had undergone the labor of so great a journey.
For this he made vows, for this with utter love of the spirit the dutiful man prayed 
that he might be slain by them or taken captive and led away to distant and barbarous nations in the name of Christ. He promised with the disposition of a devoted spirit to suffer the passion of the living cross for the redemption of humankind, so that he might destroy the laws of death. Whence, that partner of the martyrs and chalice of Christ, preferring to step forward and participate in Christ's passions so that he might rejoice in the revelation of his glory, said: "Your vows, O God, are within me, and these praises I remit to you." But he who rules the earth in equity, taking heed of the prayers of the church of Cambrai, which day and night had entrusted its bishop to him, preserved [Lietbert] unharmed together with all his men in the face of such a deadly hazard. You would have seen those wretched people [the brigands] freeze at the bishops' arrival and grow weak at his undertaking; and you would have been even more astounded to see him leave that place and point out the path to those crossing through.  In this way the bishop, worthy to God, together with his companions, bypassed the perilous region and the thieves' domiciles without harm.
35. Having entered Dalmatia and passed through those places in which Diocletian  formerly built thermal baths and had brought down various fatal punishments upon Christ's martyrs, [the bishop] diverted his route toward Isauria.  Crossing this land he arrived at Corinth, and hearing that the body of St. Demetrius , esteemed among all martyrs, lay there, he sought out his tomb and there beseeched with his entire spirit the divine aid of his merit. From there, proceding to Laodicea, he entered Syria. There he learned that the King of the Babylonians had violently ejected Christians from the church of the Lord's sepulcher and barred the road, and he prepared, from fear of the pagans and since the land was completely cut off, to delay in the same city for three months. Although others began to despair of the pilgrimage and dispersed in various directions, the bishop and his company of nobles and companions stood firm, and, because he could not go by land, committed himself to a marine crossing. They scoured the docks, diligently seeking a captain; the amount of their valuables was added up and victuals were gathered, so that the moment a sign was given there would be no delay in departing.
36. While they waited for an appropriate time to set sail, one of the party, namely lord Fulk , fell ill in bed. As his languor persisted and the time of sailing approached, the lord bishop was troubled with a great disturbance of thoughts. He anguished whether he should postpone the crossing or await the turning point of his sick and faithful companion. While his illness increased, the sailing time was announced and fear and desire wracked the bishop's mind: fear, that that most faithful companion should die in his absence; and desire, that the time of the journey's start not be put off. With the bishop in this frame of mind, the health of the sick man was despaired of by the doctors and his approaching death heralded by the feel of his pulse through his clothes. The time came, and the boat-master appeared with his sailing implements and announced the date and hour of departure. . . . What should the warrior of Christ do? Desert his companion or put off the voyage?
But the Omnipotent did not permit him whom he saw was his devoted servant to be perturbed any longer. He who extended his hand to a sinking Peter, brought a resolution to [the bishop].  He recalled to [Lietbert's] mind the response he gave to the man wishing to bury his father: "Leave the dead to bury the dead."  Strengthened by the voice of the Savior, [Lietbert] vanquished his mortal need with God's love. He paid another visit to the sick man, who, already dead in body, was at the point of giving up his final breath. Addressing him verbally and by gestures--however he was able [to communicate]--he sought his permission [to go]. But the sick man, although he was about to surrender to the other world, recognized the bishop's voice and weeping and, regaining his strength, opened his eyes. When he had heard, with great difficulty, the words of the one speaking [that, is the bishop] the sick man in turn beseeched his permission to depart, even though he might die. The venerable bishop, commending [Fulk] to God with the greatest sadness and profound emotion of the spirit, committed [him] with prayers and blessings to the apostle Andrew and to the glorious queen Mary the mother of God. It is not surprising that he whom he loved, he had served more attentively than all the others. After this, as they said their final good-byes and gave one another the kiss of peace, the lord bishop rose to go and the sick man remained behind. Yet he who had been given up by the doctors and deserted by his companions--who now thought him dead--invigorated by the bishop's blessing and revived by his tears, took a small breath as best as he could and, with a vigorous spirit, inhaled with a cry. Then, calling to mind the words by which the bishop had committed him to the holy apostle Andrew and implored the holy mother of God, and inhaling deep breaths with rising tears said, as he himself later testified: "O blessed Andrew, to whose protection my lord the bishop Lietbert committed me and in whose memory served in the monastery at Neufchâteau , if you are tuly that worthy and courageous Andrew, Christ's apostle, the friend of God whom the Lord loved in the fragrance of sweetness, then make haste, hurry, have mercy . . . help he who labors. Hurry, friend of God, through the mystery of Christ your master! I am dying. And, because I am unable to do it myself, beseech the mother of mercy who for so long was my supporter, not for my merits, which deserve the punishment of death, but for the merits of he who committed me to you with tears and prayers."
The bishop passed a sleepless night, commending himself and his men to God with his accustomed sobs, and with supplicatory vows he prolonged the life of his dying friend.
37. Now, as the fourth hour of the night approached, while the others in the house in which he lay were asleep, the sick man seemed to himself to rise from sleep as though he were half-awake. And behold! he saw the spirit of a demon standing before him and holding an iron trident, flaming as though just removed from a fiery furnace, which, the same man later said, they had named the "death-point." And [the demon] said he had come there in order to affix [the trident] to his heart and thus eject his soul. The sick man struggled; he struggled, and collapsed. He then saw a blow strike the menancing one, and it was dissolved from inside out. Screaming, [the demon] was destroyed, and during the scream was intoned: "O holy mother of God, virgins of virgins, O St. Andrew."
38. In this time of great and terrible tribulation, among the mists and shadows of death, the glittering, heavenly sea-star, the mother of piety and--if I may say so, piety of pieties, by whose prayer God's piety spares the faults of sinners--illuminated the place with her most holy presence. She was present, I say: the hope of the wretched, the well-being of the ill, the joy of Christians. Raising the right hand with which she wrapped Christ in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, and setting the left hand upon the holy apostle Andrew, she made the sign of the living cross, the demon's lament, and said, "Who, o spirit of wickedness, fears your anger? Where are you rushing off to? How great is your arrogance? . . . What to you is the sick one, whom my son returned to health with the prayers of his saint Andrew? Depart from here, depart immediately!" At her command the aforesaid demon spirits quickly disappeared. Then the mother of piety gazed upon the sick man with a serene visage . . . a visage of sweetness and grace, I say, and, so that the [sick man] might arise and follow his bishop, indicated her command then disappeared.
39. As the vision faded the sick man, who seemed to to be sleeping, opened his eyes and discovered that he was healthy and unhurt, and though nothing evil had befallen him. Immediately he called out to the boy who had remained with him (so that he should not go unburied in the event that he died), and ordered that he bring clothes to him at once and prepare all the things necessary for following after the bishop. The sick man immediately got up--the boy thought he had gone mad--called out for the lord of the house, and asked him how much he owed for his accumulated expenditures. Once this was tallied and paid out he ordered his horse to be prepared as quickly as possible and ordered the boy not to forget any of his garments. Not only did the head of the household in whose residence he had stayed marvel at the man's health, but also all the neighbors rejoiced. Indeed, the entire city (cuncta civitas) rejoiced and applauded because they saw the dying man whom they had been arranging to bury the evening before according to apostolic precept taking his horse out at daybreak and leaving at full gallop. . . . He hurried as quickly as possible to follow the bishop and his retinue, whom God's piety and providence had detained at the shore.
The rising sun filled the sailors' eyes with lengthening rays, and on seeing them the boat masters predicted an approaching storm. By common consent they waited until the middle hour of the day to ascertain what the sun's splendor portended. During the third hour of the day, while the bishop was walking along the shore thinking about miseries of the present life and [silently] pleading the case of his deserted friend, the arrival of lord Fulk was announced to him by those keeping watch. Stunned at first, then gathering his wits, he asked how they knew it. They replied that they had truthfully seen the horse which he was accustomed to ride and his clothes. Sighing, the bishop responded: "It is possible that it is not Fulk but rather his boy who, having buried that lord, now follows after us. For I do not hope to see Fulk except with God's clemency alone. Nevertheless, I do not lack trust in Christ's mercy, which returned Lazarus to his sisters, the only son to the widow, and which entrusts the credulous man to his guarantors."  While these things were spoken among them, and the anxious ones looked out for the approaching man, Fulk arrived. O what joyous joy, what happy happiness did the human spirit know! He was not able to recount what had happened to him, so great was the tumult and so numerous the crowd of those pressing in on him with embraces.
40. Having received their companion, the lord bishop boarded the ship with his men at the sailors' orders. All the men put their weight into the stroke,
and the wind, freshening, blew from astern to chase them on. 
They departed the port of Laodicea and flew over the open sea; hastening from the crowded shore they passed through the strait. The sails inflated and the decked ship ran the vast sea. Afterwards the ship held to heights greater than any appearing on earth, and a storm-cloud rose above our heads,
bringing night and rain, and the shadowy waves quivered.
Immediately the sea-winds rolled in
and the black sea rose;
now in danger, they were tossed about by the vast ocean. . . . They were thrown off course and veered in darkness over the waves. Those imperiled sailors denied in various ways, day and night, the sea-currents. Three starless nights they wandered the open sea. On the fourth day the first land was seen to rise up and to open hilltops and release smoke. The sails deflated and immediately the sailors took up the oars
and heaved up swirls of foam on the dark blue sea.
41.  The shores of Cyprus received the lord bishop, saved from the sea waves, together with all his men. Fearing the ruler of that island, whom they called "Katapant" and who was the second-in-command, and in order that they not fall into pagan hands, [the bishop] remained there from June 4 until July 31. [He stayed] until the day when--although he had expended a great deal of gold and believed he had resumed the marine crossing to Jerusalem--he was fraudlently taken back to Laodicea, because the sailors wished to avoid pagan ambushes. While there he was bound again by delays until no hope of fulfilling his vow remained. At last, recalling the difficulty of his many journeys and on the advice of the bishop of Laodicea, he took up the sad path home, returning with Hélinand, the bishop of Laon  (who at the same time had also gone to Jerusalem).
[42. During his return journey, Lietbert attends a peace council between the count of Flanders and the German Emperor on October 5, 1056.]
43. [Lietbert] had resolved in spirit not to enter Cambrai first, but rather to revisit Neufchâteau, the faithful settlement of his diocese, which he had most diligently restored in St. Andrew's memory.  On arriving there with lord Fulk of his company and the companions of his household he was most honorably received by everyone, and once greeted was led into the church of Saint-André to prayer. Lying prostrate on the ground, he did not beseech tears in prayer, which he had always known most intimately. Rising at length, he gave the blessing. After embracing those he could at the right moment, he proceded publicly and related how many misfortunes he had borne on the journey. Then lord Fulk, in [Lietbert'] presence, proceded to the altar, telling how much the Lord had given to him through his glorious mother and the merits and prayers of St. Andrew. After the offering, in sight of everyone, he gave himself to St. Andrew, placing upon the saint's altar two ounces of the purest gold. And then in the same place he made himself a servant to [the saint] in perpetuity in honor of God and in memory of St. Andrew, and on the spot gave over his son, also named Fulk to [the saint]. Once [his son] was made a monk, he made a great donation of foodstuffs to the brothers, which he confirmed by ecclesiastical privilege and episcopal authority. When these things had been done, the lord bishop came to Cambrai, and with fitting joy was received by his people.
Notes to the Text:
 Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:12.
 Psalm 66:13-14.
 All four of these men were high-ranking members of the cathedral chapter. The reform monastery of Anchin was located in the diocese of Cambrai and was a routine beneficiary of episcopal largesse; Sainte-Croix was a house of secular canons located in the city of Cambrai proper.
 The Roman province of Pannonia lies in western Hungary. St. Martin was an early Christian confessor (d. 397) who later was made bishop of Tours in central France. His cult was widely celebrated throughout Europe and particularly in France.
 Psalm 59:3.
 1 Peter 5:8-9.
 Romans 8:31.
 Ephesians 6:11.
 1 Cor. 10:13.
 Luke 9:62.
 Horace, Odes, II 6.1.
 Cf. Sulpicius Severus, The Life of St. Martin of Tours 12,3.
 Roman emperor who ruled from 284-305; responsible for sporadic yet severe persecutions of Christians during his rule. Dalmatia was the region (formerly a Roman province) between the Black and Adriatic seas, in modern Yugoslavia.
 A mountainous region in Asia Minor.
 Demetrius was a deacon martyred at Sirmium; his uncertain biography has him a resident of Salonika murdered by the emperor Maximian and (in another tradition) a soldier martyred for his faith in the fourth century.
 An arch-chaplain and vicedominus of the church of Arras, in the diocese of Cambrai.
 Cf. Matthew 14:31.
 Matthew 8:22.
 The monastery of Saint-André, in the diocese of Cambrai.
 Cf. John 11:1; Luke 7:12.
 This and many of the following lines are taken from Virgil, Aeneid, III, l. 130ff.
 The preceding passages have been freely adapted from the translation of Virgil's Aeneid by Robert Fitzgerald (N.Y., Vintage, 1983), III, ll. 266-89.
 Katapant was a Byzantine title held by military commanders.
 Laon was a diocese which, like Cambrai, was in the archdiocese of Reims. Hélinand was bishop there from 1052-1096.
 Saint-Andre of Cateau-Cambresis.