Meltifluous Doctor of the Church, Last of the Fathers of the Holy Church
Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
August 20, 1153
He was a peacemaker during the papal schism and a defender of both the Cisterian order and the Christian faith.
Saint Bernard wrote about grace, free will, humility and love.
Bernard of Clairvaux, O.Cist (1090 – August 20, 1153) was a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian order.
After the death of his mother, Bernard sought admission into the Cistercian order. Three years later, he was sent to found a new abbey at an isolated clearing in a glen known as the Val d'Absinthe, about 15 km southeast of Bar-sur-Aube. According to tradition, Bernard founded the monastery on 25 June 1115, naming it Claire Vallée, which evolved into Clairvaux. There Bernard would preach an immediate faith, in which the intercessor was the Virgin Mary. In the year 1128, Bernard assisted at the Council of Troyes, at which he traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar, who soon became the ideal of Christian nobility.
On the death of Pope Honorius II a schism broke out in the Church. Louis VI of France convened a national council of the French bishops at Étampes in 1130, and Bernard was chosen to judge between the rivals for pope. After the council of Étampes, Bernard went to speak with the King of England, Henry Beauclerc, about the king's reservations of Pope Innocent II. Henry Beauclerc was skeptical because most the bishops of England supported Anacletus II. He convinces him to support Innocent II. Germany had decided to support Innocent II through St. Norbert, who was a friend of Bernard's. However, pope Innocent II insisted on Bernard's company when he met with king Lothair III of Germany. King Lothar becomes pope Innocent II's strongest ally among the nobility. Despite the councils of Étampes, Wurzburg, Clermont and Rheims all supporting Innocent II, there were still large portions of the Christian world supporting Anacletus II. At the end of 1131, the kingdoms of France, England, Germany, Castile, and Aragon supported Innocent II but the most of Italy, southern France and Sicily with the patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem supported Anacletus II. Bernard set out to convince these other regions to rally behind Innocent II. The first person that he went to was Gerard of Angoulême. He proceeded to write a letter, called Letter 126 in his letters. this letter was questioning Gerard's reasons for supporting Anacletus II. St. Bernard would later comment that Gerard was his most formidable opponent during the whole schism. After convincing Gerard he traveled to visit the Count of Poitiers. He was the hardest for St. Bernard to convince. He did not pledge allegiance to Innocent II until 1135. After that, Bernard spent most of his time in Italy convincing the Italians to pledge allegiance to Innocent II. He traveled to Sicily in 1137 to convince the king of Sicily to follow Innocent II. The whole conflict ended when Anacletus II died on January 25, 1138. In 1139, Bernard assisted at the Second Council of the Lateran. Bernard denounced the teachings of Peter Abelard to the pope, who called a council at Sens in 1141 to settle the matter. Bernard soon saw one of his disciples, Bernard of Pisa, elected pope. Having previously helped end the schism within the Church, Bernard was now called upon to combat heresy. In June 1145, Bernard traveled in southern France and his preaching there helped strengthen support against heresy.
Following the Christian defeat at the Siege of Edessa, the pope commissioned Bernard to preach the Second Crusade. The last years of Bernard's life were saddened by the failure of the crusaders, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him. Bernard died at age 63, after 40 years spent in the cloister. He was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints, and was canonized by Pope Alexander III on 18 January 1174. Pope Pius VIII bestowed upon him the title "Doctor of the Church".