The Rise of the Medieval World, 500-1300: A Biographical Dictionary

By Jana K. Schulman | Go to book overview

A

ABBO (ABBON) OF FLEURY, SAINT(C. 945–1004). Abbo was a French Benedictine monk renowned for his learning and considered one of the two “lights” of the tenth century (the other being Gerbert of Aurillac/Pope *Sylvester II). His diplomacy helped maintain monastic independence in the transitional years of the Capetian dynasty. This Abbo should not be confused with Abbo of St. Germain (d. c. 921), the monk who wrote De bellis Parisiacae urbis (The Siege/Battle of Paris).

Born in the vicinity of Orléans, Abbo entered the Abbey of Fleury school (famous for its intellectual activity—present-day St.-Benoît-sur-Loire) at a young age and excelled in the traditional curriculum. He left Fleury to continue his education, first in Rheims and then in Paris. Around 970 he returned to Fleury and spent the next twelve to fifteen years as a scholastic. His abbot, Oylbold, sent him to England as a teacher to help Oswald with the English Church’s reform movement. Abbo taught at the Abbey of Ramsey from 985 to 987. The moribund Oylbold called him back to Fleury and appointed him abbot, an appointment challenged by a fellow monk with Capetian favor. In September 988, however, Abbo did receive the abbotship, which was his until his death.

As abbot, he served at several Church councils (St. Basle in 991, St. Denis in 993). His vehement defense of the rights and privileges of monasteries, especially their independence from both episcopal and secular powers, as well as his denunciation of simony and lay possession of Church properties earned him the animosity of Arnulf, bishop of Orléans, and brought him to the king’s (*Hugh Capet) attention, to whom Abbo was summoned to defend himself. For this defense, Abbo wrote his Apologia, in which he gives a classification of ecclesiastic society. This work in turn led to his compiling a “canonical collection” (Canones Abbonis), wherein he expounds on the fifty-two canonical laws most needing clarification in his day. Abbo fell in favor with the royal household and in 997 was sent to Italy as the new king’s (Robert II, the Pious) ambassador

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