Gerard of Florennes

Gerard of Florennes (ca 975, bishop 1012[1] – 14 March 1051[2]), bishop of Cambrai as Gerard I, had formerly been chaplain to Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, and helpful to the latter in his political negotiations with Robert the Pious, King of France. In 1024 Gerard called a synod in Arras to confront a purported heresy fomented by the Gundulfian heretics, who denied the efficacy of the Eucharist. The records of this synod, the Acta Synodi Atrebatensis,[3] preserve a summary of orthodox Christian doctrine of the early eleventh century, as well contemporary peace-making practices. According to this text's author, the heretics were convinced by Gerard's explanation of orthodoxy, renounced their heresy, and were reconciled with the church.

Gerard was the second son of Arnold, seigneur of Florennes in the county of Namur, the son of Godefroi, count of Hainaut, and thus a member of the high nobility of the Low Countries.[4]

He was a student of the great Gerbert of Aurillac, the leading theologian of the tenth century, and a supporter of the monastic reformer Richard of Verdun, abbot of Saint-Vanne.[5] In 1012, while he was a canon at Reims he founded the Abbey of Saint-Jean at Florennes, with Richard as its first abbot.

At Florennes, on 12 September 1015, Godfrey II, Duke of Lower Lorraine, whose appointment Gerard had recommended to the Emperor, defeated both of his rivals, Lambert I, Count of Leuven, brother-in-law of Otto, and Reginar IV, count of Mons killing Lambert and forcing Reginar to make peace.

In 1015, Gerard transferred the abbey of Florennes to the church of Liège.[6] drawing together a community of monks from Verdun. Texts from the scriptorium show the innovative separation of words with spaces.[7]

Gerard was the earliest known theorist to provide a justification of the division of European society into the three so-called estates of the realm.[8] Writing between 1023 and 1025, he observed, in the words of Georges Duby, "that there were distinctions between men, an essential inequality which could be compensated only by charity, mercy and mutual service" within the framework of divinely ordained natural law.[9] In addition to his role in the Investiture Controversy, Gerard was a voice in the implementation of the Peace and Truce of God movement to limit warfare.[10] At Douai in 1024 he introduced the Peace into Flanders at the urging of Count Baldwin IV, he himself apparently having reservations.[11]

During his episcopacy, the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Cambrai was reconsecrated on 18 October 1030.

In 1023–25, Gerard was working on his Vita Gaugerici, a life of Gaugericus, one of the early bishops of Cambrai. He made extensive use of the library of Marchiennes, a former nunnery converted into a male monastery in 1024. Its abbot, Leduin, was a close ally of Gerard's in the campaign for monastic reform in the diocese. Leduin possessed a manuscript, used by Gerard, containing Gregory the Great's Regula pastoralis and extracts from Taius of Zaragoza's De malorum concordia, and Bachiarius' De paenitentia.[12]


  1. He was named by the Emperor, 10 February 1012, and consecrated at Reims 27 April (Erik van Mingroot, ed. Les chartes de Gérard Ier, Liébert et Gérard II, évêques de Cambrai 2005, p. 2.)
  2. Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium, ed. Bethmann in MGH Scriptores VII, 490.
  3. Patrologia Latina 142, cols. 1269–1312.
  4. Cawley, Charles, (Medieval Lands Project) Namur 5.C, Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy,
  5. Diane Reilly, Art of Reform in Eleventh-Century Flanders: Gerard of Cambrai, Richard of Saint-Vanne and the Saint-Vaast Bible, Studies in the history of Christian traditions 128 (Leiden) 2006.
  6. The abbey church was consecrated in 1026. The early history of the abbey is known via the Miracula S. Gengulfi, written in 1028/1045 by Abbot Gonzo. The abbey was completely destroyed during the French Revolution. (Florennes (Municipality)).
  7. Paul Saenger, Space Between Words: the origins of silent reading 2000, p 192, and note 78.
  8. Georges Duby, (Arthur Goldhammer, tr.) The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined (1980), part 1, chapter 2.
  9. Quoted in Rodney Bruce Hall, "Moral Authority as a Power Resource" International Organization 51, 4 (1997): 591–622, at p. 598.
  10. David C. Van Meter, "The Peace of Amiens-Corbie and Gerard of Cambrai's oration of the three functional orders: the date, the context, the rhetoric", Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire 74 (1996:633-57), esp. pp 644-57.
  11. Geoffrey G. Koziol (1987), "Monks, Feuds, and the Making of Peace in Eleventh-Century Flanders," Historical Reflections, 14(3):531. The traditional date is 1036, but Georges Duby has argued for a re-dating to 1024.
  12. Steven Vanderputten and Diane J. Reilly, "Reconciliation and Record Keeping: Heresy, Secular Dissent and the Exercise of Episcopal Authority in Eleventh-Century Cambrai", Journal of Medieval History 37:4 (2011), 343–57.

Further reading


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