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St. Bernard of Clairvaux icon

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St. Bernard of Clairvaux icon
© Cecilia Lawrence
August 15th 2016
4.5 x 6 inches
Ink, watercolor, gold leaf


“Bernard, eloquent Doctor of the Church,
friend of Christ the Bridegroom,
eminent preacher of the Virgin Mother's glory,
at Clairvaux you become the illustrious shepherd of your followers.”

- Antiphon for the Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“Blessed Bernard, your life,
flooded by the splendor of the divine Word,
illumines the church with the light of true faith and doctrine.”

- Antiphon for the Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“Filled by the Lord with a spirit of understanding,
blessed Bernard ministered streams of clear teaching
to the people of God.”

- Entrance Antiphon for the Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

I have depicted St. Bernard of Clairvaux as a young man in the habit of a Cistercian monk holding a quill pen and an open book, symbolizing his role as a great writer and Doctor of the Church. In the crook of his arm he also holds an abbot’s crozier, the inside of which depicts the cross, spear, gall, and crown of thorns, signifying Bernard’s great devotion to the Passion and sufferings of Christ. On his breast is depicted an image of Our Lady enthroned with the Child Jesus on her lap as a symbol of St. Bernard’s great devotion and love for the Mother of God.

:iconbeigerose1plz::iconbeigerose2plz::iconbeigerose3plz::iconrose1plz::iconbeigerose4plz::iconbeigerose5plz::iconbeigerose6plz:

:+: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF THE SAINT :+:

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – August 20th 1153 A.D.), was the son of the Burgundian knight and nobleman, Tescelin le Roux, lord of the castle of Fontaine-lès-Dijon, and his wife St. Alèthe de Montbard, a Burgundian noblewoman. The couple had seven children, six boys and one girl, with Bernard as the third eldest child. Alèthe de Montbard was a very devout and devoted mother and early on made sure that they each enjoyed a solid education. The boys were trained in the practice of arms as well as in reading and writing in Latin. Bernard was sent at the early age of nine to study at a school run by the secular canons of Saint-Vorles at Châtillon-sur-Seine. He excelled at scholarly pursuits, and enjoyed the esteem of his teachers as he quickly devoured the classics and discovered an innate love for literature and poetry. Even from this early age he had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary and had a great desire to further his studies of the Scriptures. His personal charm, charisma, sharp wit, lofty ideals, and kindness made him very popular among his peers and teachers at the school.

His mother died in 1107 when he was only nineteen, and this proved to be a terrible blow to the boy. He became very depressed and subdued, and in this period of his life faced terribly temptations of the flesh. As he was then finished with his schooling, he decided to leave secular life and to become a hermit in some solitary place where he could focus his life more on prayer and penance. However, as he was praying in a church one day to ask God’s guidance, he felt a strong interior call to the Abbey of Citeaux. This monastery had been founded only fifteen years before by St. Robert de Molesme, St. Stephen Harding, and St. Alberic of Cîteaux. These three founders of the Cistercian Order were dedicated to reforming the Benedictine Order by going back to the original austerities of its founders and refocusing on a life of prayer and manual labor for the monks. When Alberic died in 1108, Stephen Harding succeeded him as abbot of the monastery and adopted the Cistercian practice of wearing all white habits to symbolize “the angelic life.”

It was this reformed order of Benedictines that Bernard felt God calling him to join. Now that he had decided on his path of life, Bernard embarked on it with so much enthusiasm that he soon convinced two of his uncles, his five brothers and thirty of his other friends to join the Cistercian Order with him. Bernard’s influence helped to revitalize the dying community at Cîteaux, and three years later he, along with twelve other monks were sent to found a new community, which Bernard named Clairvaux, on June 25th 1115. Bernard became the abbot of the small abbey, but the small community soon complained of Bernard’s harsh austerities and Bernard’s own health suffered because of the penances he inflicted on himself. His friend Bishop William of Champeaux intervened to moderate the communal austerities, and the monastery quickly made great progress. People flocked to Bernard as his reputation for holiness spread, and he was later joined by his father and 130 new monks. Soon new monasteries were founded as the number of monks became too great to support at small Clairvaux. In 1118 Trois-Fontaines Abbey was founded, then Fontenay Abbey in 1119, and Foigny Abbey in 1121.

Bernard came into conflict with the monks at Cluny, however, as the Cistercians became more and more prominent in Church affairs. When a general chapter of the Order was convoked in 1119, the young Bernard was one of the most respected and eminent abbots present. His advice and counsel was readily accepted when drawing up the Constitutions of the Cistercian Order. Bernard was also writing important spiritual works, the first of which was De Gradibus Superbiae et Humilitatis (“On the Steps of Pride and Humility”) and the homily De Laudibus Mariae (“In Praise of Mary”). The abbot William of St. Thierry asked Bernard to give a defense of the Cistercians against the attacks by the Cluniac monks, which he did, publishing his Apologia. The abbot of Cluny was impressed by the young monk and gave him a reply in which he assured the Cistercians of his respect, friendship and goodwill. The Cluniac monks were inspired by Bernard’s zeal to undertake their own reform. Suger, who later became Abbot Suger and the great populizer of the new gothic style of art and architecture was converted by Bernard’s writings and became a monk and later abbot of Saint-Denis. Bernard’s populariy as a writer and spiritual master grew, and he wrote a magnificent letter to the Archbishop of Sens entitled De Officiis Episcoporum (“On the Episcopal Office”) and later wrote another work called On Grace and Free Will.

In 1128, Pope Honorius II convoked the Council of Troyes to settle various ecclesiastical matters in France, and Bernard was asked to be the council’s secretary who drew up the statutes. During this council, Hugh de Payens the Grandmaster of the Templar Order asked Bernard to write some encouragement for his knights. Bernard complied, and wrote Liber ad milites templi de laude novae militia (“Book to the Knights of the Temple, in praise of the new knighthood”). Bernard faced criticism from some quarters for leaving his monastery and “meddling” in affairs that didn’t concern him. One Cardinal wrote to him, saying that “It is not fitting that noisy and troublesome frogs should come out of their marshes to trouble the Holy See and the cardinals." Bernard replied with good humor, saying, “who would have been more capable of freeing me from the necessity of assisting at the council than yourself? Forbid those noisy troublesome frogs to come out of their holes, to leave their marshes ... Then your friend will no longer be exposed to the accusations of pride and presumption.”

When Pope Honorius II died in 1130, there was a disputation over the two claimants to the papal see. One, Innocent II, was forced to flee north to France while his rival Anacletus II held Rome. Innocent II was welcomed warmly in France by the bishops due in great part to Bernard’s influence, and it was because of Bernard Innocent II’s cause soon became recognized by the Holy Roman Emperor and King Henry I of England. Bernard was sent to persuade Duke William X of Aquitaine to support Innocent II, which he did, after much persuasion.

Finally Bernard was allowed to retire from his activities in the world and went back to writing and composing works of great beauty, including his celebrated series of sermons on the Song of Songs. St. Malachy Archbishop of Armagh came and visited Bernard at Clairvaux and the two became great friends. In 1139 Bernard was once again called out of his monastery to help Innocent II, this time at the Second Lateran Council where the schism was finally put to rest. Around this time Bernard also engaged in a famous theological battle with the well-known philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard. Peter Abelard’s theological teachings were controversial, and after being confronted by Bernard of this, he challenged him to a public debate in which he could defend his views. Bernard eventually accepted the challenge, and in 1141 the Archbishop of Sens called a council in which to examine Abelard’s views. Bernard persuaded the assembled bishops to condemn each of Abelard’s disputed articles as heretical the day before the debate. The next day, when shown the list of condemned articles, Abelard refused to answer the charges, and instead appealed to the Pope in Rome. Pope Innocent II supported Bernard however, but the abbot of Cluny was able to reconcile Abelard and Bernard, and Abelard died  only a year later, on April 21st 1142.

In 1145 Bernard of Pisa, one of Bernard’s Cistercian monks, was elected Pope Eugene III. At the new pope’s request, Bernard wrote him the Book of Considerations in the form of instructions on how Eugene ought to behave as pope. Bernard, as one of the most eminent religious leaders in Europe, was sent to combat heresy in southern France, and through his preachings destroyed two new sects called Henricianism and Petrobrusianism.

After the Crusader County of Edessa fell to the Seljuk Turks in 1144, the alarmed Christian world began calling for  new Crusade to defend the Holy Land, and Pope Eugene III authorized Bernard to preach this Second Crusade in France. At first there was little popular support, but after Bernard began preaching to the assembled nobility of France at Vézelay, the crowd was so enthusiastic to take the cross that the King of France and numerous other French counts clamored to go on crusade. In Germany Bernard enjoyed similar successes, and great crowds flocked to take the cross wherever he went. The Second Crusade, however, ended in disaster in 1149 as there was a lack of coordination between the participants, it was not led well, and there were feelings of mistrust and betrayal and general discord between Conrad of Germany and King Louis of France. The failure of the crusade was laid on Bernard’s shoulders, and he wrote an apology to the Pope in which he sought to disassociate himself from its failure.

Bernard died in his monastery at Clairvaux on August 20th 1153 at the age of sixty-three. During his life he had founded 163 Cistercian monasteries, and by the time of his death there were 343. He was famous for his numerous sermons and writing, and was soon canonized by Pope Alexander III on January 18th 1174. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was named a Doctor of the Church in 1830 and designated further by the title, Doctor mellifluous (“Mellifluous Doctor”) for the exquisite and poetic beauty of his writings.

:iconbeigerose1plz::iconbeigerose2plz::iconbeigerose3plz::iconrose1plz::iconbeigerose4plz::iconbeigerose5plz::iconbeigerose6plz:
Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.

The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?

Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.

What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?
- from a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux

:iconbeigerose1plz::iconbeigerose2plz::iconbeigerose3plz::iconrose1plz::iconbeigerose4plz::iconbeigerose5plz::iconbeigerose6plz:

:rose: The Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux is celebrated on August 20th. :rose:

St. Bernard of Clairvaux is the patron saint of Cistercians, beekeepers, candlemakers, Gibraltar, and the French region of Burgundy.

O God, who made of the Abbot Saint Bernard
a man consumed with zeal for your house
and a light shining and burning in your Church,
grant, through his intercession,
that we may be on fire with the same spirit
and walk always as children of light.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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Comments25
anonymous's avatar
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SmoothDiamond's avatar
SmoothDiamondStudent General Artist
Amazing as always! :)
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Thank you!!! :aww:
Big-bad-Rocket's avatar
Really beautiful. Fantastic as always. You are one of the best Catholic artist online. I think in fact the best.
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
:iconiloveitplz: THANK YOU!!! That's so kind of you to say! :aww:
LadyoftheApocalypse's avatar
LadyoftheApocalypseHobbyist General Artist
Wonderful!
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Thanks! :dance:
dashinvaine's avatar
Not remotely as I imagine him, but nicely done.
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
It's not exactly how I imagine him, to be fair. I imagine him looking much older, thinner and more...ascetic. There are some people who you don't really imagine them being young, and St. Bernard is probably one of those people...along with St. Jerome. :XD:
dashinvaine's avatar
That's exactly it. My image of St Bernard is basically the mummy of Seti I, only slightly more wasted.
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Hahah, now there's a visual image. :XD: To be fair though, Seti looks pretty good for being dead for some 3200 years.
DCJBeers's avatar
Great job!! I went to St. Bernard's elementary in Oakland,CA. when I was young. Great job!!
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
THANK YOU!!!!
DCJBeers's avatar
Your very welcome!!
FireFiriel's avatar
FireFirielProfessional Traditional Artist
Such detail on the image the Virgin for this size!
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Thank you!!! I based it off of the more contemporaneous Romanesque Virgins Enthroned, like this one: images.metmuseum.org/CRDImages…
Libra1010's avatar
 I imagine that Saint Bernard's father must have either been a very minor knight with little to pass down to his sons or ENORMOUSLY discomfited to see every single one of his sons take Vows of Celibacy in service to Mother Church: it would certainly have created a most unexpected form of Succession Crisis!:o (Eek) 

 Please accept my compliments on  most excellent job of work Theophilia.Nod 
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Hahah, indeed! :XD: I read too that Bernard's sister (who was married) later convinced her husband to let her become a Benedictine nun. So really they were pretty much all a family of religious! :D

Thank you! :meow:
Libra1010's avatar
 At this point one gets the impression that the entire family was locked in a Race to Beatification!:D (Big Grin) 
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Hahah, right? :XD:
finex666's avatar
finex666Hobbyist Artist
awesome work ^___
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Thank you!!! :aww:
finex666's avatar
finex666Hobbyist Artist
most welcome ^___
loverofbeauty's avatar
Most of what I know about Bernard comes from books I've read - either novels or histories - that focus on Eleanor of Aquitaine. I'm sure that some license is taken with the former, and that there is debate to be had over the latter, but in nearly all cases he comes off as very misogynistic. He's also typically portrayed very much as "holier-than-thou", criticizing and condemning people as if he is the fount of wisdom on whatever sin they've committed.

Given his "celebrity" status and the time in which he lived, perhaps neither of these things is surprising, but they don't do much to endear Bernard to the modern reader. From a purely secular point of view, what do you think of him?
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
I certainly haven't exhaustively read all of the works of St. Bernard, but from what I have read I get the impression that he was a very spiritually sensitive man who understood people, which is why he was such a good spiritual director as well a charismatic leader. People aren't typically attracted to arrogance, and certainly not a "holier-than-thou" type of cleric. I find his writings very beautiful and touching and filled with a great warmth and depth of soul. 

I certainly would hesitate to judge even contemporaneous people, but it's far more difficult to judge the personalities of people who have lived a good thousand years ago. I do know that Eleanor of Aquitaine's reputation in her day was, hmm, how to say it, rather infamous? She certainly did not enjoy a reputation as a paragon of womanly virtue according to the standards of her time, but modern people are quite taken with prominent women in positions of power and like to try and justify their actions in accordance with the standards of out time. In which case the people who might have opposed said powerful woman back then are seen through the lens of modern ideological struggles instead of the actual contexts in their own day. 

All of which is to say that no, I certainly don't think Bernard of Clairvaux hated women (anyone even moderately acquainted with him knows him for the great love he had for the Blessed Virgin Mary!), but I can definitely see modern novels or historical works concerned with Eleanor of Aquitaine as the main heroine and protagonist as making her opponents out to be "the bad guys." Books about Eleanor of Aquitaine, for example, tend to be very unfair to Louis VII of France by portraying him as weak and ineffectual, though I think in his case he certainly got the last laugh. :XD: 

I think the best way to get to know historical figures is by reading their own works and writings (if they are available), and we certainly have plenty of St. Bernard's works available for study. Primary sources are always the best source of historical information in my opinion, especially since so many histories--even serious histories--are engaged in putting forward certain ideological or polemical narratives. I prefer to read the sources themselves and make up my own mind. :nod:
anonymous's avatar
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