After completing his studies did Bruno spend a short time in Paris? Did he return to Cologne for a while? Did he receive sacred orders? Did he preach? and if so, where? So many uncertainties, and no reliable documents. There is only this indication in one of the Eulogies: "He gave many sermons throughout the area" (Multos faciebat sermones per regiones). It would not be prudent to draw any conclusions from that, though, because any cleric who had finished his studies with a degree from the school at Rheims could be called to preach to the people.
It would be enlightening for a historian to know when and in what circumstances Bruno was promoted to be a canon of the church of Saint Cunibert of Cologne. Unfortunately, we know only the bare fact, and it is Manassès, the simoniacal Archbishop of Rheims, who gives it to us in the Apology that he addressed to Hugh of Dié and the Council of Lyons in February 1080: "This Bruno does not belong to my clergy. He was neither born nor baptized in my diocese. He is a canon of Saint Cunibert at Cologne in the land of the Teutons." We can only guess about the date and circumstances of his promotion. The first hypothesis is to connect it with the reorganization of the collegiate church of Saint Cunibert by Archbishop Herimann II of Cologne. This cathedral church had twenty-four canons. Did Herimann wish to honor Bruno's family and to create a personal link with the church of Cologne for Bruno himself, whose gifts were already evident? According to this conjecture Bruno would have become a canon while still a young man. Or did he have to wait until the excellence of his teaching made him famous? Cologne would have wanted to contribute to the honor being given to one of its sons. That seems most likely. But another theory has often been put forward: that in 1077 or a little later, at the time of the conflict with Manassès, Bruno returned to Cologne. This does not seem likely. In addition to the fact that the documents seem to indicate he and the other canons who had opposed the simoniacal Archbishop were staying at Count Ebal of Roucy's, how would he find shelter in Cologne, where the situation was even worse than at Rheims? In March of 1076, Emperor Henry IV had imposed upon Cologne an intruder named Hidulf, one whom the clergy as well as the people who were faithful to Gregory VII opposed to no avail. Given the present state of research, only this is certain: Bruno was a canon of Saint Cunibert.
If Bruno was born around 1030 (the year suggested above), there is still a problem. What did he do after finishing his studies until he was promoted to the post of director of studies (l'écolâtre) for the schools of Rheims? What was his life like? How did he use his time? The answer seems certain. In any city, and most of all at Rheims, such a responsible assignment as summus didascalus must have been entrusted to a professor who had demonstrated his abilities. If Bruno spent time at Paris or Cologne, his stays there were brief.
What is more, even before being named director of studies (or at least about the same time), Bruno was called to another dignity. He was promoted to be a canon of the cathedral of Rheims. It was no trifling honor to belong to that illustrious Chapter. "Bruno, a canon of the Church of Rheims, which was second to none in France" (Bruno, Ecclesiæ Remensis guæ nulli inter Gallicanas secunda est, canonicus), says the Chronicle Magister.
Bruno did not claim this honor for himself. Rheims was then a metropolitan see. Its Chapter, comprised of seventy two canons, was renowned and powerful. It was directed by the Rule that had been designed for the canons in 816 by the Council of Aachen at the suggestion of Emperor Louis the Pious. It was a moderate rule, midway between the regular life of monks and the freedom of clerics. Canons living under the Rule of Aachen remained secular, keeping their own possessions, having their own house, receiving income. Laws of fasting were precise but not burdensome. Some life in common was required, but it was neither absolute nor strict. In some Chapters this moderation could turn into mediocrity, but this does not seem to have happened at Rheims. Around 980 the Chapter of Rheims was singled out as an example of perfection "in chastity, learning, discipline, in correcting faults, and in performing good works" (in castitate, scientia, disciplina, in correptione et exhibitione bonorum operum). At the time of Bruno it deserved that praise. When Archbishop Gervais introduced Canons Regular in the two collegiate churches of his diocese (Saint Timothy in 1064, Saint Denys in 1067), they lived a stricter observance, especially as regards the common life and poverty. The Chapter of the cathedral did not adopt that reform. So, Bruno was a secular canon, never a Canon Regular.
In the course of the centuries the archbishops of Rheims and other benefactors had richly endowed the Chapter of their cathedral. Saint Rémi himself (died about 533) had first given the example he bequeathed to the clergy of his cathedral (the office of canons did not exist then) considerable property, entire villages, churches, as well as estates with peasants attached to them. He meant to foster some common life among his clergy. Other archbishops followed Saint Remi's example. Although the cathedral Chapter possessed many properties, some of them were in distant places, even south of the Loire and as far as Thuringia in Germany. Each bishop committed himself after his installation to respect the Chapter's patrimony. Every year the income from the properties was divided among the canons. So Bruno, like the other members of the Chapter, must have received his share of the wealth. This income augmented his personal fortune, which, it seems, was not negligible. Two of the Eulogies from the cathedral of Rheims (52 and 53) relate that, at the time of his departure from Rheims, he had an abundance of resources and was divitiis potens.
If we can judge from what we know of the life of the canons of Rheims at the time, this is how Bruno, a canon of Rheims, lived. He lived outside the cathedral cloister, in a house that was his personal property; he received income that allowed him to have a comfortable and easy life; he had servants and could easily receive his friends, since the canons were not required to take all their meals at the common table. Their principal obligation was to participate regularly in the cathedral canons' Office, and we can hardly believe that Bruno would fail to perform this duty faithfully. Did he visit the monks of neighboring abbeys? Saint-Thierry was only a few kilometers from the city, and Saint Remi was just at the gate. He certainly was acquainted with them and their way of life as his own plan for monastic life matured. When he left Rheims for Sèche-Fontaine he had great admiration and friendship for the black monks of Saint Benedict. He knew, though, that the Lord was not calling him to their way of life.
Outside the time for the canonical Hours, each member of the Chapter was free to organize his life as he pleased. But, if Bruno had been inclined to lengthy contemplation and to a home of solitude at that time, he would not have been able to accomplish the tasks the Archbishop entrusted to him. It was 1056, and he was director of studies for the schools of Rheims.
It would be useful to know the exact date when Herimann resigned his office as director of studies in Rheims, because Bruno succeeded him at once. That resignation apparently took place shortly after Gervais of Château-du-Loir was elevated to the See of Rheims in October of 1055, which, without much danger of error, can be placed at the end of 1055 or the beginning of 1056. Bruno's promotion to the dignity of director of studies would then be during the year 1056.
It was a great honor for Bruno to be selected. Calling one so young to occupy a position so sensitive indicated that Herimann had discovered his exceptional talent for teaching, communication, and even administration. Bruno was only twenty-six or twenty-eight years old. Herimann would not have so resolutely settled upon a man of that age had he not been certain that, in proposing the nomination to Arch-bishop Gervais, he had the implicit consent of the professors and even of the students of the schools of Rheims. Besides, he, better than anyone else, knew the renown of these schools throughout the whole Christian world.
Rheims was then one of the most celebrated of the intellectual centers of Europe, and he was obliged to maintain its high reputation by the judicious recruitment of its teachers. Bruno had to have already succeeded in the secondary positions that had been entrusted to him before he was placed, regardless of his age, over all the schools of Rheims with the rank of summus didascalus.
The choice of Archbishop Gervais was a good one. For about twenty years Bruno had excelled among the teachers of Rheims to the point that one day he was invested by the legate of Pope Gregory VII, Hugh of Dié, with the distinguished title of "teacher of the Church of Rheims" (Remensis Ecclesiæ magistrum). His pupils gathered in the cathedral cloister, where the master used to teach. Several of them rose to become dignitaries in the Church. One was Eudes of Châtillon, who, like Bruno, was a canon of Rheims and then entered Cluny, became prior, was later created cardinal-archbishop of Ostia, and finally was chosen pope under the name of Urban II. There were also Rayner, who was to become bishop of Lucca; Robert, bishop of Langres; Lambert, abbot of Pouthières; Maynard, prior of Corméry; and Peter, abbot of the Canons Regular of Saint Jean-des-Vignes. Later, in the Eulogies, all of these figures acknowledged that the best part of their formation was due to Bruno. Here are some of their testimonials:
Peter, abbot of Saint Jean-des-Vignes at Soissons, said:
The testimonial of Maynard, prior of Cormery, is still more moving in that he was preparing to leave for Calabria when he learned of Bruno's death. He wanted to see Bruno and "open his soul to him". His desire reveals the depth of Bruno's influence ever since those days in Rheims:
To these wonderful testimonials of memory and loyalty, some actions and courtesies of his former students should be added as well, because without any spoken or written word they revealed the profound spiritual influence of Master Bruno. One of these is his nomination to the See of Rheims after the simoniac Archbishop Manassès was deposed and then the call to Rome that Bruno received from Pope Urban II. These important events will be related in their proper place.
Here are some testimonials, selected from the Eulogies, given by people who knew Bruno: "He surpassed his teachers and was their master." "Incomparable in philosophy, a light in every branch of learning". "This teacher had strength of heart and speech, so that he surpassed all other masters; all wisdom was found in him; I know what I am saying and all of France with me." "An understanding master, a light and guide on the way that leads to the heights of wisdom". "His instruction gave light to the world." "The honor and the glory of our time". Even taking into account the literary exaggerations that were customary in such testimonials, Bruno is presented as a man who undeniably put his mark upon Christianity during his time. The Eulogies stress the value of his doctrine, calling him "teacher of teachers", "source of doctrine", "profound source of philosophy"^ of the radiance of his spiritual thought, of his "wisdom", "a pearl of wisdom", "an example for good people", "model of true justice, learning, and philosophy"; and of his knowledge of Holy Scripture, especially the Psalter, calling him "learned in the Psalms and excellent philosopher"; "he had knowledge of the Psalter and, as doctor, he taught many students"; "once the first teacher for the schools of the Church in Rheims, well versed in the Psalter and other branches of learning, he was long a pillar for the whole city."
In addition to three primary and certainly genuine texts namely, letter to Raoul le Verd, letter to the Community of Chartreuse, and the Profession of Faith (of which we shall speak below), there are two works that have come to us bearing Bruno's name: Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul and Commentary on the Psalms. If they too are authentic, as they seem to be, they probably belong to the period of Bruno's life when he was teaching. Both of them, especially the Commentary on the Psalms, might have been only notes from a course he gave as professor of theology. Is it too much to suggest that even if he did not keep these notes and carry them with him when he left Rheims he at least remembered what he taught by living it in Chartreuse as well as later in Calabria and no doubt never stopped improving his ideas and perfecting them for his own use and the use of his brothers, the hermits?
Is that only a theory? We are certain that, from the time he was a teacher at Rheims, in the eyes of his students Bruno excelled in the knowledge of sacred writings and especially the Psalter. We are no less certain that, both in Chartreuse and in Calabria, he rejoiced in the fact that his companions were "learned", and he directed his hermits to study the Bible. Toward the end of his life he wrote these admirable words to the brothers at Chartreuse: "I rejoice that, although you do not know how to read, the finger of the all-powerful God engraves love on your heart, and knowledge of his holy law, as well." By their obedience, humility, patience, "chaste love of the Lord", and "genuine charity", they had the wisdom to receive "the sweet and life-giving fruit of the divine Scriptures". Nothing could convey better the extent to which Bruno drew his spirituality and the sanctification of his soul from his understanding of Scripture. No doubt this knowledge was more closely directed toward contemplation in Chartreuse and in Calabria, but could that not be a continuation, a prolongation, and a deepening of his teaching at Rheims?
This conclusion would resolve some of the difficulties that, after eight centuries of agreement, one or another critic has believed it necessary to raise about the genuineness of the two Commentaries. To bring up just one example: it is necessary to take into account the fact that Bruno had meditated, pondered the contents of these two texts over some fifty years, and here and there in his teaching he could have inserted an allusion with a very clear date like the one to Saint Nicholas in the Commentary on the Psalter, and that would not be the date of the entire Commentary. Dom Anselm Stoelen had undertaken a critical study of the two Commentaries, but unfortunately his death interrupted the work, and no one, as far as we know, has so far (1981) continued it. At worstthat is to say, even if an inquiry came to a conclusion against the genuineness of the twoCommentariesthe portrait of the soul as sketched above would not be much affected. Bruno would still be, in the words of one of the Eulogies: "a remarkable commentator on the Psalter, and a scholar" (In Psalterio et coeteris scientiis luculentissimus).
The Commentary on the Psalms is of doubtful interest for the modern reader, and it has in fact been questioned. In the eighteenth century the learned Maurist Dom Rivet said in his Literary History of France: "Whoever makes the effort to read this commentary with a modicum of attention will agree that it would be very difficult to find another of this genre that would be more substantial, more illuminating, more concise, and more clear." But in The Sources of Carthusian Life he is more reserved: "The Commentary ... on the Psalms is very dry. Its aridity makes it difficult to read. Besides, it is full of interpretations that are not palatable to our modern taste." Perhaps it is wise to take a position midway between that praise and that reserve. It is true that no contemporary reader should look in the Commentary on the Psalms for literary pleasure or even an aid for devotion. But to one who has the determination to overlook this dryness, Bruno's Commentary will stimulate contemplation and love for God. Here are some examples of that:
There is no lack of solemn commentaries like these, which praise the contemplative life and its profound joy. Here are some more:
Though some of the writings may date from his time at Chartreuse and at Calabria, Bruno's attachment to the Psalter goes back to Rheims, where, among his students, he had the reputation of a specialist on the Psalms. Bruno's predilection for the Psalterif one may believe the prologue to the Commentaryrests on the fact that the Psalter is the book of divine praise par excellence. "The entire Psalter speaks about things above: that is to say, about the praises of God. The book has many things to say, . . . but the praises of God are everywhere.... It is with good reason that the Hebrews called this the book of hymns, that is, the book of the praises of God." For Bruno, who had a special gift for praising God, the praise of God is Christ himself: the life, death, and Resurrection of Christ:
The Church has the responsibility and the commission to continue the praise of Christ here on earth, and she accomplishes that mission principally through contemplative souls. Commenting on Psalm 147, Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum, Bruno writes:
The heart of this Commentary on the Psalms is Christ, the historical Christ, the mystical Christ, the Church. This has long been observed by those who have known Bruno's book. In 1749 Dom Rivet wrote: "Throughout the book, Saint Bruno points to Jesus Christ and his members, Jesus Christ and his Church."
If the critical works now in progress conclude that the Commentary on the Psalms is authentic, the outcome would be very interesting, though not essential, for our full understanding of Bruno's soul. If these texts date from his time at Rheims, they indicate that Bruno, the professor of the schools, was already inclined toward contemplation, if not yet toward the contemplative life. If they are to be as-signed to the time at Chartreuse or at Calabria, they add to Bruno's two letters a very important note about Christ and his Church. They clearly make the contemplative life part of the Church's very existence and her activity.
Archbishop Gervais died on July 4, 1067, leaving a reputation for virtue. Manassès of Gournay succeeded him under the title of Manassès I. He was consecrated in October of 1068 or 1069. Even though he obtained the See of Rheims through simony and with the complicity of Philip I, the King of France, Manassès I administered his diocese in a manner that gave room for hope of a proper and peaceful administration. But his true character was soon revealed. Twenty-five years later the chronicler Guibert of Nogent wrote: "He was a noble man, but he had none of the moderation that should be characteristic of an honorable man; no, after his elevation he adopted the ostentations of kings and the brutality of barbarian princes.... He loved weapons, and he neglected his clergy. The following statement is reported about him: `Rheims would be a good See if one did not have to sing Mass there". He was false and two-faced. To satisfy his appetite for riches without losing his episcopal See, he skillfully alternated between wise actions and charitable administration, and the most flagrant pillage. It was in connection with the succession of Hérimar, abbot of the renowned abbey of Saint Remi in December 1071, that difficulties came to light. Manassès at first prevented the monks from giving themselves a new abbot within the time allowed by the Rule; he was constantly looking for a quarrel with them, vexing them, and appropriating many of the rich abbey's possessions. Proof of that comes from the monks, who, during the year 1072, complained to Pope Alexander II against the Archbishop. During the first months of 1073, Alexander II died. In April, Gregory VII succeeded him, and on June 30, 1073, he wrote Manassès a stern letter:
Through this letter of the Pope there is a glimpse of the cynical game Manassès was playing: there were signs of obedience, promises of submission, and evasion and delay, under the guise of which, Machiavelli-like, he continued his behavior. Leaving Rome for Rheims, the messengers from the monks of Saint Rémi carried this letter addressed to Manassès, along with another from Gregory VII addressed to Hugh, abbot of Cluny. Hugh was commissioned by the Pope to deliver the pontifical reprimand to Manassès, and he was ordered to report to Rome how the affair proceeded.
Manassès had foreseen the coup and had prepared for it. Even before the Pope's order reached him, he had placed an abbot of good reputation over the monks of Saint Rémi. He was William, then abbot of Saint Arnoul of Metz. In itself the choice was excellent. But, beginning in the summer of 1073, feeling himself powerless to restrain the new demands of Manassès, William asked Gregory VII to accept his resignation. Manassès, he wrote in his letter, was "a ferocious beast with sharp teeth". The Pope temporized. At the beginning of 1074 William renewed his petition. This time he was allowed to take over the rule of his former abbey again. On March 14, Gregory VII ordered Manassès to proceed with the regular election of a new abbot. Henry, then abbot of Humblières, was elected, and he remained in charge until 1095. He was a powerless witness of the sorrowful events that marked the remainder of Manassès' administration.
The Archbishop remained almost quiet until 1076. He even succeeded in regaining the confidence of Gregory VII. He gave official favor to monastic life in his diocese: when the monastery of Moiremont, founded by the canons of Rheims (October 21, 1074), was elevated to an abbey, he made a contribution; he participated in the foundation of the abbey of the canons of Saint Jean-des-Vignes (1076) ; and he made donations to various monasteries.
It was during this period that he named Bruno chancellor of his diocese after the death of Odalric. Should this choice be seen as a mark of personal esteem, or was it only a diplomatic gesture? To promote Bruno was to flatter the opinion of the public and especially of the university and to give a pledge of goodwill, so great was the esteem that everyone had for Bruno.
Three documents date this brief period during which Bruno held the office of chancellor. In October 1074, Odalric was still signing documents as chancellor; but a charter of the abbey of Saint Basil, dating from 1076, was signed by Bruno. In April 1078, however, the name of Godfrey replaced Bruno's on the official documents of the archdiocese. So Bruno's resignation can be placed in 1077. The fierce conflict that would ravage the diocese of Rheims for several years began in that year: on one side were Gregory VII, his legate in France Hugh of Dié, and several canons of the cathedral; on the other, Archbishop Manassès I, whose lies were at last uncovered.
At the beginning of this unhappy period, Bruno was about fifty years old. Though much history is uncertain, some features of his character stand out, while others remain in shadow.
Bruno, director of studies for Rheims, is seen first of all to be a person oriented toward sacred studies, then as a master and a perfect friend, and finally as a man whose moral authority is felt by everyone.
Even should the two Commentaries (the one on the Epistles of Saint Paul and the one on the Psalms) be found by historical criticism not to be his, Bruno did appear to his contemporaries as an eminent theologian and a specialist in the Psalms. The whole of the Eulogies attests that. But his attraction for the sacred sciences (which is clearly more than mere curiosity), notably for Saint Paul's thought and the interpretation of the Psalms, often coincides with his orientation toward the most profound mysteries of salvation. Because of his love for the person of Jesus Christ, he concentrated his attention, the resources of his intelligence, and the effort of his research upon him who was so close and yet so incomprehensible. When the Carthusian Fathers of the twentieth century wanted to express their vocation in a short phrase for an inscription in the Museum of Corrérie, they borrowed this text from the Epistle to the Colossians: "Your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Vita vestra abscondita est cum Christo in Deo). The simple facts of history are enough: Bruno had decided to consecrate his life to the study and teaching of the Faith, and the things of God had captivated his heart and brought satisfaction to his life.
Not only a renowned scholar but also a master, in the fully human sense that Saint Augustine gives the word, Bruno was an excellent teacher. His learning was not only scholarship: Bruno exercised the spiritual influence that the Eulogies speak of only because his teaching had been inspired by a profound interest in man and had deeply touched the religious beliefs and the essential restlessness of his hearers. He made his pupils into disciples, often into friends. In the Eulogies regret is often mingled with warm emotion, beyond literary convention and catharsis. Bruno aroused more than admiration because he offered and enkindled friendship. The later years of his life will prove him better still, because the three in Adam's little garden were friends that day they determined to turn their life completely over to God, three friends bound together by their desire for the things of eternity.
At the end of this long first part of his life Bruno appeared a man of undisputed moral honor and distinction. It was by no intrigue that the holy Bishop Gervais and Master Herimann had agreed to confer the charge of director of studies for Rheims upon a young man who was not yet thirty years old. During the twenty years that he held this office, Bruno must have acquired a reputation for undisputed integrity and authority, because Manassès I in his anxiety chose him to be chancellor for the purpose of convincing Gregory VII of his good intentions. Wasn't Bruno's early resignation from the office of chancellor another proof of his integrity? Bruno was a just man, in the biblical sense of the word. Like William, the abbot of Saint Arnoul, he quickly took the measure of the Archbishop and his corruption, and it seemed he could have peace only by removing himself from every risk of compromise and recovering his freedom to judge and, if necessary, to oppose.
In every society, but especially in a corrupt one, such devotion for the word of God, such love of noble friendship, such integrity destine a person to be, in a real sense, solitary. One who is guileless is always in some way alone. Bruno was already a "master", not only in the sense that he mastered his teaching and deeply influenced his pupils but even more in the sense that he directed events as well as people. He was above them; he was greater than they; he looked upon them from his higher vantage point; he saw and judged them. The power of his personality is demonstrated in the momentous events that are about to buffet the Church of Rheims.