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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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Suger

Abbot of St-Denis, statesman and historian, b. about 1081; d. Jan. 13, 1151

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Suger, Abbot of St-Denis, statesman and historian, b. probably at or near St-Denis, about 1081; d. there, January 13, 1151. Towards 1091 he was offered to the monastery of St-Denis where he became a fellow-student of King Louis VI. From 1104 to 1106 he attended another monastic school, perhaps that of St-Benoit-sur-Loire near Orleans. He became secretary to Abbot Adam of St-Denis in 1106, was named provost of Berneval in Normandy towards 1107 and of Toury in Beauce in 1109. Louis VI sent him (1118) to the Court of Gelasius II at Maguelonne in Southern France, and later to that of Callistus II at Rome. During his stay at Rome (1121-22) he was elected Abbot of St-Denis, and ordained to the priesthood on his return. He attended the First General Council of the Lateran in 1123, and so favorably impressed Callistus II that eighteen months after his return to France this pope, desirous of conferring new honors (probably the cardinalate) upon him, invited him to Rome. Suger proceeded as far as Lucca, but retraced his steps upon receipt of the news of the pope's death. Henceforth most of his time was spent at Court until 1127, when he initiated, and subsequently success-fully accomplished, the reform of his monastery. He continued to remain, however, the constant adviser of Louis VI and of his successor Louis VII. During the latter's absence on the Second Crusade he was appointed regent of the kingdom (1147-49). He had opposed the king's departure on the ground that the powerful and turbulent vassals were a danger to the royal power, but so successful was his administration that the king, upon his return, bestowed upon him the title of "Father of the Country". Although the crusade ended in failure, Suger equipped an army and was about to depart for the Holy Land when he died. As a statesman he sought to strengthen the royal power, to improve agriculture, commerce, and trade, and to reform the administration of justice. As abbot he not only introduced thorough-going reforms, but also completed in 1144 the new monastic church. He has left an account of the consecration of this edifice, "Libellus de consecratione eccl. S. Dionysii", and a memoir on his own abbatical administration, "Liber de rebus in administratione sua gestis". Of greater importance for the knowledge of the period are his "Vita Ludovici Grossi regis", a eulogistic but reliable life of Louis the Fat, and "Historia Ludovici VU", a history of Louis VII, which in its present form is the work of a Burgundian monk of St-Germain-des-Pres. We also possess of him some letters, official documents, and a will of the year 1137.

N. A. WEBER


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