Who was St. Hugo


When Mr. and Mrs. Theodore F MacManus decided to build a church as a living memorial to their two deceased sons, Hugo and Hubert, they chose St. Hugo the Great, Abbot of Cluny, to be its patron saint. There is a number of St. Hugo’s but the learned and gentle Benedictine monk was selected not only because of the similarity to the MacManus sons' first names, but also because of their father's affection and respect for a priest of the Benedictine order who was a family friend.

St. Hugo (which is the Germanic form of the French St. Hugh), was born in 1024 the eldest son of a Burgundy nobleman, was professed a monk of Cluny at the age of sixteen, and was elected to the abbacy when only twenty-five. The office carried with it the headship of the influential Benedictine confederation that depended on Cluny. Abbot from 1049 to 1109, he was the advisor of nine popes from Leo IX to Paschal 11, consulted and revered by all the sovereigns of Europe, and the ruler of over two hundred monasteries. A man of great psychological insight and diplomatic ability, his integrity and generosity were known to all. He and his Cluniac monk, Gregory (later Pope St. Gregory VII), were instrumental in promoting the powerful revival of spiritual life throughout western Europe which characterizes the eleventh century.

St. Hugo, in addition to planting monasteries in Italy, England and Spain, personally established a convent for women at Marcigny with his sister as first prioress. He also founded a hospital for lepers in which he loved to wait upon the sick with his own hands.

When St. Hugo died at age eighty-five, Cluny had reached the highest point of power and international influence in its long history. Knowing his last hour was approaching, he asked to be carried into the church where he lay upon sackcloth and ashes until death released his soul on April 29, 1109, which we now celebrate as his feast day. Pope Calixtus 11 canonized him in 1120. St. Hugo was said to have "loved in their due order, God above all, his neighbor equally with himself, and the world beneath his feet." It seems the aptest description of a saint that a man can invent.

Some of our parishioners believe St. Hugo to be the patron of the hunt. Although this is an appealing idea here in "hunt club territory", investigation shows that St. Hubert, a Belgian bishop of the eighth century, is accorded this title. St. Hugo of Cluny is invoked against fever.