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August 20

Saint Berndard of Clairvaux -San_Bernardo,_de_Juan_Correa_de_Vivar_(Museo_del_Prado) - August 20

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Bishop, Doctor of the Church

(Around 1090 – 1153)

“Great graces cannot be obtained without humility. When you yourself experience humiliation, you should take it as a sure sign that some great grace is in store.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Saint’s Life Story

A Frivolous Youth

Bernard was born around 1090 in Fontaines-les-Dijon, Burgundy, France in the family castle to Tescelin de Fontaine and Alèthe de Montbard. He was the third son of 7 children and his brother was Saint Humbeline. At age nine, Bernard was sent to study at Châtillon-sur-Seine. During his youth, he did not escape trying temptations. After a frivolous youth and the death of of his mother, at age 19, Bernard decided to pursue a religious life. 

Cîteaux Abbey

Bernard decided to go to Cîteaux Abbey. In 1113, he persuaded thirty other young noblemen (including 4 of his brothers) to go with him to seek admission into the first Cistercian monastery, which observed strict interpretation and followed the rules of St. Benedict.  They were welcomed by the abbot, St. Stephen Harding. Soon after his father and other brother also joined.  In 1115, Bernard was sent with 12 monks to found a Cistercian house at Langres and Bernard was the abbot.  Though there were initial difficulties due to Bernard’s strict disciple and austerities, his holiness soon attracted scores of disciples. The name of this house was changed from Vallee d’Absinthe to Clairvaux and was to become the mother house of 68 Cistercian monasteries established by its monks.

Influencer and Advisor

Bernard soon became involved in matters outside of the monastery as his reputation for learning and wisdom spread.  He was soon one of the most powerful influences in Europe, consulted by rulers like King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young as well as Popes, that included Pope Innocent II. Bernard was the spiritual advisor to Pope Eugene III, who had been one of his Cistercian monks.

Preacher and Arbritrator

In 1140 Bernard started preaching in public. He was soon regarded with awe at both the eloquence of his preaching and miracles attributed to him. In 1142, Bernard arbritrated the disputed succession of the see of York. In 1145, the papal legate asked Bernard to go to Languedoc, France to combat the Albigensian heresy. In 1146, he helped stop a series of pogroms, organized massacres of helpless people, in Germany. In that same year, he preached a crusade against the Turks.

Second Crusade

Bernard roused all of Eurpoe to the Second Crusade headed by Emperor Conrad III and Louis VII of France. The crusade was unsuccessful and Bernard blamed the failure on wickedness and lack of dedication of the crusaders.

His Works

Bernard’s works include:

  • De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae [The steps of humility and pride] (in Latin). c. 1120.
  • De conversione ad clericos sermo seu liber [On the conversion of clerics] (in Latin). 1122.
  • De gratia et libero arbitrio [On grace and free choice] (in Latin). c. 1128.
  • De diligendo Dei [On loving God] (in Latin).
  • 547 letters survive

His sermons are also numerous and include:

  • 125 surviving Sermones per annum (Sermons on the Liturgical Year)
  • the Sermones de diversis (Sermons on Different Topics)

Bernard is the author of poems often translated in English hymnals as:

  • “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
  • “Jesus the Very Thought of Thee”
  • “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts”

His Death

In 1153, Bernard left Clairvaux to attempt peace between the Duke of Lorraine and the inhabitants of Metz, who had been attached by the duke. On his return to Clairvaux, he was stricken. Bernard died on August 20, 1153 at Clairvaux Abbey in Ville-sous-la-Ferté, Aube, France. Bernard is considered the second founder of the Cistercians. He was called the Mellifluous Doctor and was canonized by Pope Alexander in 1170 just 17 years after his death. Bernard was first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1830 by Pope Pius VIII. 

Beatified:           Not Available

Canonized:        January 18, 1170 by Pope Alexander III

Feast Day:         August 20

Patron Saint:    Beekeepers, Candlemakers, Cistercians



Saint Bernard of Clairvaux’s experiences and writing have influenced generations of Christians and taught many how to more effectively pray and grow in union with God. Among many lessons, Saint Bernard emphasized the importance of lectio divina. “Lectio divina” consists of reading Scripture, thinking about its meaning, and speaking with God about it.

Have you ever practiced “lectio divina”? Try practicing “lectio divina” for today’s daily readings.



Saint Bernard, may we see in your devotion to Mary, endless travels, strict life, and keen eye for beauty, the model of an educated and devoted monk. Intercede for all religious, and for all those with a contemplative heart who are in the world, to love God half as well as you did.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us. Amen.

Source: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (

Saint Links 

All Saint & Martyrs – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

Anastpaul – Saint of the Day – 20 August – St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) – Abbot, Confessor Doctor of the Church – “Doctor Mellifluus” and the Last Father of the Church

Catholic Exchange – The Most Influential Saint of His Time

Catholic Fire – St. Bernard of Clairvaux: A Model of Peace for These Troubled Times

Catholic Ireland – Aug 20 – St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) monk and abbot

Catholic News Agency – St Bernard of Clairvaux

CatholicSaints.infoSaint Bernard of Clairvaux

Franciscan MediaSaint Bernard of Clairvaux

Independent Catholic News – 20th August – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Loyola PressSaint Bernard (of Clairvaux)

My Catholic Life – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

New Advent – Gildas, M. (1907). St. Bernard of Clairvaux. In The Catholic Encyclopedia.

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Saint of the Day – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

uCatholic – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Wikipedia – Bernard of Clairvaux

Video Link

St. Bernard of Clairvaux – YouTube (The True Enlightenment!)