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Foulque de Neuilly

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A popular Crusade preacher, d. March, 1202. At the end of the twelfth century he was curé at the church of Neuilly-sur-Marne, in the Diocese of Paris (now the department of seine-et-Oise). According to Jacques de Vitry he once led an irregular life, but experienced a sudden conversion. Ashamed of his ignorance, he went to Paris to study under Pierre, a chanter of Notre Dame. It was not long before his master noticed his earnestness and had him preach in the church of Saint-Séverin before a number of students. His eloquence was so great that he was thought to be inspired by the Holy Ghost. Large crowds assembled to hear him in the Place Champeaux where he was wont to preach. He was especially severe in his denunciation of usurers and dissolute womwn. In 1195, according to Rigord with the assent of the Bishop of Paris, he began to preach in neighourhood of Paris, and soon afterwards met with successively in Normandy, at Lisieux and Caen, later at Burgundy, Picardy, Flanders. He was credited with power to work miracles, and from every quarter the sick were brought to him, whom he cured by the laying on of hands and by the sign of the cross. After 1198 he preached the Fourth Crusade amid much popular enthusiasm. He declared later that in three years he had given the cross to 200,000 persons. According to Jean de Flixecourt, it was Pierre le Chantre who pointed out his ability as a preacher to Innocent III. In November, 1198, the pope conferred upon him the necessary powers, with the right of choosing his assistants among the secular clergy (Historiens de France, XIX, 369). The chief of these were Pierre de Proussi, Rustache, Abbot of Flai, and Herloin, a monk of Saint-Denis. Herloin even led a band of Breton Crusaders as far as Saint-Jean d'Acre. In 1200 many nobles of Northern France had taken the cross. On the nineteenth of March of that year Foulque preached at Liège (Hist. de France, XVIII, 616). After Boniface of Montserrat had been chosen leader of the crusade Foulque gave him the cross at Soissons. In 1201 he assisted at the chapter of Cîteaux with Boniface, and entrusted to the Cistercians a portion of the alms he had collected for the Holy Land. There used to repair the ramparts of Acre and Tyre, but he had aroused distrust, and his later success was slight. He returned to Neuilly, where he restored the parish church, which is still in existence. When Foulque died, he was regarded as a saint. He had taken a decisive part in the preparation for the Crusade of 1204.

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