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St. Poppo

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Abbot, born 977; died at Marchiennes, 25 January, 1048. He belonged to a noble family of Flanders ; his parents were Tizekinus and Adalwif. About the year 1000 he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with two others of his countrymen. Soon after this he also went on a pilgrimage to Rome. He was about to marry a lady of noble family, when an impressive experience led him to seek another mode of life. As he was journeying late at night a flame burst forth over his head and his lance radiated a brilliant light. He believed this to be an illumination of the Holy Spirit, and soon after, 1005, he entered the monastery of St. Thierry at Reims. About 1008 Abbot Richard of St. Vannes at Verdun, who was a zealous reformer of monasteries in the spirit of the reform of Cluny, took Poppo with him to his monastery. Richard made Poppo prior of St. Vaast d'Arras, in the Diocese of Cambrai, about 1013. Here Poppo proved himself to be the right man for the position, reclaimed the lands of the monastery from the rapacious vassals, and secured the possession of the monastery by deeds. Before 1016 he was appointed to the same position at Vasloges ( Beloacum, Beaulieu ) in the Diocese of Verdun. In 1020 the Emperor Henry II, who had become acquainted with Poppo in 1016, made him abbot of the royal Abbeys of Stablo (in Lower Lorraine, now Belgium ) and Malmedy. Richard was very unwilling to lose him. Poppo also received in 1023 the Abbey of St. Maximin at Trier, and his importance became still greater during the reign of Conrad II. From St. Maximin the Cluniac reform now found its way into the German monasteries. The emperor placed one royal monastery after another under Poppo's control or supervision, as Limburg an der Hardt, Echternach, St. Gislen, Weissenburg, St. Gall, Hersfeld, Waulsort, and Hostières. In the third decade of the century Poppo gave these positions as abbot to his pupils. The bishops and laymen who had founded monasteries placed a series of other monasteries under his care, as St. Laurence at Liège, St. Vincent at Metz, St. Eucharius at Trier, Hohorst, Brauweiler, St. Vaast, Marchiennes, etc. However, the Cluniac reform had at the time no permanent success in Germany, because the monks were accustomed to a more independent and individual way of action and raised opposition. After 1038 the German court no longer supported the reform.

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Personally Poppo practised the most severe asceticism. He had no interest in literary affairs, and also lacked the powers of organization and centralization. Neither was he particularly prominent in politics, and in the reign of Henry III he was no longer a person of importance. Death overtook him while he was on a journey on behalf of his efforts at monastic reform. His funeral took place in the presence of a great concourse of people at Stablo.

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