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Henry of Lausanne

AKA Henry

Born: fl. 12th c.
Died: fl. 12th c.
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Religion

Nationality: France
Executive summary: 12th century French heretic

Henry of Lausanne (variously known as of Bruys, of Cluny, of Toulouse, and as the Deacon), French heresiarch of the first half of the 12th century. Practically nothing is known of his origin or early life. He may have been one of those hermits who at that time swarmed in the forests of western Europe, and particularly in France, always surrounded by popular veneration, and sometimes the founders of monasteries or religious orders, such as those of Prémontré or Fontevrault. If St. Bernard of Clairvaux's reproach be well founded, Henry was an apostate monk -- a "black monk" (Benedictine) according to the chronicler Alberic de Trois Fontaines. The information we possess as to his degree of instruction is scarcely more precise or less conflicting. When he arrived at Le Mans in 1101, his terminus a quo was probably Lausanne. At that moment Hildebert, the Bishop of Le Mans, was absent from his episcopal town, and this is one of the reasons why Henry was granted permission to preach (March to July 1101), a function jealously guarded by the regular clergy. Whether by his prestige as a hermit and ascetic or by his personal charm, he soon acquired enormous influence over the people.

His doctrine at that date appears to have been very vague; he seemingly rejected the invocation of saints and also second marriages, and preached penitence. Women, inflamed by his words, gave up their jewels and luxurious apparel, and young men married courtesans in the hope of reclaiming them. Henry was peculiarly fitted for a popular preacher. In person he was tall and had a long beard; his voice was sonorous, and his eyes flashed fire. He went barefoot, preceded by a man carrying a staff surmounted with an iron cross; he slept on the bare ground, and lived by alms. At his instigation the inhabitants of Le Mans soon began to slight the clergy of their town and to reject all ecclesiastical authority.

On his return from Rome, Hildebert had a public disputation with Henry, in which, according to the bishops Acta episcoporum Cenomannensium, Henry was shown to be less guilty of heresy than of ignorance. He, however, was forced to leave La Mans, and went probably to Poitiers and afterwards to Bordeaux. Later we find him in the diocese of Arles, where the archbishop arrested him and had his case referred to the tribunal of the pope. In 1134 Henry appeared before Pope Innocent III at the council of Pisa, where he was compelled to abjure his errors and was sentenced to imprisonment. It appears that St. Bernard offered him an asylum at Clairvaux; but it is not known if he reached Clairvaux, nor do we know when or in what circumstances he resumed his activities. Towards 1139, however, Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, wrote a treatise called Epistola seu tractatus adversus Petrobrusianos against the disciples of Peter of Bruys and Henry of Lausanne, whom he calls Henry of Bruys, and whom, at the moment of writing, he accuses of preaching, in all the dioceses in the south of France, errors which he had inherited from Peter of Bruys. According to Peter the Venerable, Henry's teaching is summed up as follows: rejection of the doctrinal and disciplinary authority of the church; recognition of the Gospel freely interpreted as the sole rule of faith; condemnation of the baptism of infants, of the eucharist, of the sacrifice of the mass, of the communion of saints, and of prayers for the dead; and refusal to recognize any form of worship or liturgy.

The success of this teaching spread very rapidly in the south of France. Speaking of this region, St Bernard says: "The churches are without flocks, the flocks without priests, the priests without honor; in a word, nothing remains save Christians without Christ." On several occasions St. Bernard was begged to fight the innovator on the scene of his exploits, and in 1145, at the instance of the legate Alberic, cardinal bishop of Ostia, he set out, passing through the diocese of Angoulême and Limoges, sojourning for some time at Bordeaux, and finally reaching the heretical towns of Bergerac, Périgueux, Sarlat, Cahors and Toulouse. At Bernard's approach Henry quitted Toulouse, leaving there many adherents, both of noble and humble birth, and especially among the weavers. But Bernard's eloquence and miracles made many converts, and Toulouse and Albi were quickly restored to orthodoxy. After inviting Henry to a disputation, which he refused to attend, St. Bernard returned to Clairvaux. Soon afterwards the heresiarch was arrested, brought before the bishop of Toulouse, and probably imprisoned for life. In a letter to the people of Toulouse, undoubtedly written at the end of 1146, St. Bernard calls upon them to extirpate the last remnants of the heresy. In 1151, however, some Henricians still remained in Languedoc, for Matthew Paris relates (Chron. maj., at date 1151) that a young girl, who gave herself out to be miraculously inspired by the Virgin Mary, was reputed to have converted a great number of the disciples of Henry of Lausanne. It is impossible to designate definitely as Henricians one of the two sects discovered at Cologne and described by Everwin, provost of Steinfeld, in his letter to St. Bernard, or the heretics of Périgord mentioned by a certain monk Heribert (Martin Bouquet, Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, xii. 550-51).

    Exiled from Le Mans, France
    Heresy 1134



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