mardi 14 avril 2015

Saint BÉNÉZET (BENOÎT), confesseur laïc



Saint Bénezet

Bénezet (ou Benoît en langue d'oc), qui mourut en 1184, est le constructeur du fameux pont d'Avignon. Berger, c'est à la suite d'une vision qu'il alla trouver l'évêque et lui demanda aide pour édifier un pont sur un gué particulièrement dangereux du Rhône. Une série de miracles accompagna cette construction.


Saint Bénézet ou Benoît

Berger

(1165-1184)

Saint Bénézet ou Benoît

Saint Bénézet vint au monde en Savoie. Il fut élevé sous le toit de chaume de ses parents, qui lui apprirent de bonne heure à aimer Dieu.

Quand il eut douze ans, sa mère, devenue veuve, l'employa à la garde des troupeaux. Or, un jour, dans la campagne, Bénézet entendit trois fois cette parole:

"Bénézet, Mon fils, écoute la voix de Jésus-Christ. Je veux que tu laisses ton troupeau et que tu ailles Me bâtir un pont sur le Rhône.

-- Mais, Seigneur, je ne sais où est le Rhône, et je n'ose abandonner les brebis de ma mère.

-- Va, Je serai avec toi; tes brebis retourneront à l'étable, et Je vais te donner un compagnon qui te conduira.

-- Mais, Seigneur, je n'ai que trois oboles; comment pourrai-je construire un pont sur le Rhône?

-- Va, Mon fils, Je te donnerai les moyens."

Et l'enfant laissa sa mère et son troupeau, pour obéir à la voix du Ciel. Un ange, sous la forme d'un pèlerin, vint tout à coup s'offrir pour le conduire. Quand ils arrivèrent au bord du Rhône, Bénézet, saisi de frayeur à la vue de la largeur du fleuve, s'écria:

"Il est impossible de faire un pont ici.

-- Ne crains rien, dit le guide, Dieu sera avec toi: va vers ce batelier, qui te fera passer le fleuve, et tu iras te présenter à l'évêque d'Avignon et à son peuple." En disant cela, l'ange disparut.

L'enfant se rendit à la cathédrale. L'évêque y parlait à son peuple; mais Bénézet l'interrompit en disant: "Écoutez-moi; Jésus-Christ m'a envoyé vers vous pour construire un pont sur le Rhône."

L'évêque, indigné, le mit entre les mains de l'autorité civile, devant laquelle il renouvela sa demande avec tant de fermeté, qu'il lui fut dit: "Voici une pierre énorme; si tu peux la remuer et la porter, nous croirons que tu peux faire le pont."

Et bientôt le petit berger, à la vue de l'évêque et de toute la ville portait une pierre de trente pieds de longueur sur dix-sept de largeur, que trente hommes n'auraient pu soulever. On devine l'enthousiasme universel. Cet enthousiasme augmenta encore quand on vit Bénézet, dès ce jour, rendre la vue aux aveugles, l'ouïe et la parole aux sourds-muets, et la facilité de marcher aux boiteux.

L'envoyé de Dieu commença par fonder une corporation d'ouvriers faiseurs de ponts. Après sept ans de travaux, le pont, d'une longueur immense, n'était pas encore achevé. Bénézet mourut à dix-neuf ans. Sa mémoire est restée en bénédiction.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950



Statue de saint Bénézet transportant la première pierre du pont d'Avignon, 
Cathédrale Notre Dame des Doms d'Avignon, Vaucluse

Saint Bénezet

Confesseur - Constructeur du Pont d'Avignon ( 1184)

ou Benoît. 

Ses parents étaient pauvres, très pauvres, et leur seule richesse était en Dieu. Le petit Benoît, d'où le surnom de Bénezet, perdit son père très jeune et dut garder les troupeaux pour permettre à sa famille de survivre.

Les légendes lui font traverser le Rhône d'une manière originale et racontent son intervention près des échevins pour qu'existe un pont. De là vient l'histoire de la construction du pont d'Avignon. La corporation des 'frères pontifes' commença les travaux. Ils avancèrent lentement à cause des crues et du débit du fleuve et saint Bénezet n'en vit pas la fin.


Mais tout le temps qu'il vécut, il secourut les pauvres tout en y travaillant et, ses miracles, selon la tradition, multiplièrent les pierres. 

- Vie de saint Benezet sur le site Internet du diocèse d'Avignon.


- "Une vieille tradition le fait naître à Burzet, au hameau du Villard, et lui attribue une part importante - avec les 'Frères Pontifes' - dans la construction du pont d’Avignon. Mort en 1184, il est fêté dans le diocèse de Viviers depuis 1737." (Saint Bénezet - Église catholique en Ardèche)


- Benoît ou Bénezet, par amour envers les pauvres, se rendit à Avignon et y travailla à la construction du pont sur le Rhône, avec des compagnons qui formèrent le groupe des frères pontifes. Il mourut en 1184 et on l'ensevelit dans la chapelle du Pont d'Avignon. (source: Les Saints du diocèse de Nîmes)


- "En 1177. le jeune Bénézet gardait les brebis de sa mère quand une voix céleste lui dit d'aller construire un pont sur le Rhône, à Avignon. Un ange l'accompagna sous l'apparence d'un pèlerin et disparut quand ils furent arrivés face à la ville. L'enfant, effrayé par la largeur et l'impétuosité du fleuve, le traverse sur le bac et se présente à l'évêque qui harangue à ce moment ses ouailles: 'écoutez-moi et comprenez-moi, dit l'enfant à voix haute, je suis envoyé de Dieu pour faire un pont sur le Rhône'. Le pasteur fait mine de vouloir châtier l'insolence de ce mauvais sujet qui ose l'interrompre. Il le fait conduire au prévôt ou viguier de la ville à qui l'enfant renouvelle sa requête. Mais le magistrat se moque de lui et, par dérision, lui demande de montrer un signe de sa mission et de faire ses preuves en transportant une énorme pierre à l'abandon, vestige de quelque monument romain, que personne encore n'a pu ôter devant son palais. Alors le jeune berger, confiant en Dieu, accomplit le prodige, il porte la pierre, que trente hommes n'auraient pu soulever, à l'endroit où le pont devait s'enraciner à la berge. Telle est la 'Légende'." (source: Les Frères Pontifes et Saint Bénézet , par Auguste Jouret, Ingénieur à la S.N.C.F. - pages 23 et sq. - Histoire de L'École Centrale de Lyon)


À Avignon, en 1184, saint Bénezet (Benoît), jeune berger, grâce à qui, avec l’aide du Seigneur, fut construit sur le Rhône un pont très utile aux habitants de la ville. Il mourut à dix-neuf ans et son corps fut déposé sur le pont.

Martyrologe romain





Benedict the Bridge-Builder (AC)
(also known as Bénezet, Benet, Benoît)

Born at Hermillon, Savoy (or in the Ardenne), France, c. 1163; died 1184. The children's song "Sur le pont d'Avignon" concerns the bridge built by Bénezet, a local shepherd boy, a bridge rebuilt in the 14th and 17th centuries. The legend still dances on the arches that collapsed so suddenly. From the broken fragment of the original bridge over the raging waters, people still throw a shower of flowers into the river during the Rhône festivals. For Avignon retains a tender love for its broken bridge and Bénezet. Bénezet, shepherd over the waves, as Fréderic Mistral says, built this magnificent bridge by the order of God in a vision; after 700 years, his memory still stands guard over the arches which live on, albeit half-dead.


According to a legend, the bridge was built without difficulties, at least not of a financial character. In fact, while still a child, Bénezet once saw a poor Jewish woman who was being tormented by a flea which the hump on her back prevented her from reaching and some street urchins who were laughing at her contortions. Bénezet ran to her assistance. After scattering the boys, he found and crushed the offending flea.

In her gratitude the rheumy-eyed, hunch-backed old woman blessed Bénezet and predicted that he would do great things later in life. In order to help him realize them, she told him where the cache containing the treasure of the Jews lay. Time passed. Bénezet, the little shepherd, hardly thought about the treasure, nor did he indulge in any ambitious dreams. He was simply a 15-year-old shepherd concerned about his flock.

One day, the sun suddenly went into hiding: a solar eclipse always frightens the flocks and their guardians. A voice as sweet as honey spoke to him amid the darkness: "In the name of Christ, Bénezet, go as far as the Rhône to Avignon and build a bridge there," the voice bade him. Now, it may sound strange that God would ask for a bridge to be built or that it would be a reason for canonization. In the Middle Ages, however, the construction and repair of bridges was regarded as a work of mercy. Perhaps the child simply had pity for the many who drowned in the rushing waters. I think it is more likely that he was indeed called by God.

Responding to the voice, the child objected that he could not leave his flocks unattended.

"I will watch over them," said the voice, "I'll send you an angel for a guide."

Leaving his sheep, Bénezet set out for the spot that had been designated to him--just as other shepherds, one night, had trustingly set out for Bethlehem. Soon he met the angel whom only he could see, and also arrived at the river Rhône. He had to cross it. The Jewish ferryman picked Bénezet's pocket clean. The lad only had three pennies to his name, but after cursing him, the ferryman finally took him on board and the boat left. But where to? Bénezet asked himself, while remaining utterly calm.

Finally, he arrived at the bishop's palace, where he sought the prelate's blessing and help. Build a bridge? The bishop swelled with indignation and sent little Bénezet to the magistrate promising him that he would be flayed and his hands and feet chopped off as was done to impostors in those days. But the angel, inside the young man's heart, said: "Go!"

The magistrate took a dim view of the matter: "You, the lowliest of the low, you who don't own an acre in the sun, you want to build a bridge there where Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and Charlemagne himself have been helpers? So be it! Do you see this stone embedded in the palace courtyard? Well pull it out and carry it there and I'll believe you! Call the people to watch this spectacle. But if you fail. . . ."

The invisible angel in Bénezet's heart smiled. As calm and self-assured as ever, about 1177, the little shepherd boy extracted this block of stone that weighed a hundred quintals and upon laying it in the bed of the river, he said, "This will be the first stone of the foundations!"

Delirium seized the crowd of onlookers. There were shouts of "Miracle! Miracle!" Immediately, in keeping with the rule, the blind again saw the light of day, the deaf again heard hosannahs, the crippled suddenly walked straight and the hunch-backed heard their vertebrae crack, stretch, and straighten out! Eighteen miracles took place, according to the legend.

The magistrate, sobbing in remorse, gave 300 sous for the building of the bridge, the crowd volunteered 5,000 more. The treasure of the Jews must have done the rest, because the bridge soon rose, proudly, between the waters and the sky.

Alas! Bénezet did not live to see the bridge finished. He died in 1184--because his mission had been accomplished. The last stone was laid two years after his death. The bridge was adorned with a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron of mariners, in which Saint Benedict's relics were enshrined until 1669 when a flood washed away part of the bridge. His coffin was recovered and his body found to be incorrupt--500 years after his death--even the bowels were perfectly sound, and the color of the eyes lively and sprightly, though, through the dampness of the situation, the iron bars about it were much damaged with rust. It was translated to Avignon cathedral and moved again to the Celestine church of Saint Didier.

Even now when coming down the major water-way of the Rhône you will see the man at the prow and the crew in the boats passing by the broken bridge where Saint Bénezet wrought his miracle, salute the shepherd boy who became a saint and Nicholas, the saint of long-standing. After all, two saints are not too much for the taming of these waters among the treacherous, and even for taming the sky overhead, where the mistral blows, churning up powerful, angry waves.

Contemporary sources record the principal episodes of Saint Benedict's life, and an episcopal inquiry was conducted shortly after his death (1230) (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth, Walsh).

In art, Saint Benedict is portrayed as a boy carrying a large stone on his shoulder (Roeder). He is venerated as the patron of Avignon (Coulson, Roeder).


 April 14

St. Benezet, or Little Bennet, Patron of Avignon

HE kept his mother’s sheep in the country, being devoted to the practices of piety beyond his age; when, moved by charity to save the lives of many poor persons, who were frequently drowned in passing the Rhone, and being inspired by God, he undertook to build a bridge over that rapid river at Avignon. He obtained the approbation of the bishop, proved his mission by miracles, and began the work in 1177, which he directed during seven years. He died when the difficulty of the undertaking was over, in 1184. This is attested by public monuments drawn up at that time, and still preserved at Avignon, where the story is in every body’s mouth. His body was buried upon the bridge itself, which was not completely finished till four years after his decease, the structure whereof was attended with miracles, from the first laying the foundations till it was completed in 1188. Other miracles, wrought after this at his tomb, induced the city to build a chapel upon the bridge, in which his body lay near five hundred years: but, in 1669, a great part of the bridge falling down, through the impetuosity of the waters, the coffin was taken up, and being opened, in 1670, in presence of the grand vicar, during the vacancy of the archiepiscopal see, it was found entire, without the least sign of corruption; even the bowels were perfectly sound, and the colour of the eyes lively and sprightly, though, through the dampness of the situation, the iron bars about it were much damaged with rust. The body was found in the same condition by the archbishop of Avignon, in 1674, when, accompanied by the bishop of Orange, and a great concourse of nobility, he performed the translation of it, with great pomp, into the church of the Celestines, (a house of royal foundation,) who had obtained of Lewis XIV. the honour of being intrusted with the custody of his relics, till such time as the bridge and chapel should be rebuilt. See the description of this pompous translation in the Bollandists, April, t. 2, p. 958, 959; and Papebroke’s remarks on his life, p. 255.

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume IV: April. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.