Statue de saint Léopold III dans la cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Vienne.
Saint Léopold III d'Autriche
Margrave d'Autriche (✝ 1136)
Margrave d'Autriche, apparenté à l'empereur Frédéric Barberousse, il gouverna avec prudence son pays, très soucieux des responsabilités civiles qui étaient les siennes. Si grande était sa charité qu'il transforma son palais en asile pour les pauvres et les orphelins. Il introduisit le monachisme cistercien en Autriche et fonda la célèbre abbaye bénédictine de Mariazell. Il est la patron principal de la catholique Autriche.
À Klosterneubourg en Autriche, l’an 1136, la mise au tombeau de saint Léopold, margrave d’Autriche, surnommé le Pieux dès son vivant, homme de paix, ami des pauvres et du clergé.
Miniature de saint Léopold, 1492, Trésor de l'Abbaye de Klosterneuburg
SAINT LÉOPOLD, MARGRAVE D’AUTRICHE
Léopold III-le Pieux, sixième margrave d’Autriche, était fils de Léopold-le Bel et d’Itte, fille de l’empereur Henri IV. Il est né en 1073, saint Grégoire VII étant Pape, Henri IV empereur germanique et Philippe Ier roi de France.
Les hautes vertus dont il donna des preuves dès sa plus tendre enfance lui firent donner le surnom de Pieux. Ayant hérité (en 1096) des États de son père, il gouverna ses sujets avec une prudence admirable, gagnant leurs esprits par la douceur, cherchant à leur être utile, regardant leurs biens comme si Dieu les lui avait confiés pour en être le protecteur, et prenant soin de procurer leur salut éternel, en excitant les bons à la persévérance par les grâces qu’il leur accordait, et en réduisant les méchants à l’observation des lois divines par des châtiments paternels.
Sa charité envers les pauvres était inépuisable. Son palais était l’asile des veuves et des orphelins ; les étrangers trouvaient auprès de lui un secours assuré. Il ne refusa jamais son assistance à ceux qui, étant dans l’oppression, implorèrent la force de son bras pour en être délivrés.
Il portait un profond respect aux ecclésiastiques et aux religieux. Les affaires de son État ne l’empêchaient point de visiter souvent les églises et d’y demeurer longtemps dans une dévotion ravissante. En un mot, toutes ses démarches étaient si édifiantes, que son peuple avait à tous moments de nouveaux sujets d’admirer la bonté, la sagesse et la sainteté de sa conduite.
Sa piété ne diminuait rien de son courage, qu’il avait naturellement grand. Lorsqu’il lui fallut rendre à César ce qu’il devait à César, il ne parut pas moins intrépide au milieu des armées qu’il avait paru constant au pied des autels pour rendre à Dieu ce qu’il devait à Dieu. L’an 1104, il commença ses exploits militaires sous l’empereur Henri IV, qui était en guerre contre son fils Henri V ; ayant ensuite embrassé le parti de ce dernier, il épousa sa sœur. Elle se nommait Agnès et était veuve de Frédéric, duc de Souabe, duquel elle avait eu Conrad, qui fut depuis empereur, et Frédéric, qui donna aussi à l’empire le fameux Frédéric Barberousse. Ce mariage, qui se fit l’an 1106, fut très heureux, tant parce que cette princesse était parfaitement vertueuse, que parce que Dieu le bénit par une grande et sainte prospérité ; car ils eurent ensemble dix-huit enfants : huit garçons et dix filles. Le Ciel en prit sept dans leur innocence baptismale, et les onze autres se rendirent tous recommandables, ou dans le siècle, ou dans la religion, ou dans l’état ecclésiastique.
Ce nouvel engagement de Léopold ne lui fit rien relâcher de sa dévotion ; au contraire, se voyant une épouse toute dévouée à la vertu, il s’efforça de donner avec elle de nouveaux exemples de sainteté à son peuple. Comme ils n’avaient point d’autre désir que de procurer la gloire de Dieu, ils résolurent ensemble de faire bâtir une église et de la fonder pour y entretenir le service divin. L’endroit où ils devaient la faire construire leur fut montré par une espèce de miracle ; car, un jour que le temps était fort doux, le voile que la princesse avait sur sa tête fut enlevé bien loin, et Léopold ne le trouva que quelques années après, sans qu’il eût reçu aucun dommage, sur le sommet d’un arbre, dans un lieu appelé Neubourg, près de Vienne.
Cette merveille, qu’ils prirent pour une marque de la volonté de Dieu, les détermina à y faire ériger, en l’honneur de la sainte Vierge, une magnifique basilique. La première pierre en fut posée le 9 juin 1111. Cette église était desservie par des chanoines réguliers de l’Ordre de Saint-Augustin.
Ce ne fut pas le seul témoignage public que notre Saint donna de sa religion. Il fonda encore, l’an 1127, à douze milles de Vienne, un célèbre monastère sous le nom de la Sainte-Croix. Il répara aussi et dota de nouveau une ancienne maison déjà fondée par ses ancêtres, et, par la force de ses armes, il chassa de la province les ennemis qui l’avaient désolée et avaient contraint les religieux de l’abandonner.
Léopold couronna glorieusement une vie si belle par une très-sainte mort en 1136, Innocent II étant Pape, Lothaire III empereur germanique et Louis VI le Gros ou le Batailleur, roi de France. Il fut inhumé dans son église de Neubourg, et de nombreux miracles sont venus attester sa sainteté. C’est ce qui a déterminé le pape Innocent VIII à le canoniser en 1485.
De nos jours encore, à la fête de saint Léopold, on expose à la vénération du peuple ses reliques dans une châsse d’argent, la tête parée du chapeau ducal et couchée sur un coussin de velours rouge. L’église est alors toujours remplie de fidèles, tant de la ville que des environs.
La couronne ducale et les armoiries de la maison d’Autriche sont des attributs fréquents de saint Léopold. Le drapeau blasonné, caractéristique générale des princes, est aussi une des siennes. Comme fondateur d’églises et de monastères, il porte quelquefois une petite réduction d’église sur la main. On le représente aussi (surtout les gravures allemandes) entouré d’enfants : ce sont les dix-huit rejetons dont nous avons parlé.
Il est patron du duché d’Autriche, de la Carinthie, de la Styrie.
Martino Altomonte. Apothéose de saint Léopold, 1750, Galerie nationale hongroise
Leopold of Austria (RM)
(also known as Leopold the Good)
Born at Melk (Gars), Lower Austria, 1073; died in Vienna in 1136; canonized 1486; named patron of Austria in 1663.
Margrave Leopold Babenberger, the grandson of Emperor Henry III, was educated by Bishop Altmann of Passau and succeeded his father as fourth margrave of Austria when he was 23 (1095). He married Agnes, the widowed daughter of Emperor Henry IV, by whom he had 18 children. He initially supported the Concordat of Worms (1122) in the investiture controversy, but after his marriage he took the side of his father-in-law.
He was a capable and beloved ruler and a munificent benefactor of the Church. In 1106 he founded the monasteries of Heiligenkreuz (Holy Cross) in the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods) (Cistercian); Klosterneuburg (Augustinian) near Vienna; and Mariazell (Benedictine) in Styria. Additionally, he reformed the monastery of Melk.
His piety and charity earned him the popular appellation of "the Good." He was notably free from ambition, for in 1125, he refused the imperial crown when his brother-in-law Henry V died. He actively helped the first crusade. Leopold died at Klosterneuburg after reigning as margrave for 40 years. His chronicler Otto of Freising was one of his 18 children. Historians are not without criticism of Saint Leopold; he did lay the foundation for Austria's greatness, but also that for its ecclesiastical provincialism (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer).
In art Saint Leopold is an armed count with a cross upon his coronet, a banner with three eagles, and a model of the church of Heiligenkreuz (Holy Cross) in his hand. In some pictures he is shown (1) hunting with his courtiers, when he finds his wife's veil near the monastery of Klosterneuburg; (2) with the Virgin appearing to him while hunting and the veil nearby; (3) with his countess building Klosterneuburg; (4) before the Virgin and Saint Anne; or (5) with Saint Jerome as patron of Klosterneuburg (Roeder). Leopold is the patron saint of Austria (Encyclopedia); his feast is a national holiday (Farmer).
St. Leopold, Marquis of Austria, Confessor
LEOPOLD, the fourth of that name, from his infancy commonly called The Pious, was son of Leopold III. and Itta, daughter to the Emperor Henry IV. 1 By attending diligently to the instructions of God’s ministers, and meditating assiduously on the pure maxims of the gospel, he learned that there is but one common rule of salvation for princes and private persons: this he studied, and from his cradle he laboured to square by it his whole life. In his youth he laid a good foundation of learning; but it was his chief study to live only for eternity, to curb his passions, to mortify his senses, to renounce worldly pleasures, to give much of his time to prayer and holy meditation, and to apply himself to the exercise of all manner of good works, especially those of almsdeeds and charity. By the death of his father, in 1096, he saw it was become his indispensable duty to study and procure in all things the happiness of a numerous nation committed by God to his charge. The Austrians were then a very gross and superstitious people: it was necessary to soften their minds, to imbue them with the principles of reason and society, and make them Christians. The work was tedious and difficult. The saint prepared himself for it by earnestly asking of God that wisdom which he stood in need of for it; and by active endeavours, through the divine blessing, succeeded beyond what could have been hoped for. He was affable to all, studied to do good to every one, and eased as much as possible all public burdens of the people. His palace seemed the seat of virtue, justice, and universal goodness. When he was constrained to proceed to punishments, he endeavoured to engage the criminals to receive them with patience, and in a spirit of penance, and to acknowledge the severity which he used, to be necessary and just. He pardoned malefactors as often as prudence allowed him to do it: for he considered that the maintenance of justice and the public peace and safety depended upon the strict execution of the laws.
When the civil war broke out between the unnatural excommunicated emperor, Henry IV., and his own son, Henry V., Leopold was prevailed upon to join the latter, to whose cause he gave the greatest weight. Motives of justice and religion, and the authority of others determined him to take this step; yet Cuspinian tells us, 2 that he afterwards did remarkable penance for the share which he had in those transactions. In 1106 he took to wife Agnes, a most virtuous and accomplished princess, daughter to the Emperor Henry IV., sister to Henry V., and widow of Frederic, duke of Suabia, by whom she had Conrad, afterwards emperor, and Frederic, father of Frederic Barbarossa. To St. Leopold she bore eighteen children, of whom seven died in their infancy: the rest rendered their names famous by great and virtuous actions. Albert, the eldest, having given uncommon proofs of his valour and military skill, died in Pannonia, a few days after his father. Leopold, the second, succeeded his father in Austria, and reigned also in Bavaria. Otho, the fifth son, made great progress in his studies at Paris, became first a Cistercian monk, and abbot of Morimond, was afterwards chosen bishop of Frisingen, accompanied the Emperor Conrad into the Holy Land, and died at Morimond in great sentiments of piety. His famous Chronicle from the beginning of the world, and other works, are monuments of his application to his studies. The Marchioness Agnes would have her part in all her husband’s good works. With him she read the holy scriptures, and with joy interrupted her sleep in the night to rise to the usual midnight devotions of the church, to which this religious couple added together long meditations on the truths of everlasting life. Leopold, in the year 1117, founded the monastery of the Holy Cross, of the Cistercian Order, twelve Italian miles from Vienna, near the castle of Kalnperg, where he lived. The saint and his religious marchioness were desirous to have been able to watch continually at the foot of the altar in singing the divine praises; but being obliged by their station in the world often to attend other affairs, though in all these they found God, whose holy will and greater glory they proposed to themselves in every thing they did; they resolved to found a great monastery of fervent regular canons, who might be substituted in their places, to attend night and day to this angelical function. This they executed by the foundation of the noble monastery of Our Lady of New Clausterberg, eight miles from Vienna. The marquis out of humility would not lay the first stone, but caused that ceremony to be performed by a priest. The church was dedicated in 1118 by the archbishop of Saltzburg, assisted by the bishop of Passau, the diocesan, and the bishop of Gurck. The foundation was confirmed by the pope, and by a charter of Leopold, 3 signed by Ottacar, marquis of Stiria, and many other counts and noblemen, in presence of the bishops, who fulminated an excommunication, with dreadful anathemas, against any who should invade the rights or lands of this monastery, or injure or molest the poor servants of Christ, who there followed the rule of St. Austin.
Stephen II. king of Hungary, invaded Austria, but was repulsed by St. Leopold, who defeated his troops in a pitched battle. The Hungarians returned some years after, but were met by the holy marquis on his frontiers, and their army so ill handled that they were glad to save their remains by a precipitate flight. Upon the death of Henry V. in 1125, some of the electors and many others desired to see Leopold raised to the imperial dignity: but the election of Lothaire II. duke of Saxony, prevailed. Conrad and Frederic, sons of the Marchioness Agnes by the Duke of Suabia, who had also stood candidates, raised great disturbances in the empire, to which they afterwards both succeeded. But Leopold adhered with such fidelity to Lothaire, as to give manifest proofs of his sincere disinterestedness, and to show how perfectly a stranger he was to jealousy and ambition. He attended the emperor as his friend in his journey into Italy. After a glorious and happy reign he was visited with his last sickness, in which he confessed his sins with many tears, received extreme unction and the other rites of the church, and, never ceasing to call on Christ his Redeemer, and to recommend his soul, through his precious death, into his divine hands, with admirable tranquillity and resignation, passed to a state of happy immortality on the 15th of November, in 1136. He was buried at his monastery of New Clausterberg, two German miles from Vienna, and on his and his holy consort’s anniversaries two large doles are still distributed by the community to all the poor that come to receive it. St. Leopold was honoured by God with many miracles, and was canonized by Innocent VIII. in 1485. See his life by Vitus Erempercht, published by F. Rader, in Bavaria Sancta, vol. 3, p. 143; the History of the Foundation of Medlic, quoted at large by Lambecius, (Bibl. Vindob. vol. 2); and Francis of Possac’s oration before Innocent VIII. in order to the saint’s canonization, (in Surius, t. 79,) in which many miracles are recited; see other manuscript monuments quoted by F. Rader.
Note 1. Austria was part of Noricum, and afterwards of Pannonia, when it fell a prey to the Huns and Abares. Charlemagne expelled them, and settled colonies from whom the country was called Osterriccha and Osterlandia; whence Austria signifies the eastern country, as Austrasia in France. Charlemagne and his successors placed there governors of the borders called marches, to restrain the Huns, &c. Upper Austria frequently was subject to Bavaria. Leopold I. was created by the Emperor Otho I. Marquess of Austria, in 940. St. Leopold was the sixth marquess, and his son Leopold V. was also duke of Bavaria, from whom the present dukes of that country derive their pedigree. Henry II., marquiss of Austria, was created the first duke by the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa. Rodulph, count of Hapsburg, possessed the county of Bregents, near Constance, and Alsace; after he became emperor of Germany he obtained this duchy of Austria in 1136, with which he invested his son Albert: from which time his descendants have remained possessed of it. See Bertius, Rerum Germanic. Aventinus, Aannal. Boiorum; Rader. Not. in S. Leopold. Fiefs or feodal principalities were established by the Lombards in Italy, and, after the extinction of their kingdom, adopted in Germany, &c. Titles merely honorary were first made hereditary by Otho I. The name of Hertzog, which the Germans give to their dukes, signifies a leader of an army. Landgraves were originally governors of provinces; margraves of marches, frontiers, or conquered countries; burgraves of particular places of importance; rhinegrave, of the country about the Rhine: wildgrave, of the forest of the Ardennes, this word signifying wild count. See Selden on Titles of Honour, Du Cange, &c. [back]
Note 2. Cuspin. in Austr. March, p. 3. [back]
Note 3. He every where styles himself Marchio Orientalis, for marquess of Austria. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.