The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Celestine III (1191-1198)
Consistory of May 1192 (II)

(5) 1. ALBERT DE LOUVAIN (ca. 1166-1192)

Birth. Ca. 1166, Louvain (now Belgium). Second of the two sons of Duke Godefroy III of Basse-Lorraine and his first wife, Margareta van Limburg; brother of Henri I, duke of Brabant; nephew of Duke Henri III de Limbourg and Count Albert III von Dagsberg. Cousin of Cardinal Simon de Limbourg (1195). He is also listed as Albert de Brabant; as Albert of Lowen; as Adalbero of Louvaine; as Albert de Liège; and as Albert von Lüttich.

Education. As a child, he was dedicated to the Church and studied in the school of the cathedral of Saint-Lambert, Liège.

Early life. Canon prebendary of the cathedral chapter of Saint-Lambert of Liège ca. 1178. In 1187, when the news of the fall of Jerusalem reached Liège, he resigned his offices, took the cross and was knighted at Valenciennes. In 1188, he was restored to the ecclesiastical state by Cardinal Henri de Marsiac, O.Cist., papal preacher of the crusade; and became archdeacon of Liège in that same year; and later, provost of the collegiate churches of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Jean in Liège. Received the subdiaconate in 1191.

Episcopate. Elected bishop of Liège by the overwhelming majority of its cathedral chapter, September 8, 1191 although he had not reached the canonical age of thirty; all the other archdeacons, clergy, people of the city and princes of the land, consented to his election; Count Badouin de Hainaut, enemy of Duke Henri of Bavant, opposed the election of Albert de Louvain and, with a handful of canons, elected Albert de Rethel, provost of Liège. The dispute was brought up before Emperor Heinrich VI; at the Diet of Worms, on January 13, 1192, the emperor referred the matter to a committee of ten bishops and three abbots; the committee decided that since the see was clearly in dispute, it fell to the emperor to appoint a bishop; the emperor appointed Lothaire von Hochstaden, provost of Bonn; Albert of Louvain strongly protested and indicated that he would appeal to Rome; Albert de Rethel indignantly refused a financial settlement offered by the emperor; he went to Rome; the majority of the electors of Liège accepted the imperial decision because of the emperor's threat; Albert de Louvain arrived in Rome on April 5, 1192 and presented the matter to Pope Celestine III; the pope welcomed him, heard his case and presented it to the Roman Curia; some of the cardinals recommended caution but the majority supported Albert's claim; the pope accepted the decision and, in the Lateran palace, confirmed Albert's election after Pentecost 1192.

Cardinalate. Created cardinal deacon in a consistory in May 1192; no information has been found concerning his deaconry.

Sacred orders. Ordained deacon by Pope Celestine III in Rome on May 30, 1192; the pope wrote to Archbishop Bruno of Cologne (metropolitan of the bishop of Liège), asking him to consecrate Albert as bishop of Liège, and authorized the archbishop to delegate the consecration to the archbishop of Reims, if he feared to perform the ceremony himself; another letter went to the archbishop of Reims explaining the situation and authorizing him to consecrate a bishop from outside his jurisdiction; the pope also wrote to the chapter of Liège indicating his decision, asking them to support Albert and absolving them from the oaths to Lothair. Albert departed from Rome and by July 31, he was in the abbey of Lobbes in Brabant; from there he went to the monastery of Nivelles and then traveled to one of the fortresses of his uncle the duke of Limberg; in August or early September, the duke accompanied his nephew to Reims. Albert was ordained priest on Saturday September 19, 1192, in Reims, by Cardinal Guillaume aux Blanches Mains, archbishop of Reims. He received the episcopal consecration the following day from the same archbishop; he celebrated his first Mass on September 21 in the cathedral of Reims. The new bishop remained in Reims the next two months; in October, three German knights arrived in Reims and became acquaintances of the bishop of Liège and won his trust on November 24, the knights persuaded Albert to take a horse ride with them outside the city walls; the three knights attacked the bishop with their swords, struck him on the head crashing his skull and making him fall to the ground, where they again attacked him to make sure that they had killed him and then escaped.

Death. November 24, 1192, assassinated by three German knights near Reims, in the route to Nogent-l'Ablesse. Buried in the metropolitan cathedral of Reims. The question of who was ultimately responsible for of the bishop's death remains unanswered. His biography, Vita Alberti episcopi Leodiensis, was written, in 1194 or 1195, by a contemporary, who was a monk and secretary of the abbot of Lobbes (1).

Beatification. In 1612, at the request of Archduke Albert of Brabant, who wanted to have his body in Brussels, the king of France and the archbishop of Reims allowed the translation of the relics of Albert to Brussels; they were exhumed on October 20 and transferred to that city (by error, it was the remains of Archbishop Odalric of Reims that were taken to Brussels; the error of the canons of the cathedral chapter of Reims may be explained by the several modifications that had taken place in the cathedral building) on November 22; they were solemnly received on December 11 and deposited in the church of the Carmelites. On August 9, 1613, Pope Paul V authorized his veneration in Reims and Brussels and inscribed him in the Roman Martyrology on November 21, which is believed was the anniversary of his death; he is listed as a martyr who died for the defense of the Church. On September 26, 1919, in the excavations of the cathedral of Reims, which had been devastated during the First World War, Architect Henri Deneux found the real tomb of St. Albert of Liège; the relics were recognized by a commission named by Cardinal Louis-Henri Luçon, archbishop of Reims; the commission met on December 10, 1920 and August 18, 1921; the body was exhumed and, after the remains of Archbishop Odalric were transferred from Belgium on November 17, 1921, the relics of St. Albert were taken to Brussels the following November 19; they were accompanied by Jan van Cauwenbergh, titular bishop of Sinao, auxiliary and vicar general of Malines, and by Sébastien Braun, Benedictine of Maredsous, and given directly to Cardinal Desiré Mercier, archbishop of Malines; the cardinal donated a relic (an arm) of the saint to King Albert I of Belgium; and another relic to Reims, to Cardinal Luçon, on November 9, 1925.

Bibliography. Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1792, I, pt. 2, 187-189; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificvm Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalivm ab initio nascentis Ecclesiæ vsque ad Vrbanvm VIII. Pont. Max. 2 volumes. Romae : Typis Vaticanis, 1677, I, col. 1163-1164; Del Marmol, B. St Albert de Louvain, evêque de Liège et martyr (1192). Paris : Lecoffre, 1922. (Les saints); Du Chesne, François. Histoire de tous les cardinaux françois : de naissance, ou qui ont esté promeus au cardinalat par l'expresse recommandation de nos roys, pour les grands services qu'ils ont rendus a leur estat, et a leur couronne. Comprenant commairement leurs legations, ambassades & voyages par eux faits en divers pays & royaumes, vers les papes, empereurs, roys, potentats, republiques, communautex & universitez, pour affaires importantes à l'église universelle, & à l'auguste majesté de nos souuerains. Enrichie de leurs armes et de leurs portraits. Divisée en deux tomes, et justifiée par tiltres et chartres du thresor de sa majesté, arrests des parlemens de France, registres des Chambres des comptes; donations, fondations, epitaphes, testamens, manuscripts, ancients monumens, chroniques & chartulaires d'abbayes, & autres histoires publiques & particlieres. 2 vols. A Paris : Aux despens de l'autheur, & se vendent chez luy ..., 1660, I, 189-191; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux du XIIè siècle". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1928. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1928, p. 158; Moreau, Edouard. Albert de Louvain, prince-évêque de Liège. Bruxelles : Éditions universitaires, 1946; Schmandt, Raymond H."The election and assassination of Albert of Louvain, Bishop of Liege, 1191-92." Speculum, Vol. 42, No. 4 (Oct., 1967), pp. 639-660; Segal A.."Paléopathologie autour des reliques de Saint-Albert de Louvain = Paleopathology around St Albert of Lowen's Relics." Histoire des sciences médicales, Vol. 32, No. 2 (1988), pp. 115-122.

Webgraphy. Biography by Thomas Shahan, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; biography, in French, Wikipédia; his arms and biography in Histoire de tous les cardinaux françois de naissance, ou qui ont esté promeus au cardinalat. [Volume 1] / by François Duchesne (1616-1693). Auteur du texte, in French, p. 189-191, Gallica; biographical entry, in French,; biographical entry, in German, Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon; portrait and biography, in Norwegian, Den katolske kirke; photograph of his craneum and his biography, in Flemish, p. 35-30; his genealogy, A1 B2 C1 D1 E2, Genealogy EU, by Miroslav Marek.

(1) Vita Alberti episcopi Leodiensis, edited by I. Heller, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica, Scriptores (Berlin, 1880), XXV, 139-168.

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