Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bernard (fl.865)

BERNARD (fl. 805), traveller in Palestine, called Sapiens, has hitherto been strangely treated in books of reference, having in some cases been made into two persons a century apart, while in other cases he has been confounded with one or two namesakes who lived in the twelfth century. This confusion is due in part to the singular literary dishonesty of Thomas Dempster, and in part to the carelessness of succeeding writers. None of the three persons whose histories have been thus intermixed can with certainty be affirmed to have belonged in any way to Great Britain; but the fact that ‘Bernardus Sapiens,’ under one date or another, has commonly been ranked among British worthies, affords some justification for attempting in this place to correct the erroneous statements that have been made with regard to him.

William of Malmesbury (Gest. Reg. ed. Hardy, ii. 562) quotes from a description of Bernard the Monk, who, he says, travelled in that country in 870. There is no evidence that the writer thus referred to was of British origin; in fact, as will be shown, there are strong grounds for believing the contrary. Dempster, however, whose patriotic object it was to swell (by fair means or foul) the catalogue of Scottish worthies, boldly asserts that he was abbot of Holywood in Dumfriesshire. This is obviously a fabrication, as there is no real proof of the existence of any abbey at Holywood before the Premonstratensian foundation there in the twelfth century. It should be observed that Dempster adopts Malmesbury's date of 870 for Bernard's journey. He goes on to ascribe to him a treatise in ten books, entitled ‘De Locis Terræ Sanctæ.’ This ‘ingens volumen,’ as Dempster calls it, is a figment of his own. The real work quoted by Malmesbury is still extant, and is a brief tract of only a few pages. It was printed by Mabillon from a manuscript at Rheims, and two other manuscripts exist, one at Lincoln College, Oxford, and the other in the British Museum. Mabillon's text has been reprinted in Migne's ‘Patrologia,’ and that of the British Museum manuscript has been edited by M. Francisque Michel. The volume of ‘Early Travels in Palestine,’ published in Bohn's ‘Antiquarian Library,’ includes an English translation of this ‘Itinerary,’ founded on a comparison of the two printed texts. According to Mabillon's reading, Bernard distinctly says that he was born in France; but as this passage is wanting in the London manuscript it may possibly be an interpolation. The author's French origin, however, is rendered probable by the statement, common to both texts, that on his return from Palestine he proceeded to the monastery of Mont St. Michel in Brittany. From circumstances mentioned in the ‘Itinerary,’ it is certain that he set out from Rome between 863 and 867, so that the date given by Malmesbury is approximately correct. The copy used by Mabillon, however, contains neither date nor author's name; and the other manuscripts, by an error of the scribe or an interpolation, assign the commencement of the journey to the year 970. The heading of the Oxford manuscript, moreover, designates the author as ‘Bernardus Sapiens.’

Pits, who had seen the Oxford manuscript, says that Bernard ‘Sapiens,’ an Englishman, wrote a work, ‘De ipsa Urbe Hierusalem et de multis adjacentibus Locis,’ in one book, ‘the beginning of which is anno 970.’ This statement was misunderstood by Dempster, who, after his manner, amplified it from his own imagination, saying that the work in question was a history of Jerusalem from the year 970 to the death of Godfrey (A.D. 1100). Dempster's misinterpretation of the date quoted by Pits led him to the conclusion that Bernard ‘Sapiens’ (who thus becomes a different person from Bernard the Monk) belonged to the twelfth century; and he goes on to say that Bernard was a native of Scotland, who was banished from his country during the war with England in the reign of Malcolm III (in the ‘Menologium’ he makes him confessor to Queen Margaret!), was present at the Council of Clermont in 1095, and was sent by Pope Urban II to preach the crusade in Scotland, where he remained until 1105. It is just possible that Dempster's account of this Scottish Bernard may be derived from some authentic source, but it is more likely that the whole is pure invention. Even on the former assumption, however, Dempster is clearly wrong when he proceeds to identify this Scottish preacher of the crusade with the well-known Bernard of Antioch. The latter was a native of Valence in Dauphiny, and accompanied the crusading army in the capacity of chaplain to the papal legate, Adhemar, bishop of Puy. On his arrival in Syria he was made bishop of Arthesium, and in 1100 became the first Latin patriarch of Antioch. He died in 1135, at an advanced age. The story of Dempster's perversions is still not quite complete. Through careless reading of his authorities he had at first stated that Bernard was promoted from the see of Arthesium to that of Edessa. Afterwards discovering his mistake, he ingeniously endeavoured to conceal it by falsely asserting that Bernard fell into disgrace with Bohemond, was deposed from the patriarchate, and ended his days as archbishop of Edessa.

Besides the ‘History of Jerusalem,’ Dempster attributes to Bernard two works, viz. ‘Ad Suffraganeos suos’ (one book), and ‘De Bello Sacro’ (seven books). The manuscript of the latter is stated by him, on the authority of Jac. Spiegelius and Jo. Chelydonius, to be preserved in the Imperial Library at Vienna. It is not mentioned, however, in the Abbé Migne's catalogue of manuscripts in that library relating to the history of the crusades.

Bishop Tanner added to this mass of confusion by supposing that Dempster's two articles referred to the same person, whom he places in the twelfth century; and his account has been followed in some later books of reference. The ‘Nouvelle Biographie Universelle,’ however, has a fairly correct article on the author of the ‘Itinerary,’ whom it describes as a French monk of the ninth century. Unfortunately the same work also contains an article on an imaginary ‘Bernard of England, called the Wise,’ who is said to have visited Palestine in 970.

[Dempster's Hist. Eccl. Scot. arts. 171 and 181; Dempster's Menologium Scoticum, p. 17; Accolti De Bell. cont. Barb. (Dempster's preface and notes), 8 and 175; Pits, De Angliæ Scriptoribus, 827; Walter Cancellarius, in Migne's Patrologia, clv. 998; William of Tyre, ibid. cci. 587; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. 97; L'Art de vérifier les Dates, ed. Migne, 570; Mabillon, Acta SS. Ord. Bened. iv. 523; MS. Cotton, Faust. B. i. 192; Catal. Codd. MSS. Coll. Linc. Oxon. 46 (cod. xcvi. 118).

H. B.