Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Abel (d.764)

ABEL (d. 764), archbishop of Rheims, was a native of Scotland and Benedictine monk. In the early part of the eighth century he left England in company with Boniface, to aid him in his missionary work in Germany, and he did not again return to this country. Abel's missionary labours were mainly confined to the country we now know as Belgium. For many years he held an office of authority in the abbey of Lobbes, in Hainault; and in 744, through the instrumentality of Boniface, who was at the time archbishop of Mainz, Abel became archbishop of Rheims. The office was a very arduous one. All ecclesiastical suits and disputes as to monastical discipline arising in a great part of France were referred to him. His predecessor, Melo, moreover, had been forcibly removed from his post by the council of Soissons (3 March 744), and many barons declared themselves the champions of Melo, and refused to recognise Abel. Carloman, the king of the Frankish empire, favoured the new prelate; but Pope Zacharias, after much hesitation, finally joined his opponents. He declined to confer upon him the pallium, and thus Abel's election was never confirmed. Harassed by these quarrels, Abel at length withdrew from Rheims, and surrendered the see. He retired to Lobbes, and apparently became abbot of the monastery there. The last years of his life he spent in energetic missionary work in Hainault, Flanders, and neighbouring provinces, and he died at Lobbes on 5 Aug. 764. He was buried at Binche, near Jemappes. Subsequently he was canonised, and in the districts where he laboured the day of his death was consecrated to his memory.

His works, which do not seem to have ever been printed, are thus enumerated by Dempster and Tanner: 1. ‘Epistolæ ad Zachariam et Adrianum.’ 2. ‘Ad Rhemensem Ecclesiam.’ 3. ‘Ad Bonifacium Legatum.’ 4. ‘Ad Lobienses Fratres.’ 5. ‘Ad nuper Conversos.’ 6. ‘De Mysteriis Fidei.’

[Dempster's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum; Tanner's Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica; Bollandists' Acta SS. (Augustus), ii. 111–7; Ghesquière's Acta SS. Belgii, vi. 353; Breysig and Hahn's Jahrbücher des fränkischen Reichs (741–752); Allgemeine deutsche Biographie; Migne's Hagiographique, i. 20.]

S. L. L.