October 8, 1206, France
Saint Artold was born in the early twelfth century. The generally
approved year of his birth is 1101. As he died in 1206, this makes him
die very old indeed, at 105! What is certain is that as a young man he
entered the renowned Charterhouse of Portes. Humble, recollected
and pious, he so distinguished himself that he was soon judged worthy
to carry out important pastoral tasks.
So in 1132 he was designated as the founder and first Prior of the
Charterhouse of Arvières, in the diocese of Geneva. In order to accomplish
this mission he chose from the lands of his family a vast solitude of extraordinary roughness, covered with snow for the most part of the year, and until then inhabited only by bears, foxes and other animals. In this remote wilderness area Artold and his companions built some rudimentary wooden constructions and led an extremely austere life for ten years. Then one day, the Bishop of Geneva came to visit them. Very impressed, he found a more suitable site for them and urged well-to-do men of his diocese to contribute to the building of an appropriate monastery.
Artold was a good Prior for years, but then the Bishop of Belley, the diocese in which Portes is located, died. The clergy was unanimous that the Prior of Arvières, although at this time already advanced in age, ought to become the
new Bishop. Terrified at this prospect, Artold fled and hid himself! However, he was found and had to accept. He accomplished all the duties of a Bishop in an exemplary way, but after a few years, in 1190, he managed to obtain his retirement, because of old age, from Pope Clement III.
He returned to Arvières, where he lived for still 16 more years! The best-known of all Carthusian Bishops, Saint Hugh of Lincoln, visited him in 1200. When they came together to converse with the community the former Bishop of Belley asked the Bishop of Lincoln to give the brothers an account of the peace treaty between the kings of England and France, since he knew that Hugh had been present when it was made. The latter replied, half seriously, half joking: “My Lord and Father, although it is legitimate for Bishops to hear and relate such matters, it is not so for monks. It is not right to bring news from outside into the cloister or the cell, and to leave the city in order to discuss secular matters in solitude.” Having said this, Hugh turned
the conversation to a spiritual topic. Artold, in his humility, must have
been edified by the remark and moved by its wisdom.
Artold died October 8, 1206. In his last words he recommended the community to have recourse to the Holy Spirit for light and comfort, to the most Holy Virgin for special protection, and to Saint Bruno as model. “Grow in virtue”, he said to them, “in order that the sanctity of this House may last forever, passing on its good traditions to those who come after you. Love one another that charity may be the bond at all times uniting you to all in Jesus Christ.”
Miracles after his death corroborated his renown for holiness. In 1834 Gregory XVI authorized his feast for the diocese of Belley and in 1857 it was permitted to the Carthusians, who today celebrate him with other Carthusian saints on October 13.
All-powerful God, with the help of Saint Artold’s prayers
may we so distinguish ourselves in this life’s laborious
struggle that we may obtain eternal rest.