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Hugh of Digne

Friar Minor and ascetical writer; b. at Digne, southeast France, date uncertain; d. at Marseilles about 1285

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Hugh of Digne, Friar Minor and ascetical writer; b. at Digne, southeast France, date uncertain; d. at Marseilles about 1285. His close friend and fellow-religious, Fra Salimbene, to whom we are indebted for a great deal of what is known of his life, refers to him in his Chronicle as “one of the most renowned clerics of the world a great preacher and in favor both among the clergy and the people; ever ready to dispute, he was possessed of a fluent speech, and a voice like that of a trumpet; he was a spiritual man ultra modum, so that on hearing him preach one would believe that he was listening to another St. Paul or another Elias.” Salimbene also tells us that he was called Hugh of Bareola and that the Lombards knew him as Hugh of Montepesulano. Joinvilliers, in his life of Louis IX (Acta SS—August, V, xxvii), records the visit of Hugh of Digne to the king, who was so impressed with his preaching that he endeavored to retain him at court, but the saintly friar refused to remain; and on the following day set out again on his tour of evangelization. It was while on a similar journey that he wrote to Blessed John of Parma, who was then at Greccio, prophesying in his letter, among other things, the death of the pope and of St. Bonaventure, and the extinction of the Order of the Templars.

Whatever may be said of the influence of the prophetical writings of the Abbot Joachim of Flora upon Hugh of Digne, which as in the case of his friend Salimbene in his early days was perhaps not inconsiderable, it is certain that he took an active and prominent part in the movement of the “Spirituals“. This is evidenced not only from his preaching, but more particularly from his exposition of the Rule of St. Francis and from his other ascetical writings. Among the latter may be mentioned the “Tractatus de triplici via in sapientiam perveniendi”, attributed to him by Bartholomew of Pisa in his “Conformities”, but not to be confounded with the “Incendium Amoris” of St. Bonaventure, which in several codices bears a similar title. He likewise drew up a set of rules or constitutions for his sister, Blessed Douceline, and other pious women, who formed a sort of religious community known as the Dames de Roubans, with Blessed Douceline as their superioress or mistress. A brief biographical sketch of Hugh of Digne in Spanish, which is of indifferent critical value, was published in the “Chronica Seraphica” by Damian Carnejo, who asserts that Hugh of Digne died at Marseilles, where his remains now rest in the Franciscan church of that city beside those of his sister, Blessed Douceline.


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