The relationship between Hugues de Payns and Bernard de Clairvaux

Often it is suggested that the Templar founder and first Master Hugues de Payns and the Templar's spiritual inspirer, the Cistercian abbot Bernard de Clairvaux must have been well acquainted at the onset of the start of the group that became known as the Templars (between 1114 and 1120). One of the arguments is that they both came from noble houses in the Champagne region, so must have known each others. And perhaps even worked together in the founding of the Templar Order. What are the facts?

The aspect of place seems against this theory. Indeed, they came from the same Champagne region. Hugues was born (ca 1070) a the village of Payns, about 10 km Northwest of Troyes. Bernard was born (ca 1090) at Fontaine-lès-Dijon, now at the northwestern perimiter of Dijon. So they were not neighbours in the strict sense. 

Both belonged to the lower Champagnois nobility and therefore their parents probably had contact with the Count of Champagne. But Hugues was born, as we saw, some 20 years before Bernard. So at that age Hugues was an adult already, working for the Count, when Bernard was born and a baby.

There were family ties, however. 

Bernard's parents were Tescelin de Fontaine, lord of Fontaine-lès-Dijon, and Alèthe de Montbard, both members of the highest nobility of Burgundy. Bernard was the third of seven children, six of whom were sons. At the age of nine (so around 1100, just after the conquest of Jerusalem), he was sent to a school at Châtillon-sur-Seine run by the secular canons of Saint-Vorles. Through these family ties Bernard was a cousin from André de Montbard, one of the fellow founders of the Templars alongside Hugues. Because André's sister, Alèthe de Montbard, was the mother of Bernard de Clairvaux. 

So the family of Hugues de Payns-Montigny was related to the Touillon and Montbard families. One can imagine that Hugues knew little Bernard through his uncle André and his familiy. And Bernard, as a very young boy, most probably has come into contact with those young knights, in their twenties, that later became the Templar founders. But when Bernard grew up as a noble and later entered Clairvaux (1113), Hugues had already gone to the Holy Land with the Count de Champagne (1108), ultimately deciding to stay there (1114). 

So, apart from possible events during Bernard's childhood, he and Hugues did probably not meet in person before the 1129 Council of Troyes. Or a little earlier when Hugues arrived in Europe for his European tour (1128-1129) to trump up support for the new order. At the same time, it is most probable that Bernard at that time was well aware of the developments in the Holy Land. Including the initiative, about a decade earlier, of this familie members, André and Hugues, to protect the pilgrims in the Holy Land by means of a voluntary group of armed religious knights. The novum of the day, that must have interested Bernard who was quickly developing an opinion on everything.

Hugues died in the Holy Land in 1136 (although the English Wikipedia mentions the island of Bornholm as his living place during his older days and the place of his death...). So they had only seven years to meet in person again after the Troyes Council. Wether they did...?

This post is based on several sources at Wikipedia. The illustration is a combination made by TN of two pictures of the Saint Bernard statue at Dijon, France, showing Bernard (on top) as well as Hugues in one of the niches in the foot of the statue; sources textespretextes and Wikimedia Commons

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