BOHEMOND D’ANTIOCH [1054-1111]
As he was set aside from the succession to his father Robert Guiscard as Duke of Pouilles and Calabria, Bohemond seized the County of Taranto. He then decided to join the first crusade with 500 knights, when called by Pope Urban 11 in 1096 to help free the Holy Land from Muslim control.
He was a warlike captain and an excellent strategist and became one of the outstanding leaders of the first crusade. He seized Antioch through a daring ruse on the 3rd of June 1098, after a memorable seige and thus became Prince Bohemond 1st of Antioch. He fought against the Saracens and the Emperor of Byzantium, Alex Comnenus and was finally taken prisoner by the Emir Sivas in 1100.
During his captivity, Bohemond prayed to Saint Leonard, the Patron Saint of prisoners , for his delivery. He was freed after three years of imprisonment and came to France in 1104 to try to find reinforcements for his crusading army. He went to Saint Leonard’s tomb to pay hommage for his release and to place silver chains on the altar.
Thanks to his fame he was able to introduce the cult of Saint Leonard to the court of Philip 1st King of France, whose daughter he married.
Around 1068 , Gaucher and Germond came to pay hommage at Noblac, and following the lead of Saint Leonard they retired to the solitude of the forest of Chavagnac for three years before founding the monastery of Aureil.
MARK AND SEBASTIAN
Around 1106 two Venetian noblemen, Mark and his nephew Sebastian, came in pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Leonard and took a decision to remain in the Limousin. They built a small establishment four kilometers east of Saint Léonard at a place now called l’Artige Vieille. This very crude building contained a cell for each of them and a tiny oratory. The canons of Saint Léonard provided for them, each day, the quarter of a rye loaf. As a result a brotherhood developed which attracted others thus creating a band of priors. When Mark died one 8th of July, the people proclaimed him blessed. Sebastian took up the challenge of the succession and the Priory became more and more important. By a Papal Bull of Pope Adrian 1V dated 30th of October 1158, signed in the Lateran, the Priory was given the status of an order of hermits subject to the rule of Saint Augustine. In 1175 the seat of the Order was moved from Artige-Vieille to Artige which is on a rocky spur dominating the confluence of the river Maulde and the river Vienne. This site is known today as the Priory of Artige-les Moines and is in private hands. In 1226 the Bishop of Limoges, Bernard de Savène, was buried in the church.
PONS DE LERAS
Around 1130, Pons de Léras, a gentleman of Lodève, with a history of brigandage, repented and set off with six companions to undertake the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, passing, en route, the town of Noblac and the tomb of Saint Leonard. Subsequently he founded the Monastery of Salvanès in 1132, which became the Abbey of Sylvanès in the Rouergue Mountains which was attached to the Order of Citeaux.
RICHARD 1ST THE LIONHEART , KING OF ENGLAND
Richard 1st, The Lionheart was born in Oxford in 1157 and died at Chalus in 1199. King of England and Duke of Aquitaine, he left on the crusades in 1190, arriving in Palestine in1191 where he achieved notable military success. On his return overland, he was imprisoned by Henry V1, Emperor of Austria as an act of vengeance. He was freed after payment of a ransome and in 1193 made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Leonard and contributed to the consolidation of the walls of the city and the building of the church. He set out after this to reconquer the territory of Aquitaine which included the Limousin. While laying seige to the Château of Chalus, he was struck in the head by a bolt from a crossbow and died of gangrene.
Charles VII, King of France, came to Noblat on the 10th of March 1438 and paid hommage at the tomb of Saint Leonard. He placed himself under the protection of Saint Leonard and asked him for the strength « to bring peace to the people and to be spared in the war against the English »
On the 6th of May 1611, Vincent Aubrousse, a native of Autun, was taken prisoner by the Turks in Ostia in Italy and became a slave on their ships. He prayed to Saint Leonard and caused the ships to become becalmed, so that the Turks could not move their fleet. Subsequent to his release he recounted the story of this miracle to Pope Paul V who advised him to visit Noblac, which he did on the 22nd of February 1612.
[this story is taken from « Life and Cult of Saint Leonard » by the Abbot Oroux 1760]
HENRY 11 OF BOURBON, PRINCE OF CONDE
He was an implacable opponent of the policies of Marie de Medici, then regent for her son Louis X111. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Château de Vincennes from 1616 to 1619. While in prison he prayed to Saint Leonard and on his release he came on a pilgrimage to Saint Leonard’s tomb on the 5th of October 1620, to give thanks to the Saint. He donated 100 crowns which were used to buy two velvet capes decorated with gold.
ANNE OF AUSTRIA , QUEEN OF FRANCE,
Anne married Louis X111 in 1615. For a long time she was unable to give birth to an heir (dauphin) to the French throne. She prayed to Saint Leonard in the Church of Croissy sur Seine which is dedicated to Saint Leonard, to assist in the positive outcome of her pregnancy, which was imminent. The queen requested that a relic of Saint Leonard be brought to her bedside and as a result Louis X1V came into this world safely in 1638. Anne of Austria made a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to Croissy where she arranged for the restoration of the church. She also had the decoration of the Chapel of Saint Leonard in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, renewed.