Saint Berthold of Calabria: Crusader, Priest, Hermit
The saint of the day for March 29 is St. Berthold of Calabria (d. 1195), a Norman French crusader and a priest who founded a hermit colony on Mount Carmel in 1185.
A son of the Count of Limoges, Berthold was born in Malifaye in southwest France. He was also a nephew of Aymeric of Malifaye, the Latin patriarch of who was installed in Antioch during the Crusades.
Berthold went to the Holy Land as part of the Crusades and was in Antioch when it was besieged by the Saracens. During this time he had a vision of Christ denouncing the soldiers’ evil ways. At the time, there were a number of hermits from the West scattered throughout Palestine, and he brought them together, established a community of priests who settled on Mount Carmel, and became their first superior.
Berthold directed the building of a monastery and church on Mount Carmel and dedicated the church in honor of the prophet Elias, who had defeated the priests of Baal there and seen the vision of the cloud out over the sea.
Berthold lived out his days on Mount Carmel, ruling the community he had founded for forty-five years until his death about 1195. His example and way of life stamped the beginnings of the Carmelite Order, leading to the drawing up of the order’s rule by St. Albert, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, about 1210. That rule was approved by Pope Honorius III in 1226 and it is this primitive rule that is considered the foundation of the Order of Mount Carmel.
But it seems to have been Berthold who first organized the monastic life of the hermits on Mount Carmel and governed them until his death. St. Brocard, who apparently was his successor, petitioned Albert to compose a rule for them, undoubtedly codifying and completing the work begun by Berthold.