Suger abbot of St. Denis, and a leading dignitary of the Church and statesman of, France in the 12th century, was born probably in the year , and in the neighborhood of St. Omer, and was educated in the Monastery of St. Denis, where the crown-prince, Louis the Fat, was his companion. After completing his studies in 1103, he was employed by abbot Adam of St. Denis in the administration of distant possessions of the convent, and in their defense against the incursions of predatory knights. On the accession of Louis VI to the throne (1108), Suger became his counselor, and contributed greatly to the subjugation of the barons, who had thrown off all responsibility, and to the establishing of the royal authority, by which the reign of Louis VI became noted in the history of France. He was also an active participant in the dispute about investiture (see the article), which at that time agitated both Church and State, taking sides with the pope, as the policy of France demanded. He was present at the Lateran Council in 1112, which annulled the concessions made by pope Paschal II to Henry V. In 1118 he met the fugitive pope Gelasius II, and, in the name of his king, placed all the resources of France at his disposal against his Italian adversaries. He subsequently negotiated a settlement of the question of investiture, in 1121, which proved satisfactory to both France and the papacy. In 1122 he became the successor of the deceased Adam in the abbacy of St. Denis, and in 1124 he visited Rome to attend the great Lateran Council, and while there so ingratiated himself with the pope, Calixtus II, that the latter proposed to create him cardinal, a project which failed by reason of the decease of the pope. He accompanied the army in a campaign against the emperor Henry V in the same year; and he was at the same time earnestly engaged in endeavoring to induce the king to release the colonies, or lower orders in the State, from many of their pressing burdens, and to concede the right to form autonomous communes as a means of undermining the feudal system.
About 1127 Suger renounced the habits of his previous worldly life and became an ascetic; and, after having reformed himself, he undertook to enforce the Benedictine rule in all its strictness in the abbey of St. Denis. He fulfilled his spiritual functions conscientiously, and built a magnificent church while himself living in a little cell. His principal merit consists, however, in an excellent administration of the convent, in the conservation of its rights, in the artistic decoration of churches, and in the dissemination of the influences of culture throughout the surrounding wastes. His direction of the affairs of the State still continued, and, when Louis VII ascended the throne (in 1137), became even more pronounced than before. He was associated with bishop Joscelin of Soissons in the regency, and administered the government on the plan of the late king. His boldness appears in his resisting the papal interdict (in 1141) by which Innocent II sought to force a prelate into the archbishopric of Bo1urges against the expressed will of the king.' His endeavor to restrain the king from embarking in his crusade failed; but he was appointed regent of the country during the king's absence, in conjunction with the archbishop of Rheilms and-count Vermenidois. Aided by the pope, he subdued the rebellious nobility, and so wisely administered the finances that he was able to honor the incessant drafts of Louis, and also to erect many edifices, and still save large sums of money to the public treasury. The height of his career was reached when he succeeded in neutralizing the endeavors of Robert of Dreux, the brother of Louis VI, who had returned from the Holy Land in 1148, to seize upon the supreme authority. At the same time, he succeeded in resisting the desires for radical reform fostered by Abelard and Pierre de Bruys, while zealously endeavoring to correct the abuses from which those desires had sprung. He was further successful in a conflict with the canons of St. Genevieve, in Paris, whose convent pope Eugene III had directed him to reform in accordance with the Benedictine rule. Louis VII, on his return, in 1149, publicly thanked the regent and called him the father of his country; and Bernard of Clairvaux and a number of foreign princes wrote to him in token of their admiration and respect. He enjoyed his fame, however, during a brief season only, and died Jan. —12, 1151. His literary remains include only, sixty miscellaneous letters (in Duchesne, Scriptores, vol. 4), a report of his administration of St. Denis, and a biography of Louis VI which ranks among the superior historical productions of the Middle Ages (both in Duchesne, utsup.).
See Hist. Lit. de la France, 12:361; Bernardi, Essai Hist. sur l'Abbé Suger, in Archives Lit. de l'Europe (Par. 1807), vol. 14 and 15; Carne, Etudes sur les Fondateurs de Unit Nat. en France (ibid. 1848), vol. 1; Combes, L'Abbé Suger (ibid. 1853); monk Wilhelm's (a contemporary) biography of Suger, in Guizot Coll. des Memoires, vol. 8. —Herzog, Real- Encyklop. s.v.