—compiled by Parish Historian Margaret Sankovitz
Although little is known of his youth, the accomplishments of St. Robert are well recorded following his ordination to the priesthood. After serving as a rector in Yorkshire for a time, Robert joined a group of Benedictine monks in 1132 at St. MaryAbbey, York, England. In that year, the monks built the famous Fountains Abbey in a valley called Sheldale, within the town of Sutton. The abbey was so called because of the springs found on the property.
They soon became affiliated with the Cistercian reform which had been introduced by St. Bernard, Cistercian Abbot of Clairvaux. Robert of York was a close friend of Bernard. In 1137, Robert of York was sent to be abbot of a new monastery at Morpeth—Newminster Abbey—and Robert of York became Robert of Newminster.
Robert ruled and directed the monks at Newminster for 21 years. He was a man of prayer, favored with gifts of prophecy and miracles. He died on June 7, 1159, and is buried at Newminster Abbey. His tomb became a pilgrimage for many who sought his help. The numbers of pilgrims became so great that his body was moved from the chapter house to the choir of the church and reinterred in front of the high altar. A shrine was erected over his grave. During the reformation in England, the Abbey was abandoned and now lies in ruins.
St. Robert’s Fair is held each year on or near the feast of Robert of Newminster.
Photo credits of the Abbey in England: Chris Grazer.