Bertrand, Duke of Aquitaine, and his wife Hugbern were blessed with their first son, Hubertus, in 656 in the city of Toulouse. (South West part of France.) He grows up a strong intelligent man, trained to become a leading nobleman in the Frankish realm. He marries Floribanne, daughter of the Duke of Leuven, the Lord of Brabant (middle region in today's Belgium). God blesses them with a son, Floribert, but Floribanne dies in childbirth.
Hubertus is so upset with his unfair loss he quits all his responsibilities and disappears into the woods of the Ardennes to hunt. A couple of years into his escapade, the miracle happens. On Good Friday, chasing a huge stag deep into the forest, all of a sudden, the stag turns around and faces Hubertus straight on. A cross appears in between the stag's antlers. Hubertus hears a voice saying: "Hubertus unless thou turnest to the Lord and leadest a holy life, thou shalt quickly go down to hell." He asks what to do. The voice answers: "Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you."
Lambert is the Bishop of Maastricht, situated North of the Ardennes in what is today the Netherlands. He will become Saint Lambert later. Hubertus visits Lambert, distributes his wealth to the poor, gives up his birthright to the Aquitaine throne, made his brother Odo the guardian of his son, and becomes a priest. In 708 Hubertus visits Pope Constantine in Rome. While there, the news of the murder of Lambert arrives. The Pope makes Hubertus the new Bishop of Maastricht. Hubertus receives a key from the Pope, as the symbolic key to heaven. In some paintings and statues, Saint Hubert holds this key.
Back home, Hubertus transfers the see of Bishop to LiÃ¨ge, a settlement on the Meuse River, South of Maastricht. This transfer of power means the beginning of the growth of that settlement into the most important city of the Walloon region (French speaking Belgium). Saint Hubert is the city's Patron Saint and first Bishop. He converts the surrounding region and the Ardennes to Christianity. In 720, in obedience to a vision, he transfers the remains of Lambert to LiÃ¨ge. The city of LiÃ¨ge, together with the territory built by Bishop Hubertus, and governed by the Bishop himself, will stay independent from kings and emperors until 1704.
Legend says, one day Angels descent from heaven and gave Bishop Hubertus a special stole with curative powers to defeat rabies, a very common illness in pre medieval and medieval times. A bite by an infected animal meant death in most cases! The stole is still present in the Basilica of Saint Hubert and is held in the tabernacle at the Saint Hubertus altar.
Bishop Hubertus dies in Tervuren (near Brussels) on May 30, 727. Being informed of his impending death by a vision, he there preaches his last sermon, falls sick almost immediately, and in six days dies with the words "Our Father, who art in Heavenâ€¦" on his lips. He is buried in LiÃ¨ge. Benedictine monks move his remains to Saint Hubert village in the Ardennes in 825. Over the course of 1,000 years, the monks take an age-old sanctuary and turn it into a splendid Basilica. Pilgrims form all over Europe come to venerate Saint Hubert, as the patron Saint of the hunters, and to pray for miracle cures.
Every first weekend of September huge festivities are organized in and around the Basilica of Saint Hubert: organized tours of the forest, Holy Gregorian Mass on Saturday and Sunday, International concert of Hunting Horns, International competition of the special breed Saint Hubert Dog, blessing of pets and animals, blessing of the Saint Hubert bread, all culminating in a historic pageant through the streets on Sunday afternoon. It is a colorful procession of hundreds of people, dogs and horses, marching bands and floats. 2010 is the 50th anniversary of this pageant.
- Office of Tourism for Saint Hubert town: www.saint-hubert-tourisme.be
- More pictures: http://galleries.fin-mas.com/p601296734