Other twelfth century monastic movements

The Cistercians were the leading but by no means the only new monastic movement which rose to prominence in the twelfth century.

Next to the Cistercians, the most prominent were the Carthusians. They were founded in 1084 by Bruno, who had been a canon and a distinguished teacher at Rheims and who four years earlier had abandoned the world for the monastic life. He and a small group established themselves in a wild spot, Chartreuse, later to be called the Grande Chartreuse, approximately twelve miles north of Grenoble in a mountain valley of about 3000 feet elevation. It was from Chartreuse that the order took its name, and from it were derived the English designation, Charterhouse, and the Italian title of its houses, Certosa.

Bruno soon moved on to found other colonies of hermits and the chief impulse to the order was given by the fifth prior of the Grande Chartreuse, Guigo I, a friend of Peter the Venerable and Bernard of Clairvaux. Guigo founded additional houses, attracted men to them, and put into detailed writing the customs of the mother monastery.

The Carthusians were profoundly influenced by the early monasticism of Egypt. Their way was one of great austerity. Those who followed it lived in separate little houses, wore hair shirts, fasted rigorously, and gave themselves to reading, prayer, and labour, especially the copying of manuscripts. Each community met together for worship in a common chapel, for some of their meals, and occasionally for conversation. Never nearly as numerous as the Cistercians, the Carthusians were to persist with rules which were not to be basically altered.

Less numerous and prominent than the Carthusians and much less so than the Cistercians were several other movements which in origin were roughly contemporary with these two. One was the order of Grandmont, begun about the year 1074 or 1100 by Stephen of Muret near Limoges, in what is now the west central part of France. Stephen was of French aristocratic stock and had been a hermit in the south of Italy before returning to his native land. Grandmont carried the rule of poverty even further than did the Cistercians or the Carthusians. Its monasteries were not permitted to own churches, tithes, lands, animals, or fixed revenues. It required its monks never to leave the monastic enclosure. To free the choir monks for their spiritual duties, Grandmont entrusted to its lay brothers all responsibility for the material side of the community's life.

An order which spread widely through France was that of Fontevrault. It was founded about 1101 by Robert of Arbrissel. Robert as a priest in Rennes had vigorously attacked abuses in the Church, had then become a hermit, and later had recruited many, both men and women, for the monastic life. The mother house, at Fontevrault, near Sau-mur, in the west of France, was ruled by an abbess and was primarily for women. It also contained men who had dedicated themselves to the service of the nuns. It especially attracted the daughters of the royal family and the high nobility.

Another family of monasteries sprang from a foundation at Tiron made by one Bernard in 1109. Like the Cistercians, it reduced the time given to liturgical services that the monks might devote more of their hours to labour.

Vitalis, who died in 1122, founded a monastery in the forest of Savigny, in France. It inspired the formation of a number of houses in the north of France and in England. Their programme closely resembled the Cistercians and in 1147 they were absorbed by the latter.

The eleventh and twelfth centuries also saw the development of canons regular who took their inspiration and some of their rule of life from Augustine of Hippo. It will be remembered that Augustine and the clergy who lived with him formed a community which followed a discipline devised by him. We have noted that in Carolingian times groups of clergy attached to churches had begun to govern their fellowship by semi-monastic rules. In the revivals of the eleventh and twelfth centuries the Augustinian Canons multiplied in France, England, and Germany. In the twelfth century some of these communities of canons came to be very much like monasteries, and differed from the latter chiefly in leaving their members free to exercise their ministry, especially that of preaching, outside the walls of their houses.

An order of the Augustinian Canons which spread widely was the Pre-monstratensians. Its founder was Norbert, who was a great friend of Bernard of Clair-vaux, was later Archbishop of Magdeburg, and had wide influence in the Church. The mother house, begun in 1120, was at Premontre, in the north-west of France, Norbert at first thought of affiliating it with the Cistercians, To give its members greater freedom to move about in the world preaching than the rules of Citeaux permitted, he made it into a house of canons regular, but the austerity of the mother and daughter houses resembled closely that of the Cistercians.

Late in the twelfth century an order, the Trinitarians, much like the Augustinian Canons, came into being. The purpose was the ransom of Christians who had been taken captive by Moslems. Usually the ransom was effected by the payment of money, but in extreme instances individual Trinitarians offered themselves as substitutes for those whose release they sought.

We must also recall that in the twelfth century the monastic ideal was both sufficiently potent and flexible to give rise to the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the Teutonic Knights. In Spain and Portugal, partly out of the long wars for the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, crusading orders arose, the chief of them in Spain being that of Santiago and that of Calatrava, and in Portugal, as we have seen, the Order of Christ.

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