Title:

The Hermit Monks of Grandmont by Carole A Hutchison

Date:

1989

 

Introduction

This book has been digitised under the auspices of the Craswall Grandmontine Society and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author and the publisher, who retain the copyright.

 

Ewyas Lacy Study Group

 

The Hermit Monks of Grandmont


Carole A. Hutchison


 

 

 

 

CISTERCIAN STUDIES SERIES: NUMBERONE-HUNDRED EIGHTEEN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HERMIT MONKS OF GRANDMONT

 

Carole Hutchison


 

 

CISTERCIAN STUDIES SERIES:NUMBER ONE-HUNDRED EIGHTEEN

 

 

 

 

 

THE HERMIT MONKS OF GRANDMONT

by

Carole Hutchison

 

Illustrations by Kate Douglas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cistercian Publications Kalamazoo, Michigan 1989


 

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Cistercian Publications Inc. 1989. Cistercian Publications Inc. Editorial Offices Institute of Cistercian Studies

Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Cistercian Publications are available in Britain and Europe from Cassells pk

Artillery House Artillery Road London SWl PlRT

Elsewhere, including Canada, orders should be sent to Cistercian Publications

St Joseph's Abbey Spencer, MA 01562

The work of Cistercian Publications is made possiblein part through support from Western Michigan University

to the Institute of Cistercian Studies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Library of CongressCataloguing-in-Publication

 

Hutchison, Carole, 1938-

The hermit monks of Grandmont/ by CaroleHutchison ; illustrations by Kate Douglas.

p.       cm. -(Cistercian studiesseries; no. 118) Includes bibliographical references.

ISBN 0-87907-618-6

1. Order of Grandmont. 2. Hermits-France. 3. France-Church history.        I. Title. II. Series.

BX3672.H88 1989                                                            89-22108

271'.79-dc20                                                                            CIP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printed in the United States of America.


 

 

 

 

 

 

IN MEMORY OF MY MOTHER


 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements                                                 9

Abbreviations Used                                              11

Introduction                                                          13

I.         St Stephen of Muret                                              27

II.          The Growth of Grandmont                                   51

III.           The Years of Crisis                                                67

N.    The 'Mirror of Grandmont'                                   93

Grandmontine Life and Custom in the Late TwelfthCentury

V.       Relaxation of the Rule(1219-1317)    127

VI.            Grandmont Under the Abbots                          149

VII.            The Seventeenth-Century Reforms                   181

VIII.             The Destruction of the Order of Grandmont     207

IX.           The Architecture of the Order of Grandmont    281

Alphabetical List of Grandmontine Sites      351

Map of Grandmontine Sites                            354

Gazeteer                                                               355

Appendix: Renaissance?                                   379

Select Bibliography                                            383

Index                                                                  395

7


 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

 

 

 

 

The purpose of this outline history of the Order of Grandmont is to draw attention to asadly neglected area of monastic history. Much of the spadework has been carried out by scholarsof this and previousgenerations but their work is not readilyavailable. In particular I wish to express my gratitude to Dom Jean Becquet, osa and Dr J-R Gaborit for allowing me access to their published and unpublished works. The conclusions drawn and resulting errors are my own. I also wish to thank Mr Pierre Campagne for his help inlocating relevant source material: Dr Paul Betts whose mastery of Latin eliminated many errors in the quotations from the first Custumalof Grandmont: Messrs Robin New­ man and Joseph Manighetti for correcting the draft manu­ script and Sr Deborah Doll, o.o.c., who painstakingly edited the final draft and drew my attention to several unhappy errors concerning the religious life. I also owe a great deal to Frere Philippe-Etienne for his encouragement and for his helpfulexplanations of Grandmontine life and custom. MrCecilF. Wright, M.S. &Dipl. Arch. kindly read the architectural section and I am most grateful for his comments especially regarding the design of the Grand­ montine apse. A special word of appreciation to Miss Sandra Clayton for so carefully typing the manuscript.

9


10       The Hermit Monks of Grandmont

I would have been unable to study Grandmontine archi­ tecture at first hand were it not for the kindness of many of the present owners ofthe priories. Not only did they permit us to examine and photograph every nook and cranny of their homes, they also regaled us with the most warm and generous hospitality. In particular I wish to thank: Pierre and Christine Bastideof Comberoumal where we spent weeksresearching. Also: Mr Bee, Saint-Michel de Lodeve: Mr & Mme de Beauvais, Puy Chevrier: Mr & Mme Gerson, Bois d'Allonne: Mr & Mme romard, Clairefontaine: Mr & Mme Huet, Fontblanche: Mr & Mrs Richards, Craswall: Mr & Mrs Wilde, Alberbury: La Fraternite Saint-Dominique, la Haye d'Angersand la Communaute Ursuline, Louye.

I also wish tothank the following colleagues and friends: the Rev'd Christopher Armstrongfor his help and encour­ agement: Ron Shoesmith, Director, City of Hereford Archaeological Committee and Ruth Shoesmith who have always made us so welcome in Hereford: Gilles and Jeanette Bresson, Societe pour la sauvegarde et l'am­ emagement de Grammont, for their hospitality at Chassay: Jose and Therese Falco and Pierre and Charlette Boutes who, for three seasons invitedus to join their archaeologi­ cal team at Pineland accommodated us in their homes: Jean-Fran ois Mougnaud, President de la Societe des Amis de Saint-Sylvestre et de I'Abbaye de Grandmont and Fran­ oise Mougnaud for their hospitality at Saint-Sylvestre. Messrs Georges Frugier and Jean-Gabriel Gabiron culti­ vated my interest in the Grandmontine's, a subject which they have been studying for many years.

Finally I wish to thank Kate Douglas who has accom­ panied me on thousands of miles of journeying through Grandmontine France and who is also responsible for most of the photographs and all the drawings which grace these pages. Without her unfailing support and friendship this book would not have been realised.

Carole Hutchison

Buckhurst Hill

1988


Abbreviations Used in the Notes              11

 

 

 

ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE NOTES

Bee    Dom Jean Becquet

Bee SOG Jean Becquet, Scriptores Ordinis Grandimontensis, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medievalis 8 (Turnhout, 1968).

BSAHL Bulletin de la Societe Archeologique et Historique de du Limousin, Limoges: 1845-

Gui  Louis Guibert,Une page de I'histoire du clerge fran­ c;ais au dix-huitieme siecle,destruction de l'Ordreet de l'Abbaye de Grandmont,BSAHL, 23-25 (Limoges 1875) Republished in one volume of the same name: (Paris and Limoges: 1877)

Lev Dom Jean Levesque, Annales Ordinis Grandi­ montis (Troyes 1662)

PL           J.-P. Migne,Patrologiae cursuscompletus, series lat­ ina, 221 volumes.Paris, 1844-64

RG           Rule of Grandmont, PL 204: cols. 1135 - 1162 Also: Bee, Scriptores Ordinis Grandimontensis, Cor­ pus Christianorum series, Continuatio Medi­ aevalis 8. (Turnhout, Belgium: 1968)

RMab  Revue Mabillon, Liguge,1905-

RS           Rolls Series: Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores or: Chronicles and Memorials of Great Bri­ tain and Ireland during the Middle Ages, published under the authority of the Master of the Rolls (London 1858-97)

VCH  Victoria History of theCounties of England, Lon­ don: University of London Institute of Historical Research.


 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOWARDS THE CLOSE of the eleventhcentury, Stephen, son of theViscount of Thiers in the Auvergne, estab­ lished a little group of hermits at Muret some twelve

milesfrom the city of Limoges.Following his deathin 1124, the companymoved a few miles away to Grandmont and there built a monastery. This remained the mother house of their Order until its suppression in 1772, ostensibly for lackof numbers but in reality to satisfy the greed of certain secular-minded bishops.

Fewpeople today have heard of thesehermit monks of Grandmont although they constituted the most austere monastic order to emerge from the Middle Ages. In the twelfth centurythe 'Bonshommes', as they were popularly known, enjoyed a reputation for zeal and pietysimilar to the Cistercians. Their diffusion was equally remarkable. By 1163, just thirty-nine years after the death of the founder, thirty-nine houses had been established in France.

Theroots of what proved to be a very unusualreligious order were embedded in the monastic reform movement which originated in Italy in the last quarter of the tenth century and which subsequently swept through France, causing that great churchman and reformer, Peter Damien, to observe: 'It seemed as if the whole world would be turned into a hermitage'. The essential cause of the turmoil

13


which shook the monastic world to its foundations was the desire to return to the ideals of the primitive church, the vita apostolica as it is briefly outlined in the Acts of the Apostles: "All things were in common unto them and distribution was made to everyone according as he had need." Such notions of poverty, simplicity and detach­ ment were not wholly original. They are implicit in the sixth-century Rule of St Benedict which still remained the standard, authoritative legal code for western monks. However, in the intervening centuries and certainly in their Cluniac interpretation, its prescriptions had been stretched to the limit. Austerity was abandoned in favour of elaborate ceremonial which occupied the major part of the monastic day, leaving hardly any time for private prayer and contemplation. Manual work, one of the essen­ tial requirements of the Rule, was relinquished to hired servants whilst the monks becameincreasingly involved in worldly affairs and administration. The opulent splendour of many of the traditional monasteries, the sheer scale and extent of the properties owned by the abbeys, held little attraction for those seeking to dedicate themselves com­ pletely to the service of Christ. It is significant that the lifetime of St Stephen of Muret, founder of the Grandmon­ tines, coincided with the apogee of the cluniac experience under the long abbacy of StHugh (1049-1109). During this period the empire of Cluny attained gigantic proportions. Its church, the largest in Christendom, must have seemed as much a monument to human achievement as the glory of God.

Since its fourth century origins in the deserts of Lower Egypt and Syria, christian monasticism continued to incor­ porate two distinct traditions. The eremitic, the solitary life led by anchorites, and the coenobitic, the way of the monk living in an organised community ruled by an abbot. These were never intended as diametrically opposed alternatives but as distinctive stages along the path of spiritual per­ fection. St Benedicthimself, whilst legislating for life in


community, nevertheless observes that this is for certain individuals but the primarystage of a monastic career.He regarded the monastery as 'the school of the Lord's ser­ vice', and the eremitical vocation a form of postgraduate monasticism suitable for 'those men who have learnt to fight against the devil, well taught by the companionship of many brethren; and now well trained, they are compe­ tent to leave the ranks of their brethren for the single combat'.1

Thebenedictine tradition never entirely lost sight of the eremitical ideal and even the Cluniacs sometimes made provision for a hermit dwelling within the monastic enclo­ sure. Thus it seems reasonable that at a time when world­ liness and decadence were everywhere apparent, when monasteries were distinguished more for the splendour of theirarchitecture than for their piety, certain reactionaries should considerthe hermitage as their only possible alter­ native. The widespread opting-out of monks from the traditional monasteries in the eleventh century gave rise toa strange paradox which was repeated time and again. The monks who left regularcommunities to become solitaries invariably attracted followers and ended up byfounding new monasteries which were merely stricter versions of those they had left in the first place. Hence, the eleventh centuryhermits are often indistinguishable from reformed religious. The experience of the monk turned hermit re­ verting to monk can be seen initially in the case of St Romuald of Ravenna (c. 950-1027). When he left the cluniac monastery of St Apollinare in Classe, it was with the avowed intention of reviving the solitude and asceticism of the 'desert fathers'. In fact, he spent the remainder of his life travelling and reforming existingmonasteries, as well asfounding his own monastery of Val di Castro where the Rule of St Benedict was strictly observed. After years of training, suitablecandidates were permitted to retire to an individual hermitage on the slopesof nearby Mount Cam­ aldoli. Thus,Romuald also became the founderof the


hermit order of Camaldolese although his own experience of the hermit's cell was somewhat limited. A similar pat­ tern is discernible in many subsequent monastic careers. Robert of Arbrissel, Stephen of Obazine, Robert of la Chaise Dieu, Vitalisof Savigny, Bernardof Tiron, all began by rejecting the coenobitic life, but their years in the 'desert' were curtailed when their followers became so numerous that they were forced to organise regular com­ munities to contain them.

In this context, Stephen of Muret, founder of the Grand­ montines, emerges as a notable exception, for he never lived a regular life in community, and after becoming a hermitat the age of thirty he never againleft his retreatat Muret. Moreover, Stephen never envisaged founding a regular monasteryfor his disciples. It was not until thirty­ two years after his death that they themselves finallysub­ mitted a Rule for a properly constituted Order of Grand­ mont to Pope Adrian IV for his approval. Even when the Grandmontines began living what was to all intents and purposes a regular life in community, they retained some­ thing of their unique character and continued to regard themselves as hermits. It is therefore necessary to consider to what extent such a claim can be justified. It is possible, in fact,to draw a clear distinction between, on the one hand, the traditional hermits who imitated the 'desert fathers' and lived in total seclusion and, on the other, this novel brandof medieval hermitswho organised themselves into communities. While the former group shunned all human contacts, their medievalcounterparts accepted, even wel­ comed, like-minded companions. Solitude for them did not exclude fellow religious, nor did it implicitly excludeall secular contacts. As their patron the Grandmontines adopted St John the Baptist rather than St Antony of Egypt. Eventhough they were explicitly forbidden to prac­ tise any form of active ministry they were nonetheless exhorted to preach by example. As the Rule of Grandmont points out, John the Baptist did not leave the desert even to


seek out Christ but waited patiently for Christ to come and find him. One of the more appealing and humane chapters in this otherwise uncompromising Rule concerns the wel­ come and hospitality to be afforded to guests. Further­ more, the Grandmontine churches were never as strictly enclosed as those of the Carthusians and Camaldolese; anyone wishing to join the brethren in their prayer was welcome to do so, atleast in the early days of the order.

Ofthe numerous hermitgroups which blossomedin the Middle Ages, only three managed to survive the centuries as independent religious orders. The Camaldolese in Italy, the Carthusians and Grandmontines in France. The latter French hermit groups were close contemporaries. Stephen of Muret commencedhis life of solitude around 1076 and Brunoof Cologne, Founderof the Carthusians in 1084. A comparison between the two reveals the essential differ­ ence between the Carthusians, hermits in the more tradi­ tional sense, and the Grandmontines, religious hybrids who pursued their eremitical ideal within the framework of a regular life in community. For, if therewas one require­ ment which the Grandmontines rated more highly than solitude, it was their need to live in conditions of extreme evangelical poverty and this explainswhy they adopteda widely differing life style from their contemporaries of the Chartreuse.

A Carthusian monastery or charterhouse is an exceed­ ingly expensive establishment both to build and maintain. Each monk occupies his own 'cell' which is, in fact, a completely individual house, often two storied and having its own private garden. All the usual conventual buildings: church, chapter house,and refectory, also have to be pro­ vided both for the formation of novices and for the pro­ fessed hermits who on Sundays and feastdays customarily meet together for a meal and recreation. Additionally, a fairly large number of lay brothers who are required to attend the monks have to be housed in aseparate establish­ ment, the so-called 'lower house'.The Carthusian hermit


therefore enjoys the most perfect conditions for a life of reflection and prayer. He passes the major part of eachday alone in his 'cell' and is left totally free both for prayer and intellectual pursuits. Manual work such as tending his garden or engaging in some craft is by way of relaxation, because all necessary domestic chores and heavy work are performed by the lay brothers.

Bycontrast, the Grandmontine hermit could expect little solitude apart from the community with whom, for rea­ sons of economy, he was expected to sharehis cell. Thus, a Grandmontine house came to be something of a cross between a large hermitage and a monastery in miniature and was referredto simply as a 'cell'.It was intended to house a maximum of thirteen; four or five contempla­ tives, the choir monks, and the remainder, lay brothers. Unlike the Carthusians, however, there was no juridical distinction between the contemplative choir monks known as the 'deres'and the lay brother 'convers'. Further expen­ diture was eliminated inasmuch as both groups worked and prayed together, shared the one choir, chapterhouse, refectory, and dorter. This communal dorterwas actually divided by wainscotting into separate cubicles which critics of the Order were to condemn as a luxury. li a space approximately seven feet by five can be considered in any way luxurious, it is, however, worth noting that this was allthat remained of the original hermits' huts at Muret.

Charterhouses generally consist of fine buildings sur­ rounded by a considerable acreageof land, efficiently ex­ ploited by the monks togain produce both for their own domestic requirements and to augment their income by selling on the open market. The Grandmontines were absolutely forbidden toown lands outsidethe immediate enclosure of the cell which wassimply a small forest clear­ ing. 'Woods are suitable places for monks to build their homes' states the Rule, and throughout their history they remained faithfulto this tradition. They were thus depen­ dent for their livelihood on what amountedto no more


than a smallholding together with what they might or might not receive by way of alms.They were deniedany form of fixed income. Whenever extra assistance was needed with building, maintenance, or agricultural tasks, the choir monks were expected to labour alongside the lay brethren and they were also expected to fulfil their share of the everyday chores. Hence, the hermit monk of Grand­ mont, unlike his Carthusian counterpart, had little time for study, and any recruits might expect plenty of hard toil but little compensation in the way of reading matter. Cer­ tainly, no great tradition of learning ever developed within the Order.

Allthe other groupsof reformed religiousof the period, even the Carthusians, retained the Rule of StBenedict as their chief source of reference and their own customs were derived from it. Only the Grandmontines deviatedin their insistence that St Benedict's Rule along with those of St Augustine and St Basil represented simply cuttingsfrom a single plant. The Gospel,maintained Stephen of Muret, is:

Theone primary and fundamental Rule of Rules for our salvation and all others derive from it like springs from the one source. This is the Holy Gospel which was given by the Saviour to his apostles to be by them faithfully proclaimed to the whole world.2

It may well have been this steadfast, almost stubborn determination to adhere to the evangelical precepts of their founder which spared the Grandmontines the fate which in due course overtookother groups of contemporary reli­ gious. By the mid-twelfth century, the othershad all been assimilated either by the Cistercians (Obazine, Dalon) or various of the congregations of regular canons (Esterps, Chalard, Artige, Benevent, and Aureil).

Just why monks turned hermits in the eleventh century and reverted to their cenobitic state in the twelfth is not easy to determine. One possible explanation lies in the personal appeal of the founders themselves; Robert of Arbrissel, Stephen of Obazine, and Robert of la Chaise


Dieu are illustrative of the many outstanding and charis­ matic religious leaders who arose at this time. Yet once the direct influence they exercised over their followers was removed, the only means of holding the grouptogether lay in firm and competent legislation. Organisers of the calibre of Stephen Harding whose Carta Caritatis ensured the smooth and efficient government of the Cistercian Order, are few and far between and many deficient and in­ adequate attempts at organisation were doomed from the start.

A further and equally plausible explanation for the early demise of so many hermit groups lies in the realisation that success can in itselfbe a prelude to failure.Fifty or so years after their foundation, many of these communities had grown out of all proportion. The resultant problem was voiced by Hugues de Fouilloy, prior of the canons regular of St-Laurent-au-Bois: 'Our troubles increase in proportion with the numbers of religious. So large a number require many goods, and many goods not only cause strife be­ tween religious and seculars, but also among the religious themselves ... What used to be freely given now has to be bought, and property that was once peacefully owned can now be held only by means of a law suit'.3 A limited number of hermits settling in a neighbourhood might be welcome-even considered an asset-but a large ·commu­ nity seeking a livelihood in a country area of limited means and resources might represent a major problem. In times of hardship, as when the harvest failed, such communities could inflict a heavy additional burden on the local in­ habitants.

The Rule of Grandmont expressly forbade ownership of lands and properties outside the immediate limits of the enclosure.Although the brothers were permitted to accept the gift of a piece of land on which to build, if the donor or his heir subsequently refuted such a gift they were in­ structed to relinquish it peacefully and without argument. Recourse to law was absolutely denied them, as was the


holding of title deeds which might help them to plead their case.4 Deprived of any stable and permanent means of livelihood, the monks of Grandmont were often depen­ dent on alms and thus led a very insecure existence. In the early days of the Order when the brothers were few in number, the problems outlined above by the prior of St­ Laurent-au-Bois could not have affected them. The first hint of any parallel weakness can be identified in the far­ sighted judgement of Hugues Lacerta. Hugues had spent his youth as a soldier fighting in the first crusade. He joinedStephen at Muret in 1111,choosing to serve as a lay brother, and it is therefore possible that he was primarily responsible for material administration at Muret during the lifetime of the founder. On his death bed in 1157, thirty­ three years after the death ofthe founder, whose friend and confidant he had been, he expressed his concern at both the increase in monks and in establishments and implored the brothers to impose a restriction on the recep­ tion of novices.5 Obviously, the expansion of the Order beyond the limitsof the Limousin and the immediate juris­ diction of the prior of Grandmont seemed to Hugues in­ compatible withthe primitive spirit of the hermits who had shared the solitude of Stephen at Muret. Unfortunately, his advice went unheeded and the Grandmontines only avoided the fate which overtook similar religious groups by mitigating and altering their constitutions time and time again. By the fourteenth century, these changes had ren­ dered their communities almost indistinguishable from those of benedictine monks or even canons regular. Sadly, much of the original and distinctive grandmontine charac­ ter was sacrificed in the process.

At least during the first century of their existence, the hermit monks of Grandmont held fast to the fundamental ideals of evangelical povertyand simplicity whichdistin­ guished their Order. John of Salisburywriting at the time tells us that they had nothing whatsover in common with the mainstream religious orders which followed the Rules


of either St Benedict or St Augustine. Instead they ac­ knowledged just one master, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and followed one Rule, the Gospel.6 If in the years that fol­ lowed, their customs and practices began to resemble those of the Benedictines and Augustinians, at least some­ thing of their primitive spirit continued to be reflected in their architecture. The very considerable visible evidence which survives demonstrates clearly that in the course of nearly seven centuries only very limited attempts were made to extend, remodel, or embellish their churches. Not far from the grandmontine cell of Craswall in Here­ fordshire is the cisterican church of Dore Abbey. One has only to glance at its magnificent ambulatory to be aware how far and in what a comparatively short space of time the Cistercians had departed from the aesthetic ideals of St Bernard. By contrast, all of the grandmontine churches which have survived have retained their basic, simple ground plan. Even the later, thirteenth-century examples were built in accordance with the romanesque blueprint which was never superseded. A seventeenth-century plan of the priory of Boulogne,in the departement of Loir andCher, reveals a rather splendidformal garden laid out behind a remodelled west range which was redesigned to house the commendatory prior. When compared, how­ ever, with the palatial and sumptuous refurbishing of the west ranges of various french cistercian abbeys for the same purpose, Boulogne appears remarkably unosten­ tatious.

TheOrder of Grandmont has been styled: 'that illfated order' but it is debatable to what extentits fortunes proved more unfortunate than some of the better-recorded re­ ligious Orders. The major internal crisis involved the notorious lay brother revolt; yet others, includingthe Cis­ tercians, sufferedsimilar uprisings on the part of their lay brethren; the one which disrupted the Gilbertines was equally bitter albeit of shorter duration. Another form of schismoccurred early in the Order's historyand was pro-


voked by the struggle for supremacy between the mother house at Grandmont, within Plantagenet territory, and Bois de Vincennes, in the Ile de France, ruled by the Capetian monarchy. The division of theOrder into Fratres Gallici and Fratres Anglici, and the scandal their squabbling for domination provoked, was equally not peculiar to the Grandmontines. Few religious orders have avoided some measure of internal strife and partitioning in the course of their histories. The Cistercians became involved in a partic­ ularly dramatic thirteenth-century scandal when feuding broke out between Oteaux and Clairvaux, two of the proto-abbeys of the Order.

Problems external to the Order included the sufferings

inflicted by the Hundred Years' War and later, the Wars of Religion, but again these particular troubles were by no means unique to the Grandmontines. Most of the monas­ teries of France suffered to a greater or lesser degree in times of war. Under the commendatory system, that other great scourge of monasticism, the Grandmontines fared somewhat better than most. No doubt partially because of the smallness of their houses, they were spared much of the misery which unscrupulous holders of commendatory titles inflicted on the greater abbeys of France. In fact, the mother house itself actually prospered under its third com­ mendatory abbot, CardinalWilliam Bri.;onnet who contrib­ uted a great deal towards the restoration of the abbey and its church.

Foras long as the Order ofGrandmont retained its initial fervour and remained true to the ideals of its saintly Foun­ der, it prospered. By the mid-twelfth centuryit numbered 1,200 monks, excluding the even more numerous lay breth­ ren. It may be counted as unfortunate that this boom period was so short lived. The lay brother crisis which broke out in 1185 was without doubt responsible for an ensuing decline in numbers. The unfortunate outcome of the dispute itself was the reconstitution of the Order by Pope John xxn in 1317, and a consequent loss of identity.


An initially successful attempt by Dom Charles Fremon in the seventeenth century to reform the Order and re­ establish the primitive observance of the Rule had an ex­ ceedingly unfortunate outcome in that it split the Order into two branches,the traditional and the observant. Such a division cannot in itself be termed unfortunate, and numerous other Orders of religious have split into separate branches in the course of their histories without any lasting illeffects. Within the Franciscan Order in particular, the Friars Conventual became independent of the mainstream group as early as the thirteenth century and a second reforming group, the Observants, emerged in the fif­ teenth. These and many subsequent franciscan congrega­ tions flourished and remainmuch in evidence throughout the world today. The unfortunate aspect of the grandmon­ tine division was that it occurred at a time when numbers within the Order were declining and recruitment was low. Neither group had sufficient strength of numbers to satisfy the commission for religious reformin the following cen­ tury, so Dom Fremon's well-intentioned efforts unwit­ tingly hastened the demise of the Order. In1772the mother house of Grandmont was suppressed.


INTRODUCTION - NOTES

1.   Rule of St Benedictfor Monasteries, tr. Dom B.B. Bolton (London: Ealing Abbey, 1969) ch.1, p. 7

2.   RG Prologue, ed. Bee: SOG p. 66

3.   H. Peltier, 'Hugues de Fouilloy chanoine regulier, prieur de Saint­ Laurent-au-Bois', Revue du moyen age latin11(1946) 32.

4.   RG, ed. Bee SOG. For ownership of lands see ch. IV, p. 71; on returning gifts and properties to the heirs of donors, see ch. xxm p. 80, on prohibitions against holding title deeds to properties and against having recourse to law, chs. XXIV and XXXI, pp. 82,94.

5.   PL 204: 1216: 'Novanemora, fratresque novitios superomnia plus necere. Posse timeo et sentio.'

6.   Policraticus: Johannis Sarisberiensis, ed. C.C.J. Webb (Oxford: 1909) 2: 204- 06. 'Alli Basilium, alii Benedictum, alii Augustinum, isti singu­ larem magistrum habent Dominum Jesum Christum.'


I

 

 

SAINT STEPHEN OF MURET

A VOICE IN 1HE WILDERNESS

 

 

 

 

 

THE LIFE OF ST STEPHEN of Muret is clouded with uncertainties. It is difficult to unravel the facts from the variousaccounts which are mainly dependent

on hearsay or derive from pious biographies. Even the Life of St Stephen of Muret attributed by its first editor, Dom Martene, to Gerard lthier, seventh prior of Grandmont (1188-1196), is regardedas highly suspect by current histo­ rians.1 In fact, it has recently been shown that Gerard merely added a few details to a preexisting Life distin­ guished from his own work by the title Vita A. 2 The addi­ tional details take the form of edifying anecdotes together with some accounts of posthumous miracles attributed to Stephen. It is worth noting that Gerard was the prior responsible for submitting the cause for Stephen's can­ onisation to Pope Clement III in 1188, shortly after his election to the priorate. A priest and accompanying lay brother were dispatched to Rome with letters from the General Chapter supported by testimonials from King Henry n of England as well as several high ranking eccle­ siastics.3 Meanwhile, it is recorded in the Annals of the order that the brethren prayed unceasingly to invoke Step­ hen's aid and numerous miracles were reported and attrib­ uted to his intercession. They include: recoveries from various crippling ailments, restoration of sight, a couple of

27


resuscitations and the cure of a young boy suffering from possession. 4 The following year,1189, the pope granted the request and sent a delegate to represent him at the cere­ mony held on 30 August at Grandmont.5

Vita A itself dates in all likelihood from the time of Stephen Liciac, fourth prior of Grandmont (1139-1163) under whose direction the Liber Sententiarum,6 the Thoughts of Stephen, were compiled and the Rule deriving from them was formulated. The writings which emerged at this time were wholly dependent upon the testimony of the early brethren who had known Stephen personally, nota­ bly the chevalier Hugues Lacerta, who joined the little community at Muret as a lay brother and became Step­ hen's closest disciple and friend.

The traditional date for the birth of Stephen is 1045, althoughsome authors give 1044. His father was Stephen, Viscount of Thiers, hismother is known to us simply as Candide. Various of the biographies contain lengthy de­ tails of the exceptional piety of his parents, culminating in an anecdote whichrecalls the circumstances surrounding the birth of St John the Baptist. This prophet, recognised as the patron saint of hermits, was held in particular venera­ tion by the hermit monks of Grandmont, so it is not sur­ prising that the Grandmontine biographers had recourse to a legitimate technique employed by hagiographers of the period and provided a suitable parallel between their saintly founder and his scriptural inspiration. In company with the parents of the Baptist,Stephen and Candidewere elderly and still unblessed by children despite a lifetime of prayer. In desperation they vowed that if God would heed their supplications they would dedicate the child to his service. Their prayers were at last rewarded and Can­ dide lived to bear three sons. Stephen was the first born, the second was destined to continue the line of the vis­ counts of Thiers, while the youngest became, in due course, Lord of Montpensier, founder of the family of counts of Chalon which much later became interrelated with the Bourbon dynasty.


That the child of elderly parents noted for their excep­ tional piety should have received an extremely religious upbringing is only to be expected. The highly coloured accounts of the young Stephen's precocity for prayer, con­ templation.and mortification while written, no doubt,with the best of intentions, fail utterly however, to build a convincing portrait of a man of outstanding character, whose spirituality and humility were coupled with an im­ mense ability for spiritual influence and leadership. Ste­ phen's pious boyhood, combined with the harshness of the Rule which he inspired, do little to endear him to the world at large. Small wonder he has never receivedmuch attention as a cult figure outside the·Order of Grandmont and the limits of the Limousin.

It is in the Liber Sententiarum rather than in the early and unsubstantiated biographies, that something of the real nature of this very striking character begins hazily to emerge. The work is an anthology of the ideas and teach­ ings of the saint recalled by those disciples who shared his solitude at Muret. Most notable among them was the fa­ voured disciple, Hugues Lacerta, whose name is the only one recorded in the prologue to the Rule. The work com­ prises one hundred and twenty-two chapters of varying length. Its format was almost certainly determined in the course of a general chapter held at Grandmont around 1156 under the direction of the fourth prior, Stephen Liciac. The essential message [summarised in the statement: 'There is no rule but the Gospel'] was basically an insistence on the fundamental christian message coupled with Stephen's personal conviction that the simple teachings of Christ should not be cluttered with complicated legislation and elaborate liturgical practices. In the twelfth century at least, this rendered the hermits of Grandmont celebrated and admired throughout Christendom. That Stephen himself represented the true driving force behind this distinctive religious enterprise is borne out by the numerous tributes paid to him by contemporary writers no less than the later annalists of the Order.


The first verifiable error to emerge from the various accounts of Stephen's early years concerns a pilgrimage he made with his father to the shrine of St Nicholas at Bari. Throughout the twelfth century, as the authors of the account must have been aware, this shrine flourished as a popular centre of pilgrimage. Nevertheless, it cannot have constituted the spiritual goal for the Viscount of Thiers and his young son midway in the previous century, for the relics of the saint of Myra, in Lyda, were not translated to the Adriatic seaport of Bari until1087. By that time Stephen was over thirty years of age and already well established as a hermit in the wilderness of Muret. The destination of the pilgrims was in all probability the sanctuary of San Michele on Monte Gargano, a shrine which from the mid-tenth century ranked almost as highly as Santiago de Compostella as a popular centre for pilgrimage. The main route from the north to Monte Gargano would have per­ mitted the pilgrims to include excursions to both Rome and the monastery of St Benedict at Monte Cassino in their itinerary.

Unfortunately, none of the accountsof the journey given inVita A and elaborated upon by later writers, stands up to closescrutiny. Not only does the author appearaltogether vague concerning the chronology of Stephen's youth; the only precise date he gives is 1076, the year Stephen em­ braced the religious life at Muret atthe age of thirty. And yet, he is supposed to have undertaken a pilgrimage to Italy at theage of twelve (approximately between the years 1056-59) to a shrine which was not established until over thirty years later. Then,it appears that he fell ill in the city of Benevento and was left by his father in the care of Archbishop Milon who, it transpires, was not appointedto this city until 1074.

Happily Archbishop Milon of Benevento, about whose career the author of Vita-A appears singularly uninformed, is a fairly well-documented eleventh-century cleric. This is mainly attributable to his close association with the great


reforming pope, Gregory VII, who was responsible for his appointment to the diocese of Benevento. However, his term of office there proved remarkably short; it is known from a chronicle that he was consecrated in 1074 and died the following year. One of his acts dated 1074-5 remains and his successor makes mention of it as early as1076.7 The previous history of Milon is also known to us through a piece inserted in the cartulary of the monastery of St Flo­ rent de Saumur. This refers to his appointment as a dean in Paris, when he mediated with Gregory VII to honour his promise and confirm the foundation charter of the priory of St Florent of Dol in Brittany.8

Following his recovery from the severe illness which detained him in Benevento, Stephen did not, it seems, return directly to France. The Lives tell us that he remained an incredible twelve years in the care of Archbishop Milon, attended the schools of the city and was carefully prepared for the priesthood. As we have seen, whoever was respon­ sible for Stephen's welfare and education at this time, it certainly was not Milon. When, where and by whom he was in due course ordained deacon cannot be ascertained, though once again the early chroniclers are adamant that Milon was the prelate responsible. The tradition that Step­ hen was in deacon's orders is very strong, as is the belief that he refused the priesthood itself for reasons of humil­ ity. This, together with the account of the circumstances surrounding Stephen's birth is something of an hagio­ graphical cliche. The same has been said of other saints, notably Francis of Assisi. While there is no concrete evi­ dence to support Stephen's very lengthy sojourn in Italy, it seems unlikely that his close companions would have been mistaken in their accounts of such a major episode in the life of their founder. These disciples, we are told in the prologue to the Rule, conversed frequently with the Master and it would seem only natural that in the course of such conversations Stephen told them something of his youth, his travels,and peoplehe had known, particularly those


32                   The Hennit Monks of Grandmont

who had impressed or edified him. When, following the passage of years, these witnesses, now elderly men, at­ tempted to recall the details of such conversations, it is equally likelythat they became confused and at variance over specific details. It is always possible that Stephen met Archbishop Milon,who was a well-travelled churchman, in either France or Italy, or in both. Certainly, the fervour with which Milon implemented the reforming policies of Gregory VII, his insistence on clerical celibacyand his en­ couragement of dedicated religious communities, would have appealed to Stephen and may well have provided subjects for his own spiritual discourses. It is just possible that Milon was also responsible for ordaining Stephen a deacon, although he is unlikely to have served as arch­ deacon of the diocese of Benevento as the biographers would have us believe.

An interesting local tradition has emerged concerning Stephen's diaconate. In the parish church of the little town of Ambazac near Grandmont, a dalmatic of reddish gold silk is carefully preserved. According to a fifteenth-century inventory of the Abbey of Grandmont, this vestment was presented to Stephen by the Empress Matilda. The fourth prior, Stephen Liciac was the more likely recipient of this gift, for Matilda remained the wife of theEmperor Henry v until well after Stephen's death in 1124 and arrived in France to wed Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, only in1128.

At some stage in his career, Stephen became acquainted with a group of Calabrian hermits whose austerity and customs were to constitute his main source of inspiration. Although we are once again dependent on the verbal testi­ mony of the brethren for this particular encounter, it seems plausible enough and the early sources refer to it con­ stantly. The Annals record Stephen,almost at death's door, outlining his way of lifefor the benefit of two visiting cardinals and lauding the poverty and detachment of the fratres in Calabria who, he says influenced his own ideas on the religious life.9 That the brethren were so impressed by


theseparticular words must indicate that they repeatedly heard the Master usethem. Certainly it would appear only natural for Stephen to refer frequently in his discourses to the hermits who represented his chief inspiration. Arch­ bishop Milton's name occurs againin the Vita in connec­ tion with these hermits who actually dwelt within his diocese. There is no reason why he should not have been responsible for introducing Stephen to a group of religious whom he particularly admired, but if this was the case, the author of Vita A has totallyconfused the chronology.

The description of the Calabrian hermits given in the Annals corresponds closely to those found in a wide vari­ ety of documents which describe the groups of religious whose activities had extended to the regions of Campania and Calabria by the close of the eleventh century. The practices and usages which Stephen purportedly derived from them were by no means exclusive to Southern Italy, however. They are found in many other regions as well. Within the Limousin itself, St Gaucher, founder of the monastery at Aureil, was just one of thenumerous revival­ ists of the eremitical life who organised his followers along similar lines. Here also the hermits were originally accom­ modated in rustic huts sited around a simple oratory in which the brethren gathered to recite the canonical hours. A communal refectory in which a meatless and frugal diet was served, the daily chapter of faults and the use of corporal punishment are all practices that may have in­ fluencedStephen, but they are also part and parcel of the eremitical practices which figure in hagiographies of the period.

Nevertheless, various attempts have been made to iden­ tify the particular group of Calabrian hermits who re­ putedly wielded such a great influence over Stephen. Dom Mabillon, the seventeenth-century monastic historian con­ sidered them to be quite simply Benedictines,10 but in more recent times, it has been proposed that they were either hermits of Fonte Avellana or Camaldoli. It would seem


more likely, however, that if Stephen was influenced by any specific Calabrian hermits,they would have been the Graeco-Calabrians who followed the Rule of StBasil. They had several well-established communities within a region where the Camaldolese were only just beginning to settle and the monks of Fonte Avellanahad not yet arrived. The lives and activities of the basilean monks of the period has received considerable treatment,u but the problem of actu­ ally identifying the tenth-and eleventh-century monastic establishments in Southern Italy is complicated by the fact that in time they were all superseded principally by the Benedictines and, to a lesser extent, the Cistercians and Carthusians. Thus their early history becameinextricably bound up with later developments.

Whatever religious influences may have contributed to the fundamental shaping of Stephen's personal vocation, his later thoughts on the religious life have a distinctly eclectic flavour. The Prologue to the Rule of Grandmont states categorically that the text reflects the opinions held by the Master himself and that he was familiar with all forms of the religious life. During his counselling sessions we are told that he would sometimes dwell upon the diversity of the religious orders which he likened to 'shoots from the one vine', 'streams from the one source'. He further instructed the brothers that should anyoneinquire to which Order they belonged or which rule they followed, they should reply that they were Christians observing the Rule of the Gospel which is the root of all rules.12

Following the death of Archbishop Milon, Stephen is supposed to have resided four years in Rome in the house­ hold of a cardinal whose name receives no mention. It is highly unlikely that Stephen spent any length of time in Rome after 1076, the year of Milon's death and almost certainly the year of his own departure for Muret. In fact, any time spent in Rome is more likely to have been during, rather thanafter, the lifetin;te of Milon. The biographers have again embroidered their accounts of the sojourn in


the Holy City, maintaining that Stephen held a responsible clerical position. Once again they omit to give any conclu­ sive details and concentrate insteadon his ever increasing determination to substitute the splendours of high ranking ecclesiastical living for the hermit's cell. One motive for asserting that Stephen was employed for a time within papal circles may have been to lend respectability to a bull which authorised him to found a religiousorder. This bull, purported to have been given by Pope Gregory VII, is dated 1074. It was, in fact, forged late in the history of the Order.13 VitaA mentions the papal authorisation but not the name of the actualpope involved and only much later accounts stipulate that it was Gregory VII, adding that Stephen had petitioned to found an Order in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict.

A serious and very damagingcontroversy arising from the spuriousevidence of this bull developed as late as the seventeenth century and was centred around whether the Grandmontines formeda branch of the Benedictines, the Augustinians, or the Carthusians.14 More essentially, were the religious of Grandmont intended to live as monks, canons regular, or hermits? The result was that the Grand­ montines suffered a crisisof identity which can only have been aggravated by the opinions expressed by outsiders. Dom Levesque recalls in the Annalsof the Order how in various documents issued by the roman Curia, Grandmont was at times referredto as an offshoot of the Benedictines and at others, a branch of the Augustinians.15 The great benedictine historian, Dom Jean Mabillon(1632-1700), was among those who took up the dispute and drew attention to the differences between his own Order and that of Grandmont. He concluded that in accordance with the teaching of their founder, the Grandmontines recognised no other rule but that of Our Lord Jesus Christ.16 The evidence for classing the Grandmontines as canons regular of St Augustine Was especially tenuous and based itself on the trivial factor that the religious of the'common obser-


vance' wore surplices and birettas, the customary choir dress of regular canons. Although the reformed group had reverted to wearing the habit in choir, the tradition of the surplice was very ancient indeed. Gerard Ithier, seventh prior of Grandmont (1189-1198), states distinctly in his work, The Mirror of Grandmont: 'in choir all wear sur­ plices'.17 After a great deal of turmoil, the matter was resolved and an entry in the Annals states decisively that the Order of Grandmont is to be regarded as a distinctive order which, while originally intended to be eremitical, in the course of time adapted to coenobitism. Hence for the future, the Order should be regarded as a combination of bothforms.18

Whatever the arguments about identity which disturbed the Order in later times, one thing is certain: Stephen's own vocation led him straight to the hermitage. The var­ ious sourceshave it that this vocation developed and ma­ tured during his stay in the Holy City and that from there he returned to France to settle his affairs and bid farewell to his parentsprior to embarking on the life of a solitary. From Thiers in the Auvergne hetravelled to the Limousin and is supposed to have stayed for a while at Aureil, just a few miles to the south-east of Limoges. To this spot St Gaucher, another famous hermit,had attracted a fair sized contingent of followers who lived according to the Rule of St Augustine in the monastery of St Jean d' Aureil.Unfor­ tunately, Gaucher built another monastery just a few leagues away and intendedto receive the women who, no less than the men, were moved by his example and instruc­ tion to a life of prayer and penitence. This development reputedly provedtoo much for Stephen who, if we are to believe his biographers, suffered from a particularly viru­ lent form of misogyny and so he took leave of Gaucher. In fact, the entire story is pure invention because Gaucher, who hailed from Normandy, arrived at Aureil only in1078, when he would still have been a mere youth of eighteen.19 The truth would appearto have been far more simple.


Stephen knew a great deal about the various forms of religious life prevalentat the time; this much is explicit in his 'Thoughts'. Such knowledge can only have been gained by personal observation; if not at Aureil, then certainly in other monasteries where he would have stayed in the course of his travels. In a period which experienced more than its fair share of monastic turmoil and upheaval, Stephen was not exceptional in his conclusion that a thirst for solitude, silence, and austerity could only be satiated outside the traditional monastic structure, alone in a her­ mitage.

As regards the suggestion that Stephen fostered a partic­ ular antipathy towards the female sex, there is no evidence in his own 'Thoughts' to support such an assertion. Anti­ feminist sentiments bordering on the fanatic can, however, be traced to the fourth prior, Stephen Liciac.He was in all likelihood responsible for the hysterical tirade which con­ stitutes chapter thirty-nine of the Rule and which sets forth the reasons why women were excluded from the Order.

We forbid you absolutely to receive women into this religious life. If a womansucceeded in tempting the first man from the delights of paradise, who else could be capable of resisting her wiles? If gentleDavid, wise Solomon,and strong Samson were all captivated by the snares of women, who could fail to surrender to her caresses? In the devil'sabsence, is it not she who tempts men?

The date for Stephen's entry into the 'desert' at Muret varies somewhat, but it was almost certainly sometime between 1076-1078. Dom Jean Becquet considers it to be closer to the latter20 and, this being correct, it would have afforded him time to visit Archbishop Milon in Italy imme­ diately beforehand. Once they have him established at Muret, a site on a wooded hillside not far from the town of Ambazac, the biographies became dependent upon Step­ hen's original followers for information on his lifestyle and practices, and allowing for the odd exaggeration, there


38                   The Hennit Monks of Grandmont

seems little reason to doubt their accuracy. In fact, his way of life was in essencevery similar to that of numerous other hermits of the time. He built himself asimple wattle dwell­ ing and wore the same clothes in winter and in summer. The celebrated and bizarre costume illustrated by Pere Helyot, and subsequently by J.C. Bar, has done little for Stephen's image and, in any case cannot be regarded as truly illustrative of his attire. The chain mail is probably authentic. It is referred to in all the Lives and according to Frere Philippe-Etienne the wearing of chain mail against the body in lieu of a hair shirt was an accepted form of austerity and customary among the Camaldolese.21 What is exceptional is the excess of zeal which moved the eighteenth-century illustrator to deny his subject the coarse woollen tunic which would have covered the peni­ tential garment.


 

 nt·

fj}•;. IJ(JJWl/1-'. l)i;•.1,iJ4Jf/1J,/WY1'

 

Traditional costume ascribed to St Stephenby the eighteenth cen­ tury illustrator Jacques Charles Bar.


A similar enthusiasm for self­ denial bordering on the eccen­ tric pervades the early account of the diet. Frugal it may have been, but it seems unlikely that Stephen attained the age of eighty living exclusively off nuts, berries and the odd 'floury dumplings'. He slept on bare boards and his days were passed in meditation and in re­ citing the traditional monastic hours to which he added the three separate offices of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Trinity and the Dead. The refer­ ence in the Life to theseoffices ex devotio is somewhat  strange,


however, for there is no mentionof them either in the Rule or in the 'Thoughts' of the saint. Moreover, the Blessed Virgin is nowhere singled out for any particular honour or


devotion. Stephen, we are told, was wont to recite all these prayers bent forward on his knees so that his forehead constantly touched the ground, a practice which resulted in his nose becoming permanently twisted while his fore­ head became severely calloused! For the first year or so he was left to himself but gradually, as his reputation for holiness spread abroad, he was joined by others who de­ sired to dedicate their lives to God in solitude and poverty. Many years later these early disciples would testify that they received from Stephen 'all the loving care of a true father.'22 In their accounts of Stephen's relationship with his spiritual sons, the style of the biographies softens and we begin toglean some understanding of the true character of this very exceptional man. There is always a tendency among the writersof saintly lives to ascribe to their subjects a kind of misplaced heroism. This is manifested in vivid descriptions of their capacity to endure physical hardships and their constant and merciless chastisement of the flesh with flails, thorns, and hairshirts. To whatever extent Step­ hen may have adopted the accepted practices and pen­ ances common to the religious of his time, his conversations with his disciples reveal a man of integrity and moderation, understanding and tolerant of human weakness who, we are told, never imposed tasks which were too demanding or taxing of human endurance. Cer­ tain of the instructions which eventually formed the basis of the Rule of Grandmont are, in a modem sense, undenia­ bly harsh; but no more so than the GospelRule of Christ on which they are based. Stephen demanded of his followers no more and no less than Christ himself asked of the 'rich young man'. The conditions of acceptance into the brother­ hood of Christ are clear, precise,and allow for no half measures.

Oneof the major fascinations of the Order of Grandmont lies in its retaining its particular identity for so long after its foundation, an achievement which can only be attributed to the enduring charismatic attraction of the founder him-


self. Even following the mitigations of the fourteenth cen­ tury, when the Order became to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from any of the religious congregations living according to the benedictine or, augustinian Rule, something of the founding spirit of Stephen prevailed. Desmond Seward has written:

Devotion to the founder plays alarge part in the life of allorders, but the cult of St. Stephen was the driving force throughout Grandmontine history.23

Certainly, the example and inspiration which the first Fathers of Grandmont derived from Stephen in the wilder­ ness of Muret proved sufficient toperpetuate the life of the Order so that it avoided the fate of other hermit groups which evolved in the eleventh century only to vanish with­ out trace in the twelfth.

While the 'Thoughts' attributed to Stephen reveal the depth of his spiritual insight, they are not sufficient to account for his outstanding spiritual attraction for others, although they do provide evidence of the paternal care which he afforded his spiritual sons. It is the Prologue to the Rule which immortalises his caring nature:

It was as a fatherof a family that he dedicated his time to counselling others ... he drew daily from his treas­ ury of riches those jewels whose worth hehad himself proved by means of long and pious perseverance, so that by his own example his disciples should become not hearers alone, but doers.

Of course the holding of religious conferences as a method of training aspiring hermits was by no means exclusive to Stephen. He must have been aware that he was pursuing a tradition originated by the Desert Fathers. John Cassian was just one of the young hermits who, in the late fourth century, made the rounds of the venerable elders in order to learn from their wisdom and experience. Whilst this practice was ordered by the Rule of St Pachomius (286-346), it was Cassianwho introduced it


intoSouthern Gaul when, at the request of Castor, Bishop of Apt, he wrote the series of twenty four Conferences which, together with his Institutes provided the basic spiri­ tuality for western monks. Throughout the Middle Ages monasteries retained copiesof the Conferences from which sections were read aloud at appointed times and both Stephen and the actual compilers of his 'Thoughts' and Rule must have been familiar with the work. Certainly the two basic grandmontine texts reveal some striking sim­ ilarities to it. Probably the most remarkable resemblance can be identified in Stephen's division of the brethren into contemplatives and workers, two separate but interdepen­ dent vocations which are exemplified by the sisters in the Gospel. When Martha, overburdened with work scolded Mary for herlaziness, Christ rebuked her for not accepting that Mary had chosen the better part. Cassian comments 'The Lord, you see, placed the chief good in divinecontem­ plation.'24 The Rule of Grandmont states: 'The better part which the Lord praised so highly in Mary, we impose upon the deres alone.' But the first Fathers of Grandmont went onto ratify this same gospel precedent by reference to Acts 6:44, as follows:

It is not reasonable that they should leave the word of God to serve at tables. Besides, vowed as they are exclusively to prayer and contemplation, they will become the dispensers of spiritual realities.25

If an attemptto isolate some element of the outstanding spiritual exampleand leadership whichmust have distin­ guished Stephen's career at Muret proves decidedly un­ fruitful, the additional effort to uncoversome evidence of basic practical organisation among the primitive hermit group is even less rewarding. When, following a period of total isolation, Stephen began to be joined by others, the sum of his administrative effort appears to have consisted in allocating them huts grouped around a simple oratory. Presumably, the strange grandmontine custom of leaving all practical management and, significantly, all financial


responsibility in the hands of the lay brethren had its origins at Muret, for we do know that Hugues Lacerta, Stephen's closest disciple, chose this status for himself. The peculiarity of this custom, which is without parallel in any other religious order, lies in the fact that the position of the lay brothers or convers as they came to be known,was in every respectequal to that of the choir.brothers or clercs. Not only did they share the same quarters, but when their duties permitted, they joined in the daily celebration of the offices in choir. Perhapsthe most significant aspect of what can only be described as a rare, if not entirely unique, manifestation of medieval democracy lies in the fact that the grandmontine lay brethren enjoyedthe same juridical status as their contemplative confreres. At chapter meet­ ings their opinions carried equal weight and they exercised the right to vote. They might even be called upon to represent their respective houses at the annual general chapters held at the mother house. In Stephen's own lifetime, of course, chapters would have been little more than family discussions and the original settlement at Muret would hardly have boasted a choir proper. The oratory, a word which was retained to describe the exceed­ ingly austere grandmontine churches for several genera­ tions, consisted in the very simplest of stone structures modelled, according to Adrien Grezillier, on the primitive rural churches prevalent in the region at that time.26 The daily round at Muret would seem to have been conducted in accordance with the usual monastichorarium with the brethren comingtogether at set hours of the day and night for the celebration of the Divine Office. When the original community began to outgrow the rustic accommodation available, Stephen solved the problem by swarming. Groups of trained hermits were dispatched to found new settlements, but all within the immediate vicinity. Such settlements were known as 'cells', a distinctly eremitical part of the grandmontine nomenclature which was re­ tained until many of the houses were upgraded to priories as part of the reconstitution of theOrder in1317.


Judging from the lack of archaeological evidence on the sites of cells which tradition states were founded within Stephen's lifetime they must have represented the most primitiveand basic of settlements. They were in all proba­ bility modelled on the primitive 'laurae' of the Desert Fathers and Stephen may have personally encountered similar arrangements in Calabria. 'Our Calabrian breth­ ren', he said, 'serve God without either property or pos­ sessions.'27 The Franciscan historian, Father Gratien, has likened his intransigence on this point to St Francis of Assisi, whose repudiation of worldly goods and property afforded no compromise.28 For Stephen, however, poverty was coupled with solitude. The fundamental notion ex­ pressed in his 'Thoughts', and later made explicit in the Rule, was that the hermits were to embrace poverty in solitude and become as though dead to the world.Where better to find a suitably lonely site than in the densely forested hillsides of theLimousin?

Whatwe know of thehermitage at Muret is dependent on the annalists and it is not therefore possibleto separate its appearance in the lifetimeof Stephen from subsequent developments. Shortly after Stephen's deathin 1124, the Benedictines of Ambazac laid claim to the land onwhich it stood and the brethren were forced to relinquish it. They were, however, able to return and build anew at a later date, almost certainly duringthe term of office of Stephen Liciac. The site itself would certainly appear to have ac­ corded completely with Stephen's ideal of the 'desert'. It remains quite isolated even to this day; in the eleventh century it would have been exceedingly wild and remote. The Annals describe theoratory as having incorporated the typical semicircular grandmontine apse but unusually sited to the north-west rather than the east and with the living quarters located to the south. This does not, how­ ever, describe the 'cell' in which Stephen actually lived and died, and which has been identified to the south ofthe later monastic buildings. It stood on a sort of rocky terrace at the


far end of a little valley surrounded by trees. A few mark­ ings in the form of smallholes and depressions in the rocky surface can be discerned and these constitute the only trace of the buildings of the original cell. The foundations of the later oratory show it to have been approximately five by three metres. While these foundations date only from the thirteenth century, their extreme smallness at this late date in the architectural history of the Order indicate that they do correspond to the original 'quilding.

If little is known concerning the precise location and appearance of the original cell at Muret, even less is known of the others which were contemporary with it and which by traditionowe their foundation to Stephen himself.The fact that these earliest cells have proved difficult both to locate and to date can be attributed to the very nature of the life pursued within them, which dictated that they should be both small and insignificant. One thing which it is possible to determineis the uniform appearance of the sites which they occupied. Traditionally, the Grandmontines have always regarded three cells as contemporary with Stephen and all three are located fairlyclose to Muret itself. Boisverd, which has retained just afew identifying stones, was constructed on a plateau overlooking the river Vienne. Cha.tenet, which is somewhat less characteristic as regards siting, has a late south range which includes a fine twin compartmented servery together with some earlier ves­ tiges of what may or may not .be the original cell. At Cluseau, the third example,sections of the foundations of the cloister are evident together with an artificial mound which almost certainly conceals the foundations of the apse. Additionally we may include Plaine which, if not founded within the actual lifetime of Stephen certainly emerged a very short while after his death. Situated within the commune of Savigniac in the Dordogne,its location is similar to that of Boisverd. This particular cell was ruled by the lay brother Hugues Lacerta and so takes on a very special significance in the early history of the Order. Sadly,


the form of the original buildings is almost impossible to determine as they have been completely obscured by seventeenth-century buildings.

Towards the close of a long life, Stephen appears to have acquired a certain notoriety. Within the immediate vicinity of Murethe and his followers were already known by the familiar title of 'Bonshommes', a name which was to distin­ guish them throughout their long history. This was attribu­ table to their reputation for sharing everything they had with the local poor whom they encouraged to visit and whom they treated with exceptional solicitude and gener­ osity.29 The Grandmontines have always been recognised for their courteous and kind treatment of visitors. While it is extremely unlikely that Stephen's holiness and wisdom became, within his lifetime at any rate, as celebrated among the various courts of Europe as his biographers would have us believe, yet his fame did reach beyond the limits of the Limousin and eventually attracted two very important visitors to his retreat at Muret.

It was during the last days of his life that Stephen re­ ceived the two apostolic delegates, Cardinals Gregorio Papareschi and Pietro Leone. These two primates, who were on their way from Rome to attend the Council of Chartres (1124), are well known from contemporary sources and they became Pope Innocent II and the anti­ pope, Anacletus II. In the course of the quarrel and fighting over the papacy, Innocent was forced to flee to France and it is said that he took refuge for a while with the brethren who, by this time, had transferred from Muret toGrand­ mont. Unfortunately, we have too little information about this remarkable encounter; the biographies provide only superficial details except for Stephen's own reference to his acquaintance with 'the learned and holy doctor Arch­ bishop Milon'. The cardinals, for their part, seem to have been eager to learn something of the religious life em­ braced by Stephen and his associates and especially whether they considered themselves to be canons, monks,


or hermits. According to the Annals, Stephen informed them that this group belongedin none of these categories. Having drawn their attention to the fact that the brethren were clad neitherin the manner of monks nor of canons, he pointed out that canons, in accordance both with their customs and the tradition of the apostles, exercise the power to bind and loose. Monks are concerned with no­ body's spiritual welfaresave their own, while hermitsare required to remain in their cells and dedicate the whole of their time to God in silent worship and contemplation.30

Thetwo dignitaries, who must have been sufferingago­ nies of cold and deprivation in so remoteand comfortless an establishment, appear, nonetheless, to have been im­ pressed by this somewhat negative response. Possibly they discerned in it something of a genuineChristlike humility which was not alwaysso apparent in the religious houses they normally frequented. At any rate they gave Stephen their blessing and observed: 'Man of God, if you persevere in this way your reward will be equal to that of thesaints, apostles and martyrsfor you are surely following in their footsteps'.31 Hugues Lacerta is reputed to have been pre­ sent at this interview and if he was he can no doubt be relied upon to have reported it as accurately as his memory would allow. While it could be argued that the entire interchange was invented by later annalistsintent on gain­ ing respectability for the Order of Grandmont as a unique religious institute, Ordo peculiaris, the sentiments are very much in tune with Stephen's essential and oft-repeated message, 'There is no rule save the Commandments of Almighty God. Whoever observes these is a religious in the true sense but whoever ignoresthese Commandments has no part in any order or rule. All that we attempt to do without God is worthless.'32

It is not easy to comprehend the tremendous attraction which Stephen exercised over these two sophisticated clerics, and equally over the generations of imitators who were inspired by his example to dedicate themselves to a


lifeof poverty and extreme physical hardship. Stephen's biographers have unfortunately never really succeededin gaining any kind of universal appeal for their subject.He demonstrates none of the dynamicquality which charac­ terises his close contemporary, St Bernard of Clairvaux, nor the attractiveness of personality and broadness of vi­ sion which distinguish his later counterparts, St Dominic and St Francis. Alongside these toweringfigures, Stephen appears decidedly nondescript. One of his most appealing qualities, and the one which is strongly apparent in his 'Thoughts', is the intense humility which prevented him from ever indulging in any overt criticism. His references to other religious ordersare always respectful and tactful. Bernard of Clairvaux went to Rome and castigated the abuses of the roman curia; Stephenmust have found these abuses equally abhorrent but instead of overturning the tables of the moneylenders, he quietly followedhis Christ into the desert. Once there, he proceeded to demonstrate that reformation can be achieved more effectively by good example and gentleness than by thundering abuse. His achievement, the full uncompromising application of the plain Gospel of Jesus to a regular life of shared solitude, has never received the acclamation it warrants. Stephen of Muret, patron saint of the umecognised, has thus re­ mained throughout the centuriesone of the unsung heroes of the christian Church.

On the 4 February 1124, just eight days afterthe cele­

brated visit of the cardinals, Stephen's health began to fail and he knew that death was near. His last days were spent consoling and inspiring confidence in his brothers. A part of these final conversations was faithfully recorded in Chapter Fourteen of theRule and consists of a very beauti­ ful exhortation to trust in Divine Providence:

I leave you in the care of God alone upon whom all life depends. For his love you have renounced both the world and your own free wills. If you remain constant in your love of poverty and if you trust God alone, his


Providencewill provide for you always.For fiftyyears I have dwelt in this wilderness, in times of hardship I have never lacked for anything any more than in times of plenty have I ever had more than I required. God has alwayswatched over me like a good Father. For you he will be the same always providing that you cling fast tothe principles which I have given you and which are drawn from the Gospel itself.

On the morning of 8 February, Stephen became very ill and the brethren carried him from his cell to the oratory where, after hearing Mass, he received the last rites. Shortly after noon he murmured, 'lord into your hands I commend my spirit' and breathed his last. The brothers buried him secretly in the little cloister against the wall of the church in order to prevent prospective venerators from disturbing the peace of thecell. Yet Muret was not destined to be Stephen's final resting place.

Thelife and deathof Stephen of Muret enfolds a striking double paradox: he tried to lead the life of an absolute solitary and died surrounded by disciples; he would be hailed as the founder of the Order of Grandmont yet he never intended founding a religious order and never set eyes on Grandmont.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a different view of the Vita Stephani Muretensis, see Maire M. Wilkinson, 'The Vita Stephani Muretensis and the Early Life of Stephen of Muret' in Judith Loades, ed., Hallmark Studies in Ecclesiastical History, to be published in May 1990. The author regards the account of the saint's early life in the Vita Stephani as essentially fictional in form and actually fictitious.


Notes: Saint Stephen of Muret           49

NOTES

1.  Vita Venerabiles Viri Stephani Muretensis, PL 204: 1065- 72. Also, Bee, Scriptores Ordinis Grandimontensis m in CC Continuatio Mediaevalis 8 (Turnhout, 1968) pp, 101-137

2.  Bee,'Les premiers ecrivains de l'Ordre de Grandmont', RMab 43 (1963) 121- 37.

3.  PL 204: 1048- 49.

4.  Lev, pp. 168- 72.

5.  Ibid., pp 166-67.

6.  PL 204: 1085-1136. Also, Bee; see above note 1.

7.  Dom Becquet gives a full account of Stephen's association with Archbishop Milon in BSAHL 86 (1957) 403-09. The dates of Milan's archiepiscopacyare given in Chalander: Histoire de la domination nor­ mande en Italie et en Sicilie2 (Paris: 1907). The chronicle referred to is in the Annales Beneventani in Monumenta Germaniae Historica 3, ed. G.H. Pertz (Hanover, 1839) p.181.

8.  Bee (see above, note 7)p. 406.

9.  Lev, pp,79-80.

10.  J. Mabillon, Acta Sanctorum OrdinisS Benedicti 9; pp. 34-5.

11. On the graeco-calabrian monks, see J. Gay, L'Italie Meridionale et L'Empire Byz.antin (Paris: 1904) pp, 254- 86 and 376- 86.

12.  RG Prologue:'   dicatis christianae primae ac principalis regulae

evangelii scilicet, quod omnium regularum fons est atque principium qualescumque vos observatores confiteri non erubescatis.'

13.  L. Delisle, 'Examende treize chartesde l'Ordre de Grandmont',

Memoires de la Societe'd'Antiquaires de Normandie' 20 (1854)172-73 and 88.

14.  There is an interesting discussion of the problem in J-B. Haureau, 'Sur quelques ecrivains de l'Ordre de Grandmont', Notices et extraits des manuscripts de la Bibliotheque Nationale 24 (1876) pp. 251- 52.

15.  Lev, p. 55.

16.  J. Mabillon, AA SS OSB 9: p.50; also Annales Ordinis S Benedicti 5 (Paris: 1713) pp 65,79.

17.  J-B. Haureau, Notices et extraits, 24, p. 260

18.  Lev, p. 57: 'Ordo Grandimontis est Ordo peculiaris, qui olim fuit Eremiticus postea Coenobiticus, nunc mixtus.'

19.  PereJ. Fouquet oMIand Frere Philippe-Etienne, Histoire de L'Ordre de Grandmont (Chambray: 1985)

20.  Bee, 'Grandmont, Ordre et Abbaye de', Dictionnaire d'histoire et gtographie eccMiastique (Paris 1986) col 1129.

21.Fouquet Philippe-Etienne (note 19), p. 121.


22.Vita Stephani, XXIV;and RG Prologue; ed. Bee, CC Continuatio Mediaevalis 8:pp117 and 65.

23.D. Seward,'The Grandmontines - A ForgottenOrder', Downside

Review 83 (1965) '157-64.

24.John Cassian. Conferences 1.8; tr. 0. Chadwick, Western Asceticism

(Philadelphia-London:1958) p. 200.

'15. RG ch. LN ed. Bee (note 22) p.92

26.   A. Grezillier, 'Vestiges Grandmontains' BSAHL 86 (1957) 421.

27.   Lev p. 80.

28.   R. Gratien, Histoire de la Fondation et de L'Evolution de L'Ordre de Fm-es Mineursau XIII Si cle (Paris: 1928) p. 55.

29.   RG chs. XXXVII and XXXVIII ed. Bee (note 22) p.86.

30.   Lev p. 80.

31.  Ibid p. 81.

32.    Liber Sententiarum, Epilogue ed. Bee (note 22) p. 62.


II

 

THE GROWTH OF GRANDMONT

1124-1171

 

 

 

 

 

OF STEPHEN OF MURET'S immediate successor, Pierre de Limoges(1124-37), we know only that he effec­ ted the transfer of the disciplesfrom Muret to a

similarwooded solitude at Grandmont as the directresult of the illnatured interference of the Benedictines of Am­ bazac. Professional jealousy seems the only possible rea­ sonwhy these monks should have asserted their rights to a fewhectares of inferior land which can have afforded them very little return. For the hermitsto plead their own claim tothe land on which the Seigneur de Rancon, Ameliusde Montcocu, had permitted them to settle was out of the question. The teaching of theMaster about litigation was precise and prevented them from putting forwardany plea whatever. The injunction: 'We firmly forbid you to dare to plead your case againstanyone or to enter into judgement in any way', which in due course found its way into Chapter XXIV of the Rule, establishes the grandmontine position. Thus, the brothers prepared for their departure, and a Mass of the Holy Spirit was celebrated to obtain guidance in decidingtheir destination. The Annals record that just as the Agnus Dei was intoned,a voice audibleto all who were present proclaimed 'To Grandmont'.

The stoney hillside of Grandmont is a beautiful spot about fifteen miles to the north of Limoges and only three

51


milesfrom Muret. Today a well-posted tourist route passes straight through the tiny village and winds upwards through breathtaking hill and lakeside scenery. Tourists, attracted to the region in summer by the excellent sporting and camping facilities, drive straight through the little hamlet which is apparently without interest. Few can be aware that the little square chapel which stands all alone in an open space beside the narrow roadway marks the site of a once great and famous abbey. When the church and conventual buildings were dismantled followingthe sup­ pression of the Order of Grandmont in1772, the major part of the fabric was carted away to Limoges to be used in building a house of correction. The devout villagers man­ aged, however, to obtain sufficient blocks of ashlar for the construction of the little memorial chapel of St John the Baptist, patron of hermits. Dedicated in 1825 by Dom Vergniaud, the last surviving grandmontine monk, it is cared for to this day by the Societe des Amis de St Sylvestre et de l' Abbaye de Grandmont, and remains an enduring monument to St Stephen and his Orderof hermit monks.

The hillsides below the village are green and fertile, but higher up little flourishes apart from heather and sturdy conifers. In the Middle Ages it must have seemed a savage and desolate spot indeed. While it is quite far to the south, the altitude, combined with the prevailing north winds, render it glacial in winter, and in summer the constant build-up of clouds over the surrounding summits subject the area to a greater than average rainfall. Around the year 1184, Gerard Ithier, seventh prior of Grandmont, wrote the following description:

Grandmont is stern and cold, infertile and rocky, misty and exposed to the winds. The water is colder and worse than in other places, for it produces sick­ ness instead of health. The mountain abounds in great stones for building, in streams and sand, but there is scarcely any timber for building. The land around the monastery scarcely ever suffices to providenecessi-


ties, for the soil is so infertile, sterile and barren. At the foot of the mountainthere are vines and fruit trees which bear well when they are not spoiled by cold and lack of sunshine; and also meadows, gardens and arable fields. The place which was chosen by God is a solitude for penitence and religion, and those who dwell there lead a hard life.1

Such was the destination of the advance group of brothers who set off from Muret. Having satisfied them­ selves that the rocky terrain was a suitablesite for their new foundation, they applied to the Seigneur Amelius de Montcocu who, ever generous, granted them as much land as they required for their purpose. As soon as a small oratory, together with some simple huts for dwellings, had been constructed, the remainder of the brethren removed from Muret, bearing the mortal remains of their saintly founder to be reinterred beneath the altar step in their new oratory.

We can only conjecture that life in those early years at Grandmont followed the customs initiated by Stephen himself. The regulation governing enclosure was strictly enforced, and permitted the brethren only minimal contact with outsiders when unavoidable. The horarium included the specified psalmody of the Church; in addition the Annals mention a particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin which these hermits practised with the daily recitation of the Little Office of the Virgin.2 The evidence for such a tradition having emerged within the Order of Grandmont at this early date is however, somewhat tenuous, for no particular marian devotion can be attributed to the founder himself. Only once is the Blessed Virgin even mentioned in the Liber Sententiarum and then she is only given as the supreme example of a sinner saved and graced by God.3 A peculiarly grandmontine cult of the faithful departed al­ most certainly dates from this time, and took the form of thrice dailyprocessions to the cemetery where the Office of theDead was recited.Meals were taken in common,


accompanied by reading, and there were alsoregular chap­ ter sessions. The general regulations for life in community which eventually became incorporated into the Rule must have been based on the customs of these early years. In particular, this document places great emphasis on the obedience and respect due, not just to the pastor, but mutually between brothers. This injunction which is also included in the Rule of St Benedict,4 is considerably ex­ panded upon in the Rule of Grandmont. This has no less than threechapters which treat of obedience in general and a fourth specifically concerned with mutual obedience. Such similarities betweenearly grandmontine customs and those of the Benedictines indicate that, while the disci­ ples of Stephen continued to regard themselves as hermits, and their living arrangements still resembled a simple her­ mit colony, they represented, in fact the embryo of an organisation, which was coenobitic in character and would develop in the second quarter of the twelfth century to reach full maturityin the third. While it is not possible to be absolutely precise as to the chronology of these stages of growth, the principle milestone is the actual appearance of a written Rule under the fourth prior, Etienne de Liciac (1139-63). A second landmark is the Custumal, which sup­ plemented the Rule, and was formulated under the fifth prior, Bernard Boschiac (1163-70).

Early in their history, the community at Grandmont encountered a problemfamiliar to monasticcommunities throughout the ages: a constant and distracting influx of visitors. It is remarkable how solitaries have always at­ tracted crowds,the genuinely pious along with the merely curious; no desert is so remote but they will seek it out, and Grandmont proved to be no exception. According to the Annals, the disturbances commencedwith a local gentle­ man, Raymond de Plantadis, who was suffering what appears to have been the typical paralysis consistent with a stroke. He was carried to Grandmont and into the oratory, where 'he happened to touch the altar step', whereupon


he made an instant and complete recovery.'Assuredly,' he said, 'the body of a saint lies buried here.'5 Once news of this miracle was noised abroad, the public descended on Grandmont with a vengeance and reports of cures began to multiply. Eventually the brethren, driven almost to distrac­ tion by the constant and unrelenting invasion of their privacy, threatened to cast the body of their saintlyfounder into the river. So drastic and irrevocable an action was happily averted when Prior Pierre led the community in prayers, beseeching Stephen to call a halt to these miracles. Their prayers were granted and, for a while at any rate, peace was restored to Grandmont.

Stephen of Muret himself has always been regarded as

first prior of the Order of Grandmont so when Prior Pierre died in 1137, his nephew, Pierre de Saint-Christophe, be­ came the third prior. His term of office proved remarkably short as he died the following year. With the election of the fourth prior, Etienne de Liciac, in1139, the Order of Grand­ mont passes from the realms of legend into history. De Liciac proved to be a man of great authority and feverish activity. His first major act upon election was to call the General Chapter which formulated the Rule of Grand­ mont. That the communities at Grandmont and elsewhere had survived so long without any attempt at coherent regulation says a great deal for the inspiring leadership of the first Fathers. Nevertheless, the haphazard arrange­ ments for daily living which would have sufficed for the original little band of hermits at Muret must have proved strikingly inadequate for the rapidly increasing community at Grandmont. Furthermore, fifteen years after his death, the charisma exerted by Stephen himself must have been declining as those disciples who had known him person­ ally became increasingly few while newly-arrived brothers would not have experienced anything of his influence and leadership except at second-hand.

The Rule, wh n it did emerge, proved to be a master­ piece of spiritual aims and objectives centered around the


fundamental principles of poverty and solitude, but it con­ tains little in the way of practical legislation. Thus it was ultimately successful in perpetuating the spiritual ideals of the Founder which would continue toinspire the Order for generations, but it did not provide anything like the far­ sighted guidance which distinguishes the Rule of St Bene­ dict and which, from the very start, ensured the efficient management of his Order. While St Benedict's Rule com­ bines firmness with sufficient flexibility to deal with devel­ opments and altered circumstances, that of Grandmont is both rigid and uncompromising. In fact, it constitutes little more than a formalembodiment of the Liber Sententiarum, the thoughts and teaching of Stephen.

Prior Liciac was not the only religious superior faced with the problemof legislating for a group of hermit monks whose numbers were growing rapidly. Severalleaders of eleventh-century groups of reformed religious had proved as near-sighted as Stephenin their failure to provide practi­ cal directions, so that the responsibility fell heavily on the second generation. The communities of Artige, Dalon, Aureil,and Obazine provide just a few of the numerous examples occurring at this time. The task of reconciling primitive eremitical ideals with a life evolving more and more along coenobitic lines must have placed an intoler­ able burden on these superiors. Their inadequacy is appar­ ent in the numerous communities which were forced to abandon theirautonomy and become daughter houses of Oteaux or, alternatively, canonsregular. That the Grand­ montines succeeded where others failed is all the more remarkable, given the singularintransigence which would not permit them to depart from their primitiveideals how­ ever impracticable they might be. A clear illustration of this can be found in their unswerving resolution to retain the unusual authority vested in the lay brethren. Before the century was out, this resulted in a crisis which almost brought an end to the entire institution. As long as Prior Liciac was in command, however,his own authority, de-


termination, and strength of character proved sufficient to balance the deficiencies in the Rule, which received the approval of Pope Adrian IV on 25 March1156.

At the same time as the General Chapter convened by Prior Liciac was deliberating the nature and content of the Rule, the building of the priory church of Grandmont was going forward. Little information exists concerning this second church which replaced the original simpleoratory and eventually gave place to Grandmont m in the eigh­ teenth century. The description in the Annals, by a sixteenth-century monk, Pardoux de la Garde, has been shown to be inaccurate on several counts.6 Written in1591, it postdatesthe considerable rebuilding and modifications rendered necessary by damage sustained in the course of the Hundred Years'War and the Wars of Religion, when, on several occasions, the entire locality was devastated and Grandmont subjected to bombardment.

It was during Prior Liciac's term of office that the Order

began to benefit from the patronage of King Henry II of England. His mother, Matilda,had already shown consid­ erable interest in the Grandmontines when she arrived in France in 1128 to marry Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, but Henry's own interest probably dates from the time of his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry's admiration for the brothers of Grandmont is revealed in a story in the Annals for the year 1127,which describes his miraculous escape from disaster at sea. On one of his frequent Channel crossings a terrible storm raged and all aboard feared greatly for their lives. Henrycalmly asked the captain the time and on hearing that it was midnight precisely, replied:

Let us proceedcourageously, for the Grandmontine brothers in whose prayerswe trust have risen at mid­ night and are praying for usat Matins. It is impossible for us to perish while the brethren are watching and praying for us.7

The tempest instantly abated. Unfortunately, this de­ lightful little tale proves to be something of a monastic


chestnut, for Professor Margaret Deanesly recountsan identical incident with a Carthusian bias:

Thenthe King himselfat length broke forth with these words, 'O', he said, 'if that little Carthusian of mine, Hugo, were now pouringforth his privateprayers, or if he were standing with his brethren, newly risen from their beds, and saying the night office, surely God would not have forgotten me for so long'. Then he called upon God to have pity on him through Hugo's prayers and merits: and without delay the clash of the tempest and the whirling of the wind subsided,the floods fell, a gentlebreeze returned, all thanked the divine mercy, and the King in future held Hugo in the greatest veneration.8

Thanks to the generousgifts of Henry II and other bene­ factors, by 1166 the church was sufficiently advanced to permit consecration. It was dedicated, as were almost all subsequent grandmontine churches, to the Blessed Virgin. This custom of the Grandmontines eliminated the need for additional Lady chapels in their churches, but it was not confined to them; the Cistercians have always maintained the same tradition of dedicating their churches to the Vir­ gin. St Michel de Lodeve represents one of the few grand­ montine exceptions to this rule. There are two splendid prehistoric dolmens near the site and legend has it that because the monastery was builton land once associated with pagan rites, a more forcefulguardian was needed to repel any lingering forces of evil. Who better than the warrior archangel who vanquished Satan himself?

Pierre, Archbishop of Bourges, presided at the ceremony of consecration, assisted by the bishops of Limoges, An­ gouleme, Cahors,and Seez. Numerous other dignitaries, both ecclesiastical and lay, were also present, but regretta­ bly two of the most outstanding characters in the early history of the Order were unable to witness this momen­ tous event. Prior Etienne de Liciac had died in 1163, pre­ ceded by the capable lay brother Hugues Lacerta in 1157.


Under the direction of Pierre Bernard Boschiac (1163- 1170) and Guillaume de Treignac (1170-1189), the fifth and sixth priors, work on the church continued. In 1170, Henry

II became seriously ill at his castle of Motte de Ger in Normandy. Benedict of Peterborough records that he gave instructions that his body should be conveyed to Grand­ mont for burialat the feet of the holy Father Stephen.His counsellors protested vehemently that his entombment in the church of a minor religious order, whose mother house wasnot even classedas an abbey, was beneaththe dignity of his kingdom.9 Henry recoveredand was eventually laid to rest at Fontevrault, a house of aristocratic nuns of impec­ cable reputation. That he was not, after all, interred at Grandmont was most probably attributable to the fact that, by the time of his death in1189, the reputation of the order of Grandmont had suffered considerably as the result of a violent internal dispute. Yet in deciding to be buried at Grandmont, Henry conferred a great mark of favour on the Order. Nevertheless, as E.M. Hallam has pointed out, the Grandmontines in their turn were honouring the king. Gerald of Wales reveals that they would bury no one in their houses except their patrons, which indicates that Henry had been especially generous towards them.10

Henry 11's attitude towards monks in general and the Grandmontinesin particular is discussed by W.L. Warren who says:

Though he joked with Walter Map about the Cister­ cians there is little sign that he shared the genuine hostility that lay behind much of the secular clergy's ridicule of their righteousness ... Henry IIhad a deep regard for holy men, and his personal attachment to the austere Grandmontians seems to confirm it.11

That the king demonstrated exceptional generosity towards the brethren of Grandmont, supplying both money and materials for the completion of the church, is substantiated by the events of 1170, the year of Archbishop Thomas Becket's murder. When news of the crime reached


Grandmont, work on the church was suspended and the king's workmen dismissed. Prior Pierre Boschiac re­ putedly wrote the king a stinging reprimand containing the comment: 'the gold of your crown is tarnished and the roses which adorned it have fallen'. The disillusioned prior retired from office soon after addressing thisletter, but his successor Guillaume deTreignac is supposed to have sup­ plemented his rebukes with others equally caustic, con­ cluding with the words: 'we cannot be a party to your evil deeds'.12

In1172, Henry n was publicly absolved at Avranches for his part in the murder, having d clared on oath that he neither ordered nor desired the Archbishop's death al­ though he admitted that his rash words might have been responsible for it. He was duly restored to full communion with the Church and work was resumed at Grandmont. In 1176, Henry had two shiploads of lead mined near Carlisle dispatched from Newcastle to France. On arrival at La Rochelle, the cargo was loaded into eight hundred carts, each harnessed to eight englishhorses who drew the loads to Grandmont. This seemingly exaggerated account has been verified by Rose Graham who traced two entries in the Great Roll of the Pipe for the years1175-76. Henry paid

£40 for the lead and a further£12 9s 4d for the hire of the

ships.13 The following year, the king was at Grandmont in person for a business meeting with the Count of La Marche. He returned in June 1182 with his son Geoffrey while a General Chapterof the Order was in progress. The chronicler Geoffrey de Vigeois tells us that on this occasion both father and son ate in the refectory with the brethren who had assembled from the various cells for the meet­ ing.14 This would have constituted a singular honour, for Walter Map records that the Grandmontines only permit­ ted entry to their houses to 'religious and occasionally such exalted persons whose approach cannot be properly de­ nied by reason of the reverence due to them'.15

A short while after this event, the brethren of Grand­ mont became far lesshappily involved in the affairs of the


Plantagenets. In the summer of 1183, Henry's eldest son, the young King Henry, led an uprising against his father and to help pay his mercenaries, he plundered the church of Grandmont, removing all valuables including a sacra­ mental pyx in the form of a golden dove which his father had presented to the monks. Having also robbed the shrine of St Martial at Limoges,he managed to flee the city which his father was besieging. His progress southwards was an orgy of sacking and pillage; churches and sacred shrines were mercilessly laid waste. These crimes did not go un­ punished for long, for while the king was still besieging Limoges, young Henry fell ill with dysentery and died on the 11 June at Martel in the Perigord. It was a monk from Grandmont who actually broke the news to the king, who was sheltering in a peasant's house outside the city. Prior Guillaume de Treignac prepared to receive the prince's body for burial, but was opposed by Bishop Sebrand­ Chabot of Limoges on the grounds that the deceased was an excommunicate, guilty of numerous acts of sacrilege. When eventually the king personally undertook to restore the items stolen by his son, the bishop relented and a requiem for the prince was sanctioned. His brain, eyes, and entrails were removed and interred in the part of the grandmontine cemetery which was always referred to as 'Angleterre', while the corpse was removed first to Le Mans and subsequently to Rouen where it was interred in the cathedral choir. When Henry II himself died in1189, the Grandmontines received the sum of £2000stipulated in his will, drawn up in1182 at Waltham.16

Theextent of the interesttaken by Henry II and later his sonRichard I in the Order of Grandmont cannot be estab­ lished with any degreeof certitude, owing to the stringent ruling of the Order which prohibited the brethren from holding title deeds to property. The relaxation of this de­ cree in the thirteenth century only served to add to the confusion, when numerous charters began to appear, many of which have been found to be forgeries. Some cells


claimed royal foundation in order to acquire additional privileges, while others inventedPlantagenet foundation or connections in order to gain protection from the French crown.17

Bythe time of PriorPierre Bernard Boschiac's retirement in 1171, the Order was reaching its point of maximum expansion and the 'Bonshommes' had become celebrated far beyond the limits of Aquitaine for their spirit of auster­ ity and detachment. The duchy of Aquitaine occupied the large southern region of France which, following Henry n's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, had become part of the vast assemblage of Plantagenet lands. It incorpo­ rated the counties of Poitou and Angouleme as well as the province of the Limousin where the initial grandmontine expansion had been concentrated. In the 1170s, the terri­ tory ruled by the Capetian King Louis VII was contrastingly small, confinedto the Ile de France,the area immediately around Paris. It was bordered by the duchy of Normandy to the west, Flanders, to the north, the county of Cham­ pagne and duchy of Burgundyto the east and Aquitaineto the south. Thus, the twelfth-century cells fell into two distinct categories, those sited within the domains of the Plantagenet kings and the others within the territory of the Capetians. The brethren themselves were hence divided into two national groups, 'Fratres Anglici' and 'Fratres Gallici'.

KingLouis VII (1137-1180) and his son Philip II Augustus (1165-1223) both patronised the Grandmontines, and at the time of the latter's death, around thirty cells had been founded within his kingdom. By far the most important was Bois de Vincennesnear Paris which owed its founda­ tion in 1158 or 59 directly to Louis VII. It didnot, however, receive a charter until1164, the year following Prior Etienne de Liciac'sdeath when the strict ruling against the posses­ sion of charters may have been slightlyrelaxed. Capetian foundations were quick to follow: Notre Dame de Louye near Dourdan (Essonne) and La Coudre (Loiret), both


owed their foundation in the early 1160s directly to Louis

VII. Among the neighbouring foundations known to have been made at more or less the same time are: Meynel (Seine & Oise) founded in 1169 by Bouchard de Mont­ morency; and Raroi (Seine& Marne) by Simon, Vicomtede Meaux, in1170.

Henry II was somewhat less influential than Louis VII, for although the mother house itself gained significantly asthe result of his marriage to his rival's ex-wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, when the lordshipof la Marche came under his control, the daughter cells with which he is associated appear to have been for the most part seigneurial rather than royal foundations. That is to say they owed their foundation to the generosity of local lords and other high ranking personages like the Lord Amelius de Montcocu who granted the monks land on which to build the mother house. Just three cells can possibly claim to have been founded directly by Henry II: Notre Dame du Pare les Rouen, 1156 or1157; Bercey, (Sarthe) circa 1168; Bois Rahier, (Indre & Loire), which cannot be dated more precisely than between 1157 and 1172. Villiers, (Indre & Loire), 1172, and La Hayed'Angers (Maine & Loire) have also been attrib­ uted to Henry n but the evidencein these last two casesis exceedingly tenuous.18

Hugues Lacerta, the knight turned lay brother, may have been indirectly responsible for the patronage be­ stowed on the Grandmontines by both the Capetian and Plantagenet monarchies. From time to time, Hugues was visited at the cell of la Plaine, in the Dordogne, by Geoffrey de Loroux, a former scholar of Angers who was Arch­ bishop of Bordeaux from 1136 until his death in 1158. Throughout his term of office, he proved to be a friend to individual hermits as well as a supporter of the new orders and of ecclesiastical reform in general. He is said to have received his archbishopric as a reward for helping St Ber­ nard of Clairvaux preach against the schism of the antipope Anacletus, and he is mentioned in the Annals as having


vouched for the loyalty of the Grandmontines to the lawfully-elected pope InnocentII.19 The admiration which Geoffrey professed for the Order of Grandmont may well have influenced his former pupil Eleanor of Aquitaine. Following her marriage to Louis VII in 1137, Geoffrey re­ ceived considerable favoursfrom the french crown for his houses of canons in Poitou. Eleanor's subsequent marriage to Henry IIin 1152 was followed, as we have seen, by the king's not inconsiderable interest in the Order and his assistance with the building of thechurch at Grandmont. His connection with the mother house continued intermit­ tently until his death in 1189. Indeed, one of his final actions was to petition Clementm to declare Stephen asaint.

Regrettably, the final years of the reign of King Henry II also ended the golden age of Grandmont. Following the priorate of Pierre Bernard Boschiac, the Order began to sink into a declinefrom which it never fully recovered. This was occasioned by a series of unfortunate incidents which not only provoked disharmony and discord among the brethren of Grandmont but impeded the welfare of the Order in general for several decades.


NOTES

1.   Gerard Ithier, Speculum Grandimontis; J-B. Haureau, 'Sur quelques ecrivains de l'Ordre de Grandmont'. Notices et Extraits des Manuscripts de la Bibliotheque Nationale vol. 24 (1876) p. 255.

2.   Lev, p. 64.

3.   Uber Sententiarum 97:2; Bee SOG, p. 47.

4.   RB 71. Chapters r- III of the RG treat of obedience in general, while chapter 59 exhorts mutual obedience between brethren.

5.   Lev, p. 100

6.    J-R Gaborit, L'Architecture de L'Ordre de Grandmont vol 1 (Un­ published thesis, Ecole de Chartes: Paris: 1963).

7.   Lev, p. 112: 'Eamus audacter quia fratres Grandimontenses in quorum orationibus confidimus, media nocte ad orandum pro nobis surrexerunt ad matinas,et nullomodo possumosperire, ipsis fratribus vigilantibus et pro nobis orantibus.'

8.     Margaret Deanesly, History of the Medieval Church (London: Meth­ uen, 1925) p. 126. Unfortunately Deanesly does not tell us from what source she is quoting.

9.    Gesta Henrici Secundi 1, 7; ed.W. Stubbs (London: Rolls Series, 1867).

10.   Elizabeth M. Hallam, 'Henry 11, Richard rand the Orderof Grand- mont', Journal of Medieval History (1975) 168- 69.

10. W.L. Warren, Henry II (London: Eyre Methuen, 1973) p. 12.

12.  PL 204: 1168- 69.

13.   Pipe Rolls 22 Henry II, (London: Pipe Roll Society, 1904) pp.137, 141, cited by Rose Graham, English Ecclesiastical Studies (London: SPCK, 1929) p. 217. Forthe extent of Henry n's involvement in lead mining in the north of England and details of shipments sent to France, see A.L. Poole, Oxford History of England, 3 (Oxford: 1951) pp. 82- 3.

14.   'Chronica Gaufredi Coenobitae Monasterii S Martialis Lemovicen­ sis ac Prioris Vosciensis coenobii'; P. Labbe, Nova Bibliotheca Manuscrip­ torum 2 (Paris: 1657).

15.   Walter Map, De nugis curialium 1: xxvi; M.R. James, Anecdota Oxo­ niensia, Medieval and ModernSeries part 14 (Oxford: 1914) pp. 54- 55.

16.   Receuil des Actes de Henri II, Roid'Angleterre et due de Normandie con­ cernant /es provinces franfaises et /es affaires de France; L. Delisle and E. Berger 2 (Paris:1920) p. 220.

17.   Elizabeth M. Hallam, pp. 165- 86, has made a thorough study of this question; see above note10.

18.   Ibid., p. 175.

19.   Lev, pp. 101- 2.


III

 

 

THE YEARS OF CRISIS

1171-1228

 

 

 

 

 

GUILLAUME DE TREIGNAC was elected in 1171, the sixth prior of a flourishing and highly respected religious order. On 18 October 1188, he died in

Italy, deposed and driven from Grandmont by a usurper. Echoes of the dispute which broke out at Grandmont in 1185 reverberated well into the thirteenth century and shook the Christian world to the core. The cause lay in a fundamental malaise; the inadequate legislation provided by the Rule especially with regard to the functions of the deres and convers: Other factors may have contributed. Hugues Lacerta, for example, may have discerned an ini­ tial sign of weakness as early as 1157, when he expressed his disquiet about the too rapid growth in numbers. Again, prosperity can in itself herald disaster, a consideration which receives some treatment in contemporary sources. Walter Map, for example, that vociferous twelfth-century critic of monks in general and the Cistercians in particular, is normally somewhat uncharacteristically appreciative of the Grandmontines but he did give a clear indication of the troubles that lay ahead. In the course of his travels with the entourageof King Henry n, Map visited various cells and

67


68                   The Hennit Monks of Grandmont

madeseveral favourable comments, but following a stay in Limoges in 1173 he wrote:

Our King is so greatly generous towards them that they lack nothing. They give alms toall comers but admit no one save it be a bishop or a prince. I am rather afraid of what may come, for now they are present at councils and handle the business of kings.1

The crisis when it broke had two distinct aspects, disci- plinary and political, to which may be added the economic consequences of so much disruption. The costs incurred by constant appeals to the roman curia were alone sufficient to bring the Order close to the verge of ruin.

Thepolitical nature of the dispute became obvious when King Philip II Augustus involved himself in an attempt to settle the alarming state of affairs which was apparent in cells within his domain. Bois de Vincennes near Paris rivalled Grandmont itself and was the chief cell of the Fratres Gallici, so when the king took the initiative and called a general council of the Order there in 1187, he was effectively overriding the authority of the mother house and asserting his influence within Angevin territory.

While the crisis eventually developed something of an international character, fundamentally it amounted to little more than a domestic squabble over what the choir monks considered to be the excessive authority wielded by their colleagues, the lay brothers. As such, it was a mere disci­ plinary dispute. It is always a temptation to equate the disturbances that disruptedthe Order of Grandmont with the seriesof similar incidents whichaffected other religious orders, especially the notorious revoltof the gilbertine lay brethren in 1166. Thus the behaviour of the grandmontine lay brothers is mistakenly assumed to be part and parcel of a tendencytowards lay brotherhood uprisings which trou­ bled monasteries in general at this period. The series of revolts suffered by theCistercian Order in the thirteenth century were provoked, however, by circumstances which were in striking contrast to those which prevailed in the


Orderof Grandmont. At Grandmont the lay brothers had evolved as the mastersand consequently the choir monks resented them; with the Gilbertines and Cistercians, it was the lay brothers who rose against their masters, the choir monks. The resentment, which expressed itself in the vio­ lent uprisings of groups of cistercian lay brothers, can be attributed to the social transformation taking place in Europe in the course of the thirteenth century. Within most religious orders, the lay brethren were quite simply the monastic equivalent of ordinary labourers or serfs who were beginning to demandnew freedoms in the thirteenth century, as serfdom was gradually disappearing from western Europe and peasants were becoming free rent paying tenants. Thus poverty and uncertainty no longer served as major incentives to join lay brotherhoods. Dom Louis Lekai has attributed the decline of lay brothervoca­ tions within the Cistercian Order to the improvement in social conditions generally. The consequent problem of recruitment led in turn to a lowering of admission stan­ dards, while the necessity of providing material benefits in order to entice recruits led to increased worldliness within the cistercian granges and consequently insubordination and breakdown of discipline.2

Thestatus afforded the grandmontine lay brethren was, however, without precedent in the Cistercian or any other religious Order. Before proceeding to the unfortunate con­ sequences of that policy we need to consider it in some detail. When the Grandmontines were founded, both the orders of Vallombrosa and Camaldoli had already intro­ duced lay brothers to perform domestictasks as well as to dealwith minor aspectsof external administration which involved contact with lay persons. Thus the choir monks were left completely free to devote themselves to their spiritual duties. This practice was in due course adopted by the later eleventh century groups of reformed religious, notably the Cistercians, Premonstratensians, and English Gilbertines. Within these orders, however, the supreme


administration of the monastery remained firmly and con­ clusively in the hands of officials elected from the ranks of the choir monks. The notion of instituting a class of worker monk to be looselyresponsible for temporalities was not, therefore, peculiar to the Grandmontines. That, having adopted the system, they carried it to extremesby entrust­ ing total responsibility for all administrative and financial matters to the lay brethren was exceptional to say theleast. As we have seen, Stephen's original followers resembled numerous other hermit groups which arose in the eleventh century. There was no distinction betweenthese religious other than their occupations; the more capable being en­ trusted with the more responsible tasks. That the recitation of the offices required a degree of literacy was the only factor which originally distinguished clercs from convers. This was certainly the case among the early hermits who were led by Robert d' Arbrissel at Fontevrault.3 Eventually, when several of these groups were forced to surrender their independence and to amalgamate with the 'estab­ lished' monastic and canonical organisations, the clercs became monks or canons whilst the convers joined the ranks of the lay brothers or associates and became, quite dearly, subordinate religious entrusted with domestic or agricultural duties under the supervision of a choir monk official. At the Grande Chartreuse shortly after its founda­ tion, the Carthusians provided for the accommodation of their lay brothers in the 'lower house'where, in the charge of a choir monk 'procurator', they catered for the needs of the 'upper house' as well as discharging the obligation of dispensing hospitality to guests. The Premontstratensians instituted a similar establishment known as the domus con­ versorum or, familiarly, the cour.

At Grandmont, such denigration of the lay brethren was

never even considered. It was as though the compilers of the Rule desired to safeguard the legal equality of the two categories of religious, andat the same time afford the clercs total seclusion and freedom from worldly cares.They


therefore awarded the eonvers exclusive authority over everything which concerned administration, work, and dealings with outsiders. Outlining the sphere of respon­ sibility of the deres, the Rule of Grandmont states:

The better part which the Lord praised so highly in Mary, we impose upon the deres alone, so that freed from all temporalcares they may be able to say in all truthfulness: 'The Lord is the portion of my inheri­ tance' (Ps 118: 57) and again: 'It is not reasonable we shouldleave the work of God and serve tables.' (Acts 6:2). Besides, vowed exclusively todivine praises and contemplation, they will be the servers of spiritual realities both to themselves as well as to the other brethren who confess their sins to them.4

This instruction is not dissimilar from those found in other texts governing the religious life; it is the following injunction allocating the eonvers a truly exceptional degree of authority, that represents the striking departure from the norm:

In order that conversations with outsiders and care for exterior things shall not hinder the Divine Office, in order that their souls should not forget the sweetness of interior satisfaction (which St Gregory deplored should happen to him) for these reasons we entrust the temporal care of the monastery to the convers alone; in matters worldly and all other business, they are to command the other brethren, both deres and convers, not in a domineering way but in all charity, conserving intact that humility which is the guardian of all virtues. Was not the Creatorof all things himself obedient to his creatures Mary and Joseph, as it says in the Gospel:'and he was subjectto them'. (Lk 2:51.)5

Needless to say, the success of this idealistic piece of legislation was almost entirely dependent on the goodwill of the eonvers who were merely exhorted to wield their authority in a spiritof humility. For their part, the deres


presumably regarded a certain subjection in matters tem­ poral small price to pay for the spiritual advantages. It left them at liberty to follow the contemplative life of Mary in the same way as the Carthusians, while the convers took upon themselves the role and consequent cares of Martha. As regards superiors, both the Rule and the Custumal make it clear that the Prior of Grandmont was overall general superior. Referredto as the 'Pastor', he it was to whom all major problems and serious disciplinary ques­ tions were to be referred. This, incidentally, must have involved a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing betweenthe mother house and the dependent cells. It accounts for the lengthy discussion in the Rule which treats of the un­ desirability of brothers leaving the solitude of their cells to travel around the countryside, but at the same time, ac­ cepting the necessity for such absences. It probably also explains the brothers' reluctance to take on foundations at too great a distance from the mother house, and certainly not for a long time to cross the English Channel; the three english houses came into being comparatively late in the history of the Order.The prior himselfwas required to makea vow of stability upon election to office, which meant that he was bound to reside permanently at Grand­

mont.

Both the Rule and the Custumal, when it appeared in 1171or 72, make incidental mentionof officials who became known as curiosi and who had charge of the separate cells (curae cellae). They were responsible for the distribution of clothing and necessities. They were charged with deter­ mining the common diet and were also responsible for the care of the sick. It was the curiosus who occupied the senior place in each of the cells and from the nature of the duties entrusted to him, we may conclude that the position was held by a conver. It was not until 1216, following the first crisis, that we hear of a spiritual director, a corrector being appointed in each cell. The lengthy exhortation to practise mutual obedience which occupies chapter fifty-nine of the


Rule seems to suggest that apart from the curiosus, grand­ montine cells before this date had no superiors in the conventional sense at all. Novices were trained at the mother house, and only following profession would each brother be assigned to a daughter cell in accordance with the wishes of thepastor. Thus the early grandmontine cells appear to have taken the form of communities of mutually obedient religious, with the convers outnumbering the clercs at a ratio of three to one,6 under the management of a curiosus but directly responsible to the pastor at Grand­ mont.

What could have been the reasons which led Prior Etienne de Liciac and his colleagues to the unprecedented legislation which subjected the clercs to the convers and which in due course caused the latter group so to abuse the authority vested in them? In the first instance, we have the example set by thefounder himself when he entrusted the day to day management of affairs to his close disciple, Hugues Lacerta. Dom Becquet has found a further motive in the systematic way in which the authors of the Rule sought to resolve the problem of the two classes of reli­ gious. They could not, for practical reasons, attain the absolute ideal of permitting all the religious without excep­ tion to follow the contemplative life, but neither did they wish to institute the rigid division between choir and lay brothers which existed in other orders. Their resolution had, therefore, the practical effect of subordinating the clercs to the convers, a decision which they justified by reference to the scriptural precedent of Christ subjecting himself to his parents and which is alluded to in the Rule of Grandmont.7 Thus the notion of 'Martha and Mary', which first finds utterance in the promulgations of St Au­ gustine, and is developed more fully by John Cassian in his conferences, became a firm institution under the Grand­ montines. It is interesting to note that St Dominic in the regularisation of his Order of Preachersin 1216, was to entertain a similar idea. He was dissuaded becauseat


that precise moment troubles manifesting themselves at Grandmont as the direct result of the arrangement were givingPope Honorius mand his curia considerable prob­ lems.8

The Initial Crisis

The unmitigated quarrelling which broke out during the priorate of Guillaumede Treignac was the end-product of pent-up resentments which had been smouldering for some time within the ranks of clercs and convers alike. Jacques de Vitry, Bishop of Acre (d.1240) summed up both sides of the argument: The clercs, he comments, think that they ought to be over the convers in all things as in other Orders where the capitals are put on top of the columns and not on the bases. The convers, for their part, insist that church services should be arranged to fit in with their occupations, while the clercs should be content to take their ease in the cloister whilst they toil in the heat of the day. They read nowhere that Mary complained about Martha.9 These observations were written in the early part of the thirteenth century, by which time the troubleshad entered a secondary phase. Guiot de Provins gives a somewhat earlier eyewitness account. As an ex-troubadour he had been in the Holy Land for the third crusade. When he returned to France, ageing and penniless, he decided to end his days as a monk. He toured various monasteries sizing up the advantages and disadvantages of each, be­ fore finally opting for Ouny. His wanderings and experi­ ences supplied the material for his 'Bible Guiot', a satirical poem criticising the various classes of society. Completed around 1206, the section on the monks provides a curiously lucid insight into the problems occurring at Grandmont. He began by praisingthe performance of the liturgyand the charity of the brethren who are exceptionally generous in affording food and alms to all comers. He was highly appreciative of the standard of the food served in the refectory which is greatlyimproved by the addition of


garlicand spicy sauces, awelcome change from the monot­ onous fare served up at Cluny! What deterred him from making his home permanently with the Grandmontines was, however, the behaviour of the convers. The clercs, he wrote, dared not commenceany service in church before the convers gave the word and, if they did, they could expectsevere beatings by way of reprisal:

Theconvers are lords and masters there, I should be frightened if they were my lords. I am frightened when I see them. Rome permits this, and why? Be­ cause the converspossess gold and silver. Clercsand priest are subject to them. . .. There the carts go be­ fore the oxen.10

Despite any undercurrent of unrest, the priorate of Guillaume de Treignac began peaceably enough. He has been described by various authors as pious, orderly, and efficient. Between the years 1174-1185, he worked ardu­ ously to consolidate the fame and reputation of the Order. He was an avid collector of relics and the monastery be­ came, as a result, an attractive secondary destination and halt for pilgrims on their way to Compostella, Rocam­ adour, and other celebrated shrines. The site of Grand­ mont itself was lonely and isolated, but the main pilgrim route from the east passed through the little hamlet of St Leonard, just a few miles away. Prior Guillaume's most outstanding success occurred when he managed to obtain the approval of the Custumal from Pope Alexander III in 1171 or 1172, as well as an officialapprobation of the Order from Pope Lucius III in 1182. Unfortunately his positive achievements were all too soon outweighed by his failure to govern with the tact and firmness which might have averted the impending conflict.

Hostilities were initially concerned with trivialities-the convers refusing to supply the clercs with such necessities as items of clothing. Some of the incidents which were re­ ported are not without humour, as when the clercs com­ plained because the convers had apparently taken it upon


themselves to organise church services. The convers re­ sponded by hiding vestments and altar utensils so that services were constantly being delayed or disrupted. The report that they deliberately supplied the officiating priest with vestments of the wrong liturgical colour so that he would be obliged to celebrate a Mass of the Virgin in black or a requiem in white,11 is, however, exceedingly unlikely. In the first place, it was an odd but usual custom in the twelfth century to celebrate festivals of the Blessed Virgin in black vestments anyway. It was not until the pontificate of Innocent m (1198-1216) that even an outline of a roman rule governing liturgical colours was defined and a general rule was not formally imposed before the reformed missal of Pius v appearedin1570.12 If the convers were workingin the fields, they would delay ringing the bell for Compline until nightfall. In vain did the poor clercs vainly invoke the dignity of their priestly office and the importance of keep­ ing regular hours. A more serious complaint asserted that the convers were keeping their business transactions secret and refusing to render accounts in chapter in the custom­ ary way.

At Grandmont events took a violent tum when the convers barricaded Prior Guillaume in his room, declared him deposed and elected Etienne, a clerc from the cell of Bois de Vincennes, in his place. When news of this insub­ ordination reached Rome, Pope Urban m responded with the first of a long series of papal bulls attempting to put matters to rights. Dated 15 July 1186, it confirmed the overall authority of the prior of Grandmont in both spiri­ tual and temporal affairs. It confided responsibility for all practical management to the most able of the convers in each cell, but at the same time made it clear that decisions regarding spiritual matters were to be made by the clercs alone. In addition, it ruled that no conver had the right to preside over the daily chapter of faults and mete out pun­ ishments and that the management of the church and the conduct of divine worship should be the responsibility of


the clercs. In conclusion, the pope re-approved the Rule and Constitutions and granted the Order exemption from episcopal control.13 The bull had little effect, and shortly after its arrival the convers invoked the final chapter of the Rule, which gives the brethren the right to depose aprior if he is considered by the majority to be unfit for office. Guillaume de Treignac was once again replaced by Etienne de Vincennes, despite the fact that the majorityof the clercs regarded this election as scandalous. Two hundred of them, together with thirteen faithful convers, are said to have accompanied the prior into exile and sought refuge in the houses of other religious orders, mainly the Cister­ cians. The most celebrated refugee from Grandmont was a certain William who was received into the cistercian abbey of Pontigny, where he was in due course elected prior. He concluded his career as Archbishop of Bourges and was eventually canonised St William of Bourges.

There followed the secular intervention of Philip Au­ gustus, who summoned both clercs and convers representa­ tives to a convention at Bois de Vincennes. Chief among the delegates who sought reconciliation was Brother Ber­ nard de la Coudre, a wise and saintly monk who had made a name for himselfoutside the Order as an advisor to popes and kings. In 1166, Pope Alexander III had deputed him along with a Carthusian, Simon du Mont Dieu, to attempt a reconciliation between Henry n and the ill-fated Arch­ bishop Thomas Becket. This particular mission proved a failure. Philip Augustus, for his part, evidently placed great trust in Brother Bernard and, before departing for the crusade in1190, appointed him advisor to his joint regents, the queen and the archbishop of Rheims for all ecclesiasti­ cal appointments.

It was most likely in December of the year 1187 that the meeting at Vincennes took place. Eighteen resolutions were in due course approvedand submitted to the General Chapter at Grandmont as well as to the roman curia. The resolutions do little more than clarifythe vague directives


givenin the Rule but as they summarise the main abuses and disagreements which were provoking the discord, it is worth giving them in full:

1.     If a king, an archbishop, a bishop, or a prince wishes to enter any of the cells of the Order of Grandmont, he is to be accompanied by only four men.

2.    Clercs and convers are to receive equal treatment, they will partake of the same food anddrink in the refectory and sleep in the one dorter. Their habits are to be made from cloth of thesame quality.

3.                All alms received, together with the names of the donors, are to be made known at the morning chapter held in each house of the Order.

4.    All goods belonging to or receivedby the cells of the Order of Grandmont are to be accounted for at the morning chapteras well as anything distribu­ ted in alms.

5.    The prior is to delegate two brothers, a clercand a conver,to visit each and every cell annually and they are to have full authority to investigate and correct abuses.

6.     Unless he is sick, theprior is to sleep in the com­ mon dorter with the brethren.

7.     Everything distributed within the cells is to be accounted for to the prior.

8.                When a new prior is to be elected, both clercs and convers will nominate six from among their num­ ber and these twelve shall proceed to elect the prior.

9.    Convers have no right toeffect the transference of the clercs. It goes without saying that any such transference is the sole right of the prior.

10.     The prior is to regulate spiritual matters with the clercs and temporal business with the convers; how­ ever, as regards the latter he will consult with two clercs of his choice.


11.    Altar vessels, vestments, and liturgical books are to be in the charge of the clercs.

12.     The prior and the clercs areto be responsible for the regulation of the officesand all other spiritual

concerns.

13.     The daily recitation of faults will be made to the hebdomadarian priest at the morning chapter. A simple reprimand will suffice.

14.     ff a brother commits any sins, he is to confess them to one of the priests within the cell, who will administer a penance. It will never be deemed necessary for him to leave the cell to confess his sins.

15.     The clercs are to be responsible for calling the brothers to the collation[the spiritual reading

which precedes compline] and it will take place even if the curiosus is called away to attend to visitors or to welcome guests. In addition, this official has the right toemploy one or two brothers of the house to assist him in such business.

16.     Besides what has already been stated, it is taken for granted that the newly elected prior shall promise truthfully and upon his soul that he shall in no way wrong the clercs who opposed the con­ vers in the course of these discords. Similarly the clercs will promise in their turn not to plot against the convers by reason of these discords.

17.     In addition, Brother Bernard and his colleagues will undertake that should the prior and the other brothers refuse to accept or observe the articles of this peace, they will placethemselves firmly on the side of the clercs and assist them to enforce these articles. The clercs, for their part will promise to obey the prior.

The final article reinforces the authority of the Rule which is to be obeyed to the letter and not adapted or altered in any way.14


The compilers of the Articles of Vincennes attempted to eliminate the basic causes of dissent by redefining the official spheres of responsibility of the two contending groups. There is little inthe document which is not already implicit in the Rule or the Constitution approvedby Alex­ ander m. Thata prestigious royal council should have been required to deliberate over such seemingly obvious matters as priests being the proper persons to be entrusted with the regulation of divine worship and the care of church vessels and vestments appears utterly ludicrous. That such rulings as those containedin Articles 12 and 15 proved necessary, must indicate that the eonvers had actually been depriving the deres of the right to run their own department. Article 9 has much more serious implications. From it, it appears that the eonvers had taken it upon themselves to transfer deres from one cell to another.As the prior of Grandmont alone had the right to order transfers this was a very serious offence indeed.Article 14 points to anothermajor contravention of the Rule. In the first place, the brethren were not permitted to leave their cells without permission, but that a brother should seek to make his confession to a priest outside his own congregation was totally at variance with accepted religiouspractice. The fact that some of the eonvers were finding it necessary to seek absolution for their sins outsidetheir own Order is in itself an indication of the degree of mistrust and hostility which existed be­ tween deresand eonvers. Article18 has an unpleasant impli­ cation. Although corporal punishment with rods or cords was a generally accepted practice inthe monasteries of the Middle Ages, it was administered at a properlyappointed time in chapter; yet we know from Guiot de Provins, that the grandmontine eonvers were beating the deres, at times excessively.15 As the grandmontine cells had no superiors in the conventional sense,the daily chaptersessions were conducted by the hebdomadary, an official appointedon a weekly basis. The need for the Council to stipulate that the hebdomadary should always be a priest suggeststhat this


was another function which the eonvers had assumed and were abusing.

At Vincennes the egalitarian notions contained in the Rule received reinforcement specifically in Articles 2, 6, 7, and 8 and these rulings can have provoked little opposi­ tion, although which group stood to gain from the parity of diet and clothing is a matter for conjecture! By contrast, Articles 3,5,and 7, while they appear reasonable enough, are nevertheless the thin edge of the wedge leading away from grandmontine equality. The formal requirement that the eonvers make their business public and render up ac­ counts represents an initial wary move to relieve them of their temporal powers and subject them firmly to the au­ thority of the deres.

Whenthe decisions reached by the Councilof Vincennes were received at Grandmont they were dismissed out of hand, the majority of theeonvers considering them to be far too favourable towardsthe deres. Whilst the 'loyalists' took refuge elsewhere and occupied themselves by addressing indignant letters to Rome, the eonvers at Grandmont pro­ ceeded to rebel in an increasingly violent manner. By this time the appalling scandal affecting the Order of Grand­ mont was common knowledge and the Holy See was forced to take a more active role. The pope dispatched a five member commission to the mother house, as the result of which the anti-prior Etienne de Vincennes was excom­ municated and Guillaume de Treignacrestored to office. In a noble attempt to keep the peace, however, he resigned voluntarily and departed for Rome where, old and infirm, he died one year later. Amid all this confusion the new pope, Clement m, who replaced the short lived Gregory VIII in December1187, cannot have heardof Guillaume's resig­ nation because he proceeded to order his removal along with the usurper Etienne. Thus, the way was officially clear for a General Chapter to proceed to a fresh election. The result was an inspired choice. The eloquent and scholarly Gerard lthierbecame seventh prior of Grandmont, and


with his election the first serious crisis within the Order was brought to a close. The pope reapproved the Rule and confirmed all the privileges of the Order granted by his predecessors including exemption from episcopal control.

The Cold War

The priorate of Gerard Ithier proceeded in conditions which Frere Philippe-Etienne has described as 'La Guerre Froide'.16 For while the grievances of the clercs had been temporarily appeased, there can be no doubt that the curi­ osi elected from the ranks of the convers, remained the real masters of the grandmontine cells. For his part, Gerard made no secret of the fact that he considered equality between clercs and convers the fundamental principle of life in a grandmontine cell:

How good and righteous it is for brothers to exist together in one spirit with clercs and convers living harmoniously together in community.17

Within the small enclosed world of the monastery, it has frequently been said, small matters get blown up out of all proportion. In this way it was the seemingly trivial subject of'The Bells' which came to be writ large in the historyof the grandmontine troubles.The bells seem to have consti­ tuted one of the principle grounds for disagreement be­ tween clercs and convers. The task of sounding the call to the collation whichpreceded Compline had always devolved on the convers. In summer, when they wanted to benefit from the daylight and continueworking in the fields, they often delayed ringing the bell until nightfall when they were free to attend this office. The clercs complained bit­ terly at this unconventional arrangement which not only threw their timetable out of gear, but must have deprived them of some of their rest as well. In ll91, the convers still reserved this right to themselves despite the efforts of the clercs to relievethem of it at the convention of ll87.

When Gerard Ithier resigned in ll98, he was replaced by the eighth prior, Ademar de Friac. The morale of the clercs


reached an all time low and they addressed a letter to Pope Innocent III outlining their grievances. This proved to be the first of a whole series of interventions which the long­ suffering Innocent and his successor, Honorius III,were forced to undertake. On this occasion, the pope hoped, rather too optimistically, that a simple reply addressed to Prior Ademar would set matters to rights. When thisfailed, he was forced to a more active intervention, and so he deputed Archbishop William of Bourges, the grandmon­ tine monk who became a Cistercian at Pontigny, together with the bishops of Paris and Limoges to visit Grandmont, deal with any abuses, and institute some measure of re­ form. Nothing was achieved by this mission. The central issue was still the collations bell, the deres complaining about its lateness and theconvers persisting in their refusal to sound it any earlier. The failure of the papal emissaries meant that settlement of the question devolved upon the pope himself. Thus, the supreme pontiff was obliged to postpone any weightier matters whilst he solemnly delib­ erated over the problem of who should ring a bell! Should the responsibility remain with the convers, given that it sounded the conclusion of work, or alternatively, should it pass to the deres because equally it was the call to prayer. Following discussion with the Sacred College, Innocent III pronouncedex cathedrathat the bell should be sounded at a stated hour and that if the conver responsible failed to carry out his duty then a derc appointed by the prior should step in and do it for him.

Another major cause for grievance among the deres in­ volved the persistent refusal of theconvers to submit their accounts. Innocent m thought to settle the matter by for­ mally sanctioning the Article of Vincennes which had insti­ tuted an annual visitation of each cell by a derc and conver acting as direct representatives of the prior. The deres expressed the somewhat novel grievance that they were being outnumbered by the convers who consequently had a physical advantage over them. The pope dictated that in


future the ratio of convers to clercs should be two to one. It was further ordained that when the clercs were required to work in the fields, they should be accompanied by the convers and not return withoutthem. The only exception being the duty-clerc for the week who was not allowed to leave the cell under any pretext. Any clerc leaving the cell without permission was to be 'proclaimed' at chapter. Both clercs and convers had an equal right to 'proclaim' their fellows but the officiating priest alone might administer a reprimand. It appears that clercs were still being surrep­ titiously transferred to other cells by interfering convers, and when this particular complaint reached the pope's ears he again added the weightof his authority to the Article of Vincennes which stated that such a decisioncould only be made by the prior after due consultation with his counsel­ lors.

In1211, Innocent III again requested the archbishop of Bourges to visit Grandmont, this time accompanied by the bishop of Orleans, and deal with any abuses of the Rule. It seems that the clercs were once again accusing the convers of violating certain statutes. The followingJanuary, he was again forced to return to what must have seemed the eternalquestion of the bells. This time he decided firmly in the clercs' favour and the duty of ringing the bellfor colla­ tion was delegated to a conver, then to a clercdesignateand, finally, to any clerc as necessity might dictate. The differ­ ence was that this time anyone contravening the order was to be punished not by the Prior of Grandmont but by direct order of the pope.

The Climax of the Disputes

Prior Ademar de Friac wasinclined, like his predecessor to favour the convers. But when he died unexpectedly in Viterbo on his return journey from the Lateran Council of 1215, his successor, Caturcin, tended towards the opposite view and the days of convers dominance were numbered. A renewed outbreak of violence on their part served only to hasten the final and decisive victory of the clercs.


1 May 1216, marked the turning point in the whole ugly affair. Pope Innocent m pronounced decisively in favourof the clercs. His ruling determined that in the future an official with the title of corrector be appointed by the prior to each cell. These officials were to be regarded as overall superiors responsible for all administrative concerns; they were to be chosen only from among the clercs and they were further required to be ordained priests. Not only was the corrector to take the place of the curiosus, the sole administrative post legislated for in the Rule and tradi­ tionally held by a conver, but he also obviatedthe need for a weekly rota of priest functionaries by presiding perma­ nently over church and chapter assemblies.

The changes set in motion by Innocent m continued under his successor, Honoriusm (1216-1227). In1217,Hon­ orius went a stage further when he suppressed the article of the Rule which bound the prior to reside permanently at Grandmont and gave him the right to visit and inspect the various cells in person. He also settled once and for all that persistent, trivial and yet abrasive issue, the collation bell, by ordering that it be rung only by a clerc. Finally, he made it legally binding that the curiosus in each cell render monthly statements of accounts to the corrector inthe pres­ ence of the entire community assembled in chapter.

This was too much for the convers of Grandmont to swallow and they rallied their outside supporters for a last desperate stand. Then, aided by a contingent of men at arms they broke into open and violent revolt and im­ prisoned the prior and his supporters. When the represen­ tatives sent by the pope to deal with the situation arrived, the convers responded by pillaging the priory, throwing Prior Caturcin and the forty clercs who supported him off the premises and electing in his place a clerc who was sympathetic to their cause. At this juncture the pope had no alternative but to appeal to ecclesiastical and french lay authorities to recruit the forces necessary to combat the convers and restore order.


Reprisals were terrible; all those guilty of aiding and abetting the rebellionwere excommunicated. Prior Catur­ cin, who had taken refuge in the cluniacabbey of St Martial at Limoges, was restored and the convers forced to beg his pardon. The leaders of the revolt were permanently de­ prived of their charges, sentenced to be whipped each Sunday in chapter, ordered to fast on bread and water every Friday at the prior's pleasure, and deprived of the sacrament for a year unless they were in danger of death. The usurping prior and the guilty clercs were banned from celebrating Mass for as long as the priorsaw fit to impose the measure.

A state of somewhat uneasycalm prevailed until Prior

Caturcin resigned his office in 1228 or29 but the interven­ tion of further papal commissions proved necessary on several occasions. Later in the thirteenth century, the frus­ trated delegates of one such commission concluded de­ spairingly that nothing short of a total reform of the Rule would guarantee a lasting peace.

A consideration of the terrible crisis which crippled the Order of Grandmont within a century of its foundation reveals a number of key factors amid the morass of dis­ agreement and petty squabbling. All of them can, in part at least, be attributed to the near-sightedness of the compilers of the Rule in failing to take account of the eventuality of priests becoming numerous within the Order. True, this document takes the presence of priests for granted when it forbids the ownership of churches or any form of active ministry. However, it contains no specific directives con­ cerning the admission of priests nor has it anything to say about the status to be accorded them once accepted. This omission is in striking contrast to the Rule of St Benedict which devotes an entire chapter to the subject. The bene­ dictine Rule states clearly that priests wishing to enter the Order must not be accepted too readily. Moreover, it is to be made plain to priest candidates that no allowances will be made or privileges affordedthem on account of their


office. They can celebrate Mass and administer the bless­ ings only at the abbot's bidding.They must not take liber­ ties and they are to be subject to regular discipline.18 The benedictine priest's subjection to his abbot underlines a further deficiency in the Rule of Grandmont, the idealistic notion which rendered superiors, at least in the conven­ tional sense, superfluous. The result was that when the Rule's exhortation to practisemutual obedience ceasedto be observed, there was no one to enforce any kind of discipline.

By the 1180s,a significant proportion of deres were or­

dained and this begs the question to what extent was their status and priestly dignity compatible with their subor­ dination to lay religious? Admittedly the mother house was ruled by a prior who was always a priest, but within the daughter cells the situation was altogether different. Here there dweltsmall combined communities of deres and eonvers subject to no authority other than that of a prior who lived far away from them and a euriosus who was himself nominated by this inaccessible prior. Given such circumstances, it is not altogether surprising if certain priests became discontented and resentful. Far from receiv­ ing the respect which they felt the dignity of their state warranted, they found themselves reduced to the status of mere chaplains at the beck and call of a group of lay religious who had taken to arranging the monastic hora­ rium to suit themselves and their work schedule.

A situation in which ordained monks were purposely instituted to serve lay religious as chaplains was not of course without precedent. Both Gilbert of Sempringham and Robert d' Arbrissel founded monasteries in which con­ templative nuns were central to an organisation which incorporated lay sisters and brothers together with canons to serve as chaplains. In both instances, however, it was understood from the start that the overall superior would be the abbess. Furthermore, both the Gilbertines and the Fontevristes lived in clearly defined enclosures which kept


the various classes of religious segregated. There can have been no question of misunderstandings and arguments arising over simple domestic issues. The vast, efficiently organised and compartmented abbey of Fontevrault bears no comparison with a typical grandmontine cell situated in remote rural surroundings and where the occupants dwelt in close and confined quarters. Such conditions must have provided ideal breeding grounds for germs of dis­ content.

Within these vulnerable enclosures the grandmontine clercs nursed three outstanding grievances which they aired at various times during the lengthy dispute. All three can be attributed to feelings of inferiority which resulted from their ill-acknowledged status. In the first place they were made to feel inferior simply because they were out­ numbered by the convers at a ratioof at least two to one. A fragment of an obit, which can be dated between the years 1140-1150, testifies to a much higher ratio, oneclerc to seven or eight convers, but this has to be exceptional.19

Whileit can be argued that the proportion of lay brothers to choir monks was notably higher in, say, the Order of

Citeaux, here the laybrethren lived outsidethe cloister, completely isolated from the choir monks. The fact cannot be over-emphasised that the grandmontine convers were not just auxiliary religious as were the cistercian conversi - but were fully professed monks with the same rights and privileges as the clercs. It is most unlikely that the words clercand conver were includedin the vocabulary of St Stephen, who cannot himselfbe properly assignedto either class of religious. Although he was ordained a dea­ con, and therefore technically a clerk in holy orders, yet he never aspiredto the priesthood itself and as a simple hermit in the tradition of the Desert Fathers he was depen­ dent upon others for his spiritual needs. Neither did it occur to him to draw any distinction between himself and his disciple Hugues Lacerta whose own vocation was ac­ tive rather than contemplative. That the fraternaland har-


moniousliving conditions which prevailed at Muret were destined to be disrupted, that the sons of St Stephen would become so divisive that the smallergroup would feel physi­ cally threatened by the others, this was a situation which neither St Stephen nor the compilers of the Rule could possibly have envisaged.

Apartfrom status, two other types of inferiority gave rise to resentment among the deres. These had to do with finance and with their actual living conditions. In both these areas it would appearthat they were being deprived by the eonvers. While the Rule entruststhe eonvers with all practical administration of the revenuesof the Order, this was intended to spare the deres the distractions which active dealings with outsiders would occasion. It cannot have intended them to be utterly deprived of any say in the management of their households, or to be silenced when corporate decisions were called for. In the course of events, it became clear that the information about sources of in­ come and expenditure was being completely withheld fromthem. It had always been customary in the Order of Grandmont as, indeed, in other religious orders, for the procurator to render accounts at chapter meetings. The fact that the eonvers were keeping their financial transactions to themselves must have been responsible for some un­ healthy feelings of suspicion and distrust not conducive to

.a       life of peaceful contemplation. With regard to institu­

tionalmatters, the deres were again made to feel inferiorby not being permitted a voice in the planning of the horarium or management of the household. In certain casesthey had been forced to move from one house toanother by interfer­ ing eonvers acting without the knowledge or consent of the prior. That eonvers, through sheer weight of numbers, were able to impose their will upon the deres, must have had a profoundly demoralising effect upon the clergy.

The mother house of Grandmont never really managed to revert to the state of calm and spiritual serenity which prevailed before the commencement of the unfortunate


and oft-violent disputes. Over half a century, quarrels, fighting, and legal processes had caused the religious life to break down almost completely. In 1247, Pope Innocent IV gave the Grandmontines the text of a new constitution which firmly and indisputably placed the convers under the authority of the clercs. This action had alimiting effect upon the disturbances but minor troubles persisted until the total reorganisation of the Order byPope John :,om in 1317.


Notes: The Years of Crisis                   91

NOTES

1.  Walter Map, De nugis curialium 1:xxvi; M.R. James, Anecdota Oxoniensia, Medieval and Modem Series, part 14 (Oxford:1914) pp. 54- 55.

2.  L.J. Lekai, The Cistercians, Ideals and Reality (Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1977) pp. 334-46.

3.  PL 204:1052: 'Laici et clerici mistim ambulabant, excepto quod clerici psallebant et missas celebrabant, laici laborem spontanei subi­ bant'.

4.  RG, ch. uv; Bee SOG p. 92.

5.  Ibid.

6.  Bee, 'La premiere crise de l'Ordre de Grandmont', BSAHL 87 (troisieme livraison 1960) p. 295.

7.  Bee, 'La Regle de Grandmont' BSAHL 87 (premiere livraison 1958)

25.

8.  M.H. Vicaire,Histoire de Saint-Dominique, 2 (Paris: Cerf, 1982) pp

215-19.

9.  Jacques de Vitry, Histoire Ocddentale, eh. XIX; cit. Lev, pp. 150- 53.

10.Guiot de Provins, 'La Bible'; J. Orr, Les oeuvres de Guiot de Provins

(Manchester: University Press, 1915) pp xi- xvi.

11. Rev. Pere J. FouquetOMI and Frere Philippe-Etienne, Histoire de L'Ordre de Grandmont {Chambray: 1985) p. 39.

12. G. Cope,'Colours Liturgical', A Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship

ed. J.G. Davies (London: SCM, 1972) pp.139- 40

13.Bull no. 13; PL 202: 1416.

14. Bee (note 6) pp. 306- 07. A copy of the original text of these articles was made at Grandmont circa 1300 and is contained in the Charleville MS No. 54., f. 32, cap. Lil.

15.Orr (note10) p. xv.

16.Fouquet (note 11) p. 42.

17.Gerard Ithier,De revelatione; PL 204:1050.

18.RB 62: 2-4.

19.M.C. Dereine,'L'obituaire primitif de l'Ordre de Grandmont',

BSAHL (troisieme livraison 1960) 325-32.


IV

 

THE

'MIRROROF GRANDMONT'

Grandmontine Life and Custom in the Late Twelfth Century

 

EXPANSION AND RECRUITMENT

 

 

DESPITE THE CRISIS WIDCH DISRUPTEDlife at Grand­

mont, the two decades which marked the close of the twelfth centurywere years of outstanding achievement especially as regards the continuing growth and expansion of the Order. Numerous new cells were founded within the period normally associated with un­ mitigated strife.The troubles which were responsible for a considerable exodus of novicesfrom the mother house must also have discouraged recruits,so that the founding of new cells at such a time can only have been possible because they did not requirelarge communities to

people them.

Each cell would have housed an average of thirteen, but this number was at times surpassed and at others consid­ erably reduced. An ideallysized community consisted of a curiosus and twelveadditional brothers, symbolic of Christ and the apostles. DieudonneRey has estimated the size of the communities by the number of dorter windows.1 Whilst this varies from cell to cell, the actual areas assigned to sleeping quarters differ little and in general would ac­ commodate thirteen. Quite early in the historyof the Order these dorters were partitioned by wainscotting or some other means into separate cubicles each measuring approx­ imately 3.3 by 2.7 metres. This was all that remainedof the

93


hermit's individual hut within a lauraand was not, as has been suggested, a luxury. The separate stone vaulted rooms, which are always found at the far end of the dorter against the wall of the church, remain a subject for contro­ versy. They may have servedas night oratories or infirm­ aries, even a combination of both. The suggestion by some authors that they represented the superior's quartersis

most unlikely as superiors in any conventional sense did not exist before Pope Innocent m instituted the office of corrector in 1216, while these rooms formed part of the standard architectural plan long before this date.

Unfortunately we can obtain little idea of actual cell populations simply from looking at the space available, and figures, even where they are available, are widely dispersed both as regards time and area. The confirmation charter given to the monks of Craswall in Herefordshire by the founder, Walter de Lacy,2 is helpful in this respect. It informs us that the cell was founded for 'tribus fratribus clericis et decem fratribus capellanis'. The latteradjective is confusing for it would seem to indicate 'choir monks'. We cansafely assume, however, that the 'tribus clericis' desig­ nates choir monks while the 'fratribus capellanis' are con­ vers. It is inconceivable that the clercs should have outnumbered the convers by more than three to one. The description 'capellanis' can be explained by the Grand­ montine Constitution, which unlike that of the Cistercians, expected the convers to attendand to the best of their ability participate in the Divine Office. Should their work prevent them taking part, they were instructed to recite a number of Pater Nosters by way of dispensation.3

Thefirst known grandmontine census was taken in1295, a hundred years after the priorate of Gerard Ithier and the year when numbers inhabiting the cells were reduced for the first time. Even then, the totalfigure, 886, quoted in the Annals, takes no account of the convers who, we are told, were still numerous.4 At this time the average number of clercs per cell was around five. Towardsthe close of the


twelfthcentury and well into the thirteenth, the convers still far outnumbered the clercs. In the matter of theirrecruit­ ment it is difficult to ascertain to what extenthumility, on the one hand, and illiteracy and ignorance of Latin, on the other, played a part. The main attraction of the grandmon­ tine lay-brotherhood was that it permitted the individual to perform the tasks best suited to his capabilities, and yet afforded him an active role in the religious life of the community. The freedom to participate to whatever extent he was able in the recitation of the officeswas a privilege denied to this classof monk in other Orders. We can see the equality which amazedvarious contemporaries in the appealing image of grandmontine life reflected in Prior Ithier's 'Mirror of Grandmont':

Behold how good and pleasant it is that the brethren live together. That their way of life is such that both deres and convers always share the same oratory, cloister, chapter house, refectory and dorter. Thus a conver is equal to a clerc and there is never any distinction between them except, as has been stated elsewhere, regarding the tonsure and the style of beards.'5

 

Prior Gerard Ithier

Thismild, unassuming man proved to be one of the few outstanding scholars in an Order which as a general rule did not promote or encourage learning. His De Institutione novitorium is a treatise on obedience which found its way into a large number of medieval libraries and was long thought to be cistercian in origin.6 It is, however, his Spec­ ulum Grandimontis which stands out as one of the few clear, first-hand, and unbiasedaccounts of twelfth-century mo­ nastic life and conditions. It represents the chief primary source for any study of the Order of Grandmont. Rose Graham has suggested that Gerald of Wales may well have seen this work before describing the Grandmontines in his


own Speculum ecclesiae.7 The 'Mirror' of Gerard Ithier con­ sists of a vast two-volumned manuscript containing the VitaA of St Stephen in forty-six chapterstogether with the additional sixteen chapters of Vita B. There follows a ninety-two stanza poem honouring the saint, a compen­ dium of his miracles, an account of his canonisaton, two treatises of sixteen and ninety seven chapters respectively, and finally, the Liber Sententiarum, vel Liber de Doctrina, the 'Book of Thoughts' of St Stephen.

Down-to-earth, humble, tactful,and eloquent, these are just a few of the qualities which distinguished the man who in1188 shouldered the unenviable task of leading the Order back to some semblance of normality. That Gerardlthier had a keen awareness of humanfrailty is apparent from the manner in which he succeeded, albeit temporarily, in re­ conciling both parties withinthe dispute. He showed him­ self capable of combining the intellect of the educated priest with the genuine humility which the Rule required of the lay brethren. Attitudes to authority in the heavily class-orientated system of his day recognised only a clear­ cut master/servant relationship and this had proved largely responsible for the abuse of power by the convers. By contrast, Gerard wielded his authority with the skill and gentle understanding which makes for enlightened and tolerant leadership. He was inspiredby the ideal of equal­ ity so dear to Stephen of Muret, and in attempting to implement such radical teaching within a fully fledged religious order he was centuries ahead of his time. It was most likely his concern to restore the mother house to normality and its occupants to a state of peaceful coexis­ tence which lay behind his decision to promote the cause for canonisation of the founder.This project would have had two major aims: distracting the brethren from their personal animosities; and at the same time encouraging them to renew their pride in the Order and emulate its saintly founder. After all, the raison d' tre of the mother house was to create afavourable environment for the aspir-


ing hermit to turn his back on the world and, in the words of Stephen, Soli Deo adhaerere.

Shortly after assuming office,Prior Gerard put his plan into action and was rewarded in March 1189, when Pope

Clement m ordered the name of St Stephen of Muret to be

inscribed in the Roman Calendar. The following August, a splendid ceremony was held at Grandmont in the presence of the papal legate, Cardinal Jean de St Marc, and nu­ merous high-ranking churchmen and nobles. Followinga solemn high Mass, the relics of the saint were carried in procession around the cloisterand reinterred in a magnifi­ cent shrine above the high altaritself. Following the sup­ pression of the Order in 1772, the bishop of Limoges was granted the mother house along with all its possessions and he caused the church treasures to be distributed among the parishes of his diocese. The shrine of St Step­ hen was given to the church at Razes, but was destroyed during the Revolution which broke out a few yearslater. The sixteenth-century annalist,Pardoux de la Garde, tells us that it was of copper gilt, enamelled, and ornamented with semi-precious stones and crystals.8 Six further relic chests were arranged on either side of St Stephen. Of these only one has survived, but it is of particular interest be­

cause its form is said to represent the second church of Grandmont, which was replaced by Grandmont m in the

eighteenth century. It ispreserved in the parish churchof the town of Ambazac just afew miles from Grandmont.

The Cluny Panel

Inaddition to the relic chests, the high altar at Grand­ mont was ornamented with a series of panels of Limoges enamel depicting scenes from the life of St Stephen to­ gether with companion scenes from the life of Christ. Only two survived the Revolution: 'St Stephen conversing with Hugues Lacerta' and an 'Adoration of the Magi'. They are both in the Cluny Museum at Paris. The panel portraying St Stephen is the most outstanding relic of the Order of


Grandmont as well as providing valuable historical evi­ dence. In fact, it illustrates three distinct aspects of this very unusual order of hermit monks: their spirituality, organisation, and unique style of architecture.

The setting of the panel is distinctly architectural: St Stephen and Hugues Lacertaare framed in a romanesque doorway, the rounded arch of which rests on the decorated capitals of a pair of columns.It is typical of theentry into any grandmontine church. Over the arch are five domes, four of which cap an equal number of rounded structures which in turn are balanced, somewhat precariously, on the slated roofs of four corresponding structures. The centre dome is larger than the others and surmountsa rectangular building of which a side elevation with its range of five windows is alone visible. The remaining structures are rounded and six of themeach have three apertures. There canbe little doubt that they are intended to represent the typical rounded apses which enclosed the sanctuaries of grandmontine churches and always had three windows. The rectangular building in the centre stands out as the church of the mother house, the only one which did not conform to the rigid architectural rules which applied to the building of the daughter houses. We know that the church of Grandmont was uncharacteristic because instead of having just four windows-three in the apse and the fourth in the centre of the west wall-it had windows ranged along the side walls. The failure of the church of Grandmont to conform to general grandmontine custom is attributable to its having been originally intended to house the tomb of King Henry II. The way in which the apses encircling the mother house seem to be piled one on top of the other could be part and parcel of a discreet grandmon­ tine attempt to publicise their Order. MadameGenevieve Souchal has dated these panels to the last quarter of the twelfth century, and there can be little doubt that they were actually placed in positionin time for the grand ceremony which marked the canonisation of St Stephen in 1189.9 By


this date approximately one hundred fifty grandmontine cells had been founded, quite a remarkable achievement for a religious Order which had been in existence for less than a century. Given that Gerard lthier was just at this time intent onrestoring the image of theOrder, what better way was there of distracting attention from the recent failures than by highlighting successes? Hence, the Foun­ der is framed in the architecture of his Order, while the daughter cells mushrooming around Grandmont symbol­ ise the wide and successful diffusion of his ideals between his death in1124 and canonisation in1189.

StStephen of Muret used to be identified as the figure on the left wearingthe tunic and short-hooded cloakof a

hermit. The companion figurein the chasuble was said to be St Nicholas, although there is no good reason why Stephen should be portrayed conversing with the saint of Lyda save for the spurious account of the pilgrimage to his shrine at Bari in the Vita A.10 The false identification of the figures was the resultof an erroneous interpretation of the inscription engraved on the panel just beneath the arch and which can be read as:

+ NIGOLASERT: PARLAAMNE TEVEDEMVRET

In modern French, 'Nicholas etait parlant au seigneur Eteve de Muret'. This wasthe interpretation of E.Rupin, who noted that in the patois of the Limousin EN indicates dominus.11 It was also accepted by the english historian Rose Graham who gives it in her article 'The Order of Grandmont and its Houses in England'.12 Since the pub­ lication of thiswork in1926, Madame Souchal has provided both linguistic and grammatical evidenceto show that the inscription actually reads:

N'IGO LASERT : PARLA AM N'ETEVE DE MURET

'le seigneur Hugo Lasert parle avec le seigneur Etiennede Muret'.(The Seigneur Hugo Lasert speaks with the Seig­ neur Stephen of Muret) In the first instance Madame Souchal points out that ERT in the Langue d'Oc has never


been used to express est or ttait-forms of the verb tre­ and that it is even less likelythat the Latin eratwould figure in a sentence in the vernacular. Even if it did, it is incon­ ceivable for it to be followed by asecond verb PARLA, and in the present indicative. While it could be argued that PARLA was intended as an alternative of the french verbal form, est parlant, this is a comparatively recent linguistic development and never employed in the Limousin dialect. Finally, Madame Souchal notes that it is not possible to read the name 'Nicholas' in the inscription at all because the third letter is not a 'C' but a 'G'. A secondary problem concerns the name Hugues or UGO commencing with an I rather than a U, but this MadameSouchal attributes to an orthographical error of the sort which she has found to be common enough among the illiterate twelfth-century enamellers of theLimousin. LASERT is without doubt the vernacular form of a name normally expressedin its Latin form Lacerta, simply because its bearer is known tous only through Latin texts.13

A further factor which contributed to the falseidentifica­ tion of the characters in the Ouny panel has to do with costume. Whilst Hugues wears what must represent the original humble habit of the Order, a tunic and lightly indicated belted scapular beneath the short, hooded cloak, Stephen is resplendent in a chasuble, a vestment worn only by officiating priests. As Stephen, according to tradi­ tion, was only in deacon's orders, he has no right what­ soever to this attire. Once again Madame Souchal has been able to cast light on the problem. She recalls an anecdote found in the early biographies of Stephen. The night fol­ lowinghis death he appeared in a vision to a friend of his, a certain canon, who seems to have expressed less surprise at the ghostly apparition of his friend than at the uncharac­ teristically splendid garment in which he was clad. 'This is the symbol of the roman pontiff which Christ himself has conferred on me', replied Stephen by way of explanation.14 Gerard Ithier immortalised this anecdote in his own writ-


ings and it seems reasonable to suppose that the artist entrusted with the execution of the panel derived from it his inspiration for a stylised Stephen in glory.

Somewhat more appropriate than the simple title, St Stephen conversing with Hugues Lacerta might be St Stephen entrusting the Rule tohis disciple Hugues. That the panel is illustrating a posthumous eventis clear from Stephen's halo, and what else might the book clasped in his right hand contain but the Rule of the Order based on his own 'Thoughts'. We know that these were recalled and committed to writing by the first fathers, notably Hugues himself. Something of the fundamentalist spirituality of the Grandmontines can be associated with this magnificent volume. The vivid scarlet binding and golden clasps would seem more appropriate for a Bible than for the text of a rule for simple hermit monks who placed so great an emphasis on their vow of poverty that even church vessels were required to be of non-precious metal. But then, as has alreadybeen noted, the Rule of Grandmont is not a practi­ cal manual of directives for life in common. It is rather a series of spiritual guidelines based on the apostolic life of Christ, and nearly a third of it is direct quotation from the Gospel. The luxurious binding is appropriate therefore, for it encloses Holy Writ.

Something of the organisational pattern of the Order of Grandmontalso becomes apparentthrough the manner in which the figures on the panel are portrayed. This defies the medieval artistic convention which expected the relative size of a figure to indicate his status within a complicated hierarchical class structure of ecclesiastics, no­ bles, and commoners. St Benedict and St Bernard, for example, are invariably drawn to a larger scale than the monks to whom they are preaching. But here, we have Hugues Lacerta, a lay brother, a lowly creaturein clerical eyes, drawn to the same scale and shoulder to shoulder with a choir monk. Not just any choir monk either but the founding father and, as is clear from the nimbus, a can­ onised saint.


Could Gerard Ithier have exercised any personal in­ fluence over the artist'streatment of his subject? The gentle prior's main ambition that clercs andconvers should live harmoniously together is well known from the Spec­ ulum. What better way of exhorting the brethren to be more understanding and tolerant than by placing before them this poignant reminder of the perfect unity and harmony which existed between their founder and the lay brother Hugues? As part of the general high altar ensemble, the panel would be permanently before the eyes of the com­ munity, and hopefully encourage them to contemplate its message.

Grandmont as a Centrefor Pilgrimage

By the close of the twelfth century, it was not only the relics of the sainted Stephen which were attracting pil­ grims by the score to Grandmont. The priory church was also renowned for a portion of the True Cross brought to the monks by Bernard, Bishop of Lydda, in 1174. This priceless relic was an offering from King Amaury I of Jerusalem, uncle to Henry II of England.

There is an interesting account in the Annals which concerns another important acquisition by the Grandmon­ tines of some particularly highly prized relics from the city of Cologne.15 In1106, workmen digging near thecity walls uncovered an extraordinarily large number of female skele­ tons. They were said to be those of St Ursula and her eleven thousand companions who, according to legend, were massacred by the Huns on their return from a pil­ grimage to Rome. The earliest reference to St Ursula ac­ cords her just eleven companions, so just how and when thiswas multiplied by a thousand is a matterfor specula­ tion. The bare facts reveal only that at some early date a number of young women were massacredat Cologne, and the twelfth-century excavation gave rise to pious beliefs that the bodies were those of the ursuline martyrs.

The Grandmontines became directly involved in this history in 1181 when the abbot of Siegburg and Canon


Guoderan of Bonn called at Grandmont on their return from a pilgrimage to Rocamadour. They were warmly wel­ comed by the prior who then asked the abbot if he would use his influence with the archbishop of Cologne to obtain the body of one of the martyrs.The abbot willingly agreed and shortlyafter his departure two priests with two atten­ dant convers, guided by the canon, followed him to Co­ logne. Their journey is vividly described in a contemporary source.16 The weatherwas absolutely foul and they had to contend with snow, hail,and torrential rain. Arriving at Cologne on Palm Sunday, 28 March, they were welcomed at the abbot's house wherethey marvelled at the comforts and the quality and abundance of food. The following morning they received thebody of St Albina as well as that of a second unnamed virgin. Just how the monks had ascertained the name of oneof the women is not known. The brothers were invitedby the abbot to remainthrough­ out Holy Week but accepted instead Canon Gouderan's invitation to accompany him to Bonn.They spent a night in the canon's house and visited a monastery of nuns, after which they returned to Cologne. This time they called on Phillip, the archbishop, and he gave them an introduction to the abbey of St Martin. Their stay was extended to include visits to other monasteries and churches including St Maria in Gradibus and St Gereon. Everywhere they went they accumulated further relics, until on the Tuesday after Easter they startedfor home with thebodies of no less than seven ursuline martyrs,plus some male bones said to belong to soldiers of the Theban Legion. This was the legendary third-century legion of roman christian soldiers who mutinied at Agaunum (St Maurice en Valais) in Switzerland, because they were required to participate in pagan sacrifices. When the grandmontine travellers even­ tually arrived back at Limogesbearing their sacredcargo, they were met by the bishop and prior who headed a solemn procession to the church, where the relics were installed in the magnificent chestswhich formed the super­ structure of the high altar.


We cannot be certain whether portions of these relics were distributed among the daughter houses, though it does seem to have been a distinct possibility. The Roman Catholic Church has alwaysrequired relics to be inserted into altars when they are consecrated. it may be significant that in the course of excavations carried out in the early years ofthis century at Craswell Priory in Herefordshire, a lead casket containing a female forearm and hand was uncovered close to the altar.17 It is now in the Hereford City Museum.

News of these exceptionally dramatic relics soon spread abroad, with the result that the priory of Grandmont devel­ oped into a celebrated centre for pilgrims travelling to and from the more famous shrines of Rocamadour and San­ tiago de Compostella. The splendid church, with mag­ nificent gilt and gem-encrusted chests and reliquaries illuminated by myriad lamps and candles cannot, there­ fore, be regardedas being in any way typical of theOrder of Grandmont. Both architecturally and aesthetically, it had nothing in common with the plain, single-aisled churches which served the daughter houses. It is to these widely dispersed little cells that we must turn in order to view the true image of the grandmontine way of life re­ flected in the 'Mirror' of Gerard lthier.

Life in the Grandmontine Cells

Thedaughter houses of the Order of Grandmont can by no means have beenequally affected by the troubles which shook the mother house. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that the inspiration of St Stephenlingered within many of them throughout the twelfth and well into the thirteenth century. Architectural evidence reveals that no major building or embellishment work was effectedat this time, and the almost total lack of period documentation for the daughter houses is indicative of their obscurityand unim­ portance, very much in keeping with the spirit of the Order. Grandmontine cells were littlemore than small


holdings whose occupants were expected to lead a life of extreme asceticism. The Rule anticipates franciscan teach­ ing in its exhortation to the brethren: 'Let poverty itself be your wealth and your treasure'.18 Indeed, the brethren were often in such dire straits that they did not know where their next meal was coming from.

The Grandmontines were only permitted to maintain lands sufficient for their own needs, and even if they managed to produce a surplus there was no question of their disposing of it on the open market. Originally they were not permitted to keep any animals, certainly not to maintain herds: 'Dedicate to the serviceof God alone the solicitude you would employ in buying, breeding and selling', enjoins the Rule.19 This ultra-severe ruling must have been waived comparatively soon, however, for Ger­ ald of Wales noted in his 'Mirror of the Church':

No beast of the female sex is allowed within the bounds of Grandmont but on account of their poverty the brethren have a dispensation to keep cattle and sheep and animals in their other houses.20

Gerald may have had the grangeof Coudier, just a few miles from Grandmont, in mind. This establishment was built on lands donated to the mother house in 1178 by the abbey of Solignac. From the living quarters, which in­ cluded a small eastern facing oratory with the standard 'triplet', we may deduce that it was intended to house a permanent group of convers engaged in farming for the benefitof the mother house. Two similar but more distant establishments also existed: Balezisin the Limousin: and Montmorillon in Poitou.Sections of the latter remainincor­ porated in what is today a large town house. There is evidence that it was originally surrounded by vineyards and specialised in the production of wines for the mother house.

While in the course of the thirteenth century the severe

dictates of the Rule were gradually relaxed, still the Grand­ montines never came to be associated with large scale


106                 The Hennit Monks of Grandmont

farming ventures and certainly not on any commercial basis. They never made the wilderness bloom in the man­ ner of their cistercian contemporaries. By the1220s, we find them the recipients of gifts of land often widely dispersed but they showed little managerial capability and on the whole derived negligible benefits from such possessions. This is clearly shown in the case of thecell of Alberbury in Shropshire. In the 1220s the founder, Fulk FitzWarine, granted the brethren considerable gifts of land and other endowments, including his Leicestershire manor of Whad­ borough. Other gifts followed,but nevertheless the entire history of the cell reveals continual mismanagement and a total inability to make ends meet. In1344, when Edward III ordered the seizureof the house as an 'alien'priory, it was reported that lands and rentstogether were worth only £2 ls2d yearly. The parishchurch which represented the main source of income broughtin 20 marks annually and stock,

£9 6s 'which altogether did not suffice for the maintenance of the prior and six brethren'.21 The other two English houses, Craswell in Herefordshire, and Grosmont, York­ shire, fared little better.

Deprived as they were initially of the usual revenues relied on by monks for their support, the Grandmontines were forced to dependentirely upon the resources present within the enclosure. Forbidden by their Rule to improve the soil in any way other than to provide for the bare necessities of the penitential life, they were reduced to an implicit reliance on divine providence, which meant that they were in fact almost totally dependent on the alms they received from visitors. When all else failed they were in­ structed to make their needs known to the bishop in whose diocese the cell was situated. If he would not agree to help them, then, and only after two entire days of fasting, two of the brothers, the most advanced in the religious life, were sent out from the monastery to beg from door to door like any other beggars.22

The extent to which the brothers built or participated in the building of the cells has not been satisfactorily deter-


mined. Although the Rule itself forbids the employment of secular workers, the Custumal which supplemented it sometime between the years1170-5, takes lay assistance for granted when it permits the brethren to allow outside workers to live in their hospice until such a time as the building is complete. It also outlines a procedure for brothers compelled to absent themselves from office for reasons of work:

When the bell sounds ... If it should happen that they are working in the company of lay persons, then they are to remove themselves to a discreet distance and disregarding the genuflexions, they should recite the said prayers.

A further instruction concerning dress is of particular interest:

Whenthe brothers find it necessary to work in com­ pany with lay persons, they are on no account to remove their scapulars and they are to keep them­ selves apart save when the work in hand beconcerned with carpentry or stone masonry. 23

The Grandmontines did not observe a strict rule of si­ lence; in fact their Rule appears somewhat uncharac­ teristically lenient in dealing with this matter, confining itself mainly to a homily on the evils of idle chatter. It insists however, that silence be maintained at prescribed times and in appointed places:church, cloister, refectory, and dormitory. Further than this, it avoids any hard and fast ruling and accepts that even during the so called 'great silence' (after Compline until close of morning chapter) there will be occasions when it may be absolutely necessary to speak. Outside witnesses, including Nigel Wireker, Guiot de Provins, and Jacques de Vitry, are unanimous that the Grandmontines were relatively liberal in their attitude to silence.Additionally, they did not at the outset make use of a sign language as did the Cluniacs and Cistercians although such a systemwas developed in


108                 The Hermit Monks of Grandmont

the thirteenth century. Guarded speech when necessary for purposes of work was allowed by Article 8 of the Custumal.24

Both the 'Book of Thoughts' and the Rule speak continu­ ally of theGrandmontines' vocation as life in the 'desert'. Clearly the ideal was that once a brother had made his religious profession within the 'desert', there should be no further prospect of returning to the world. Ideals are never easily reconciled with reality and so both the Rule and Custumal make provisionfor the occasions when brothers were forced by necessity to travel and mix with lay per­ sons, insisting nevertheless, that such expeditions be kept to an absolute minimum. Brothers might be required to leavetheir cells for several reasons.(1) They might attend the annual General Chapter held at the mother house on the feast of St John the Baptist. (2) Additionally, brothers might of their own free will travelin order to seek the direct advice of their spiritual father, the pastor at Grandmont, although the Custumal makes it quite clear that any such visits were not to be treatedas opportunities for roaming round the countryside and they were to come and go by the most direct route. (3) The convers were obviously per­ mitted to leave their cells to attend to business matters such as the buying or selling of provisions but any such assign­ ments were to be carriedout as privately and discreetly as possible and under no circumstances might they involve the brethren in attending public auctions or fairs. Wher­ ever possible, the patrons of Grandmontine houses ap­ pointed a trustedman to transact business on behalf of the community. (4) Again, brothers might be sent out to make representation to the bishop of the diocese, and in extreme cases of hardship onto the local highways and byways to beg. Pilgrimages were specifically bannedby the Rule so that the Cologne expedition referred to earlier was a very unusual occurrence indeed.

Priests were acceptedinto the Order from the start, but it

was late in the twelfthcentury before the Grandmontines


begansubmitting their own candidates for ordination as a matter of routine. The priests were not allowed to minister to outsiders even if theywere dying relatives. 'Let thedead bury the dead' is the Rule's pronouncement on this sub­ ject, harsh, but it nevertheless echoes the Gospel. How­ ever, it softens a little to allow a grandmontine priest to attend a dying person within the locality if, and only if, there be no secular priest available. Neither were the brothers permitted to attend the poor and infirm within the neighbourhood, because, as the Rule points out, in the GospelMary made no attempt to help Martha.There was absolutely no question of brothers leaving their cells to preach. They were expectedto live in accordance with the teaching of Pope Gregorythe Great who said that 'a good life is preaching by example'. Again, it was not considered to be in any way advantageous to go out in order to hear others preaching, however celebrated and edifying they might be.Once again the Rule invokes a gospel precedent: John the Baptist did not leave the desert even to listen to Christ himself.

The Grandmontines did not, however,sever all connec­

tion with outsiders. The most beautiful and appealing chapter in the Rule concerns itself with the welcome and hospitality which was to be afforded to guests. The brothers were expectedalways to show a pleasantcounte­ nance to visitors who might seek them out in the 'desert' and treat them as generously as they would God himself.

Extra courtesy and respect was always to be shown towards religious callers, priests and brothers from other Orders. The poor in particular were to be made very wel­ come and if any among them should wish to make a modest offering, the brethren were instructed to accept it graciously and give their full attention to the conversation of such people by way of thanking them. Their familiartitle of 'Bonshommes' seems to have been wholly justified, for their kindly welcome and exceptional generosity towards the poor is praised inseveral contemporary accounts.25


Priests and Liturgy

Until1216 each cell was managed by an official widely referred to as the curiosus. Although the duties of these officials were essentially of a temporal and domestic na­ ture, the articles which emerged from the Council of Vin­ cennes make it clear that they had assumed a certain degree of religious authority, and were apparently dis­ charging uties which in the houses of other religious orders would have been reserved to the abbot or prior. The fact that the grandmontine lay brothers actually had a voice in daily chapter meetings would have astonished any Cluniac or Cistercian contemporary, but it seems that cer­ tain curiosi had gone even further and made themselves responsible for the actual conductof meetings. The Articles further indicate that laybrothers were also assuming re­ sponsibility for liturgical matters. Although Innocent III declared as early as 1216, that each cell was to be managed bya priest with the title of corrector, it was not until1317 that superiors in the normal sense were introduced into the Order. At this juncture many of the correctors were up­ graded to priors, while the prior of Grandmont was ele­ vated to the rank of abbot.

TheRule implies that the priorof Grandmont, whom it terms pastor was invariably a priest, but not before the emergence of the Custumalis any definite provision made for deresin holy orders, and this tells us only that when a brother has received the order of the priesthood he must sing his first mass at Grandmontunless the prior for some reason instructed otherwise.26

Itis possible that in the twelfth century many of the cells werenot staffed with priests, for the Custumal includes an odd rider: to the instruction that the brethren are not to permit outsiders to be present at their offices:

Secular clerks, provided they be of mature years and suitably dressed, may be introduced for the purpose of celebrating the Divine Office, if there are no brothers present who are capable of performing it.27


Thisreally is an extraordinary direction. Not only does it provoke thoughts as to what may have constituted the medieval equivalent of priests exercising a preference for jeans rather than clerical grey, it also suggests that some of the cells lacked not just priests but enough sufficiently literate brothers to recite the offices. Given that the average size of a twelfth-century community was thirteen, of whom only about a third were deres, the annual General Chapter held each year at Grandmont would have necessi­ tated a fairly lengthy period of absence for at least one of the deres. If he also happened to be the only priest there could be no eucharistic worship in the cell pending his return.

Theterm deres applied to the grandmontine choir monks has led to some confusion in that scholars have automat­ ically assumed that they were,without exception, priests. It is necessary to take into account, therefore, that through­ out the Middle Ages a clerk was quite simply any adminis­ trator capable of wielding a pen. Clerici were instituted during the pontificate of Gregory the Great (590-604) to act as secretarial and administrative assistants to the bishops, and very few of them rose above the status conferred by minor orders. MargaretDeanesly has pointedout that the parish 'clerk' of the Middle Ages was no more nor less than this seventh-century familia ofepiscopal clergy reducedto a minimum.28

The incidence of grandmontine ordinations rose con­ siderably in the course of the thirteenth century, and dur­ ing the fourteenth some of the cells which had been upgraded to priories annexed small exterior chapels to their churches.Seemingly, they were needed for the extra household priests requiring to celebrate Masses. Unlike the Cistercians and Cluniacs, whose churches were invariably constructed to a cruciform plan with transepts which could be dividedinto several Mass chapels, single-aisled grand­ montine churches could not accommodate altars in this way. A further and somewhat simplersolution to the


problem was the provision of a secondary altar at the base of the nave. In several of the surviving churches there is a piscina fashioned in the side of the wall of the nave which indicates that an altar once stood in this position.

Thedivision of the monastic day into periods allocated to the recitation of the offices, private prayer, and work was similar to other religious houses of the period although there were two essential differences. In the first place the lay brothers were able to take part in the celebration of the offices in choir whenever their schedule of work permitted. The second differenceconcerns the actual performance of the liturgy within the cells.The directives given in the Rule are meagre in this respect, observing only that the brothers should conductthe various ritualsin accordance with nor­ mal monastic customs and usages.Of one thing we can be certain, the celebration of the liturgywithin a grandmon­ tine cell would have occupied far less of the brothers' waking hours than it did in other religious ordersnotably, among the Cluniacs who were notorious for their long, elaborate rites. A solemnHigh Mass with all its attendant ceremonial did not constitute the climax of the grandmon­ tine day as it did elsewhere and all non-essential ritual was omitted from the offices. the Grandmontines did substitute a certain amount of extra communityworship, such as the thrice daily visit to the cemetery for the recitation of the Office of theDead, still there must have been plenty of time remaining for private devotions and meditation by the deres and work for the convers.

According to Dom Levesque, the seventeenth-century compiler of the Annals, the medieval office for thefeast of St Stephen was composed before 1200 by an english monk Arnold of Goth. The Proper of the Mass of St Stephen is traditionally said to have been inserted in the Ordo of Limoges by Bishop Aymerie de Serres, following its adop­ tion on 30 August1189, at the first ceremony performed at Grandmont to honour the newly canonised saint. This was never eliminated from the rites of thediocese, although the


medieval office was abandoned in 1621 in accordance with the new liturgical directives agreed at the Council of Trent. The General Chapter of the Order devised a new office of St Stephen when it met in1643. A very beautiful 'Litany of St Stephen' which has been attributed to the reforming priest Dom Charles Fremon also dates from this time.

Bythe close of the twelfthcentury, three separate days of the year had been declared feasts in honour of St Stephen: the 'Transitus or passing of the Saint on 8 February, the Translation commemorating the transfer of his body on 23 June 1167; and the Revelation which marked his can­ onisation on 30 August. Other major grandmontine feast­ days included the Virgins of Cologne, and the feasts of St John the Baptist and St Martial, the third century bishop and patron of the city of Limoges.

Clothing

The Rule of Grandmont makes no mention of attire, confining itself to the method of distributing all necessities by the curiosus. The Custumal remedies this deficiency by outlining the regulation habit. Something in the tone of this document suggests that when it emerged some of the brothers were not conforming to the regulation habit and, additionally, were adopting superior quality materials which were not in keeping with the ideal of poverty ex­ pressed by the Order. Why else should the opening para­ graphs warn against all form of luxury in regard to dress and recall the camel hair worn by the patron of hermits, John the Baptist? Apparently the brothers sometimes re­ ceived presents of cloth becausethey were told to exchange for more common stuff any material which was too rich for the clothing of those dedicated to a life of poverty and penitence. Some brothers appear to have gone to the other extreme, for the Custumal warns against wearing torn clothing, and in the same paragraph, garments made of ox­ hide, except as night attire. There is no particular instruc­ tion given about style, although severalreferences to the


scapular indicate that the typical grandmontine habit con­ sisted of a plain tunic and broad scapular. Round hoods were permitted so long as they were of the same cheap cloth as the remainder of the clothingand were worn only in cases of necessity. Belts were worn, but a brother was to possess only one, which had to be plain; buckles were expressly forbidden. Woollen mittens were allowed by the Custumal but not gloves except for work purposes. The 'Mirror' of Gerard lthier describes theclothing thus:

They wear sackcloth next to the skin, that is clothing made of very coarse flax or hemp, and over that a brown tunic, a scapular or short cloak with a round hood, woollen gaiters and leather shoes.29

The 'brown' tunic would not have been brown in any modern sense. Before the advent of synthetic dyes, there was no product that produced brown by itself, and the common way of manufacturing it was to blend the juice of the madder plant with varying proportions of yellow shaded with reddish pigments obtained from peach and other similar woods.30 The submission of cloth to such a complicated dyeing process is firmly ruled out by the in­ struction in the Custumal that cloth be: sine tinctura. Grandmontine brown was in all probability akin to what later became known as 'Franciscan grey', which the French termed 'couleur de bure', the natural greyish brown sack­ cloth colour of rough homespun.

That the original cheap garments eventually yielded place to a more comfortable and costly varietyis revealed in an ordinance of Pope Oement V (d. 1316). Here the brothers are not only forbidden to use dye to achieve a more becoming dark-shaded attire, but are also warned against the adoption of amply cut hoods to make the habit appear more graceful. From the same ordinance we also learn that some of the brothers had taken to wearing linen undergarments!

The Grandmontines' rejection of the cowl provides sin­ gular proof of the degree of austeritythey originally prac-


tised. The cowl, the standard monastic garb worn in choir, has often been confused with a simple monk's hood. In fact, it is a long flowing choir robe which envelops the wearer like an individual tent and helps retain body heat. The practical Benedictines tempered austerity with com­ mon sense, realising that it provided an effective way of keeping tolerably warm in cold stone churches in winter. Even their strictercolleagues the Cistercians retained this garment which they must have considered not so much a luxury as a reasonable precaution against an untimely death from pneumonia. The Grandmontines stand out therefore as being the only group of medieval monastics to discard this effectiveway of keeping themselves warm in winter. Presumably it was their extreme notions of pov­ erty; the cowl requiresa great deal of cloth so cannot have been a cheap garment to produce. They therefore decided to wear linen surplicesinstead. In the seventeenth century these surplices formed part of the argument that the Grandmontines were canons regular rather than monks. Some later authors alternatively considered the surplice to be a late innovation synonymous with the declinein strict monasticstandards. But Gerard Ithier wrote as early as the 1180s: 'in choir all wear surplices'. In fact, the adoption of this canonical style of choir dress by an order of hermit monks so earlyin their history, far from being illustrative of decadence, could be regarded as an additional penance, and a cheap way of covering work-soiled habits so as to be presentable in church.

Diet

Unlike the Cistercians, who permitted meat to be served to the sick within the confines of the infirmary, the Grand­ montines had no dispensation. Perpetual abstinence was expected of the healthy and infirm alike.During Lent and from the feast of All Saints until Christmas, all were re­ quired to fast and the diet was whollyvegetarian. During the summer season, a second meal was permitted in the


evening. The Custumal isspecific regarding the choice and preparation of meals. Of the three foods-fish, eggs and cheese-which were permittedalong with vegetables, only two could be offered at a time and were not allowedto be presented in different ways at one and the same meal. Until well into the thirteenth century, when at least one eyewitness account asserted that the food was rendered pleasantlypalatable by the addition of spices, it must have beendecidedly bland, for the Custumal expressly directs that: 'the manner and preparation of food shall not be spoiled by the addition of sauces'. As regards drink, the Custumal permits wine but only in diluted form and warns the brothers diligently to observe the Gospel precept which says: 'make sure that your hearts are not weighed down in inebriation and drunkeness'.31 The use of addi­ tivesin the form of colouringand spices, a common prac­ tice in the Middle Ages to improve the flavour and appearance of the drink, was only permissible for the Grandmontines as a way of supplementing the wine when shortage required.

In company with other religiousorders, the, Grandmon­

tines gradually modified the rigid dietary laws as the years passed until eventually restrictions disappeared alto­ gether. In1642, Dom Charles Fremon instituted an experi­ mental primitive observance of the Rule at the priory of Epoisses near Dijon, and here the brethren returned to the practices which were current before the mitigations permit­ ted by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. Severe fasting together with perpetual abstinence became once again the rule rather than the exception.

The Sick and Infirm

The brother who is struck down by a sudden and severe illnesswill not be able to follow the community life and so he is to be placed in the infirmary. The curiosus of the monastery will then select one brother or more, if it be necessary, who are to attend upon the


sickbrother both day and night and they are to be the only ones who enter the sick room.32

There is no apartmentin a grandmontine cell which can definitely be identified as the infirmary or sick room, though it is possible that the small room at the end of the dorter alongside the churchwas assigned for the purpose. The care of the sick asit is outlined in the Rule isgeared more to preparing the poor unfortunate for death than to achieving a cure.Hence a room alongside the church and directly over the cemetery passage seems appropriate.

The harsh ruling that a sick brother is to be totally isolated from the remainder of the community the better to prepare himself for the approaching encounter with his Maker is explained thus:

When, in effect, a brother has dwelt for a long while under religious discipline and throughout all this time has shunned the world with all his strength,when he finally becomes ill and is close to his end, it is then at the moment when his soul goes forth to receive its recompense that he has the need of greatest vigilance. They who are at the end oftheir earthly course must be like competitors in a race whoredouble their efforts towards the finishing line, for to rest when they are close to the finish would mean that all their previous work had been in vain. It is also desirable that a sick disciple should not listen to worldly conversation which will encumber his spirit with futilities. And the more that intruders are reduced, the less the sick man will be subjected to listening to them.33

As we previously noted, the dietary regulations were not relaxed for thebenefit of a sick brother but there is a strong element of compassion in the Rule when it states:

If it should be that the monastery cannot provide something which is necessary to a sick brother, you are ordered to sell the church ornaments which are destined for the serviceof God rather than permitthe


sick to lack what is theirs by right. Is not the sick brother himself the tabernacle wherein God dwells?34

Dom Becquet has pointed out that this ruling surpasses even the benedictine Rule which is exceptionally solicitous in its provisions for the care of the sick.35

No specific instructions governing the death of a sick brother are laid down in the Rule. The community do not appear to have been summoned to witness his removal from bed to a layer of ashes on the floor as was customary among the Cistercians. The brethrenwere buried without exception in unmarked graves in a cemetery which was invariably located close tothe east range and alongside the church apse.

With regard to the chronically sick, the aged, and the infirm, the Rule states simplythat they are to be accorded all necessary services in a spirit of humility and solicitude. Periodic blood letting-phlebotomy, which was customary in medieval monasteries-does not appear to have been practised by the Grandmontines. The Rule expressly for­ bids the acceptance of lepers into the Order, but should a brother become infected after making his profession he could not be expelled. The cell of La Haye near Angers was provided with a leper hospitalsoon after its foundation in the1180s and a further such establishment was provided at Bois Rahier near Tours.According to Robert S. Gottfried, one of the theories proposed by modem medical authori­ ties to explain the decline in the numbers of victims of leprosy in the fourteenth century is an advancement in medical techniques at the time. The manifestation of the disease is akin to many common skin ailments and it is possible that many so-called lepers had been previously misdiagnosed.36 The incidence of the disease among the twelfth-century Grandmontines must have been compara­ tively high if it warranted two lazar hospitals within the same region.One wonders therefore just how many of the unfortunate 'unclean' brothersbanished to one or other of thesehouses were in reality afflicted by acne, scabies, or impetigo.


                The 'Mirror of Grandmont'                    119

The Patrimony of St Stephenof Muret

Therules which orderedthe lives of medieval religious were written mainly for coenobites and their lengthyand detailed directions were considered necessary for very large communities living in vast monastic complexes such as Ouny and Oteaux.St Stephen, however,was the father and spiritual director of a limited family of contemplatives. His immediate successors, particularly Hugues Lacerta, continued restricting the numbers inhabiting any one cell andit was only when the mother house began increasing its community and extending its activities that problems ensued. Nevertheless, many of the widely dispersedcom­ munities which represented the extended family of St Stephen in the late twelfth century must have remained relatively unaffected by the disgraceful occurrences at Grandmont and continued cultivating the virtues of pov­ erty, humility, and mutual obedience so dear to their foun­ der. Why else should the Order have remained popular with such patrons as the Yorkshire heiress Joan Fossard who was responsible for the first english foundation in1204?

It seems reasonableto suggest that communities con­

forming to the tradition of the Order were inspued less by the rigid formality of their Rule than by the spiritual teach­ ings of the founder.These teachings were compiled by the first Fathersinto the Liber Sententiarum and it would be inappropriate to conclude a discussion of grandmontine life and custom without at least a passing reference to this outstanding spiritual work which articulates the very es­ sence of the grandmontine vocation.

The text provides the aspiring religious with the means for attaining theirspiritual goal; total union with God.The Prologue makes it clear that the only way to God is through his divine Son. 'There is no rule but the Gospel.' It is Christ himself who is at the centre of all the discourses; his ideas, his actionsand reactions but above all else, his sublime love for humankind permeates Stephen's own thoughts.The


novice who is about to follow the Rule of the Gospel is told that he is entering into a partnership with Christ himself and he is warned that such a partnership has no hope of succeeding if it is all one sided:

Here is the reason-more important than any other­ why the upright person holds to the belief that God will make him a partner for eternity in his heavenly kingdom: because now, in this world, God has so humbled himself as to deign to dwell in his human creatures who are but earthen vessels. (VIl. 2)

and again:

Shall God give himselfwholly to you? If that is what you want, then he is ready to do so, but only if you for your part, give yourself wholly tohim. (XCIV)

Although Stephen was immediately concerned with the spiritual direction of a dedicated group of hermits, in treat­ ing of the divineRule he never loses sight of the fact that its Author intended it not only for religious but for all human­ kind. Thus Stephen speaksof 'the monasticism of all be­ lievers' and is at pains to pointout that Christtreats all his faithful people as religious, regardless of their state. In chapter 68, he even speaksof the 'breastplated monk' who sets out on a campaign with all the right intentions and manifests his desire to be first and foremost a soldier of Christ seeking only good and scorning evil. So long as he is prepared to 'render to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God the things that are God's,' so long as his intentionis to serve God wholeheartedly in all that he does, then he is truly a monk.

To those of God's people who are called to turn their backs on the world and follow the Rule of Christ to the letter within the confines of a monastery, Stephen issues a serious warning. While the greatest distinction is to be found in knowing God, yet the religious who dedicates his entire life to the achievement of this end is in graver danger than the average, sincerelay person. The sinner who is


close to God sins more gravely than the offender who remains at a distance. A single, evil thought caused the metamorphosis of the brightest angel into the foulest fiend. The sin of Adam was all the greaterbecause of his closeness to his Maker. In the first chapter of the 'Thoughts', where Stephen instructshis successors in what they are to say to would-be novices, he utters the chilling words: 'It isa hundred times more preferable to be damned in the world than in the monastery because the greater the fall, the greater the injury. If you fall into hell from here, you will be among the lowest of the damned.'

Neither was the intending novice left in any doubt as to the severity of the life awaiting him within the hermits' enclosure. The words of greeting which the pastor is to employ are lifted directly from Matthew16:24 and must be the most disconcerting words Christ ever spoke: 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.' And, just in case the intending hermit should fail to grasp the full significance of Christ's invitation, the pastor is instructed to make it almost bru­ tally graphic as follows:

Brothers, gaze upon the cross; if you choose to dwell here you will be nailed to it. You will have to abandon your own self-will entirelyand you will be deprived of every liberty; even the right to eat or fast, sleep or wake, will be taken from you. You will never see your family home again and if your parents visit you here, you must conceal your poverty from them. Are you capable of turning yourself into a lowly peasant and bearing loads of wood and dung? Are you prepared to become a humble servant and wait on all your breth­ ren without distinction? You will be a prisoner in a stronghold from which there is no escape. You are free now to knock onthe door of any other monastery where you will find fine buildings, delicate food ac­ cording to the season,extensive lands, herds and


possessions; here you will discover the cross alone, and poverty.

Thekey to the religious life of Grandmontis summed up by Stephenin the words: soli Deo adhaerere.Fundamen­ tally, the aspiring religious must divest himself of every burden, free himself from every possible worldlyinterest and involvement the better 'to cling to God alone'. The extent of grandmontine poverty, which has been equalled only by that of the Franciscans, has already received con­ siderable treatment in thesepages. The justification for this life of poverty is expressed however,in some of the most beautiful of the 'Thoughts':

If the Son of God, when he came down upon this earth, would have known of a better way to reach heaven than by a life of poverty, would he not have chosen that? Love your own poverty then, since Jesus himself chose the better part. (Epilogue).

In his grace, God willed to share inthe poverty and weakness of humanity-are we so proud that we will notshare in God's wealth and glory? (XVIl)

Those who would 'find joy in God alone' must be clear that this will involve the banishment of all worldly distrac­ tions and interests the better to achieve the state of perfect contemplation necessary for achieving this goal. Thereis some beautiful imageryto be found in Stephen'sexhorta­ tion to his novices to practise the virtue of detachment:

As wood which is retrieved from water will not burn brightly unless it be dried out, man cannot be warmed by the fire of the love of God so long as he is full of the humours of imperfection. Like waterlogged wood, he must first be dried out. (IX. 6)

Worldly detachment is the loosening of thebonds which bind the individual to the base path of human endeavour. Once freed from their restraint, he can begin to direct his steps towards the ultimate, blissful union with God.


It is indeed fortunate that the 'Book of Thoughts' of St Stephen survived the destruction of the Order of Grand­ mont, for they contain a wealth of spiritual riches which are as fresh today as when they were first committed to writing by the Fathers of Grandmont. Adrian Baillet, an eighteenth-century translator, said of them: 'They are the effusions of a heart overflowing with God' and certainly it is in these 'Thoughts' that we find the reflection of that spiritual countenance which inspired generations of Grandmontines.


NOTES

1.  D. Rey,' Le Prieure de Comberoumal en Levezou' Etudes d'archae­ ologie grandmontaise (Rodez: 1925).

2.  Muniments of Christ's College,Cambridge, God's House Drawer

C.

3.  'L'Institution: premiercoutumier de l'Ordrede Grandmont', arti­

cle 7; ed. Bee, RevM 46 (1956)18.

4.Lev, p. 242:'non computatio forteconversis quorum adhucingens erat numerus'.

5.  Gerard Ithier,De revelatione; PL 204:1050.

6.  J-B. Haureau, 'Sur quelques ecrivains de l'Ordre de Grandmont', Notices et extraits des manuscripts de la Biblioth€que Nationale, 24, part 2 (1876) 247-67

7.  Rose Graham, English Ecclesiastical Studies (London: SPCK, 1929) p.214.

8.  Pardoux de la Garde, 'Les Antiquites de Grandmont', cited in L. Guibert, 'Destruction de L'Ordre et de L'Abbaye de Grandmont', BSAHL 25 (1877)Appendix J, pp. 273-80.

9.  Genevieve Francois-Souchal, 'Les Emaux de Grandmont au XIl Siele', Bulletin Monumental 121(1963-64) 41-64.

10. 'Vita Venerabilis Viri Stephani Muretensis', Cap. ill; Bee SOG, p. 106.

11.M. E. Rupin, L'Oeuvre de Limoges(Paris: 1890)p. 97 note 1.

12.See above,note 7, pp. 218-19.

13.See above, note 9, pp 352-53.

14.Lev, pp. 85-86.

15. Lev, pp. 143-47.

16.  Itinerarium a Guillelmo et lmberto fratribusGrandimontis conscriptum;

Bee SOG, pp. 251-264.

17. There is an articleon this subject by G. Marshall: 'Craswall Priory and Bones ofone of St Ursula's11,000 Virgins of Cologne', Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, volume for1942-1944, pp. 18-19.

18.RG ch Xll; Bee SOG p. 77.

19.RG ch VI; p. 55.

20.Gerald of Wales, Speculum Ecclesiae; ed. J.S. Brewer, Giraldus Cambrensis, Opera 4 (London: Rolls Series, 1873) pp. 257-58.

21. Calendar of Letters Close for the years1343-46, p. 76 (London: Public Record Office).

22.RG ch Xlll, Bee SOG pp. 77-78.

23.'L'Institution' Articles8, 11and 14; see above,note 3, pp. 18-19.


24. According to Louis J. Lekai, sign language was introduced at Cluny under Abbot Odo (942-962) and spread among the reformed congregations of the eleventh and twelfth centuries: The Cistercians, Ideals and Reality,pp. 372-73.

25. Giraldus Cambrensis, Speculum Ecclesiae; J. Brewer,Opera 4, p.

259. Guiot de Provins, 'La Bible'; J. Orr, Les oeuvres de Guiot de Provins

(Manchester, 1915) verses 1498-1501. Walter Map, De nugiscurialium; ed.

M.R. James (Oxford: 1914) p. 54.

26.'L'lnstitution', Article56 (d); (see note 3) p.10.

27.Ibid, Article 48; p. 23.

28.M. Deanesly,History of the MedievalChurch, p. 34.

29.Gerard lthier, Speculum Grandimontis (see note 6) p. 256.

30.  K.G. Ponting, A Dictionary of Dyes and Dying (London: Bell &

Hyman, 1980).

31.'L'lnstitution' Article21; (see note 3) p. 20.

32. RG LVI; Bee SOG, p. 93.

33.  Ibid, p. 94.

34.  Ibid.

35. Bee 'La Regle de Grandmont', BSAHL 87 (1958) 19.

36. R.S. Gottfried, The Black Death-Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval Europe (London: Robert Hale, 1984) pp. 13-15.


V

 

 

RELAXATION OF THE RULE

1219-1317

 

 

 

 

 

IN 1217, POPE HONORIUS III had accorded the deres addi­ tional privileges which provoked such a violentreac­ tion from the eonversthatarmed intervention of the king and bishops of France was necessaryto subdue it. Then, on1 March 1219, the pope issued a major bull which afforded the Order a Privilege intended to compliment the Rule and which constituted the fundamental legislative text for the Order of Grandmont throughout the ensuing century. It is significant that throughout its length, the religious of Grandmont are referred to as 'hermits'as though the pope were anxious to retain something of the unique character of the Order, despite the forcefulcounter­ arguments he had been subjected to, some of which pro­ posed its amalgamation with the Cistercians or canons

regular.

The pope had already suggested to the prior that he visit the daughter cells and regulate their affairs personally. Now, the Privilege formally released him from the obliga­ tion of residing permanently at the mother house. It also confirmed his indisputable authority over deresand eonvers alike. He was further afforded the exceptional sacerdotal prerogatives of conferring the tonsure and blessing the altarlinen, but at the same time, he was exhortedto

127


practise poverty and humility according to the Rule and to sleep in the common dorter.

The authority of the correctors was reinforced by the Privilege and the curiosi were charged to render them ac­ count at regular intervals. The corrector and curiosus of each cell were required to attend the annual General Chapter at Grandmont. Three correctors elected at the General Chap­ ter were empowered to act as visitors to inspect the mother house itself. The said visitors were also to exercise trium­ veral authority in cases of sede vacante. Correctors alone were given the authority to preside at the daily chapter of faults and impose penances. On Sundays, they were re­ quired to give aspiritual conference which all were obliged to attend. Despite the fact that correctors were beginning to seem more like regular superiors, the cells themselves were in no way autonomous; on the contrary, they re­ mained wholly dependent on the mother house as before. None of them possessed novitiates and they were not even permitted to recruit novices on their own behalf. Commu­ nities were not established on any permanent basis, more­ over, and any brother could be transferred to another house at the prior's pleasure.

ThePrivilege reaffirmed the responsibilities of theclercs over the care of altarvessels, linen and vestments as well as soundingchurch bells. The ratio of two convers to one clerc was upheld and clercs were left free to do manuallabour or not as they chose. A notable piece of minor legislation required the brethren to maintain a continual silence and a sign language was evolved to assist its enforcement. One cannot help wonderingjust how many troubles might have been avoided if this regulation had been included in the first Custumal!

Inconclusion, the document conferred certain general rights upon the Order of Grandmontincluding exemption from episcopaljurisdiction, the right to present candidates for ordination, and that highly valued medievalprivilege, freedom to toll bells in times of interdict. A copy of both the Rule and the Privilege was ordered to be kept in every cell.


Theprimary goal of the GeneralChapter which met in 1221was to adapt and modify the Constitution of the Order to bring it into line with the terms of the Privilege. The result combined with some additional and important inter­ nal legislation further to undermine the primitive asceti­ cism and fervour of the Grandmontines. Although the strict laws governing fasting were retained, the dietary prohibitions were considerably relaxed.Presumably, this was the stage at which Grandmont acquired its culinary reputation, the 'garlic sauces' which so impressed Guiot de Provins.1 Previous to this the brothers had been re­ quired to take it in turns to be responsible for cooking, but now it became permissible to appoint a permanent cook and no doubt standards improved accordingly.  

Therestrictions on buying and sellingwere lifted and the brothers permitted to transact business for themselves. The trusted laymen who had previously acted on their behalf were dispensed with. No longer were the brothers barred from entering private houses and, whenever it might be necessary for them to travel, they were free to visit their relativesand friends. They were also allowed to socialise with strangers they might meet on journeys. The article of the Rule forbidding the acceptance of ecclesiasti­ cal honours and titles was abrogated. The reputation for outstanding humility which had alwaysdistinguished the Grandmontines was lost forever when they were afforded this opportunity to rise inthe ranks of theclergy. In fact, few Grandmontines ever did achieve high clericalstatus.

Honorius m, in his concern to retain somethingof the

original spirit of poverty,had deliberately upheldthe arti­ cles of the Rule forbidding fixed incomes and the holdingof lands outside the immediate enclosure of the monastery. In fact, he went even furtherin ordering the sequestration of all irregularly acquired lands and possessions. This had the effect of placing the mother house in dire straits, for while a small group of brothers in a cell might be able to subsist entirely off alms, the large community at Grand-


mont could not be expected to live entirely from charity. Besides, the generosity of benefactors had been noticeably declining for some time, most likely as the result of the recent scandals. The bishop of Limoges and other high ranking ecclesiastical visitors to Grandmont expressed themselves appalled by the poverty and misery they en­ countered there. They obtained the agreement of the Gen­ eral Chapter to petitionthe pope to suppress the articles of the Rule which inhibited the Grandmontines from gaining a livelihood in the generally accepted monastic manner. They considered that even though the holding of lands and revenues was in direct contravention of the Rule, it was a lesser evil than the extreme deprivation which they had been forced to witness and were unable to alleviate permanently.

On 28March 1223, the pope reluctantly agreed to the solution proposed bythe General Chapter and supported by the bishops. The four most outstanding articles of the Rule, and the ones which lent the Order of Grandmont its unique mendicant character, were suppressed. For the future, the brethren were permitted to negotiate fixed in­ comes and own lands outside the enclosure. They were authorised to maintain the relevant charters and plead cases of land tenure in the civil courts where necessary. They were further permitted to raise herds and maintain beasts for work purposes.

The foundation of the three english houses coincided with the relaxation of the stricterobservances of the Rule. Hence, with the possible exceptionof Grosmont in York­ shire, which received its first confirmation charter from King John a few years earlier in 1213, they were never subjected to the full rigour of grandmontine discipline. The cell of StMary at Craswall in Herefordshire has not been definitively dated, although the evidencesuggests some­ time between 1217 and1222 and probably closer to the earlierdate. According to the first charter of confirmation which was given by Henry m to the brethren in1231, it was


well endowed by its founder, Walter de Lacy. The third cell, Alberbury in Shropshire, proved to be the smallest of the three english dependencies of Grandmont and the last to be founded in the late 1220s. In company with Craswall, it was well endowed by its founder, Fulk Fitz Warine, and acquired further estates in the county of Shropshire in the course of the thirteenth century. As early as 1239, the corrector and brethren are found to be lending money as well as securing small parcels of land on mortgage.2 Fur­ ther small holdings appear to have been given to the breth­ ren in return for spiritual favours, but the most substantial portion of the endowment of this house consisted of the parish church of Alberbury. The brethren had acquired the advowson and one of the portions by 1259 and they se­ cured the appropriation of the church plus the remaining three portions in1262. The Rule of Grandmont is adamant that its followers must not become either the owners of churches or the receivers of revenues appertaining to them. It further instructs that any offers of churches by way of gift be resolutely declined.3 The infringement of this regulation by the english monks shows the extent to which they were distanced idealistically, no less than geograph­ ically, from Grandmont.

Following Prior Caturcin's resignation in1228 or 29, Elie Arnaud was elected tenth prior of Grandmont. Unfor­ tunately, his character possessed neither thewisdom nor the sanctity of his immediate predecessors. Shortly after assuming office he was accusedof various faults and lax­ ities. It was stated that under his charge the Rule all but ceased to be properly observed. The pope was once again forced to intervene in the affairs of the Order of Grand­ mont. While he did little more initially than forbid Elie Arnaud to undermine the decisions of theGeneral Chap­ ter, this at least had the effect of diminishing the somewhat excessive authority of the prior.Elie, however, continued arrogantly boastinghis authority in such a way as to alien­ ate many of the brethren and provoke them to acts of


blatant disobedience. He rapidlybecame an object of ridi­ cule for outsiders no less than for the brothers themselves. Following furtherand more forcefulcomplaints about his behaviour, the pope resolvedto depose him and sent three commissioners to Grandmont to implement his decision. Elie responded by confining the papal officers and making his own appeal to the Holy See. His deposal was nonethe­ less confirmed by two cistercian abbots along with two carthusian priors whom the pope nominated as visitors, and the General Chapter was ordered to nominate a suc­ cessor. Elie proved a very difficultperson to get rid of and he left for Rome in order to plead his case personally before the pope. He was still in Rome vociferously refusing to relinquishoffice when he died on12 August 1239, and thus spared both the pope and the General Chapterany further trouble or unpleasantness.

The eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth priors of Grand­ mont each held office for a mere three years. The gentle and peace lovingJean de l' Aigle, elected in 1239, retired to the solitude of his beloved cell of Ch ne-Galon in 1142 and was replaced by Ademar de la Vergne, corrector of the important cell of Bois de Vincennes near Paris. Ademar's brief priorate was marred by further unpleasantness in the form of a tussle with the four visitors elected by the Gen-· eral Chapter. In 1244, they began actively abusing the terms of their guardianship by personally decreeing stat­ utes which the prior considered contrary to the Rule. It was left to Ademar's successor, Guillaume d'Ongres, to deall with the situation. In 1245, he resisted the visitors so ener­ getically and successfully that at his request Pope Inno­ cent IV quashed several of the disputed statutes. In order to clarify the legislation of the Order which a whole series of General Chapters had rendered inextricably complex, the pope issued the bull Licet ad sapiendam on 25 October 1247. This officially excised nine whole chapters of the Rule and afforded clear papal approval for the practices which Hon­ orius m had reluctantly agreed to in 1223. InnocentIV


issueda further bull Licetin privilegio in November of the same year. This Privilege somewhat modified that of Hon­ orius m, but its most significant ruling concerned the prior, whose authority was considerably curtailed by the General Chapter which was empowered to check and balance any legislation he might introduce. A definitor, an executive officer after the cistercian model, was appointed to head the general chapter and his authority was to be indepen­ dent of the four visitors responsible for the annualinvesti­ gation of the condition and affairs of themother house. The autonomy of the daughter cells was increased somewhat and the authority of the correctors over the lay brother curiosi was consolidated. Cells were nolonger barred from recruiting noviceson their own account and the establish­ ment of novitiates was authorised in a few of them.

Hier Merle ruled as fourteenth prior of Grandmont from

1248until he resignedin1260. The singularlack of informa­ tion concerning this fairly long priorate would seem to indicate that for a while, at least, Grandmont experienced a period of comparative calm. If this was indeed the case, it was the calm before a storm and was all too rapidly dissi­ pated when Gui Archer became the fifteenth prior of Grandmont in1260.

The notorious grandmontine lay brother disputewith its

attendant histrionics has alwaysreceived considerable at­ tention from monastic historians. In consequence, another series of disturbances have tended tobe overlooked. These were concerned with the international squabble which broke out at various times between the french brothers, the 'Fratres Gallici' dwelling in Capetian territory and the English, 'Fratres Anglici' who were in the majoritywithin Angevin territories including LaMarche where the mother house was situated. Back in the 1170s, King Philip Au­ gustus had supported the french contingent in their effort to transfer the mother house from Grandmont to Bois de Vincennes in the Ile de France. The attempt failed and any further effortsin this direction were lost to sight amid the


134      The Hennit Monks of Grandmont

far greater internal struggle. Now, following a period of comparative calm in the mid-thirteenth century, this par­ ticular bone of contention was once again unearthed. This time it was the pious Louis IX who supported the French brothers in their attempt to transfer the seat of government of the Order. The ensuing schism heaped further disgrace onthe Order of Grandmont, and it was the problem which the humble and gentle prior Gui Archer was forced to grapple with throughout his nine years of office. It quite probably constituted one of the main reasons for his sub­ mitting his resignation in 1269. His successor, Foucher Grimoard, continued the struggle against separatism with a greater measure of success, although his personal appeal to Rome, probably in 1269, resulted in considerable num­ bers leaving the Order rather than acquiesce with the papal decision and accept the penalties inflicted for their dis­ obedience.

Somewhat paradoxically, it wasin1269, a year when the ranks of theGrandmontines were further reduced, that the fourth foundation on foreign soil was achieved. King Theo­ bald IV of Navarre invited the Grandmontines to take over the former franciscan house of St Martial at Tudela in the diocese of Tarazona, now part of Spain. The king was also responsible for the foundation of a second cell within the same diocese at Estella.

The troubles which dogged the Order of Grandmont must have seemed interminable to the whole succession of popes forced to intervene in its affairs. In 1285 it was Honorius N who was required to settle a somewhat novel disturbance involving the seventeenth prior. Pierre de Caussac was electedin1281or 82. A couple of years laterhe stood accused of both simony and perjury, charges which in actual fact were never proven. The four visitors pro­ ceeded to excommunicate him and put Bernard de Rissa in his place. Such a move without the assent of the General Chapter was a serious abuse of their powers. Caussac continued to attemptto rule the Order from Grandmont,


while de Rissa established his headquarters at Bois Rahier in Tours. Sides were once more taken and the scene was set for a further battle.

Thefirst papal commission empowered by Honorius N to settle the issue quite simply failed in the attempt. The second took ruthless actionin deposing both rival priors, and then used the opportunity to introduce further stat­ utes of reform which were in due course confirmed by Nicholas N and his successor, Clement v. The tenor of these is disciplinary and they give some idea of the degree of decadence which had pervaded the Order. Correctors were forbidden to maintain household servants and keep stables. They were also prevented from travelling with large retinues. The monks in general had to stop hunting, attending wedding feasts, and gambling. They were also forbidden to carry weapons which would seem to have been a wise precaution given the recent behaviour of some among their number!

In the courseof the priorate of Pierrede Caussac a

document emerged which treats of female religious. It is not known when exactly women began entering the Order of Grandmont but one thing is certain; it was in direct opposition of the Rule which insists: 'we forbid you abso­ lutely to receive women into our observance'.4 Even when the ruling against women was derogated and they were admitted into the Order, they were few in number com­ pared with the men. Louis Guibert, the late nineteenth­ century historian who set himself the task of identifying and mapping all the original grandmontine foundations, discovered only four houses which were indisputably nun­ neries. All four were in the immediate vicinity of the mother house5 and of them Drouille Blanche at Bonnac-la­ Cgte, Haute Vienne appears to have been the first to have been founded. A donation charter bestowed on this com­ munity is preserved in the archives of the Haute Vienne.6 In the title designating the community the following words appear: albarum monialium de Dru.Zia, from which it seems


that these female religious wore white habits rather than the 'brown' of their male counterparts. The document was sealed in the church of Grandmont in the presence of the prior and ten religious, among them the chaplain of Drou­ ille. This suggests that the cell had already becomeaffili­ ated with the mother house although this is not specifically mentioned. A further document dating from 1223 given under the seal of the bishop of Limoges also refers to grandmontine nuns.7 Drouille Blanche survived until1756, when it was united with Chatenet, originally a house of male religious. When the Order was suppressed, Chatenet along with Grandmont itself passed into episcopal control. The last grandmontine nun was Marie Barny, who retired to her family when the Order was suppressed in 1772, but shewas present at the inauguration of the memorial chapel on the site of Grandmont by Dom Vergniaud, the last monk, in1825.

In 1291, Bernardde Gandelmar was selected to replace Pierre de Caussac who had been removedfrom office along with the rival prior. The appointment of the eighteenth prior was never confirmed, however,for he died the same yearand Gui Foucher was elected in his stead. He proved to be an excellent choice, a born organiser and a capable financier who succeeded in alleviating the want and misery

,which was once again affecting Grandmont. He.managed to·achieve this mainly by imposing a levy on the daughter houses in the manner of the Cluniacs and Cistercians. In fact, this system of raising funds was not wholly new to the Grandmontines. It had been tried, not very efficiently, by Jean de l' Aigle back in1240.

PriorFoucher was responsible for the first officialcensus of the Order of Grandmont following the General Chapter of 1295. The figures which emerged as the result clearly illustrate the toll exacted by prolonged troubles and scan­ dals. Several of the houses founded by the immediate successors of St Stephen had disappeared altogether by this time and the loss of houseshad been particularly


heavy within the diocese of Limoges, birthplace of the Order. The total number of clercs came to 886; convers were not counted. In compiling this exclusively clerical census, Prior Foucher may have had a number of considerations in mind: the selection of candidates for ordination; a reor­ ganisation of the cells in order to achieve a more even distribution of existing priests, or to assist him in the appointment of correctors and other senior officials. Never­ theless, the omission of the convers is surprising at a time when documentary evidence reveals that other religious orders were recording the numbers of their lay brethren even if such records are sporadic and not altogether reli­ able. It certainly underlines the extent to which the Order of Grandmont had distanced itself from the democratic ideals of its Founder, so eloquently expressed by Prior Gerard Ithier only a century earlier. •

Louis Guilbert has painstakingly located and listed the one hundred fifty cells which still existed at this date according to the seventeenth-century Annals of Dom Le­ vesque.8 He points out, however, that Levesque's list probably relies on an earlier one which was inserted in a bull of Luciusmin1182, because some of thecells listed had verifiably ceased to be by1295. Thereis valid proof that one hundred forty-four cells existed at this time. For visitation purposes Foucher also divided the Order into nine pro­ vinces as follows: France, Burgundy, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Saintonge, Gascony, Provence, and Auvergne. The map which Guibert included with his mammoth work illustrates these divisions or provinces which, with the exception of France and Normandy, emanate from Grand­ mont like the spokes of a wheel.

The year1305 witnessed a momentous event. Clement v, the first of the Avignon popes, visited Grandmont in per­ son. He had always been a great admirer of the Order, having been a pupil of the former Prior Pierre de Caussac at thecell of Deffechin Gascony, his birthplace. This was also theyear when Gui Foucher handedin his resignation,


according to some sources before the Pope's visit, although others state that it was immediately afterwards. According to Pardoux de le Garde, one of the sixteenth-century com­ pilers of the history of the Order, Foucher's reason for resigning was his inability to defray the expenses incurred by the Pope's visit.9 This seems an unlikely motive, how­ ever as the pope spent just five days at Grandmont and, according to Guibert, gave instructions to his intendant to reimburse the monastery for all expenses incurred during his visit.10 An alternative explanation maintains that the prior resigned just before the Pope's arrival because he resented the measures taken by the papal commissioners appointed by Cement's predecessor, Honorius IV, partic­ ularly in deposing Pierre de Caussac along with the rival prior. It does not seem plausible that a level-headed and able administrator like Gui Foucher should have ceded office for either of these rather puerile motives. In fact, it would seem natural enough that he sought simply a few years of tranquil retirement after his fifteen hectic years of office culminating in a papal visitation.

Oement v, the pope who later became putty in the hands of King PhilipIV of France by aiding and abetting him in the ruthless suppression of the Templars, descended on Grandmont like a whirlwind and went through the books with a fine comb. Having penalised the 'guardians' for their inefficiency, he proceeded to formu­ late a whole seriesof revised statutes for inclusion in the Constitution.

The prior was to retain overall authority and was bound to spend a minimum period of four months a year at Grandmont. When carrying out visitations at the daughter cells, he had to be accompanied by two brothers acting as counsellors, both of whom were required tobe at least five years professed. The system of checks and balances was developed by the raising of the number of definitors to twelve according to the cistercian model. The said defini­ tors were given the right to castigate the prior and if need be cause him to be removed from office.


The General Chapter was empowered to deal with all abuses against the Rule and Constitution. There was to be no right of appeal against any majority decision taken in Chapter. At the same time as the authority of the definitors was reinforced, that of the visitors was strictly limited to confirming the election of the prior. They had no right whatsoever to depose him. Presumably,the chaos result­ ing from the visitors' election of a rival prior in place of Pierre de Caussac influenced the pope to this particular decision. Visitors were further required to render full for­ mal reports of their visitations at the annual General Chap­ ter. A further move to balance the supreme authority previously wielded by the prior can be identified in the statute which required the General Chapter to elect two additional superiors, a sub-prior and a procurator general. The curiosus of Grandmont retained the right to represent the convers at the General Chapter, although his powers and responsibilities were severely curtailed.

The Prior still had the right to transfer brothersfrom one

cellto another at his pleasure. Those cells which were more than two days' ride from Grandmont were given permis­ sion to receive and train their own novices, a decision which no doubt proved unpopular with those grandmon­ tine gyrovagi who from all accounts welcomed any oppor­ tunity for a trip to the mother house. The benedictine practice of placing novices in the care of a suitably qualified master and keeping them reasonably apart from the pro­ fessed monks for the duration of their training also became a statutory requirement. The cistercian method of training choir and lay monks in separate units was also applied to aspiring grandmontine clercs and convers. This must have had the effect of reinforcing the sort of monastic class distinction which St Stephen and the first Fathers would have found wholly unacceptable.

The remainder of the statutes concern the modification of customs which had the effect of bringing the Grandmon­ tines even more into line with the Benedictines and canons


140      The HennitMonks of Grandmont

regular. The disciplinary measures highlight the degree of decadence which was making itself apparent within the Order but which, it must be said, was by no means peculiar to the Grandmontines at the time. The fourteenth century has always been noted for a particularly high rate of abuse of monastic customs and privilege. There is always a ten­ dency to read too much into documents which treat of monastic failings, and it must be remembered that legisla­ tion which, for example, forbade monks to gamble may have been necessitated by a very few who indulged this particular vice. Every lax monk was compensated for by several others endeavouring to lead dedicated and saintly lives. Money appears to have posed a particular temptation at this time, because the curiosi were instructed to provide the brothers with all clothing they needed and were forbid­ den to hand over the money which would enable individ­ uals to buy their own. The brothers by turn were warned against adaptingthe style of their habits to suit their taste. As a precaution against the evils which accompany the accruing of debts, correctors were instructed on no account to borrow more than twentyfive livres at a time. Among the luxuries which appear to have been finding their way into the cells were feather beds and fine quality linen. Brothers were ordered to return to the rough coverlets and course linen prescribed by their Rule. A further warning was given about the possession of weapons.

Abstinence from meat was maintained in principle but the Grandmontines, in common with other religious, were now permitted to indulge their appetite for meat twice a week, but with the proviso that they did so in a separate dining room. Meatless meals only were to be served in the refectory itself. Further, any brothers desirous of eating meat had to do so well out of the sight of laymen. Correc­ tors were also ordered to see to it that arespectable number of the brethren partook of a meatless diet in the refectory each day. Mention is also made of invitations to eat at the corrector's table, a procedure which was a commonly ac-


cepted practice in benedictine and cistercian monasteries, but which could never have found acceptance with St Stephen of Muret. Correctors were also permitted to enter­ tain laymen and talk with them at table.

The rule regarding silence was reinforced and the use of signs in lieu of speech approved. A further statute required that conversations, when absolutely necessary, be con­ ducted in a special parlour assigned for the purpose. The brethren were still forbidden to travel alone; moreover, they were on no account to be permitted to choose for themselves the companion who should accompany them on a journey. Furthermore they were forbidden to eat or sleep outside the monastery if they were less than two miles distant from a grandmontine cell. The conditions under which a woman might enter a grandmontine church were very severely restricted, and the counselling or spiri­ tual direction of women, including nuns and anchorites, was absolutely forbidden.

The corrector of eachcell was obliged to see to it that both

the Rule and the Custumal were read aloud to the brethren twice each year. Finally, an official formula was devised to be recited by brothers at their ceremony of profession. At the point when the Rule had been curtailed to such an extent that it had almost ceased to be, it is somewhat ironic that brothers were required for the first time to promise obedience and stability 'according to the Rule of the Blessed Confessor Stephen'.

Guillaume de Premaurel replaced Gui Foucher to be­ come twentieth prior of Grandmont and ruled until his death in 1312, when Jourdain de Rapistan was electedby direct papal mandate, and with his advent, troubles com­ menced anew. De Rapistan, who seems to have had a great deal of influence in high places,came from a noble family who held large estatesclose to Albi in the county of Tou­ louse. He set about ruling Grandmont as though it were a seigneurie rather than the chief house of a religious order vowed to poverty and humility. One ofhis first actions


after election was to order the boundaries of the priory lands surveyed and marked. Then he assumedthe right to administer justice within the littlefeudal lordship he had created for himself. He initiated a major building pro­ gramme which included the re-roofing of allthe conven­ tual buildings with lead. The twenty-first prior also had the somewhat dubious distinction of effecting the last major bit of legislation within the ancien regime of the Order of Grandmont. Four years later, his spendthrift ways and haughty behaviour were directly responsible for the final blow to the spiritualideal of St Stephenand the complete reconstitution of the Order.

At the GeneralChapter held in 1314, Prior de Rapistan completely revised the Custumal and gathered all the Stat­ utes which had been enacted sincethe origin of theOrder into one volume. The result came to be known as the 'Institutions of 1314'. It is predominantly a practical docu­ ment and several of the Statutes, as we might expectfrom this prior, treat of financial matters. The disciplinary warn­ ings range from thedramatic to the frivolous. For example, the brethren were not to wear their tunics casuallyopen at the neck and certainly they were not to bare their chests, which were to be covered with the regulation coursegar­ ments and not with fine shirts. In retrospect, an injunction to the brethren never to forget their hermit origins strikes a poignant chord so close to the time when all tracesof the eremitical life were doomed to extinction.

The Institutions designated twenty-four houses to re­ ceive and train novices. A house of studies was established at Muret mainly for the training of novice masters. The size of the community at Grandmont was fixed at forty priests and twenty-six convers, but this figure took no account of additional unordained deres or novices. Financialmeasures dealt with such matters as the extentof tree felling which daughter cells were permitted to undertake, and regu­ larised the maximum amount of loans which an individual house might seek. Each correctorwas ordered to keep a


register of the possessions and revenues due his houseand submit it annually to the visitor.

Having reaffirmed the rule of silence in refectory and dorter, the Institutions appended a considerable list of rather alarming behavioural sanctions. These were aimed at brothers found guilty of theft, slander, drunkenness, and associated misconduct, poachers, brothers leaving the enclosure at night without permission or indulging in any form of physical violence. Special mention is made of culprits who so far forgot themselves as to strike the correc­ tor. Brothers who denied their vow of poverty were threat­ ened. And a particularly harsh penalty devised for those who were discovered to have money about their persons at the time of their death; their corpses were to be interred in a dung heap. An intriguing little instruction had to do with the behaviour of brothers when in the prior's presence. Previously, they were requiredto prostrate themselves, an action which also had to be performed by any brother when he received or read a letter from the prior in his own cell. Now, a simple bow was substituted in the manner of the Cluniacs.

A year after these Institutions came into force, Prior de Rapistan was accused by the brethren of dissipating the possessions of the Order and leading a scandalous life. Summoned to appear before the Bishop of Limoges to answer the various charges brought against him, he re­ fused and appealed instead to the pope. A further grand­ montine war was declared. Confident that his separate appeals to the pope and KingLouis IX would be successful, de Rapistan held sway at Grandmont while the rival fac­ tion led by the correctors of Bois de Vincennes and Bois Rahier, assembled for a general chapter in the franciscan friary at Limoges. De Rapistanwas declared deposedand Elie Ademar was elected in his place as the twenty-second and last prior of Grandmont.

Repercussions of this affair were felt as far away as England. On 7 March 1315, Prior Elie Ademar wroteto


ArnoldRissa, corrector of Alberbury in Shropshire, com­ missioning him to receive the obedience of the english brothers on his behalf. He also made it known in this letter that he had heard that Prior de Rapistanhad ordered Rissa tosell a manor and bring the proceeds personally to Grand­ mont. 'We forbid you,' wrote Ademar, 'to sell or alienate anything without our permission. '11

When, in 1316, Jacques Duesne was elected to the papal throne as John XXII, thisquarrel about the succession had manifested itself in appalling disorders and was threaten­ ing to continueindefinitely. According to Dom Levesque, this pope was a former Grandmontine and corrector of the cell of Deffech.12 While this claim was perpetuated by subsequent authors, notably Guibert,13 there is little evi­ dence to support it. According to Margaret Deanesly, he was trained in his youth by the Dominicans .14 Certainly his tremendous ability asboth canonist and theologian, which was demonstrated in his handling of the franciscan schism, points to a dominican rather than grandmontine back­ ground. Be this as it may, John XXII proved himself in many waysto be a man of greatability and he certainly tackled the grandmontine problems with tremendous energy.

Theyear 1317 makes the same impression upon students of the Order of Grandmont as 1066 does on english school children. It is one date invariably remembered. On the credit side, the bull Exigente debito which John XXII issued in the second year of his pontificate, spared the Order of Grandmont from suppression. However, it annihilated all that remained of individual grandmontine character and simply accelerated the evolution of its life along benedic­ tine lines. As the result of Exigente debito, the Order of Grandmont survived - a mere shadow of its former self.

It seems likely that Pope John XXII's action was influ­ enced, at least in part, by his compatriot, Guillaume Pel­ licier. Both men originated from Quercy, the region of southern France which is now divided between the depar­ tements of Lot and Tarn-et-Garonne. Pellicier attended the


university of Toulouse while the future pope went to Mon­ tpellier. Both gained combined doctorates in canon and civil law. On 1 November 1317, when Grandmont was raised to the status of an abbey, Guillaume Pellicier became its first abbot. In compliance with the bull, thirty-nine of the cells were selected and upgraded to priories, while the remainder were united with various of these senior houses as dependencies. The mother house was given a cloistral prior who was to be responsible for domestic affairs under the overall authority of the abbot. The number of religious permitted to reside at Grandmont was raised to sixty clercs together with an unspecified number of convers and nov­ ices. The correctors of the thirty-nine priories were auto­ matically created priors and each ruled over a community which numbered between sixteen and eighteen clercs.

Monasteries such as the english housesaffiliated to the mother house, as well as the independent priories,were

empoweredwithin this system to elect their own supe­ riors, although all such elections had to be confirmed by the abbot. Priories were also permitted to receive novices and profess them, but in company with the Benedictines, all candidates were required to promise stabilitas, that is to say, they were not permitted to transfer from the house where they made their profession without authorisation. Admissions to the various daughter houses were not, how­ ever, permitted if they raisedthe number of residents above the number allocated in the bull, unless it was by the direct consent of the GeneralChapter. The abbot hadthe right to visit any of thedaughter houses at will, together with his four counsellors and a retinue suitable to his rank. The General Chapter was to be composed of the thirty­ nine priors and an additional clercfrom each house.The number of definitors, previously set at twelve, was re­ duced to eight and they were not empowered to depose the abbot. The abbot for his part did reserve the right to re­ move a prior from officebut only when acting in council

with the definitors.


From early in the thirteenth century, the Ouniacs and Cistercians, no lessthan the hermit order of the Char­ treuse, had been regularlysending a number of their mem­ bers to study at the universities. The Grandmontines stood out as the only group of religious who did not actively encourage scholastic studies.With the electionof the scholarly Guillaumeas abbot, this prejudice against learn­ ing was finally overcomeand Grandmontines began to attend universities. To defray the costs of administration of the Order in general, but particularly those of these stu­ dents, the abbotswere empowered tolevysubsidies on the daughter houses, with the consent of the general chapter. By the time all the directives of the bull of John XXII were complied with, very littleof the old Orderremained. Per­ petual abstinence was retained in theory but seldom in practice. As had been the case among the Cistercians in the previous century, occasions when meat was eaten multi­ plied as the years passed. Perhaps the most striking and sad departure from the spirit of the Rule of Grandmont occurred in the new formula for profession. Whereas the earlier version insertedin Prior Jourdain de Rapistan's Institution required the candidate to make his promise of obedience according to the Rule of the Blessed Confessor Stephen, the1317 version omits all mentionof the founder and the Rule he inspired and the brother promises obe­ dience simplybefore God. This version cannothave been definitive, however, because in the Archivesof the Haute Vienne there is a formula of profession used by a certain Brother Francois Chautard duringthe term of office of Abbot Francois de Neufville (1561-1596) in which he vows stability and obedience, 'according to the rule of the

blessed Confessor Stephen.15

The 'reform' instituted by John XXII and implemented by Guillaume Pellicier was as radical as it was efficient. For almost a century after its foundation the Order of Grand­ mont had striven valiantly to live like their saintly founder, and through their efforts they became recognisedas the


champions of the eremitical life. Even when they began leading the same sort of conventual existence as other groups of reformed religious, something of their originality was still discernible. In 1317, it took only one stroke of the papal pen to complete the final change of the Grandmon­ tines into regular monks.


 

1.  See above pp. 78-79.


NOTES


2.  Muniments of All Souls' College, Oxford. Alberbury deeds: 71,82, 100.

3.  RG Ch. V; Bee SOG, p. 73.

4.  RG Ch. XXXIX.

5.  Gui, 'Destruction de L'Ordre et de L'Abbayede Grandmont',

BSAHL 23 (1875) p. 69.

6.  Article 341, cited by Gui (note 5) p. 70, footnote 3.

7.  Archives de la Haute Vienne. The document cited by Guibert (note5) p. 71, footnote 1, forms part of a collection of documents which has not yet been catalogued and is therefore not available for consulta­ tion.

8.  Lev (pp. 5-10) lists 152 cells but one of them, Hentrua, has not been traced, while another, Berleria, islisted twice. See also Gui, pp. 60-65.

9.  Pardoux de la Garde, 'Compilations des Antiquites de Grand­ mont', cited by Gui, p. 76.

10.Gui, 'Destruction' (note 5) p. 76, footnote1.

11. Muniments of All Souls' College, Oxford, Alberbury collection No. 120. Cited by R. Graham, English Ecclesiastical Studies (London: SPCK, 1929) pp. 234-35

12.Lev, p. 294.

13.Gui, 'Destruction' (note 5) p. 80.

14. M. Deanesly, A History of the Medieval Church (London: Methuen, 1925) p. 183

15. Archives of the Haute Vienne, Seminaire de Limoges collection article 3931: Cited by Gui, 'Destruction' (above note 5) p. 58, footnote 1.


VI

 

 

GRANDMONT UNDER THE ABBOTS

THE ELECTED ABBOTS 1317-1379

 

 

 

 

 

GUILLAUME PELLICIER RECEIVED the abbatial blessing from the Cardinal Archbishop Nicolas of Ostia on 30 April 1318. The ceremonytook place at Avig­

non, which since 1309 had been the recognised seat of the papacy. He was able to assume control of Grandmont secure in the knowledge that he had solid papal backing for all his actions.Apart from being a conscientious religious, the first abbot has been recognised both as a scholar and a mancapable of wielding authority with firmness and flex­ ibility. He certainly worked tirelessly to conserve the rights of the Order and strengthen its new structure of govern­ ment. He made himself personally responsible for drafting the various decrees which in due course were submitted to the General Chaptersfor approbation. It is in large part due to these official texts that we are able to gleansomething of the institutional life of the Order during his years of office. The most outstanding problem confronting Abbot Pel­ licier at the beginning of his rule was financial. The affairs of the mother house, let alone the daughter houses, had once again sunk into a lamentablestate. This can in part be attributed to Prior de Rapistan's lavish expenditure, but years of general inefficiency and inept management had alsoto be taken into account. Pellicier had to devoteconsid­ erable effort and skill to re-establishing the Order on a

149

secure financial base. The subsidies which the1317bull had permitted to be levied on the daughter houses were strenu­ ously resisted, and it required tremendous firmness and tact on his part to secure payment. This money was re­ quired to satisfy the Order's creditors. There were heavy additional expenses involved in running the abbey itself, but the new abbot was also obliged to satisfy the papal requirement that twelve students attend universities. The sum needed to make up the grants which would enable these students to complete the full seven-year course was considerable. Another and somewhat more delicate obliga­ tion involved the payment of costs incurredin legal proc­ esses relating to possessions acquired by communities outside their immediate enclosure. Involvement in secular court cases was not, however, a problem peculiar to the Grandmontines. Fourteenth-century monks in general were notorious for their frequent involvement in litigation. A more fundamental difficulty arose when Pellicier turned to the task of establishing and safeguarding his authority over the priors of the Order. Arelated subject, and one which called for exceptionally delicatehandling, concerned the exercise of hispowers of visitation. At the General Chapter of 1329, the priors protested vehemently over what they considered the excessive authoritythe abbot wielded in investigating and regulating the affairs of their respective houses. Thirteen majorquestions were raised, and the disputations which followed became so involved in legal intricacies that the advice of secularlaw­ yers had to be sought to help to unravel the issues at stake. It says a great deal for Guillaume Pellicier's powers of leadership and persuasion that the Order emerged un­ scathed from the furor ofprotests aired at this particular meeting. In fact, the question regarding the spheres and limitations of abbatialauthority once settled,the Chapter proceeded to introduce some clear-sighted and positive legislation. This was divided between the practical resolu­ tions appertaining to the generalmanagement of the Or-


der, and those decisions which affected religious obser­ vances and the rubrics governing the celebration of the liturgy.

Liturgical innovations are fully outlined in Guillaume Pellicier s work 'On the Celebration of the Divine Officesin the Order of Grandmont' .1 They concern such matters as the inclusion of certain feasts and their octaves in the grandmontine ordo along with the requirement that the brothers confess and receive Holy Communion at least twice a month. Certain mitigations are also included, the most notable of which concerns the Office of the Dead. Up until this time, the monks were expected to assemble in the cemetery three times a day to recite it, presumably in all weathers. Now this undeniably harsh practice was dis­ pensedwith, although they were still required to assemble in the cemetery morning and evening excepton feastdays and recite the Miserere (psalm 51). Twoliturgical inno­ vations which came about at this time are of particular interest and significance, revealing as they do the transfor­ mation of the religious life of the Grandmontines from the eremitic to the thoroughly conventual. The first ordains that Sunday and feastday masses be preceeded by a sol­ emn procession in the cluniac manner. The second in­ structs that the daily conventual mass be sung with deacon and sub-deacon in attendance on the celebrant.

A considerable number of directives governing the ac­ ceptance and training of novices were introduced under Abbot Pellicier and compiled by him in another major text, Liber de doctrina novitiorum. Frere Philippe-Etienne, an au­ thority on grandmontine life and observance, has observed that more than anything else this work illustrates the de­ finitive transformation of the Order of Grandmont and its attendant loss of identity.2 It is true that throughout its entire length St Stephen the Founder is only once men­ tioned while his 'Book of Thoughts', the fundamental inspiration of Grandmontine life, is totally ignored. By contrast, there are frequent allusions to and quotations


from the writingsof Bernard of Clairvaux, a saint whom Pellicier appears to have venerated rather more than his own founder. The length of the novitiate was set at one year and the acceptance of any religious wishing to transfer from other religious orderswas forbidden. The latter pro­ hibition had originally been stated in chapter 40 of the Rule. It is noteworthy that particular mention is here made of 'parasites coming from the mendicant orders' who are absolutely, under no circumstances whatsoever, to be ad­ mitted. This specific bias against the mendicants may well havebeen prompted by the franciscan struggle which was raging at the time and which had effectively divided that Order into two rival factions, the 'zealots' or 'spirituals' and the 'conventuals'. Quite a few of the friars sought to transfer to other groups of religious as the result of this schism. The grandmontine notion of poverty, although well watered down by thistime, may still have appealed to some among the franciscan 'spirituals'. Their presence among the Grandmontines could have proved embarrass­ ing ifnot downright dangerous, for their insistence on the poverty of Christ was closelyakin to the teachings of St Stephen of Muret himself. As recently as 1323, Pope John XXII had condemned the teaching of the 'spirituals' and declaredit heretical to assert that Christ and pisapos­ tles held no property whatsoever.

Thedisciplinary sanctions introduced in 1329 are a sad indication of increasing decadence, for it became necessary to remind the brethren that they might not leave their monasteries without having first sought permission, and never at night. A whole string of contraventions are listed: absenteeism, involvement in commercial deals, fraternisa­ tion with the wealthy and influential. It was even found necessary to forbid the sons of St Stephen to consult for­ tune tellers!A novel offencemakes its appearance at this time; the directresult of the reconstitution of the Order. It would appear that some of the brothers were leaving the priories to which they had been officially assigned in1317,


preferring to dwell in one or other of the united cells, where presumably they could enjoy a fuller measure of independence and freedom out of sight of the prior and removed from his authority. The familiar warning that brothers must not alter their habits to suit their taste had also to be reiterated.

When Abbot Pellicier died in 1337, he left behind an efficient and stable institution. His successor, Pierre Au­ bert, belonged to a thoroughly ecclesiastical family. His brother would in due course become Pope Innocent VI and he himself was uncle to two future cardinals. In company with his predecessor, he had all the qualities which distin­ guish a good superior; he was pious, learned, calm, and detached in his judgments. Nothing serious occurred to disturb his peaceful years in office. The most notable change resulted from a bull issued by Pope Clement VI in 1346, which made some adjustment to the hierarchical relationship existing between abbot and priors, some of whom had never been happy at the extent to which the affairs of their houses were regulated by a distant superior. At their instigation, Clement VI restored some measure of theautonomy they had enjoyed before thereconstitution of 1317 had placed them firmly under the direction of the abbot. In time this slight slackening of the reins would lead to further relaxations.

Clement VI also decreedthat the numberof definitors be onceagain augmented, this time to a total of nine. It was required that four be chosen from among the monks at­ tachedto the mother house, while the remainingfive were to be selected from the daughter houses. He also ordered that the superiors of the thirty-nine prioriesselect capable administrators to govern the united cells in their charge. The abbot himself was required to see to it that these houses were subjected to visitation once every three years, but in order to avoid unnecessary expenditure he was not bound to undertake this task personally but could appoint a suitable delegate in his place. Both he and his representa-


tives were instructed that their stay in any given house should never exceed three days. In the course of visita-• tions, the visitors were required to assist the senior monks of the house in questioning and examining any novices. They were furthermore instructed to be ruthless in dis­ missing any among them who seemed incapable or who did not show a genuine vocation for the grandmontine life. On the deathor demission of a prior, the abbot might select two of his valuables or horses for himself, and his entitle­ ment to the annual paymentsfrom the daughter houses was confirmed. In1295, the total amount of such payments had been fixed at1,104livres, but it was subsequently raised to1,370.3 All such contributions had to be submitted in the course of the General Chapter held each year atthe mother house, and it was firmly laid down that under no circum­ stances could the abbot attempt to raise any further sub­ sidies. A further privilege left the abbot free to choose which prelate he wanted to confirm and bless himin office. Another and somewhat more controversial right permitted him to appoint the priors of the first four houses which became vacant after his election.

AbbotAubert died shortlyafter this papal intervention, and when his brother became Pope Innocent VI five years later, in December 1352, he granted all future abbots of Grandmont the right to the mitre in memory of his brother. He also gave them the authority to confer minor orders and administer a solemn pontifical blessing when visitingthe houses of the Order.

Forsome obscure reason, Pierre Aubert's successor, Jean Chabrit, was not nominatedby the General Chapter in the usual way but owed his election as abbot to the direct intervention of Pope Clement VI. Despite the conflict which might have resulted from this irregular appointment, not to mention the infringement of the right of eachpriory to nominate its own prior, the rule of the third abbot of Grandmont was without incident. Although the Constitu­ tion regulating grandmontine life at this time was clearly


monastic in flavour, one of Abbot Chabrit's letters, sent from Tours in1354, contains the information that the clercs were wearing both surplices and almuces to choir 'like canons'. This statement would in due course provideevi­ dence for those wishing to assert that the grandmontines had always been intended as an order of regular canons rather than monks.

Abbot Chabrit died in 1356, to be succeeded by Ademar Crespi,and shortly after his electionthe interlude of calm came to an abrupt end. The years of turmoil which fol­ lowed were attributable to external causes associated with theHundred Years' War. The first phase, which broke out in 1337 and concluded with the Treaty of Calais in 1361, mainly affected the countryside to the north of the Loire. While the priories and cells situated in Anjou and Nor­ mandy reaped some ill effects, both Grandmont and the houses to the south did not suffer at all. When, however, hostilities were renewedin 1369, the Order of Grandmont did not escape so lightly. The advances through France led by John of Gaunt and Robert Knollys, while they achieved little in the way of military advantage, nevertheless devas­ tated the countryside and left a trail of despoiled and plundered townships, castles, and monasteries in their wake. The French, having learned their lessons at Crecy and Poiters, ceased taking the offensive and successfully barricaded themselves in castles and walled towns which were beyond the powers of the English wholly to under­ mine and destroy. When Edward m made himself master of Aquitaine in 1363, hegave the Order of Grandmont a charter of protection and confirmed all its privileges. In 1370, however, the city of Limogespreviously allotted to Charles v, fell to the Black Prince after a long and brutal siege. The english armies completely overran the Lim­ ousin, laying waste farms and villages and pillaging churches and religious houses. All the villages in the im­ mediate vicinity of Grandmont were sacked and burned. Then the victorious soldiers turned their attentions to the


mighty stronghold of St Leger la Montagne which they razed to the ground. Having made short work of the little local township of St Sylvestre, the marauding forces laid siege to the abbey of Grandmont. It comes as a somewhat poignant thought that, just two hundred years after a group of english workmen detailed by Henry II had helped to build up the great Abbey, another group of Englishmen were camped outside its walls intent on tearing them down. From all accounts they did not have as easy a task as they had anticipated. With the aid of the local inhabitants, the monks organised a strong defence which succeeded in prolonging the siege for some considerable time. But the English were led by two outstanding commanders, Sir Robert Knollys and Sir John Chandos. Eventually, the valiant efforts of thesmall army of localswho had rallied to the support of the monks proved of little avail against these thorough professionals with all the forces and equipment at their disposal. Grandmont was taken and when the English finally retired, the church and a major part of the conventual buildings were in ruins. Many daughter houses suffered in the same way.

When the Black Prince returned to England in 1371, broken in both healthand reputation, he left the French in a position to take advantage of an englishfailure to consoli­ date their victories effectively by occupying most of the lands they had won. In 1373, Charles v once more made himself master in Aquitaine and thus was in a position to reaffirm the privileges of theOrder. He furtherexempted both the mother house and those other priories situated within his territory from taxes, to enable them to make good the damages and losses they had incurred as the result of the fighting. Unfortunately, such concessions did little to alleviate the extremely miserable condition of the monks. The concluding yearsof Ademar Crespi'sabbacy were singularly woeful and wearisome and whilst he la­ boured to restore the fortunes of the Order his efforts were of little avail. When death overtook him in 1379, he must


have been a saddened and disillusioned man. Circum­ stances at this time were such that he was not even able to be buried at Grandmont alongside his predecessors at the entrance to the choir. At the priory of Bandouille in the departement of Deux Sevres, there is a tombstone with the figure of a mitred abbot carved upon it. This is said to have covered the tomb of Abbot Crespi interred at the priory.

The English Houses and the HundredYears' War

Theenglish houses had already been marginally affected by a wave of xenophobia directed against the 'alien' pri­ ories since the reign of EdwardI. Between the years 1295 and 1303, the properties of various communities of french religious had been confiscated by the crown, and Edward 11 pursued the same policy as the result of the war of St Sardos in1324. When Edward III came to the throne he in turn seized foreign monasteries after1337.In practice, such confiscations involvedno more than the appointment of a crown custodian to watch over the monks and make sure that they were not spying for the enemy. Custodians were expected to appropriate all rents and revenues due to the monks and having deducted sufficient to provide them with the bare necessities of life to forward the remainder to the Exchequer. Craswall Priory in Herefordshire was seized in 1341, but according to the Calendar of Letters Close for the years1343-46, there were not sufficient funds available to pay a yearly rent to the Exchequer and at the same time to cater for the needs of the brethren. In 1342, Edward III gavethe priory into the keepingof its guardian, Bartholomew de Burghersh, free of rent on conditionthat he provide for the needs of the brethren.4 In these very reduced circumstances, Craswall managed to survive for a century until Henry VI, desiring to assistthe universities to recover something of their formerglory, seized all 'alien' priories still available. Craswall was among these and was given by the king to God's House, later united with Christ's College, Cambridge.5 Alberbury, the sister priory


of Craswall in Shropshire, was similarly disposed of to All Souls' College, Oxford.6

Grosmont, in Yorkshire, the third grandmontine priory, fared somewhat better and was able to survive a century longer than the other two english houses. Following an enquiry in 1344, the escheator for the countyreported that all nine brothers in residence were of english nationality, but that they were bound to pay a yearly contribution to the mother house in France. The lands and livestock did not provide a reasonable living for these brothers who, despite the fact that they dispensed hospitality to all those in need, were forced themselves to depend on alms to supplement their meagre income.

Grosmont was releasedfrom custody as the result of this

report.When war with France was again renewed during the reign of Richard n, Pierre Redondeau, abbot of Grand­ mont from 1388 until 1437, visited England; it has been suggested that he came in the dual capacity of religious superior and ambassador of the king of France. Realising the hopelessness of recovering anything from the impov­ erised daughter houses, he resolved to sell them if possi­ ble. In 1394, when this course of action failed to lead anywhere, he renounced all rights to Grosmont in favour of a certain John Hewett.7 All connections between the mother house and the daughter houses in England appear to have terminated at this point. In 1360, Grosmont had suffered from a serious fire which destroyed the church and most of the priory buildings. In this sorry state it can have been of little interest to the Crown as a prospective source of revenue.Pope Innocent VI (1352-62) granted an indulgence to any who visited the church and gave alms on certain major feast days, and thus the house eked out a precarious existence until its dissolution along with the other lesser priories in the1530s.

Although the english houses had ceased paying annual contributions to the mother house, the abbots of Grand­ mont continuedto nominate the priors for a considerable


whileafter the houses were subjected to partial custody. In 1317, they had not been included among the thirty-nine priories designated by Pope John XXII,but instead had been united with the mother house, which explains why the abbots continued to take a hand in their affairs. In 1359, Abbot Crespi intervened to depose John Cublington, a brother originally of Grosmont who had persuaded the abbot to nominate him prior of both Alberbury and Craswall. Cublington had been found guilty of several rather startling crimes which included seriously wounding one of the brothers and 'accidently' killing a woman named Alice Peckenhall.8 Abbot Crespi appointed Robert Newton prior in his place at Alberbury and made him english superior with power to appoint the priors of Craswall and Grosmont. Newton was instructed to submit all three houses to an annual visitation, either personally or by means of a trusted representative. England then ap­ pears to have been infected by the hereditary grandmon­ tine disease when, five years after being elected, Robert Newton died and two rival candidates vied with one an­ other for his position. Abbot Crespi intervened once again and enlisted the help of the archdeacons of Coventry, Stafford, and Shrewsbury to hold an inquiry and restore the rightfulprior of Alberbury.9 This incident marked the last recorded contact between the english houses and the mother house before 1370, when hostilities broke out again and Grandmont itself became partof the theatre of war.

The ElectedAbbots 1379-1471

Aimeric Fabri succeeded Ademar Crespi as fifth abbot of Grandmont and ruled through one of the most tragic de­ cades in grandmontine history. During this time the trials and tribulations affecting the mother house knew no bounds. Eventually, things got so bad that it is recorded that the monks were forced to abandon their abbey to french soldiery whilstthey themselves went out to seek a means of livelihood.10


Throughout the 1380s, the routiers, bands of partisan soldiers, roamed and terrorised the countryside. Whilst these wild undisciplined hordes purported to owe alleg­ iance sometimes to the king of France, sometimes to the king of England, in reality they were concerned with little beside their own personal gain. It proved impossible to govern a religious order from a devasted mother house in such conditions, and when Ramnulphe Ithier was elected sixth abbot by common consent of the brethren, he was unable to take up residence at Grandmont and chose in­ stead toremain at the priory of BoisRahiers near Tours. This was where the GeneralChapter was held in 1386, the year following his election, and in the two years of his rule he never managed to enter Grandmont. When he died in Avignon in1388, his body wasburied in that city instead of being transported to Grandmontto be interred in its right­ ful place beside his predecessors. The previous abbot, Aimeric Fabri, had similarly been buried in front of the high altar at the prioryof Bois d' Allonne.11

Following Abbot Ithier's death, Pope Clement vn per­ sonally nominated as his successor Jean Rallet, even though the General Chapter had put forward Pierre Re­ dondeau as their candidate. Mercifully, Jean Rallet de­ clined the office on his own account and so the Grandmontines were spared a further schism. Clement vn, the antipope and rival to Urban VI, agreed to uphold the General Chapter'sdecision and confirmed the election of Pierre Redondeau. The seventh abbot of Grandmont was destined to rule for almost half a century. A thoroughly exceptional character, Redondeau proved himself to he a very capable administrator while at the same time he ac­ quired the reputation for being a pious and zealous monk, anxious to uphold the Rule to the best of his ability. Him­ self an ardent scholar, he became the Order of Grand­ mont's first great educator, encouraging the deres whenever possible to proceed to higher studies. He him­ self had a doctorate inutroque and before his promotion had


served both King Charles VI and his son Charles VII as chaplain and counsellor. Immediately after his election, he tackled the prodigious task of setting the affairs of the Order to rights, and shouldered the enormous financial burden associated with repairing the extensive damage inflicted by the war. Indeed, the abbacy of Redondeau would have proved a wholehearted success, a period asso­ ciated with years of peace, renewal and prosperity, if the war had not taken so heavy a toll. The wounds inflicted had been deep and could not be healedquickly and easily. Money problems plagued Redondeau continually and hin­ dered all his attempts at reconstruction.

Insufficient funding was the cause of an unpleasant incident which has always overshadowed any of Redon­ deau's positive achievements. His integrity was called into question at the time and he has been reproached by critics ever since. The root cause of the matter was the Council of Pisa which the Abbot was summoned to attend by the pope in 1409. Unable to raise sufficient funds to pay his ex­ penses, he pawned the famous relic of the True Cross which had been given to the Order by King Amaury of Jerusalem. He was never able to redeem it and all his subsequent actions were coloured by this failure. The relic itself was tochange hands several times and increase enor­ mously in value before being returned to its rightful home seventy years later. It was King Louis XI who calleda halt to any further traffickings by personally paying off the credi­ tors and restoring the relic to Grandmont on condition that it should never be allowed to leave the church again.

The end result of this incident was that Abbot Redon­ deau has been rather unfairly blamed for allthe laxities and lapses from the Rule which occurred during his long term of office. In fact, there were no major scandals or breaches of discipline during this time. The relaxations and general watering down of monastic usages which Redondeau had to contend with were no more thanthose which have come to be recognised as universal ills affecting many monas-


162      The HennitMonks of Grandmont

teriesof the time. Redondeau would appear to have done all in his power to check the various concessions which were introduced before they went too far. For example, whilst abstinence from meat had becomegenerally more common in the breach than the observance, Redondeau insisted that it be enforced on Wednesdays as well as Fridays. While he was forced to give way to the spirit of the times and allow the brethren to keep their own personal possessions, he nevertheless insisted that they be pro­ duced for the prior's inspection once a year. At a time associated with violence and unrest, journeys were not without their attendant dangers. Religious in generalhad taken to travelling armed with swords or daggers to protect themselves from the thievesand assassins they might en­ counter on the roads. Redondeau surely cannot be re­ proached for permitting Grandmontines to adopt this rather controversial practice. Despite the compromises to which he was obliged to agree, Redondeau took care that the essential constitutions were rigidly adhered to. He made sure that the General Chapters were held regularly and was responsible for a great deal of the sensible and efficient legislation whichensured the smoothrunning of the daughterhouses. He it was who instituted the practice of appointing sub-priors in each priory to oversee the day to day running of the house and ensure that discipline was maintained in the absence of the prior himself. He found time to keep a watchful and fatherly eye on the twelve student brothers who, in accordance with the bull of John XXII, attended universities. He saw to it that all dues from the daughter houses were paid in time and he himself visited the houses of the Order regularly including, it would seem, the english houses.

Afurther accusation has been directed at Abbot Redon­ deau which has cast additional doubts on his character. The substance of this particular criticism proved to be a bitter foretaste of things to come. Not long after his election at Avignon in1378, Pope Clement VII permitted him to hold


in commendam Chavanon, the house which he had gov­ erned as prior.Thirty years later in1409, the Council of Pisa deposed both the roman and avignese popes and elected the Franciscan Alexander v. The attempt to wind up the schism was a failure but the short-lived Alexander v, apart from conferring numerous privileges on his own Order, also awarded AbbotRedondeau a secondpriory in commen­ dam. This time it was the important northerly house of Pare les Rouen. It hasbeen said that Redondeau actively per­ suaded both popes to confer these titles and their attendant benefits upon him.12 If this was the case it still does not detract from the fact that in 1398 Abbot Redondeau inher­ ited an institution sick in both mind and body, and that during the period of hisrule both the fortunes and reputa­ tion of the Order were greatly revived and enhanced.

A very surprising election occurred as the resultof Abbot Redondeau's death in 1437. Guillaume de Fumel, the eighth and last of the freely elected abbots before the imposition of the commendatory system, was not even a Grandmontine. He became a benedictine monk at the ab­ bey of Tulle, and was appointed master of novicesat the celebrated abbey of St Martial at Limoges before being sent to rule Rossacas prior. While the appointment of an out­ sider to the office of abbot was totally at variance with the grandmontine Constitution, the General Chapterappears to have been ready to make an exception in de Fumel's case, seeminglybecause he was so warmly recommended byboth the king and other high ranking personages. Nota­ ble among these were two relativesof the abbot-elect, the Captain de Poton de Xaintrailles who fought alongside Joan of Arc and, de Tandonet de Fumel, captain of Chalucet. A further schism within the Order was mer­ cifully avoided when the rival candidate, Pierre Brussac, prior of Bois de Vincennes died almost immediately after being nominated by the rival faction gathered at the priory of Petit-Bandouille in the diocese of Poitiers. Conse­ quently, the electionof the ex-Benedictine was imme-


diately confirmed by Pope Engenius IV and peace, which had momentarily hung in thebalance, was secured. In fact, Guillaume de Fumel confirmed his reputation for being a diligent and pious monk, although it has been said of his administration that he was inclined to be over-ambitious and somewhat authoritarian in his dealings with those under his command. This would seem natural enough in a man who was already experienced in diplomacy. Before becoming abbot, he had been entrustedwith delicate state missions by popes and king alike. He certainly brought both his professional and diplomatic talents along with some downright benedictine practicality to bear on his government of the Order of Grandmont. The firmness and wisdom of his decision making proved very much to the advantage of the Order. Under his direction, the Grand­ montines were able toenjoy an extended period of compar­ ative peace and prosperity. He it was who undertook the outstanding major repair work necessary to restore the building of the abbey. His piety was such that following his death he was unofficially styled 'The Venerable'.

Abbot Guillaume de Fumel did not die in office but was 'persuaded' to tender his resignation in1470, and with his untimely demission the Order of Grandmont fell prey to all the evils of the commendatory system.

Commendatory Abbots1471-1596

Professor David Knowles has said of the commendatory system that it was 'a plague which blighted monastic life both in flower and fruit'.13 Originally the term signified an official who was appointed as a caretaker to a monastery until such a time as a rightful ruler could be appointed or restored. It was subsequently developed by the popes as a convenient method of rewarding those who had served them well in some capacity or other. During the papal residence at Avignon (1309-77) and especially during the schism which ensued (1379-1417) both popes and anti­ popes used commendatoryappointments widely to assure


themselves of faithful supporters scattered throughout Eu­ rope. The system really started to degenerate when the pope awarded the power to grant abbeys and priories in commendam to secular rulers. No longer was a commenda­ tory superior required to be a monk himself. Secular churchmen, cardinals, and bishops might be appointed, even lords and nobles who were not clerics at all. The system sank to its lowestebb when childrenunder twelve years of age began to be appointed to such offices. In theory, a commendatory abbot was expected to administer and protect his monastery and care for its monks.In real­ ity, the conscientious among them provided for the basic needs of the brethren while retaining all additional reve­ nues for their own personal profit; the worst were so motivated by greed that they totally impoverished the monasteries in their charge. The Grandmontines actually fared notably better under the commendatory system than did the other religious orders in France. None of their imposed rulers perpetrated any serious harm and one in particular, Guillaume Briconnet, had a beneficial effect upon Grandmont, no less than the daughter houses which he assisted to recover their fortunes. Anothercommenda­ tory appointment was that of Armand-Jean de Bouthillier de Rance to the priory of Boulogne. He subsequently left to become a Cistercian at the abbey of laTrappe which he also held in commendam and eventually became the founder of the reformed, popularly titled 'Trappist', branch of that Order. It is interesting to speculate just how different the subsequent history of the Grandmontines might have been, had de Rance chosen to remain at Boulogne and devote his inspiration and remarkable gift for organisation tothe benefit of the Grandmontines rather than the Cister­ cians.

It was Jean de Bourbon,Dulce of the Auvergne who, in

1471., employed threats in order to oust Guillaume de Fumel from officein favour of his brother,Cardinal Charles de Bourbon,Archbishop of Lyons. This particular prelate


seemsto have collected commends wholesale, for he held five other abbeys, including the vast mother house of Cluny along with four important priories one of which was the cluniachouse of la Charite sur Loire. He further held several ecclesiastical appointments apart from his own archbishopric, and it is not surprising to discover that he never actually set foot in Grandmont. Nevertheless, the abbey did not fare badly under this first commendatory abbot. Charles de Bourbonmade an inspired choice in his appointment of a vicar general in the personof Jean Cay­ rolis, ex-prior of Viaye in the Upper Loire region. Cayrolis was a holy and gentle monk under whose inspiration and guidance the Order of Grandmont prospered. General Chapters continued to be convened regularly and one in particular, held in 1473, is of interestin having been more than usually concerned with regularising the monks' dress.14 The imposition of stringent laws governing cloth­ ing was an all too frequent concern of religious superiors in the fifteenth century,a time when more monks than usual appear to have been indulging their fancies as to what best constituted monastic attire. The Grandmontines had to be instructed that the main garment, the tunic or cassock, should always be stitched up to the neck. That is to say,it had to be donned by pulling it over the head. At least once before the Grandmontines had been admonished both for wearing fashionable shirts and for casually baring their chests. Although the earliest reference to dress, in the Custumal of the 1170s, mentions leather belts, by the fif­ teenth century these were replaced by woollen girdles which the statute of 1473 specifically states must be of wool and not silk. The brothers were further forbidden to wear what are termed 'little habits' except for work and when journeying on horseback. Presumably the garb referredto was a shortened, less ample and hence more comfortable, version of the habit which was itself required to be longus, largus et honestus. The GeneralChapter further found it necessary to rule out smartly polished shoes with fashiona-


bly pointed toes as well as the use of hats, except when riding. Hoods were ordered to be made of cheap material and never, under any circumstances, of silk. All the breth­ ren were expected to retain the tonsure, the style of which was strictly regulated: the hair permitted to grow no longer than the space of threefingers over the forehead and just two around the crown.

In1477, Cardinal Charles de Bourbon exchanged Grand­ mont for the bishopric of Clermont. Antoine Allemand, who received Grandmont, was a doctor of law and both bishopof Cahors and representative of the king of France tothe court of Rome. Unlike his immediate predecessor, he did reside at Grandmont fairly often but, needless to say, his official business was such that he was quite content to leaveall administrative concerns in the capable hands of the Vicar General, Jean Cayrolis.

The Grandmontines were exceptionally fortunate in their eleventh abbot,the third to hold Grandmontin com­ mendam, for he turned out to be a truly remarkable and dutiful leader. Guillaume Brii;:onnet came from a well to do but simple bourgeois family in the city of Tours. He had risen as the resultof his own effortsin the world of com­ merce to become eventually superintendent of finance to King Charles VII. He had been married but his wife died when he was still comparatively young and he then re­ solved to enter the Church. Once ordained, his career recommenced along new lines. He was nominatedbishop of St Malo and the pope appointed him his legatein France and sent him a cardinal's hat.

On22 October 1496,a dramatic event occurred at Grand­ mont when the Cardinal Abbot Brii;:onnet celebrated his first solemn high Mass assisted by his two sons, the bishops of Meaux and Lodeve, acting as deacon and sub­ deacon respectively. Needless to say, the church was packed for the eventand could not contain the whole of the vast crowd which had gathered to witness this family celebration. Guillaume, one of the sons, had beenraised to


episcopal rank when he was only eighteen years of age and in 1499, three years after this momentous event, he re­ ceived the priory of Pinelnear Toulouse in commendam. He proceeded to discharge this office as conscientiously and responsibly as his father did at Grandmont. All in all, the Bri«;onnets were a remarkable family.

TheCardinal Abbot worked tirelessly and unceasingly to renew some of the ancient splendour of his abbey while at the same time he saw to it that the monks kept up the regular observance of the Rule. He personally appointed the officials charged with the annual visitation of the daughter houses and he was present at and supervised the General Chapter's deliberations in 1497. On the practical side, he undertook an extensive programme of repairs throughoutthe houses of the Order and he furthered the work of restoration at Grandmont itself. The years during which he held office were crowned with success and he might well have led the Order to even greater achievements if he had not resigned his office after only eleven years.

Thereexists to this day a remarkable souvenirof Cardi­ nal Bri«;onnet's years of office in the form of a silver reliqu­ ary, a hollowed head representing St Stephen of Muret whose cranium it was commissioned to contain. Amaz­ ingly, this important item from the treasury of the abbey survived the Revolution and is still preserved·in the parish church of St Sylvestre. The head has an air of strength, nobility, and yet austerity and the eyes reflect serenity and compassion. Unfortunately, the bust which originally sup­ ported the head disappeared during the Revolution but from the description contained in the final inventorymade at the abbeyby agents of the clerical commission in1771, it was coveredwith twelve silverpanels. Four of these were emblazoned with the Cardinal's various coats of armsin enamel work, whilst the remainder depicted scenes from the life, death, and translation of St Stephen. This precious grandmontine relic is still broughtout every year and


borne in procession around the site of the abbey on the final Sunday in August.

In1507, Cardinal Sigismond de Gonzague, of St Marie­ la-Neuve, became the fourth commendatory abbot, but he was to resign just six years later and his term of office proved singularly uneventful. In 1509, his Vicar General, Nicholas de Grasset summoned the last General Chapter of the Order destined to be held for more than a century. No subsequent Chapter was held until 1643, an incredible gap of one hundred thirty-four years.

The next four abbacies proved even less remarkable. Charles Dominique de Carrest, archbishop of Sens and later of Tours, held Grandmont as a benefice for a mere two years and was replaced in August1515 by Cardinal Nicolas de Flisc, bishop of Albe. He in turn resigned four years later in favour of Cardinal Sigismond de Gonzague who had already held the abbacy from 1507 until 1513. Thus, in somewhat bizarre fashion, the twelfth abbot of Grandmont was re-installed in 1519 and ruled as fifteenth abbot until 1525. It was just eight days before his death that, with the approval of Pope Celement v-, he relinquished his abbacy in favourof Frarn;:ois de Neufville I.

On account of the religio-political circumstances prevail­ ing at the time of his election, the sixteenth abbot was not ableto assume control of Grandmont with the same facility as his immediate predecessors. The cessation of hostilities between the English and French in 1453 had opened the way for a period of monastic revival and renewal. Never­ theless, the process of recovery from so much devastation and dispersal had proved an arduous and lengthy affair. In addition, the mild attempts at a reform within the religious orders in general had barely taken effect when the com­ mendatory system with all its attendant evils was un­ leashed upon the monasteries of France. Now, just prior to de Neufville's election, the Concordat between Francis 1 and Pope Leox, signed in1516, formalised the commenda­ tory system and effectively gave the king the right to


nominate candidates for all abbatial vacancies. Under the circumstances, it is small wonder that all attempts at disci­ plinary reform broke down completely and several of the ancient monasteries went so far as to seek and achieve secularisation. The Grandmontines, while they had not suffered as seriously as their religious counterparts in other Orders, had nonetheless been subjected to the unsettling effects of a rapid succession of rulers since 1507, and were no doubt feeling something of the bitter resentment which the Concordat of 1516 generally provoked. In November 1525, in defiance of the papal decision, they asserted their ancient right to elect their own abbot and nominated Oaude de Laygue. Once again the scene was set for grand­ montine schismand once again the situation was avoided by death, for de Laygue did not survive long enough to pursue his claim. The discontent which provoked this action must have been fermenting in the ranks of the brethren of Grandmont for some time, because de Neuf­ ville seems to have been well aware of its existence and was prepared to counteract any attempts to challengehis elec­ tion. His contingency arrangements are all too apparent in the papal brief which was issued on 13 October1525. This approved the resignation of Abbot Sigismond and con­ firmed de Neufville's appointment as abbot. The text then continued to warn the monks against attempting to elect an alternative candidate, because any nomination they might make would be automatically null and void and the per­ petrators of the deed excommunicated. Thus the half­ hearted attemptsof the monks to assert their rights did no more than delay matters, and Francoisde Neufville I was not able to commence his long abbacy until the September of the following year, 1526.

TheAnnals of the Order are ominously quiet throughout theabbacy of Francoisde Neufville I. There is no entryat all between the year of his election and 1534, and a further silence throughout the years 1548 till 1561, when he re­ signed in favour ofhis nephew. During this time no Gen-


eralChapters were held and the period represents a time of somewhat uneasy calm as a prelude to the storm of the Huguenot uprising, when sorrows were once again to be heaped upon the longsuffering Order of Grandmont.

The general disquiet which permeatedreligious life at this time finds dramatic utterance in a curious and strangely prophetic story which was recorded by the monk Pardoux de la Garde. This subsequently found a place in numerous accounts of the historyof the Order. The anec­ dote foretells not only the destruction of the Order itself but predicts the Revolution which was to follow in its wake. In1536 a certain brother named Charles Cadumpnat was seated in the cloister in company with the master of novices. Suddenly he voiced a fervent prayer to St Stephen whom he hailed:

Illustrious confessor of Jesus Christ, King of kings, the glory of the Auvergne: Woeand betide the day when the

mighty tree shall be uprooted, ruin, tribulation and desola­ tion will surely follow.15

Under the year1534, the Annals record the dissolution of the english houses of Craswall, Alberbury, and Escaledale (Grosmont), adding that the homeless brethren sought refuge at Grandmont.16 As we noted above,17 Alberbury and Craswall had already been suppressed as 'alien' pri­ ories by King Henry VI and Grosmont alone survived by going 'denizen'. In fact, Grosmont was not finally dis­ banded until1539, at which time the following five brothers are listed: James Egton (aged 68), Lawrence Bird (50), William Semer (36), Edmund Skelton (36) and RobertHol­ land (31). The last two on the list definitely remained in Yorkshire and turned up at an official inquiry into their pensions held in 1553. At this time, the commissioners noted that a certain 'James Ableson', whose pension was established at £4, did not put in an appearance. As this name does not appear on the original list, it is likely that he was confused with James Egton. Additionally, as his pen­ sion was considerably larger than that awarded to the other


two brothers, who received just 66s 8d each, it seems possible that he was the prior. If this were in fact the case, at the time of the official inquiry he would have been over eighty years of age and his failure to appear can be attrib­ uted to death or debility.18 It would be nice to think that the tradition which found its way into the Annals had some basis in fact, and that the two brothers whose nonap­ pearance at the 1553 inquiry is not accounted for did find sanctuary at the mother house, but regrettably no evidence has come to light to support such a claim.

In 1561, Frarn;:ois de Neufville II took over from his uncle

and became the seventeenth abbot as well as the ninth and last of the abbots to hold office in commendam. He also became the first of the new line of regular abbots for, in May1579, King Hemi m gave his assentto the Ordinance of Blois which decreed that the abbotsof the mother housesof orders such as Cluny, Citeaux, Premontre, and Grand­ mont, should no longer be appointed by an outside au­ thority, but chosen from the ranks of the religious in accordance with canonical constitutions.

As it transpired, the last of the commendatory abbots

was himself a Grandmontine. Fran ois de Neufville II had entered the order in 1546 and made his profession at the abbey in 1553. Once installed as abbot, he did his best to protect the temporalities of theOrder especially when he was forced to defend the abbey against Huguenot assaults. Like the seventh abbot, Pierre Redondeau, who pawned the relic of the True Cross, Fran ois II has been much reproached for his decision to sell off a considerable num­ ber of items from the treasury. This action becameneces­ sary in 1589 or1590 when incessant fighting, associated with the Wars of Religion, laid waste much of thecountry­ side and the sale was necessary in order to support the monks in his charge.Nevertheless, his decision was much criticised at the time by certain of the brethren and, in particular, the grandmontine chronicler, Pardoux de la Garde, who made careful notes on it in his writings. When


Pardoux died in 1591, Abbot de Neufville, who survived him by five years, ordered his manuscripts burned. A seventeenth-century monk has noted on one of the two manuscripts which escaped destruction: 'the books were burned by Francois de Neufville, Abbot of Grandmont, because their author committed falsehood.'19 The anony­ mous monk's comment is not without some measure of irony, for in one of the two surviving manuscripts, 'Antiq­ uites de Grandmont', can be found the spurious descrip­ tion of the church of Grandmont IT which led Sir Alfred Clapham to the conclusion that all the daughter housesof the Order were modelled on that of the motherhouse.20 Of the surviving works of Brother Pardoux de la Garde, the benedictine historian, Dom Jean Becquet has said: 'they cast more confusion than light on the origins of the Order'.21

It was during the abbacy of Francois de Neufville IT that the Order acquired its own college in Paris asthe result of a ratherodd set of circumstances. King Henrim was on the look-out for a convenient monastery in the Paris area in which to install a community of Hieronymite brothers he had broughtfrom Poland when his eye happened upon the formerly important priory of Bois de Vincennes. By this time there were very few Grandmontines living there and it was sosuited to his purpose that he orderedthe monks to relinquish it. By way of compensation, he gave them the College Mignon in the city, and ordered the abbot to see to it that it was kept constantly occupiedwith student monks attending the university.

Unfortunately, the attempt to revive some measure of learning within the Order met with little success. While the previous abbots,notably Allemand and Briconnet had la­ boured to send the requisite proportion of young religious to the universities of Paris, Angers, and Poitiers, as the sixteenth century progressed numbers within the Order declined to such an extent that it eventually became impos­ sible to satisfy the requirement. As a result,the Grand-


montines were once again saddled with their former, rather dubious distinction of being the religious Order with the least educated monks. Considering that when Abbot de Neufville died in 1596, there were only eight monks in residence at Grandmont, the problem of finding twelve students to satisfy Pope John xxrr'sstatutory requirement becomes understandable.

A further concern which occupied the seventeenth abbot during the troubled years of his tenure of office was the foundationof a new house of grandmontine nuns. In1576, with the authorisation of Pope Gregory xm, Abbot de Neufville n established a new community of nuns led by Anne de Neufville, a relative of his, at Cha.tenet. This was an ancient house of the Order situated to the south of Limoges but the religiouslife had long been extinguished there.

Throughout his time in office,Abbot de Neufville n was

forced to contend with the unrest and frequent outbreaks of violence associated with the Wars of Religion (1562- 1593). One of the greatersorrows which affected the monks atthis time must surely have been when the Seigneur de Montcocu, descendant of the family which had granted the land for St Stephen's own little hermitage at Muret, as well as the land on which Grandmont itself stood, declared himself for the Protestant cause. They were forced on several occasions to fend off his assaults against the abbey, and when Francois de Neufville II died in 1596, he left the buildings once again in a sorry state, its walls caving in and the vaulting of the church threatening to tumble.

This was the scene of ruin and desolation which con­ fronted FrancoisMarrand when he became the eighteenth abbot in the same year. At the very moment of his election, the protestant troops led by the Seigneur Saint-Germain Beaupre were preparing to overrun the abbey. Despite the support lent by the Marquis d'Urfe, nephew of the late abbot, the huguenot commander, was able to carry through his attackand the newly elected abbothad barely


timeto effect his escape with a small band ofmonks before the abbey fell. The ensuing destruction was appalling. The ancient treasures of the church along with all other valu­ ables were plundered. The great relic chests, the most outstanding feature of the church, were stripped of their precious metal, gems, and enamel before being smashed and their contentsscattered. All the other furnishings and ornaments were ruthlessly destroyed before the assailants turned their attentions to removing the lead covering the roofs.

The Huguenots occupied the abbey until 1604, during which time many of thedaughter houses were abandoned and the monks dispersed throughout France. The Order of Grandmont limped into the seventeenth century, its leader an exile from the mother house. Few of the daughter houses escaped some measure of the ravages inflicted by this disastrous civil strife. As early as 1567, the priory of Louye, near Dourdan, had been devastated by the Huguenots, its churchsacked and its relics profaned. The destruction of its valuable and extensive historical archives was just one of the many tragedies inflicted on the Order. Vieupou, near Auxerre, was subjected to the same treat­ ment and partially burned. In the south near Toulouse, 1570 constituted the cruellest year in the history of the priory of Pinel. Not a village or church in the neighbour­ hood escaped the vindictive attentions of the Huguenots. Having carried off all the church valuables and ornaments they vandalised the fabric itself. Similar events were re­ enacted time and again throughout the length and breadth of France and few monasteries escapedthe scourge of the Huguenots.

On5 November 1598, Abbot Marrand, whose efforts in directing a group of partisans to combat the armed in­ truders had proved singularly ineffectual, led his small band of monks alongwith the localvillagers in a procession to Muret, 'to appease the wrath of God'. At the same time the brothers decidedbetween themselves that the abbot


was not sufficiently strong willed or capable of pursuing the warlike policy necessary to expel the Protestants and restore the fortunesof the Order. They therefore replaced him somewhat unceremoniously with Brother Rigaud de Lavaur. Marrand was, in all probability, not loathe to relin­ quish the cares of so demanding a leadership to a more energetic young man. Certainly the irregularly electedab­ bot proved himself to be more active and proceeded to organise those of the local seigneurie who remained loyal tothe catholic causeinto an army capable of combatting the Huguenots. There followed a series of campaigns which were at first unsuccessful. Charles de Pierre-Buffiere, Vis­ count of Comborn and governor of the Limousin, at­ tempted in vain to drivethe enemy from their stronghold. Then, the catholic lords of Montignac and Basseneuve attacked and managed to occupy the abbey for a time before the Huguenots redoubled their efforts and they were again forced to retire.

This inconclusive state might have been prolonged in­ definitely, had not the catholic leaders resorted to more desperate means of achieving their goal. In1604, the deci­ sion was taken and the order given to bombard the abbey. The governors of la Marche and the Limousin brought up cannons and the walls of the abbey were eventually breached. A bloody battle followed which resulted in the total defeat of the huguenot forces who retreated in disar­ ray and were eventually driven right from the area. The battle was won, but at what price.

Grandmont was retaken in a state of complete ruin. Numerous of the daughter houses were in similar plight, ruined and containing but a few monks. Several had been wholly abandoned, and insome of them the grandmontine Rule was never again revived. A few houses were in due course relinquished to other religious institutions: Bois de Verdelais in the diocese of Bordeaux, for example, was given to the Celestines by Cardinal de Sourdis in 1627. At Pinel, which as we have seen, suffered exceptionally, there


was a half hearted attempt to reintroduce the grandmon­ tine life, but thisfailed and the house eventually passed to the youthful Society of Jesus. Recent excavations at this priory have produced evidence of the violence perpetrated during these unfortunate wars. One of the tombs in the church has proved to have been used for several hasty inhumations. Four of the skulls which were unearthed bore traces of ashes testifying to the violence with which their owners had met their end. A further tomb revealed a skeleton with a severe cranial injury, typical of an armed combat wound. 22 The cell of Charnes near Bourges was ruined and abandoned at the time and in this case there appears to have been no attempt to revive the religious life. Aulnoy, near Sens, was eventually handed over to a con­ gregation of franciscan Minims. Numerous other houses where the grandmontine life ceased can be found in the archaeological list of monasteries of the Ordercompiled by

J.R. Gaborit.23

Theelection of Rigaud de Lavaur as abbot in place of the rightfully elected Fram;:ois Marrand was generally recog­ nised as a necessary step given the circumstances prevail­ ing at the time. It was nevertheless highly irregular and as such had been officially invalidated by the Parlement of Paris in 1599. The matter was amicably resolved in 1603, however, when Marrand formallyresigned, leaving Rigaud de Lavaur to be unanimously elected in his place. InJune 1604 he was finallyand officially installedby the bishop of Limoges as the nineteenth abbot of Grandmont, and the almost superhuman task of reconstruction began.

Dom Levesque, chief compiler of the Annals of the Or­ der, concluded his sixteenth-century entries with the words:

Andso concluded the fifth century from the foun­ dation of the Order of Grandmont, known from the harsh yoke of the commendators as an age when iron entered into our souls and the millstone was bound about our necks.I pray this has now come to such an end that it may never again be visited upon us.24


NOTES

1.  For 'De ratione officiiecclesiae Grandimontis; see Bee, 'La liturgie del'Ordre de Grandmont', Ephemerides Liturgicae 76 (1962) pp. 146-61. The 'Liber de Doctrina Novitiorum' was edited by E. Martene and

U. Durand in 'Antiqua Statuta ordinis Grandimontensis', Thesaurus Novus anecdotorum 5 (Paris, 1717) cols. 1823-1844.

2.  Pere J. Fouquet OMI and Frere Philippe-Etienne Histoire de L'Ordre de Grandmont (Chambray, 1985) p. 67.

3.  Bullaire du Shninaire de Limoges, cited Gui, 'Destruction', p. 85. A brief of PopeJohn XXIIgives full details of thesepayments. Of them, by far the lafgest contribution came from N.D. du Pare les Rouen and the smallest from Saint-Michel de Lodeve. See Lev, p. 289, and Gui, p. 85.

4.  Calendar of Letters Patent 1343-1345, p. 437, cited by Graham,

English Ecclesiastical Studies, pp. 236-37.

5.  Muniments of Christ's College,Cambridge, God's House Drawer

H. See also Calendar of Letters Patent 1461-1467 (London: Public Record Office) p. 217.

6.  Calendar of Letters Patent,1431-1441, p. 565.

7.  Rolls Patent 18, Richard Il, pt. i, m.11, cited Graham (note 4) p. 239

8.  Ibid., 31Edward m pt. i, m. 24d, cited Graham pp. 237-38.

9.  Archives of All Souls' College, Oxford,Alberbury Collection No.122.

10. Lev, p. 318.

11. R. Garraud, 'Essai sur lePrieure Grandmontain de Bandouille en Bressuirais', Extraits du Bulletin des Amis du Vieux-Bressuire 2 (1950-51) p.29.

12.Gui, p. 89.

13. D. Knowles, Christian Monasticism (World University Library, 1969) p. 121.

14.  Lev, pp. 345-46.

15. Cited D. Seward,'The Grandmontines - A ForgottenOrder'

Downside Review 83 (1965) 264.

16.  Lev, p. 376.

17.See above, p. 163.

18. The history and closureof Grosmont Priory has been treatedin the followingsources: J.C. Atkinson, History of Cleveland, part 2 (Barrow-in­ Furness, 1874) pp. 200-202; VCH Yorkshire, vol 3 (London, 1913) p. 194; Noreen Vickers,'Grosmont Priory', The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 56 (1984) 45-49.


19. 'Libros quo combussit Franciscus de Vovilla, abbas Grandimontis, quia veritatem non celavit auctor.' Archives de la Haute Vienne, MSS 81, 82 of the Seminaire de Limoges Collection; cited in P. Bertrand de la Grassiere, Messieurs de Monneron, Mousquetaires du Roi et L'Abbaye de Grandmont(Limoges 1974) p. 16.

20. A.W. Oapham, 'Architecture of theOrder of Grandmont' Archae­ ologia75 (1926) 192-93.

21. Bee, 'Les Institutions de l'ordre de Grandmont au Moyen Age',

RMab42 (1952) 33.

22. For details of the series of excavations which have been in pro­ gress at Pinel since 1979, see the annual reports, 1982 onwards, pub­ lished by L'Association Sportive des Etablissements Aeronautiques de Toulouse, Section Archeologique.

23. J.-R. Gaborit, L'Architecture de l'Ordre de Grandmont, vol. 2 (Un­ published thesis of theEcole des Chartes,1963) passim.

24.Lev, p. 379.


VII

 

THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY REFORMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ORDER OF GRANDMONT has oftenbeen depicted as an especially ill-fated institution which was sub­ jected to more than its fair share of misfortunes and

troubles. Be this as it may, the particular form of tribulation which afflicted the Grandmontines in the second half of the sixteenth century was certainly not unique to them. Few, if any of the religious housesof France were spared the misery arising from the destruction and devastation inflicted by Huguenot forcesin the 1580s. Scenes resem­ bling those which occurred at Grandmont were enacted time and again as the religious houses of France were despoiled and laid waste.Of the sufferings of the Cister­ cians it has been vividly noted that:

When the wars of religion finally had come to an end, the Cistercian annals closed the history of that tragic era with the necrology of 180 abbeys, helpless victims of greed and violence.1

In1599,letters patent of KingHenri IV evaluated the cost of the damage sustained at the mother house of Citeaux alone at 200,000 lives, a vast sum for the time.2

Problems associated with fund raisingand supervising building and repair works were by no means the only ones confronting religious superiors as the seventeenth century

181


182       The Hermit Monks of Grandmont

dawned. In spiritual terms there was also a great deal of reconstruction work to be done. While the charges of moral laxity levied by contemporary critics of the monks have always tended to be exaggerated, there can be little doubt that many communities were guilty of some measure of decadence and failure to observe their rule. Certain irregu­ larities can be blamed on the commendatory system, which had subjected the monks to the government of secular clerics and laymen and often deprived them of conscien­ tious religious superiors. In the absence of any effective spiritual guidance and example, it is not surprising that certain adverse criticisms were justified.

Once the religious wars had ceased, the parallel tasks of spiritual regeneration and material reconstruction began to be realised. Caught up in the tide of the Counter Reforma­ tion which was swirling through Christendom, religious superiors began implementing their own reforms. The de­ crees promulgated by the Council of Trent (1543-63) when, in its final session, it deliberated upon the religious life, had little effect because they depended too much on the good will of superiors. Nevertheless, the requirement that the monasteries of each region or province group them­ selves into congregations governed by general chapters effectively reduced the abuse of autocratic powers enjoyed by some superiors. In France this led to the formation of the benedictine congregations of St Vanne and St Maur. According to Professor David Knowles, the disciplined, scholarly Maurists were responsible for one of the 'golden epochs' of benedictine history.3 In the Cistercian Order, the desire for reform gave rise to the branch of the Strict Observance which was eventually led by Armand de Ran­ ce, former commendatory prior of the grandmontine pri­ ory of Boulogne.

Thereligious wars, inefficient government, and a gen­ eral disenchantment with the religious life had emptied the novitiate at Grandmont. Hence it was a greatly reduced number of professed religious who faced theimmense task


of rebuilding both the mother house and the grandmontine image. Headed by their energetic abbot and no doubt encouraged by the notions of reform which were revitalis­ ing the monasteries of France, this noble little band applied themselves to their task.

From the very start, Abbot de Lavaur revealed his deter­ mination to effect a real and enduring return to the spirit of St Stephen and the Rule of Grandmont. While his efforts were ultimately doomed, he instigated an heroic and joyous revival of the primitive grandmontine ideals, pro­ longed under the guidance and leadership of a series of faithful and dedicated seventeenth-century superiors. Rigaud de Lavaur's contribution to the grandmontine re­ covery from ruin and demoralisation cannot be over em­ phasised. Desmond Seward's description of him as 'the saviour and restorer of the Order'4 is no exaggeration; the parthe personally played in fostering the indian summer of Grandmont was immense.

The first task which confronted the abbot after his elec­ tion on 7 June 1604 involved ridding the abbey of the protestant troops still occupying part of the premises. The Huguenots were not entirely to blame for the financial ruin which menaced the mother house; catholic laymen no less than clerics had taken advantage of the confusion which reigned in the second half of the sixteenth century to feather their nests and in so doing had relievedthe Order of various properties and possessions. The abbot enlisted the influential aid of the Jesuits in obtaining from Pope Paul va formal brief which denounced the perpetrators of these trespasses and required the civil and ecclesiastical authori­ ties of Limoges and Clermont to effect the restitution of the properties of the Order. This business successfully com­ pleted, de Lavaur set about rebuilding a part of the abbey in which to house his small community. Once he had re­ established the mother house as his seat of government, the energetic abbot turned his attention to righting the affairs of the daughter houses.


184                 The Hennit Monks of Grandmont

Asa preliminary measure, Dom Jean Pasquier, sub-prior of the house of Boulogne, was deputed to visit all the houses and present a full report on the state of affairs prevailing in each. Dom Pasquier carriedout his task effi­ ciently and well. His report was painstaking and thorough but it made very sad reading indeed. The majority of the houses contained few religious and several had been to­ tally abandoned to their respective fates. A few had been occupied by religious of other congregations, andthe abbot was forced to negotiate their recovery. His attempt to repossess the parisian house of Bois de Vincenneswhich, in the Middle Ages, had rivalled the mother house in importance, was doomed to failure. It remained irretrieva­ bly under the ownership of the Minims.

DomPasquier's report on the moral and spiritual welfare of those houses still inhabited by grandmontine commu­ nities was equally thorough. In matters of discipline, his observations revealed a novel and startling abuse in some of the cells which in the 1317 re-organisation of the Order had been made dependencies of some of the thirty-nine priories. The day- to-day management of such cellswas the responsibility of a senior monk delegated by the prior of the ruling house. It appears that some such officers had not only severed all connection with the ruling priory and waived their obedience to its prior but they were also assuming the title of prior in their own right. Abbot de Lavaur was umelenting in his efforts to re-impose grand­ montine discipline on these nonconformist groups, but to no avail. The secession of such houses was a fa1taccompli; the abuse had been going on for so long that the spurious priors were able to vindicate their claims by reference to papal briefs which, however inadvertently, had authorised and perpetrated the illegality. The full impact of the re­ forming abbot's failure to remedy this situation and to re­ impose his authority on these rebellious houses would be felt only fifty years later, when it contributed to the state of almost complete anarchy to which the Order of Grand­ mont was reduced.


Abbot de Lavaur achieved a considerably greater success when he began to concern himselfwith matters of general discipline and custom.He ordered that the brethrenwith­ out exception wear the traditional habit, comprising a tunic and broad scapular with attached hood. By this time black hadofficially replaced the nondescript grey-brown worn by the monksin the Middle Ages. An entry in the Annals under the year 1605, which treats of this ruling, makes it appear that the more fashion consciousamong the monks had once again been considerably modifying their attire. While the Grandmontines traditionally wore surplices to choir, they were not supposed to substitute elegant lace rochets with stylish collars. The Annals also refer to the appearance of fashionable birettas.5

It was firmly laid down that all, without exception, should conform to a regular life in community and, in particular, that all meals be taken in the refectory. In an effort to ensure that the reforming spirit be disseminated throughout the houses of the Order, Abbot de Lavaur invited a number of brothers of the same inclination as himself to spend some time at the mother house. Under his personal supervision, this nucleus of reformed brethren was thoroughly trained in the observance of the Rule. Once the abbot was satisfied with their progress, they were returned to their respective houses where, true to the spirit of their founder, they taught by example.

In his efforts to re-impose and maintain discipline throughout the Order, thefatherly but determined abbot obtainedthe king's authorityto remove persistent trouble makers from their houses. Nor did he shrink from employ­ ing forcefullay assistance when it proved necessary.

In1623, Abbot de Lavaurobtained an ordinance from the Parlement of Paris which once again exempted the entire Order from episcopal control. An incident connected with this privilege is illustrative of de Lavaur'siron resolve. The bishop of Angers, for no other reason than the desire to assert his authority, had been meddlingin the affairs of the


186                 The Hermit Monks ofGrandmont

priory of La Haye. When some of the brethren dared to remonstrate with him, he ordered them to be imprisoned. On hearing what had happened, the abbot did not rest until he had securedthe release of the unfortunate monks, and the whole affair had been settled in the interests of their monastery.

Despite all Abbot de Lavaur'sefforts, the ruined state of the mother house and the lamentable finances of the Order prevented him from convening a General Chapter throughout his years of office. Nevertheless, he gathered the Statutes of PopeJohn XXIIwith the legislation passed by the two successive fourteenth-century General Chapters, and submitted the result to several distinguished clerics, who had been recommended to him for their wisdom and piety. Among theseadvisors who assisted de Lavaur in the re-codification of the Grandmontine Constitution, was the celebrated and saintly cleric Vincent de Paul, the founder of a society of missionary priests, the Lazarists, and co­ founder with Louise de Marillac of the famous Daughters (or Sisters) of Charity. Of this wise, compassionate and humble priest it has been said, 'there was no human suffer­ ing that he did not seek to relieve'.6 Vincent de Paul was eventually canonised by Pope Benedict XIV in 1737. Until his death in 1660, the future saint took a continuing and lively interest in the affairs of the Order of Grandmont. In particular he was to encourage and advise the greatest of the grandmontine reformers, Dom Charles Fremon, whom we shall meet in a moment.

Although it did not receive confirmation before the Gen­ eral Chapter held in 1643, twelve years after its compiler's death, the revised Constitution was immediately imple­ mented. While it was actually little more than a sensible updating of fourteenth-century customs, the enforcement of this resolutelegislative code did much to curb the deca­ dence which had taken root in the order.

Before the outbreak of internal strife which disrupted the Order in the 1180s, the hermit monks of Grandmont had


been celebrated no less for their fervour and austerity than for the almost legendary charity they practised. The nine­ teenth abbot of Grandmont revived this fine tradition and became noted for his solicitude in caring for the poor and needy. Despite the cares associated with breathing newlife into a spiritually weak institution and the practical prob­ lems involved in re-establishing it on a sound financial basis, he nevertheless made time to listen to and help all those who came to him in need. He is particularly remem­ bered for the aid he afforded to victims of the plague which decimated the countryside around Limoges in the course of his abbacy. In the city alone, the pestilence claimed a large number of victims before spreading to the villages and hamlets around Grandmont.7 This true son of St Step­ hen died unexpectedly of a stroke, which he suffered in 1631 while on a visit to his brother at the family home.

Fram;:ois de Tautal, the twentieth abbot, was elected on 15 April of the same year. He had served as novice master under Abbot de Lavaur whose aims and idealshe shared. Although his term in office proved to be remarkably short-only four years-he nevertheless made good use of this time in reinforcing and extending the reforms initiated by his predecessor. He travelled extensively in order to encourage the brethren in their efforts and he was gener­ ally liked for the tactful way in which he offered criticisms no less than for his gentleness in administering rebukes.It was in 1631, in the course of one of these visitations to the norman priory of Notre Dame du Pare near Rouen, that he made the acquaintance of a very remarkable monk whose actions were destined to have so great an impact upon the Order as a whole.

Charles Fremon was born in1611 into a well-to-do family of Tours, one of thirteen children. His younger brother, Alexandre, was the first of the two to enter the Order of Grandmont and, in due course, ruled as its twenty-third abbot general.

As youngsters Charles and Alexandre are said tohave played at being hermitsin the woods of Saint-Cosme near


188      The Hennit Monks of Grandmont

theirhome. When Charles reached the age of twelve, his mother, in all probability sensing the inevitability of his vocation for the religious life, decided to send him to the prosperous benedictine abbey of Marmoutier, where one of her relatives was prior. Charles, aware that the disci­ pline was lax and theRule only casually observed in this celebrated abbey, refused to go. By this time, Charles' father, who was employed in the king's service, had been accused of some malpractice connected with his charge and was imprisoned in Paris. He was to die, still in captiv­ ity, in 1622. Following her husband's arrest, Madame Fre­ mon no doubt felt the need to shift some of the heavy parental responsibility which had devolved on her alone. As Charles had turned down the opportunity of being educated for the benedictine life, she decidedto pack him off to her brother's household at Nantes where,she hoped, he might learn something of the world of trade and com­ merce. Charles' religious vocation persisted, however, and when he heard that his brotherhad entered the grandmon­ tine priory of Bois Rahier, he resolvedto follow him, but not as a choir monk. He wanted to be a lay brother.

Madame Fremon was horrified and refused to counte­ nance her son entering the religious life other than as an ordinand. There was stalemate until her confessor, a Cap­ uchin, intervened and suggested by way of compromise, that Charles be permitted to join his own strict branch of the Franciscan Order. The famed poverty practised by the Capuchins appealed to Charles and he agreed to join their novitiate at Blois. Regrettably, the life there was not suffi­ ciently austere for the young Charles who continued to be inspired by the example of St Stephen and yearned for a solitude as complete as his hero had experienced at Muret. Consequently, he left Blois and repaired to Orleans where he completed the secondary school studies he had aban­ doned when placed in the care of his uncle at Nantes. Two years later he again announced his intention of entering the grandmontine novitiate at Bois Rahier and this time his mother reluctantly gave her consent and her blessing.


Charles Fremon received the grandmontine habit on 27 October 1629, when he was just over eighteen years of age. At this time, although the spirit of renewal sparked off by Abbot de Lavaur was pervading the houses of the Order, recruitment was still at a very low ebb and there was a general lack of experienced, professed religious capable of filling responsible posts. Nothing emphasises this deficiency more vividly than the account of Brother Charles' novitiate in the 'Life' written by Dom Jean­ Baptiste Rochias around 1690. Dom Rochias knew his sub­ ject well and was one of the first to follow him when he started a branch aiming at the Strict Observance.

'The person who was responsible for the care of the novices,' wrote Dom Rochias 'was little suited to his task. He lacked experience, was easy-going in his attitude and totally unfit to lead novices along a road which he had never travelled himself.' For the education of the young monks, Dom Rochias tells us, a lay schoolmaster had to be employed to instruct the novices.8 Dom Rochias also recalls that after Charles had been in the novitiate for some months, and well before making his profession, the prior charged him with the care and instruction of the other novices. The prior of Bois Rahier at this time wasGeorges Barny, a wise and saintly monk; he later became one of the Order's great reforming abbots. He had obviously devel­ oped a high regard for the young novice, for he also entrusted him with the duties of porter. Traditionally this office was always allocated to a particularly experienced and discreet monk.

Charles Fremon was professedon 27 January 1631. He had already made a considerable reputation for himself on account of his piety and austerity. His keen devotionto St Stephen of Muret prompted him in his desire to live the Rule to the letter. His enthusiasm was by no means shared by all his contemporaries, some of whom regarded his behaviour as singular and began to resent him. At this point Dom Barny insisted that he pursue his studiesfor the


190      The HermitMonks of Grandmont

priesthood, an obligation which weighed heavily on the young monk who thirsted only for solitude. Aware of the crisis of conscience which his decision had provoked, Dom Barny wisely determined to satisfy Charles' ambition, at least for a while, and so he transferred him to the nearby priory of Bercey. Isolated in the depths of a vast forest, this priory was wholly in keeping with the ideal of the her­ mitage. Although Charles spent only a few months there, it was sufficient to renew his spiritual well-being, although his thirstfor total seclusionfrom the world was to remain with him for the rest of his life.

On14 March 1635, Charles Fremon was ordained to the diaconate, and in obedience to his superiors prepared for the priesthood which was conferred on him on 22 Septem­ ber of the same year. Meanwhile, Abbot de Lavaur, who had become aware of his reforming inclination transferred him to the priory of Notre Dame duPare near Rouen.It was here that in1631, during the official visitation of Abbot de Tautal, that Charles Fremon articulated his burning ambi­ tion to live in accordance with the primitive Rule of Grand­ mont, which involved the observance of the strict monastic fasts and perpetual abstinence from meat. The abbot was sympathetic towards the young reformer, whose worth he fully appreciated. But aware, perhaps, that he had already provoked adverse criticism from certain of his confreres who regarded his behaviour as singular and his austerities as excessive, he sensibly advised caution. He refused Charles permission to live apart and follow the primitive observance but he made him privy to his own milder, less divisive notions of furthering reform within the Order as a whole. This in effect constituted an extension of his prede­ cessor's school of reformers established at the mother house itself. At Grandmont, Abbot de Tautal intended to sow the seeds of penitence and fervour which he hoped might root and blossom throughout the daughter houses. Unfortunately, the abbot's untimely death prevented him from realising his dream of a comprehensive grandmon-


tinereform. As for CharlesFremon, the time was not yet ripefor him to commence his personal missionof reform. He remainedfor a while at Notre Dame du Parewhere he was afforded the opportunity to realise the worth of that other great grandmontine virtue, obedience.

An outstanding Abbot General, Francois de Tautal dur­ ing his four years of office had governed with dignity and yet with that genuine humility which characterises a true monk. The Annals of the Order are eloquent in his praise and note especially that, wheneverhis duties permitted, he took his seat in choir and fervently joined in the recita­ tion of the offices. He took his meals in the refectory with the brethren and, in accordance with one of the early customs, himself waited upon them on solemn feast-days. He was adamant that he should perform his share of manual work,especially when at the commencement of his abbacy it was 'all hands ondeck' to repair and renovate the buildings damaged by the Huguenots.

Georges Barny, former prior of Bois Rahier, was elected the twenty-first abbot of Grandmont on 4 December 1635. His time in office turned out to be as long as his prede­ cessor's had been short, and it was a success story from beginning to end. Under hisclear and sensible guidance, the grandmontine dream of reform and renewal grew to fruition. One of his first actionsfollowing election was to bring Dom Fremon to Grandmont as novice master. In1639 he also made him prior, but this did not prove to be as wise a decision. Dom Fremon had apparently been making good use of his spare time at the mother house searching through the archives to learn more about the original inter­ pretations of the Rule and the primitive customs of the Order. His subsequent attempt to implement some of the more austere practices of the early fathers proved de­ cidedly unpopular, and even provoked hostile reactions from those who preferred a milder, more comfortable brand of monasticism. Concerned that divisions, between


the brethren who favoured what had come to be recog­ nised as the 'traditional' or 'common' observance, and those aspiring to the 'strict' or 'reformed' observance, should be avertedat any price, Abbot Barny sensibly re­ voked Dom Fremon'sappointment. He was sent away for a time to be spiritual director to the grandmontine nuns at Chatenet. Once the controversy had died down, the abbot recalled him and sent him to Paris in the dual role of Superior of the College Mignon,the grandmontine house of studies, and Vicar General of the Order.

AsVicar General, Dom Fremon was required to visit and inspect all the daughter houses. The task afforded him ample opportunity both to circulate his own reforming notions, and to make contact with those religious who were similarlyinclined, such as Dom Gaillard, his former superior at Rouen. Foremost among the reforming party was Dom Boboul, whom he had met at the mother house. When Abbot Barny finally gave his assent to a formal attempt by Dom Fremon to institute a grandmontine branch of the Strict Observance, he was the first to join. The priory of Beaumont in the diocese of Evreux was assigned to the two companions for what, initially at any rate, was no more than an experiment. The attempt of these two pioneersto live in accordance with the twelfth­ century Rule approved by Innocent N in 1156, was not, however, destinedto succeed at Beaumont. Although the prior of that house had declared himselfto be in favour of the venture, he subsequently changed his mind and the two reformers were obliged to leave. Ever patient and understanding, Abbot Barny then designated the priory of Epoisses near Dijon, as the house of Strict Observance. It washere that the reforming fathersencountered what was tobe their greatest challenge. The property itself turned out to be an appalling ruin which the commendatory prior, more interested in the hunt than governing a monastery, categorically refused to repair. He was decidedlyill-


disposed towards the two reforming priests, who were forced to tolerate many hardships, including near starva­ tion. Their tenacity and courage eventually won the day however, and the Grandmontines of the Strict Observance became firmly established at Epoisses.

At the same time as Dom Fremon was pioneering the branch of the Strict Observance, Abbot Barny was seeking to cultivate the spirit of less radical reform sown by his two immediate predecessors. In this context, the Abbe Vincent de Paul became once again associated with the Order of Grandmont. He it was who activelyencouraged and sup­ ported the abbot in his untiringefforts to foster discipline and maintain throughout the housesin his chargea regular monastic observance in conformity with the revised consti­ tutions which had emerged under Abbot de Lavaur in1625.

On26 April1643, AbbotBarny was at last able to convene a General Chapter, the first in a hundred and thirty-four years. The primarytask facing this assembly involvedthe discussion, confirmation, and approval of the revised Con­ stitutions. Sentiments of reform were certainlyin the air at this meeting.The fathers not only applauded and encour­ aged the work of Charles Fremon, they also voiced the hope that the Order in its entirety would see fit to renew itself, albeit in a manner somewhat less extreme. Little did they realisethat in encouraging the praiseworthy but sep­ aratist activities of Dom Fremon, they were effectively pronouncing the death sentence upon their Order. The Strict Observance would, in due course, attractand cream off the most fruitfuland fervent of the brethren. By 1652, although this group numbered a mere thirty-nine members distributed among eight priories, it yet had an injurious effect upon the twenty-three houses which remained within the Common Observance, reducing their member­ ship to just sixty-eight. In a letter addressed to AbbotBarny on 24 June of the same year, the Abbe Vincent de Paul expressed his dismay at the lack of religious within the Order.9


Frere Philippe-Etienne has expressed the effect of this division of the Order into Common and Strict observance as follows:

Thetrunk of the Grandmontine tree which had been bending increasingly againstthe force of decadence, was too strained to withstand such a blow.10

In the Middle Ages, the spiritual and material fortunes of the Order of Grandmont had declined in proportion to its increase in numbers. Now, ironically, the Order became doomed for lack of numbers. In attracting to itself the most dedicated of the sons of St Stephen, the Strict Observance, founded to revive the primitive spirit of the Order, suc­ ceeded only in bringing its end closer.

In1652, however, the unhappy conclusion of the history of the Grandmontines was still more than a century away. In practical no less than spiritual terms, the Order was benefitting greatly under Abbot Barny'scontrol and pass­ ing through a period of peaceand success. Of the abbot's leadership, Louis Guilbert has noted:

In the entire history of the Order, few abbots left such enduring traces coupled with such moving memories. None demonstrated quite so much energy, nor ap­ plied himself to so many different projects.11

These projects included massive building and repair work and, in particular, the placement of enormous flying buttresses to reinforce the abbey church, the walls and foundations of which had been seriously weakened during the Wars of Religion. Abbot Barny relentlessly tracked down and re-assembled many valuable reliquaries and other church treasures pillaged during the protestant occu­ pation. He also managed to recover much of the property which had been lost to the Order during the wars. He found time to travel extensively, and personally initiated rebuilding and repair work in many of the daughter houses. He took a keen and fatherly interest in the educa­ tion of the young monks, and encouraged the pursuit of


higher studies at the college of the Order in Paris. His most outstanding achievement however, and the one which survives today, as an enduring monument to his abbacy, is the Annales Ordinis Grandimontis which he instructed Dom Jean Levesque to compile.

With the death of Georges Barny on 3 July 1654, the atmosphere of calm which had pervadedthe Order of Grandmont for over half a century, was drastically inter­ rupted by a furtherunpleasant division. The community at Grandmont elected Etienne Talin, prior of Raveaux near Angoul me. The action was illegal inasmuchas all the houses were not represented.Bitter squabbling resulted, and the absentees banded together to elect a rival candi­ date in the person of Antoine de Chavaroche, prior of Vieux Pou, one of the houses which had adoptedthe Strict Observance. Although the grandmontine family had split into two separate observances, both groups still acknowl­ edged the abbot of Grandmont as their superior general and the eight cells of the Strict Observance sent representa­ tives to the General Chapters of the Order as a whole. A year of quarrelling, unpleasantness, and litigation fol­ lowed, and the affair was only settled when the King's Council intervened. In1655 this augustbody promulgated two separate decrees,dated 8 and 10 April respectively. The first confirmed Dom de Chavaroche in office; while the second awarded his opponent, Dom Talin, a consolation prize in creating him second in command with the official title of Prior General. The case was decided, but unfor­ tunately the decision failed to terminate the unpleasant­ ness. Other issues combined to prolong the ill feelingsand malice which existed between the supporters of the now legally appointed abbot and those of his former rival. A further royal writ had to be issued to bring the unruly objectors to heel and force their acquiescence and obe­ dience but it failed to stifle the bad feelingwhich persisted. Troubles of one kind and another continued to plague Abbot de Chavaroche throughout his term of office. Those


cells which had severed all connection with their ruling priories had posed a major problem for Abbot de Lavaur which he had failedto resolve. Now, taking advantageof the conditions of unrest and resentment which were per­ vading the Order, the members of these cells began behav­ ing in a manner which was little short of anarchical. Monks who had illegally assumed the headship of their respective houses were not only calling themselves priors, but re­ fusing to recognise the authority of any other superior including the Abbot General himself. When the General Chapter attempted to submit these establishments to visi­ tation by its officially appointed delegates, the spurious priors aided and abetted their followers in acts of open disobedience and defiance. Grandmontines in name alone, these unruly monks gave scandalto all by their persistent rebellion and neglect of the Rule. The Abbot was forced to appeal to the king and parlement and it was the secular arm of the law which ultimately restrained the rebels and forced the reunion of their cells with their appointed pri­ ories.

Abbot de Chavaroche' s determination to re-impose and maintain discipline is evident from his dealings with the dissident cells. He did not shrink from suspending the prior of Notre Dame du Pare when it became apparent that his lax and ineffectual leadership was threatening to bring the house into disrepute. The twenty-second Abbot dem­ onstrated all the qualities of a sincereand able administra­ tor, and it is regrettable that a large proportion of his time in office had to be devoted to policing rather than in formulating constructive policies.Whether from discour­ agement or incompetence, he took no definitive action to further the reforms which his predecessors had fostered with so much drive and energy. Hedid, however, continue to support and encourage Dom Fremon in his work.

By this time, owing to a generous gift of land from the townspeople, the chief house of the Strict Observance had been fixed at Thiers;an appropriate decision, for this was


the birthplace of St Stephen. Here the reform became firmly established and began toyield fruit. In1665,the year of Abbot deChavaroche' s inauguration, a General Chapter was held which brought together representatives of the houses of the Strict Observance. Twenty articles-all of which recalled the early, austerecustoms of the followers of St Stephen-were formulated and in due course ap­ proved by the Abbot General. Prayer, silence, penitence, mutual obedience, and charity were practised as in the early days at Muret.The reformed brethren reverted to a diet which was whollyvegetarian for most of the year, eggs and dairy produce being permitted only on solemn feast­ days. They existed once again in conditions of almost total poverty, sharing whatever they had with the poor and needy. The better to maintain the regular life and silence, the porticus alongside the main church doorway was once again used for the reception of visitors. The disciples of Charles Fremon echoed their first Father when they de­ clared: 'There is no rule but the Gospel'.

By1670, ten novices had raised the community at Thiers to fifteen and all of them, according to Dom Fremon's biographer, were worthy followersof St Stephen. Fifteen constituted a sizeable community by Grandmontine stan­ dards and the chapel in the little monastery donated by the town of Thiers proved too small to contain them. Dom Fremon was thereforeconstrained to build a new church which, Dom Rochias tells us, conformed absolutely to the traditional romanesque style of architecture which the Grandmontines never discarded. Unfortunately, nothing of this, the last grandmontine church to be built, has sur­ vived except the little porticus which remains appro­ priately enough as a monument to these hermit monks' ideals of silence, and hospitality.

The death of Abbot de Chavaroche would seem to have had few repercussions for the houses of the Strict Obser­ vance, but it was the signal for fresh disturbances among the remaining houses. For the second time in just twelve


years,two rival candidates were nominated. The Council of State was again requiredto intervene and proceeded to quashboth claims. At a subsequent election all the repre­ sentatives, amazingly, voted unanimously in favour of Dom Alexandre Fremon, brother of the reformer. The abbatial blessing was conferred on him at Limoges on 25 March 1679, more than a year after the death of the previous abbot. Charles Fremon was present at the cere­ mony and immediately afterwards, much to his displea­ sure, was again required to be prior of Grandmont. He accepted humbly andobediently, but it was not long before he somehow managed to get himself dispensed from the office and his brother permitted him to return to his be­ loved priory at Thiers. At the same time Abbot Fremon gave his approval to all the statutes passed by the chapter of the Strict Observance except one. He positivelyrefused to allow the reformed brethren to uphold one of the funda­ mental tenetsof the early Rule and renounce possessions outside the immediate enclosure of the monastery. While it must have caused the idealistic reformers considerable disappointment, the decision showed common sense.

The past history of the Order had demonstrated only too clearly the impracticality of attempting to live without any stable means of support. To allow several houses to de­ pend solely on alms, which might or might not be forth­ coming, involved problems and responsibilities which a seventeenth-century abbot, quite understandably, was not prepared to shoulder. This was especially so in the light of past experiences, when popes themselves had been forced to intervene to mitigate this harsh and unworkable ruling. Before bidding farewellto his brother, Abbot Fremon made himVicar General of the Strict Observants of the Order of Grandmont. Thus, two brothers ruled as respective heads of two branches of one religious family.

Considering the dramatic events which marked the out­ set, the ten years in which Alexandre Fremon ruled as twenty-third abbot of Grandmont passed uneventfully and


peacefully enough. When he died in 1687, his brother was on a visit to the abbey and was asked to become acting prior. He refused on grounds of age, but remained at Grandmont just long enoughto organise the electoral as­ sembly and to remind the fathers of their duties and obliga­ tions. He issued a particular warning against permitting outsiders into the abbey during the period of sede vacante. All too oftenin the past, electors had allowed themselves to be influenced by well-intentioned and not so well­ intentionedclerics and even laymen. Just before leavingfor Thiers, he himself proposed two nominees; Prior Giraud of Beaumont and Prior Henri de la Marche de Parnac ofBercey.

On9 September 1687, thePrior of Bercey was elected twenty-fourth abbot. Henri de la Marche had made his profession at Grandmont in 1661 and had been sent out to rule the priory of Berceytwenty years later.He was, with­ out any doubt, an able administrator for, when he arrived at Bercey it was, by all accounts, still in a thoroughly dilapidated condition following the Wars of Religion. Not only were the buildings in ruins, scarcely habitable, but the handful of monks who were eking out a meagre existence were deeply in debt. In less than six years, de la Marche had succeeded in restoring the conventual buildings and discharging all debts, and had even managed to recover most of the priory's possessions. When he was summoned to the mother house in 1687, he left behind him a well­ organised and flourishing community.

Apartfrom his administrative abilities, Henri de la Marche was something of a scholar and one of the few authors which the Order of Grandmont produced throughout its entire history. He was responsible for a short spiritual treatise on the religious life, as well as a biography of St Stephen, published in 1704. His intense devotion to the founder prompted him to petition to have the office of his feast included in the Roman Breviary. Regrettably his attempt failed, and to this day, theOrdo of


Limoges alone recognises the First Fatherof the Order of Grandmont. The contemporaries of the twenty-fourth ab­ bot are unanimous in their praise for his fervent and rever­ ent celebration of the liturgy.

Despite his obvious abilities, Abbot de la Marche actually did little to advancethe fortunes of the Order but seems to have contented himself with preserving the status quo. He is best remembered for his grandmontine compassion, his generosity, and his warm hospitality. He was sympathetic in his dealings with the reformed religious and remained on excellent terms with the ageing Dom Charles Fremon. He permitted the Strict Observants to hold separate Gen­ eral Chapters without deprivingthem of their voice in the affairs of the Order as a whole. When Dom Charles Fremon died, it was the abbot who took it upon himself to nomi­ nate a successor in the person of Dom Frarn;:ois Thomas. In 1692, Dom Thomas expressed his respect and admiration by dedicating the first printededition of the Statutes of the Reformed Grandmontines to Abbot de la Marchewho, in return, wrote a fine introductory preface of approbation.

At the time of Dom Charles Fremon's death, six houses had committed themselves to following the reformed ver­ sion of the Rule. Apart from the chief house at Thiers, these included: Epoisses, near Dijon; the important house of Notre Dame de Louye, near Paris; Machenet, in Cham­ pagne; Chavanon, in the Auvergne; and finally, in1679, St Michel de Lodeve, one of the most southerly houses, in the departement of Herault. A further house, Bussey-en­ Forez, was lost to the Strict Observants through a singular act of generosity on the part of Dom Fremon himself. When he returned to Thiers following the death of his brother, news reached him that the benefactor who had given the house to the monks was dying and in a state of extreme mental distress because he was heavily in debt. He could see no way out of his problems and was saddened at the thought of his financial responsibilities devolving on his family. Without hesitation and wholly in keeping with the


spirit of St Stephen, Dom Fremon sought and obtained the abbot's permission to restore the house, lock stock and barrel, to its former owner.

Enhanced by actions such as this, DomFremon's reputa­ tion became almost alegend in his lifetime. When news of his death filtered into the town of Thiers on the third of November 1689, crowds flockedto the priory to pay their last respects and several were heard to exclaim: 'A saint is dead'. In the opinion of his contemporary biographer, Dom Rochias, Charles Fremon was the reincarnation of St Stephen. Certainly he was responsible for reviving that rare vocation which combined the hermit's ideal of soli­ tude with true evangelical poverty. Throughout the six­ teenth and well into the seventeenth century, recruitment had been at its lowest ebb. That Charles Fremon succeeded in attracting around sixty novices prepared to vow them­ selves not merely to the grandmontine vocation but to this singularly harsh version of it was an outstanding achievement.

Thefeeling of optimism which characterised the reform movement and revitalised the Order at the commencement of the seventeenth century was fast fading by the time of Abbot de la Marche's death in 1715. The election of his successor marked a further decline into decadence and the beginning of the end of the order of Grandmont. Rene­ Pierre-Fran ois de la Gueriniere proved himself an ambi­ tious, scheming, and extremely worldly person quite unfit­ ted to be the father of thefamily of monks he ruled for close on thirty years. That he had any kind of religious vocation at all seems dubious, given his behaviour. He showed himself to be far more interested in the dignity of his office and the social position it afforded him than in thespiritual welfare of those in his charge. According to the Abbe Legros, he was raised and cared for by an uncle to whom, as a teenager, he announced his intention to be a priest. This guardian, somewhat doubtful as to his motives, ques­ tioned him further.Did he intend being a secular priest,


202                 The Hennit Monks of Grandmont

entering a religious order,or what? After a few moments' thought, the precocious youngster declared himself re­ solved to become a Grandmontine. When asked to give his reasons, he stated quite simply that the Order of Grand­ mont had so few qualified monks that they were obliged to employ outside professors to teach higher studies. With his education and background he could thus look forward to very rapid promotion. He had also observed, quite correctly, that the abbot was an elderly man whose days were numbered. He intended to make himself so popular and respected that his fellow monks would elect him when theold man died. In fact, he achievedhis ambition, and was elected abbot at the remarkably early age of thirty-four.

The Order of Grandmont had never been intended as a monastic haven for scholars and intellectuals. Certainly in the seventeenth century, any young man intent on com­ bining a religious with an academic career would more likely have been attracted to one of the benedictine congre­ gations recognised for its scholarship. But de Gueriniere was a mediocre scholar who opted to be top of the class at Grandmont rather than bottom in a benedictine college. As he had predicted, he did manage to gain the admiration and respect of his less able colleagues, and soon rose to be professor of philosophy at the College Mignon.

Abbot Georges Barny had made it his business to pro­ mote higher studies within the Order, but his motives were no more ambitious than training a few teachers capable of instructing the young monks in Scripture, theology, and moral philosophy. The fact that the Order of Grandmont was not prepared to encourage learning for its own sake is clearly apparent from a Chapter decision of 1643. Influ­ enced in all probability by the notions of reform which emphasised detachment from worldly recognition no less than possessions, this forbade the students to receive de­ grees. As the direct and somewhat unfair consequence, the Orderof Grandmont gaineda reputation for being an


order of ignoramuses. The Abbe Legros has an amusing anecdote based on the notorious lack of education among the Grandmontines. In the courseof a conversation with a Recollect Father, Abbot de Gueriniere teasinglyobserved that his superior was general in command of 'a hundred thousand beggars' which attracted the slick response, 'And you, of fifty asses!'12

Once he was installed as abbot, de Gueriniere worked hard to maintain the ancient rights of the abbey, but ap­ pears to have shown scant regard for monastic observance. Neither did he demonstrate the least inclination towards furthering the reform of the principal branch of the Order. He refused to convene a General Chapter and, when the priors voiced their disapproval, plied them with such ex­ cuses as: 'the chapter house at Grandmont is in such disrepair as to be uninhabitable or, the mother house is afflicted with an epidemicof colic'. At last he came up with an altogether novel excuse. He did not consider it prudent to hold chapter meetings for so long as the 'troubles' affecting the church in general continued. He was, no doubt, referring to the Jansenist versus Jesuit dispute which was dividing the church in France at that particular time. In 1732, the frustrated priors addressed an appeal to the king imploring him to put pressure on the Abbot of Grandmont to call a General Chapter because he was ruining the Order. Their pleas were to no avail; de Guer­ iniere still managed to evade the issue. Very few novices applied to enter the Order during these troubled years. It has been suggested as a reason that the abbot demanded a dowry of two hundred livres to be paid upon admission to the novitiate. While there is no confirmatory proof that this was the case, it is a fact that in just two and a half years de Gueriniere's successor admitted thirty.

Theaccounts of Abbot de Gueriniere's haughtiness and social snobbery are reminiscent of the twenty-first Prior, Jourdain de Rapistan.Both rulers broughtthe order to the brink of ruin as the result of lavish building programmes


intended to make the abbey into the sort of palatial resi­ dence they deemed appropriate to their rank. To be fair, de Gueriniere had inherited a complex of buildings which were, for the most part, centuries old, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. In view of the shaky state of the finances of the Order at the time, however, his ambitious plans were unwise, to say the least. He was prepared to settle for nothing less than a completerebuilding of the abbey at the astronomical cost of 310,447livres. The cost in terms of the spiritual welfare of the brethrenwas equally great. Obliv­ ious to the inconvenience, even distress, he was inflicting on the monks by turning their monastery into an almost permanent building site, de Gueriniere forged ahead with hisplans. The community was actually housed in an iso­ lated and wholly inadequate building, the former in­ firmary. The medieval church was demolished and the building of Grandmont III begun in 1732. It was not com­ pleted until1768, under de Gueriniere's successor, and just four years before Oement XIV issued the bull which ap­ proved the expulsion of the monks and the sequestration of their property by the diocese of Limoges. Twenty years' later, Grandmont III was in turn demolished. Accordingto contemporary eye witnesses, this church was, 'one of the finest of its type and has no equal in the kingdom'. Ba­ sically, it appears to have beena cruciform structure with a cupola over the crossing, but no plans, drawings, or de­ scriptions have survived. Grandmont III was a white ele­ phant, an ill-fated building which should never have been built in the first place.

Grandmont was not the only building project under­ taken by Abbot de Gueriniere. He was also obliged sub­ stantially to rebuild the College Mignon at Paris. A large part of the premisesproved to be beyond renovation after years of neglect when little or no repair work had been carried out. This second and very necessary building pro­ ject placed a tremendous strain on the Order's depleted resources. In actual fact,it was only achieved because de


Gueriniere devoted the entire revenue of the priory of Meynel to the purpose.

Once the college buildings were adequate, the Abbot began carrying out his plan to improve the somewhat dismal scholastic reputation of the Order. His intention was to handpick the brightest novices and young pro­ fessed monks from every community to form an intellec­ tual elite at Paris.At the time, therewas actually only one grandmontine monk resident at the college as custodian. The establishment had become Grandmontine in name alone and for some years had been providing a small income for the Order from rooms which were let to student boarders attending the university.

Abbot de Gueriniere cast his eyes around for a capable and efficient superior to manage his brand new house of studies and decided that Dom Jean-Baptiste-Fran ois de Vitecoq was admirably suited to the task. On 30 September 1744, before he could put his plan into operation, the abbot died suddenly at the college itself. Raymond Garat who was electedthe twenty-sixth abbot on the 10th December following, shared his predecessor's esteem for Dom Vitecoq. Aware that he had been intended for the post of superior with the task of supervising the remainderof the building works at Paris, he endorsed the plan. He went even further in that he also made Dom Vitecoq Financier General of the Order, in which capacity he was to be entrusted with large sums of money. In due course this would become a matter of grave concern for Abbot Garat's successor, the twenty-seventh and last abbot of Grand­ mont.


NOTES

1.  L.J.Lekai, The Cistercians, Ideals and Reality (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1977) pp. 334-46.

2.  M. Lebeau, Abrege chronologique de l'Histoire de Oteaux (Abbaye de Citeaux: 1981) p.26.

3.  D. Knowles, Christian Monasticism (World University Library, 1969) p. 154.

4.  D. Seward, 'The Grandmontines -A Forgotten Order' Downside Review 83 (1965) 256.

5.  Lev, p. 393.

6.  Collet, Vie de Saint Vincent de Paul, Livrerv, p.398, cited Gui, 'Destruction', BSAHL 23 (1875) 98

7.  Pere J. Fouquet OMI and Frere Philippe-Etienne Histoirede L'Ordre de Grandmont (Chambray: 1985) p. 78

8.  J.B. Rochias, Vie du Reverend P re Charles Fremon pb. A. Leder (Limoges: Ducourtieux et Gout, 1910) p. 32.

9.  Abbe P. Coste, Correspondence de SaintVincent de Paul 55 (Paris1921)

p. 309

10.  J. Fouquet, (note 7) p. 85.

11.Gui, p.99.

12.  Abbe Legros, Memoire Manuscript, p. 111, cited Gui, p. 117.


VIII

 

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ORDER OF GRANDMONT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ORDER of Grandmont' is the title of a major work by the nineteenth-century his­ torian Louis Guibert publishedin the Bulletin de la Societe Archeologique et Historique du Limousin, be­ tween the years 1875-77. It is a comprehensive, meticu­ lous, and singularly unbiased account of the long drawn­ out agony and death throes of this ancient monastic order. By contrast, the following pages attempt no more than a summary outline of these events and the borrowing of Guibert's title is in tribute to a great historian whose name is now as little known outside his native Llmousin as is the religious order whose history he so painstakingly re­ corded. The title could not be more appropriate inasmuch as in its final years the order of Grandmont became the victim of a plot which was intendeddeliberately and sys­

tematically to achieveits destruction.

TheOrder of Grandmont began to develop symptoms of a terminal illness when Dom Francois-Xavier Mondain de la Maison Rouge was elected abbot in 1748. When he died on 11 April1787, at the age of 81, the Order expired with him. He has been described as 'a good, loyal and pious man', 'a child of light' and, 'a worthy, holy and irreproach­ able priest and monk, a model of christian and religious virtue, a true Bon-homme.' Unfortunately such qualities

207


wereof little use to him in the worldly dramain which he was forced to play the leading r6le. His natural humility and gentleness rendered him incapable of competing againstscheming bishops and wily lawyers and precluded the machiavellian tactics against which he was himself required to contend. Nevertheless, his failure to save the Order can in no way be attributed to weakness. On the contrary, he struggled ceaselessly and valiantly against the forces which sought to undermine his authority and anni­ hilate the grandmontine institution.

Thefirst unsavoury business which Abbot Mondain was required to settle has come to be known as the 'Vitecoq Affair'. Throughout Abbot Garat's short term in office (1744-8), Dom Vitecoq had been hard at work in Paris completing the elaborate College Mignon project insti­ gated by Abbot de la Gueriniere. The result was impres­ sive. The Grandmontines were once again in possession of a fine, well-equipped house of studies. Regrettably, the costs of the project had multiplied over the years and the bills were presented for settlement at the same time as the building works at Grandmont itself began running into trouble. Badly executedwork which had to be redone, the architect's demands for additional payments, rising costs, all these factors combined to raise the original estimates out of all proportion. The reserve fund held by the abbot was exhausted by the expenses incurred at the College and he found himself in a situationof acute financial embarrass­ ment. He had littlealternative but to terminate the expen­ sive educational programme at Paris and disperse the students among the most important of the priories. In October 1749, he arrivedat the college and personally re­ assigned all but four of its occupants. Dom Vitecoq protes­ ted loudly and vociferously against this decision which put an end both to his work and his ambitions. His insubor­ dination and rudeness were such that at the General Chap­ ter held the following summer, the abbot was forced to request his removal from office. Dom Vitecoq, however,


had enough supporters among the assembled priors to oppose and defeat the motion. Encouraged by this minor triumph and determined that his ambitious plans for a prestigious college should not collapse, Dom Vitecoq per­ petrated what is in religious terms an almost unforgivable deed. He defied his religious superior and appealed to the Parlement of Paris to overrule the decision. The abbot, understandably upset by this act of rebellion, was forced to take action. He applied directly to King Louis xv and obtained an order which forbade Dom Vitecoq to come within a hundred miles of Paris. Having discharged his duty as Superior General, Abbot Mondain reverted to being a patient, kindly father and did all in his power to effect a reconciliation. When his efforts failed, he ordered Dom Vitecoq to relinquish his dual office of Superior of the College Mignon and Procurator General of the Order.

Unfortunately the abbot was out of order with this deci­ sion because it did not have the formal consent of the General Chapter. In consequence, the Order of Grand­ mont found itself involved once again in a whole series of legal disputes which resulted in a major public scandal. Abbot Mondain again prevailed upon the King to inter­ vene and the decrees were duly quashed. Dom Vitecoq then influenced the ruling body of the University of Paris to support his cause. The right of the University Board of Governors to intervene in the affairs of a constituent col­ lege had been recognised by a decree of Councildated 12 June 1752, and although the abbot opposed this inter­ vention, it was legally valid and his protest was dismissed. Dom Vitecoq even received confirmation of his right tothe title of Prior of Meynel, a priory united with the college under the same superior. Throughout the year 1753, law­ yers' letters went to and fro and Dom Vitecoq clung tena­ ciously to his title of Procurator General although he had long ceased to perform any of the duties associated with that office.

The proportion and gravity of this scandal which in­ volved the highest courts in the land in the defence of a


monk who was defying his Abbot General, was eventually realised by the main body of grandmontine monks. Many of them eventually began to condemnDom Vitecoq's au­ dacity in waging a legal battleagainst his lawful superior. Several of his former supporters became alienated from him. On 3 September 1755, the Great Council returned the ballinto Grandmont' s court when they ordereda General Chapter to meet and deliberate the best way of settlingthe affairs of the college. When, on 23 November, the General Chapter went into session, it confirmed the constitutions and then voiced its approval of the abbot'shandling of the affair. In order to discharge the debts incurred by Dom Vitecoq at the College Mignon,a tax proportionate to the means of every house was levied.

Dom Nicod, a religious of the 'Strict Observance' had beenin temporary charge of finances at the College. Now, he was delegated by the fathersto attempt the difficult and delicate task of effecting a reconciliation betweenDom Vitecoq and his Abbot General.In this he was greatly assisted by the sensitivity of the abbot who was only too willing to make peace with his fiery subject at whatever cost to himself. Dom Vitecoq was relieved of his former offices but was well compensated in beinggiven the priory of Chenegallon, one of themost important houses of the 'Common Observance'. The abbot'sgenerosity was se­ verely censured by the numerous religious who considered that far from being rewarded, Dom Vitecoq should have been punished for his insubordination. The College Mig­ non reverted to being asimple hall of residence for both clerical and lay studentsattending the University of Paris. In 1766, just ten years after the Vitecoq affair was con­ cluded, King Louis xv was persuaded to appoint a 'com­ mission of Regulars' chargedwith the investigation of all the religious orders and congregations of France and the institution of reforms where necessary. According to royal assurances, the fundamental purpose of the Commission was to bring about these reforms in line with royal decrees.


Someof them were undeniably sensible, treating of such matters as a minimum age for entryinto the religious life. The most significant regulation the Commission imposed set a minimumnumber for the community of eachhouse. The result was that four hundred fifty religious houses ceased to exist. The Commission was extraordinary for two reasons. In the first place, it included laymen as well as clerics, and several of its members shared, quite openly, the prejudice of theVoltairean age against the religious life in general. Secondly, a secular commission, responsible to the king of France rather than to the pope, had been invested with power so extensive that it enabled them to close down monasteries and in some cases suppressentire congregations.

TheCommission of Regularswas officially presided over by Monseigneur de la Roche Aymon described by Louis Guibert as 'a prelate of little intelligence and feeble charac­ ter'. The power behind the throne was, however, the archbishop of Toulouse, Etienne-Charles de Lomenie de Brienne. Opinion continues to be divided over this un­ usual and ambitious character who was as much of a statesman as a churchman. To some he appears as a bril­ liant diplomat, to others he was a scheming rogue con­ sumed by intrigue and stopping at nothing to further his own advancement. His cleverness and skill as an adminis­ trator were responsible for his elevation to the purple while still a comparatively young man and it was not longbefore he exchanged his first modest bishopric of Condom for the wealthy archdiocese of Toulouse. Whilst he ruled his diocese irreproachably and insisted on orthodoxy and dis­ cipline, he made no secret of his sympathies with the enlightenment and openly associated with the philosophes, some of whom he had known personally when he was a student at the Sorbonne. As a result of such open minded­ ness he was regarded as suspect both by his fellow clergy, who did not approve of his association with such anti­ religionists as d' Alembert and Voltaire, and by the philoso-


phes who disapproved of his conservative ways. In his initial dealings with Grandmont he was undeniably fair and expressed the view that the 'Primitive Observance' in particular, 'merited the wholehearted protection of the King in the light of the edifying lives led by its adherents and the austerities which they practised' .1 Unfortunately his attitude changed all too soon.

TheCommission of Regulars had barely begun to invoke the powers vested in it by Louis xv before the superiors of the various religious orders began petitioning the pope to intervene and save them from this secular menace. Unfor­ tunately, their pleas gained little response from Rome. Pope Clement XIII (1758-69) had already proved himself well intentioned but indecisive over the Jesuit question. In 1759, when the powerful portuguese minister, Pombal, had ordered the deportation of all members of the Society of Jesus, the pope's half-hearted protestations achieved the additional expulsion of the papal nuncio from Portugal. Hatred of the Jesuits was equally deep- rooted in France and it was not long before the French followed the por­ tuguese example and in1764 outlawed the Society by royal decree. The Bourbon powers subsequently united in pres­ suring the Pope to disband the Society for once and all, but influenced no doubt by pro-Jesuit voices at the court of Rome, he refused. Clement XIII died shortly afterwards and it was left to his successor, Clement XIV, both to suppress the Jesuits and to agree to the dispersal of the monks of Grandmont. Just as soon as Clement XIV found himself occupying the papal throne, he made the appeasement of the catholic powers of Europe a priority and his bull, Dominus ac Redemptor noster,suppressingthe Jesuits, was regarded as a triumph for the enlightenment. Its citing of precedents of religious orders previously dissolved was fuel for the fire of the Commission of Regulars but bad news for the smaller french religious houses who were relying on papal intervention to save them from extinction. The pope himselfwas politically rewarded inasmuch as the


papalenclaves of Avignon and Venaissin, which had been occupied by the French in protest against his predecessor, were returned to the Holy See.

If the Papacy itself was incapable or, for political mo­ tives, somewhat reticent about intervening in the affairs of the Church in France, what was the attitude of the french hierarchy? According to Guibert, while initially they were both resentful and suspicious regarding the activities of the Commission of Regulars, only a few went so far as to air their disapproval publicly. Christophe de Beaumont, the archbishop of Paris, was oneprelate who made no secretof his views. The Church alone, he asserted,had the power to intervene in the affairs and conduct of regulars. He further maintained that a commission of five bishops and five councillors of state had no business whatever meddling with monasteries. The archbishop had already incurred the king's displeasure for opposing the decision to expel the Jesuits. The majority of the bishops, however, once they had got over their initial antipathy towards the Commis­ sion actually began to support it. One reason for their attitude was that they considered civil intervention would have more chance of succeeding and instituting a real and enduring reform within the monasteries than would a distant and all too often ineffectual roman curia.

A less worthy motive is also discernible. While certain of

the seventeenth-century bishopshad vast fortunesat their disposal, many of the smaller dioceses were verging on penury and their bishops were hard pressed to maintain themselves and their entourages. Any reservations they expressed about the work of the Commission were soon dissipated when they understood that the Crown had no intention of sequestrating religious establishments for its own benefit,that in every case the landsand possessions of a suppressed housewould be transferred to the diocese in which it was located. The ruling bishop would be free to dispose of all such lands and possessions at his discretion. Of course, one of the more acceptable uses to which confis-


cated monasteries and their attendantwealth was devoted was diocesan seminaries. Several grandmontine houses ended up as training collegesfor secular clergy. The atti­ tude of bishops who were genuinely desirous of increasing the ranks of the clergy by providing free education and training for young men from poor families is expressed in a letter addressed to Lomenie de Brienne by the archbishop of Tours on 18 November 1769:

Nothingis more befittingthe religion of the King than that the possessions of the Grandmontines should be utilised to provide free education for young men des­ tined for the priesthood.2

Inthe case of the abbey of Grandmont, it was Monseig­ neur du Plessis d' Argentre, bishop of Limoges, who stood to benefit from its suppression. General opinion,not with­ out reason, has always held this cleric to be the arch-villain who wantonly brought aboutthe destruction of theOrder of Grandmont. Guibert, however, did not blame the Bishop entirelyand suggested that the ultimatefate of the Order had been decided by Lomenie de Brienne even before the GeneralChapter of 1768 at whichthe religious were advisedto adopt reformsin order to obtain the king's approval for the continuation of their Order.3 Bishop d' Ar­ gentre's part in the initial stages of the procedure against the Grandmontines may have been exaggerated, for there is acomplete lack of evidence implicating him. Neverthe­ less, his r0le increased infinitely in importance as time went on. Ultimately the manner inwhich he effected the expulsion of the monks and took possession of the abbey can only be described as ruthless and cruel.

On3 April 1767, the Commission of Regulars secured a royal decree ordering all religiousinstitutions to convene General Chapters at which they were to deliberate their constitutions and assess the extent to which they had departed from their fundamental ideals. They were also required to submit areport outlining their plans for reform and a return to the originalobservances laid down by their


rules. The same decree banned all communities which counted less than ten religious, so that superiors were obliged to amalgamate certain houses within their charge before implementing a programme of reform.

One year later the political rupture between France and the Papacy in the person of Clement XIII had two significant consequences. In the first place it deprived superiors of their right of appeal to the court of Rome, and secondly, it prompted government to make itself solely responsible for promoting religious reform within the kingdom. The edict which appeared in March of this year placed all the reli­ gious houses in France-including those which had en­ joyed episcopal exemption for centuries-firmly under diocesan control.

Unlike his contemporary religious colleagues, Abbot Mondain appears to have been blissfully and naively un­ aware of the peril which menaced the entire monastic Orderin France when, in compliance with this decree he submitted his somewhat optimistic report of the state of the grandmontine institution. Conformity with certain of the new regulations, notably that which laid down the minimum age for profession as twenty-one years did not worry him. St Stephen himself had required this restriction and it was written into the Rule of Grandmont. When, however, he turned his attention to accounting for the precarious state of the Order's finances and compiling a census of thecommunities occupying each of the daughter houses, he encountered somewhat graver problems. His proposal to maintain nine houses in addition to the mother house still did not satisfy the statutory requirement of a minimum of eight religious to a community-novices and lay-monks could not be included in the overall figure. It was this ruling more than anythingelse which threatened the Grandmontines with extinction. Some of the more realistic among the senior religious were soon made aware of this possibility and certain of the less reputable charac­ ters among them decided to act independently of the abbot inorder to safeguard their own personal interests.


Prominent among this group were Dom Razat,the Pro­ curator Generalof the Order; and Dom Nicod, Vicar Gen­ eral of the branch of the Strict Observance. Dom Razat had already made something of a name for himself in a legal battle he had waged against Abbot Martial Sardine of the benedictine abbey of Nanteuil-en-Vallee. Dom Razat main­ tained that the Rule ofSt Stephen derived from that of St Benedict and in consequence entitled him, as a Grand­ montine, to hold the benedictine priory of Saint-Vincent de la Faye incommendam. This case was not withoutprece­ dent: grandmontine superiorshad previously been permit­ ted to hold benedictine benefices, as Benedictines had held grandmontine monasteries in commendam. Unfortunately for Dom Razat, times had changed radically. In September 1758, the Great Council ruled that the Grandmontines were bound to follow the Rule of St Stephen of Muret which neither derived from nor bore any resemblance to the Rule of St Benedict. Consequently, its memberscould have no right whatsoever to hold benedictine benefices. Dom Razat wasobliged to relinquish his claim and console himself with the knowledge that, as Procurator General of the twin Observances, he held the highest and most pres­ tigious office in the Order ofGrandmont. This office more­ over, entitled him to live in some style at the College Mignon in Paris. In this capacity, he was required by the Abbot General to prepare and submit various documents concerning the financial state of the Order to Lomenie de Brienne. As the direct result of this he was able to form a close relationship with the secretaries of the Commission, which enabled him to find out which way the wind was blowing and harness it to serve his own interests.

In due course,a recommendation in Dom Razat's own

handwriting was delivered to the Commission. Louis Guibert has described this document as 'The sentence of death pronounced against Grandmont by a Grandmon­ tine'.4 Dom Razat's conduct is rendered all the more dis­ tasteful by the fact that he delivered what amounted to a


statement of capitulation on the Order's behalf without the knowledge of the Abbot General. Essentially the document maintains that the Order as a whole is unable to comply with the king's wishes and therefore the Commission should proceed to the speedy disbanding of the institute, without any further consultation of the religious. Dis­ loyalty is rampant in Dom Razat's references to General Chapters which, he asserts, were simply occasions for 'reproaches, divisions, discussions about personal inter­ ests, intrigues, quarrels and generally speaking a great deal of hot air'. The real motive for this action is clear from the final paragraph in which Razat respectfully requests remu­ neration in the form of pensions for the religious. A note scrawled in the margin observes that the king would gain the right to dispose of the abbey of Grandmont following the death of its abbot, together with the right to dispose of four titular priories, the remainder of the priories having already been awarded to various owners in commendam.5

Given the dismal picture of the Order as drawn by one of itschief officials, it is not surprising that the subsequent judgments expressed by members of the Commission are equally derogatory. A summary report which emerged shortly after observes that 'the Grandmontines have al­ ways been a singularly ignorant body of religious who have never shown the least love of letters or tendency to produce works of thespirit ... they are notoriously lax in their religious observances and have proved themselves as ignorant of the Rule of St Stephen as any other religious text ... they have no sense of propriety, both as regardsthe celebration of the office and, general conduct . . . The men who make up their communities are, for the most part, coarse, uneducated and ill-mannered ... Their most se­ rious occupation is hunting and fishing.' The same report concludes with the opinion that the Grandmontines are not worth reforming and in fact, 'any such attempt would be doomed to failuregiven that to resuscitate a love of the Rule of the Founder would require a number of men them-


selves sufficiently inspired that they might pass on their inspiration to others. Such persons can nowhere be found among the superiors any more than the rank andfile.'6

If Abbot Mondain was in total and blissful ignorance of the actions of his Procurator General, the beliefs and ac­ tions of another of hissenior religious were only too appar­ ent and their outcome must have wounded him deeply. Dom Nicod was the Vicar General of the branch of the Strict Observance which, in 1768, accounted for forty-two subjects including two novices. Like Dom Razat, Dom Nicod wrote secretly to the Commission agreeing that small numbers made the exact observance of the Rule almost impossible, and suggesting that the eight houses of the Strict Observance be reduced to four. The commis­ sioners were only too willingto consent to this proposal. In consequence, the religious of the Strict Observance formed into four communities attached to the houses of Epoisse, Macheret, Thiers and Louye.

In September 1768, Dom Nicod's act of separation from and defiance of his Abbot General was taken a stage fur­ ther when he and his followers refused to attend the Gen­ eral Chapter convened at Grandmont. Abbot Mondain had been depending on the reformed brethren to assist him in implementing a general reform which he hoped would be the salvation of the Order as a whole. Their defection en masse must have been unnerving, to say the least. Just a few days before the Chapter opened on 25 September, Abbot Mondain's efforts to institute a reform received a further setback. This time it was the Commissioners who delivered a blow which struck both the Strict and Common Observants with equal force. An order was issued banning the reception or profession of novices. On 24 February of the following year the restriction was extended and the abbot ordered to send any remaining novices packing. The Commissioners could not have devised any surer means of bringing about the slow but certain end of the Order.

It was this ban on novices which, in all likelihood, was directly responsible for Dom Nicod'ssubsequent action.


All too aware that withoutrecruits there can be no institu­ tion, he wrote once again to the Commissioners. This time he informed them that the arrangement which had re­ stricted the reformed religious to four communities had failed. He requested therefore that the grandmontine branch of the Strict Observance be disbanded and its mem­ bers left free to join other religiousinstitutes of their choice. Once again, and without the Abbot General'sknowledge, his request was granted, and as Louis Guibert wryly puts it: 'the Commission established for the reformation of the religious orders began its work by the destruction of a reform.'

Ofthe former Grandmontines of the Strict Observance, sixteen transferred to the strict Benedictine Congregation of St Vanne, twelve opted for Cluny and one became a Carthusian. Threewere unable to make up their minds at the time and so their ultimate destination remains un­ known. One of these appears to have been a lay brother who had been removed from the monastery by the military authorities andwas being held in detention at Perigueux, accused of having deserted his regiment. It is significant that whilst five of thereligious requested to be allowedto live out their lives in one of the otherwise deserted houses of the Strict Observance, not one expressed a wish to be transferred to the branch of the Common Observance. As the entire community at Macheret had joined the Benedic­ tines of St Vanne,the house itself was handed over to that congregation. Louye, in its turn, was given to the Benedic­ tines of Cluny, until the bishop of Chartresdemanded that it be relinquished to his diocese. Epoisses also passed for a time to another religious congregation while Thiers, the mother house of Dom Fremon's reformed Grandmontines, was retained for the benefitof the five religious who had requested to live out their days in a former grandmontine priory. Their ultimate fate is unknown.

What of Dom Nicod himself? The manwho must shoul­ der a large shareof the responsibility for the loss of the


order of Grandmont chose initially to jointhe Benedictines of St Vanne.There he discovered that the life of a reformed Benedictine was not to his liking and so he persuaded Lomenie de Brienne to allow him to take up residencethe former grandmontine house of Vieux-Pou near Auxerre.

Analternative and more seemly motive which may have moved Dom Nicod to provoke the suicide of the Grand­ montines of the Strict Observance has been proposed by Desmond Seward:

Nicod's dealing with the Commission may be inter­ preted as the actions of a man concerned for his voca­ tion and for the vocations of those under his charge, with no confidence in Mondain leadership who when finally convinced that the cause of St Stephen was lost decided to seek refuge in a securespiritual haven.7

Evenif this were the case, it still does not excuse Nicod's lack of courtesy, to say nothing of his disloyalty and dis­ obedience, in not making his intentions known to his lawful religioussuperior. Although Mr Seward maintains that Dom Mondain de la Maison Rouge was not the true spiritual superior of the Strict Observants, yet at no time did they make a formal break with the Order of Grandmont as a whole. While the reformed Cistercians under their leader Armand de Rance fought tooth and nail with the cistercian proto-abbots in what had been termed 'the war of the Observances', Dom Fremon First Father of the grandmontine reform obtained the approval of theAbbot General of Grandmont for all his actions.

In September 1768, in accordance with the royal decree issued in 1767, the last General Chapter of the Order of Grandmont met in the presence of Lomenie de Brienne and his colleague, Fran ois Tristan de Cambon, bishop of Mirepoix. This turned out to be the first round in a contest which was to extend over the next twenty years. Abbot Mondain has been accusedof inaptitude and fecklessness forhis failure to save his Order from extinction. The Abbe Legros considered till his lack of forthrightness and vigour


ultimately responsible for the adverse decisions passed by the Commission of Regulars.8 This is unjust. Abbot Mon­ dain was untiring in his efforts to save theOrder of Grand­ mont from extinction. His critics have always overlooked the fact that both his vocation and training fitted him to be a monk, not a lawyer, yet circumstances obliged him to engage in almost solitary conflict with the best and most devious legal minds in the land.

As soon as the General Chapter went into session, a list of all seventy-two members of the Common Observance was submitted. These religious were found among twenty­ one houses which included the College Mignon, which had retained a staff of just two. On the average, individual communities numbered no more than three; the largest being Ch negallon where there were five. The mother house itself boasted a mere eleven religious, including the abbot.

Next, the Commissioners communicated the king's wishes to the assembled monks. The Rule of StStephen, they insisted, had always been accepted as the fundamen­ tal legislation for the Order, despite successive mitigations which variouspopes had permitted in the courseof centu­ ries. Becauseof this, the king required them to fulfil two conditions in return for the right to continue as a religious order enjoying his protection. The first called upon them to undertake a voluntary and complete returnto the practice of the primitive Rule and Constitution of the Order, and the second demanded the re-establishment at the abbey of a full conventual life and monastic horarium.

Although they had only a brief acquaintance with Abbot Mondain, the Commissioners must have been fully aware of the extent of his strong moral principles. Possibly Dom Razat and Dom Nicod had given them an idea of what to expect. At any rate they certainly seem to have been fore­ warned that the religious of the CommonObservance were unlikely to play into their hands as had those of the Strict


Observance. This much is apparent from the unrealistic conditions which they sought to impose at the General Chapter and which were knowingly and cunningly con­ trived to produce the maximum consternation among the assembled fathers. Generations of superiors and popes had judged the imposition of the original Rule in all its purity, impracticable. It had been composed in an ageof faith and fervour and its initialfollowers had been close to their Founder both in spiritual ideals and physical stamina. The austerities it required of its adherents had come to be regarded as excessive, even unhealthy, and it had been adjusted accordingly.

In vain did the religious protest to the Commissioners that their vows of profession had not bound them to prac­ tise a medieval interpretation of the monastic life. They pointed out quite reasonably that many of them were elderly and therefore incapable of adhering to the strict fasting and abstinence exacted by the primitive Rule. They besought the Commissioners to present their case to His Majesty and to ask him to dispense them from so grave an obligation. They professed their willingness to return to the practice of the Rule in accordance with the Statutes of 1625 and 1643. They declared themselves only too ready to obey the second requirement, and indeed they acknowl­ edged the very real need that monks should lead an orderly and regular life in community. The Commissioners were adamant, however; the king required of them all or noth­ ing and, for the first time, delivered the threat of closure. The assembled fathers protested vehemently but to no avail, and the Commissioners then proceeded to read the formal ban on the acceptance and profession of novices.

There can be little doubt that the Commissioners ex­ ceeded their authority at this fateful General Chapter. Just what should have occurred and what actually did occur is recorded in an appendix to a report entitled Memoire a Consulter et Consultation pour l'Abbe de Grandmont, General de l'Ordre de ce Nom.9 Throughout the proceedings, Lomenie


de Brienne behaved in a thoroughly objectionable manner. He was by turn imperious, menacing, and downrightrude in the way he silencedprotestors. According to the Mem­ oire, the Commissioners' credentials, which were read aloud at the start of proceedings, only authorised them 'to assist at the Chapter in their capacity as Commissioners, to oversee and ensure that the proceedings were conducted

in an orderlyand decent manner'.1°From all accounts,

Lomenie took over completely and conducted proceedings as though he were a judge in a court of law. According to another contemporary author:

The prelate [Lomenie de Brienne] forgetting that he was a bishop, behaved as though he were invested with royal powers. He was like aconqueror vanquish­ ing a foe. The terrorhe inspired could not have been surpassed by a soldier. The terrified religious had neither the time nor the sangfroid necessary to defend themselves against his onslaughts. They had no means whatsoever of defending themselves. In the twinkling of an eye the order of Grandmont was judged, condemned, and sentenced to suppression.11

When Lomenie returned to Paris at the conclusion of the shambles which passed for a general chapter, he carried with him a petition from the demoralised religious ad­ dressed to the king. This implored His Majesty to allow them to continue to live in their respective monasteries in accordance with their Constitution and to be permitted to elect a superior general to govern them when the present holder of that office should die. Should the king refuse to grant their request, they begged only that they be allowed to live out their lives in their monasteries, under the au­ thority of the appropriate ordinary. Should even this pa­ thetic plea be denied them, then they expressed their willingness toretire with pensions into the houses of other religious congregations provided the necessary papal au­ thority were first obtained.


AbbotMondain addressed a separate personal petition in which herequested the king to spare at least the abbey of Grandmont and in return, he would devote all his efforts to re-establishing a group of religious who would engage themselves under his direction to live the Rule of St Step­ hen to the letter.

Lomenie de Brienne's own report on proceedings at the General Chapter, which he presented to the Commission on his return toParis, was damnatory in the extreme.

Of seventy-three religious distributed among twenty­ two houses, there are twenty who, according to the evidence of their confreres, are wholly reprehensible. Either they are of bad moral character or given to drunkeness. A few among them have actually broken the law of the land. Forty or so are dissolute and slothful, leading totally secularlives. The remainder have conservedthe spirit of their state to some degree and two or three would be capable of following the Rule in all its rigour.

The abbot, he reported, was a wise and virtuous man, distinguished for his love of good but toofrail and gentleto be able to subdue troublemakers. 'He is divided between his desire to preserve the Order, and the hopelessness of the task of preserving it according to the Rule.'He further outlined the abbot's desire and willingness to assemble twenty-four monks who would agree to observethe Rule under his direction at Grandmont but expressed the opin­ ion that this represented an impossible task.

A particularly blatant piece of falsehood is contained in Lomenie's report where it states categorically:

The Order of Grandmont has no wish to reform itself. While its preservation is dependent upon reform tak­ ing place, this does not exclude the religious from retaining the various authorised mitigations of their Rule.


This is in total contradiction of the terms which Lomenie had dictated at the General Chapter in reply to the religious who asserted the impracticality of returning to the rigours of the fundamental Rule of St Stephen, but professed themselves willing to comply with the Statutes of 1625 and 1643. At the time, Lomenie had absolutely refused to coun­ tenance any such half measures.12

The remainder of this document outlines a strategy so cleverly and cunningly contrived that the suppression of the Order will appear to be self-destruction. It interprets the petitions which the religious addressed to the king in theevent of theirinstitute ceasing to exist to mean that they were unanimously agreed that this should inevitably be the outcome.Their request for the award of pensions had been officially endorsed by the Chapter, and Lomenie knew thatit required only authorisation by letters patent to become effective. Thus, the agreement which the religious had signed in all innocence without realising its implica­ tions was twisted to imply that they wholeheartedly gave their assent to the dissolution of the Order. They had signed a document which they thought would afford them certain rights and securities if, and only if, all else failed; but effectively they had affixed their signatures to the death warrant of their Order. Lomenie summarised his plan as follows:

For as long as the Abbot remainsalive, he shall con­ tinue to lead the religious. Upon his death, they will come under the jurisdiction of theordinary. From this moment, the monasteries must be united [i.e. with their respective dioceses]. Thus the Order of Grand­ mont will cease to exist in France, withoutany heart­ rending or suffering, without having to invoke the necessary authority. It will, of its own accord, simply cease to be and its possessions will be passed on for the benefit of worthwhile establishments within the various dioceses.13


Lomenie's recommendations were received with whole­ hearted approval by theCommission and a month after the fateful General Chapter,Abbot Mondain receiveda letter from the king's minister, Saint-Florentin, Due de la Vril­ liere, ordering him politely and kindly, but firmly, to send home any novices who remained under his jurisdiction. Despite the intense sorrowwhich the departureof his five novices must have occasioned him, Abbot Mondain did not despairand courageously began to work on a new set of reformed constitutions to be submitted for the king's approval. He still believed that he would be able to gather sufficient monks together at the abbey to make his pro­ posed reform a reality.

While Abbot Mondain laboured to save his Order in blissful ignorance of the fact that its destruction was al­ ready a fait accompli, Lomenie was equallyhard at work implementing his devious plans, the outcome of which would enable him to say that the Order of Grandmont had destroyed itself. Acting on his instructions, a colleague on the Commission had already prepared the letters patent which would pave the way for the kill: 'withoutany great effort and without causing any unnecessary sensation.14

The tone of the letters patent is blatantly hypocritical, inasmuch as they express an excessive concern for the welfare of the religiousabout to be deprived of their spiri­ tual home. Briefly it is stated that, the Common Obser­ vance of the Orderof Grandmont having been reduced to a mere seventy-two religious including its Abbot General, many of the houses have found it impossible to re-establish a regularconventual life; that taking into account the ad­ vanced ages and infirmities of some of this limited number of religious as well as the wholly worldly lives led by others, therewould seem to be no possibility of their ever being able to complywith the Rule of their Founder. There­ fore, it dispenses the religious from the obligations set forth in the RoyalEdict of 1768. It grants them the libertyto remain within their respective monasteries under the au-


thority of their existing superiors, but forbids them abso­ lutely to receive novices. In conclusion it authorises the bishops of the diocesesconcerned to effect the suppression of grandmontine houses the instant they became vacant through the death or demission of their occupants. The bishops were further instructed to set aside sufficient funds from the revenuesbelonging to such houses in order to provide pensions for the former grandmontine religious. The residue of all monies and property were then to be transferred to the diocesan exchequer to be used for the benefit of ecclesiastical establishmentssuch as seminaries. At no point in the entire proceedings was any account taken of the fact that the Order of Grandmont had been exempt from episcopal jurisdiction for centuries. Thus for the letters patent to invoke canon law to justify the manner of disposalof grandmontine properties was farcical. Even inthe case of religious establishments which had not en­ joyed such exemption, there had always been a general principle, upheld by canon law, that unionsof this nature were to be effected only in cases of extreme necessity, when heresy or seriousdisorders left no other courseopen to church authorities. Where, on the other hand, a house wasexempt, union with eitheranother religious house or the diocese required the consent of the superior concerned. Far from giving his consent to these proposed unions, Abbot Mondain was actively opposing them. Furthermore, while the French canonists asserted that the general rule could be waived in cases where the bishop intended to award religious properties to seminaries, Rome still main­ tained its exclusive right to make the finaldetermination.

Inthe light of thisknowledge, Abbot Mondain consid­ ered formulating an appealto the Holy See, but both time andpolitical circumstances were against him. Pope Clem­ ent XIII had recently died and with him had also passed some of the antipathy which had existed between the papal courtand France aroused by the Jesuit question.Clement XIV, did not maintain his predecessor's intransigent oppo-


sitionto the Bourbon dynasty. In fact upon being elected, he made the appeasement of the Catholic powers a prior­ ity. Aware of these circumstances, and in order to avoid embarrassing papal relationships with France, Abbot Mon­ dain tactfully addressedhis petition to the king rather than the pope. His letter comprises several pages of pathetic hopes and illusions and begs the king in abject fashion to permit him to continueruling Grandmont under a stricter regime in conformity with the bull of Clement v. He also implores the king to renew his right to admit novices as well as the rightof the religious to proceed to the election of a succeeding superior general following his own death. The final paragraph is a particularly poignant and desper­ ate plea for survival:

Deign Sire, to give ear to my ardent and most humble prayers. Be pleased to grant your royal protection onceagain to this abbey whichwas the work of your ancestors. The re-establishment of the former regular life will shine with its ancient lustre,edification, and good example which others will emulate. All will inherit a new lease of life and this monastery will assuredly be transformed into an exemplary house, worthy both of yourfavours and of theearly days of the Order; a holy retreat in which God will be served and invoked unceasingly for the preservation of a monarchy which bestows happiness upon its sub­ jects.15

At the same time as he directed this appeal to the King, Abbot Mondain sent Lomenie de Brienne a copy of his projected constitutions which closely resembled those for­ mulated by Dom Charles Fremon a century before. Whether or not he took time to peruse them, Lomenie certainly made no comment whatsoever. Then, in March 1769, the abbot journeyed to Paris where he was re­ spectfully and graciously received by his adversaries who, notwithstanding, paid no attentionto his pleas and remon­ strations. Hardly had he returned to Grandmont when he


received the king's answer to his request written in the hand of one of his chief councillors of state, the Due de la Vrilliere. Couched in honeyedterms, the letter congratu­ lated him on all his good intentions but informed him that nevertheless: 'It is not sufficient for a reform to propose laws, however excellent they may be; it is also necessary to provide a certain number of religious who are preparedto execute them.' The letter then advises the Abbot that, if he can find twenty-four religious who, freely and voluntarily will agree to the project, then, and only then, will His Majesty be prepared to afford them his protection. Unless and until this condition were fulfilled, the prohibitions laid down in the letters patent of the previous February must stand.

Theprohibitions were sufficient in themselves to bring about the slow but sure demise of the Order of Grand­ mont: all the Commissioners had to do was sit back and wait for it to happen. Several of the french bishops had already instigated the procedures necessary to secure the union of the grandmontine houses within their respective dioceses. Early in the year 1770, eleven priories of the Common Observance had been so transferred quietlyand without fuss. Still the Mother House remained an unyield­ ing stronghold of grandmontine opposition. Although Ab­ bot Mondain lacked the ability and energy for an all-out combat, his tenacity did not fail him. The Commissioners had obviously been hoping that, once he realised his cause was irretrievably lost, he would surrender the abbey with­ out further ado. Instead, he was holding out relentlessly and Lomenie de Brienne' s patience was being taxed to the limit. Furthermore, the abbot must have become some­ thing of an embarrassment to him for two reasons. In the first place he had devised and submitted for the king's approval what amounted to a perfectly acceptable re­ formed constitution. A few religious, edifiedno doubt by theirsuperior's example and determination, had elected to remainwith him in his retreat. If newsof this defiant yet


praiseworthy stand should reach the ears of the pope, there could yet be serious and unpleasant repercussions from that quarter. Secondly, the finances of Lomenie de Brienne's friend, Bishop d' Argentre of Limoges, were the cause of considerable concern. Monseigneur d' Argentre had obtained an enormous loan to enable him to finish building his new palace at Limoges, a palace which, as he expressed it himself in a letter, would permit him to live in a manner more in keeping with his rank. The bishop's creditors were beginning to press for payment and Lome­ nie had assured him that he could count on the abbey and its revenues to discharge his debt.

Therewas only one course of action which would bring about the defeat of the Abbot and effect a speedier evacua­ tion of Grandmont. The monks who continued to remain faithful to theirRule and loyalto their leader would have to be won over; and one monk in particular was to prove himself ideally suited to this devious purpose. Dom Daguerre had been at Grandmont for some time and en­ joyed the confidence of the abbot, who had sent him on several missions to Paris as acting Procurator-General, Dom Razat having retired to the priory of Meynel.On one of these trips Lomenie found the means of influencing him to perform the role of Rosencrantz Guildenstern in the drama which was beginningto unfold. He was sent on missions to various of the remaining grandmontine houses, ostensibly for the benefit of the religious, but in reality, to speed up the liquidation of these houses. At Faye Jumilhac, for example, the brethren were doing all in their power to prevent their house being taken over by the seminary of Perigueux. Daguerre was able to convince them that their procrastination could not and would not avert the inevitable. He persuaded them that they would be better employed rescuing what they could from the disaster by submitting their requests for pensions to the Commission. Once these requests were received by the Commission, they were interpreted as tacit agreement to


the suppression of the house in question, which could then be efficiently and speedily carriedout. Lomenie also used Daguerre to pave the way for takeover, by sounding out the mood of the community in question. In this way he received advance notice of, and was prepared for, diffi­ culties which might hinder the smooth transferof a house to the diocese. For his espionage, Daguerre was well re­ warded with the gift of the grandmontine house of Ban­ douille, one of the wealthier priories. Then Lomenie entrusted him with an ultimate and decidedly more deli­ cate task. He was instructed to persuade the abbot himself to end the stalemate and to relinquish Grandmont to the diocese of Limoges. A memorandum of instructions from Lomenie to his agent, preserved in the Archives Nation­ ales, contains a particularly reptilian set of instructions. The abbot, states Lomenie, must be made aware of the futility of the task he is seeking to impose upon himself. He must be convincedof the king's interest, benevolence, and generosity, and he must be urged to submit arequest for pension both for himself and for the good of those in his charge. If the abbot should refuseto accept the inevitable, Daguerre is required to influence the monks behind his back. They, in turn, are to be made aware of their own best interests and urged as a body to submit requests for pen­ sions, as these will have to be deductedfrom the revenues of the abbey prior to their being transferred to the diocese. The monks must be made to realise that the king has their interests at heart and has no wish to deprive them of what is rightfully theirs. He will therefore appoint a crown ad­ ministrator to take charge of the abbey's finances and compile an inventory of all lands and properties belonging to it. The long-suffering abbot had been obliged to dispatch his novices; now the few religious who had stood by him were to have their minds soured against him and be bought off by an official in whom he had placed his trust.

Soconfident was Lomenie that Daguerre would succeed in his task that he included with his memorandum the


following incredible letter of submission, addressed to himself and intended for the Abbot's signature:

Monseigneur, the decision taken by the religious of Grandmont has reduced me to such a pitiable state that I am forced to throw myself upon the mercy of His Majesty; no other course remains open to me. I am resigned to witnessing the extinction of the house in which I have sought in vain to re-establish by example the regular life. Now I can do no more than consign it to the King who in his wisdom will deter­ mine its fate. I submit myself entirely to the views and wishes of the King, who is the best of fathers. From this moment, I place my abbey in his hands and I agree to its union with whatever benefice or establish­ ment he shall see fit. I ask only that he be pleased to grant me, out of the revenues of this house, a pension of: (a space for the amount to be filled in is left blank) for the duration of my life, and which will enable me to live in whatever retirement I may choose. You will realise, Monseigneur, the enormity of a sacrifice which the piety of the King allowed me to consider as a much more distant prospect. However, the lack of subjects has rendered it necessary today. I beseech you to make my position known to His Majesty. At least I have the consolation that he will realise how much it is costing me to renounce the hopes that I had formed for the glory of religion and of my Order.16

Lomenie also provided Daguerre with a letter for the abbot informing him of the inadvisability and futility of any further resistance. 'Further delays,' he warns him, 'are superfluous and against the best interests of those in your charge.' A copy of all three documents entrusted to Da­ guerre was sent to the Bishop of Limoges for his informa­ tion.17 A covering letter introduced Dom Daguerre to Monseigneur d' Argentreand observed that he might find it necessary to remain in thelocality for six months or so in order to make all the necessary arrangements for the trans-


ferralof the abbey to the diocese. Monseigneur d' Argentre was absent from Limoges for reasons of health when the letter and its bearer arrived. It was som weeks, therefore, before he was made aware of the plot intending to oust the abbot. When he did get round toreplying, he was able to inform Lomenie that news of Dom Daguerre's mission had filtered round the diocese in his absence and given rise to a rumour which stated that 'A gran4montine monk sent from the royal court had arrived at Grandmont with orders to empty the house.'

No sooner had Daguerre arrived at Grandmont than it became clear to him that whatever results his devious methods might achieve with the monks, he was going toget nowhere with their superior. The abbot had been un­ able to save his daughter houses but he was certainly not going to relinquish the mother house. He still nourished hopes, based on a somewhat unrealistic picture of the goodness and mercy of King Louis xv, that hewould after all be permitted to realise his ambition. In his naivete, he could not accept that the Commission of Regulars was really seeking to aruuhilate the Order of St Stephen which had been in existence for over six centuries.

Daguerre performed his task well. He ignored the abbot and concentrated instead on worming his way into the confidence of the religious. He sounded them out and appealed to each in turn. He besought them, one after the other to be reasonable and to capitulate. He argued that they had no option but to safeguard their own interests. He played on their respective weaknesses, appealing to the simplicity of some and the better nature of others. He hammered them all unwearyingly, and to such an extent that he achieved his goal. On 23 August he was able to send Lomenie a copy of a resolution passed at a chapter meeting held in the absence of the abbot and without his knowledge. This document bears the signatures of nine religious, all priests,who expressed their agreement with


the Commission that the abbot could never succeed in the task he had set himself. In order to avoid any further unpleasantness and disagreement, they professed them­ selves ready to concur with the king's decision and to agree to the union with whatever ecclesiastical authority he would be pleased to consider. Their requests were twofold; they humbly begged His Majesty to grant them life pen­ sions payable quarterlyin advance, and they requested to be allowed to remain at the abbey with the abbot until his death.18

On 24 December1770, the bishop of Limoges addressed a letter of just fifteenlines to Lomenie wishing him a happy new year, followed by a postscript of considerable length. This describes a recent dinner conversation between him­ self and the abbot of Grandmont. The abbot had accused him outright of complicity with the Commission of Regu­ lars and of attempting to accelerate the suppression of his abbey; and avowed that he had very reliable proof to support his statement. Having told Lomenie that he had denied any involvement with the Commission, the Bishop appealed to him in the following, very surprising manner:

As you see, Monseigneur, this is the first time that I have written you on the subject of the Abbey of Grandmont.19

Could Bishop d' Argentre's memory really have been so short-lived?The French Archivesof State containseveral letters which he addressed to Lomenie de Brienne on the subject of Grandmont prior to this particular one. The promise to remain neutral which, in his letter, he says that he had made to the abbot, turned out to be utterly valueless.         '

Earlyin the year 1771, Lomenierealised that his efforts to achieve any kind of amicable agreement with the abbot were getting him nowhere and that more drastic action was called for if he was ever to succeed in his ambition of gaining Grandmont for the diocese of Limoges. When the


Commission met on 27 February, he persuaded his col­ leagues to write officially to Cardinal de Bernis, the French Ambassador to the HolySee, and sound out the possibility of obtaining a papal bull of suppression. In the meantime, the Commission ordered an official inventory of the goods and possessions of the abbey to be compiled as soon as possible.

Lomenie wasted no time inimplementing the order of the Commission. By 2 March he had obtained a decree of council requiring the Intendant of Limoges or his delegate to proceed with the inventory. A few days later,he wrote again to Monseigneur d' Argentre tellinghim of his latest move and concluding with the following observation:

The Abbot of Grandmont cannot complain because the time he requested has passed, and if it had been prolonged any further there would be a risk of his possessions being subject to mismanagement and fal­ ling into decay. It gives me great pleasure to find myself on the point of concluding a business which is so much in your interest.20

Monseigneur d' Argentre's reply to this letter reveals something of his true character. In the first instance, he informs Lomenie that the abbot of Grandmont had dined with him on two separate occasions in the course of the previous winter and he had engaged himself to return the compliment and visit the abbot at Grandmont. However, he says:

I confess to you that I have not been able to summon up the courage because they would think that I went there for thesole purpose of seeing the promised land and to take measures to assure its conquest. I have therefore written a very truthful letter toMonseigneur the Abbot, begging him to excuse me on account of the weather and poor state of the roads.

He then dwelt at some length upon the financial embar­ rassment his new buildingswere causing him and asked


Lomenie's advice as to how best he might acquit himself because, as he says:

You are always well versed in finding such solutions, especially when friendship underlines your natural wisdom.21

Monseigneur d' Argentre did in fact meet the abbot shortly after this letter was written, but not at a convivial dinner party: the abbot was on a formal visit to Limoges. The bishop maintained that on this occasion he tried to convince the abbot of the futility of his putting up any further opposition to the royal commands. The abbot rep­ lied simply that he would do all in his power to obey His Majesty a fact which was duly reported to Lomenie in a letter dated 19 April.

Meanwhile, the abbot had received word from Monsieur the Intendant of Limoges informing him that, in compli­ ance with the writ of 9 March, he would be sending Mon­ sieur de Lepine, his deputy, to carry out the required inventory on 17 April. The abbot responded with an assur­ ance that Monsieur de Lepine would encounter no resis­ tance on his part.

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727-81) the celebrated economist, author, and associate of Adam Smith, has gen­ erally been regarded by historians as an enlightened and compassionate man. In the course of his intendancy at Limoges, he did a great deal to improve the conditions of the poor. He cannot have relished the distasteful charge which had fallen to him to perform and was no doubt relieved that the abbot intended to make it lighter by pledging his cooperation.

Had Turgot mistakenthe exact implication of the abbot's

words in his reply to him? Certainly when his delegate arrived at Grandmont on the day appointed, far from the passive acquiescence he had anticipated, he discovered the abbot and his handful of monks installed in the chapter house. When he made formal announcement as to the


purpose of his visit, they adamantly refused to let him proceed. Monsieur de Lepine was obliged to retreat to the village and wait until he received further instructions from his superior.

Both Monsieur Turgot and Monseigneur d' Argentre may have expected the abbot to deliver a mild reproachor even air his objections to the injustice to which he was being submitted. They certainly did not consider him capa­ ble of such forceful opposition. When the deputy's mes­ senger arrived to inform them that his master had encountered strong, formal, and unanimous opposition from the abbot and his monks, they were dumbfounded. Monsieur Turgot was obliged to authorise stronger methods. His second order instructed Monsieur de Lepine to proceed with his work in the presence of the religious and, if necessary, to send for locksmiths, blacksmiths, and whatever other assistants he might requireto break down doors and open cupboards, coffers, and safes. Two days later Monsieur de Lepine returned to the abbey where he communicated his new instructions to the religious. They expressed their surprisethat no accounthad been taken of their objections, but offered no further resistance. The abbot alone remained to witness the procedure; the re­ mainder of the community retired still protesting. The report which MonsieurTurgot in due course submitted to Paris, attributed the initial resistance of the community to greed:

I have been persuaded that they hoped to retard the compiling of the inventory in order to give themselves time to remove various effects for their personal profit. Various circumstances have led me to this sus­ picion and I am in consequence determined to order my delegate to apply seals to all the effects contained in the abbey with the exception of those necessities which are in daily use.22


TheBishop of Limogesexpressed a similaropinion in the letter which he dispatched to Lomenie de Brienne by the same courier:

I am certain that several of them and, in particular the bursar, make money out of everything and that they are filling a goodly sized purse for themselves ... at least they have been foiled by the seals which have been applied.They still have the means, however, of squandering the livestock on the estates.23

Although the inventory obviously marked the prelude to an official sequestration, the abbot and a few of the reli­ gious were still determined to continue the fight. Dom Pichon and Dom Muret began raising support for their cause among the local parishes, whose inhabitants stood to lose a great deal in terms both of employment and the charitable assistance provided by the monks. While the order of Grandmontcould justifiably be accusedof some measure of decadence at this time, the one great virtue which theyhad retained from their originalRule was the obligation to dispense charityto all who required it. Quite apart from the assistance which the monks of Grandmont afforded their immediate neighbours, when times were hard they also extended their help to the entirecanton and beyond. The abbeyserved the locality as church, school, and hospital. Every possible form of assistance was af­ forded by the brethren: prayers, food, clothing, medicines, consolation, and advice. So, in unison with their respective clergy, various local worthies organised the inhabitants of the village of Grandmont and five other parishes in the vicinity in a series of protests against the closure of their

beloved abbey. Several of the petitions addressed by these groups to the king are appended to the Memoire a Consulter et Consultation pour L'Abbe General de Grandmont.24 Apart from causing considerable local furore, these appeals were not without effect in certain high quarters. The outspoken Monseigneur Christophe Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, for example, let his support for the monks of Grandmont


be publicly known. The outcome was that the little commu­ nity remaining at Grandmont was left in peace for a few short months while Monseigneur d' Argentre stewed over the possibility that his cherished prize might yet be wrested from his grasp.

The following June this dormant state of affairs was abruptly terminated when Lomenie informed his col­ leagues on the Commission of the_ resistance being offered by the monks and the string of petitions they were address­ ing to various notables,including the king himself. On 12 June he wrote to Monseigneur d' Argentre telling him of the very latest petition which the monks had addressed to the sovereign and assuring him that it would avail them naught. 'We shall shut their mouths', he wrote;'the Abbot is stubborn but we shall vanquish him with his own reli­ gious.'25

Lomenie's next move was to secure a royal brief authori­ sing the bishop of Limoges to approach the Holy See and request the suppression of the abbey of Grandmont and its annexation in perpetuity to the diocese of Limoges.26 A blow to the monks was •delivered on 22 June, when the King's Council issued a writ rejecting the abbot's petition and upholding all previous legislative measures taken against the abbey. It made a special point of approving the methods adopted by the Intendant of Limoges for compil­ ing the inventory. The abbot had made a particularly strong protest against the affixing of seals to the abbey property. In the words of Lomenie de Brienne, the Grand­ montines had been well and truly 'shut up', for a while at least.

No one seems to have been in any doubt that the pope would do other than agree to the bishop of Limoges' request, supported as it was, by a royal brief. Now, as his financial commitments increased, the bishop's only con­ cern was at the delay involved before he could get his hands on the abbey and its properties. 'We shall vanquish the abbot with his own religious', Lomenie de Brienne had


said and, in the interval while he awaited a papal bull of suppression, he occupied the time engineering this de­ vious strategy. Thanks to the outstanding efficiency of his informant, Dom Daguerre, Lomenie knew, somewhat bet­ ter than the naive abbot, the true feelings of all nine reli­ gious remaining at his side. It appears that they fell into twodistinct camps: Dom Chapellet de Fontrielle, the prior, in company with Doms Pichon, Muret, and Beaubreuil, wereall four sincerein their fidelityto the Order and their devotion to the abbot. The remainder were decidedly more concernedwith their own interests and the amount of their eventual pensions. Thus it was a simple matter for Lo­ menie to write a letter to Dom Babinet, the mostoutspoken of this impressionable group, in order to win him over completely. The precisecontent of this letter is not known butDom Babinet's reply has survived and from it we can assume that it sufficed to convince him that his abbot's cause was irretrievably lost. Almost certainly Lomenie gave him fair warning that further resistance would jeopar­ dise the future pension rights of all concerned. Whatever Lomenie said, it had the desired effect, for Dom Babinet and four of his colleagues eventually scuttled out of Grand­ mont like rats from a sinking ship.27

The prolonged delay in obtaining a papal bull of sup­ pression can be attributed to the super-efficiency of the Commission of Regulars itself. Cardinal de Bemis, the French Ambassador to the Court of Rome was a worldly and self-indulgent prelate who in his youth had fancied himself as a poet. His sentimental verse-mongering had earned him the nickname 'Babet la Bouquetiere' (Betty Flowergirl). Nevertheless, he was an effective diplomat and the friendship which had developed between himself and Pope Clement XIV had made it possible for him to smooth the passageof many french appealsto the Sover­ eign Pontiff. Nevertheless, the cardinal had his hands full at this particular time, for apart from the Grandmontines, the Commission of Regularswas in the process of sup-


pressing houses of Franciscan Observants and Celestines as well as amalgamating the Canons of St Ruff with those of Saint-Lazaire. The busy ambassador pointed out, quite reasonably, that he could not be expected to submit all these separate dossiers to His Holiness at one and the same time and expect him, with one stroke of the papal pen, to liquidate the lot. Onthe contrary, if His Holiness was faced with too many such requests at one time, he would be more likely to develop scruples and begin asking ques­ tions, some of which might be difficult to answer.

The statement which awaited presentation to the pope had been composed by a Monsieur Cressac, banker and legal advisor to Monseigneur d' Argentre. It constitutes the most important paper of all the vast dossier of documents concerned with the destruction of the abbey of Grandmont and its daughter houses, because the information con­ tained in it was directly responsible for the eventual bull of suppression issued by the pope. In justification of his decision to issue the requisite bull, Clement XIV actually borrowed whole sentences from the overwhelming indict­ ment which Monsieur Cressac committed to writing and which reads as follows:

TheCommon Observance of the Order of Grandmont has been reduced to seventy-two religious distributed among twenty-three houses. These religious have abandoned-rather, they have never known the prac­ tice of a regular life in community. The Abbey of Grandmont itself is the only house in which the piety and good example of the Abbot General have been responsible for some semblance of regularity albeit lacking in fervour, study, and thorough application, among nine or ten of the religious. These same are still there, but if itwere not for the abbot, the Order would have extinguished itself through lack of recruits and general bad management. The obligation imposed on all religious by the edict of March 1768 forced the houses to convene a General Chapter in the Septem-


ber of that same year and each was obliged to take a decisive part. For a long while previous to this, Gen­ eral Chapters were not held regularly, and when they did take place proved to be mere informal meetings between a few of the priors but with the religious themselves not properly represented. When it became necessary to establish in what the rule of life of the Common Observance should consist, His Majesty took measures to ensure that the Chapter deciding these factors be held in accordance with canon law and that each house be properly represented by its delegates. The two principle requirements contained in the Edictof March 1768 were proposed at the meet­ ing: the re-establishment of a regular life in commu­ nity, such a life to follow the monastic pattern. The first requirement was unanimously rejected as im­ practicable by these religiouswho, in the guise of the religious habit, had been leading entirely secular lives. The second requirement reduced the Order to just four or five houses. Moreover, with the exception of the Abbey of Grandmont itself, the houses were in no condition to receive a larger number of religious without first re-establishing regular monastic quarters [Presumably this refers to the re-establishment of such monastic features as a commonrefectory and dorter. Partitioning wallswould have to be removedand the monasteries returned to their original plan]. It was agreed that this could not be effectedwithout consid­ erable expenditure which would have considerably diminished the resources of the Order. In conse­ quence, the Chapter decided to implore the king to dispense the Order from his edict, and they resolved to submit themselves entirelyto his will with prayers and supplications that, in case of the suppression and annexation of their houses, he would accord them the pensions necessary for their subsistence. Monseig­ neur the Abbot of Grandmont alone asked that he be


permitted to work for the re-establishment of a regular community life at the Abbey of Grandmont.

The King received with equal kindness the requests of both the Chapter and the Abbot General. In letters patent dated the month of February 1769, and regis­ tered in the various parlements, His Majesty dis­ pensed the religious of the Common Observance from obedience to his edict, and accorded them the right to live out their lives within the monasteries of the Order under the authority of the Abbot General and their immediate superiors but on the condition that they did not professany further monks or admit any nov­ ices. Furthermore, he authorised the bishops of each diocese to take whatever actionwas necessary in ac­ cordance with both canon and civil law to suppress and annex the said monasteries subject to the consent of the religious. Also, in compliance with the requests and supplications of the Abbot General, he agreed to the re-establishment of religious observance within the Abbey of Grandmont until the death of the said Abbot if and when the Abbot should have furnished him with full details of what this would entail.

As the result of this arrangement, the Abbot of

Grandmont addressed a petitionto the King together with a proposed scheme for constitutions conforming with the primitive institution of the Order. The pur­ pose of thiswas to obtain from His Majesty both his assent to the preservation of the house and the read­ mission of novices. This, on conditionthat the Abbot himself would follow a new regime in accordance with the above proposals and through his own exam­ pleinspire the religiousof the Order to follow these same reforms. The entire project was dependent upon whether or not it would be possible to reunite the religious of the Common Observance.

His Majesty deigned to reply to Monseigneur the Abbot of Grandmontthat before reachingany deci-


sionas to the fate of that house, it would be necessary to find a sufficient number of religious willing to practise the Rule of St Stephen in accordance with the proposals that had been submitted to His Majesty.

More than two years have gone by and Monseign­ eur the Abbot of Grandmont has not found a single religious willing to support his own zeal. Even those of the Strict Observance have refused to join him, and the disorder is worsening because what has been destroyed by time cannot be repaired.

Those religious who fear that their monasticlife will be extinguished without any consideration as to their plight have expressed their inquietude in this respect and asked that they might be allowed to benefit from the advantages afforded by the letters patent previ­ ously issued both at their request and that of the entire Order. Thus the King, convinced of the impossibility of Monseigneur the Abbot of Grandmont actually realising his plans, and at the same time informed of his willingness to comply with the King's will, has issued Monseigneur the Bishop of Limoges with a brief authorising him to seek the dissolution and sup­ pression of the title of the Abbey of Grandmont through the Court of Rome. Moreover, to effect the annexation, in case of vacancy, death, or demission, of any possessions belonging to the Abbey which are situated within the episcopal see of Limoges; the en­ dowment of the said see of Limoges being not propor­ tionate to its needs and to the charges imposed upon so extensive a diocese. His Majesty has reason to believe that such an application of the Abbey's pos­ sessions constitutes an additional motive for HisHoli­ ness to authorise this annexation. The Abbot of Grandmont will place no obstacle in the way for he can no longer conceal the futility of his efforts. The majority of the other houses of the same Observance


have been suppressed at the request of the bishops complying with the insistent wishes of the religious themselves. Those houses which still remain are urg­ ing the same treatment. No adherents to the Reform have been found even where one would most have hoped tofind them. [In all probability this refers to the religious of the Strict Observance. In fact, several of these did come forward and supported their abbot to the last]. There is no longer any hope for Monseigneur the Abbot of Grandmont, and the best use that can be made of the possessions of a house which will be completely vacated when he dies, is to place it at the disposal of a poor diocese which comprises almost eight hundred parishes and receives less than 16,000 livres by way of revenue.28

Taken purely at face value, this document appears a true testimony of events. In fact, it is an almost total misrepre­ sentation of the truth. In at least seven cases out of ten, the monks most decidedly did not give in freely and volun­ tarily to their houses passing into the possession of their local bishops. In just about every instance they were cajoled, bullied, and threatened with destitution if they dared offer any resistance. Furthermore, to state cate­ gorically that the abbot would place no obstacle in the way of the annexation of his abbey to the diocese of Limoges was a downrightlie.