Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Carthusians

Saint Hugo persuades Bruno of Cologne
to found the Carthusian Order
(cathedral window in Grenoble, France)
The Carthusians have been mentioned here before, when Geert Groote gave away all his possessions to that order. A few days ago was the anniversary of the death (6 October 1101) of the founder of the Carthusians, Bruno of Cologne.

Born in Cologne about 1030, he may have studied at the college of St. Cunibert (where Pepin the Short interred the remains of the Two Ewalds). We do know that he went to Reims for his later education—he was probably there when Anne of Kiev got married in the Cathedral—studying Holy Scripture and the Church Fathers. By 1055 he had returned to Cologne and been made a canon at St. Cunibert, but was called back to Reims by its bishop and put in charge of the local schools, a position he maintained until 1075. (One of his students later became Pope Urban II.)

Bruno eventually gave up the administrative duties, refusing the rille of a bishop for something more contemplative. He first spent time with Robert of Molesme, who later founded the Cistercian Order.

When he founded his own order, in 1084, Bruno decided it would be for both men and women. No abbots, because there would be no abbeys; a hermitage would be overseen by a prior. Priests and nuns (or lay brothers and sisters) would be hermits, shutting themselves off from the outside world in small cells. The day would be spent in prayer and labor...and silence.

The first hermitage was built in the Chartreuse Mountains in the French Alps. It is from these mountains that the word "Carthusian" comes. (Also, the monks started producing a cordial in the 1740s called "Chartreuse." From the color of the cordial comes the color chartreuse.)

As penance for the death of St. Thomas Becket, King Henry II built a Carthusian charter house in 1182 in Somerset.

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