The Carthusian Order

The Origin

A Calling : Saint Bruno

« Blessed is the glory of the Lord, The Christ, Word of the Father, for all times men were chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead a life of solitude and to unite them in an intimate love. Answering this calling, Master Bruno, year of our Lord 1084, entered the desert of Chartreuse with six companions and began life there. »

Statutes I.1

Who was Bruno ?

Born in Cologne around 1030, he begins studying at the school of the Cathedral of Reims at an early age. Made a "doctor", Canon of the Cathedral Chapter, he is made the Rector of the University in 1056. He was one of the most remarkable scholars and teacher of his time : « …a prudent man whose word was rich in meaning. »

He finds himself less and less at ease in a city where scandal has little affect towards the clergy and the Bishop himself. After having fought, not without success, against this disorder, Bruno feels the desire of a life more completely given to God alone.

After an attempt at a solitary life of short duration, he enters the region of Grenoble, of which the Bishop, the future Saint Hugues, offers him a solitary site in the mountains of his diocese. In June 1084, the Bishop himself leads Bruno and six of his companions in the primitive valley of Chartreuse, where the Order eventually gets its name from. They build a hermitage, consisting of a few log cabins opening towards a gallery which allows them access to the communal areas of the community -- church, refectory, and chapter room -- without having to suffer too much from intemperate conditions.

After six years of a pleasant solitary life, Bruno is called by Pope Urban II to the service of the Holy See. Not thinking of being able to continue without him, his community first thinks of separating, but it allows itself to be convinced to follow in the life that he first formed. Advisor to the Pope, Bruno is ill at ease a the Pontifical Court. He only lives in Rome for a few short months. With the Pope's blessing, he establishes a new hermitage in the forests of Calabria, in the south of Italy, with a few new companions. There he dies 6 October 1101.

A witness from his brothers in Calabria :

« Bruno deserves to be praised for many a thing, but especially in this matter: he was always a man of even temper, that was his specialty. His face was always joyful, and he was modest of tongue; he led with the authority of a father and the tenderness of a mother. No one found him too proud, but gentle like a lamb. »

The first rule : Guigues

« Other hermitages were established imitating La Grande Chartreuse, and under the repeated insistence of Guiges, the fifth prior of Chartreuse, wrote a description of the way of life (The "Customs", or Carthusian usage, around 1127); all adopted and decided to conform, for it became their law of observance and the link of charity of their emerging family. »

Statutes I.1

It was the same Guiges that rebuilt the hermitage on the actual grounds of La Grande Chartreuse, after an avalanche destroyed the first hermitage in 1132, killing 7 monks under the snow.

The birth of the Order : Saint Anthelme

« …under the priory of Anthelme, the first General Chapter is called (1140), at which all the homes, including that of the Chartreuse, set for all times their destiny. »

Statutes I.1

Beginning 1140, the Carthusian Order is thus officially born and takes its place at the side of the great monastic institutions of the Middle Ages.

The nuns

« Around the same time, the nuns of Prebayon in Provence decide to embrace the rules of life of the Carthusians. »

Statutes I.1

The joining took place around 1145 and thus began the woman's branch of the Carthusian family.

Thus was the origin of our Order.

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