The Carthusian Order

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Quick presentation

What is the Charterhouse ?

  • A group of mountains in the French Alps, situated between Grenoble and Chambéry.
  • The eremitical Carthusian Order founded there in 1084.
  • A herb based liqueur made by the Carthusian monks.

The following pages will enable you to discover the little known world of the Carthusians…

The Carthusian Order

The Order was founded by Saint Bruno in 1084 and comprises a masculine and a feminine branch.

At present, the Order is composed of about 450 monks and nuns who live a solitary life at the heart of the Church; there are 24 Houses in three continents, all dedicated exclusively to the contemplative life.

Contemplative monks and nuns

The Carthusians consecrate their lives entirely to prayer and seeking God in the secret of their hearts. They intercede for the Church and for the salvation of the whole world. Their life finds its balance around three axes :

  • silence, solitude, living in cell
  • prayer in common in the church, three times a day, as well as some fraternal meetings
  • their own liturgy, adapted to their style of life and the small number of religious

Separated from the world

“ Apart from all, to all we are united, so that it is in the name of all that we stand before the living God. ”
Statutes 34.2

Their solitude implies a separation from the world, realised by the enclosure. This translates itself, among other things, into :

  • the renunciation of receiving guests and all exterior apostolate
  • no, or very little direct contact with the media
  • visits limited to our family and relatives, once or twice a year
  • a community walk (“spaciement”), each week.

Way, Truth and Life

« Ego sum via, et veritas, et vita. Nemo venit ad Patrem, nisi per me. »

“ I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ”

Jn 14, 6

“ […] Christ, the Father’s Word, has through the Holy Spirit, from the beginning chosen certain men, whom he willed to lead into solitude and unite to himself in intimate love. ”
Statutes 1.1

It is to this call that the Carthusians want to respond.

Solitary life

“ Our principal endeavour and goal is to devote ourselves to the silence and solitude of cell. […] There is the faithful soul frequently united with the Word of God; there is the bride made one with her spouse; there is earth joined to heaven, the divine to the human. ”
Statutes 4.1

All live a very solitary life of prayer and work, in cell for some, while others are more dedicated to the daily tasks of the monastery.

Prayer, meditation and work follow one another with great regularity, in the rhythm of the liturgical year and the seasons.

Community life

“ The grace of the Holy Spirit gathers solitaries together to form a communion in love, in the likeness of the Church; which remains one, though spread throughout the world. ”
Statutes 21.1

Carthusian solitude is not total, but is balanced by a share of community life, in particular by the conventual Eucharist, the long night vigils and Vespers.

On Sunday, the union of hearts is more visibly expressed and strengthened by the midday meal in common and a recreation. The walk permits both fraternal meeting and relaxation in contact with nature.

Material life

The Carthusians may have “left the world”, but they are not withdrawn from the human condition common to all; they must therefore supply all the needs of a life characterised by poverty and austerity.

The Brothers in their obediences and, to a lesser extent, the Fathers in their cells, contribute together to the good functioning of the community.

Each community is economically autonomous and generally assures its subsistence by agricultural or artisan work, and also by mass offerings.

However, at the level of the Order, there is a system of equalisation by which the richer houses support the poorer, in particular through the revenue generated by the fabrication of the liqueur.

mother and model of Carthusians

We fly to your protection, holy Mother of God.
Hear us as we implore your help in our need,
and deliver us always from all danger,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genitrix,
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus,
Sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

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