samedi 28 mars 2015

Saint ÉTIENNE HARDING, religieux cistercien, abbé et confesseur


Saint Étienne Harding, abbé

Il était né en Angleterre. Il se fit moine à Molesme. En 1098, il quitte son monastère avec une vingtaine de moines, dont le futur saint Robert pour essaimer et fonder à 100 kilomètres de là un monastère plus austère. Ainsi naquit Cîteaux, en Bourgogne, dont il devint le troisième abbé, en 1108, après saint Robert et saint Albéric. Il venait d'entrer dans cette charge quand saint Bernard et ses trente compagnons arrivèrent en 1112. L'abbaye qui peinait à se développer reprit vie et la réforme cistercienne ne tarda pas à se répandre dans toute l'Europe. Saint Etienne fonda douze monastères, qu’il unit par le lien de la Charte de Charité, pour qu’il n’y ait aucune discorde, mais que les moines agissent par une même charité, avec une même Règle et des coutumes semblables. Il mourut en 1134.

Saint Etienne Harding

Abbé de Cîteaux ( 1134)

Confesseur. 

Il était né en Angleterre et regagnait son pays après un voyage en Italie et en France. Passant par la Bourgogne, il rencontra sur sa route l'abbaye de Molesme. Il y entra et s'y fit moine. En 1098, il quitta Molesme, avec une vingtaine de moines, dont le futur saint Robert de Molesmes, pour essaimer et fonder à 100 kilomètres de là un monastère plus austère. Ainsi naquit Citeaux dont il devint le Père abbé. Il venait d'entrer dans cette charge quand saint Bernard et ses trente compagnons arrivèrent (1112). L'abbaye reprit vie et la réforme cistercienne ne tarda pas à se répandre dans toute l'Europe. Un de ses moines écrit de lui: "C'était un bel homme, toujours abordable et toujours de bonne humeur."


L'ordre de Cîteaux nous communique: les 3 Fondateurs ne sont objet d'une solennité commune que depuis peu, le 26 janvier: Saint Robert, saint Albéric et saint Étienne, abbés de Cîteaux, solennité dans l'OCSO (l'Ordre Cistercien de la Stricte Observance) -  source: rituel cistercien



Au 28 mars au martyrologe romain: À Cîteaux en Bourgogne, l’an 1134, saint Étienne Harding, abbé. Venu de Molesme en ce monastère avec d’autres moines, il en devint l’abbé, institua les frères convers, accueillit le futur saint Bernard avec huit compagnons et fonda douze monastères, qu’il unit par le lien de la Charte de Charité, pour qu’il n’y ait aucune discorde, mais que les moines agissent par une même charité, avec une même Règle et des coutumes semblables.


Martyrologe romain



Saint Étienne Harding

Troisième abbé de Cîteaux. Né vers 1060 dans le Dorset, Angleterre, il entre dans la vie monastique à Sherborne près de Winchester. Au retour d'un pèlerinage à Rome, il entre à Molesmes vers 1085. Il participe à la fondation de Cîteaux, dont il devint sous-prieur sous saint Robert, prieur sous saint Albéric et enfin troisième abbé. Étienne reçut saint Bernard et ses trente compagnons à Cîteaux et, deux ans plus tard, il envoya Bernard à Clairvaux comme abbé-fondateur.

Etienne a présidé à la croissance spectaculaire de l'entreprise cistercienne pendant plus de 25 ans. En 1119 la fédération comptait déjà 12 monastères. Etienne se chargea de la rédaction des constitutions de son ordre, ainsi que de l'amendement de la Charte de Charité, qu'il présenta au chapitre général de Cîteaux en 1119. Il présenta également ces documents au Pape Callixte II en vue de la reconnaissance de la nouvelle branche des moines bénédictins. C'est donc plus à Saint Etienne qu'à Saint Robert que les cisterciens doivent leur statut définitif et la spécificité des relations entre les différents monastères.
Saint Etienne fut canonisé en 1623.


Saint Étienne de Harding

"Séparés par le corps dans les diverses parties du monde, qu'ils soient indissolublement unis par l'âme... 



Vivant dans la même Règle, avec les mêmes coutumes."


La très sainte et des plus pieuses vie de Saint Étienne, fondateur de l'Ordre de Cîteaux (Ordo Cistercensis), rédacteur de la règle cistercienne et de la charte de charité, qui toute sa vie durant travailla pour l'épanouissement de l'idéal monastique prôné par Saint Benoît. 

Premières années

Saint Étienne naquit vers 1060, dans le Dorset, région méridionale de l'Albion, au sein de la grande, ancienne et noble famille de Harding. On ne sait peu de choses sur ses parents, si ce n'est que son père fut un administrateur admiré et aimé par ses censitaires, auprès desquels il était fort généreux. On sait aussi qu'Étienne reçut une éducation religieuse et pratique poussée, au point où ses connaissances impressionnèrent les autorités religieuses locales. 



Ceci dit, la part d'ombre sur sa vie se lève complètement quand Étienne de Harding choisit la vie monastique. En effet, à partir de ce moment là, grâce à l'assidu travail des moines qui côtoyèrent le saint, de nombreux écrits et registres nous permettent de connaître avec précision le déroulement de sa vie. On sait qu'il entra à l'abbaye bénédictine de Sherborne à l'âge de 15 ans. Après un noviciat rapide et fructueux, il fut élevé frère par l'abbé Roger de Lisieux, d'origine normande, qui le nomma chantre, où ses connaissances déjà très complètes en Christologie lui furent très utiles. Étienne resta cloitré à Sherborne pendant quatre ans, priant avec ferveur et sans relâche. Ces quatre années, il les utilisa à bon escient, ayant lu tous les ouvrages de la bibliothèque de l'abbaye, faisant de lui un érudit hors pair. D'ailleurs, il fut, après le décès de l'abbé de Lisieux et le remplacement de ce-dernier par un nouvel abbé, Richard de MacGroar, d'origine écossaise, rapidement nommé par ce-dernier chapitrain, qui en plus de le récompenser pour son érudition, voulait fait un contrepoids aux français très présents au sein du chapitre. En effet, l'abbé de MacGroar souhaitait que le monachisme s'internationalise, au lieu de rester une mode française. En quelque sorte, on peut dire qu'il était un précurseur du concept d'intertionalisation, et son influence fut grande sur Sainte Étienne, qui en fit un but, un objectif et un devoir des cisterciens.



Cependant, Saint Étienne ne resta pas chapitrain bien longtemps, puisque l'abbé le fit nommer lecteur au séminaire de Winchester, fondé quelques années auparavant, comme de nombreux autres à travers l'Europe, grâce à des lettres patentes de Grégoire VII, qui souhaitait une meilleure formation des prêtres, ce qui était à ses yeux essentiel et primordial pour lutter contre le nicolaïsme et la simonie. C'est au sein de ce séminaire qu'Étienne put s'initier à l'aristotélisme, doctrine alors réservée à une petite élite au sein des prélats et des plus éminents théologiens. L'affirmation de la sociabilité de l'homme est un choc. Étienne découvre alors la futilité de l'idéal monastique bénédictin, qu'il tente de réformer. 


Il réussit à fonder un hospice sous l'autorité de l'ordre, qu'il administre seul, puisqu'il est le seul à maîtriser des concepts de médecine, acquis au séminaire, mais ses autres tentatives resteront sans suite. Un nouvel abbé succède à MacGroar, Nicolo Aldobrandeschi, d'origine italienne, qui ne veut rien savoir des idées d'Étienne et l'expulse de Sherborne.

Cantorbéry, puis Rome

Saint Étienne déménage alors à Cantorbéry, siège de la primatie des angles, et se place sous la protection du nouvel archevêque, Baudoin d'Exeter, proche de la famille royale normande. Étienne, élevé chanoine, devient alors clerc séculier, tandis que l'archevêque lui confie la doyenné de la cathédrale. Étienne de Harding a alors 25 ans. Les théologiens de la ville, et ses confrères du cloître de la cathédrale, sont beaucoup plus réceptifs à ses propositions de réforme de l'Ordre Bénédictin, et se tiennent au fait des actualités romaines. Saint Étienne se fait remarquer pour ses prêches et est élevé seigneur par le roi Henri II. 



Finalement, Monseigneur Baudoin propose à Étienne d'effectuer un pélerinage à Rome. Enthousiaste, et voulant profiter de l'occasion pour discuter de son idéal avec nombre de théologiens du continent, Étienne se prépare quelque peu et met de côté quelques sous pour le voyage avant de recevoir le bourdon après une courte messe célébrée dans le choeur de la cathédrale. 


Son voyage débuta par une traversée de la Manche qui fut plutôt calme selon les dires même d'Étienne, et il prit ensuite la direction de Paris, où il ne fit qu'un bref arrêt, déçu par les théologiens de la ville, et emprunta ensuite la Via Agrippa, qui l'amena jusqu'à Rome en passant par les principales villes italiennes. À Boulogne, l'université lui réserva un bon acceuil, et ses thèses ne furent pas autant décriées qu'elles le furent à Florence. Néanmoins, les conditions météorologiques furent avec lui. 

Arrivé à Rome, il se plongea dans la lecture d'ouvrage sur Aristote. Il y découvrit les livres du panégyrique et du siège d'Aornos, qu'il dévora, mais qui furent pour lui très décevant, n'y trouvant pas d'arguments pour étayer ses idées de réforme. Cependant, il se lie d'amitié avec l'archevêque de Lyon et primat des Gaules, Hugues de Bourgogne. Après quoi, Étienne se fait connaître grâce à ses messes, mais aussi, et surtout, grâce aux débats théologiques qu'il mène et organise au sein de la faculté des sciences théologiques de Rome. Il entre même dans l'entourage du pape, mais son aristotélicisme un peu trop marqué lui vaut des critiques, et il préfère finalement suivre l'archevêque Hugues, qui retournait dans son diocèse.


Molesme et Cîteaux

La remontée sur la Via Agrippa se fit sans problème, la région n'étant pas alors infestée de Lion de Judas comme elle l'est aujourd'hui. Arrivé à Lyon, Étienne fit la connaissance de Robert de Molesme, qui visait le même saint et noble objectif que lui. En effet, Robert avait souhaité lui aussi réformer le monachisme, et avait pour ce faire fondé une abbaye, l'abbaye de Molesme. Cependant, cette-dernière était en grande difficulté. Établie sur un flanc de montagne, une terre infertile et loin de toute bourgade, un endroit dont personne ne voulait, l'abbaye sombrait dans l'acédie. Au départ, l'établissement n'était composé que de cabanes de branches autour d'une chapelle dédiée à Saint Hubert. Rapidement, la maison de nouveaux moines, rétifs à tant d'austérité. Ces moines, désespérés par leur situation, ne voulaient surtout pas suivre les enseignements de Robert, encore plus draconiens, et continuaient malgré tout d'honorer l'interprétation bénédictine de la règle de Saint Benoît. Étienne promit toutefois à Robert de venir le seconder à Molesme, mais après quelques temps, la tâche s'avérait tellement ardue que Robert et Étienne se décidèrent à trouver une solution. 



Les deux moines avaient un rêve, celui de fonder une abbaye sur une vraie terre, une terre fertile et acceuillante. Mais pour cela, il fallait obtenir une concession de la part d'un seigneur ou d'un propriétaire terrien, et peu s'étaient prononcés en faveur d'une réforme de ce qui était alors l'ordre le plus puissant d'Europe. Néanmoins, Étienne était convaincu que ses idées, de par leur originalité, mais aussi de par leur sérieux, séduirait un important vassal de Sa Majesté. Ce noble, ce fut Renaud de Beaune. Après qu'Étienne soit passé à sa cour, séduit par son discours, le vicomte de Beaune lui offrit une terre fertile au milieu d'une grande forêt.

Avec quelques moines de Molesme, Étienne de Harding et Robert fondèrent l'abbaye de Cîteaux. Dans les premiers temps, la nouvelle communauté travailla à défricher la terre. Ils revendirent les stères de bois et purent acheter des pierres pour l'enbelissement de leur abbatiale. Dès la première année, les moines réussirent à tirer profit des champs. La récolte fut très variée. En effet, prévoyants et instruits, Étienne et Robert avaient organisés les cultures de manière à tirer profit des grandes terres du domain abbatial, c'est-à-dire en y cultivant le plus possible. Grâce à la technique de l'assolement triennal, les moines réussirent à récolter une quantité de légumes, mais aussi une quantité de grains, que ce soit du blé, que les frères boulangers transformèrent en pain, du houblon, que les frères brasseurs transformèrent en bière et alcools divers, qu'on vendait, tout comme les surplus des autres cultures, aux villageois, ce qui permit à l'abbaye d'amasser des sommes considérables, ou encore de l'orge. La structure était là, il ne manquait que l'organisation pour avoir la règle d'un ordre monastique des plus solide. 


Toutefois, les débuts de Cîteaux ne furent pas toujours faciles. S'il y eut discorde dans la nouvelle abbaye, ce fut surtout à savoir qui de Robert de Molesme ou d'Étienne de Harding serait élu abbé. Les moines furent séparés en deux factions, et le chaos fut maître des lieux jusqu'à ce que le sage Saint Étienne décide de reconnaître son frère comme abbé, pour mettre un terme à la désolation causée pas la désunion de ceux que l'on appelait déjà les cisterciens. 



Ceci dit, les moines de Molesme vinrent à Cîteaux pour se repentirent, et implorèrent Robert de redevenir leur abbé, en échange de quoi il se soumettrait aux principes et coutumes de Cîteaux, ce qu'il accepta. Étienne de Harding et Robert avait réussi à mener à bien leur réforme du monachisme. 

La Charte de Charité

Suite au départ de Robert, Étienne fut proclamé abbé par acclamation. Il nomma ensuite le frère Albéric comme prieur de l'abbaye, ainsi qu'un chapitre. Entre-temps, l'idéal monastique cistercien s'était grandement répandu en France, et il devenait urgent d'établir les structures d'un nouvel ordre. Étienne se pencha alors sur la rédaction ce qui devrait être le texte fondateur pour tous les frères cisterciens. 



La nouvelle règle énonçait les valeurs fondamentales de l'Ordre Cistercien : la charité, qui consiste en l'aide du plus démuni et le refus et le rejet de l'égoïsme, l'exemplarité, qui est le respect d'un code d'honneur implicite ainsi que la foi.

L'abbé de Cîteaux, soucieux de l'intertionalisation de l'ordre et du bon fonctionnement de ce-dernier, inclut aussi dans la charte des mesures administratives. Il fixa d'abord les modalités d'établissement de l'ordre. Ainsi, une abbaye cistercienne ne peut être ouverte que si trois moines se trouvent dans la même région, et avec l'accord du chapitre d'une abbaye-mère de l'ordre. La nouvelle abbaye devenant donc fille de l'abbaye-mère. Ensuite, il établit le fonctionnement des élections pour les abbés, ainsi que les charges, les fonctions et les statuts de chacun.


Saint Étienne, voulant donner à la règle cistercienne un nom évocateur, la baptisa Carta Caritatis, ou Charte de Charité, pour signifier la principale et plus importante valeur de l'ordre.


Saint Bernard et dernières années

L'abbaye de Cîteaux florissait et devenait de plus en plus importantes, et sa réputation dépassa largement la Bourgogne. La réforme cistercienne intéressait beaucoup de gens, et les théologiens les plus respectés se penchaient régulièrement sur la situation de l'ordre naissant. 



Évidemment, Cîteaux accueillait chaque année un incessant flot de novices, venus pour y vivre dans la vertu, dans l'espoir d'obtenir le salut de leur âme et ainsi atteindre le soleil. C'est dans ce contexte qu'un jeune nobliaux venu directement de sa région de Dijon natale, qui deviendra plus tard Saint Bernard de La Bussière, intégra l'Ordre Cistercien. Tel Saint Étienne, qui aimait, en tant qu'abbé, admirer sa réussite, Saint Bernard passa avec brio le noviciat, et fut rapidement promu aux charges les plus importantes et les plus prestigieuses de l'abbaye. En effet, il en vint même à être nommé recteur de l'abbatiale, devenant en quelque sorte le bras droit d'Albéric. Chargé de la célébration des offices, il prêchait, chaque dimanche, les vertus et les bienfaits du cistercianisme, et ses qualités lui valurent d'être grandement considéré, même partie le clergé séculier et la société laïque. Après s'être entretenu avec le collège des nobles bourguignons, Saint Bernard, qui avait entre-temps été élevé chapitrain de Cîteaux, vint voir Saint Étienne pour obtenir l'autorisation de fonder une abbaye-fille sur les terres de La Bussière sur Ouche.




Les trois fondateurs de Citeaux: Saints Robert, Albéric, et Étienne Harding.
Cette peinture commémore et décrit la fondation en 1111, montrant les trois saints vénérant la Vierge Marie.



Saint Étienne de Harding

Étienne, trop heureux d'assister à la fondation d'une seconde abbaye soumise à la règle cistercienne, accepta avec enthousiasme. Cette nouvelle abbaye ne fut que la première d'une longue série, et grâce aux mesures prises par Saint Étienne en matière d'intertionalisation, mais aussi grâce aux connaissances et au charisme de Saint Bernard, l'Ordre put s'installer en Irlande, en Scandinavie, dans la péninsule Ibérique, etc. 



Même s'il aurait voulu lui-même participer à l'expansion de l'Ordre Cistercien, Saint Étienne ne le put en raison de son grand âge. Malgré cet ultime regret, il restait fidèle à la règle qu'il avait écrite, faisant toujours preuve de grande charité. Petit à petit, il déléguait ses responsabilités à Albéric, qui devint le troisième abbé de Cîteaux, mais aussi aux jeunes qui s'étaient joints à la grande famille cistercienne et faisait preuve d'enthousiasme et de motivation. 


Chaque jour, on pouvait le voir méditer tout en se promenant dans les grands domaines de l'abbaye.


Le trépas

Saint Étienne de Harding, fondateur de l'Ordre Cistercien et rédacteur de la Charte de Charité, s'éteignit paisiblement en sa cellule de l'abbaye de Cîteaux, entouré de ses frères de la famille cistercienne, un beau jour de mai alors que les arbres et les arbustes du domaine étaient en fleur. On pleura beaucoup sa mort, et plusieurs dignitaires, qu'ils soient religieux ou laïques, assistèrent à ses funérailles ainsi qu'à son inhumnation. 



On l'enterra sous l'abbatiale de Cîteaux, et on marqua l'emplacement de sa tombe par un gisant qui fut réalisé par un sculpteur bourguignon. On conserva son coeur, dont le reliquaire fut déposé à la primatiale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon, sa mitre, qui fut donnée à l'abbaye de La Bussière sur Ouche, et sa crosse, que l'on offrit à la jeune abbaye de Noirlac.

Attributs


Saint Étienne de Harding est souvent dépeint en vêtements d'abbé, avec mitre et crosse, mais aussi souvent tenant dans ses mains une maquette de l'abbaye de Cîteaux, rappelant ainsi que c'est lui qui en fut le fondateur. Son apparence générale est plutôt sobre, et rappelle donc son voeu de pauvreté. 

Reliques


L'histoire des reliques de Saint Étienne de Harding est particulière. Premièrement, son gisant, de même que l'abbaye de Cîteaux, furent détruits par les Armagnacs lors de la guerre civile qui les opposa aux Bourguignons. Ne restait que du corps du Saint son coeur, qui put être admiré à Lyon jusqu'à ce que Monseigneur de Bouviers l'amène à Sens pour être adoré par les fidèles qui visiteraient la cathédrale Saint-Étienne. Sa mitre fut, quant à elle, ramenée à Noirlac après l'abandon de l'abbaye de La Bussière, où elle a rejoint la crosse du Saint. Ces deux dernières reliques se trouvent toujours à Noirlac.


Saint Etienne Harding

Etienne, surnommé Harding, troisième abbé de Cîteaux, né en Angleterre, d'une famille noble, fit ses premières études et prit l'habit religieux au monastère de Schirburn. Il en sortit pour passer en Ecosse, et de là en France. Après avoir achevé sa réthorique et sa philosophie dans les écoles de Paris, il partit pour Rome, avec un jeune ecclésiastique de ses amis. A son retour, il s'arrêta à l'abbaye de Molesme, où il ne put retenir son compagnon de voyage. Cependant, cette abbaye tomba bientôt dans un extrême relâchement, effet d'une dangereuse abondance. Saint Robert, qui en était abbé, en remit la direction au prieur Alberic, et s'exila dans la solitude de Vinay. Alberic ne tarda pas à suivre Robert, et le fidèle Etienne à les joindre tous deux. Il leur offrit ses secours pour une réforme ; mais le peu de succès qu'obtint leur nouvelle tentative les ayant découragés, ils allèrent, avec 18 autres religieux de Molesme, jeter, en 1098, les fondements de l'abbaye de Cîteaux, dans une forêt du diocèse de Challon. Ils vinrent heureusement à bout de leur entreprise, avec la permission du légat de Rome et l'assistance du duc de Bourgogne. Les services rendus par Etienne à l'établissement nouveau ne furent pas sans récompense. Après la mort d'Alberic, second abbé de Cîteaux, il fut choisi à l'unanimité pour lui succéder. Sous la conduite d'Etienne, ses religieux pratiquèrent à la lettre ce précepte de l'Evangile : Cherchez premièrement le royaume des cieux, et le reste vous sera donné comme par surcroît. Aussi, dans la disette où ils se trouvaient souvent, quelques aumônes qui venaient à propos leur semblaient venir par miracle. Etienne, en tout ennemi du luxe, le bannit même du service divin. Il remplaça l'or et l'argent par le cuivre et le fer, et ne fit grâce qu'aux calices de vermeil. Il eut à craindre un moment que cette sévérité de moeurs ne nuisît à l'accroissement de sa communauté : plusieurs frères étaient morts en moins de deux ans, et personne ne se présentait pour les remplacer.
     
 Etienne était plongé dans une affliction profonde, quand tout à coup arriva saint Bernard, qui venait, à la tête de trente gentils-hommes français, solliciter leur commune admission dans un ordre dont il a fait la gloire. Son exemple ne fut point stérile. Cîteaux eut en peu de temps une surabondance de population, dont Etienne forma des colonies, qui fondèrent, sous ses auspices, les monastères de la Ferté, de Pontigny, de Clairvaux et de Morimond. On a appelé ces quatre abbayes les quatre filles de Cîteaux. Etienne, considérant ces rapides progrès de l'ordre, ne voulut plus être le seul juge des intérêts de tous, et convoqua, en 1116, le premier chapitre général de Cîteaux. Satisfait de cet essai, il en convoqua un second, en 1119, pour soumettre à son examen des statuts intitulés Charta charitatis, ayant pour but de réunir en un même corps les différentes abbayes dont Cîteaux était, en quelque sorte, la métropole.

Lorsque Étienne sentit l'affaiblissement de ses forces, il se démit, en plein chapitre, de sa dignité d'abbé, demandant la permission de s'occuper de lui, puisqu'il ne pouvait plus s'occuper des autres. Il fut remplacé par un hypocrite, que sa mauvaise conduite fit déposer au bout d'un mois ; mais il eut, de son vivant, un second successeur plus digne de lui, et mourut, avec cette consolation, le 28 mars 1134. (Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne - Tome 24 - Page 546)


ÉTIENNE HARDING saint (1060-1134)

Issu de la noble famille de Harding, Étienne naquit à Meriot dans le comté de Dorset (Angleterre). Il entra à l'abbaye voisine de Sherborne, la quitta quelques années plus tard pour aller en Écosse, puis se rendit à Paris pour étudier. De là, il fit le pèlerinage de Rome. Au retour, il se fixa à Molesmes, où l'abbé Robert cherchait désespérément une formule nouvelle de vie monastique. En 1098, Étienne Harding fut du groupe des fondateurs de Cîteaux, où il resta malgré les difficultés des premières années, difficultés accrues par la pauvreté et l'absence de recrutement. En 1109, l'abbé Albéric mourut et Étienne Harding lui succéda. Il mit au point un texte de la Bible, qu'il présenta magnifiquement , ne voulant pas que la simplicité soit confondue avec l'indigence (Dijon, Mss, de 12 à 15). L'arrivée de saint Bernard et de nombreux novices donna un essor inattendu à l'abbaye de Cîteaux, qui essaima en 1113 à La Ferté, en 1114 à Pontigny, en 1115 à Clairvaux et à Morimond, puis dans toute l'Europe. Sous l'abbatiat d'Étienne Harding, le nombre des abbayes cisterciennes dépassa soixante-dix. Pour maintenir leur union, il promulgua la Charte de charité et les premières coutumes de l'ordre, qui furent approuvées par le pape en 1119. En 1125, des moniales de Juilly, abbaye qui fut fondée par des moines de Molesmes et qui resta sous son obédience, instaurèrent à Notre-Dame-du-Tart la première abbaye de cisterciennes. Étienne Harding démissionna en 1133 et mourut le 28 mars 1134. Sa fête fut fixée au 17 avril par le chapitre général de 1623. Actuellement, saint Étienne Harding est, avec ses prédécesseurs Robert et Albéric, honoré par les cisterciens et par les bénédictins le 26 janvier en une fête commune aux pères de Cîteaux.

SOURCE : http://www.universalis.fr/encyclopedie/etienne-harding/

Stephen Harding, OSB Cist. Abbot (RM)

Born probably in Sherborne, Dorsetshire, England; died at Cîteaux, France, March 28, 1134; canonized in 1623; his feast is celebrated on July 16 among the Cistercians.


Saint Stephen, one of the founders of the Cistercians, was an Englishman of unknown parentage. While he was yet a child, they offered him as an oblate to Sherborne Abbey in Dorsetshire, where he was educated. When he reached maturity, he detested the monastic lifestyle and set out to see the world. He travelled to Scotland, and then on to Paris to study further.

As a Benedictine monk he travelled on pilgrimage to Rome, reciting the Psalms daily as he went, but it was no perfunctory repetition, for he drew from them a strength which refreshed his spirit, and their influence deeply affected the rest of his life.

Some say that he had wandered through Europe seeking a community where the Benedictine Rule was strictly kept and had almost given up hope, when he met Saint Robert of Molesmes, a native of Champagne. On Stephen's return from Rome, he and a friend came across a community of monks living a very austere and solitary life in the forest of Langres in Burgundy. Their life of prayer, hard work, and strict adherence to the austere rule of Saint Benedict attracted Stephen, and he settled there. Among the monks were Saint Robert, the abbot, and Saint Alberic.

Everything went well until the bishop of Troyes took it upon himself to moderate the austerities of these enfants terribles and to give them property so they would not be "devoured" by their zeal. The community's devotion to poverty was bypassed and little by little the Benedictines of Molesmes became canons.

Disappointed to find that its discipline had become slack and that wealth and worldliness had bred indifference, Robert no longer desired to be the abbot and left. But the monks of Molesmes increasingly deviated from the rule and the other two, each becoming abbot for a time, in turn departed for the diocese of Langres following Robert's example.

The bishop of Troyes ordered all three to return to Molesmes, but they could not rekindle the flame of enthusiasm, so the three left again. In order to escape the jurisdiction of the bishop of Troyes, they sought refuge in another jurisdiction. Stephen accompanied Robert and Alberic to Lyons to ask the Archbishop Hugh, the papal legate to France, for permission to leave Molesmes to create a stricter order.

The legate made known his opinion in 1098: "We have thought that the best thing would be for you to retire to another convent which the Divine Goodness will grant you. We have therefore permitted you who have appeared before us, Abbot Robert, Brothers Alberic and Stephen and all those who are determined to follow you, to execute this good plan and we exhort you to persevere therein." What is comforting to note is that in the Church, if a work is good, the Holy Spirit gets involved in it and sooner or later, someone always presents himself to support and activate it.

Thus, the permission was granted, and Saint Robert and 20 others, built a monastery at Cîteaux, diocese of Châlon-sur- Saône, in the heart of the forest. The site was chosen, not for its majestic beauty, but because Rainald, the lord of Beaune, gladly donated the site to them. The monastery opened in 1098 with Robert as abbot, Alberic as prior, and Stephen as subprior. Saint Robert returned to Molesmes about a year later at the order of Urban II. The other two shifted positions respectively to abbot and prior.

During Alberic's reign, the new order received definitive approval from Pope Pascal II and was placed under the protection of the Holy See. The Benedictines of Cîteaux received a white habit and made their solemn professions on March 21, 1098, Passion Sunday.

Stephen assisted at the death of Alberic on January 26, 1109. Alberic was the first of the trio to prepare a meeting place for them with God. Stephen missed Alberic, his friend, his "companion in arms," his "general in the battles of the Lord," in the time that they were placed "in the front line of the battle." Stephen's character and temperament are well expressed in this military language.

In the following year, on March 21, 1110, there was a second departure for eternity. Robert died. Stephen was the sole survivor of the three. This vouched-safe, original Cistercian, however, was not to conform in all points with the Benedictine prototype because he was to become the champion of the most absolute poverty with an almost Franciscan insistence.

With the death of Alberic, Stephen found himself elected abbot of Cîteaux against his will. He was now to induce the others to follow him on the path to poverty that was his preferred route. Stephen decreed that magnates could no longer hold their courts at Cîteaux, and thus cut off feudal sources of income, from which the abbey had derived most of its revenue. Until that time the duke of Burgundy and his court could break the sacred silence of Cîteaux whenever he desired.

At Cîteaux they framed the rule of a new order, that of the Cistercians, the Charter of Charity with its insistence on poverty, solitude, and simplicity, and here for years they lived out their poor and barren life. They passed their days in hard manual labor in the fields and vineyards. They raised their own food. They avoided every form of religious corruption and ostentation, forebearing the use of rich vestments, stained glass, and altar vessels of gold and silver, wearing the simplest dress, and allowing only a crucifix of painted wood. Their church was unadorned, their worship plain and severe, but along with such bare austerity they combined grace and beauty.

During those 15 years nothing remarkable happened. On the contrary, the little company made no headway, attracted no new followers, and it seemed a hopeless enterprise. Stephen's changes discouraged visitors, which had been a source of new recruits. Combined with a disease that killed several monks, this caused the number of monks to dwindle significantly, and Stephen began to doubt his actions. But they had great faith and patience, pursuing their work with untiring devotion, and in the end their perseverance was rewarded.

One time Stephen sent a friar to the market of Vézelay with three pennies and the instruction to bring back to Cîteaux "all the necessaries of life." The friar actually came back to Cîteaux with three wagons, drawn by three horses, laden with clothes and food because at just the right moment he had found in the market place a man who wanted to bequeath a part of his fortune to the monks. Stephen's trust in God's providence was warranted again.

Yet, because the order did not flourish, Stephen asked a dying monk to "come back after your death, when God wills and if He will allow it, to tell us if our way of life is pleasing to Him, and if our work is to perish." The response came a few days later when Stephen was working in the fields: "I say unto you, in truth, dispel all your doubts, consider it certain that your life is holy and agreeable to God."

Then there came a dramatic day in 1112 when a company of 30 men made their way through the forest to Cîteaux to join them and changed the destiny of the order. The company was of excellent quality, for they belonged to some of the noblest families of Burgundy, and were led by Bernard, afterwards famous as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. They presented themselves as novices and their arrival brought new hope and strength to the community; there followed an era of remarkable expansion, which, in time, infused fresh life into Western Christendom.

From that point, Cistercian communities thrived and spread rapidly, and there were no less than 90 of them--including Pontigny, Morimond, and Clairvaux--when Stephen Harding died. Although Bernard was only 24, Stephen appointed him abbot of Clairvaux. Stephen ruled that the abbots of the monasteries must meet at Clairvaux each year, and that the abbot of the motherhouse must make a visitation of each abbey every year; these rules served to safeguard the original spirit and observance.
In addition to being a Biblical scholar, and perhaps an artist, Stephen was an excellent administrator. In 1119, when there were already ten monasteries, Stephen drew up and presented to the general chapter at Cîteaux a constitution for the Cistercians--the Charter of Charity (Carta caritatis). This charter defined the spirit of the order and provided for the unity of the association of Cistercian abbeys. It is a document of prime importance in Western monastic history because it would influence other orders. The high ideals, the careful organization, the austerity and simplicity of the Cistercian life are an index to the character of Stephen Harding.

He also made emendations to the Vulgate Bible that were designed for the use of Cîteaux. He continued directing the monasteries until 1133, when he was quite old and losing his sight. His last words, uttered on March 28, 1134, were: "I am going to God as I had never done any good. If I have done some good, it was through the help of the grace of God. But perhaps I have received this grace unworthily, without turning it sufficiently to account."

In England, beginning with a thatched barn situated in a wild and narrow glen, there rose their most famous and glorious Cistercian abbey of Fountains. Thus the story of the Cistercians, which is linked for ever with the names of Stephen Harding and Bernard of Clairvaux, is of the reform of the Benedictine Order (for that also resulted) and of a great spiritual awakening. Harding's fellow countryman, William of Malmesbury, wrote of him that he was "approachable, good-looking, always cheerful in the Lord--everyone liked him" (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Dalgairns, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Gill, White).


In art, Saint Stephen Harding is depicted as a Cistercian abbot with the Virgin Mary and the Infant appearing to him (Roeder, White). He may also be pictured with Robert of Molesme (Roeder).


St. Stephen Harding

Confessor, the third Abbot of Cîteaux, was born at Sherborne in Dorsetshire, England, about the middle of the eleventh century; died 28 March, 1134. He received his early education in the monastery of Sherborne and afterwards studied in Paris and Rome. On returning from the latter city he stopped at the monastery of Molesme and, being much impressed by the holiness of St. Robert, the abbot, joined that community. Here he practised great austerities, became one of St. Robert's chief supporters and was one of the band of twenty-one monks who, by authority of Hugh, Archbishop of Lyons, retired to Cïteaux to institute a reform in the new foundation there. When St. Robert was recalled to Molesme (1099), Stephen became prior of Cïteaux under Alberic, the new abbot. On Alberic's death (1110) Stephen, who was absent from the monastery at the time, was elected abbot. The number of monks was now very reduced, as no new members had come to fill the places of those who had died. Stephen, however, insisted on retaining the strict observance originally instituted and, having offended the Duke of Burgundy, Cïteaux's great patron, by forbidding him or his family to enter the cloister, was even forced to beg alms from door to door. It seemed as if the foundation were doomed to die out when (1112) St. Bernard with thirty companions joined the community. This proved the beginning of extraordinary prosperity. The next year Stephen founded his first colony at La Ferté, and before is death he had established thirteen monasteries in all. His powers as an organizer were exceptional, he instituted the system of general chapters and regular visitations and, to ensure uniformity in all his foundations, drew up the famous "Charter of Charity" or collection of statutes for the government of all monasteries united to Cïteaux, which was approved by Pope Callistus II in 1119 (see CISTERCIANS). In 1133 Stephen, being now old, infirm, and almost blind, resigned the post of abbot, designating as his successor Robert de Monte, who was accordingly elected by the monks. The saint's choice, however, proved unfortunate and the new abbot only held office for two years.

Stephen was buried in the tomb of Alberic, his predecessor, in the cloister of Cîteaux. In the Roman calendar his feast is 17 April, but the Cistercians themselves keep it on 15 July, with an octave, regarding him as the true founder of the order. Besides the "Carta Caritatis" he is commonly credited with the authorship of the "Exordium Cisterciencis cenobii", which however may not be his. Two of his sermons are preserved and also two letters (Nos. 45 and 49) in the "Epp. S. Bernardi".

Huddleston, Gilbert. "St. Stephen Harding." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 28 Mar. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14290d.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael C. Tinkler.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14290d.htm

April 17

St. Stephen, Abbot of Citeaux, Confessor

From the Exordiom of Citeaux; the Annals of that Order by Manriquez; the short ancient Life of St. Stephen, published by Henriquez in his Fasciculus, printed at Brussels in 1624, and by Henschenius, 17 Apr. t. 2, p. 497; also from the Little Exordium of Citeaux, and the Exordium Magnum Cisterc. both in the first tome of Teissier’s Bibliotheca Patrum Cisterc. See De Visch’s Bibliotheca Cisterciensis, or History of the Writers of this Order, in 4to. printed in 1656. Le Nain, Hist. de l’Ordre de Citeaux, t. 1. Stephens, Monast. Anglic. t. 2. Britannia Sancta, and Hist. Litéraire de la. France, t. 11, p. 213.

A.D. 1134.

ST. STEPHEN HARDING was an Englishman of an honourable family, and heir to a plentiful estate. He had his education in the monastery of Sherbourne, in Dorsetshire, and there laid a very solid foundation of literature and sincere piety. A cheerfulness in his countenance always showed the inward joy of his soul, and a calm which no passions seemed ever to disturb. Out of a desire of learning more perfectly the means of Christian perfection, he, with one devout companion, travelled into Scotland, and afterwards to Paris, and to Rome. They every day recited together the whole psalter, and passed the rest of their time on the road in strict silence, occupied in holy meditation and private prayer. Stephen, in his return, heard at Lyons of the great austerity and sanctity of the poor Benedictin monastery of Molesme, lately founded by St. Robert, in 1075, in the diocess of Langres. Charmed with the perpetual recollection and humility of this house, he made choice of it to accomplish there the sacrifice of himself to God. Such was the extreme poverty of this place, that the monks, for want of bread, were often obliged to live on the wild herbs of the wilderness. The compassion and veneration of the neighbourhood at length supplied their wants to profusion: but, with plenty and riches, a spirit of relaxation and self-love crept in, and drew many aside from their duty. St. Robert, Alberic his prior, and Stephen, seeing the evil too obstinate to admit a cure, left the house: but upon the complaint of the monks, were called back again; Robert, by an order of the pope, the other two by the diocesan. Stephen was then made superior. The monks had promised a reformation of their sloth and irregularities; but their hearts not being changed, they soon relapsed. They would keep more clothes than the rule allowed; did not work so long as it prescribed, and did not prostrate to strangers, nor wash their feet when they came to their house. St. Stephen made frequent remonstrances to them on the subject of their remissness. He was sensible that as the public tranquillity and safety of the state depend on the ready observance and strict execution of the laws, so much more do the perfection and sanctification of a religious state consist in the most scrupulous fidelity in complying with all its rules. These are the pillars of the structure: he who shakes and undermines them throws down the whole edifice, and roots up the very foundations. Moreover, in the service of God, nothing is small: true love is faithful, and never contemns or wilfully fails in the least circumstance or duty in which the will of God is pointed out. Gerson observes, how difficult a matter it is to restore the spirit of discipline when it is once decayed, and that, of the two, it is more easy to found a new Order. From whence arises his just remark, how grievous the scandal and crime must be of those who, by their example and tepidity, first open a gap to the least habitual irregularity in a religious Order or house.

Seeing no hopes of a sufficient reformation, St. Robert appointed another abbot at Molesme, and with B. Alberic, St. Stephen, and other fervent monks, they being twenty-one in number, with the permission of Hugh, archbishop of Lyons, and legate of the holy see, retired to Citeaux, a marshy wilderness, five leagues from Dijon. The viscount of Beaune gave them the ground, and Eudes, afterwards duke of Burgundy, built them a little church, which was dedicated under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, as all the churches of this Order from that time have been. The monks with their own hands cut down trees, and built themselves a monastery of wood, and in it made a new profession of the rule of St. Bennet, which they bound themselves to observe in its utmost severity. This solemn act they performed on St. Bennet’s-day, 1098: which is regarded as the date of the foundation of the Cistercian Order. After a year and some months St. Robert was recalled to Molesme, and B. Alberic chosen the second abbot of Citeaux. These holy men, with their rigorous silence, recollection, and humility, appeared to strangers, by their very countenances, as angels on earth, particularly to two legates of Pope Paschal II., who, paying them a visit, could not be satiated with fixing their eyes on their faces; which, though emaciated with extreme austerities, breathed an amiable peace and inward joy, with an heavenly air resulting from their assiduous humble conversation with God, by which they seemed transformed into citizens of heaven. Alberic obtained from Paschal II. the confirmation of his Order, in 1100, and compiled several statutes to enforce the strict observance of the rule of St. Bennet, according to the letter. Hugh, duke of Burgundy, after a reign of three years, becoming a monk at Cluni, resigned his principality to his brother Eudes, who was the founder of Citeaux, and who, charmed with the virtue of these monks, came to live in their neighbourhood, and lies buried in their church with several of his successors. He was great grandson to Robert, the first duke of Burgundy, son to Robert, king of France, and brother to King Henry I. The second son of Duke Eudes, named Henry, made his religious profession under B. Alberic, and died holily at Citeaux. B. Alberic finished his course on sackcloth and ashes, on the 26th of January, 1109, and St. Stephen was chosen the third abbot. 1 The Order seemed then in great danger of failing: it was the astonishment of the universe, but had appeared so austere, that hitherto scarce any had the courage to embrace that institute. St. Stephen, who had been the greatest assistant to his two predecessors in the foundation, carried its rule to the highest perfection, and propagated the Order exceedingly, so as to be regarded as the principal among its founders, as Le Nain observes.

It was his first care to secure, by the best fences, the essential spirit of solitude and poverty. For this purpose, the frequent visits of strangers were prevented, and only the Duke of Burgundy permitted to enter. He also was entreated not to keep his court in the monastery on holydays, as he had been accustomed to do. Gold and silver crosses were banished out of the church, and a cross of painted wood, and iron candlesticks were made use of: no gold chalices were allowed, but only silver gilt; the vestments, stoles, and maniples, &c., were made of common cloth and fringes, without gold or silver. The intention of this rule was, that every object might serve to entertain the spirit of poverty in this austere Order. The founder, with this holy view, would have poverty to reign even in the church, where yet he required the utmost neatness and decency, by which this plainness and simplicity appeared with a majesty well becoming religion and the house of God. If riches are to be displayed, this is to be done in the first place to the honour of Him who bestowed them, as God himself was pleased to show in the temple built by King Solomon. Upon this consideration, the monks of Cluni used rich ornaments in the service of the church. But a very contrary spirit moved some of that family afterward to censure this rule of the Cistercians, which St. Bernard justified by his apology. Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not. 2 And many saints have thought a neat simplicity and plainness, even in their churches, more suitable to that spirit of extraordinary austerity and poverty which they professed. The Cistercian monks allotted several hours in the day to manual labour, copying books, or sacred studies. St. Stephen, who was a most learned man, wrote in 1109, being assisted by his fellow-monks, a very correct copy of the Latin Bible, which he made for the use of the monks, having collated it with innumerable manuscripts, and consulted many learned Jews on the Hebrew text. 3 But God was pleased to visit him with trials, that his virtue might be approved when put to the test. The Duke of Burgundy and his court were much offended at being shut out of the monastery, and withdrew their charities and protection: by which means the monks, who were not able totally to subsist by their labour, in their barren woods and swampy ground, were reduced to extreme want: in which pressing necessity St. Stephen went out to beg a little bread from door to door: yet refused to receive any from a simoniacal priest. For though this Order allows not begging abroad, as contrary to its essential retirement, such a case of extreme necessity must be excepted, as Le Nain observes. The saint and his holy monks rejoiced in this their poverty, and in the hardships and sufferings which they felt under it; but were comforted by frequent sensible marks of the divine protection. This trial was succeeded by another. In the two years 1111 and 1112, sickness swept away the greater part of this small community. St. Stephen feared he should leave no successors to inherit, not worldly riches, but his poverty and penance; and many presumed to infer that their institute was too severe, and not agreeable to heaven. St. Stephen, with many tears, recommended to God his little flock, and after repeated assurances of his protection, had the consolation to receive at once into his community St. Bernard, with thirty gentlemen: whose example was followed by many others. St. Stephen then founded other monasteries, which he peopled with his monks; as La Ferté, in the diocess of Challons, in 1113; Pontigni, near Auxerre, in 1114; Clairvaux, in 1115, for several friends of St. Bernard, who was appointed the first abbot; and Morimond, in the diocess of Langres. St. Stephen held the first general chapter in 1116. Cardinal Guy, archbishop of Vienne, legate of the holy see, in 1117, made a visit to Citeaux, carried St. Stephen to his diocess, and founded there, in a valley, the abbey of Bonnevaux. He was afterwards pope, under the name of Calixtus II., and dying in 1124, ordered his heart to be carried to Citeaux, and put into the hands of St. Stephen. It lies behind the high altar, in the old church. St. Stephen lived to found himself thirteen abbeys, and to see above a hundred founded by monks of his Order under his direction. In order to maintain strict discipline and perfect charity, he established frequent visitations to be made of every monastery, and instituted general chapters. The annalist of this Order thinks he was the first author of general chapters; nor do we find any mention of them before his time. The assemblies of abbots, sometimes made in the reigns of Charlemagne and Lewis le Debonnaire, &c., were kinds of extraordinary synods; not regular chapters. St. Stephen held the first general chapter of his Order in 1116; the second in 1119. In this latter he published several statutes called the Charte of Charity, confirmed the same year by Calixtus II. 4

He caused afterwards a collection of sacred ceremonies and customs to be drawn up, under the name of the Usages of Citeaux, and a short history of the beginning of the Order to be written, called the Exordium of Citeaux. The holy founder made a journey into Flanders in 1125; in which he visited the abbey of St. Vast, at Arras, where he was received by the Abbot Henry and his community, as if he had been an angel from heaven; and the most sacred league of spiritual friendship was made between them, of which several monuments are preserved in the library of Citeaux, described by Mabillon. In 1128, he and St. Bernard assisted at the council of Troyes, being summoned to it by the Bishop of Albano, legate of the apostolic see. In 1132, St. Stephen waited on Pope Innocent II., who was come into France. The Bishop of Paris, the Archbishop of Sens, and other prelates, besought the mediation of St. Stephen with the King of France and with the Pope, in affairs of the greatest importance. The Cistercian monks came over also into England in the time of St. Stephen. The extreme austerity and sanctity of the professors of this Order, which did not admit any relaxation in its discipline for two hundred years after its institution, were a subject of astonishment and edification to the whole world, as is described at large by Oderic Vitalis; St. Peter, abbot of Cluni; William of St. Thierry; William of Malmesbury; Peter, abbot of Celles; Stephen, bishop of Tournay; Cardinal James of Vitry; Pope Innocent III., &c., who mention, with amazement, their rigorous silence, their abstinence from flesh-meat, and, for the most part, from fish, eggs, milk, and cheese; their lying on straw, long watchings from midnight till morning, and austere fasts; their bread as hard as the earth itself; their hard labour in cultivating desert lands to produce the pulse and herbs on which they subsisted; their piety, devotion, and tears, in singing the divine office; the cheerfulness of their countenances breathing an holy joy in pale and mortified faces; the poverty of their houses; the lowliness of their buildings, &c.

The saint having assembled the chapter of his Order in 1133, when all the other business was dispatched, alleging his great age, infirmities, and incapacity, begged most earnestly to be discharged from his office of general, that he might in holy solitude have leisure to prepare himself to appear at the judgment seat of Christ. All were afflicted, but durst not oppose his desire. The chapter chose one Guy; but the saint discovering him unworthy of such a charge, in a few days he was deposed, and Raynard, a holy disciple of St. Bernard, created general. St. Stephen did not long survive the election of Raynard. Twenty neighbouring abbots of his Order assembled at Citeaux, to attend at his death. Whilst he was in his agony, he heard many whispering that, after so virtuous and penitential a life, he could have nothing to fear in dying: at this he said to them, trembling: “I assure you that I go to God in fear and trembling. If my baseness should be found to have ever done any good, even in this I fear, lest I should not have preserved that grace with the humility and care I ought.” He passed to immortal glory on the 28th of March, 1134, and was interred in the tomb of B. Alberic, in which also many of his successors lie buried, in the cloister, near the door of the church. 5 His Order keeps his festival on the 15th of July, as of the first class, with an octave, and with greater solemnity than those of St. Robert, or St. Bernard, having always looked upon him as the principal of its founders. The Roman Martyrology honours him on the 17th of April, supposed to be the day on which he was canonized, of which mention is made by Benedict XIV. 6

Note 1. B. Alberic is honoured with an office on the 26th of January, by the Cistercian Order in Italy, by a grant of the Congregation of Sacred Rites. See Bened. XIV. de Canon. l. 1, c. 13. Tu. 17, p. 100. [back]

Note 2. Rom. xiv. 3, 6. [back]

Note 3. This most valuable MS. copy of the Bible is preserved at Citeaux, in four volumes in folio. Mauriquez in his Annals, and Henriquez in his Fasciculus, give us a short pathetic discourse on the death of B. Alberic, ascribed by many to St. Stephen, and not unworthy his pen. [back]

Note 4. St. Robert, in the foundation of Citeaux, proposed to himself, and prescribed to his companions, nothing else but the reformation of the Order of St. Bennet, and the observance of his rule to the letter, as Benedict XIV. takes notice, (de Canoniz. l. 1, c. 13, n. 17. p. 101,) nor did the legate grant him leave for his removal and new establishment with any other view or on any other condition. (Exordium Magn. l. 1, c. 12, Hist. Lit. Fr. t. 11, p. 225.) St. Stephen in the Charte, or Charter of Charity, prescribes the rule of St. Bennet to be observed to the letter, in all his monasteries, as it was kept at Citeaux, (c. 1.) It is ordained that the abbot of Citeaux shall visit all the monasteries of the Order, as the superior of the abbots themselves, and shall take proper measures with the abbot of each house for the reformation of all abuses, (c. 4.) Upon this rule the grand Conseil at Paris decreed, in the year 1761, that the abbot of Citeaux could not establish in the four first abbeys of the Order, and their filiations or dependencies, the reformation which he attempted, without the free consent of the four abbots of those houses. St. Stephen orders other abbots to perform every year the visitation of all the houses subject to them, (c. 8.) and appoints the four first abbots of the Order, viz. of La Ferte, Pontigni, Clairvaux, and Morimond, to visit every year, in person, the abbey of Citeaux, (c. 8,) and to take care of its administration upon the death of an abbot, and assemble the abbots of the filiations of Citeaux, and some others, to choose a new abbot, (c. 19.) If any abbot busies himself too much in temporal affairs, or falls into any other irregularity, he is to be accused, to confess his fault, and be punished in the next general chapter, (c. 19.) If any abbot commits or allows any transgression against the rule, he is to be reprimanded by the abbot of Citeaux, and if obstinate, to be deposed by him, (c. 23,) and in like manner the abbot of Citeaux by the four first abbots, (c. 27, 28, 29, 30.)

  The Usages of Citeaux, Liber Usuum, were compiled about the same time, and according to Bale, Pits, Possevin, and Seguin, by St. Stephen; though Brito, Pritero, and Henriquez are of opinion they were completed by St. Bernard. In it all the regular observances of Citeaux are committed to writing in five parts, which comprise one hundred and eighty chapters. B. Alberic had before published certain regulations for this Order in 1101, assisted principally by St. Stephen, who was at that time prior under the abbot Alberic. The Usages were approved by the holy see, at or about the same time with the Charte of Charity, and were probably published in the same general chapter. At least they are mentioned among the acts of the general chapters compiled by Rainard, the fourth abbot of Citeaux, in 1134. These have always made the code of this Order: the best edition is that in the Nomasticon Cisterciense, published at Paris in 1664, by F. Julian Paris.


  The Exordium Parvum, or Short History of the Origin of Citeaux, was composed by St. Stephen’s order, by some of his first companions. This most edifying golden book, as it is justly called by the annalist of the Order, is inserted by F. Teissier, in the Bibliotheca Patrum Cisterciensium, which he published in three volumes in folio, in 1660. We have in the same place the Exordium Magnum Cisterciense, or larger history of the beginning of this Order, compiled near one hundred years later, in the thirteenth century. 
[back]

Note 5. A description of this saint’s tomb, and of those of several dukes of Burgundy, and other great and holy men interred in this church, is given in Descript. Historique des principaux Monumens de l’Abbaye de Cisteaux, in the Mémoires de l’Acad. des Inscript. t. 9, p. 193. [back]

Note 6. De Canoniz. l. 1, c. 13, n. 17, t. 1, p. 100. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume IV: April. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.


SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/4/172.html

ST. STEPHEN HARDING
St. Stephen Harding is regarded as the founder of the Cistercian monasteries. He was born in Dorset, England, and educated at Sherborne Abbey.
After studying in Paris and Rome, he visited the monastery of Molesme. Impressed by its holy abbot, Robert of Molesme, and the prior, Alberic (both of which were later canonized), Stephen joined the community.
After a few years, the three men, along with 20 other monks, established a more austere monastery in Citeaux. Eventually Robert was called back to his position of abbot at Molesme(1099), and Alberic, who became the new abbot of Citeaux, died in 1110. Following Alberic's death, Stephen was elected as abbot.
Stephen drew up the famous "Charter of Charity," which became the basis for Cistercian monasticism. However, very few men were joining the community and the monastery was suffering from hunger and sickness. It seemed for awhile as if thier new order was destined to die out. However, in1112 the man who was to be known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, joined the community along with 30 other companions, including almost his entire family. The very next year Stephen founded his first colony at La Ferté.
Before his death in 1134, Stephen had established 13 monasteries. By the end of the 12th century there were 500 in Europe.

SOURCE : http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint.php?n=439

Saint Stephen Harding

Confessor, the third Abbot of Cîteaux, was born at Sherborne in Dorset,  about the middle of the eleventh century; died 28 March, 1134. He received his early education in the monastery of Sherborne and afterwards studied in Paris and Rome. On returning from the latter city he stopped at the monastery of Molesme and, being much impressed by the holiness of St. Robert, the abbot, joined that community. Here he practised great austerities, became one of St. Robert’s chief supporters and was one of the band of twenty-one monks who, by authority of Hugh, Archbishop of Lyons, retired to Cïteaux to institute a reform in the new foundation there.

When St. Robert was recalled to Molesme (1099), Stephen became prior of Cïteaux under Alberic, the new abbot. On Alberic’s death (1110) Stephen, who was absent from the monastery at the time, was elected abbot. The number of monks was now very reduced, as no new members had come to fill the places of those who had died. Stephen, however, insisted on retaining the strict observance originally instituted and, having offended the Duke of Burgundy, Cïteaux’s great patron, by forbidding him or his family to enter the cloister, was even forced to beg alms from door to door. It seemed as if the foundation were doomed to die out when (1112) St. Bernard with thirty companions joined the community. This proved the beginning of extraordinary prosperity.

The next year Stephen founded his first colony at La Ferté, and before is death he had established thirteen monasteries in all. His powers as an organizer were exceptional, he instituted the system of general chapters and regular visitations and, to ensure uniformity in all his foundations, drew up the famous “Charter of Charity” or collection of statutes for the government of all monasteries united to Cïteaux, which was approved by Pope Callistus II in 1119. In 1133 Stephen, being now old, infirm, and almost blind, resigned the post of abbot, designating as his successor Robert de Monte, who was accordingly elected by the monks. The saint’s choice, however, proved unfortunate and the new abbot only held office for two years.

Stephen was buried in the tomb of Alberic, his predecessor, in the cloister of Cîteaux. In the Roman calendar his feast is 17 April, but the Cistercians themselves keep it on 15 July, with an octave, regarding him as the true founder of the order. Besides the “Carta Caritatis” he is commonly credited with the authorship of the “Exordium Cisterciencis cenobii”, which however may not be his. Two of his sermons are preserved and also two letters (Nos. 45 and 49) in the “Epp. S. Bernardi”.

Insisting on simplicity in all aspects of monastic life, Stephen was largely responsible for the severity of Cistercian architecture.  Drawing on Jewish authorities, he prepared his own edition of the Bible (1112; the manuscript is preserved at Dijon).