Friday, October 6, 2017

St. Bruno and the English Carthusian Martyrs

I have often posted about the Carthusian Order and its English Reformation martyrs on this blog. Today we celebrate the feast of the order's founder, St. Bruno of Cologne:

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.

I note this on the website: "Liturgical celebration does not have any pastoral intent. This explains why those outside the Order are not admitted to participate at the offices or the Mass celebrated in the churches of our monasteries. Because of our call to solitude, visits are limited to the family members of the monk (2 days a year) and to those who feel called to our life, whom we call retreatants."--so when St. Thomas More spent any time with the Carthusians of the Charterhouse of London, it would have been as a retreatant. Note also how much Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Audley, at al, were interrupting the solitude of the Carthusians.

There is a Charterhouse in England today: St. Hugh at Parkminster (make sure you have the sound turned on your computer; the site comes with chant!) It was founded in 1873 and the house originally had two houses from the Continent to accommodate. Their site includes a gift shop, with this book about the Beauvale martyrs of the English Reformation.


  1. Only one house in all of North America.
    Many “retreatants,” but very few admitted.
    The Navy Seals of Catholic religious orders.