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Much information about the Carthusians can be found on the internet.  On this page you will find links to some of this information, as well as information from Abbot Gasquet's book English Monastic Life. Gasquet published the book through The Antiquaries Book series in 1904.  It is now out of print and not generally available.  There may be a number of factual errors in the text, or points on which historians or theologians do not agree.    Gasquet's text, notes & links>>

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     The Carthusians were founded in the eleventh century by St. Bruno.  With the help of the bishop of Grenoble he built for himself and six companions, in the mountains near the city, an oratory and small separate cells in imitation of the ancient Lauras of Egypt.  This was in A.D. 1086 ; and the Order takes its designation from the name of the place--Chartreuse.  Peter the Venerable, the celebrated abbot of Cluny, writing forty years after the foundation, thus describes their austere form of life.  “Their dress,” he says, “is meaner and poorer than that of other monks, so short and scanty and so rough that the very sight affrights one.  They wear coarse hair-shirts next to their skin ; fast almost perpetually ; eat only bean-bread ; whether sick or well never touch flesh [meat] ; never buy fish, but eat it if given them as an alms ;  eat eggs on Sundays and Thursdays ; on Tuesday and Saturdays their fare is pulse or herbs boiled ; on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they take nothing but bread and water ; and they have only two meals a day, except within the octaves of Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, Epiphany, and other festivals.  Their constant occupation is praying, reading and manual labour, which consists chiefly in transcribing books,  They say the lesser Hours of the Divine Office in their cells at the time when the bell rings, but meet together at Vespers and Matins with wonderful recollection”
     A manner of life of such great austerity naturally did not attract many votaries.  It was a special vocation to the few, and it was not until A.D. 1222 that the first house of the Order was established in England, at Hinton, in Somersetshire, but William Langesper.  The last foundation was the celebrated Charterhouse of Shene, in Surrey, made by King Henry V.  At the time of the general dissolution, there were in all eight English monasteries and about a hundred members. 

English Monastic Life by F.A. Gasquet.  (pages 221-222)


Quick History
:  The austere lifestyle of the Carthusians was inspired by the ancient hermetic (hermits) movement into the caves of the Egyptian Desert which began after A.D. 300 and probably peaked in the sixth century.  The Carthusian's simplicity of dress, food, and their living communities mimic those early desert hermitages where monks lived alone, but in proximity to each other, often in clusters of dwellings (huts or caves), divided by lanes--hence the term 'lauras' in relation to them, with the word 'laura' derived from the Greek word for 'lane.'  The Carthusians sought a return to this way of life that was revered as a way to humble obedience, and so to God. 
     The earliest austere Christian hermits and monks were most closely associated with the Coptic Church of Egypt and were also often known as the 'Desert Fathers.'  Their ancient dwelling places are known as the Wadi al-Naturn where monasteries are still in existence today.
Chartreuse Liquor:  The Carthusian Monks maintained themselves partly through the production of liquor.  Their particular brand, Chartreuse Liquor:

Located in the Chartreuse mountain, the Monastery of "La Grande Chartreuse" is the Mother House -- the Headquarters -- of the Chartreuse Order. This is where, after years of study, Elixir Végétal - from the manuscript " Elixir of long life" - is finally, produced in 1737. The Elixir is followed by the production of Green Chartreuse in 1764.                                                                                      
                                                                            (Except from http://www.chartreuse.fr/pa_history4_uk.htm)

The production of beer, ale, wine and liquor (and other intellectual innovations) has long been associated with monasteries.  The production of liquor/liqueur in particular has an interesting history:

[There was a] close connection between medicine, chemical and physical theory, alchemy and the Church in the later Middle Ages....
Distillation represented a mysterious sublimation of matter.  Such transmutation was close to the heart of what alchemists were striving to accomplish throughout the Middle Ages.
Available by means of repeated distillation, the aqua vitae rectificata ('purified water of life') approximated pure alcohol.  Jon of Rupescissa, another Franciscan Monk in the middle of the fourteenth century, composed a pair of solid tomes in which he declared what was universally accepted as a double undisputed truth:  that this spirit of alcohol was recognized as the fifth essence, after the theretofore acknowledged prime essences of air, water, fire and earth; ad that this quintessence in turn must constitute an absolute remedy against any and all corruption occasioned (as any morbidity necessarily would be) by abnormally excessive occurrences of any of those other four essences.             

 (The Art of Cookery by Terence Scully. Boydell Press, 1995. Page 160.)

Carthusian Houses in England (see Religious Houses index page)::

    St. Anne’s
     (see Coventry)   Warwick.
    Beauvale, or Gresley Park   

    Coventry, near St. Anne’s

    Epworth, or Axholme  

    Herthorp, Locus Dei
    (removed to Hinton)   Gloucester.
    Hinton  (Locus Dei)    

    Hull (Kinston-on-)    

    Yorks, E. R.

    (cell to Witham)   Somerset

    Yorks, N. R
    (see Witham) Somerset.

    Witham, or Selwood
    Fd. 1179                 ds. 1539


Carthusian Links:
Carthusian Order homepage.  Many articles and links here, including an article on Carthusian Nuns, a page listing Charterhouses around the world, and a link to the Chartreuse Liqueurs Site.

Into Great Silence, a documentary about Carthusian Life by Philip Groning, premiered at film festivals around the world in 2006.  Read a review by Peter Krausz and Peter Malone of the Australian Film Critics Association.

An article on the Carthusian Order through New Advent.

And, if you speak French (sadly I do not), there's a Carthusian blog.

Coptic Links:

The Monastery of the Syrins in Wadi Natrun, an article by Jimmy Dunn featured on the Tour Egypt website.

The St. Macarius Monastery in Egypt homepage, plus an interesting article, The Divine Foundation upon which Coptic Monasticism was built, by Father Matta El-Meskeen.

Corrections, questions?
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