History of the Chartreuse Order

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The Chartreuse Order

of cloistered monks (The Carthusians) was founded in 1084, making it – at more than 900 years old – one of the oldest religious orders in Christianity.

Its founder, Bruno – later Saint Bruno – was born in Cologne, Germany, in circa 1030. He studied at the University of Reims, later became a professor and then dean of the university. His skill and dedication as an educator made the university famous throughout all of Europe.

At the height of his celebrity, he decided to give up the honors of the world and fulfill his true vocation – prayer and meditation, away from the secular world.

He searched an ideal site for his retirement until June 1084 when, arriving in Grenoble with six companions with a similar desire, he met with the local bishop, Hugues.
Hugues had recently dreamed of seven stars hanging over a nearby uninhabited area known as “The Desert of Chartreuse”.
When Bruno and his six companions arrived, the bishop believed them to be the manifestation of his dream and led the seven companions to the place God had shown him.

They found the remote area to be exactly what they had been looking for.
They quickly built simple individual wooden cells, a chapel, a dining room.
Prayer, silence, meditation was their life.
The rigors of this solitary life needed occasional companionship, some dinners and walks in common in the mountain.
These principles direct the lives of the Chartreuse fathers still today.
For six years Bruno was able to live the life he so deeply loved. But his wish of solitude was interrupted in 1090 when one of his former students – – Pope Urban II – called him to Rome where he needed his presence. The Pope, while valuing Bruno’s help recognized his desire for solitude and allowed him to build a Monastery in nearby Calabria.
Bruno died there in 1101.

During the years following Bruno’s death, hermitages other than the ones from Chartreuse and Calabria wanted to adopt the lifestyle of Bruno and of his followers.
In 1125, Guigues, the fifth Father Superior of the Order, wrote down the “customs” of the order which remain today the guidelines of the life of a Chartreuse monk.
In 1989, these “customs” were adapted to the Vatican II Council decisions.They give comprehensive details about the daily life of a monk and communicate the basis of a solitary life: the silence of the cell, permanent prayer, and humble work plus participation in the collective prayers, obedience to the Father Superior of their monastery as well as obedience to the decisions taken by the Chapter General of the Order.

Chartreuse monks are contemplatives,

dedicating their lives to listening in silence to God.
Both fathers and brothers live in the monastery. Both live lives of prayer and contemplation. Both are called monks.

The Fathers are priests who have taken holy orders and spend most of their time alone in their cells.

The Brothers, in addition to the contemplative life, attend to the basic work necessary for the monastery. The lives led by fathers and brothers are complementary : each are looking for God in a solitary way of life.

This solitude is neither a monk’s retreat from the world nor a resignation from life but rather his choice of a mental, physical and spiritual freedom in which he can give his life to all humanity and from which he can engage in universal prayer.

In our modern world, change is constant but the Chartreuse Order is steadfast. There have been no significant changes in the life of a Chartreuse monk since Bruno arrived in the Desert of Chartreuse in 1084. The search for God is universal. The search for inner peace is universal. The desire for world-wide brotherhood is universal. It is for these universal blessings that each Chartreuse monk prays.