Stephen Harding, St

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Stephen Harding, St (d.1134). Third abbot of Cîteaux. A native and monk of Sherborne (Dorset), Stephen joined the abbey of Molesme near Dijon. Fervently ascetic, he helped Abbot Robert tighten Benedictine life there, but, facing opposition, they left for Cîteaux, a barren, marshy place, to follow the rule more rigorously. Stephen, the driving force, became third abbot (1109), but Cistercian austerity caused numbers to decline until Bernard's arrival (1111) with 30 followers retrieved the situation; the order revived and spread, Stephen himself founding thirteen other houses and appointing Bernard abbot of Clairvaux. He wrote Carta caritatis (1119), which was Cistercianism's foundation document, and with its centralized structure, its annual visitation, and general chapters became a model for all future religious foundations. Stephen's administrative ability complementing Bernard's emotional appeal made Cistercianism spread rapidly—over 100 Cistercian houses were founded in his lifetime, the first in England at Waverley, Surrey (1128).

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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Saint Stephen Harding

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Saint Stephen Harding