Chezal-Benoît, Abbey of

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Saint-Pierre de Chezal-Benoît (known also as Chazeau-Benoist; Latin, Casale Malanum, Casale Benedictum ), a Benedictine abbey, located in the Diocese of Bourges, parish and township of Chezal-Benoît, department of Cher, France. The abbey was founded in 1093 by Andrew of Vallombrosa (d. 1112) in a deserted spot. Nothing certain is known of the abbey's history before 1479, when Peter of Mas, the prior of Castres in the Diocese of Albi, became abbot and introduced the reform of the Congregation of St. Justina (Padua) (see benedictines). He abolished the long offices, fasts, and severe punishments, and established a three-year term for the abbots who were elected by a general chapter. The reform, ratified by the Holy See in 1491, was adopted by the following abbeys: Saint-Sulpice of Bourges in 1499, Saint-Allyre of Clermont in 1500, and Saint-Vincent of Mans in 1502. The religious of Chezal-Benoît were formed into a congregation in 1505. There was a continuous line of abbots regularly elected from 1515 to 1763. The following abbeys were attached to Chezal-Benoît: Saint-Martin of Sées in 1511, saint-germain-des-prÉs in 1514, Brantôme in 1541, Sainte-Colombe of Sens in 1580, and jumiÈges in 1515 and 1580. Several monks were outstanding for their virtue or for their contributions as historians or men of letters: Charles Fernand, Guido Jouvenaux, Jehmann Bondonnet, and Jacques du Breul, who contributed to the maurist tradition of learning and industry. When the congregation fell into decline, it was absorbed by Saint-Maur (May 2, 1636). The name of Chezal-Benoît was given to the Maurist houses (numbering about 25) in the region between the Loire and the Dordogne. The abbey was abolished in February 1790, but the abbey church remains.

Bibliography: Sources. Archives Nationales, Paris, LL. 132832. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS Lat. 12787. Bibl. Bourges MSS 184, 187, 191. Gallia Christiana 2:162168. l. v. delisle, ed., Rouleaux des morts du IX e au XV e siècle (Paris 1866) 168171. u. berliÈre, "La Congrégation de Chezal-Benoît," Mélanges d'histoire bénédictine, 4 v. (Maredsous 18971902) 3:97198. f. deshouliÈres, "L'Église abbatiale de Chezal-Benoît," Bulletin monumental 71 (1907) 287306; "L'Abbaye de Chezal-Benoît," Mém. soc. antiq. centre 32 (1909) 149229. j. laporte, "Aperçu des déclarations de la congrégation de Chezal-Benoît sur la Règle," Revue Mabillon 29 (1939) 143157. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topo-bibliographique des abbayes et prieurés 1:766767.

[j. laporte]