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Gervaise, François Armand


Historian, abbot of La Trappe; b. Paris, 1660; d. Le Reclus, 1751. He was the son of a Parisian physician and was educated by the Jesuits. He joined first the Discalced Carmelites, then in 1695, the reformed Cistercians at latrappe. He was Armand de rancÉ's successor as abbot of La Trappe (169698) but his restless and quarrelsome temper forced his resignation. He drifted from monastery to monastery until the end of his long life. Seeking compensation for his personal calamities in writing, he published a large number of biographies and critical studies composed with skill but with conspicuous lack of balance and objectivity. Of these only one has retained an undeserved popularity with monastic historians, the Histoire générale de la réforme de l'ordre de Cîteaux (Avignon 1746). It was printed clandestinely in Paris as a savage attack against the unreformed Common Observance of cistercians and is responsible for the transmission to posterity of a wholly unjust and distorted view of the process of reform during the 17th century. By the demand of the indignant Cîteaux a royal lettre de cachet relegated the octogenarian author to the monastery of Le Reclus for the remaining five years of his life. His two-volume biography of Rancé remained in manuscript form for more than a century and was edited only in 1866 by Abbé Dubois, Histoire de l'Abbé de Rancé et de sa réforme (Paris).

Bibliography: For a full list of works see: j. besse, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 6:133940. l. j. lekai, "The Unpublished Second Volume of Gervaise's 'Histoire générale de la réforme de l'ordre de Cîteaux en France'," Analecta Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis 17 (1961) 278283; "The Problem of the Authorship of De Rancé's 'Standard' Biography," Collectanea Ordinis Cisterciensium Reformatorum 21 (1959) 157163.

[l. j. lekai]

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