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Molesme, Abbey of


Former French Benedictine abbey, center of a monastic congregation, Diocese of Langres; founded in 1075 by robert of molesme, who retired with his followers to the dense forests near Langres. The original hermitage grew into a flourishing abbey but Robert left in 1098 and founded cÎteaux. He was soon reconciled with his abandoned monks and in 1099 returned to Molesme, which became the head of a monastic congregation that eventually incorporated 64 priories and some nunneries. Most of the affiliated houses were located within the Dioceses of Langres and Troyes. The congregation's organization was similar to that of cluny, the abbot of Molesme retaining jurisdiction over all houses and appointing all local superiors. But its spirituality, discipline, and method of handling property were closer to the usages of Cîteaux. The abbey was totally destroyed in 1472 in the war between France and Burgundy. In 1534 the foundations of a new church were laid, but commendatory abbots led to financial difficulties. After Molesme joined the maurists in 1647, both moral life and monastic finances improved. The new church was consecrated in 1687. In 1791 Molesme was suppressed by the French Revolution. In the course of time, the magnificent church, which was under private ownership, was completely demolished. Other monastic buildings housed a school.

Bibliography: u. chevalier, Repertoire des sources historiques du moyen-âge 2:1965. j. laurent, Cartulaires de l'abbaye de Molesme, 2 v. (Paris 190711). j. othon ducourneau, Les Origines cisterciennes (Ligugé 1933). k. spahr, Das Leben, des hl. Robert von Molesme (Fribourg 1947). p. schmitz, Histoire de l'Ordre de S. Benoît (Maredsous 194256) 3:108109. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topo-bibliographique des abbayes et prieurés 2:187273.

[l. j. lekai]

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