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Savigny, Abbey of


Former French abbey, head of a monastic congregation, Diocese of Avranches. In 1105, Savigny was founded as a hermitage in the forests between Brittany and Normandy by vitalis of savigny (d. 1122), a follower of Robert of Arbrissel. Between 1112 and 1115 the growing number of disciples necessitated the construction of an abbey. The new foundation was privileged by Pascal II, and in 1119 was taken under papal protection by Calixtus II. Abbot Vitalis adopted the Benedictine Rule, with emphasis on poverty, simplicity, and manual labor, virtues that had been much neglected within the powerful congregation of Cluny. Savigny proved to be so successful that under the second abbot Godfrey (112239), 32 affiliated houses were founded in France, England, and Scotland. Expansion in England was promoted by Henry I. Following the example of cÎteaux, Savigny tried to ensure uniformity by annual chapters attended by all abbots and by an effective system of mutual visitation. The similarities between Savigny and Cîteaux induced the third abbot, Serlon (113958), to negotiate the fusion of the two monastic orders, which was approved by the Cistercian General Chapter of 1147. Henceforth the whole congregation of Savigny shared the fate of the Cistercians. The 13th century was the era of greatest prosperity. The new Gothic church of Savigny was consecrated in 1220. The 100 Years' War brought much destruction. Savigny came under the rule of commendatory abbots in 1517, and the civil and religious wars of the 16th century aggravated the desolation. Gradual recovery began in the 17th century, while moral recovery followed the introduction of the Cistercian Strict Observance in 1676. In 1768 the abbey numbered 18 monks; it was suppressed by the French Revolution in 1791. Church and cloister fell into disrepair; but the church was rebuilt in the 19th century and continues to serve the local parish.

Bibliography: h. sauvage, Saint-Vital et l'abbaye de Savigny (Mortain 1895). c. auvry and a. laveille, Histoire de lacongrégation de Savigny, 3 v. (Paris 189698). u. chevalier, Répertoire des sources historiques du moyen-âge. Topobiobibliographie, 2 v. (Paris 18941903) 2:2871. l. guilloreau, "Les Fondations anglaises de l'abbaye de Savigny," Revue Mabillon 5 (1909) 290335. j. buhot, "L'Abbaye normande de Savigny," Moyen-âge 46 (1936) 119. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 193539) 2:296567.

[l. j. lekai]

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