Stephen Harding, St.

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Third abbot of cÎteaux; b. near Porlock, England;d. March 28, 1134. Like other Anglo-Saxon monks after the Norman Conquest, Stephen, a member of sherborne abbey, Dorset, fled to Scotland and thence to Paris where he continued his studies. On his return from a pilgrimage to Rome, during which he came in contact with the monastic tradition of camaldoli and vallombrosa, Stephen joined the abbey of robert of molesme in the Diocese of Langres. The desire for a more austere life and a more literal interpretation of the benedictine rule, encouraged by Hugh, archbishop of Lyons, led to his secession with 20 other monks to Cîteaux, Diocese of Chalonsur-Saône, where a new monastery was founded, March 21, 1098. Here he acted as prior until the death of Alberic (1109), when he was elected abbot. In the early days the community suffered many privations, and it was on the point of extinction when St. bernard with 30 companions joined the abbey and ensured its future success. New foundations followed quickly: la fertÉ (1113), pon tigny (1114), clairvaux and morimond (1115), and Preuilly (1118). To keep these abbeys united and to preserve the early spirit and discipline, strong organization was needed, and this Stephen provided.

Until recent years he was thought to have written the Charta caritatis, the Exordium parvum, and the Instituta capituli generalis, but manuscript research has shown that these documents, in their present form, belong to a later date, and are the product of a gradual evolution in Cistercian legislation. At the foundation of Pontigny, Harding laid down three points: Cîteaux was to exercise spiritual jurisdiction over its filiations, but to leave them financially independent; the Benedictine Rule was to be observed exactly as at Cîteaux; liturgical books, customs, and chant were to be uniform in all abbeys. A little later the abbots were commanded to attend an annual chapter at Cîteaux where breaches of discipline could be dealt with, the abbot of Cîteaux having power to depose unworthy superiors of his filiations. Before 1119 the relationship between mother-and daughter-houses was fixed, and the system of visitation, general chapters, and elections was perfected. These, and later elaborations, were done in consultation with the evergrowing number of abbots. The Exordium Cistercii (111819), composed for presentation to Pope Callistus II, is probably the work of Stephen, but the Instituta may be the fruit of collaboration. Hence, though Stephen had a controlling hand in this legislation, he can no longer be considered as having issued a complete and final code defining the constitution of the cistercian order. In fixing a uniform text for liturgical hymns and the Bible he played a paramount part; his Bible, corrected by recourse to Jewish scholars and completed at Cîteaux in 1112, is preserved at Dijon. Three of his letters are extant, two concerning ecclesiastical affairs in France, a third written to the abbot of Sherborne shortly before his death. He was canonized in 1623.

Feast: April 17; July 16 (Cistercians).

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis April (Rome 1909) 2:496501. william of malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum, ed. w. stubbs, 2 v. (Rerum Britannicarum medil aevi scriptores, 244 v. (London 185896; repr. New York 1964) 90; 188789) 2:380385. bernard of clairvaux, Epistolae, Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 187890) 182:149152, 157158. c. h. talbot, "An Unpublished Letter of Stephen Harding," Collectanea ordinis Cisteriensium Reformatorum 3 (Rome 1937). j. b. dalgairns, Life of St. Stephen Harding, ed. j. h. newman (new ed. London 1898). l. j. lekai, The White Monks: A History of the Cistercian Order (Okauchee, Wis. 1953). d. knowles, Great Historical Enterprises (New York 1963) 198222, with a bibliog. of the numerous articles by j. a. lefÈvre. m. b. d'arneville, Saint Étienne (Tours 1964). j. b. van damme, Les trois fondateurs de Cîteaux (Roybon, IsSre 1966). m. raymond, Three Religious Rebels: The Forefathers of the Trappists (Boston, MA 1991, c 1986).

[c. h. talbot]

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Stephen Harding, St.

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