Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Abbey of Savigny

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Situated on the confines of Normandy and Brittany, Diocese of Coutances, France. Founded by Vital de Mortain, Canon of the Collegiate Church of St. Evroul, who, resigning his prebend to embrace an eremitical life under Robert of Arbrissel in the forest of Craon (Anjou), and leaving the latter, retired to the forest of Savigny (1105), where he built a hermitage. Soon, however, the number of disciples who gathered around him necessitated the construction of adequate buildings, in which was instituted the monastic life, following the Rule of St. Benedict, and interpreted in a manner similar to the Cistercians. Rudolph, lord of Fougeres, confirmed to the monastery (1112) the grants he had formerly made to Vital, and from then dates the foundation of the monastery. Once firmly established, its growth was rapid, and it soon became one of the most celebrated in France. Its founder was judged worthy of canonization, and many of his successors in the abbatial office, as well as simple religious of the Abbey, were canonized or beatified by the Church; the best known of them being St. Aymon.=20 From the number of its foundations Savigny became the head of a Congregation, numbering thirty-three subordinate houses, within thirty years of its own inception. In 1119 Pope Celestine II, then in Angers, took it under his immediate protection, and strongly commended it to the neighbouring nobles. Under Geoffroy, successor to Vital, Henry I, of England, established and generously endowed twenty-nine monasteries of this Congregation in his dominions. St. Bernard also held them in high esteem, and it was at his request that their monks, in the troubled times of the antipope Anacletus, declared in favour of Pope Innocent II. Serlon, third successor of the Founder, found it difficult to retain his jurisdiction over the English monasteries, who wished to make themselves independent, and so determined to affiliate the entire Congregation to Citeaux, which was effected at the General Chapter of 1147. Several English monasteries objecting to this, were finally obliged to submit by Pope Eugene III (1148). Little by little discipline became relaxed, and commendatory Abbots being introduced (1501) it never regained its first greatness. In 1509 it was pillaged and partly burned by the Calvinists, and records of the following year mention but twenty-four monks remaining. It continued to exist until the Revolution reduced it to a heap of ruins, and scattered its then existing members. The church, a model of Cistercian architecture, was restored in 1869, and now serves for parish purposes. Of all its former dependencies, there remains only La Grande Trappe. This, though not founded directly was a daughter of the Abbey of Breuil-Benoit, which latter was a direct filiation of Savigny.

TISSIER, Bibliotheca patrum cisterciensum (Bonnefont, 1660-69); MERLET AND MOUTIER, Cartulaire des Vaux de Cernay (Paris, 1857); DE DION, Etudes sur les eglises de l'ordre de Citeaux (Tours, 1889); DU MONSTIER, Neustria Pia (Rouen, 1663); Hist. Litt. de la France, by the Benedictines of St. Maur IX, X, XII (Paris, 1868-70); MANRIQUE, Annales cistercienses (Lyons, 1642œ59); MARTENE AND DURAND, Thesaurus novus anecdotorum (Paris, 1717); Gallia christiana, XI (Paris, 1805); JANAUSCHEK, Originum cisterciensum (Vienna, 1877), I; DODSWORTH, Monasticon anglicanum (London, 1682), II; JONGELINUS, Notitia abbatiarum ord. cist. (Cologne, 1640); MIGNE, Dict. des Ord. Relig. (Paris, 1850).

EDMOND M. OBRECHT