Harding (d.1134) (DNB00)
|←Hardime, Simon||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 24
HARDING or St. Stephen (d. 1134), abbot of Citeaux, was born of parents of good position at Sherborne in Dorsetshire, probably early in the second half of the eleventh century, and received his education in the monastery of his native place. A desire to travel and to increase his learning took him first to Scotland and then to Paris. He next visited Rome with a single companion, and as they journeyed the two pilgrims repeated the whole psalter each day. On his return he stopped at Moleme, not far from Dijon, in the duchy of Burgundy, where a monastery had been founded in 1078 by Robert, who was presiding over it as abbot when Harding came there. He determined to join the convent, and received the tonsure. Henceforth he was called Stephen, perhaps after the saint who was patron of an abbey at Dijon. Although a man of cheerful countenance and pleasant conversation, he became an ardent ascetic, and helped and perhaps instigated abbot Robert to urge the monks strictly to follow out the rule of St. Benedict. They refused to change their mode of life, and it is said that the abbot, the prior Alberic, and Stephen, seeing that their efforts were unavailing, withdrew from the monastery ; but the brethren promised amendment, and they returned. Matters, however went on as before, and in a debate in the chapter-house the monks declared that they lived in accordance with the customs introduced into Gaul by St. Maur, and that there was no reason why they should imitate the hermits of the East. On this the abbot, Stephen, and some of their party went to Hugh, archbishop of Lyons, represented that the rule of St. Benedict was laxly observed in the convent, and requested leave to go elsewhere, in order that they might observe it more strictly. Hugh granted their request, and Robert, Alberic, Stephen, and others of their party, numbering in all twenty-one monks (Exordium ; eighteen with the abbot, William of Malmesbury ; twelve, Orderic), left the monastery, protesting that it was impossible to keep the rule of St. Benedict in the midst of an abundance of wealth and food. They came to Citeaux, in the diocese of Chalons, a barren and marshy place, which took its name, the 'Cisterns,' from its stagnant pools, and with the consent of the bishop and of Raymond, viscount of Beaune, built some wooden huts there, and adopted a life of extreme severity. Before long Eudes, duke of Burgundy (d. 1102), raised some buildings for them, and the bishop constituted the society an abbey by the gift of a pastoral staff. It is said that abbot Robert repented of the step, and that the severities which delighted Stephen overtaxed his strength (William of Makmesbury). It is certain that the monks at Moleme complained to Pope Urban II of the injury which they had sustained by the secession, and the pope in 1099 ordered abbot Robert to return, and to take with him such of the monks as chose to leave. According to one story (ib.) all followed him except eight ; though this seems a mistake, for twenty-four joined in the election of the prior Alberic to the abbacy (Orderic), and Stephen took Alberic's place as prior. Alberic died on 26 Jan. 1110, and Stephen, who was absent from the house at the time, was elected abbot. The number of the convent was small, for the strictness with which the monks lived deterred others from joining them, and as the brethren died no new members took their places. The community adhered strictly to the vow of poverty, and depended on alms. Stephen insisted on a perfect observance of the Benedictine rule, and offended the Duke of Burgundy by forbidding him and his household to enter the monastery. This caused a cessation of supplies, and on one occasion Stephen was forced to beg alms from door to door. Sickness still further reduced the number of the brethren, and he began to fear that he and his monks would leave none to succeed them, when in 1113 Bernard and thirty others with him joined the convent (Mabillon, ii. col. 1062). This was the beginning of an extraordinary influx of prosperity. In that year Stephen established another convent at Ferté in the diocese of Chalons, in 1114 another at Pontigny in the diocese of Auxerre, and in 1115 another at Clairvaux in the diocese of Langres, over which he placed Bernard as abbot. At the request of Guy, archbishop of Vienne, afterwards Pope Calixtus II, who came to visit him in 1117, he founded a house in Guy's province. Stephen personally founded thirteen abbeys altogether. He had great powers of organisation, and instituted general chapters of his order, which was called Cistercian from the parent house at Citeaux. Popularity did not lead him to relax the rigour of his system in the slightest degree, and his constitutions prescribe that the monks of his order should have only the barest possible supply of food and clothing. He carried his rule of poverty so far as to extend it to his churches, which are plain and severe in architecture ; even the altars and sacred vessels were of the commonest materials, no gold or silver was allowed, and instead of a large number of candles and rich candlesticks he permitted only one light on an iron stand. These rules were no doubt meant to mark his disapproval of the costly adornments of the Cluniac churches. It is obvious, from one of his statutes, that his monks received the communion in both kinds. In order to keep all the houses of his order constant to one rule, he drew up the 'Charter of Charity.' This he laid before the bishops in whose dioceses the Cistercian houses were situated in 1119. They approved of the charter and his statutes, and renounced the right of visiting the convents. In the same year the charter was confirmed by Calixtus II. In 1127 he wrote a letter to Louis VI apparently conveying the opinions of a general chapter of the order, and severely blaming the king for his treatment of the Bishop of Paris, who had taken refuge with the Cistercians. In 1129 he wrote, in conjunction with St. Bernard, to Honorius II, complaining of the conduct of Louis towards the Archbishop of Sens, and calling him 'Herodes alter' (Recueil des Historians, xv. 544, 548). He was present at the Council of Troyes in 1127, when his constitutions were approved, and in accordance with a papal decree an order was published that his monks should wear a white habit, to distinguish them from the Benedictines, whence they are often called 'white monks' (William of Tyre, xii. c. 7). In 1129 he assisted at the hearing of a case by Walter, bishop of Chalons, between the abbots of St. Stephen's at Dijon and of St. Seine. The abbot of St. Seine being dissatisfied with the decision, Innocent II appointed Stephen to act as judge, and decide the case as he thought fit. Innocent, who took refuge in France in 1130, and owed much to St. Bernard, granted in 1132 that the abbots of Cistercian houses should be exempt from episcopal jurisdiction, and that their abbeys should be free from tithe. In 1133 Stephen, having grown old and infirm, and his eyes being dim, resigned his office, and designated his successor, who was elected by the monks. His choice was not wise, and his biographer says that the new abbot's fall was miraculously revealed to him; but independently of its supernatural character, the story is wrong in representing that the fall happened at the end of a month; for the new abbot held office for two years (Robert De Monte). Stephen died on 28 March 1134, and was buried in the tomb of his predecessor Alberic, in the cloister near the door of the church. His day in the Roman calendar is 17 April, and his festival is kept by the Cistercians on 15 July possibly the day of his canonisation with an octave, and with greater reverence than the day of St. Robert, the first founder. Stephen was indeed the true founder of the order. The idea of the necessity of reform may, as his countryman William of Malmesbury maintains, have originated with him, and he may very probably have been the moving spirit in the migration. Certainly the continuance of the new society and its marvellous success were largely due to his devotion, perseverance, and wisdom. Without him the new house would scarcely have been able to attract St. Bernard, who carried the order to an extraordinary pitch of greatness. Besides the abbeys which he personallv founded, about a hundred Cistercian houses were founded during his lifetime, and it is said, though the number is perhaps exaggerated, that by 1152 there were nearly five hundred Cistercian abbeys (ib.} The order was introduced into England in 1128 by were in the north, where 'white monks' were settled atRievaulx and Fountains before the death of Stephen. William of Malmesbury, writing shortly after Stephen's death, describes the order as a 'type of all true monasticism, a mirror to the zealous, and a goad to the slothful.' Stephen wrote a fine copy of the Bible for the use of the brethren at Citeaux, revising the Latin text by availing himself of the help of some Jews, who told him the meanings of Hebrew words. This Bible was apparently preserved at Citeaux until the French revolution. His 'Charta Caritatis' is printed in the 'Annales Cisterciencium' of Manriquez, and the 'Exordium sui Ordinis,' which may not have been his, in Dugdale's 'Monasticon,' vol. v. Two sermons are attributed to him, and two of his letters, noticed above, are included in the 'Epistolae S. Bernardi' (Epp. 45, 49).
[Orderic; Duchesne's Scriptt. pp. 711-14; William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum, iv. c. 334-7 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Gallia Christiana, iv. 980-4; Acta SS. Bolland. April, ii. 493-8; Histoire des Ordres Monastiquos, v. c. 33; Histoire Litteraire de France, xi. 21; Lives of the English Saints, iv. 166-73; Acta SS. O.S.B., Mabillon, ii. 1062; S. Bernardi Epp., Recueil des Historiens, xv. 544, 548, see also for other matters t. xiv. 246, 248, 281; Labbe's Concilia, x. 923; William of Tyre, xii. c. 7 ap. Gesta Dei per Francos, p. 820; Dugdale's Monasticon, v. 220-6; Norgate's England under Angevin Kings, i. 69-71.]