Granddmont or Grammont, Order of

Granddmont or Grammont, Order Of.

This religious order was founded by Stephen of Thiers, who in 1076 withdrew to the mountains of Muret, near Limoges, France, to lead an ascetic life. He wore a penitent's shirt made of meshes of steel, and slept in a bed made of boards in the shape of a coffin. His "extravagant" asceticism found many imitators, who joined him in his retreat. Unwilling to take the title of prior or of abbot, he only called himself their corrector. To avert the evils which had ruined so many other monkish orders, he required his followers to make vows of poverty as well as of obedience and humility; and would not even permit them to possess a church or a piece of land. Gregory VII, however, recognized the order only on the express condition of its submitting to the rule of Benedict. It is evident, however, that the founder had more in view than a mere return to the original strictness of the rules. St. Stephen said to his disciples, "When you are asked to what order you belong, answer, to Christianity, which is the mother and the model of all the other orders." Two cardinals who were going to France as nuncios went to visit Stephen in his retreat, and while there happened to ask him whether he considered himself a canon, a monk, or a hermit. "I am none of these, answered Stephen. Being pressed to define more clearly his position and that of his followers, he said, "We are poor sinners whom God has mercifully called to the wilderness to do penance; and the pope, in compliance with our request, has himself appointed the duties we fulfill here. We are too imperfect and too weak to emulate the example of the saint hermits who were so absorbed in their divine contemplations as to make them forget the natural wants of the body. You see, besides, that we do not wear the habit either of canons or of monks; and we do not desire to be called either, as we are far from having the merits of the one or the sanctity of the others." After the death of their founder (1124) the order withdrew to the wilderness of Grandmont, near Muret, whence they derive their name. Stephen had given them no written code of rules; they were transmitted verbally from one to another, until Stephen of Lisiac, fourth prior of Grandmont, caused to be collected and written all that could be ascertained of the words and acts of their founder. He even represents himself in several instances as the author of the rules. The order of the Grandmontains spread only in France. In 1170 there were sixty convents following their rule, and so great was the respect they had gained that they were generally known under the name of Good Men (boni homnes). The relaxations which were subsequently introduced in the observance of their rules are to be attributed to the popes. The later history of the order is chiefly a record of quarrels and contentions. It was extinguished in the time of the French Revolution. — Joseph Fehr, Allgemeine Geschichte d. Mönchsorden; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 5:315; Butler, Lives of the Saints, February 8. (A.J.S.)

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