Lerins, Convent of
Lerins, Convent Of, one of the oldest, and once one of the most important monastic establishments in France, is situated in the island of St. Honore, on the coast of Provence, opposite Antibes. The legend concerning its origin is as follows: Honorarus, a man of noble descent, and who had even been once consul, embraced the Christian faith, together with his brother, in spite of the remonstrances of his family. They first retired to an island near Marseilles, but Honoratus afterwards went back to Provence, where he settled at Lerins, under the protection of the bishop of Fry us. His reputation for sanctity induced many to join him, and they lived, some in communities (coenobites), others as hermits in separate cells. It was the time when monachism was lately introduced into Europe from the East, and convents were arising along the shores of the Mediterranean, and on the coasts of Italy (Gallinara, Gorgona, Capraja), of Dalmatia, and of France. Martinus had just established a convent at Turonum, whose rules were adopted in those that were established by Cassian. The statement that the Cassian rules were first introduced at Lerins is therefore erroneous. Under Honoratus, who was afterwards appointed bishop of Aries, the last- named convent made rapid progress. Lerins became one of the most important schools for the clergy of Southern Gaul, and furnished a large number of bishops, among whom we will mention Hilarius of Arles and Eucherius of Lyons: at that time monks were often made bishops. In the 5th century the convent became imbued with semi-Pelagian ideas, which thence spread into Southern France. In the 7th century the monks of Lerins seem to have relaxed in their obedience to their rule, for Gregory wrote to the abbot Conon inviting him to reform their morals. This reform was accomplished by a Benedictine abbot, Aigulf, but only after a struggle which for a while threatened to destroy the convent, the opposition party going so far as to call in the assistance of neighboring lords, and murdering the abbot and some of his followers. Still, as the reform had been inaugurated, the convent resumed its former prosperity, and in the beginning of the 8th century its abbot counted 3700 monks under his command. Soon after, however, it was overrun by the Saracens from Spain; the abbot Porcarius, in prevision of this event, sent thirty-six of the younger monks and forty children to Italy, while he and those who remained were murdered, with the exception of four, who were retained prisoners. They escaped after a while, and, having returned to Lerins, formed the nucleus of a new convent. In 997, under the renowned Odilo, the convent once more rose to eminence, and attained its greatest fame under Adalbert (1030-1066). Raymund, count of Barcelona, gave the monks a whole convent in Catalonia, and they had possessions in France, Italy, Corsica, and the islands belonging to Italy. A nunnery at Tarascon, established by the seneschal of Provence, was also subject to their rule, together with a large number of canonici regulares, to whom the abbot Giraud gave two churches in 1226, under the condition that they should always remain subject to the rule of Lerins. Their prosperity decreasing, the abbot, Augustin Grimald, afterwards bishop of Grasse, connected them with the Benedictines in 1505, and this fusion received in 1515 the sanction of pope Leo X and of Francis I. In 1635 the island was taken by the Spaniards, who retained it until 1657; and, although the convent continued to exist, it lost henceforth all its importance. See Vincentius Barralis, Chronologiumn Sanctolrumi et aliorum clarorume vmirorum insulce Lerinensis (1613); Abregy de l'Histoire de l'Ordre (de S. Benoist, par la
Conqgregation de St. Maur, 1:215 sq., 468 sq.; 2:245; Hist. des Ordres Monastiques, 1:116 sq. — Herzog, Real-Encyklopädie, 8:333 sq.