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St Stephen Harding

  • Celebrated on

Saint Of The Day

Abbot. Stephen was probably born in Dorset, during the last part of the 11th century. He studied at Sherbourne Abbey and then travelled abroad, becoming a monk at Molesme in Burgundy. In 1098 he went to Citeaux, with a group of other monks. In 1106 he became the third abbot there.

St Stephen was an important reformer of the Cistercian order. His early years at Citeaux were difficult, but when St Bernard and his followers joined the community in 1112, good order was established and he went on to set up many more Cistercian houses. By 1119, St Stephen had written the Charter of Charity - a very important document which was to define Western monasticism for many years to come.

The high ideals, careful organisation, austerity and simplicity of the Cistercian life owe much to the character of Stephen Harding. During his 25 years as abbot it is said he led Citeaux from a struggling 'lodge in the wilderness' to the headship of a great religious order.

St Stephen died on this day in 1134. His fellow Englishman, William of Malmsbury, wrote that he was: "approachable, good-looking, always cheerful in the Lord."

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