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Western Christianity


Carthusians

Doctrines Carthusians obey the rule of St Benedict which prescribes a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. In addition, they are required to perform daily labour and to maintain almost perpetual silence and solitude. They wear hairshirts in order to remind them of the need to avoid sensual pleasures. They meet only for daily worship, a meal on Sunday and on certain festival days. Meat is forbidden, and on Fridays and feasts they are confined to bread and water.

History The Carthusians were founded by Bruno of Cologne (1032?-1101) in 1084 when he established the monastery at Grand Chartreuse near Grenoble, France. At first the order grew slowly; it was not until the end of the 12th century that the monks adopted a constitution. From the 14th century to the middle of the 16th century the Carthusians prospered, spreading from France to the Low Countries, Germany and Italy. By the time of the Reformation the movement had two hundred houses spread throughout Europe.
Post-Reformation history is one of oppression and recovery. In the 17th century the Carthusians disappeared from England but experienced revival in France, Spain and Italy. After the order was battered by the French revolution there was a modest recovery in the 19th century. The order continues today basically unchanged from the one that was founded by St Bruno.

Symbols Images of St Bruno are sometimes found in Carthusian monasteries. Paintings of great Carthusian monks sometimes depict them with a swan at their side, which is an emblem of solitude.

Adherents Today there are 394 Carthusian monks, 86 nuns, 14 postulants and 36 novices (Harris et al. 1994, 52). Carthusian monasteries exist in Spain, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Switzerland, Brazil, Portugal and the U.S.A. There are Carthusian convents in Italy, France and Spain.

Headquarters/
Main Centre
 The principal monastery of the Carthusians is La Grande Chartreuse, which is located near Grenoble in France.