The Carthusian Order was founded in about 1084 by a man named Bruno Hartenfaust. He was born in Cologne in 1030 and began studying at Rheims Cathedral School at an early age. Here he earned a doctorate and was appointed Chancellor and master of the School, a post he held for twenty years. He was one of the most remarkable scholars and teachers of his time: ‘…..a prudent man, whose word was rich in meaning.’ However, Bruno grew increasingly uneasy at the laxity which he perceived to have permeated much of the religious life of the city and church. So he left for Molesmes, where Robert, a former Benedictine monk, having felt the similarly, was trying out a different way to lead a monastic life – a more austere lifestyle than the one to which he had been accustomed as a monk. Robert and Bruno both felt that a life where monks still lived partially in the community yet also spent a great deal of their time as hermits, alone, in prayer and meditation, would be more conducive to the maintenance of the high ideals to which they aspired. But they had their differences: Robert wished to keep the custom of sleeping in large dormitories, whereas Bruno felt it to be better if the monks lived in their own individual ‘cells’ (actually small cottages), only meeting at certain times. So they parted; Robert to found the austere Cistercian Order, and Bruno the even stricter Carthusians. Bruno then went, with six companions, to the Bishop of Grenoble and asked him to help them find a place where they could start their new life.He led them to a remote site high in the French Alps, called ‘La Grande Chartreuse’, where they founded the first Carthusian Monastery. From then on, the Carthusians always chose sites as remote as possible for their houses: either high in mountains or deep in forests. Noting how older orders often grew very large and wealthy (through gifts of land given in exchange for masses said for souls), and how that wealth contributed to laxity, Bruno stipulated that the number of monks (fathers) in a Carthusian monastery should not exceed twelve (the number of the disciples) with one ‘prior’ chosen from among them (‘the first among equals’). The small number would help enable them to keep a certain poverty to which they aspired. Their ‘cells’, in which by far the greatest amount of their time would be spent, should be built around a (very large) cloister. Food would be delivered to each cell through a ‘dog-leg’ hatch, where the monk would be unable even to see the man delivering it. The church, kitchen and refectory would be built to the north of these.
THE CARTHUSIAN ORDER These notes are produced by Margaret Dodge
WHO FOUNDED THE MONASTERY? There were two ‘founders’ of the Carthusian monastery now at Hinton. Firstly, William Longspee, Earl of Salisbury, founded one in 1222 on his land at Hatherop, in Gloucester. It was only the second of its kind in England at the time, the other one being Witham Priory, established by Henry II. Secondly, ten years later it was moved and ‘refounded’ at Hinton by William’s widow, Ela, Countess of Salisbury William was the son of Henry II and one of his courtesans. His mother was previously believed to be Henry’s favourite, Rosamund Clifford, known as the Fair Rosamund, but is latterly thought to be Countess Ida de Tosny. He was therefore half brother to both Richard Ist (the ‘Lionheart’) and King John. Under John he had held high office in England, and was sent abroad on political and diplomatic missions. He fought for John in France and Flanders, and was present in 1219 at the capture of Damietta, a port at the mouth of the Nile, on the 5th Crusade, where he distinguished himself by his courage. He was called by the monk historian, Matthew Paris ‘the flower of earls’. William was indeed a heroic character, and an archetype of the ideal medieval chivalric knight. The name ‘Longspee’ means ‘Long Sword’, which would indicate a man of considerable height. This is also borne out by his long tomb in Salisbury Cathedral. The king - held him in very high regard. William’s wife Ela became known for her Christian devoutness, and in his latter years William was profoundly influenced by (St) Edmund of Abingdon towards a more devout life, and founded the monastery in Hatherop. But on March 7th 1226, William died. He had been sent on a campaign abroad, but was so long in returning that he was believed to have been drowned, and Hubert de Burgh, Chancellor of England, planned to have Ela married to his nephew. Then William arrived home with much rejoicing. Hubert invited him to dine that evening, and William died in great agony of body and anguish of mind that same night. He was assumed to have been poisoned, but it could not be proved and Hubert was never charged. Proof was forthcoming later, when in 1791 William’s tomb was opened, and a rat poisoned with arsenic was found within his skull. His was the first burial in Salisbury Cathedral (in the south west corner of the central crossing). Living at the English Court at the same time as William Longspee was William D’Evreux, directly descended from Walter D’Evreux, Count of Rosmar. He had been a follower of William the Conqueror, and had received the lands of Salisbury and Amesbury from him in recognition of his services. With Walter were his wife, Eleanor de Vitre and their daughter Ela D’Evreux. In 1198, when Ela was eight, both of her parents died and she was made a ward of Richard I. However, Ela’s relatives in France wanted to have her back with them in Normandy, and contrived to kidnap her and spirit her back to France with them. On hearing of this, Richard asked a knight named William Talbot to get her back again. He went over to France dressed first as a pilgrim to find her location, then as a harpist, offering to play in some of the wealthier houses. In this way William found her – and managed to bring her back to the English Court. When Ela was ten Richard gave her in marriage to his half-brother, the acclaimed knight William Longspee. Although it was not uncommon at that time for girls to be given in marriage at such an early age, William wisely waited for many more years before they lived as man and wife. Against the odds the marriage appears to have been a very happy one, and produced a large number of children. After William Longspee’s untimely death in 1226, the monks from the Carthusian monastery which he had founded in Hatherop appealed to his widow, Ela, stating that the site was unsuitable for them and that the endowments were insufficient to sustain them. Ela would probably have inherited with her title all the lands belonging to her ancestor, Edward of Salisbury: 34 manors in Wiltshire and two in Somerset. Out of these she chose to grant the monks her two Somerset manors - Hinton and Norton. Bearing in mind that the reclusive Carthusians liked their monasteries to be as remote as possible, either high up in mountains or deep in forests, the site at Hinton would have seemed almost ideal. Here Ela specifically offered her deer park, situated on a high plateau from which a steep, wooded hillside ran down eastwards to the River Frome. Here they would have fertile pasture, meadow and arable land and – more importantly still – water supply and the scope for drainage. The site also had far-reaching views eastwards towards the edge of Salisbury Plain. The monks were to call the place ‘Locus Dei’, or the ‘Place of God’.