A Monastic Hegira

Tudor Edwards describes how the austere order of Trappists in Normandy was driven by the French Revolution to seek refuge in Switzerland, Austria and Russia.

After the Reformation in Europe, monasticism was at a low ebb. Among the Cistercians, however, a reform known as the Strict Observance, or Congregation of Clairvaux, steadily gained ground until, by the middle of the seventeenth century, it prevailed in some six hundred Cistercian monasteries.

Outside this orbit there were other monasteries held in commendam - the practice whereby an outsider held the office of Superior in name only and pocketed all the revenue.

To one such monastery came another Bernard to raise it from its sloth, and to make its name such that a shiver went through those who heard it. The monastery, medieval and dilapidated, was La Trappe near Mortagne in Normandy, hemmed in by hills, forests and lakes from the stagnant waters of which thick exhalations rose in curling vapours.

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