English Monastic Life – Carthusians

Carthusian MonkArticle

The Carthusians were founded in the eleventh century by Saint Bruno. With the help of the bishop of Grenoble he built for himself and six companions, in the mountains near the city, an oratory and small separate cells in imitation of the ancient Lauras of Egypt. This was in A.D. 1086; and the Order takes its designation from the name of the place – Chartreuse. Peter the Venerable, the celebrated abbot of Cluny, writing forty years after the foundation, thus describes their austere form of life. “Their dress,” he says, “is meaner and poorer than that of other monks, so short and scanty and so rough that the very sight affrights one. They wear coarse hair-shirts next their skin; fast almost perpetually; eat only bean-bread; whether sick or well never touch flesh; never buy fish, but eat it if given them as an alms; eat eggs on Sundays and Thursdays; on Tuesdays and Saturdays their fare is pulse or herbs boiled; on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they take nothing but bread and water; and they have only two meals a day, except within the octaves of Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, Epiphany, and other festivals. Their constant occupation is praying, reading and manual labour, which consists chiefly in transcribing books. They say the lesser Hours of the Divine Office in their cells at the time when the bell rings, but meet together at Vespers and Matins with wonderful recollection.”

A manner of life of such great austerity naturally did not attract many votaries. It was a special vocation to the few, and it was not until A.D. 1222 that the first house of the Order was established in England, at Hinton, in Somersetshire, by William Langesper. The last foundation was the celebrated Charterhouse of Shene, in Surrey, made by King Henry V. At the time of the general dissolution, there were in all eight English monasteries and about a hundred members.

MLA Citation

  • Dom Adrian Gasquet. “Carthusians”. English Monastic Life, 1904. CatholicSaints.Info. 29 November 2018. Web. 19 April 2021. <>