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The history of Mt. Melleray in Ireland, and of New Mel- 
leray in Dubuque County, Iowa, is founded upon original 
sources, viz: the records and manuscripts of the Abbeys and 
oral communications of the monks. 

The editions of Helyot and of Felibien which have been 
used for the earlier history of the monastic houses are 
respectively those of 17 15-21, and 1671. 

The letter of Felibien to the Duchesse de Liancourt, and 
which constitutes the volume usually known as "Descrip- 
tion de la Trappe," was first printed in 1671. The edition 
used by the author is that of 1671, and the volume was 
originally in the library of the Carmelites at Rennes. This 
library was probably despoiled at the time of the French 
Revolution, and the little book, in its original binding, has 
wandered at last to the prairies of Iowa. 

The author desires to express his deep obligation to the 
authorities of New Melleray Abbe}', and in particular to 
the Rev. Father Superior and to Rev. Father Placid, for 
courtesy and assistance. Few men engaged in historical 
researches have met with so cordial and heart}' appreciation 
as has been vouchsafed by the monks of New Melleray 
to the author. It is impossible fcr me adequately to ex- 
press my sense of their kindness and thcughtfulness and 

iv Preface. 

I desire especially to thank the Rev. Father Placid for 
unnumbered kindnesses, and to express here my warm 
affection for him, an affection which rests not only upon 
his indefatigable efforts in my behalf as a historian, but 
which rests also upon my appreciation of him as a high- 
minded and excellent man. 

W. R. P. 

Iowa Cify, "July, iSp2. 


History of New Melleray ...... i 

Appendix I. — Bull of Gregory XVI. concerning the 

Trappist Order ....... 58 

Appendix II. — Extract from "Le Grand et le Petit 

Exorde de Citeaux" 62 

Appendix III. — As to the Comparative Asceticism of 

Citeaux and La Grande Trappe 66 

Appendix IV. — Extracts from the Works of Abbe De 

Ranee 67 

Appendix V. — Financial Statement of the Abbey of 

New Melleray 7 8 

Appendix VI. — Biographical Note as to Sources . 79 

Appendix VII. — Bibliography ..... 79 


Trappist ^bbey of Mew ]V[elleray 
Dubuque County, Iowa. 

The ancient Abbey of Notre Dame de la Maison-Dieu de la 
Trappe lies in a secluded valley near the frontiers of Perche 
in the present department of the Orne. The name is derived 
from the physical nature of the country which, diversified 
with hills, discloses at least one valley whose entrance is 
through a narrow and rocky gorge. This entrance, which to 
some vivid imagination seemed like a trap-door, gave a name 
to the village and the adjacent monastery. The following 
description of the Abbey and its surroundings, published in 
1 67 1, will give some idea of the impression which its situation 
produced in the last part of the seventeenth century. 

"This Abbey is situated in a large valley. The woods and 
the hills which surround it are disposed as if designed to hide it 
from the rest of the world They enclose arable lands, planta- 
tions of fruit trees, pasture grounds, and nine ponds which 
encompass the Abbey, and render it so difficult of access that 
it is very hard to come at it without a guide. There was 
hitherto a road from Montagne to Paris behind the walls of 
the garden; but though it was in the wood, and above five 
hundred paces from the enclosure, and though it was not 
possible to remove it farther without a vast expense, yet the 

2 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

Abbot turned it another way, in order to render the place 
around the Monastery more solitary. And indeed nothing is 
more so than this desert. For though there are several towns 
and large villages at three leagues distance round it, yet to 
people who are there it seems to be a lonely and foreign 
country. Silence reigns throughout; and if any noise is 
heard, it is only the rustling of trees shaken by the wind, or 
the brooks running through the pebbles. This Abbe}- dis- 
covers itself at going out of the forest of Perche, when one is 
coming from the south; and though the traveler thinks him- 
self very near, he finds it almost a mile before he reaches it. 
But having at last descended the hill, crossed the heath, and 
gone on a little way amongst hedges and through shady 
paths, he comes to the first court, where the receiver's apart- 
ment is. It is separated from those of the monks by a strong 
palisade of pales and thorns which the Abbot caused to 'be 
made after he retired thither." 1 

Such was the lonely and secluded position of the Abbey of 
La Trappe in 1671, just before the Peace of Nimeguen made 
Louis XIV. the arbiter of Europe. 

To understand the history of the Trappist Abbey of New 
Melleray, in Dubuque County, Iowa, we must first become 
somewhat familiar with the movement which engendered the 
severe and rigid rule which the Trappists observe, and with 
the origin both of La Grande Trappe (the mother house), 
and of Mellerav, from which the Abbey of New Melleray is 
directly descended. 


In about the year 535 of our era, St. Benedict, from the 
solitude of Monte Cassino gave to the western world the code 
of religious life which has stamped monasticism for the last 
thirteen hundred years, and which to-day bears the name of 

1 Felibien, Description de la Abbaye de la Trappe, pp. 6, seq. (Paris, 1671.) 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 3 

the Holy Rule. 1 The splendid monastery upon Monte Cas- 
sino is the successor of the simple one, founded upon the 
ruins of a pagan temple, into which St. Benedict gathered his 
disciples, 2 the earliest western monks, and from which he 
sent out that religious code which is more or less strictly 
observed to-day in all Benedictine monasteries. 

Monastic establishments are subject to fluctuation in spirit- 
ual life, and the same law of deterioration which obtains in 
temporal kingdoms and states seems to reign in those more 
strictly spiritual. Hence it is not to be wondered at that the 
Benedictine abbeys and monasteries had departed widely 
from the ideal of their founder by the end of the tenth cen- 
tury. Though reforms 3 were attempted earlier than that 
which is known as the "Reform of Cluny/' this was the most 
pronounced of the early movements to recover and practice 
again the Rule of St. Benedict. In the year 910 4 was built 
in the Territory of Macon, in France, the monasterv to which 
was given the name of Cluny. The Duke of Aquitaine, its 
founder, called the pious Bernon, formerly of the monastery 
of Gignon, to be its first Abbot. 5 At his death he was suc- 
ceeded by Odon, who is commonly, though incorrectly, called 
the founder of Cluny. The order was recognized by Pope 
Agapet II., in 946. Cluny now became the mother house of 
man}- monasteries which followed the more rigid rule estab- 
lished there, and in the twelfth century is said to have had 
over two thousand affiliated houses in France, German}-, Italy, 
England, in Spain and in the Orient. 6 Abbot Odon must 

1 An excellent edition of the Holy Rule, has been edited by a monk of St. 
Benedict's Abbey, Fort Augustus. 

s It is said that one of the two earliest followers of St. Benedict was named 
Placidus, a name which has always been a favoiite monastic one, and is to-day 
borne by a monk of New Melleray. 

8 Notably that of St. Benoit d'Aniane in the eighth and ninth centuries. 
See Helyot, Histoire dcs Ordres Motiastiques, Tom. V., p. 139. (Paris, 1715-21.) 

* Hefyot, Ibid, p. 186. 

5 Helyot, Ibid, p. 186. See also, Ibid, p. 1S4. 

« Helyot, Ibid, p. 1S7. 

4 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

however be regarded, if not as the absolute founder of Cluny, 
yet as the great reformer who made Cluny for a hundred 
years the head and front of monastic establishments upon the 
continent. The relaxation of morals in the monasteries which 
made reform desirable may be judged from the following 
quotation: "Apres que ce venere Pere (Odon) eut senti la 
necessite d'astreindre les communautes a Pexacte observation 
de la Regie, et qu'il eut commence sa reforme, certains moines, 
outres de voir leur Frtfres laver et graisser eux-memes leurs 
chaussures, s'employer a de vils ouvrages et, soigneux de 
garder le silence, remplacer au besoin la parole par des signes, 
firent eclater scandaleusement et mal a propos leur mauvaise 
humeur et leur colere. 'Miserables s'ecriaient-ils, que faites- 
vous la ? Quelle est la loi, quel est l'ordre qui vous oblige a 
des travaux si bas et si serviles ? Ou done, s'il vous plait, 
l'Ecriture vous present -elle de substituer les mains a la 
langue ? N'est-il pas manifeste que vous faites injure au 
Createur lui-meme, lorsque, abandonnant l'usage naturel de 
la voix et de la parole, vous remuez vos doigts comme des 
insenses?'" 1 

The Cluniacs themselves became less spiritual, and there 
succeeded a variety of reforms which made the twelfth cen- 
tury illustrious in the annals of the monastic orders. These 
reforms, in various parts of France, and at first sporadic, 
finally crystallized in the great order of Citeaux, which during 
the century became, under the leadership of St. Bernard, the 
most illustrious in Europe, and of which the Trappists are 
one of the most remarkable and vigorous branches. 


Among the abbeys probably affiliated to the order of Cluny 
was that of Molesme, which lay only a little distance from the 
mother house, in the forest from which it took its name, in the 
diocese of Langres and Duchy of Burgundy. This house had 

1 Le Petit ct le Grand Exorde de Citeaux, p. 56. (Imprimiere de la Grande- 
Trappe, 18S4.) 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 5 

been dedicated in the year 1075. x This monastery under the 
guidance of Robert carried out to the letter the rule of St. 
Benedict. The monaster}' soon became rich and with riches 
came a natural relaxation and degeneracy. This led directly 
to the founding of Citeaux, for Abbot Robert finding a large 
number of the monks opposed to his strictness, and being un- 
willing to coerce them, determined to lead out to a new foun- 
dation those who were more spiritually minded and who, with 
him, wished to follow closely the original constitution of St. 

Early then in the year 1098, a little band of Benedictine 
monks, twenty-one in number, including the Abbot, Prior 
and Sub-Prior, were seen winding from the abbey gateway 
of Molesme. 2 Such was the beginning of that reform which 
resulted in the establishment of the great order of the Cister- 
cians. This was one of those sporadic movements towards 
reform of which I have spoken, but one which was to result 
in great and organized action, the others being merely tenta- 
tive. It is a general principle that efforts to a great end may 
manifest themselves in many ways, but that in the supreme 
struggle even the slightest effort may become of world-wide 
importance. The struggle for a return to the primeval rule 
had manifested itself in the establishment of the other orders, 
it was to conquer in the seemingly insignificant progress of 
twenty-one monks from the gateway of Molesme, in the year 

They journeyed on until they arrived at the forest of 
Citeaux in the diocese of Chalons. 

This lonely and desolate place seemed well fitted for mo- 
nastic seclusion, and here the new abbey was inaugurated and 
Robert received the pastoral staff from the hands of the 
Bishop of Chalons. It is important to observe that from the 
beginning Cistercian monasteries were exempted from episco- 

1 A Concise History of the Cistercian Order, p. 54. By a Cistercian Monk, 
(London, 1S52.) 
* /bid, p. 43. 

6 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

pal jurisdiction, 1 and this independence was confirmed by suc- 
cessive bulls of the Pontiffs. 2 The first bull is dated the 27th 
of April, 1 100, and was issued by Paschal II. 3 

Several important changes mark the establishment of this 
Order — changes which greatly affected the monastic disci- 

First. The regulation of the diet. All dishes which op- 
posed the purity of the rule as the early monks had inter- 
preted it were banished from the refectory. From the four- 
teenth of September until Easter they partook of a single 
meal — that which St. Benedict permitted — and it consisted of 
a pound of the convent bread and two sorts of vegetables. 
This meal was taken in the afternoon, after rising at two in 
the morning and spending the most of the day in agricultural 
labors. During the rest of the year a similar meal was per- 
mitted in the evening, consisting of one-third of a pound of 
bread and of vegetables. 

Second. They interpreted the following extract from the 
sixty-sixth chapter of St. Benedict's Rule much more rigidly 
than had been the custom: 

" The monastery ought, if possible, to be so constituted 
that all things necessary, such as water, a mill, a garden, and 
the various wc rkshops may be contained within it ; so that 
there may be no need for the monks to go abroad." 4 

The interpretation given to this at Citeaux precluded the 
possession of large estates which they did not cultivate them- 
selves, but let out to tenants. It involved hard manual labor 
upon the part of the monks, but, as the community was fre- 
quently too small to permit the cultivation of their property 
bv their own hands, how was the observance of the rule to 
be assured? The answer to this serious question was found 
in the institution of lay brethren. This, though it existed in 

1 Privileges dc VOrdrc dc Citeaux. (Paris 1713). 

* Ibid. 

8 A Concise History of the Cistercian Order, p. 66. 

* The Rule of St. Benedict, pp. 194-5. (Burns & Oates. London, 18S6.) 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 7 

the Benedictine Order, took a definite and systematic shape 
at the beginning of the Cistercian Order. The monks labored 
in the close neighborhood of the monastery, the lay brethren 
were permitted to dwell on the lonely farms around it, and 
became the tailors, shoemakers and blacksmiths of the com- 
munity. But although the lay brethren were usually, though 
not always, of the more ignorant class they were treated with 
the greatest consideration, and by a special law of the Order, 
partook of all spiritual advantages. Indeed they made their 
vows in the presence of the Abbot and were monks in all but 
name. It is evident that in a rude age when distinctions in 
rank were so great and almost impassable, this institution of 
lav-brethren ennobled the cultivator of the soil and placed the 
nobleman and the peasant on the same level. Manual labor, 
therefore, and the institution of ^'-brethren constituted an 
important part of the reforms of Citeaux. 

Third. As regards the dress. The color of the dress or 
the greater part of it was changed. For dark brown was sub- 
stituted white in all the garments except the scapular, which 
remained dark as before. It is difficult to discover the true 
reasons for the change, but the following one is often given, 
i. c, that as all Cistercian monasteries are specially dedicated 
to the Virgin, so the white garments are symbolical of her 
puritv. A second reason sometimes given is that the dress of 
the peasants of the country was made of a coarse gray cloth, 
and so they supposed this to be marked out for them by the 
rule. The former of the two reasons seems the more likely, 
but, however that may be, the Order has adopted the white 
dress with the exception of the scapular. It is supposed that 
this was left dark to remind the wearers and the world that 
they were not only monks of Citeaux, but children of St. 

Fourth. The rule of silence. The Rule of St. Benedict 
speaks as follows : " On account of the importance of silence 
let leave to speak be seldom granted even to perfect disciples, 
although their conversation be good and holy and tending to 

8 The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 

edification." 1 "The greatest silence must be kept at table so 
that no whispering may be heard there, or any voice except 
that of him who readeth, and whatever is necessary for food 
and drink let the brethren so minister to each other that no 
one need to ask for anything, but should anything be wanted, 
let it be asked for by a sign rather than by the voice." 2 "Every- 
one, then, being assembled, let them say Compline, and when 
that is finished, let none be allowed to speak to any one, and 
if any one be found to evade this rule of silence, let him be 
subjected to severe punishment; unless the presence of guests 
should make it necessary, or the Abbot should chance to give 
any command." 3 

These, which are but three of the seven directions concern- 
ing silence, are sufficient to indicate the purpose of St. Bene- 
dict. Abbot Alberic, and notably Abbot Stephen, the second 
and third Superiors of Citeaux, impressed upon their Religious 
the necessity of conforming in this respect to the manifest 
intentions of St. Benedict, and silence became a distinctive 
mark of the Order. "The practice of silence sanctifies the 
whole Cistercian Order." 4 

A change in the color of the dress, the custom of menial 
and manual labor and the consequent development of the 
system of lay brethren, the rule of silence, and the restriction 
of the diet are the principal characteristics of the reform of 
Citeaux, and as these are all special marks of the develop- 
ment of the Cistercian Trappists it has been thought best to 
emphasize them as distinctive early marks of reform. The 
observances of the monks of Citeaux were ascetic in the 
extreme. Early rising, silence, fasting- — -all these were carried 
by Abbot Alberic, the second Abbot, to an extreme which 

1 The Rule of St. Benedict, pp. 43-5. 

8 Ibid, pp. 1 1 7-8. 

s Ibid, pp. 127-1S. 

4 De Ranee'. A Treatise on the Sanctity and the Duties of the Monastic State. 
Translated into English by a Religious of the Abbey of Melleray-La Trappe. 
Vol. II., p. 115. (Richard Grace, Dublin, 1S30.) The copy consulted is from 
library of Mt. Mellerav, Ireland. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 9 

overshadows the rigidity and austerity of the Trappists of 
to-day, and the changes which have been noted above were 
formulated by him into ordinances, with the approbation of 
Rome, the Order having been, as has been mentioned, author- 
ized in 1100. 1 

The establishment of Clairvaux by St. Bernard, 2 who led 
out a contingent from Citeaux, and the swift and brilliant 
development of the Order are too well known to require any 
special notice, and we pass to a brief notice of the other 
Orders with which La Trappe was at first affiliated. 

Before St. Bernard's time there were "other Prophets in 
Israel." The earliest of these reformers was Robert d'Abis- 
sel, who first led the life of an Anchorite in Anjou. He had 
many followers, but was obliged to leave them to preach the 
Crusade by the order of Pope Urban II. Later, in the year 
1099, he retired to a place upon the confines of Anjou and 
Poitou called Fontrevault, and began the building of those 
cells or cabins which finally became the monastery of Fontre- 
vault, and the Order was recognized by Pope Paschal II., in 
the year 1106. The founder of Fontrevault found it neces- 
sary to detach from his original following a number of his 
disciples, and they were sent forth under the control of three 
of his most trusted monks to different places in France. The 
one which concerns the Trappist Order was the colony led out 
by Vital de Mortain into Normandy, where was founded in 
the year 11 12 the Abbey of Savigni. This abbey took its 
name from a forest into which Vital had led some of his fol- 
lowers as early as 1105. The first monastic home of the 
Order of Savigni was simply the ruins of an old chateau be- 
longing to Raoul de Fougeres, who kindly granted it to the 
homeless monks. This act of donation was confirmed by 
Henry I. of England, and later in the same year by Pope 
Paschal II. Vital gave to the monks of his monastery the 

1 Supra, p 6. 

* Ratisbonne, Life of St. Bernard. (1SS6.) 

io The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

Rule of St. Benedict, and added some particular constitutions. 
The number of monks increased greatly and Savigni became 
one of the most celebrated monasteries of France. 1 Not 
only was Savigni itself illustrious, but many abbeys and mon- 
asteries followed its rule and became dependent upon it. 
Amongst others was the Abbev of La Trappe. 

Thus upon both sides of France, in Burgundy and in Nor- 
mandy, Anjou and Perche, was displayed the same spirit of 
reform. But while Fontrevault and Savigni never became so 
illustrious as Citeaux, there was affiliated to them, and later to 
Citeaux, the monastery of La Grande Trappe, the ancestress 
of New Melleray and to-day the mother house of the Trap- 


It must not be supposed that the abbe}' which has become 
famous as the mother house of the Trappists was synchronous 
in foundation with that strict branch of the Cistercians to 
which it has given a name, in this case the monastery christ- 
ened the Order; not the Order the monastery. 

In the year 1122 2 Rotrou, Count of Perche, founded an 
abbey which he called "L'Abba}*e de Notre -Dame de la 
Maison-Dieu de la Trappe." The church was consecrated 
bv Robert the Archbishop of Rouen, assisted by Raoul the 
Bishop of Evreux and Silvestre the Bishop of Seez, 3 in the 
time of the fifth abbot, William, in the year 1280. The 
abbey at its foundation in 11 22 was affiliated with the order 
of Fontrevault, 4 which was recognized by Pope Paschal II. 
in 1 106, and received a still further recognition in a bull of 
the same Pope seven years later. In the abbey of Fontre- 

1 Helyot, Histoire ties Ordres Monastiques. Tom. VI., p. no. 

* Felibien, Description de V Abba ye de la Trappe, pp. io et seq. (Paris, 
1671.) The date given by Felibien is 1140, which is incorrect, .although it is 
repeated in Helvot, who relied on Felibien. The accepted date among the 
Trappists is 1122. 

3 Helyot, Ibid, p. I. 

4 Edouard, Fontrevault el ses Monuments, etc. (1S75.) 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. ii 

vault, though now fallen to ruin, may still be seen the effigies 
of Henry II. and Richard I. of England, and until the time of 
the French Revolution the French princesses were accustomed 
to be sent thither for their education. To this Order, illus- 
trious even then, the new Abbey of La Trappe was first 
affiliated, but in the year 1148, under the guidance of the 
fourth abbot, it had become Cistercian, and through the 
efforts of St. Bernard himself became one of the many mon- 
asteries closely connected with Citeaux. 

At this time the Cistercian Order, which originated in the 
reform of Citeaux (Cistercium), had risen to great splendor 
under the guidance of St. Bernard, and attracted to itself 
and to St. Bernard's Abbey of Clairvaux, rendered so illus- 
trious by its founder, the greater part of those monasteries 
which with the decadence of the Benedictines felt the need of a 
newer spiritual life. The affiliation then of the Abbe}' of La 
Trappe, and its reduction beneath the rule of Citeaux, was 
only a single instance of a movement which became almost 
universal through France and through Europe, and which in 
turn manifested the same decadence which had led to its 

The surrounding country is rich in historical association. 
Close at hand is Belleme from whose ancient castle the family 
of Robert so famous in the annals of England and of Nor- 
mandy derived its name. This uneasy baron was engaged in 
a serious controversy with Rotrou, Count of Perche, presum- 
ably the same who founded the abbey, in 1122. The fact 
that there was war between Robert and Rotrou is not strange, 
for the former, surnamed Le Diable, was usually at war with 
his neighbors, but it is rather curious that his antagonist in 
this instance, Rotrou, should have immortalized his name by 
the foundation of La Trappe, while Robert remains a type 
of the worst features of feudalism. At the present day the 
"site of the true castle of Belleme mav easily be distinguished 
from the present fortress." 1 It "stands quite apart from the 

1 Freeman, The Reign of William Unfits, Vol. I., p. 21S, note. 

12 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

hill on which the town and the later castle stand, being cut 
off from it by art. The chapel is but little altered, and has a 
crypt, the way down to which reminds one of Saint Zeno 
and other Italian churches." 1 

Close at hand is Fontrevault, already referred to, and, just 
across the frontier in Maine and in Normandy, every rood of 
ground brings up recollections of the days when Robert of 
Belleme defied the power of the Norman Dukes, or when 
Helias, the "blameless Knight" of Maine fought bravely, 
though vainly, against the mightv masters of England and of 
Normandy. In their old age and calmer days the barons of 
that time were wont to lull their consciences by the founda- 
tion and endowment of some religious house, and it is proba- 
ble that Rotrou in his declining }'ears thought to make the 
establishment of La Trappe the condoning good deed of his 
fife. 2 In the midst then of a country which bears even to-day 
upon its face the scars of the contests engendered by feudal- 
ism in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and at an era when 
private war was the key-note of the age, arose the walls and 
gardens which afterwards beheld the inception and the devel- 
opment of the strictest order of western monasticism, and 
which have handed on a name which is synonymous with the 
most profoundly self-denying of all monastic names, that of 
La Trappe. 

The history of the Abbey from 1240 to 1662 is not unlike 
that of man}' others. For many years it was celebrated for 
the eminent virtue of its abbots and its monks. In particular 
were the miracles and the holiness of Adam, one of its earliest 
abbots renowned, and for two hundred years after its founda- 
tion it was so esteemed by princes and by popes that four or 
five bulls of the Pontiffs are to be found, addressed to the 
monks of La Trappe, confirming and approving the privi- 

1 Freeman, The Reign of William Rnfus, Vol. I. 

* Rotrou is said to have founded La Trappe in thanksgiving for his preser- 
vation from shipwreck in a voyage between Normandy and England. The 
roof of the monastery was shaped like an inverted keel. Concise History of 
the Cistercian Order, p. 142. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 13 

leges conferred by their predecessor. 1 Like many other 
houses of the Cistercians, following the melancholy course 
which seems to be characteristic of all religious orders, the 
monks of La Trappe at last abandoned their traditions, and 
neglected the regular observance of the stricter rule which 
had been established by St. Bernard. In addition to the gen- 
eral causes for the decadence of monastic authority, some 
special ones existed in France, and these undoubtedly affected 
the house of La Trappe. In the fourteenth century the 
power of the church had been dealt a serious blow by the 
exile of the Popes to Avignon. This, in whatever manner 
it may have acted generally upon the European estimate of 
their authority, had little effect in France, save in exalting the 
Gallican church in its own esteem, and, by a nearer acquaint- 
ance with Avignon and its rulers, lowering the ideal of Papal 
holiness. But another factor was much more potent than the 
"Babylonian Captivity" in ministering to the decav of mon- 
astic purity in France. This was the " One Hundred Years' 
War." Placed upon the borderland between what was France 
and what, though French, was ruled by Englishmen, flung 
into the midst of contests in which they had no interested 
part, save as liege subjects of their own monarch, the monks 
of La Trappe insensibly became partisan. Perche is near 
enough to Paris and near enough to Normandy to have been 
long in dispute between the two rival powers, and the noise 
made by Tours and Poitiers penetrated even to the quiet of 
the cloister. The abbey was sacked again and again by the 
English. From the major part of the border monasteries 
religion fled, and attempted to find refuge in those parts of 
France which were farther removed from the ravages of war, 
but the monks of La Trappe did not wish to quit their soli- 
tude, and by fasting and dailv labor were able to subsist, 
though meagrely. At length, however, the frequent returns 
of the English plunderers, who repeatedly relieved them of 
whatever they had amassed in the brief intervals of peace, 

1 Helyoi, Histoirc des Ordres Monastiqucs. Tom. VI., p. 2. 

14 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

constrained them to separate, and they did not return until 
the war was finished. 1 Absence from the monastery and its 
restraints, and the corruption of the world into which they 
had been forced, had produced a total change in their views 
of the religious life, and in their views of the rigid rule of 
Citeaux. At their return, therefore, it is not astonishing to 
learn they displayed a quite different mental and moral atti- 
tude from that which had characterized them in the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries. 

To the general degradation of religious houses there had 
then contributed the causes above mentioned, and a still 
severer blow was administered by a system which was recog- 
nized by both Pontiff and King. 

This was the system of Commendam. Broadly speaking, a 
living given in Commendam was one entrusted to the care of 
the holder until a proper person was supplied. In the special 
case of monastic establishments it consisted in the appoint- 
ment of seculars to the headship (or other official position) of 
Orders to which the incumbent did not belong, and to whose 
rules and requirements, whether of mode of life or of dress, 
he was under no obligation to conform. It is perfectly evi- 
dent that this custom, which may have been founded in neces- 
sity or wisdom, and was intended to supply for the interim 
places which could not on the instant of their vacancy be filled 
with proper incumbents, was liable to grave abuses. The 
ecclesiastical history of the reigns of Henry III. and Edward 
III., of England, abundantly illustrates this, and in France the 
custom became still more degraded from its original intent, 
inasmuch as the monarchs were wont to till these vacancies 
without much reference to Rome. La Trappe long held out 
against the imposition of an abbot not elected by the mem- 
bers of the abbey establishment, but in the year 1526, Francis 
I. commanded the monks to receive Jean du Bellai as Abbe 
Commendataire. The execution of this edict the monks 
resisted and for a number of years continued to elect, as was 

1 Helyot, Histoire des Ordres Monastiques. Tom. VI., p. 2. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 15 

their privilege, their own abbots, while the papal curia 
attempted to uphold them in their contest for independence. 1 
But finally they were compelled to yield to the King and to 
accept Jean du Bellai (afterwards Cardinal) as their Abbot in 
Commendam. At once the sad effect of the system was 
manifest in La Trappe. As their was no resident Abbot the 
monks did as they pleased, and soon became the scandal of 
the surrounding country. 2 

Temporal ruin followed swiftly upon the decadence of 
spiritual life. The abbey itself fell into such decay that only 
six or seven monks could be lodged therein, and it became 
the abiding-place of the servitors and of their families only. 
The community life had disappeared, and the members of it 
met only for the chase or other diversions. 3 Such was the 
unhappy condition of La Trappe in the middle of the seven- 
teenth century. 


The reformation of La Trappe, and the introduction into 
this abbey of the rigid observances known to this day as 
Trappist, were due to the efforts of Armand Jean le Bouthil- 
lier de Ranee, Abbe in Commendam. To rightly understand 
how an abbot appointed in accordance with the pernicious 
system of Commendam could have accomplished so astonish- 
ing a work, it will be necessary to trace the historj^ of his life 
in some detail. 

According to Helyot, 4 the reforming abbot was the son of 
Denis le Bouthillier, Seigneur de Ranee, Secretary of "Com- 
mendams" under the regency of Marie de Medicis, and a 
counsellor of State, thus occupying a position of dignity and 
influence. Armand Jean was born in 1626, and, as a second 
son, was destined to enter the semi-religious order of the 

1 Helyot, Histoire des Ordres Monastiques. Tom. VI., p. 3. 
» Helyot, Ibid. 
» Helyot, Ibid. 
* Helyot, Ibid. 

1 6 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

Knights of Malta. The death of his older brother changed 
his fortunes so that instead of becoming a monk militant, all 
the benefices in commendam which had been conferred upon 
and intended for his brother were transferred to him. The 
position of his father rendered it easy to provide for his future, 
and he became, while still a child, a Canon of Notre Dame de 
Paris, Abbe de la Trappe, Abbe de Notre Dame du Val and 
of St. Symphorian of Beauvais and Prior of Boulogne, near 
Chambord. 1 These and other titular dignities were conferred 
upon him before he was more than twelve years old, and 
from these he derived (even at that age) a revenue of about 
twenty thousand francs. 

The change in his worldly prospects did not cause De 
Ranee to neglect his studies. His father had already care- 
fully provided him with tutors in the Italian and Greek 
languages, and his destiny Jo the ecclesiastical state seemed 
rather an incentive to toil. At the age of twelve years 2 he 
is said to have given to the world a new edition of the poems 
of Anacreon accompanied by a commentary. This work was 
greatly admired by the scholars of the day, and was soon 
followed by a French translation of the pqet. This instance 
of precocity, though unusual, is not exactly alone in history, 
and we are compelled to believe that at twelve or thirteen 
Years of age De Ranee was already an accomplished Greek 
scholar and a not insignificant critic. Modern scepticism may 
hesitate to accept evidence of such early distinction in learn- 
ing, but the life of De Ranee testifies to his remarkable 
power of mind and will, and the testimony upon which this 
statement rests is not easily to be controverted, and is gener- 
ally accepted. He studied theology after having completed 
his course in the College d'Harcourt, and at the age of 
twenty-one received his licentiate's degree. Launched there- 
fore upon the world with every favor of fortune, De Ranee's 
course for some years was only what might have been 

1 Hclyot, Hisioire des Ordres Afonastiques. Tom. VI., p. 4. 
* Helyot, Ibid. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 17 

expected in that age. His manners were agreeable, he was 
the favorite of society, his ecclesiastical state sat upon him 
with the same grace and elegance which characterized the 
fashion of his dress, 1 and he became the idol of the world in 
which he lived and of which he was one of the most brilliant 
ornaments. Amid all the license of the time he preserved a 
comparative purity, and, although he mingled amid the gayest 
circles, was by no means one of the profligate Abbe's in Com- 
mendam with which the age was afflicted. Nevertheless his 
life was not such as we associate to-day with the term -priest, 
yet this did not prevent him from receiving holy orders at the 
hands of his uncle the Archbishop of Tours - in the year 
1651, and the ring and bonnet of Doctor were conferred 
three years later. 

About this time De Ranee was staying with several friends 
at his chateau of Veret, and the gaiety of his disposition may 
be illustrated b}' the story which is told, that, after a night of 
festivity, they all determined to embark upon a life of adven- 
ture in foreign countries, to travel forth by land and sea, and 
go wherever the "wind should carry them." This Quixotic 
scheme was not accomplished, but is not uninteresting as indi- 
cating the manners of the age, and the freedom which was 
felt by "Abbes in Commendam." 3 His life then up to the 

1 Chateaubriand. Vie de Ranee. 

"He wore a light coat of beautiful violet-colored cloth. His hair hung in 
long curls down his back and shoulders. He wore two emeralds at the joining 
of his ruffles, and a large and rich diamond ring upon his finger. When 
indulging the pleasures of the chase in the country, he usually laid aside 
every mark of his profession; wore a sword, and had two pistols in his hol- 
sters. His dress was fawn-colored, and he used to wear a black cravat em- 
broidered with gold. In the more serious society which he was sometimes 
forced to meet, he thought himself very clerical indeed, when he put on a 
black velvet coat with buttons of gold." 

(These details may be found in Chateaubriand's " Life of De Ranee," and 
also in a review of the same in the Dublin Review, December, 1844. In fact 
for a great number of details necessarily omitted in this monograph the same 
work may be consultsd with advantage, especially as to the mode of life of 
Veret or Veretz, but Chateaubriand is not a reliable authority.) 

* Helyot, Histoire des Ordres Monastiques. Tom. VI., p. 4. 

s Helyot Ibid, p. 5. 

1 8 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

age of thirty-four was that of the gay man of society, whose 
natural inclinations forbade indulgence of the grossest ap- 
petites, but who regulated his life in accordance with the 
spirit of the earlier years of the reign of Louis XIV. Sud- 
denly this man of the great world became disillusionized, and 
retired from the gaieties of court to the seclusion of La 
Trappe. Several causes are said to have contributed to this 
result. One was the death of his cousin, Leon de Bouthillier 
de Chavigni, a man to whom he was passionately attached; 
a second was own narrow escape from death; a third was his 
natural disappointment at the reception by the court of his 
famous argument in behalf of the Jansenists. The latter 
debate, which well offered De Ranee an opportunity for 
showing his natural bent of mind, was held at the command 
of the King in the year 1655. At this general assembly of 
the French Clergy, convoked to discuss the Jansenist contro- 
versy, De Ranee was a delegate from the diocese of Tours. 
Though De Ranee's views changed afterwards so that he 
opposed the tenets of this school, nevertheless at this time he 
formed one of the minority of the Doctors of the Sorbonne 
who voted in favor of Arnauld, the Jansenist leader. Disap- 
pointed in the view taken of his position by the court he 
retired to Veret before the assembly dispersed. A story is 
told of the sudden death (her illness being unknown to him) 
of Madame de Montbazon, with whom he was intimate, and of 
the shock which was occasioned him by discovering her body 
decapitated, for the coffin was too short, and it has been sup- 
posed, even by Voltaire, that this had a decided effect in shap- 
ing his future life. This story is denied by others, and the 
juste milieu seems to be that the concurrence of these two 
events — /. e., the death of Madam de Montbazon, and De 
Rancd's retirement from the world — occasioned the legend. 1 
If this story be true, it is easily to be believed that an event 

1 See, in support of this story, Voltaire and La Harpe, and in contradiction 
of it St. Simon. It is totally denied by Maupeou, who was the first to write a 
biography of De Ranee. Heh-ot does not mention it in his chapter upon La 
Trappe, but the omission in his case is perhaps natural. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 19 

of such a nature would seemingly affect the course of life of 
a man so sensitive as De Ranee" was. But the reasons first 
mentioned were doubtless the determining ones. 1 At any 
rate, in about 1660, just after the death of the Duke of Orleans, 
whose almoner he was, he made up his mind to lay down at 
least part of his benefices. But he consulted in regard to 
this serious step several of his friends of high position in the 
hierarchy of the church. The)- were the Bishops of Aleth, 
of Pamiers, of Chalons and of Comminges. 2 The counsel 
of the Bishop of Aleth was the least severe. "Sell," said 
he. "your patrimony and distribute the price of it to the 
poor," but he permitted him to retain his benefices. But 
even this seemed to De Ranee an excessive self-abnegation. 
He replied that his family would not permit it, but he listened 
with respect to the reasons of the prelate. The Bishop of 
Pamiers w r ent even further, and advised him not only to sell 
his patrimony, but to la}' down his benefices with the excep- 
tion of one. This dictum was extremely distasteful to De 
Ranee, who argued that he could not live upon one benefice 
in a way befitting his condition in life. He therefore con- 
sulted at last the Bishop of Comminges, who speaking with 
the voice of a prelate of the early times, confirmed the advice 
of the Bishops of Aleth and Pamiers, and in addition avowed 
his belief that De Ranee should take the monastic habit and 
rule the monaster)- which he was still to hold, for, said he, 
"Abbeys in Commendam are contrary to the spirit of the 
church." 3 Thus De Ranee found himself on every side 
advised to purge himself of the sin of which he had unwit- 
tingly been guiltv, and give the rest of his life as a penitential 
offering for his past. 

This advice, coming as it did, from prelates whose opinion 
he respected, increased the compunctions of his conscience, 

1 Another reason, perhaps more important than any of those enumerated, 
may have had more weight, viz., the conviction, gradually growing upon him, 
of a true vocation for the monastic state. 

- Helyot, Histoire des Ordres Monastiques. Tom. VI., p. 6. 

s History of the Cistercian Order, pp. 140-1. 

20 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

and the effect of the two combined was, that he sold his pat- 
rimony and resigned all his benefices except that of La 
Trappe, this being the poorest, the most unhealthy, and the 
least known. The ruinous condition of La Trappe has been 
before referred to. "There are in existence," says Count 
Chateaubriand, "formal reports in writing of the lamentable 
condition of this monastery. That which bears the date of 
1685, signed by Dominic, Abbot of Val-Richer, describes the 
state it was in before the reform of De Ranee. Day and 
night the gates were open; males and females were admitted 
indiscriminately to the cloister. The entrance hall was so 
dark and filthy that it was more like a prison than a house 
dedicated to God. Access was had to the several floors by a 
ladder placed against the walls, and the boards and joists of 
the floor were broken and worm-eaten in many places. The 
roof of the cloister had fallen in so that the least shower of 
rain deluged the place with water. The very pillars that 
supported it were bent, and as for the parlor, it had for some 
time been used as a stable. The refectory was such only in 
name. The monks and their visitors played at nine-pins or 
shuttlecock in it when the heat or inclemency of the weather 
prevented them from doing so outside. The dormitory was 
utterly deserted; it was tenanted at night only by birds; and 
the hail and the snow, the wind and the rain, passed in and 
out as they pleased. The brothers who should have occupied 
it, took up their quarters where they liked, and where they 
could. The church itself was not better attended to. The 
pavement was broken, and the stones thrown about. The 
very walls were crumbling to decay. The belfry threatened 
to come down every moment. It shook alarmingly at every 
ringing of the bell. When De Ranee set about reforming 
the monastery, it was but the ruin of a monastic establish- 
ment. The monks had dwindled down to seven. Even these 
were spoiled by alternations of want and plenty. When De 
Ranee" first began to talk of reform the whole establishment 
was in commotion. Nothing was heard but threats of ven- 
geance. One spoke of assassinating him, another advised 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 21 

poison, while a third thought the best and safest way of get- 
ting rid of him would be to throw him into one of the lakes 
that surrounded the monastery." 1 

These menaces did not terrify De Ranee. Monks of the 
stricter observance were introduced into the monastery, and 
the seven of the older right were obliged to sign an agree- 
ment in 1662 which was confirmed by the Parliament of Paris 
in February of the following year. In accordance with this 
agreement the)' were permitted to remain in the monastery 
and conform to the new rules, or to take up their residence 
elsewhere, and a pension of four hundred francs was assigned 
to them in either case. 2 The monks did not accept these 
conditions willingly, but threats of the anger of the King 
prevailed, and at lenght De Ranee found himself the master 
of the Abbey of La Trappe. 

But the evil which had sprung from the system of "Com- 
mendam" had not yet been repaired, and De Ranee behold- 
ing in himself the sacrifice which was required for the sins 
of which his family and himself had been guilty, in the many 
years that they had figured among the hosts of Abbots in 
Commendam, retired, in 1663, into the convent of Persigny, 
there to pass his novitiate. His profession was made in 
1664, 3 and the abbatial benediction was pronounced in Seez, 
in the monaster)' of St. Martin, by the Bishop of Ardah 4 in Ire- 
land. Thus from being an Abbot in Commendam De Ranee 
became a Cistercian monk and Abbot in possession, and in 
formal terms, of La Trappe. Henceforth the brilliant man 
of the world, the gay and elegant Seigneur de Ranee, Lord 
of Yeret and holder of a plurality of benefices, becomes 
Armand John, the regular Abbot of La Trappe; and, with 
this change the Abbot entered upon the strictest regimen of 

1 Chateaubriand. Vie de Ranee. See also Helyot, History des Ordres Mo- 
nastiques. Tom. VI., p. 7. 

* Helyot, Ibid. 

8 Felibien, Description de la Trappe, pp. 1S-19. Helyot, Ibid, p. 7. 

* Felibien, Ibid, p. ;o. 

22 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 


the old monks of Citeaux. His fasts were so continual and 
so austere, that it is hard to understand how he could have 
endured them and yet survived. Every day he engaged in 
humble, even in manual labors, from which he returned ex- 
hausted. He was always the first at the Office, at prayer and 
at all regular exercises of the Abbey. He ordered nothing 
in the doing of which he did not set the example, and do him- 
self what he prescribed to the rest. Such an example could 
not but induce like abstinence, and like self-denial in the 
monks, and the austerities of the Abbey became famous. The 
reforms then which were introduced by De Ranee may be 
summarized as follows: 
i. Abstinence. 

2. Perpetual Silence. 

3. Manual Labor. 

These regulations were not new, but they had fallen into 
abeyance. They are all contained in the Rule of St. Bene- 
dict, and in spasmodic activity had appeared in many ages 
and in many monasteries. The glory of De Ranc^ 1 is that 
the power of his personality and the excess of his zeal made 
them the distinctive characteristics of the monks of his own 
abbey, and that the same power stamped them upon others. 
His rules were not so extreme 2 as those of Citeaux at its 
earlier beginnings, thev were somewhat tempered to the 
necessities of his age and the comparatively less physical 
endurance possessed by the religious of that day, but they 
were the most enduring of any reforms instituted in the 
seventeenth century and from that time to this have remained 
comparatively unchanged. The reasons which justified De 
Ranee to himself in restoring the close observance of Citeaux 
may be read in his own works, 3 and certain extracts will be 
found hereafter quoted in this monograph. 4 

1 Appendix IV. 

2 Appendix III. 

* De J?(tncd, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties 0/ the Monastic State. 
2 vols. Richard Grace. (Dublin, 1S30.) 
4 Appendix IV. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 23 

The later history of the Abbey of La Trappe can be 
quickly told. 

For nearly a century after De Ranee's death (1700), La 
Trappe continued in strict observance of the reformed rule 
established by him. In the year 1791 two commissioners 
from the administrative assembly of the department of the 
Orne presented themselves to Abbot Peter Olivier and en- 
quired why the Abbey had not been suppressed in accordance 
with the decree of the constituent assembly as regards the 
religious order in France. Although the inquisitors them- 
selves examined the monks of whom there were fifty-three 
choir religious and thirty-seven lay brethren, and pronounced 
them men of strong and decided character whose thoughts 
were absorbed by religion, the Executive of the Department 
forbade the further existence of the Abbey as such, and it was 
suppressed by the Assembly. The confiscation of La Trappe 
immediately upon the decree of the Assembly in 1790 had 
been postponed in view of numberless petitions in its favor, 
but now the blow fell, the monks were scattered, a contingent 
of them went to Switzerland, 1 the rest dispersed, the build- 
ings of the monastery were thrown down and the fields were 
left uncultivated. 

In 181 5, after the final defeat of Napoleon, La Trappe was 
repurchased by the Abbot, new buildings were erected, and 
from that time to this it has continued to be the Mother House 
of the Order. "Nothing, however, exists of the La Trappe 
of De Ranee save the cincture of forest trees and the hills 
which surround the monastery; the pools which stretch their 
sheet of water into the forests of Perche; the abbatial lodge 
built by De Ranee, and a few fragments of walls." 2 


In the canton of Fribourg, in Switzerland, exists a valley 
deep hidden among the mountains, and buried amid great 

1 The history of these will be found under the heading " Valsaixte, Lull- 
worth," p. 23. 

2 A Concise History of the Cistercian Order, p. 175. 

24 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

forests and masses of overhanging rocks. Here was a de- 
serted Carthusian Abbey which upon the petition of the exiled 
monks of La Trappe was given them for a home and refuge 
by the cantonal authorities, and within this monastery the 
austerities of La Trappe were again put into active operation. 
This for some years continued to be the onry centre from 
which the followers of De Ranee could exert their influence, 
and follow the precepts of their founder. The house was 
raised to the dignity of an Abbey in 1794, and even before , 

this time began the work of founding filiations in other parts 
of Europe — i. c, in Belgium, in Spain, in Piedmont, and in 
Westphalia. These establishments date from 1793. But 
that house whose foundation directly concerns the history of 
New Melleray, was about to be established in England. 
Among other parts of the world to which the attention of the 
Abbot of Valsainte turned was Canada, and in 1794 Father 
John Baptist was ordered to proceed to London en route for 
the new world. Although the English laws against Catholics 
and religious orders were yet in force, this band of Trappists 
was received and protected by the English government under 
the pretense that they were French exiles. Arrangements 
were made for their voyage to Canada, but at the moment of 
embarkation the project was given up, and they remained in 
England. In March, 1796, the community entered their new 
monastery which had been erected mainly through the gen- 
erosity of Thomas Weld near his castle of Lullworth, in the 
county of Dorset, and from that castle it derived its name. 
The sojourn of the monks in England lasted until 181 7. 
They were warned to receive only French novices and in- 
formed that the government telorated them only as French 
refugees. Both Irish and English postulants had joined the 
community and the Abbot not being willing to conform to this 
restriction which was imposed by Lord Sidmouth, petitioned 
Louis XVIII. for permission to return to France and restore 
the Cistercian order. This petition was granted. St. Susan 
of Lullworth was disposed of, and on the 10th of July, 181 7, 
the community which numbered sixty persons embarked on 

The Trappist Abbey of New Meeleray. 25 

the government frigate La Revanche. This ship had been 
assigned for their use by the French King. 

The question had arisen as to where this company of Trap- 
pists should find a home, for in France there had survived 
the storm of the Revolution only the monasteries of the 
Grande Chartreuse and of Melleray. Arrangements were 
finally made by which the Abbot came into possession of the 
latter. Its lands had been sold, like those of other monaste- 
ries, and were in the hands of different owners, but at last 
through purchase and through gift the most of the monastic 
lands, and the Abbey, were repurchased and the religious 
were solemnlv installed in Melleray on the 7th of August, 


The story of the founding of Melleray Abbey is as follows: 
In the twelfth century monks of Pontrond, a monaster}' of 
the order of Citeaux in Anjou, were sent in seach of a fitting 
site for a new monastery. They approached the village of 
Moisdon in Briitany and were so coldly received by the peas- 
ants that the)' were forced to take refuge in a forest. Here 
they selected a hollow tree for their resting place for the 
night, and within it the}' found a honeycomb which supplied 
them with them the food which the inhospitable peasants had 
refused. From this circumstance the name of the Abbey is 
said to be derived — J\TclIis alveariinn, Mcllcarium, J\lcUcray. x 
Whether this derivation be correct or not, and it seems likely 
enough, the monastery was founded in 1142 bv Alvin Sieg- 
neur de Moisdon. Of the ancient buildings nothing remains 
to-day but the gate of entrance and a part of the church con- 
secrated in 11S3. Reconstructions and renovations succeeded 
each other at different intervals, and the main buildings date 
from the last century. The traditions of ecclesiastical archi- 
tecture had by that time declined, and the more ancient halls 

1 Benoisl, Felix. Notice sur VAbbaye de N.-D. de La Trappe de Melleray, 
p. 14. (Nantes, 1SS4.) 

' : 

26 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

were cast down and in place of them were erected new build- 
ings which in their general appearance resembled chateaux 
rather than monastic habitations This stream of innovation 
was then in full flood in France, and betokened a decay not 
only of the true monastic rules of architecture, but also of the 
institution itself. Melleray therefore only followed the cur- 
rent, and displays in its architecture but few of the antique 
characteristics of the twelfth century. In 1791 it fell like 
other religious establishments beneath the wrath of the Con- 
stituent Assembly and was sold with all its dependencies as 
national property to many different purchasers. 

To this monastery, reacquired as has been said by strenu- 
ous efforts, Dom Antonie, the Abbot of Lullworth, led his 
community. The revival of Trappist discipline in France 
was not lightly regarded by the Bretons or the world, and 
from Nantes to Melleray the monks were attended by throngs 
of peasants, and by the more important personages of the 
neighborhood. The community possessed again an Abbey, 
but an Abbey which had fallen into ruin and farms which had 
lain for years partly neglected. Besides all this, Melleray is 
situated in one of the poorest cantons of the department of 
the Loire-Inferieure. The property comprised about four 
hundred acres. This was divided into four farms. Three of 
them were let, and the fourth, around the Abbey, was reserved 
for the personal manual labor of the community. 1 

It was the cultivation of these lands by the monks which 
rendered the name of the Abbot, Dom Antoine, 2 and of Mel- 
leray, so celebrated in France, for the English system of 
agriculture was introduced, English agricultural instruments, 
unknown in France, were brought to the lands of the Abbey, 
and the farmers of Brittany soon improved their methods and 
introduced the new and improved system. More than this, a 
market garden was established and vegetables were sold in 

1 Bcnoist, Felix. Notice stir V Abbaye dc N. D. dc La Trappe dc Melleray, 
P- 35- 

B For the life of Dom Antoine, otherwise Anne-Nicolas-Charlcs Saulnier 
de Beauregard, Doctor of Theology of the Sorbonne, see Ibid, p. 2S, et seq. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 27 

Chateaubriant and the environs of the monastery, while an 
agricultural school was also established there, into which were 
received many pupils. The agricultural and horticultural 
school spread the fame of the Abbot through France, and 
ameliorated by its advanced methods the condition of the 
farmers of the neighboring departments. Until 1830 the 
community of Melleray lived on in temporal and spiritual 
prosperity and with numbers reaching at certain times, as 
many as two hundred. But in that year of revolution the 
Abbey met with a severe stroke of ill-fortune — one which led 
eventually to the establishment of the Abbey of New Mel- 
leray in Dubuque County, Iowa. The Abbot had long been 
known as a friend of the Bourbons. In 1820 he had pro- 
nounced at Nantes the funeral sermon of the Duke de Berri, 
who fell beneath the stroke of the assassin. In 1829 the 
Duchess de Berri had visited the abbey, and had been re- 
ceived with the honor befitting her rank, and then accorded 
to royal princesses by the customs of the Trappists. These 
causes were reinforced by the reception into the community 
of many Irish and English monks and by the envy for the 
agricultural prosperity of Melleray which was felt by the sur- 
rounding country. Hence when Charles X. was driven from 
his throne, and the citizen-King, Louis Phillippe, entered the 
Tuilleries, it was not wonderful that private hatred, and public 
suspicion should be directed against the Trappists of Melleray. 
They were accused of plotting against the new monarchy, of 
harboring Irishmen and Englishmen who were sturdy legiti- 
mists, and of rebelling against the new regime. This general 
policy against the monastic establishment of Melleray took 
definite shape in 1S31. On the 5th of August of that year 
the prefect of Nantes obtained an order of arrest in accord- 
ance with which the community of Melleray was to be sup- 
pressed and dissolved. This order not having been obeyed, a 
detachment of soldiers in number about six hundred sur- 
rounded the Abbey on the 28th of September. Sentinels 
were placed at all places of egress, and the authorities assem- 
bled in the Abbot's room and declared that in virtue of an 

28 The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 

ordinance of Napoleon the establishment of Melleray was 
unconstitutional. 1 The authorities, therefore, proclaimed that 
they were armed with power to dissolve the brotherhood and 
give passports to all its members. The true causes for this 
action may be found among those stated above, and the sub- 
prefect of Chateaubriant made himself the following state- 
ment: "One of the chief reasons which has compelled us to 
have recourse to these unpleasant measures, is the clamor 
now prevalent among good citizens and respectable members 
of families, that almost all the people of the neighborhood 
prefer the Abbey mill to their mills; that the vegetables of 
Melleray are bought in preference, and at a cheaper rate than 
from the ordinary green-grocers, and that the leather of the 
monastery is in great request." 2 There can be no doubt that 
the legitimist sympathies of the Abbot (which were not un- 
natural when the reactionary policy of Charles X. as regards 
ecclesiastical orders, and the admission into fuller freedom of 
the monastic orders is taken into consideration) were of pow- 
erful weight in determining this action of the authorities. 
Louis Phillippe was not yet secure upon his throne — centres 
of rebellion against his government were to be found in many 
parts of France; under the new constitution the old religion 
had been freed from the iron hand which had restored under 
Charles X. the special immunities which under the Republic 
had been denied it — the monasteries were not unlikely to be 
centres of quiet but effectual protest against the dethronement 
of a King who was emphatically a lover of monks. Hence 
when the extreme loyalty of the Abbot to the eider branch of 
Bourbon had been displayed by his funeral sermon over the 
Duke of Berri, and by his royal reception of the Duchess, 
even slight signs of dissatisfaction with the new reign would 
be magnified b}' the new prefects into serious offenses, and in 
fact into treason. Advantage was taken of the old edicts 
about religious houses — edicts which had been superseded 
_ — 

1 Benoist, Felix. No/ice sur VAbbaye de N.-D. de La Traffe de Melleray, 

* Concise History of the Cistercian Order, pp. 225-6. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 29 

since the Restoration — and a shadow of legal form was in this 
way given to the proceedings. 

But the revised Charter l granted liberty of worship to 
every one, and the defense of the Abbot rested upon this 
ground. A second investment of Melleray in October result- 
ed in the giving of passports to forty five French monks, and 
the determination upon the part of the Abbot to put off the 
religious habit as a matter of prudence until he could examine 
the rights which the Charter conferred upon him, and then to 
stand upon them. 

But the principle cause of trouble was the presence in Mel- 
leray of a large number of British Trappists. Fear of Eng- 
land made it embarrassing for the government to treat them 
otherwise than as Englishmen, and, the assistance of the Con- 
sul having been invoked, they were conveyed in free omnibuses 
on the 19th of November to a steam vessel which carried 
them down the sound to the Hebe, a sloop of war then lying 
at St. Nazaire. At length after some delay they sailed on 
the 28th of November and arrived in Cork, their destination, 
on the 1st of December. These British subjects were most 
of them Irishmen, and at their own desire they were convey- 
ed to Ireland. Such in brief was the history of the expulsion 
from France, in 1831, of the men who were to found Mt. 
Melleray. The story of Melleray Abbey from that time is 
briefly as follows: There were left in the monastery only a 
few monks, its industries were ruined, and for some years it 
remained in a state of forced inactivity and of uncertainty. At 
length it revived, and to-day is one of four first monasteries 
of the order, acknowledging, as do all the Trappist houses, 
La Grande Trappe as its superior and mother house. 


Before the storm had burst upon the Trappists of Melleray, 

1 Charter granted by Louis Phillippe. 

• The chief sources for the history of the Abbey are manuscripts furnished 
to the author by the Reverend Father Superior and by the Reverend Father 
Placid of New Melleray. Some details will be found, but very meagre ones, 
in the History of the Cistercian Order, quoted above. 


The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

as just recounted, 1 Dom Antoine, foreseeing a tempest, had 
sent to Ireland in 1830 Father Vincent Ryan and Brothers 
Malachy and Moses with the purpose of selecting a place of 
refuge. A foundation of Trappists had been solicited by the 
Archbishop of Dublin and the following letter is a copy of the 
reply sent to the Archbishop by Dom Antoine. 

"My Lord: 

"The events which, during some months back, have been 
passing in France, are not less known to your Grace than to 
myself. Those which still threaten this unhappy kingdom, 
and which are directed more against religion than against the 
monarch, have made me think seriously before God, how I 
may preserve the precious and interesting colon}' which it 
hath pleased His goodness, notwithstanding my incapability 
and unworthiness, to confide to my care. I have cast a glance 
through Europe, and I tremble. For everywhere I behold 
commotion, insurrection, discord. Ireland appears to me, at 
this moment, the most secure from any revolutionary move- 
ment. The great majority of its inhabitants are Catholic; 
their attachment to the religion of their forefathers is prover- 
bial. Emancipation, 2 which they so long and so justly de- 
manded, is now granted, and has already become the best 
surety of peace, in a country the spiritual wants of which are 
supplied by prelates whose zeal equals their piety. But the 
decisive consideration, my Lord, is this plain fact; in a house 
composed at this time of a hundred and seventy members, 
forty of these are from Ireland. One objection alone meets 
and opposes me — the want of funds. The greater part of 
the members who have joined us, brought nothing with them 
but their good will. The repairs of our monastery — the 
purchase of the property — the support of so large a family, 
have entirely exhausted our feeble resources; so that we have 
not the means wherewith to assist our brothers in the estab- 

1 Above, title "Melleray." 

* The " Emancipation " of the Catholics in England — i. c, the repeal of the 
anti-Catholic laws, took place in 1829. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 31 

lishment of a foundation in a foreign land. But God, who is 
rich in mercy, and whose Providence has constantly watched 
over us, since the commotions in France, has given to us at 
this moment a fresh proof of His unspeakable kindness and 
generosity in our favour. Many pious and respectable per- 
sons of both sexes in your Grace's diocese, have offered in a 
most handsome manner to supply funds for the foundation 
of a Cistercian house in Ireland. I behold in these traits of 
benevolence, my Lord, the worthy descendants of those of 
noble minded men, who formerly adorned Ireland with so many 
religious asylums, and who testified a deep interest in the 
monks of Citeaux — the children of St. Stephen and St. Ber- 
nard. I feel bound to respond to so generous an appeal; but 
that which principally confirms my resolution, is the assurance 
that bishops of Ireland, and more especially your Grace, will 
favour the undertaking by their kind sympathy and protec- 

"For this reason I have sent the Reverend Father Vincent 
Ryan, Prior of Melleray, and Father Malachy, to la)- before 
vour Grace our present position, our designs, and the details 
necessary for a full explanation of the subject. I do not doubt 
but that, under vour Grace's auspices, this institution we have 
in contemplation, and which is intended for the glory of 
God and the salvation of souls, will prosper, and bring forth 
abundant fruit. May our wishes, my Lord, be realized: May 
Ireland again present that fervour and piety which rendered 
her eminent even among the Catholic kingdoms of the uni- 
verse! May the children of St. Bernard and of Abbe Ranee, 
even in these later davs — -days of sorrow and general defec- 
tion from the faith — re-people once more your solitudes, and 
console the church for the losses which she daily deplores, 
and which seem to bring us to the borders of those unhappy 
times, when, as our Divine Master informs us, faith will be 
found no longer on the earth." 1 

The establishment of a house in Ireland proved more diffi- 

1 History of the Cistercian Order, pp. 221-2-3. 


32 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

cult than had been anticipated, but the first step toward this 
end was taken by Father Vincent in the renting of a house 
and fifty acres of land at Rathmore in the county of Kerry, 
about twelve miles from Killarney. While the pioneers of 
the new monastery were thus occupied in Ireland, the expul- 
sion of the Irish monks from France actually took place, and 
when they arrived in Cork, they were met by Father Vincent, 
who explained to them his needy circumstances, and stated 
that any of them were at liberty to seek homes elsewhere. 
Four or five took advantage of his permission, but the rest 
followed him to Rathmore. In the course of time nearly all 
the French exiles, not only those of Irish birth, but those of 
English and French extraction, were gathered to Rathmore. 
It was evident that a rented house of small dimensions and 
fifty acres of land were entirely inadequate to the carrying 
out of the Trappist customs, and Father Vincent bent him- 
self to the task of obtaining a more fitting and spacious resi- 

Sir Richard Keane, a Protestant gentleman, made over to 
Father Vincent for a nominal rent an area of six hundred 
acres of mountainous land, barren and unbroken, and five lay 
brethren were sent in 1832 to begin the task of its enclosure 
and cultivation. This domain was situated in the county of 
Waterford near the town of Cappoquin. The surrounding 
country gave liberallv of its means and of its manual labor to 
aid the Trappists in the erection of their monastery, and to 
help them to reclaim the desert which had never known any 
cultivation. At first, Father Vincent and a few of the monks 
whom he had brought with him from Rathmore, took up their 
abode in a small cottage near their farm called "the cottage 
Bethlehem" — but on the 20th of August, 1S33, the first stone 
of the present Abbey was laid by Sir Richard Keane in the 
presence of the Bishop of Waterford, a numerous body 1 of 

J At the laying of the corner-stone of Mt. Melleray there were present of the 
Trappists about twenty. Among this twenty were Father Vincent, Brothers 
Ambrose Byrne, and Foley of the lay brethren, and Brothers David and Fran- 
cis of the choir brethren. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 33 

clergy and a concourse of people which is said to have num- 
bered nearly twenty thousand souls. The progress of the 
building was however slow, and it was not until 1838 that it 
was inhabited by the community, and in October of the same 
year divine service was celebrated in the church of the mon- 
astery for the first time. 

It is worth noticing, that in virtue of this first establishment 
of the Reformed Cistercians or Trappists in Ireland, the 
monastery was raised to the dignity of an Abbey, and by a 
brief of Pope Gregory XVI. Father Vincent was appointed 
a mitred Abbot. This was the first consecration of a mitred 
Abbot in Ireland since the Reformation, and the ceremony 
was celebrated on the 17th of Ma}", 1S35. The Abbey was 
given at the same time an independent jurisdiction, thus free- 
ing it from dependence upon the mother house. At this time 
the Abbey had become the home of the greater number of 
the French exiles — /. e., of about seventy persons. 

"Mt. Melleray, the mother house of New Melleray, is situ- 
ated about three and a half miles northward from Cappoquin. 
The Abbey cannot be seen from Cappoquin, as the woods 
belonging to Sir Richard Keane's demesne conceal it from 
view, and, for the same reason, neither can the mountains to 
the rear of the Abbey be seen from the town. In fact, from 
the town no vestige of the celebrated Abbey of Trappists can 
be discerned. The town, like others of its size, is generally 
pretty noisy, there is an almost constant hub-bub there from 
morning to night, and the passing traveler sees nothing to 
indicate that in the near neighborhood there is a celebrated 
establishment of ascetics, of men living in profound solitude, 
entirely shut off from the bus} - world, observing among them- 
selves an almost unbroken silence and devoted exclusively to 
their eternal interests. When the traveler has driven perhaps 
a mile and a half on the Cionmel road, of a sudden he is 
startled. In front of him is an extensive plain, not cultivated, 
for it is in great part covered with heather; bounding his 
horizon on the north is a range of mountains, the two princi- 
pal heights being Knockmealdown and Knocknafolla. Quietly 


34 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

seated at the foot of this latter height is the Abbey, nestling 
in groves of modern date. The buildings are low but very 
extensive. Looking down on the Abbe}- from the tower of 
the church, one might fancy himself looking down upon a 
village. A well kept avenue leads from the main road up to 
the Abbe}-. The first building that is seen upon this avenue 
is a school for the little boys of the neighborhood, and gener- 
ally two choir monks are employed to teach in it. The next 
building is the classical seminar}*, having a small lawn in front. 
After leaving the seminary the monastery lodge is reached in 
two or three minutes. This lodge is really a large two-story 
house, having from ten to twelve large rooms. As this lodge 
is outside the enclosure of the monastery, women as well as 
men are received in it. Here two lay brethren in their brown 
habits are always in attendance. At every hour of the day or 
night they are prepared to receive guests. Men who wish to 
see the interior of the monastery have no difficulty in gratify- 
ing their desire, for one of the brothers shows them with 
great courtesy all that is worth seeing — viz: the church, 
chapter room, dormitorv, refectory, cloisters, cemetery, sac- 
risty, shops, garden, library, etc. Although the monks are 
met with in all parts of the house they never speak to visitors, 
they are intent on their various duties and go through them 
in silence. The numerous visitors never disturb them in the 
least, for the brother porter so manages that while the visitors 
are in the immediate vicinity of the brethren, they speak only 
in a low whisper. The brethren, though they are devoted to 
solitude and to seclusion and to silence, are not misanthropes, 
but, on the contrary, have very warm feelings for their fellow 
men, and hence are not disturbed when seeing them in the 
monasterv." 1 

This first foundation of Trappists in Ireland was fruitful in 
results. Not only did the abbey prosper, but its prosperity 

1 This description of Mt. Melleray is from the manuscript, kindly given 
to the author of the monograph by its writer, the Rev. Father Placid, who 
spent many years in Mt. Melleray, and is now Sub-Prior of New Melleiay. 


The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 35 

became so great, and its condition so crowded, that in about 
1 S3 5, e\ - en before the monaster}' was completed, a few breth- 
ren were sent to England where an Abbe)' was founded, 
though under the affiliation of Melleray, in the same year. 
This Abbey is called Mt. St. Bernard, and is situated in Lei- 

Father Vincent, in order that his monks might contribute 
in some way to the public good, appointed a few choir breth- 
ren to conduct a classical school attached to the monastery. 
This is found in the seminary aboye alluded to. 1 This estab- 
lishment was successful from its inception, and is to-day a 
prominent school in the county of Waterford. A part of the 
Abbey church was given up to the use of the public, and 
priests were appointed to take charge of it. This arrange- 
ment also was successful, and at the present time there are 
ten or twelve priests of the Abbey devoted to the services of 
the public. 

Abbot Vincent died in 1S45, and to him succeeded a Su- 
perior who held office only until 1848, and was followed by 
Abbot Bruno, who still governs Mt. Melleray. It was in his 
time that the emigration to the United States occurred which 
resulted in the foundation of the Abbey of New Melleray in 
Dubuque County, Iowa. 


The history of the Trappist Abbeys which have been 
described in the earlier portions of this monograph finds its 
final outcome for the State of Iowa in the existence of New 
Mellerav. Between Monte Cassino and the monastery which 
rises not far from the Mississippi, the connection, though 
extending through centuries, is distinct and plain. Monte 
Cassino, Cluny, Molesme and Citeaux; Monte Cassino, Fon- 

1 Supra, p. 34. 

1 The sources for the history of New Mellerav are, records of the Abbey, 
manuscripts written by the monks, and oral information kindly given the 
author by the Father Superior, and by Father Placid, Sub-Prior. 

■;■■ 1 




36 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

trevault, Savigni, La Trappe, Citeaux. The stream of monas- 
ticism which flowed from that Italian summit of the Appen- 
nines, though divided into man}- channels for six centuries, 
found its legitimate expression in the Cistercian reforms, and 
in that, attracted perhaps insensibily, united those monas- 
teries of the older order which were situated on different 
sides of France. Citeaux becomes therefore a new point of 
departure, and from this La Trappe, Valsainte, St. Susan of 
Lullworth, Melleray, and Mt. Melleray are distinct ancestors 
in the pedigree of New Melleray. 

We will preface the history of New Melleray with a brief 
description of its situation. This Abbey is situated in the 
State of Iowa, about twelve miles southwest of the city of 
Dubuque. The approach to it from the city is by the mili- 
tary road for ten miles, a road which unlike most American 
roads is macadamized. Thence for perhaps two miles the 
road is undulating, winding over hills, and through valleys. 
At the end of ten miles one turns abruptly to the right and 
passes into a forest. This forest is penetrated by a road 
which has been constructed by the monks, and which is car- 
ried on roughly laid blocks of stone across a number of deep 
ravines. As one plunges from the light and splendor of the 
'summer's day into these darker recesses, the mind is well 
prepared for the stillness and quiet of the Abbey. Emerging 
from the forest road, the Abbey is seen at a little distance, 
and the cross crowning a gentle elevation. 

As the Trappists invariably select quiet and remote situa- 
tions for their monastery, so the site of New Melleray is no 
exception to the general rule. The immediate grounds of 
the Abbey are surrounded by a high, close fence, the gates 
of which are usually kept locked. The lodge and the house 
for strangers which exist in older establishments i have not 
yet been erected here. On the contrary, the stranger is 
received at a side door of the main building which opens into 

1 See title Mt. Melleray, p. 29 supra. Also title Other Customs and 
Ceremonies, infra, p. 54. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 37 

a hall and reception room. Here he is entertained by the 
guest-father, in this monastery, the Sub-Prior. Hither too 
comes the Superior or Abbot to welcome his guests. As 
hospitality is one of the most ancient and valued privileges of 
the monks, and is enjoined upon them by the Rule of St. 
Benedict, 1 refreshment is early offered to the guests. This 
is sometimes brought to the reception room, but more often 
the guests are conducted to the strangers' refectory. The 
guest-father, or a lay brother who is assigned to that duty, 
devotes himself to the comfort and convenience of the strang- 
ers, and they are shown all objects of interest in the monastery 
and about it. 2 Should a desire be expressed to remain a night 
or to spend some time at the Abbey, a pleasant room is pro- 
vided and the comfort of the stranger is assiduously observed. 
It is unnecessary to say to those familiar with the customs of 
foreign lands that, at departing, a sum of money, such as the 
visitor is able to spare, or such as he thinks is a just equiva- 
lent for his entertainment, or such as his conscience dictates, 
should be quietly given to the guest-father to be bestowed in 

The grounds immediately surrounding the monastery are 
laid out with much beauty. To the rear of the building ex- 
tend two distinct avenues of trees resembling cloisters — the 
branches having been trained so as to form an arch overhead. 
In this secluded and silent retreat the monks may be seen 
walking in their brief moments of leisure. One seems to be 
within the nave of some great cathedral, the light dimly fall- 
ing through the boughs above. These cloistral avenues are 
one of the chief beauties of New Melleray. Several well- 
kept gardens are also to be seen, and the graveyard with its 
simple crosses familiarizes the monks with the thought of 
death. Nor do they think of this as a foe. During the build- 
ing of the monastery the monks resided in a wooden house 
which is still in existence, and is considered and used at 

1 Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 53. 
1 See Mt. Melleray, p. 29, supra. 

38 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

present as a sort of lodge. The general dimensions and ap- 
pearance of the Abbey are somewhat as follows: 

The stone Abbey was first inhabited in 1875, twenty-six 
years after the laying of its corner-stone in 1849. This build- 
ing, which is not yet finished, neither the church nor the 
cloister being complete, extends in the form of a partly com- 
pleted cross two hundred and twelve feet in the longer arm 
and one hundred and twenty in the shorter. These arms are 
thirty-five feet wide. Within them are contained the various 
apartments which constitute the home of the monks. The 
Abbey is built of limestone. The walls are laid carefully and 
firmly. Not far from it on a slight elevation is the cross 
which indicates the neighborhood of a monastery- Upon its 
walls ivy is growing, and the Abbey, even since 1S75, has 
assumed an appearance of some age and antiquity. 


The Abbey of Mt. Melleray, County Waterford, Ireland, 
became overcrowded with members. The land was unpro- 
ductive and not well adapted to the support of so large a 
community, and, as France was closed against them, and the 
Abbey of St. Bernard had already been established in Eng- 
land, it was thought best by Abbot Bruno to attempt the 
settlement of a branch of the community in America. After 
much deliberation Father Bernard McCaffrey and Brother 
Anthony Keating were chosen by Abbot Bruno as the pio- 
neers of the movement and were instructed to select, if possi- 
ble, a desirable place for a Trappist establishment in America. 
They left Mt. Melleray on the 25th of July, 184S, and arrived 
at length in New York, but they effected nothing at once. 
After some time they were invited by a friend in Pennsylvania 
to inspect a locality in Bedford Count}- of that State, but this 
place did not prove satisfactory, and was therefore rejected. 
Soon after this decision was readied, Brother Anthony re- 
turned to Mt. Melleray, and Father Bernard determined to go 


The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 39 

to the Trappist monastery of Gethsemane, in Nelson Count}*, 
Kentucky, which had been founded in 1800. Here he was 
entertained kindly, but remained for some time in a sort of 
forced inaction. The Abbot of Mt. Melleray was not dis- 
couraged and was still determined to find a suitable place for 
his monks who overcrowded his monastery, and so in January, 
1S49, two were sent out as an advance guard. These were 
Father Clement Smyth and Brother Ambrose Byrne, who 
sailed in the steamship Sarah Sands. These were as unsuc- 
cessful as the others had been and nothing was accomplished. 
An unforeseen accident however resulted in the foundation 
of New Mellerav when the direct efforts of Father Bruno 
had seemed unavailing. Early in 1S49 Bishop Loras, of 
Dubuque, who was travelling in Europe, visited the Abbey of 
Mt. Melleray, and expressed a strong desire to have a colony 
of Trappists founded in his diocese. He offered them a tract 
of prairie land lying about twelve miles from the city of 
Dubuque in a southwesterly direction. Abbot Bruno immedi- 
ately determined to accept the offer if the situation was favor- 
able, and wrote directly to Father Clement in America about 
the offer in Dubuque. Father Clement sent Brother Ambrose 
to examine the land and its location. Upon close inspection 
it satisfied Father Ambrose, and, considering it an eligible 
site for a Trappist monastery, he accepted the offer. A place, 
therefore, in America had been found for the second Trappist 
colony in the United States. The acceptance of Brother 
Ambrose was ratified by Abbot Bruno, and the latter immedi- 
ately sailed for America. He hastened to Dubuque across 
a county unsuppiied with good means of intercommunication, 
bringing with him Father James O'Gorman and some lay 
brethren. The names of the lay brothers were: Brothers 
Timothy, Joseph, Barnabv and Macarius. On the 16th of 
Jul}- of that same year of 1849, Abbot Bruno, of Mt. Melleray 
in Ireland laid the foundation of New Melleray Abbey in 
Dubuque County, Iowa. Seven monks were present on this 
occasion. Three of them were priests, viz: the Abbot Bruno, 
Father James O'Gorman and Father Clement Smyth. Father 

4 o 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray 

O'Gorman was appointed the first Superior, and Abbot 
Bruno returned to Ireland. 

Again, on the ioth of September, 1849, sixteen members 
of the Mt. Melleray establishment were sent out to New Mel- 
leray. One was a priest, viz: Father Patrick Mahon; two 
were choir brethren, viz: Brothers Bernard Murphy and 
Benedict McNevin, and sixteen were lay brothers. This de- 
tachment sailed from Liverpool for New Orleans on board 
the sailing ship " The Carnatic of Boston." Six of these 
brothers died of cholera as they came up the Mississippi, and 
their bodies repose at different places along its banks. 

But the emigration from Mt. Melleray had not ceased. 
Neither the fate of their brethren, who had died upon the 
way, nor the long and wearisome journey could deter them, 
and so, on the 12th of April, 1850, a third detachment of 
twenty-three arrived at New Melleray. These were headed 
by Father Francis Walsh, who immediately became Superior. 
Up to this date then, the 12th of April, 1850, Mt. Melleray 
had sent to Dubuque between forty and fifty of its inmates. 
Of the last detachment twenty-two were Irishmen and one, 
Brother Jules, was a Frenchman. Thus, by 1S50 the new 
Abbey had entered vigorously upon its American life, and the 
settlement of Trappist monks in Iowa was no longer tentative 
but an established fact. It may be interesting and useful to 
append a brief sketch of the eight Superiors 1 who have ruled 
the Abbey since 1849. 


Father James O'Gorman was appointed the first Superior 
on the 15th of July, 1849, the very day the institution, organ- 
ized as a community, began its existence. It was understood 
from the beginning that Father James was to be onlv tempo- 
rarily a Superior. He was to remain in office only until such 

1 The technical difference between an Abbot and a Superior is that the for- 
mer is elected by his monks and blessed by a Bishop. The latter is appointed 
by the house to which the monastery is subordinate, or, being elected bv his 
own monks, is subordinate to the mother house. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 41 

time as another from Mt. Melleray should arrive to take his 
place. Upon the arrival of his successor Father James resign- 
ed his office into his hands. Father James was a remarkably 
eloquent man, he was in all senses of the word an excellent 
preacher, and he is to the present time spoken of by the peo- 
ple living in the neighborhood of the Abbey as the " best 
preacher New Melleray has yet produced. 1 ' Father James 
was created afterwards Bishop of Nebraska, and died in 
Omaha in 1874- 


This Superior, who succeeded Father James O'Gorman, 
and was appointed by Abbot Bruno of Mt. Melleray, resigned 
his position after he had held it for two years. In the year 
1S58 he asked for and received permission to go on mission- 
ary duty. This characteristic of Father Francis — i. c, the 
desire to go into the world and preach the gospel — is quite 
unknown among the Trappists, but is a distinctive trait of the 
active orders of monks. It was most fully developed among 
the Friars, the followers of St. Francis and St. Dominic. 
Father Francis was a devoted priest for thirty years, and in 
18S8 returned to New Melleray where he still lives. His go- 
ing out to discharge missionary duty was an exceptional case. 


Father Clement was the third Superior. Hitherto the Su- 
periors had been appointed by the Abbot of Mt. Melleray. 
Now for the first time the monks were permitted to exercise 
their own choice. The new Superior proved to be an excel- 
lent one. He was kind, considerate, humble. A brother 
among brethren, he possessed the true community spirit, and 
in the pursuit of his ends — i. c, the advancement of the mon- 
astery in repute and of the monks in holiness — he made him- 
self all to all. There were no details of monastic life which 
were too trifling for him. Quietby, and indeed instinctively, 
he saw into everything, and with firmness or with severity, as 
one or the other was required by the occasion, advanced the 

42 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

interests of New Melleray. After holding office for about six 
years he became coadjutor to Bishop Loras, of Dubuque, and, 
after that prelate's death, succeeded him as Bishop of the Dio- 
cese. He soon became a favorite in Dubuque through his 
affability, his condescension, and his unfeigned kindness of 
heart. That same nature which had rendered him so beloved 
in the monaster}- produced a like effect in his diocese. He 
was beloved in every corner of it, and died universally regret- 
ted, after a comparatively brief enjoyment of his pastoral staff, 
in Dubuque in 1S65'. 


Father Ignatius Foley held office only part of one year. He 
then returned to his own monastery of Mt. Melleray, and di- 
rectly after his arrival took an active part in the conduct of 
the classical school attached to the Abbey, 1 and intended 
chiefly for the training of ecclesiastical students. Some years 
later he became president of the seminary, and still holds this 
office. He has been very successful in filling this position, 
and under his care man}- young men have been educated who 
are now priests in missionary work — some in America, others 
in Australia. 


Father Bernard, like Father James O'Gorman, held office 
only until such time as another from Mt. Melleray should 
come to take his place. 


On the 25th of February, 1S59, Father Ephraim took office 
as Superior. He had been Prior and novice-master of Mt. 
Melleray. Through the agency and active assistance of 
Father Clement, then Bishop of Dubuque, the monastery was 
raised to the dignity of an Abbey, 2 and shortly after Father 

1 Supra, p. 35. 

2 The technical difference between an Abbey and a monastery is that an 
Abbey is generally exempted from Episcopal control. That is to say, the 

The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 43 

Ephraim was elected first Abbot 1 and blessed in the Cathe- 
dral of Dubuque, the sermon being preached on that occasion 
by the Bishop of Chicago. 

Abbot Ephraim held his office for a little more than twenty- 
one years, and returned to Mt. Melleray in 1SS3. He is still 
living in the mother-monastery and is now in his seventy-first 
year. He was remarkable for his piety and austerity. He 
gave a considerable part of each day to private prayer; his 
attitude while thus engaged can hardly be forgotten by those 
who witnessed it. As long as his health permitted he observ- 
ed the rule to the letter, taking during half the year, Sundays 
excepted, but one meal in the day, and that at half after two 
in the afternoon, having arisen at two o'clock in the morning. 
He took his part in the hardest and most menial field labor, 
and made himself all in all to his brethren. His humility was 
remarkable, for, although Abbot and Superior, he made 
everyone feel that honors and distinctions and dignities were 
nothing to him but burdens. 


About six weeks after the resignation of Abbot Ephraim, 
Father Alberic became Superior of New Melleray. He had 
also held the office of master of novices at Mt. Melleray. 
He was looked upon there as a thorough Trappist, a strict 
observer of the rule, and his manner, naturally grave and 
serious, was a perpetual lesson for his novices. At New Mel- 
lerav, and in his new position as Superior, he proved himself 
a thorough Trappist. He was full of ardor and full of zeal. 
He retired from office in 1SS9, after having governed the 

Bishop of the diocese has no inherent right to interfere in the affairs of an 
Abbev which are managed by its Abbot and its monks. Different regulations 
mav exist in different cases, but as a rule an Abbey is independent. 

'• The Abbot in the middle ages was a most important personage, wearing 
the insignia of a Bishop, and entirely independent of the Bishop of the diocese 
in the exercise of his authority. The Abbot is elected by the monks of his 
Abbey and owes, as a rule, no allegiance to any superior power except, as in 
the case of the Trappists, to the Pope, and La Grande Trappe, the mother- 


The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

community almost six years. He is now Prior, or second in 

authority in the community. 

' : 

In September, 1889, Father Louis succeeded Father Alberic, 
and is the present Superior. He came from Mt. Melleray as I • 

did his predecessor. In that community he held several im- 
portant offices. He was successively sub-prior, master of 
novices, and procurator. Even while discharging some of 
these community offices he took a leading part in conducting 
the Mt. Melleray ecclesiastical seminary. For years he taught 
the class in philosophy, and with success, and many of his 
pupils are to-day hard-working priests in many parts of the 
United States. 

The character of Father Louis, who is now in his forty-first 
year, can be described in a few words. He has wonderful 
self-control, he is never taken by surprise. No event, how- 
ever unexpected, seems to disturb his equanimity. He seems 
always prepared for any emergency and his temper is never 
ruffled. He has great force of mind, but there is no violence, 
no anger. He appears to take in at a glance his complicated 
duties as Superior, and then with intense force of mind, and 
free from all bitterness and violence, he accomplishes his ends 
without occasioning any pain to his brethren, and without any 
harshness of action. His self-possession, his gentleness and 
his firmness make his government efficient, and a light yoke 
on the community. 1 

The history of the Abbey since its foundation must be 
viewed in the light of its spiritual and its temporal develop- 
ment. The establishment of a community so ascetic upon the 
prairies of Iowa is, in itself, a remarkable circumstance. There 
is but one other Trappist Abbey in the United States, that of 
Gethsemane, in the Slate of Kentucky. The reasons which 

1 This brief sketch of the various Superiors of New Melleray is chiefly 
from MSS. furnished to the author by Reverend Father Placid of that Abbey. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 45 

induced the Abbot of Mt. Melleray to accept the offer of the 
Bishop of Dubuque were simple ones. The offer was the 
most generous which had been made, and Dubuque is, as is 
well known, strongly Catholic. Perhaps the early French 
settlers determined the religion of that part of Iowa; at any 
rate, the proportion of Roman Catholics in Dubuque County 
is far above the average in the State. The knowledge of 
this circumstance may have had some effect in leading Abbot 
Bruno to determine upon the acceptance of Bishop Loras' 
offer. Since the arrival of the Trappists this religious belief 
has spread. But it may be doubted whether, outside of the 
immediate vicinity of the Abbey, its influence in determining 
the religious views of the population of the county has been 
marked. There has been erected a parish church near the 
Abbey in which the monks preach every Sunday, and the 
neighboring community is very strongly of the Catholic faith, 
and very regular in its attendance at the services of the church. 
The monks have been an important factor in impressing the 
neighboring inhabitants with the conviction that there are 
some persons who are willing to devote themselves entirely to 
the interests of their own souls, and to the good of their 
neighbors. This latter duty the Trappists are eager to fulfill, 
and do fulfill in many ways—/, e., in charity, in preaching, and 
in many good works. Thus, although they are commonly and 
justly considered a community of ascetics, it is unjust to con- 
sider them as leading a life wholly selfish in its devotion to 
their own spiritual welfare and future happiness alone. Trap- 
pist priests have no objection whatever to undertake the work 
of the sacred ministry within their monastic enclosure, but it 
is foreign to their vocation to go out into the world for this 

They have also been of great advantage to the surrounding 
farmers by introducing improved methods of agriculture, and 
fine breeds of stock. As a horticultural and agricultural school 
was one of the most important features of Melleray Abbey 
in 1S30, so, although the same completeness of equipment 
is not to be found here, they have kept abreast of the times, 

46 The Trappist Abbey of New Meeeeray. 

and their stock farm has been renowned. The Cistercians 
have always been devoted to agricultural improvements, and 
the Trappists at New Melleray are no exception to the gen- 
eral and ancient rule. The grounds of the Abbe}' which are 
neatly kept, the avenue already mentioned, and in fact all the 
improvements which are to be seen in the neighborhood of the 
Abbey, are the work of their own hands. It has taken many 
vears to bring these cloistral avenues to their present perfec- 
tion, but thev are the work of lime and the labor of the monks. 
The gift of Bishop Loras of seven hundred acres of land 
was the nucleus of the estate which thev now possess, and 
which consists of more than two thousand acres. The land 
is rolling and diversified with more undulations than is 
common in the interior of the State. Grain is raised to some 
extent — greatly wheat — -which is nearly all used in the monas- 
tery, for bread forms a very large and important article of 
their food. Scarcely any of the grain is sold, for the corn 
and other grains besides wheat are used for the stock. They 
have been great stock-raisers, and their income depends 
greatly on this product. It is perhaps enough to say here 
that their stock is famous and is in good demand. A tran- 
script from the auditor's books in the appendix will indicate 
the amount of their property. 1 

About the monastery are several gardens where all sorts of 
vegetables are raised, these being an important article of diet. 
Grapes also are to be seen growing, and from them a simple 
and pure wine is made, for the use of the monastery, and for 

They pursue upon their estate the lives of great proprie- 
tors of land, and feel the same responsibilities for its proper 
improvement that is felt by lay owners of property. The lay 
brothers, whose hours of manual labor are more in number 
than those of the choir brothers, are not numerous enough to 
adequately cultivate all the lands, and therefore many labor- 
ers are employed, and some of the land is leased. 

1 Appendix V. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 47 

In a word, since the founding of the Abbey, its spiritual 
and temporal prosperity have been marked. Some years ago 
a considerable debt was incurred, from no fault of the monks. 
But this is now rapidly decreasing and will soon, under the 
able management of the present Superior, be entirely liqui- 
dated. When the debt was incurred man) 7 kind friends of the 
community came forward, and, along with their heart-felt svm- 
pathv, proffered substantial help. Among these kind friends 
there is one never to be forgotten by the inmates of the New 
Melleray. This is Hon. W. j. Knight of the city of Dubuque. 
His solicitude for the distressed community was more than 
paternal, his time and distinguished abilities were most unsel- 
fishly devoted to its interests, and the community feels that 
under God they are indebted to him for its continued exist- 

The property is purely communistic property. All have 
the same rights to have their temporal wants supplied, but no 
one has any special right, no one can claim an)- portion of the 
property his own, no one can will any portion of it to another. 
Novices, before profession, if they choose to leave the com- 
munity can take with them the property they may have 
brought with them, and it remains their own so long as they 
have not united themselves to the community irrevocably. 


Before beginning an account of the Trappist discipline in 
New Melleray, and the austere observance of St. Benedict's 
Rule, it must be premised that the observances of Trappist 
monasteries differ slightly in minor details. Though all of 
them practice an ascetic life, the degree of asceticism varies 
for different reasons. 

The colony which followed Dom Augustine to Valsainte in 
Switzerland, at the time of the French Revolution, was actu- 
ated by the conviction that the exigencies of the times, which 
seemed to threaten religion itself with destruction, required 

0,. Si 

48 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

the most extreme and exact, not to say exaggerated interpre- 
tation of St. Benedict's Rule, and a return to the austerities of 
Citeaux in their most rigid form. 1 These, as has been said 
above, went even beyond the rule laid down by De Ranee. 
There arose, therefore, when the Revolution was over and 
peace was again restored, a dispute among the Trappists of 
different monasteries as to whether the original rule of Citeaux 
or the rule of De Ranee should be followed. In order to give 
the highest sanction to any decision the question was carried 
to the Papal Curia, and by a bull of the Pope, dated October, 
1S34, it was provided that "with regard to fasts, prayer, and 
chanting in the choir they shall follow the rule of St. Bene- 
dict, or the constitutions of Abbe Ranee, according to the rec- 
ognized rule of each monastery." 2 

By the rule of St. Benedict here mentioned is intended to be 
meant that rule as interpreted by the monks of Citeaux. This 
bull, however, was not sufficiently definite entirely and sat- 
isfactorily to. solve the difficulties of the case. 

But with a view to a sort of compromise, the entire number 
of monasteries was divided into three congregations, viz: the 
congregation of La Grande Trappe, following the primitive 
constitutions of the order of Citeaux; that of Sept-Fons, fol- 
lowing the constitution of De France; and the congregation of 
Belgium, following the latter rule somewhat modified. 3 

The Abbey of La Grande Trappe is considered the mother- 
house, and gives a name to the congregation to which Melle- 
ray, Mt. Melleray, and New Melleray all belong. The 
Abbey of New Melleray follows the more rigid observance 
of the old rule of Citeaux, as interpreted by Dora Augustine 
at the Abbey of Valsainte. 

There exist two classes of the religious professed, viz: the 
Choir Brothers, and the Lay Brothers. The first are chosen 
from among men who have been well educated and have a 

1 See supra, p. 6. 

* See Appendix I. 

• See Appendix II. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Meleeray. 49 

knowledge of the Latin tongue. To this duty they consecrate 
six or seven hours in the day. The remainder of their time 
is occupied in manual labor, in meditation, in reading alone 
and in prayer. 

The dress of the choir brother, when in dress of ceremony, 
is a long and wide tunic, called the cowl, made of white wool- 
en cloth, with flowing sleeves, and attached to it is a capouch 
or hood. When at work they wear a dress of white woolen 
upon which is fixed a black scapular with a leathern girdle. 

The lav brothers, among whom are often found men of dis- 
tinguished origin, who prefer from various reasons to occupy 
this inferior rank, are employed especially in the cultivation of 
the "-round, and in fulfilling the various duties, more or less 
menial, which exist in the community. They spend the most 
of their time in manual labor upon clays when work can be 
done outside of the monastery. Their dress is of brown stuff, 
and in place of the cowl they wear a long garment without 
sleeves, but with a hood. Their hair is cut close. 

The use of linen is forbidden to all the religious, and they 
wear next the skin a shirt of coarse serge. 

Besides the choir brothers and the lay brothers there are to 
be found in the monastery the novices. These are admitted 
provisionally to try their strength, and power of endurance of 
the severe austerities of the Order, as well as fitness of voca- 
tion, if, after two years' trial, they still desire it, they are 
admitted by vote to the number of religious professed. They 
then pronounce their vows for three or five years. 1 This 
ceremony is followed by the final vows which seclude them 
forever from the world. These novices may be either of the 
choir or lay brothers. Their dress differs from that of the 
fully professed—/, c, the novices of the choir wear a white 

i Bcnoist, Felix. Notice sur VAbbaye dc X.-D. dc La Trafpc de Afellcray, 
p. S;. Pope Pius IX. decreed that all Trappists, wherever they might be 
found, should pass two years before taking the simple vows, and after this 
three vears more before taking the final and irrevocable ones. Feria IV. 
February 5, 1S6S. 

50 The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 

robe, but not the cowl, their scapular and its hood is white 
and not black, and their girdle is of wool and not of leather. 

The total number in the community is fifty-four. Of these 
fifteen are choir brothers, and thirty-nine are lay brothers. 
Six of the fifteen choir brothers are novices, and six of the 
lay brothers are novices. Thirteen members of the commu- 
nity are priests. Eleven members of the community are 
American born, the others are foreign by birth. It is difficult 
to find the exact number who in different decades have inhab- 
ited New Mellerav, but in 1S62 there were forty-eight pro- 
fessed members, and in 1S92 there are forty-two. As will 
be easily seen this is the sum total of fifty-four minus the 
twelve novices. Of fully professed choir brothers there are, 
therefore, but nine, the balance of the fift}--four members of 
the communitv being made up of lay brothers and of novices. 

The government of the Abbev is vested in the Abbot or 
Superior as the case mav be. This officer is immediately 
responsible to the Vicar General of the congregation, viz., 
the Abbot of La Grande Trappe, then to the President Gen- 
eral of the Cistercians who resides at Rome, and finally and 
ultimately to the Pope. The Abbot wears no insignia of his 
dignitv save a cross of wood supported by a cord of violet 
silk, and a simple ring. But when he ministers at the altar at 
high ceremonials he is obliged to wear his pontifical robes and 
mitre. 1 

The Abbot enjovs no better food, no richer dress and no 
softer bed than the other brothers. lie presides from the 
Abbot's seat in the chapter, he receives professions, he dis- 
tributes einplovments and imposes penances. The well-being 
of the Abbev from both a spiritual and temporal point of 
view depends essentially upon the Abbot. In pietv he is the 
model of the monks, and upon his business capacity depends 
to a great extent the prosperity of the community. His power, 
with the exceptions noted above, is nearly absolute, his word 
is law and his commands must be carried out. As the monks 

1 These differ slightly from those of a Bishop. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 51 

themselves elect him, they can also propose his deposition to 
the proper authorities, but this exigency is almost unknown. 

Next to the Abbot in dignity is the Prior, who in case of 
necessity takes the Abbot's place, and whose business it is to 
look after those matters which the Abbot is debarred from 
attending to on account of the multiplicity and insistence of 
his monastic duties. An officer called the Sub-Prior assists 
the Prior in his duties The cellarer has direct charge of the 
temporal affairs of the Abbey, and directs the work as it is 
laid out by the Abbot. In larger houses there are one or 
more tinder-cellarers. Besides these officers there are also 
others whose duties are indicated by their titles, viz., the Mas- 
ter of Novices, the Secretary, the Master of Lay Brethren, 
the Guest-Father, the Physician, the Druggist, the Master of 
the Infirmary, and the Librarian. The Abbey, as will be 
easilv seen, is a well organized and methodically managed 
institution, with a fixed and substantial basis and equipage of 


In order to understand the terms which must be used in 
speaking of the exercises of the Trappists the following ex- 
planation of the canonical divisions of the twenty-four hours 
will be found essential. The twenty-four hours of the day 
were divided by the church into seven parts, to each of which 
services were assigned. 

I. Matins and Lauds: from midnight until Prime, com- 
mencing about 3 A. M. (In the case of the Trappists 
at 2 a. M. ) 
II. Prime; at 6 A. M. 

III. Tierce; at 9 a m. 

IV. Sect; at 12 (or noon). 
V. JYone; at 2 or 3 r. M. 

VI. J'espers; at 4 p. M. 
VII. Compline; about 7 P« M. 1 

1 J. J. Bond, Book for Verifying Dales, p. 312. 

52 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 


They rise at 2 a. m., and then spend two hours in prayer. 
From 4 to 5:30 masses are going on. At 5:30 the canonical 
office of Prime is sung, and then the chapter exercises follow. 
These are over about 6 o'clock. Then the brothers go to the 
dormitory to arrange their beds, and after that they go to 
the refectory for collation. After collation the choir broth- 
ers have spiritual reading or private devotion until almost 8 
o'clock. At that time the community assembles in choir for 
the office of Tierce and Community mass. After Community 
mass is said, they engage in labor until 11:30, and then as- 
semble again in choir for the office of Sect and the Angelus. 
At 12 o'clock work is resumed, but the priests study until 2 
o'clock. At 2 the office of None is sung in choir, and immedi- 
ately after the Brethren go to the refectory for dinner. The 
time from the end of dinner till 4:15 is given by the choir 
brothers to pious reading, private devotion or study. At 
4:15 they assemble again in choir for Vespers, which office ■' 

together with meditation lasts until 5 :I 5- After Vespers the 
time is again given to the same exercises as before Vespers 
until 6 o'clock. From 6 o'clock until 7 the brethren are 
occupied with public spiritual reading and the office of Com- 
pline and night prayer, and at 7 retire to the dormitory. 


The Lav Brothers spend two hours every morning in 
prayer and private spiritual reading. At 4 o'clock they assist 
at mass and serve the masses. At 5:30 they take their 
collation in the refectory and spend the time until nearly 2 
o'clock in the afternoon in manual labor. This they resume 
again after dinner, viz: at 3 o'clock, and leave work at a 
quarter before six. From 6 to 7 they join the choir brethren :. 

at the public spiritual reading and at the office of Compline 
and night prayers. These are the winter exercises; the sum- 
mer exercises differ principally in the addition of one or two 
additional hours of manual labor. The summer exercises 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 53 

begin at Easter and continue until the Feast of the Exaltation 
of the Holy Cross, on the 14th of September. 


Nothing is more simple than the daily food of the Trap- 
pists. In New Melleray two meals are taken during the day 
bv all, viz: one early in the morning, the second at 2:30 
p. m. 1 The dinner consists of: 1st, a soup made of veget- 
ables simply cooked in salted water. In this can be mingled 
a little milk. 2d, of a plate of rice or of vegetables generally 
cooked in milk. To these two courses is added a dessert of 
fruit either raw or cooked. Milk is not prohibited during 
Advent, Lent, and on fast days of the church, except Good 
Frida}\ 2 All then accommodate themselves to the dresssing 
of the vegetables with salt and water only. This same pro- 
hibition during the same season extends to cheese or dessert. 
No fish or flesh are ever served in the refectory. Beer, wine 
and eggs are prohibited to those who are in good health, oil 
is not permitted to be used except for salad. Every day 
twelve ounces of excellent bread, baked in the monastery, is 
given to each religious, and he can always have potatoes in 

As a rule the Trappists drink only water. While the rule 
does not interdict cider, beer or wine, provided the latter is 
the "wine of the district," these are not often taken at New 
Mellerav. The measure of the drink whether at breakfast or 
dinner is about a pint. Sometimes the water is flavored with 
the juice of fruits. 

In the midst of the refectory is a raised chair from which 
during each repast one of the monks, appointed for that pur- 

1 In the European monasteries the early meal is generally omitted and the 
first meal of the day is taken at about 11:30. A collation is then served 
towards evening. The exigencies of the American climate, and the habits of 
American life have brought about the custom of taking an early meal. 

2 In the French monasteries milk is prohibited during Advent, Lent and on 
fa>t days of the church. 



The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray 

pose, reads some passage from the Holy Scriptures, from the 
lives of the Saints, or other pious books. Sometimes persons 
well known are admitted to the refectory to eat with the 
monks. In this case the Abbot, after the repast, washes the 
hands of the guests according to an old custom. But usually 
guests are entertained in the strangers' refectory. 

All the religious sleep in the dormitory which is a long 
apartment containing a hundred beds or more. These beds 
are arranged along one aisle which traverses the dormitory. 
They are separated from each other by partitions six or seven 
feet high, and at the entrance of each from the aisle is hung 
a simple curtain. The mattress is of straw, the pillow is also 
of straw and their covering is as light as practicable. The 
Trappists retire to the dormitory at 7 o'clock in winter and at 
8 o'clock in summer, and recline upon their beds without un- 
dressing. They sleep in their robes, the cowl only being 
removed, and the shoes. 

Silence is absolute among the Trappists. They speak only 
with the permission of the Superior. In their manual labor 
sicns and gestures answer the lack of words, and are found 
to suffice. The Abbot and the Guest Father and a few 
officers of the community are the only members of the com- 
munity who are permitted to speak without permission. The 
Superior and a few of the brothers appointed to wait on 
seculars alone speak to outsiders. It has been said, and many 
suppose that when one brother passes or encounters another 
he says, " Frere il faut mottrz'r." This however is only a 
myth! No such remark is made. Indeed without such a 
reminder the thought of death is familiar to them, and they 
content themselves on meeting with gestures of affection. 


At the reception of strangers in all Trappist monasteries 
where the "regular places" exist — i. e., the lodge, the guest- 
house, the church, etc., the following ceremonies are observed: 
Two religious present themselves clothed in their long white 

The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 55 

robes, and when they have approached the visitor they pros- 
trate themselves, and remain for some seconds immovable at 
his feet, with their foreheads upon the floor. They then 
invite the guest by a gesture to follow them and he is con- 
ducted to the church. On returning to the guest-house one 
of them reads a chapter of the Imitation of Christ. Then 
their mission is fulfilled and they retire. After this scene, 
which is extremely touching, the Guest-Father appears and 
the visitors are conducted into the monastery. 

This ceremony of reception is not used at New Melleray 
inasmuch as the lodge, the church and the strangers' house 
are not yet built. 

In the rule there is contained one provision which some- 
times has been stigmatized as a degradation, viz: the procla- 
mation of faults in Chapter. When the Chapter assembles, 
each religious acknowledges, in the presence of all, the 
breaches of the Rule of which he has been guilty, and each 
one in turn is accused of any breach of it, which he has omit- 
ted to mention, by a brother who may have observed it. In 
making this confession he prostrates himself upon the floor of 
the Chapter room, and receives in silence the reprimand of 
the Abbot. This ceremon}' occurs daily, and would seem, if 
anything could, to inculcate a spirit of humility. 

Everything in the monastery betokens a mortification of 
the senses and a close regard for the old austerities of Citeaux. 
Thus there is no gold or silver used about the altar, except 
for the holv vessels, and upon the altars are no decorations. 
This simplicity is Cistercian, and was first introduced at Mol- 
esme in contrast to the magnificence of the Abbey of Chin)-. 
It is most fully practiced at New Melleray. Music with the 
exception of the solemn chants of the choir is completely 

There is another usage which is significant. This is the 
custom of feet-washing. 1 This is practiced especially upon 

» It is unnecessary to mention the wide-spread prevalence of this custom. 
In the State of Iowa it exists in the Amana Society and among the Amish. 

56 The Trappist Asbey of New Mellssav. 

the evening of Hoi}- Thursday when the Abbot, the Prior 
occupying for the nonce the Abbot's chair, bathes and dries 
the feet of a dozen religious, while the feet of the rest of the 
community are washed by two other Fathers. This cere- 
mony of washing the feet is commemorative of our Lord's 
washing the feet of His disciples on Holy Thursday. 

When the Trappist comes to his last hour, if his state per- 
mit, he is placed upon his straw couch and upon cinders, 
clothed in his full habit. Around him the brothers pray for 
him until he has drawn his last breath. He is buried without 
a coffin, his robes are his shroud, and his last resting place is 
the cemetery of the monastery. A simple wooden cross 
bearing his monastic name and the date of his death is placed 
above him. 

It is not true, though oftentimes asserted to be true, that 
the Trappist digs his own grave. The story has arisen from 
the fact that immediately after the burial of one of them, they 
trace out the form of a new grave which is to be the resting 
place of the next who dies. 

Such is a brief history of the origin of the Trappists or 
Reformed Cistercians who practice at New Meileray the 
austerities which originated at Citeaux in 109S. Many re- 
flections which in a strictly historical sketch would be out of 
place suggest themselves to every thoughtful mind. Most 
strongly does the tenacity of the Rule which Saint Benedict 
proclaimed from Monte Cassino impress itself upon one who 
treads the cloisters of New Meileray. It is strange in the 
nineteenth century and on the banks of the Mississippi, in the 
midst of the new and vigorous west, to see the usages of 
thirteen centuries ago still active and fruitful — to behold the 
white robe of Citeaux and the brown scapular of Benedict, to 
know that within the walls of New Meileray the canonical 
offices of the Ancient Church are chanted, and that the com- 
munity preserves the customs of mediaeval times. The question 
cannot but present itself as to what will be the future of the 
Abbey. Will its members increase in number, will the Amer- 

The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 57 

ican monk replace the one of foreign birth, will the cross 
which now heralds a Cistercian house be thrown down, or 
will it multiply itself ? These questions time alone can fully 
answer. But like all other religious communities which 
seclude themselves from the world and build barriers against 
its stress of progress, it is not unlikely that this may find its 
isolation fatal, and that it ma}' prove to be the first and last 
Trappist Abbey west of the Mississippi. 

One feels this possible truth sadly, for the self-abnegation 
and the self-denial and the purity of the monks cannot but 
command respect even in the heart of one who cannot fully 
sympathize with them or their phase of religion. Their faces 
betoken a spiritual content. There are many of them men of 
education, their hearts are kind and full of love for their fel- 
low men. If such men can command respect when secluded 
from the world, what could they not have accomplished if 
they had been part and parcel of society ? 


The following brief of Pope Gregory XVI. established the 
status of La Grande Trappe, and the general government of 
the Order in the year 1S34. This decree of the Pope was 
made necessary by the disorders resulting from the French 
Revolution, and the extreme asceticism introduced into Val- 
sainte by Dom Augustine after the year 1791. 

" Kalendis Octobris, Anno 1S34. Eminentissimi et Rever- 
endissimi, D. D. S. R. E. Cardinales, Carolus Odescalchi, 
Prasfectus et Rector; Carolus Maria Pedicini, et Thomas 
Weld, a sanctissimo domino nostro Gregorio XVI. E. S. con- 
gregatione negotiis et consultationibus episcoporum, et regu- 
larium praeposita spectatius deputati, quo aptius monasteria 
Trappensium in Gallia instituantur et virtutibus florescant; 
auditus episcopis singularum diagcesium in quibus eadem mon- 
asteria erecta sunt, et audito Pater Antonio ab eadem S. con- 
gregatione visitatore deputato, censuerunt ea que sequuntur 
decernere et statuere. 

I. Monasteria omnia Trappensium in Gallia, unam con- 
gregationem constituant, quaa appellabitur congregatio mona- 
chorum Cistercensium Beatae. Mariae de Trappa. 

II. Huic moderator generalis ordinis Cistercencis prae- 
erit, et singulos abbates confirmabit. 

III. In Gallia vicarius generalis habeatur omni potestate 
pneditus ad congregationem recte administrandum. 

IV. Id muneris perpetuo conjunctum erit cum abbatia 
antiqui monasterii Beatae Maria? de Trappa, ex quo Trappen- 
ses initium habuerunt; ita ut singuli illius monasterii abbates 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 59 

canonice electi potestatum simul et munis vicarii generalis 

V. Quotannis vicarius generalis turn capitulum cele- 
brabit, reliquis abbatibus vel prioribus conventualibus accitis, 
turn etiam singula monasteria per se vel per alium abbatem 
visitabit : monasterium vero Beatae Mariee de Trappa a quatuor 
abbatibus monasteriorum Melleariensis, Portus Salutis, Belle- 
fontis et Gardiensis visitabitur. 

VI. Tota congregatio regulum Sancti Benedicti et con- 
stitutiones abbatis de Ranee observabit, salvis praescriptionibus 
quae boc decreto continentur. 

VII. Pareant decreto S. Ritum congregationis diei 20 
Aprilis, 1822, super rituali, missali, brevario et martyrologio 
quibus uti debebant. 

VIII. Labor manuum ordinarius aestivo tempore ultra sex 
horas, et ultra quatuor et dimidiam reliquo tempore non pro- 
ducatur. Quod vero ad jejunia, precationes, et cantum chori 
pertinet, aut S. Benedicti regulam, aut constitutiones abbatis 
de Ranee, ex recepto more cujusque monasterii sequantur. 

IX. Quae articulo octavo constituta sunt, ea praesides 
monasteriorum, moderari possunt et mitigare pro eis monachis 
quos ob aetatem, aut valetudinem, aut aliam justam causam, 
aliqua indulgentia dignos existimaverint. 

X. Quamvis monasteria Trappensium a jurisdictione 
episcoporum exempta sunt, ea tamen ob peculiares rationes et 
donee aliter statuatur, jurisdictioni eorundem episcoporum 
subsint qui procedant tanquam apostolicae sedis delegati. 

XI. Moniales Trappenses in Gallia ad banc congrega- 
tionem pertineant, et earum monasteria a jurisdictione, episco- 
porum non erunt exempta. Cura tamen uniuscujusque mon- 
asterii monialum uni aut alteri-monacbo proximioris monasterii 
committatur. Monacbos autem quos idoneos ad illud munus 
judicaverint episcopi delegant atque approbent, et confessarios 
extraordinarios e clero etiam seculari, deputare poterunt. 

XII. Constitutiones, quas moniales servare in posterum 
debebunt, judicio Sanctae ^edis subjiciantur. 

6o The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 

Hoc decretum S. S. D. N. Gregorius XVI. P. P. in audentia 
habita a D. secretario S. congregationis negotiis et consulta- 
tionibus episcoporum et regularium praeposita?, hac die 3 
Octobris, anno 1834, ratum in omnibus, habuit et confirraavit 
et servari mandavit. 

Carolus Card. Odescalchi, Prafccf. 
Joannes Archiep. Ephesinus, Secret. 


The first day of October, 1834, tne i'" Eminences, the Most 
Reverend Cardinals, Odescalchi, prefect and reporter, Charles 
Mary Pedicini, and Thomas Weld, members of the Sacred 
Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, and specially deputed 
by our Holy Father, Gregory XVI., to devise for the Trap- 
pist monasteries in France, a form of government, by which 
regularity might be more duly observed, and virtue flourish; 
a government founded upon the reports of the Bishops, in 
whose dioceses the monasteries are situated, and upon the 
relation of Father Anthony, appointed Visitor-General by the 
said congregation, have decided upon, and decreed the fol- 
lowing regulations: 

I. All the Trappist monasteries in France shall form 
one congregation, under the name of "The Congregation of 
Cistercian Monks of Our Lady of La Trappe." 

II. The President-General shall preside and confirm the 
election of the Abbots. 

III. There shall be in France a Vicar- General, vested 
with all necessary power for the proper government of the 

IV. This office shall be perpetually attached to the 
ancient Abbev of our Lady of La Trappe, from which the 
Trappists derive their origin: so the Abbots of this monastery, 
canonically elected, shall have the authority and the office of 

V. Every year the Vicar-General shall hold a general 
chapter, at which all the Abbots and conventual priors shall 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 6i 

assist. Moreover, he shall visit, either by himself or by some 
other Abbot, all the monasteries of the congregation. But 
the Abbe}* of our Lady of La Trappe shall be visited by the 
four Abbots of Melleray, Bellefontaine, Port du Salut, and 

VI. The whole congregation shall follow the Rule of St. 
Benedict, and the Constitutions of Abbe Ranee, save in certain 
regulations contained in the present decree. 

VII. They shall obey the decree of the Congregation of 
Rites, dated the 20th of April, 1S22, with respect to the Rit- 
ual, Missal, Breviary, and Martyrology, which they ought to 

VIII. The ordinary manual labor shall not exceed six- 
hours in summer, and four hours and a half the rest of the 
year. With regard to fasts, prayers, and chanting in the 
choir, thev shall follow either the Rule of St. Benedict, or the 
Constitutions of Abbe Ranee, according to the received usage 
of each monaster}-. 

IX. Superiors have power to modify and mitigate the 
regulations contained in Art. VIII, in favor of those religious 
who, thev believe, are deserving of some indulgence on ac- 
count of age, bad health, or some other lawful reason. 

X. Although Trappist monasteries are exempt from 
the jurisdiction of Bishops; nevertheless, for particular rea- 
sons, and until further instruction, they shall be subject to 
those Bishops who are delegates of the Apostolic See'. 

XI. The nuns of La Trappe, in France, shall be united 
to this congregation, but shall not be exempt from the juris- 
diction of the Bishops. Yet the spiritual direction of each 
convent shall be confided to one or two religious from the 
neighboring monastery. The Bishops shall choose, and ap- 
prove of the religious whom thev judge eligible for this 
emplovment. They have the liberty to depute, if they please, 
secular priests for confessors extraordinary. 

XII. The Constitutions which nuns shall observe here- 
after shall be submitted to the judgment of the Holy See. 
Our Holv Father, Gregory XVI., at an audience obtained 

62 The Trappist Abbev of New Mellerav. 

bv the secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and 
Regulars, on the 3d of October, 1S34, ratified and confirmed 
in all things, the present decree, and commanded it to be 

Cardinal Charles Odescalchi, Prefect. 

John, Archbishop of Ephesus, Secretary. 



L'Ordre de Citeaux a un President General, qui reside a 
Rome. C'est a lui qu'il appartient de confirmer, au nom du 
Saint-Siege Apostolique, les Abbes des divers Monasteres. 

Cet Ordre est aujourd'hui partage en trois Observances dis- 
tinctes: les Cisterciens de la Commune Observance, ceux de 
l'Observance de Senanque, et les Cisterciens Reformes, vul- 
gairement dits Trappists. 

La Commune Observance compte environ vingt-cinq Mon- 
asteres de Religieux et quarante-sept de Religieuses, situes en 
divers pays (Espagne, Italie, Autriche, Belgique, Polonge, etc.) 

L'Observance de Senanque, ou movenne Observance, se 
compose des six monasteres suivants: 

1. Abbaye de Senanque, Diocese d'Avignon, Vancluse. 

2. Abbave de Lerins, Diocese de Frejus, Alpes-Maritimes. 

3. N.-D. de Fontfroide, Diocese Carcassonne, Aude. 

4. N.-D. de Hautecombe, Diocese de Chambery, Savoie. 

5. N.-D. de Segries, Diocese de Digne, Basses- Alpes. 

6. Un Monastere des femmes, au merae Diocese, sous le 
vocable de N.-D. des Pres. 

1 Le Petit ct le Grand Exorde de Citeaux. 

Preface, pp. 411-421, (Soligni-la-Trappe Imprimerie de la Grande Trappe, 


The Trappist Abbev of New Melleray. 63 

Cette Congregation, d'origine recente, est administree par 
un Vicaire General, qui est l'Abbe de Lerins. 

L'Observance des Cisterciens reformes ou Trappists com- 
prend plus de quarante Monasteres d'hommes et quatorze de 
femmes, repartis en trois Congregations, dont l'une, la Con- 
o-rcgation de la Grandc-Trapftc, suit les Constitutions primi- 
tives de TOrclre de Citeaux, la seconde. celie de Scfit-jFou$, 
les reglements de l'Abbe de Ranee, et la troiseme, .appelee 
Congregation de Bclgique, les m ernes reglements lege rement 
modifies. Chacune de ces Congregations est gouvernee par 
un Vicaire General qui est, de droit. lAbbe de la Grande- 
Trappe, pour la Congregation qui observe les Constitutions 

Outre ces trois Congregations de la Trappe, il y a encore 
les Trappistes de Casamari en Italic, qui ne se rattaebment a 
acune d'elles, et qui possedent les trois Maisons de Casamari, 
Yalviscioli et Saint Dominique de Sora. 


Tons ces Jlonastcrcs sou/ Abbayes, saitf quclques-uns 
nouzxilement fondes. 


N.-D. de la Grande-Trappe, pres Montagne (Orne), au Dio- 
cese de Seez (siege du Vicaire General de la Congregation). 


X.-D. de Melleray, Bretagne (Loire-Inferieure), au Diocese 
de Nantes. 

N.-D. de Beliefontaine, pres Choiet (Maine-et-Loire), Dio- 
cese d' Angers. 

N.-D. d'Aiguebelle, pres Grignan (Drome), Diocese de 

N.-D. de Bricquebec, au Diocese de Coutances (Manche). 


N.-D. du Mont-Melleray, pres Cappoquin, Comte de Water- 
ford (Irlande). 


64 The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 

N.-D. du Mont-Saint-Bernard, au Comte de Leicester 

N.-D. de Thymadeuc, Diocese de Vannes (Morbihan). 

N.-D. de Staoueli, Diocese d' Alger (Afrique). 

N.-D. de Gethsemani, au Kentucky (Etats-Unis). 

N.-D. de la Nouvelie-Melieray, pres Dubuque-Iowa (Etats- 

N.-D. de Fontgombauld, Diocese de Bourges (Indre). 

N.-D. des Neiges, au Diocese de Viviers (Ardeche). 

Sainte-Marie du Desert, pres Caclours (Haute-Garonne ), 
au Diocese cie Toulouse. 

N.-D. des Dombes, au Diocese de Belle)- (Ain). 

Abbave des Trois-Fountaines, situee aux Eaux Salviennes, 
pres Rome, et dediee aux saints martyrs Vincent et Anastase. 
Elle est commende. Outre l'Abbe commendataire, qui est 
un Cardinal, il v a un Abbe regulier. 

N.-D. du Petit-Clairvaux, Nouvelle-Ecosse (Amerique). 

N.-D. de Divielle, pres Monfort (Landes), Diocese d'Aire. 

N.-D. dAcev, Diocese de Saint Claude (jura). 

N.-D. d'Ignv, pres d'Arcy-Ie-Ponsart (Marne), Diocese de 

N.-D. de Bonnecomce, Diocese de Rodez (Aveyron). 

N.-D. du Mont-Saint-Joseph par Roscrea, Comte de Tip- 
perary (Irlande). 

N.-D. du Lac, pres Montreal (Canada). 

N.-D. de Reichenbourg, Sty He (Autriche). 

N a S* de Bellpuig, province de Lerida (Espagne). 

N.-D. du Sacre-Cceur, i\ Akbes, par Alexandrette (Syrie). 


N.-D. des Gardes, au Diocese d' Angers (Maine-et-Loire). 
N.-D. de Vaise, a Lyon (dvbone). 
N.-D. de Maubec, Diocese de Valence (Drome). 
N.-D. de la Cour-Petral, pres la Ferte-Vidame, au Diocese 
de Chartres ( Eure-et-Loir). 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 65 

N.-D. de Blagnac, pres Toulouse (Haute-Garonne). 

N.-D. d'Espira de l'Agly, Diocese de Perpignan (P}>ren- 

N.-D. de Bonneval, pres Espalion (Aveyron), au Diocese 
de Rodez. 

Monastere de San Vito, Colline de Turin (Italie). 

N.-D. de Saint-Paul-aux-Bois, ores Blerancourt, au Diocese 
de Soissons (Aisne). 

N.-D. de Lanouveile, au Diocese de Nimes (Gard). 


N.-D. de Saint- Lieu-Sept-Fons, pres Dompierre (Allier), 
au Diocese de Moulins. 

N.-D. du Port-du-Salut, au Diocese de Laval (Mayenne). 

N.-D. du Mont-des-Olives (Alsace), Diocese de Strasbourg. 

N.-D. du Mont-des-Cats, Diocese de Cambrai (Nord). 

N.-D. de la Grace-Dieu, Diocese de Besangon (Doubs). 

N.-D. de la Double, Diocese de Perigueux (Dordogne). 

N.-D. de Chambarand, pres Roybon (Isere), au Diocese 
de Grenoble. 

N.-D. des lies, a Wagap (Nouvelle-Caledonie). 

N.-D. de Tamie (Savoie), Diocese de Chambery. 

Monastere de Mariastern, pres Banjaluca, en Bosnie (Tur- 
quie d'Europe). 

N.-D. de Resica, en Croatie (Autriche). 

Et deux autres Maisons, nouvellement fondees, l'une dans 
la province du Cap (Afrique meridionale), 1' autre en Chine 
pres Pekin. 



N.-D. de lTmmaculee-Conception, pres Laval (Mayenne). 
N.-D. de la Misericorde (CElenberg), au Diocese de Stras- 
bourg, en Alsace. 

Saint Joseph d'Ubexy, au Diocese de Saint-Die (Vosges). 
I Cet trois Monasteres sont gouvernes par une Abbesse). 

66 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

N.-D. du Sacre-Coaur, pres Macon (Saone-et-Loire), au 
Diocese d'Autun. 


Abbaye de N.-D. de Westmalle (Province d'Anvers), au 
Diocese de Malines. 

Abbaye de Sainte-Sixte (Flandre-occidentale), au Diocese 
de Bruges. 

Abbaye de Saint-Benoit, a Achel, au Diocese de Liege. 

Abbaye de N.-D. de Scounnont, a Forges-les-Chimav Dio- 
cese de Tournai. 


With respect to the statement that De Ranee established a 
stricter discipline than the Cistercian Institute, it is entirely 
incorrect; and likewise that he brought back the "austere 
primitive institute of St. Bennet." He desired to do so, but 
he feared that he and his religious would not be able to sup- 
port the rigorous fasts enjoined by the usages of Citeaux, and 
grounded upon the rule of St. Benedict. In 1672, on the 
Feast of All Saints, he commenced with his community the 
strict winter fast of taking but one meal in the day; and this 
net till after none, about half-past two p. m. They continued 
this fast till the following Easter, 1673. When De Ranee had 
remarked the weakness, the exhaustion of his brethren, he 
trembled for their health and adopted the following mitiga- 
tions: During the winter season, from the 14th of September 
till Easter, dinner was to be taken at twelve o'clock, except 
on the fasts of the church, when it was taken half an hour 
later. In the evening, there was a collation of two ounces of 
bread, with salad, milk or cheese; and on fasts of the church, 

1 Consult Les Riglcmens dc V Abbaye de Notre Dame dc la Trappe en Forme 
de Constitutions (1690); also Les Trappistes de VOrdre dc Citeaux au XIX. 
Siecle, etc., par M. Casimh" Gaillardin (2 vols., 1S44.) 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 67 

one ounce of bread. During the summer season, the dinner 
was taken at half-past ten A. M., and the collation at five in 
the evening. Compare these regulations of diet with the 
usages of Citeaux, or with the 41st chapter of St. Benedict's 
Rule, and it will be found as De Ranee himself states, that 
the strict observance of Citeaux was not observed at La 
Trappe in his time. 

On Sundavs and festivals a public conference was held 
for an hour, in which the brethren were allowed to speak 
upon spiritual and edifying subjects. This was undoubtedly 
a relaxation of the strict and perpetual silence enforced by the 
usages of Citeaux. at least with respect to public conversation. 
The choir religious had not so much manual labor under De 
Ranee as under St. Stephen. 


1 All these examples, though so interesting, will not affect 
you. my brethren, so sensibly, as the remembrance of the 
austerities practiced bv the holy founders of the Cistercian 
Order. The plan of life laid down by our fathers at the birth 
of this great Order, will place the dreadful state in which you 
behold it at present in the clearest light; and I doubt not, that 
when vou shall have considered the almost infinite distance 
that exists between the father and the children, you will ex- 
claim with St. Bernard, "Oh! the monks of those times, and 
those of our unhappy days." What a difference! Those 
saints proposed, as we have already said, the literal observ- 
ance of St. Benedict's Rule; such was their end, and they 
were influenced by divine inspiration; wherefore the}' rejected 
every interpretation and meaning by which the severity of 

1 De Ranee, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Ditties of the Monastic State. 
Vol. II., pp. I30-3 2 - 

6S The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

that rule might be alleviated or its purity altered. This same 
austerity they transmitted to their successors, as an obligation 
to which they called the attention of their minds and hearts, 
and commanded them to persevere unto the last moment of 
life; such is the express injunction of the charter of the 

Now to the end that they might live conformably to this 
duty, they would allow themselves no other food than pulse, 
herbs, roots and pottage; the sauce for which was nothing 
better than salt and water. Their bread was brown and 
coarse, they drank wine but very rarely, and it never appeared 
on their table without being previously mixed with water. 
On days of two meals their supper consisted only of plain 
vegetables, except during the harvest time. Eggs and fish 
were seldom known amongst them, except for the sick; they 
fasted conformably to St. Benedict's Rule, from the Exaltation 
of the Holv Cross to Easter, and from Whitsuntide to the mid- 
dle of September on all Wednesdays and Fridays; on all 
fasting days of the church they abstained from milk, butter, 
and cheese, which abstinence they likewise observed during 
Lent, Advent, and all Fridays throughout the year, except 
during the Pascal time. The first three Fridays of Lent they 
deprived themselves of one of the two ordinary dishes, and 
the three last they had nothing but bread and water; though 
their labors were extremely hard, and their night watchings 
very long. Yet so great was their love of Jesus Christ, that 
their penance was verv agreeable to them, and they even 
found pleasure and satisfaction in their sufferings. 

*But if we desire to know what the spirit of Saint Benedict 
is in this particular, we cannot address ourselves to more en- 
lightened masters than the holy founders of the Cistercian 
Order. Like so manv Esdrasses, they were chosen by God 
to re-establish the rule of that great saint, which was then no 
longer observed, and to revive his true spirit; for that end 

1 Dc /taiicc, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties of the Monastic 
State. Vol. II., pp. 141-3. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 69 

they resolved to take it in a purely literal sense, and to estab- 
lish its observance according to the true end of its institution, 
as we have before remarked: wherefore they rejected every 
meaning and explication which were not conformable to its 
puritv: they began by renouncing the use of flesh granted by 
the assembly of Aix-la-Chapelle; the} 7 established a rigorous 
and unlimited abstinence from all flesh, without distinction of 
quadrupeds or fowl. 

It is declared in the fourth chapter of the institutes, that 
none but those who are very sick and infirm shall be allowed 
the use of flesh, within the enclosure of any monastery of the 
Order; which permission is also extended to servants or 
tradesmen, who work for hire in the monastery. This is 
absolute, and admits of no distinction. 

This statute has been frequently renewed on several occa- 
sions, and we find it forbidden elsewhere under the pain of 
corporal chastisement, to all and every person of the Order, to 
eat flesh in any place out of the infirmary, though he should 
be commanded to do so by the Bishop. And it is morever 
enjoined, that no Abbot on account of recent bleeding, or any 
such like pretext, shall presume to eat flesh, unless he is 
attacked with a real malady, or fit of sickness. And this is 
also absolute. 

We find a similar prohibition in another place: behold here 
a summary of what it enjoins. Let the injunctions of the 
rule, relative to the use of flesh meat, be inviolably observed, 
namely, that no member of the order shall eat meat out of the 
infirmary, under pain of excommunication, 1 to be incurred, 
ipso facto, or by the very act; if the offender be an officer, he 
shall be deposed, nor shall he be reinstated in an}- charge or 
employment, without a permission being first obtained of the 
general chapter for that purpose; if he be only a private relig- 
ious, he shall be deprived of the religious habit during two 
months for every offense; this is also absolute. 

There is also a constitution of Pope Benedict the XII., 

1 Monastic, not ecclesiastical excommunication. 

70 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

who having been a religious of the Cistercian Order, was per- 
fectly well acquainted with its true spirit and observances, for 
he drew up the constitution of which we speak, and proposed 
it as a remedy against the relaxations which were introduced. 
He speaks thus: "Let no religious or Abbot, in future, pre- 
"sume to eat meat out of the common infirmary, or any food 
"prepared with ingredients of the like nature, contrary to 
"what has been so long established in this Order: we re- 
"voke entirely the permissions which some Abbots pretend 
"to have obtained of the see apostolic, to use flesh meat, as 
" privileges that produce only scandal." After which he 
enjoins that every time a religious, whether of the choir or 
of the lay character, infringes the above ordinance, by eating 
flesh meat, or any food prepared with it, or partaking of it, of 
whatsoever sort it may be, he shall be condemned to fast on 
bread and water three days, and moreover that he be enjoined 
a penance, with the regular discipline; and if the Abbot 
neglect to enforce these injunctions, he shall fast on bread 
and water, as if he himself had eaten flesh. 

1 Saint Benedict, who orders that the superior should always 
eat with the visitors, and requires for that purpose, that there 
should be no separate kitchen for them, does not allow them 
any other food but that of the community. This is what the 
first religious of Citeaux, who were animated with his spirit 
constantly observed. Their first constitutions, called the Book 
of the Usages, inform us that the brother who was appointed 
cook of the Abbot's kitchen was to £o into the garden after 
the office of prime, and there gather a sufficient quantity of 
legumes for the Abbot and strangers, who may have come to 
the monastery. But nothing can better demonstrate how 
exact the) - were in this point than what passed at Clairvaux, 
when Pope Innocent II. came to visit that house. He was 
received by the monks in a manner so simple, and so relig- 
ious, that his suite were no less surprised than edified. The 

1 Dc Rancd, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties of the Monastic 
State. Vol. II., pp. 157-8. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 71 

bread, according to the author of Saint Bernard's life, instead 
of being made with pure white flour, was mixed, and the wine 
was also adulterated; vegetables appeared on the table in 
place of turbot, and legumes were served at every course; a 
dish of fish was by some chance found and laid before his 
Holiness, more for the purpose of being seen by the assembly 
than of being eaten. 

Nevertheless, those holy religious did not treat their visitors 
according to all the rigor of the common rules, for we find by 
their first statutes, that the bread which was served to the 
strangers was white like that given to the sick; but whatever 
the mode observed in the reception of visitors might have 
been, they were careful that charity should never do any 
injury to regularity; every part of their lives evinced their 
spirit of penance, and the whole tenor of their conduct 
affords us as great a subject of edification as does the sim- 
plicity of their table. 

Hence we must observe, my brethren, that although some- 
thing of the regular austerity may be diminished in favor of 
strangers, and although we are to condescend to a more gen- 
tle observance in the entertainment of those who visit us than 
what we allow ourselves, since both charity and the example 
of the saints inculcate and require it, yet we ought to be 
guided in the practice of this indulgence by exact rules; and 
be convinced that there is no time, no circumstance, nor oc- 
casion, in which monks ought not to remember how much 
thev are bound to depart from the custom and manners of the 
world, according to this great maxim of Saint Benedict: that 
7)io)iks should be entire strangers to the ways and customs of 
worldlings. But now, unfortunately, there is a strange sub- 
version of order: when we consider that formerly the great 
ones of the world, princes and emperors found the condemna- 
tion of their profusion and voluptuousness in the temperance 
and sobriety of monks, whereas in these our times worldly 
people find in the abundance of the cloistral table a sufficient 
pretext to authorize their sensuality and love of pleasure This 
is an evil which Pope Clement VIII. endeavored to remove 

72 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

when he enjoined in a decretal, that if an}' person of distinc- 
tion should come to visit monasteries, whether from a motive 
of piety, or from any other, the}' should be allowed to dine in 
the refectory, and be served only with the common food; and 
that the religious should conduct themselves on such occasions 
with so much propriety that religious sobriety and poverty 
might appear in all their simple and amiable attractions. 
& % % % % 5p 


1 There can be no advantage extracted from silence in a 
religious community unless it be uninterruptedly observed. 
For conversations, though short and seldom, will be found, if 
allowed, equally noxious and dangerous: the moments will be 
carefully managed, and the brethren will soon discover the 
secret of saying a great deal in a little time. When they shall 
be forced to break off, and leave their conversations imperfect, 
they will not forget to finish them at the next meeting. And 
as it is impossible that the desire of discoursing should not 
increase, so they will agree on the time and place to find out 
the means of satisfying themselves, without consulting either 
the will of the superior or the rules of the house, which would 
be in effect the ruin of discipline and the extinction of piety- 

But if silence be perpetual, the brethren will consider its 
observance as indispensable, the most considerable advantages 
shall be derived from it, and it shall appear that nothing is 
better calculated to maintain good order, and promote the 
sanctification of the cloister. 

Thirst, having no communication with one another, and form- 
ing none of those familiarities which almost generallv produce 
contempt, they shall behold each other with respect, and their 
charity will suffer no alloy. 

Secondly, if any should be found inclined to evil, his pro- 
pensities shall be enclosed within himself, and all communica- 
tion of the evil shall be prevented by the barriers of silence. 

1 Dc Ranee, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties of the Monastic 
State. Vol. II., pp. 106-7. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Meijjeray. 73 

Thirdly, no factions or murmuring parties will be ever 
formed amongst the brethren, such an evil not being possible 
when there is no communication. 

Fourthly, the correspondence and intimacy which ought to 
exist between the members and the head will be more con- 
nected when not divided by any particular conversations or 

Fifthly, the superiors will never find any opponents, when 
they shall desire to make new arrangements, for the preserva- 
tion of good order and the perfection of the community. And 
though a religious might not have the same ideas, yet he will 
not presume to make it appear, lest he should find no one 
amongst the brethren who would side with him. 

Sixthly, as the heart and interior man will find no means 
to diffuse and enervate its principles by vain and idle dis- 
course, so recollection will be more uninterrupted, thoughts 
more pure, contemplation more sublime and lively, prayer 
more fervent and continual; and thus the soul will ascend to 
a union with God, so much the more intimate and holy, as it 
shall have renounced for his love all communication with men. 
* * * * * * 

1 Wherefore, my brethren, silence cannot be too rigorously 
observed, nor can the members of a religious community be 
too far removed from the dangers resulting from conversa- 
tion. For if they once obtain leave to speak, they will use 
the dangerous liberty in speaking of unlawful topics: they 
will transgress the bounds prescribed, if they perceive that 
they may speak, and entertain one another concerning things 
unconnected with their salvation; they will extend their con- 
versations to everything without restriction: they will mutu- 
ally unfold their thoughts, temptations, imaginations, pains 
and discontents; they will establish a place of refuge in each 
other's breasts against future wants and affairs: they will link 
in the bonds of a false and particular charity, which is never 
constructed but on the ruins of that love, which is, and ought 

1 Dc Rancc, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties of the Monastic 
State. Vol. II., pp. 10S-9. 

74 The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 

to be, common amongst all the members. The words of 
Saint Ambrose on this subject are well deserving notice: 
"What necessity can you have," says he, "to expose yourself 
by keeping silence ? I have seen a great many fall by speak- 
ing, but never one by silence?'' 


1 Saint Benedict, who was well informed on this subject and 
who considered it in the same manner, was so exact in the 
observance of silence that he will not allow his disciples to 
speak, unless thev are asked a question, or moved by some 
real necessity. He orders that the permission of speaking be 
only seldom granted to the religious, even to such as are per- 
fect (that is, such as would not make any bad use of a neces- 
sary permission to speak), though their words should be holv, 
and their subjects edifying. In fine, that holy legislator makes 
the observance of silence a constant rule, which ought to 
occupy the attention of religious persons at all times. 

^ 5p ^C rfc ^ if: 

2 Saint Bernard and all his brethren observed a silence so 
profound that those that did not understand either the great- 
ness or the excellency of this secret, censured their conduct 
as being the effect of stupidity. 

3 The religious who were formed by that great saint, and 
filled with his spirit, were so zealous for this holy exercise, 
and thought it so important, that thev instituted signs to treat 
of necessary matters, that so they might never be obliged to 
speak. The practice of silence sanctified the zvholc Cistercian 
Order : the Carthusians followed their example, and obliged 
their lay brethren to observe it with rigorous exactitude; so 
much so, that they have kept it ever since with the same 
fidelity as the fundamental rule of entire solitude. 

It is difficult to resist the force of these convincing truths. 
And a Superior who applies himself to the duty of inculcating 

1 De Ranee, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties of tlic Monastic 
State. Vol. II., p. 113. 
* Ibid, p. 1 14. 
5 Ibid, p. 115. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 7 5 

them to his brethren in a proper manner, must at last succeed 
in persuading them that the practice of silence is absolutely 
necessary for their sanctification and perfection. 


1 Saint Benedict makes it a principal obligation. Idleness, 
says he, is the enemy of the soul; wherefore the brethren 
shall be employed at certain times in manual labor. He re- 
quires that they should work at the harvest, and in bringing 
home the corn, when the necessity or poverty of the place 
requires it; and he exhorts them to do it with pleasure; because, 
says he, they shall be then truly monks, when they shall live 
by the labor of their hands, as our fathers and apostles have 
done. And it appears by many passages of his Rule, that he 
considers manual labor as one of the most important practices 
of the religious life. 

2 Saint Bernard considered manual labor so important and 
so necessary that he obtained of God by his fervent prayers 
both the necessary skill and facility to reap the corn, and 
work at the harvest; and when the brethren were employed 
at labor that required more strength than he had, he com- 
pensated for his inability by digging, carrying wood on his 
shoulders, and applying himself to other humiliating employ- 
ments of the monastery. 

As to the time they employed in this exercise, it may be 
learned by consulting the Rule of Saint Benedict, and by their 
first constitutions. In general, they labored during the sum- 
mer, from the end of the chapter, or daily assembly (which 
met always after prime), until tierce, and from none until 
vespers. In winter, from the conventual mass until none, and 
during Lent, until vespers; during the harvest, when they 
worked on the farms, they said prime, the conventual mass, 

1 Dc fiance, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties of the Monastic 
State. Vol. II, p. 1-2. 
• Ibid, pp. 178-9. 

76 The Trappist Abbey of New Mellerav. 

and tierce without interruption; so that they might apply 
themselves to their work, without impediment, during the 
rest of the forenoon. The}- frequently said the divine office 
in the same place where they worked, and at the same time 
that their brethren at home sung it in the choir. 

x One of the principal reasons which induced the solitaries 
of former times to apply themselves to manual labor, and to 
lay down such rigorous and general rules for that exercise, 
was that their whole time might be employed, that there 
might be no empty space in their lives, and to prevent the 
fatal consequence of sloth and idleness: being well persuaded, 
that as soon as they would cease to be employed in hoi}' 
occupations, it would be impossible for them to avoid being 
engaged in evil ones; for inaction opens the door to every 
vice, and closes it to every virtue. Hence the ancient solitar- 
ies of Egypt used to say, that the religious who worked was 
tempted by only one devil, whereas he who spends his time 
in sloth and idleness is attacked by a great number; all of 
which combat against him in various ways. 

In effect, as sloth destroys all the vigor of the soul, extin- 
guishes that holy fervour which is the principle of its motions 
in some sense, so it binds up its faculties in the links of dis- 
pirited affections, and obstructs its active powers, so that the 
heart can produce no good affection, nor the spirit form any 
good thought; and hence, when the passions are irritated and 
temptations take up arms, the religious is no ways prepared 
to resist their united efforts; the invisible enemies, taking 
advantage of his disordered and impotent state, attack him 
furiously, and cany him a resistless captive wheresoever they 
please; and this unfortunate soul fails not to rush into every 
snare they lay, for he ma}- be considered as a man without 
defence, and exposed to all the darts of his malicious and cruel 

When this vice becomes master of the soul, savs Cassian, 

1 De linnce, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties of the Monastic 
State. Vol. II., pp. 179-S1. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 77 

it either engages the solitary to remain in his cell in a state of 
inaction, without doing anything for his spiritual advancement, 
or it drives him forth, and makes him wander from place to 
place in a constant round of instability; that so, becoming 
incapable of anv good, he may do nothing more than run 
from one cell to another, from monastery to monastery, on 
pretext of visiting his brethren; but in effect, being led on by 
no other motive but that of finding a good repast, for the 
slothful are frequently influenced by the care of what they 
shall eat. Behold the true state of such persons; thus they 
go on, until the}- find some man or woman in the same sloth- 
ful and effeminate dispositions, in whose embarrassing affairs 
they may engage themselves without scruple. Thus they 
undertake the most dangerous occupations, without scruple, 
and by little and little they yield themselves up to the ser- 
pent's folds, from whence they cannot extricate themselves; 
hence thev no longer enjoy that liberty, so necessary to labor 
in attaining the perfection of their state. 

The holy fathers, whose rules we have before cited, were 
of this opinion, nor had Saint Benedict any other, for he takes 
express notice in his rule, that of the motives which induced 
him to enjoin manual labor, the greatest was to secure the 
brethren from idleness, which he considers as a cruel enemy of 
the soul. This was also the opinion of the holy Abbot Paul 
— this great anchoret, having labored with great assiduity, 
burned all his works at the end of the year, because he lived 
so remote from all society that he could not send them to any 

The second reason that induced the ancient solitaries to 
recommend manual labor so earnestly was that they thought 
it unbecoming for persons who made profession of the solitary 
life to eat that bread which the}' had not gained by the sweat 
of their brow; they understood that sentence of the holy 
scripture as being literally addressed to themselves: — "Thou 
shall cat thy bread in the sweat of thy brow" And they 
believed that nothing was more agreeable, nor more conform- 
able to the condition of penitents, who by their vocation were 

78 The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 

charged with the sins of men, than to bear the punishment 
which God was pleased to inflict for their sins. They were 
persuaded that the prohibition addressed by Saint Paul to the 
Thessalonians, "If any one will not work, neither let him 
eat," was a precept which obliged all monks; and that the 
sentence which the same apostle made no difficulty to pro- 
nounce against those who were engaged in secular concerns, 
was with much more reason addressed to those who renounced 
them, by being consecrated to the exercises of a poor and 
penitential life. 

1 The Cistercian monks were not less exact in observing 
this part of the rule, than they were in every other; but it is 
useless to repeat here what we have alreadv said of their 
great and various labors. 

* * * * * # 






Acres, 2441.93 $30,666.00 

Horses, 54 1,000.00 

Cattle, 2S5 i,735-oo 

Sheep, 270 270.00 

Swine, 90 100.00 

Vehicles, 3 30.00 

Grand Total of all Property, . . $33,801.00 
(Signed) George W. Shrup, 

Deputy Auditor of Dubuque County, Iowa. 

1 De Rancc, A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties of the UTonastic 
State. Vol. II., p. 208. 

E The above is a transcript from the Auditor's book based on an assessment 
of 33J^ per cent, of actual value. 

The Trappist Abbey of New Melleray. 79 


That part of this monograph which has been written en- 
tirely from original and hitherto unpublished sources is 
embraced under the title "New Melleray." The material 
has been obtained from the records of New Melleray Abbey, 
from the manuscripts transmitted to the author by the monks 
of that monastery, and from oral communications of the 
Father Superior and of Father Placid. 



(Only works referred to in the notes are herein contained.) 

Felibien. Description de la Trappe. (Paris, 1671.) 

Les Reglemens de PAbbaye de Notre Dame de la Trappe 
en Forme de Constitutions (1690). 

Gaillardin. Les Trappistes de l'Ordre de Citeaux au XIX 
Siecle, etc. (1844). 

Helyot. Histoire des Ordres Monastiques. (Paris, 171 5- 

Le Petit et le Grande Exorde de Citeaux. (Imprimiere la 
Grande Trappe, 1884.) 

Benoist. Notice sur l'Abbaye de Notre Dame de la Trappe 
de Melleray. (Nantes, 1SS4.) 

De Ranee. A Treatise on the Sanctity and on the Duties 
of the Monastic State. (Translated at Melleray; printed at 
Dublin, 1830.) 

The Rule of St. Benedict. (London, 1886.) 

Chateaubriand. Vie de Ranee. 

Ratisbonne. Life of St. Bernard. 

Freeman. History of William Rufus. 

Bond. Handy Book for Verifying Dates. 



^ JUNE 87