This is a translation of Prof. James Hogg’s article in “Historisches Lexikon Bayerns” I do not take credit for the article other than it’s translation which I hope will do Prof. Hogg justice, assist other (non german speakers) to read his articles on the this fascinating austere Catholic Religious Order. I therefore dedicate this translation to Prof. Hogg and to all the future Carthusians, their supporters and friends. May the good Lord accompany you in your knowledge seeking walk and being always guided by the Holy Spirit. Pax +
At the end of the 11th century, we see the emergence of a contemplative Order with an eremitic orientation. Distinguished by their observance of very strict asceticism. The erection of nine establishments within the area of today’s Bavaria only emerged in the late Middle Ages, mostly by the conversion of existing monasteries or branches of other orders. The geographical focus was on Lower Franconia. During the Reformation of 1525 the Charterhouse in Nuremberg was repealed; Christgarten was finally secularised in 1648. Seven Charterhouses survived the crisis of the 16th ce., who during the baroque era took on new lease. In 1803 all Charterhouses were abolished in Bavaria. Since then the Order has not resided in Bavaria again.
Origin of the Carthusian order
Branches in Bavaria
e) Christ Garden
Constitution, organisation, building design
Education, mysticism, spirituality
Origin of the Carthusian Order
The Order took its origin from St Bruno of Cologne (†1101), who, like many “elite souls” of his day, felt called to be a hermit. Bruno, from 1056 Cathedral scholaster at Reims and from 1075 archbishop’s chancellor, he undertook a first attempt at eremitic life in Sèche-Fontaine near the Benedictine abbey of Molesme, from where shortly after the reform movement of the Cistercians began. He then settled under the care of the Bishop of Grenoble, Hugh of Châteauneuf O.S.B., (from 1080-1132), whilst on the rough mountains of the Grande Chartreuse north of Grenoble in the French Western Alps. Wooden cabins and a stone chapel: Casalibus, about 2 km’s away from the present monastery (Cartusia, Charterhouse). This hermitage survived many similar contemporary eremitic settlements and was called Cartusia (Charterhouse).
Bruno had to leave the Charterhouse in 1090 to comply with a request from Pope Urban II (from 1088-1099). The pope, a former pupil of Bruno’s, was in great torment due to the Investiture Controversy, but Bruno’s stay at the papal court was short. He allegedly refused the Archdiocese of Reggio and retreated in 1091 near to the present-day Serra San Bruno in Calabria. There he founded another hermitage, Santa Maria, in which he died on October 6, 1101.
Branches in Bavaria
The Carthusian Order came to Bavaria quite late, although within the kingdom already there were founding’s in 1160 at Seitz and 1170 at Gairach, both in today’s Slovenia. Pope Alexander IV (from 1254-1261) and was responsible for the first attempts to found a Charterhouse in the area of today’s Bavaria. In 1256 he imposed upon Bavarian Duke Ludwig the Strict (from 1253-1294) as atonement for the execution of his wife Maria of Brabant (1226-1256) to the establishment of a Carthusian monastery. Since no Charterhouse was in the vicinity, the Duke decided to found a Cistercian monastery Thal at Höhenrain (Rosenheim District), which was quickly moved to Fürstenfeld (Fürstenfeldbruck District) and prevail until 1803.
There were a total of nine Charterhouses, all of which were founded during the late Middle Ages in present-day Bavaria (first of which was Grünau in 1328), they were sufficiently endowed with the exception of Christgarten and Ilmbach. However, they suffered from the religious and social upheavals caused during the Reformation period; two of them (Nuremberg and Christgarten) were suppressed. Subsequently, the recovery of the remaining Charterhouses was very slowly. Their economic situation remained very tense until at least the mid 17th century. During the Baroque period they attained a certain stability, with the exception of Grünau and Ilmbach. Buxheim even flourished and played an important role for the Order beyond the borders of today’s Bavaria.
The secularisation of monasteries of 1803 brought a sudden end to the Carthusian monasteries in Bavaria. However, a new branch – Marienau – was founded in 1964 near Bad Wurzach (district of Ravensburg, Baden-Württemberg).
The first establishment east of the German Rhine took place in 1328 in Franconia to Grünau in the remote Kropfbachtal in the city of Spessart. Its founder was Elisabeth († 1335), widow of Gottfried von Hohenlohe (†1290) and the daughter of Count Poppo IV von Wertheim (†1279). After its heyday in the Middle Ages, the Charterhouse had its existence threatened during the Reformation period. In 1525 being looted during the German Peasants’ War, before the monks fled to Ilmbach. When the Counts of Wertheim were converted by the Reformation in 1557, the Charterhouse was dissolved; their income was transferred to Wertheimer Hospital. The Order tried to regain the Charterhouse, but only in 1629 could monks under the restitution edict of Emperor Ferdinand II (Emperor r. 1619) return. Count Johann Dietrich von Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rochefort (r. 1611-1644), converted to Catholicism and returned half of the lands to the Carthusians in 1636/37; the other part remained with the Protestant noblemen. The Charterhouse never flourish and was again secularised in 1803. Some scarce buildings still exist.
The Charterhouse Engelgarten (Hortus Angelorum) in the eastern suburb of Würzburg was founded in 1352 with foundation by the Bishop of Würzburg Albrecht II of Hohenlohe (r. 1345-1372), the brothers Rüdiger and Wolfelin Teufel and the cathedral Dean Eberhard von Riedern (†1351) established from Grünau. It survived the German Peasants’ War, but was placed under secular administration in the 16th century. At the beginning of the 17th century, it flourished once again, and the war of 1631 did not alter their situation. During the Baroque period, the monastery was renovated and restyled in the baroque. It was abolished in 1803. Today there are no remains of this Charterhouse.
The charterhouse Tückelhausen in Ochsenfurt am Main, Lower Franconia, was founded in 1351 in a repealed Premonstrian Order monastery after the Würzburg Cathedral Dean Eberhard von Riedern bought the indebted monastery’s property and handed over to the Carthusians after its redevelopment. The Charterhouse was burned down in 1525 during the German Peasants’ War and again suffered in 1552 during the Second Margrave War. The Chapter of the Order set up a special commission in 1575 to determine the state of the Franconian Charterhouse. In Tückelhausen there was only one professed monk, who was only held the sub-diaconate. Only seven cells were determined as habitable; the library, the colloquium and the refectory were missing. The church and other buildings were in a derelict condition. In 1631 the community was temporarily dissolved because of an invasion by Swedish troops. Subsequently the church refurbished as baroque as the economy had began to stabilised again, and the community held considerable observances until its dissolution in 1803. The buildings are largely preserved. Since 1996, the Charterhouse has housed a museum of modern Christian art that complements the original Carthusian Order exhibition.
The Charterhouse Nuremberg in the suburb of Nuremberg, outside of the city moat, was founded in 1380 the Nuremberg Alderman and merchant Marquard Mendel (†1385) [and was buried in the quire of the new church]. In 1525 during the Reformation, the city fathers affirmed to Lutheranism and secularised the Charterhouse in the same year. Almost all of the Carthusians – nine monks and four lay brothers – converted to the new teachings of Luther and married. The Germanic National Museum has been located there since 1857.
The Charterhouse Christgarten in Kartäusertal, 8 km. south of Nördlingen, founded in 1383 by Count Ludwig XI. (†1440) and Frederick III. (†1423) from Oettingen. In 1541, the Protestant part of the Count’s Oettinger House took over the administration of the lands of Christgarten and removed all its goods in 1552. From 1564, the Carthusians raised a complaint before the Reichskammergericht [Imperial Court]. 1599, the monastery was returned to them, but Christgarten was not re-populated until 1631. In 1644, an imperial decree ordered the full return of the Order. The Westphalian Peace of 1648 reversed that decree and Christgarten was finally secularised. Today, only the church still stands.
The Charterhouse Buxheim, which was built in 1402 from a collegiate foundation, is located west of Memmingen. The man responsible for its foundation was Heinrich von Ellerbach († c. 1403), canon in Augsburg and its last provost of the Kollegiatstift Buxheim. After a period of prosperity between 1406 to 1516 a crisis emerged in the Charterhouse around 1516 until 1545, as the imperial city of Memmingen had assumed the new doctrine. As early as 1520, a decline in the monastery’s discipline can be detected. By 1543 only two monks and two lay brothers had remained at Buxheim. The city of Memmingen intervened in the administration. Only to appoint Dietrich Loher (1495-1553) as Prior so that this situation could be stabilised. After the successes of the Schmalkaldic League in 1546, the city council of Memmingen billeted the League in the monastery; the monks were give the choice to either convert or to emigrate. The victory of the imperial troops on September 15, 1546, however, turned the tide in favour of the Carthusians. On February 19, 1548, Prior Dietrich Loher received the new coat of arms, which included the raising of Buxheim as the only Imperial Barony under imperial protection. The future of Buxheim was thereby secured. The Charterhouse experienced a boom during the Baroque period. It was superbly baroque, had a rich library and choir stalls, which were sold to England in 1883, but was restored by the Bavarian government in 1980, restored and rebuilt at Buxheim as the crowning jewel of the church. After the dissolution in 1803, the community was able to continue its monastic life until 1812. In 1926, the Salesians of Don Bosco acquired a large part of the buildings and built a grammar school there. The Heimatdienst Buxheim has set up an excellent Carthusian museum in the large cloister.
The Cherterhouse of Astheim was founded in 1409 by Erkinger von Seinsheim (as of 1429 von Schwarzenberg, †1437). It is located opposite Volkach am Main, in Lower Franconia. The monastery was burnt down in 1525 during the German Peasants’ War and plundered in 1527 during the Schmalkaldic War, so that only four cells had remained habitable. 1631-1634 Astheim suffered from the Swedish troops occupation in the area. Under Prior Georg Möring 1670-1712 its final pinnacle began before its dissolution in 1803. In 1999 the diocese of Würzburg set up an art museum in the church and the remaining buildings of the monastery .
The Charterhouse Ilmbach was founded in 1453 southeast of Kirschschönbach in the remote Steigerwald by the married couple Balthasar Fere von Berg and Magdalena, nee von Vestenberg. Ilmbach was and remained a poor monastery. In 1525, the buildings were burned down in the peasant war. In 1526 the few monks were again able to move in, but in 1561 the Chapter of the Order warned them not to increase their debt burden further. In 1575 no professed monk lived there. Everything had fallen apart except for a chapel. The income was very modest and the debt high. It was not until 1621 that a large cloister with eleven cells was built, but ten years later the Swedish troops invaded Ilmbach. 1803 Ilmbach was dissolved. Of the monastery buildings nothing remains except for a portal which was erected elsewhere.
The Charterhouse Prüll near Regensburg was founded in 1484 in a suppressed Benedictine monastery. The adaptations to the buildings for Carthusian use lasted over a century. In the 17th century, the church was converted to baroque style. After its suppression in 1803 a hospital for the mentally ill moved in 1852 into the remaining buildings, which today are used as a district hospital.
Constitution, organisation, building designs
Bruno did not write a rule. It is likely, however, that the Consuetudines Cartusiæ, of Guigues I du Chastel (1083-1136), prior of La Grande Chartreuse, around 1127 reflect both his ideas, and comes from those of the lived experiences of the community. Although the balanced features of the strictly contemplative Carthusians, who have no external apostolate [ministry] outside of their monastery, are predominant, there are also elements of communal life.
The statutes had provided separate farm yards (Correrie), which are managed by lay brothers. These were abandoned in the later Middle Ages. Since then, a Charterhouse has consisted of three areas:
1. the area dedicated to common life with a chapter house, two refectories (monks and lay brothers which are separated), library and convent church, divided into two parts by a rood screen for the choir stalls of the choirmonks and the lay brothers, built around the small cloister (Galilaea Minor)
2. the area for the eremitic life with the single monks’ hermitages with their own gardens and workshops around the Great Cloister (Galilaea Maior)
3. the workshops of the lay brothers with their living area
The choral monks receive ordination after completing their studies, while the lay brothers, who practice a mitigated solitude by their work, received no ecclesiastical ordinations. Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the separation of monks and lay brothers within the church and refectory has been abolished.
Even if the sentence “Cartusia nunquam reformata quia nunquam deformata” (the Charterhouse was never reformed because it was never deformed) is proverbial, there have been numerous additions and modifications to the rule over the centuries. The first General Chapter convened in 1140 by Prior Anthelm (1139-1151) signals the founding of the Order. It met annually from 1155 until the French Revolution, was reopened in 1837, and meets every two years today. The General Chapter also appoints the provincial visitors – from 1301 to 1442 the Order was divided into 18 provinces – for the biennial visitations. The houses in Franconia, Swabia and Bavaria were incorporated into the Provincia Alemaniæ Inferioris.
Education, mysticism, spirituality
The Carthusians, with their emphasis on the eremitic vocation, their strict silence and highly limited community life, are considered to be the strictest order of the Catholic Church. They were never a scholarly order, although in the Middle Ages they had diligently copied manuscripts and thus partly rich libraries were created, as in Buxheim. There were never any writers of noteworthiness in the Bavarian Charterhouse. The Carthusians understand their lives as a repentance and testimony to Christ in communion with all of humanity. For their quest for perfection, all interior spiritual practices are permitted, as long as they are in accordance with the rule that places the emphasis on life as a recluse. Abandonment, asceticism, fasting, celibacy, and obedience are considered helpful to contemplative life, with liturgy as an indispensable liturgical service. The simple daily work is an integral part of the prayer life of each monk.
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John Clark u. a. (Hg.) The Chartae of the Carthusian General Chapter, Analecta Cartusiana 100, Salzburg 1982ff.
Georgius Schwengel, Appendix ad Tomum IV Propaginis Sacri Ordinis Cartusiensis: De Provinciis Alemaniæ Inferioris, Rheni, Saxoniæ nec non Lombardiæ, Tusciæ et S. Brunonis, Analecta Cartusiana 90/8, Pars I, 1983, 1–72.
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James Hogg, Carthusians, published on 26.10.2009; in: Historical Dictionary of Bavaria, URL: <http://www.historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de/Lexikon/Kartäuser> (3.01.2019)