Two peculiarities distinguish the Carthusian angelus. It is sounded four times a night, at the end of the Lauds, around 2 am; after Primes, 6 h. 1/2; at noon; before Compline, 6 a.m. in the evening.
At each sound, the monks recite three Ave Maria without verses or prayer. We kiss the ground at the first words of the Angelic Greeting; this is what is called in Carthusian style “take forgiveness” (sumere veniam). These prayers are said on your knees all year round.
The sovereign Pontiffs avowed that by following their traditions in this manner the Carthusians will gain all of the indulgences which are attached to the angelus.
It is academically and theologically interesting to examine these practices further.
The first mention of the angelus — that of the evening — is found in the general chapter of 1342, presided by the prior, — the Dom of Chartreuse, as we said then — D. Jacques de Viviaco “We allow houses that wish to three strikes of the bell after compline to garner the indulgence”, with reference to the indulgences granted in 1318 by John XXII.
In 1368, this permission became an obligation, due to it being inserted in the Nova Statuta by Dom Guillaume Raynaldi: “To the praise and glory of the Mother of God, and to gain apostolic indulgence, immediately before or after compline, according to the use of the premises, we will strike the bell three times, and each will say three Ave Maria.»
During the Great Schism, the general chapter of Urbanist  held in Trisulti (Frosinone Italy) decrees “To the glory and praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, wishing to conform to the universal use of the clergy, we order that each morning, before or after Primes, we sound for forgiveness as we do with compline.”
After the unification of the Order in 1419, it was accepted everywhere, from Italy, a morning Angelus.
In the Tertia compilatio by D. François Dupuy (1509), the noon angelus appears: “In all the houses of the kingdom of France, every day at noon, in accordance with the apostolic decree, the Ave Maria will be sounded for the conservation and peace of said kingdom, as we do at compline. Each will say three Ave Maria.”
It is the act by which Pope Sixtus IV, in 1475, confirmed, by granting 300 days of indulgences, an edict of Louis XI (1472) requesting for the recitation of the Ave Maria, on his knees, at noon, “so that God would grant good peace to the kingdom of France.”
The evening angelus therefore entered into usage in the Charterhouse in the XIV century, those of the morning and noon in the XVI century.
It only remains for us to find the origin of the fourth Angelus, that of the night.
Two works by Carthusians of the XVI and XVII centuries mention this. The Rev. Fr. Dom Michel de Vesly, prior of La Grande-Chartreuse († 29 Jan. 1600), in his Enchiridion, gives the formulas to recite them on p. 493, “when the angelic salutation is sounded at noon, in the evening and in the middle of the night, and in the morning”. The fourth Angelus were therefore in use at the end of the XVI century. Here is our translation of these prayers:
- The Angel of the Lord … I salute you … Jesus Christ for us incarnate, born, living holy. Amen.
- Here is the servant… I salute you… Jesus Christ crucified for us, suffering with you, died and was interred. Amen.
- And the Word … I salute you … Jesus Christ for us resurrected, glorified, with us in his sacrament, and our reward in the homeland. Amen.
It is an abridged rosary to which we have added public life (“living very holily”) and the glory of the elect; two characteristics of the Carthusian rosaries, and coming from their manual The four exercises of the cell (XII century).
A manuscript from the monastery of the Imperial Charterhouse of Buxheim gives these four Angelus in a different form. Le Directoire des novices de la Grande-Chartreuse  is subsequent to the Rev. Fr. Dom Michel, because there are additions to the Ave the Sancta Maria. It predates 1681, because at that time there was only one directory for the entire Order, which is from the XVII century.
Here is the translation of various prayers to be said at the Angelus:
HOW TO GREET THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
AT THE SOUNDINGS OF INDULGENCES BELL
IN THE EVENING AND AT NIGHT. —
- The Angel of the Lord … I salute you … Jesus whom the angel announced to you. Holy Mary …
- Here is the handmaid… I salute you … Jesus, in your very chaste bosom, by the virtue known as the Holy Spirit, you conceived. Holy Mary…
- And the Word … Jesus whom from your very pure blood had formed his body …
AT PRIMES. —
- Today a Saviour was born to you… Jesus whom you gave birth to without pain, nor harm to your virginity, to the chorus of the angels…
- He was called Jesus. I salute you… Jesus who, so young and tender, you see in great compassion circumcised and named Jesus…
- Now let your servant go in peace. I greet you… Jesus presented by you to the temple, in great devotion on the fortieth day…
AT NOON. —
- Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing. I salute you. Jesus who prayed for His crucifiers. Holy Mary…
- Woman, here is your son … I salute you … Jesus, whom you gave as a son of God for mankind; the disciple for the master, when you were standing under the cross… Holy Mary…
- Father, in your hands I commit my spirit … I salute you … Jesus who, obeyed until death, as He inclined His head He expired … Holy Mary …
These prayers in the form of clausules are still inspired by the Carthusian rosaries. They keep their primary intentions in the Angelus Incarnation in the evening, Passion at noon. The Hortulus animae (1500-1520) gives similar verses at noon “Tenebrae factae sunt …” The memory of divine Mother and Child united within the morning Angelus is unique. That of the evening is found within the Angelus of the night, which, sounded at 2 o’clock, however, belongs to the following day, we feel something may have added, as if something is out of frame …
There were therefore attempts to introduce the verses, edited in Rome in 1570. They were quasi official, since a superior general echoed them in his Manual, thus magnifying them. When the Fathers of La Grande-Chartreuse introduced them into the Directory, thus ensuring that future generations would get used to them. All this fell, into the only Directory of 1681. In Chapter 15, Dom Le Masson wrote “As soon as we ring for the “Indulgences”, we will acquire them, then we will say compline.”
As he does not give any formula, we returned to the three Ave Maria which alone have remained in use ever since.
When and how was this fourth Angelus conceived?
For a long time the Carthusians followed the Benedictine timetable for Matins; and the Office, which started at two o’clock, and ended at daybreak. The customs state “In no way do we return to bed after matins.” The same recommendation were in the statutes of 1259 and 1368. But gradually a contrary usage began to prevail. In 1418 we find the decrees of a general chapter of Spain which declares that “we must awaken the brothers before Prime”.
Spain at the time avowed obedience to the Avignon popes; but in the other parts of the Order, who were obedient to the Pope of Rome, it was the same. Dominic of the Charterhouse of St. Alban in Trier (Trèves — Rhineland-Palatinate), relates in his narrative that “He woke up, and made his way to the Church for Prime, because it was a chapter feast. During this prolonged dream, only one hour had passed, that between Matins and Prime that was now given to rest.” Similarly in 1440, in Germany as in Spain, the service ended at five o’clock, and we returned to bed. This custom was entered into the statutes of 1509: “As compassion for our human feebleness; when we always returned to bed after Matins.” The directory of 1681 made it a rigorous duty in Chapter II. Then yet another custom was established; we went early to Matins so that we could get more time for our second sleep. The edition of the statutes of 1581, “which marks a momentous change within the Carthusian statutes,” published an Ordinarium separate from the statutes, which reads “At the desired time before midnight the sacristan will ring the Office.» Matins therefore ended at the same time that they had formerly started long ago, around two o’clock. Hence some anomalies: thus the Office of Our Lady at Prime, were at five o’clock, a liturgy which at one time was recited at two in the morning. The Angelus after Lauds or before Prime followed, and that of the morning became that of the night. However, remaining accurately faithful to the ordinances, the monks continued to strike the bell for Prime before the recital of the morning Angelus. It is after this reform of the schedule that we discover the fourth Angelus.
The Carthusians therefore retained their primitive form of the Angelus, three Ave Maria, and precisely, because they do not have the verse that gave its name to this practice, they have designated this turn of phrase as “Ave Maria” as in Rome, and more formally “Indulgences”, which seems logical.
General Chapter of 1886.
- Lecoulteux, Annales ord. cartus. V, p. 424.
- Nova Statuta, 1re part., ch. v, № 6.
- The houses of Italy and Germany gave obedience to Pope Urban; La Grande-Chartreuse, Spain, etc., gave obedience to the Avignon papacy.
- Annales, VI, 309. These pardons, “pro veniis”, signify the Ave Maria.
- Tertia compilatio statutorum, ch. I, № 59. These various editions were revisions of the statutes which govern the order.
Cf. Baronius C., Acta S. ad an. 1472. I later found that the source text I translated had been innacurate and I enlisted the gracious assistance of Robert Godding of the Société des Bollandistes. We discovered that the correct reference stemmed from Table Générale des Matières – Contenues in the xxxvi volumes of the l’histoire ecclésiastique. Ed. C. Fleury & du P. Fabre, p. 333.
Directorium necnon Exercitia Novitiorum majoris Carthusiae collecta a V.V.P.P. ejusd. Carthusiae. Manuscrit of the XVI. century. 32. From the Charterhouse of Buxheim. Linked with: Jansenius, Cornel., Gandav. episc. Vita Christi. (in the Library of the Charterhouse of St. Hugh, Parkminster, England).
Chap. xxix, 37.
- Libri Experientiarum, I. I. Exp. 36.
- Ch. xiii, 4.
Dom A. Degand, Chartreux (Liturgie des) in the Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, p. 1045-1071, [Degand, A., 1970. Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie: Leclercq, Henri, 1869-1945 F. Cabrol & H. Leclercq, eds. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/p1dictionnaireda03lecl/page/n558/mode/1up/search/chartreux [Accessed February 27, 2017].
Ct. xiii, 3.