|St. Stephen Harding, O.Cist.|
Saint Stephen Harding, portrayed in Apátistvánfalva, Hungary
|Monk, priest and co-founder of the Cistercian Order|
Sherborne, Dorset, Kingdom of England
28 March 1134|
Citeaux Abbey, Duchy of Burgundy
Roman Catholic Church|
|Attributes||dressed in the Cistercian habit, abbot's crozier, holding the Carta caritatis ("Charter of Charity"), a founding document for the Cistercian Order|
Stephen Harding, O.Cist. (French: Étienne Harding, died 28 March 1134), was an English-born monk and abbot, who was one of the founders of the Cistercian Order. He is honoured as a saint in the Catholic Church.
Harding was born in Sherborne, Dorset, in the Kingdom of England, and spoke English, Norman, French and Latin. He was placed in Sherborne Abbey at a young age, but eventually left the monastery and became a travelling scholar, journeying with one devout companion, into Scotland and afterwards to Paris and then to Rome. He eventually moved to Molesme Abbey in Burgundy, under the Abbot Robert of Molesme (c. 1027-1111).
When Robert left Molesme to avoid what he perceived to be the abbey's increasing wealth and overly strong connections to the aristocracy, Harding and Alberic of Cîteaux went with him. Seeing no hope of a sufficient reformation in Molemse, Robert appointed another abbot for the abbey and then, with Alberic, Harding and twenty-one other monks, received permission from Hugh, the Archbishop of Lyons and legate of the Holy See, to found a new monastery in Citeaux, a marshy wilderness five leagues from Dijon. There, they formed a new, more austere monastery. Eudes, afterwards Duke of Burgundy, built them a little church, which was placed under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, as all the churches of the Cisterians from that time have been.
Stephen became the third abbot of Cîteaux. However, very few were joining the community and the monks were suffering from hunger and sickness. In 1112, Bernard of Clairvaux entered the community, bringing with him thirty companions. Between 1112 and 1119, a dozen new Cistercian houses were founded to accommodate those joining the young order. Harding's organisational skills were exceptional; he instituted the system of general chapters and regular visitations. In 1119, he received official approbation for the Carta Caritatis (Charter of Charity), an important document for the Cistercian Order, establishing its unifying principles.
Stephen Harding served Cîteaux Abbey as abbot for twenty-five years. While no single person is considered the founder of the Cistercian Order, the shape of Cistercian thought, and its rapid growth in the 12th century were arguably due to Harding's leadership. Insisting on simplicity in all aspects of monastic life, he was largely responsible for the severity of Cistercian architecture and the simple beauty of the Order's liturgy. He was an accomplished scribe for the monastery's scriptorium; his highest achievement is considered to be the Harding Bible, famous among medieval manuscripts. In 1133, he resigned as head of the order because of age and infirmity. He died on 28 March 1134, and was buried in the tomb of Alberic, his predecessor, in the cloisters at Cîteaux.
In a joint commemoration with Robert of Molesme and Alberic, the first two abbots of Cîteaux, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates Stephen Harding's feast day on 26 January.
- "Saint Stephen Harding", Oye Magazine
- Butler, Alban. The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, D. & J. Sadlier, & Company, 1864
- "St. Stephen Harding", Catholic News Agency
- Huddleston, Gilbert. "St. Stephen Harding." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 25 May 2013
- "Saint Stephen Harding", St Thomas & St Stephen Roman Catholic Church, Market Drayton, Shropshire
- St. Stephen Harding Theological College and Seminary
- Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance "Calendar"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saint Stephen Harding.|
- Claudio Stercal, Stephen Harding: A Biographical Sketch and Texts (Trappist, Kentucky: Cistercian Publications, 2008) (Cistercian Studies Series, 226).