Abbey of Luxeuil

From Academic Kids

The Abbey of Luxeuil (Departement of Haute-Saône in Franche-Comté, France), the most famous early medieval monastery in Burgundian Franche-Comté, was founded ca 585 - 590 by the great Irish monk, St. Columbanus. Columbanus and his companions first settled in cells at Annegray, in the commune of Voivre, Haute-Saône. Looking about for a more permanent site for his community, Columbanus settled upon the ruins of a well-fortified Gallo-Roman settlement, Luxovium, about eight miles away. The Roman town had been ravaged by Attila in 451, and was now buried in the dense overgrown woodland that had filled the abandoned site over more than a century, but the place still had the advantage of the thermal baths down in the valley, which still give the town its name Luxeuil-les-Bains: "There stone images crowded the nearby woods, which were honored in the miserable cult and profane former rites in the time of the pagans," an early account records. (Ibi imaginum lapidearum densitas vicina saltus densabat, quas cultu miserabili rituque profano vetusta Paganorum tempora honorabant)

With a grant from an officer of the palace at Childebert's court, an abbey church was built with a sense of triumph within the heathen site and its spectral haunts (ut, ubi olim prophano ritu veteres coluerunt fana, ibi Christi figerentur arae et erigerentur vexilla, habitaculum Deo militantium, quo adversus aërias potestates dimicarent superni Regis tirones).

Under the intellectual and spiritual stimulation of the passionate and learned Irish monks, the abbey that was dedicated to Saint Peter at Luxeuil soon became the most important and flourishing monastery in Gaul. The community was so large, that choir followed choir in the chanting of the Office, and at Luxeuil for the first time the laus perennis went on day and night.

Most of the earliest rule that was observed at Luxeuil derived from Gaelic monastic traditions, whether or not written down by Columbanus, supplemented more and more by the more formalized Benedictine Rule that was followed throughout the West, which provided for the abbot's orderly election, his relations with his monks, and the appointment of monastic officials and their delegated powers. In 603, a synod accused Columbanus of keeping Easter by the Celtic date, but his severity and the inflexible rule he had established may have been the true cause of friction with the Burgundian court.

Columbanus was exiled from Luxeuil by King Thierry of France and the dowager Queen Brunehaut, and was succeeded as abbot by St. Eustace, who was the head of the monastic school, which came to enjoy a high reputation, and trained the noble youth of Gaul to be bishops throughout Gaul and beyond. The school and example of Luxeuil contributed to the conversion of the Burgundians. Luxeuil sent out monks to found houses at Bobbio, between Milan and Genoa, where Columbanus himself became abbot, and monasteries at Saint-Valéry and Remiremont.

In 731 the Vandals in their passage of conquest through western Gaul, took possession of Luxeuil and massacred most of the community. The few survivors rebuilt the abbey, but monastery and the small town that clustered around its walls were devastated by the Normans in the 9th century and pillaged on several occasions afterwards. Later, under the government of the eighteenth abbot, St. Ansegisus, Louis le Débonnaire renewed its charters, restored the church and monastic buildings, and reformed discipline.

From the 15th century the institution of commendatory abbots encouraged the decline of discipline, the Emperor Charles V curtailed the power of Luxeuil's abbots, and there was a further reform in 1634. At the French Revolution the monks were dispersed. Most of the abbey's site is built over by the modern town, but the fine Gothic abbey church, built in the 14th century, was not destroyed; neither were the cloisters and conventual buildings. The church itself has for many years served as the parish church of Luxeuil-les-Bains.

External links

  • Catholic Encyclopedia: Luxeuil
  • Northvegr website: describes Roman ruins of the baths at Luxeuil (Latin):

de:Kloster Luxeuil fr:Monastère de Luxeuil


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