Robert of Molesme
|Saint Robert of Molesme|
Troyes, Champagne, France
|Died||April 17, 1111
|Roman Catholic Church|
|Canonized||1222 by Pope Honorius III|
Robert was a member of the nobility in Champagne, a younger son, who entered the abbey of Montier-la-Celle, near Troyes, at age fifteen and later rose to the status of prior. He was made the abbot of Saint Michel-de-Tonnerre at some point after the year 1060, but he was unable to reform the abbey, which had become known for its laxity, and so he returned to Montier-la-Celle. He was later prior of Saint-Aiyoul.
Some hermits living in the forest of Colan sought Robert out there and asked to be put together under his direction in a new monastery. He obtained the permission of Pope Gregory VII to found a monastery at Molesme in Burgundy in 1075. Initially, the establishment consisted of only huts made of branches surrounding a chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity in the forest. Molesme Abbey quickly became known for its piety and sanctity, and Robert's reputation as a saintly man grew. When the house grew increasingly wealthy, new and unsuitable monks came to the area and divided the brothers, challenging Robert's severity.
Robert twice tried to leave Molesme and was ordered back by the Pope. However, in 1098 Robert and several of his monks left Molesme with the intention of never returning. Renaud, the viscount of Beaune, owned a desolate valley in a deep forest, which he gave to Robert and his companions, and thus they founded Cîteaux Abbey. Stephen Harding and Saint Alberic – two of Robert's monks from Molesme – were pivotal in founding the new house, as Robert ended up staying for only a year. In 1100, the monks of Molesme asked Robert to return and agreed to submit entirely to his interpretation of the Rule of St. Benedict. He did return and ran the monastery according to his own interpretation and example. Molesme became a major center for the Benedictines under his tutelage. Meanwhile, the monastery at Cîteaux, under the direction of Albéric, and especially Stephen Harding, became the cornerstone for the new Cistercian Order, which grew to greater fame in the 12th century under Bernard of Clairvaux.
St. Robert's Day is celebrated in Washington, D.C. at the Capital Lounge annually on the Sunday before Columbus Day.