St. Stephen Harding, O.Cist.
|Monk, priest, abbot and co-founder of the Cistercian Order|
Kingdom of England
|Died||28 March 1134 (aged 83–84)|
Cîteaux Abbey, Duchy of Burgundy
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Feast||26 January (Solemnity of the Founders of Citeaux)|
|Attributes||Dressed in the Cistercian cowl, with miniature church model, holding abbot's crozier, holding the Carta Caritatis ("Charter of Charity"), a founding document for the Cistercian Order|
Stephen Harding (French: Étienne Harding) (c. 1060 – 28 March 1134) was an English-born monk and abbot, who was one of the founders of the Cistercian Order. He is honored as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
There is little archival evidence, yet all sources agree that Stephen was English and spent some time at the monastery of Sherborne as a young man. The main source about his youth, William of Malmesbury, states that Stephen then went to France and became friends with another Englishman, named Peter, The two made a pilgrimage to Rome, took new religious names and then went to Molesme Abbey upon returning to Burgundy, around 1085. In 1098, Stephen went to the "new monastery" (soon known as Cîteaux) together with Robert and Alberic, was elected abbot in 1108, and died in 1134.
Stephen was the third abbot of Cîteaux. Under his administration, very few novices 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 organizational 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 as abbot of Cîteaux 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 certainly due in some part to Harding's leadership. He was the abbot who accepted Bernard of Clairvaux. Insisting on simplicity in all aspects of monastic life, Stephen encouraged the severity of Cistercian architecture and the simple beauty of the Order's liturgy and music. He was an accomplished scribe; his highest achievement is considered to be the famous Harding Bible. In 1133, he resigned as abbot because of bad eyesight. He died on 28 March 1134.
Veneration for Stephen began in the Modern era. His feast was celebrated on 28 March until 1683 and then moved to 17 April, where it remained until the liturgical reforms following Vatican II. In a joint commemoration with Robert of Molesme and Alberic, the first two abbots of Cîteaux, the Roman Catholic Church today celebrates Stephen Harding's feast day on 26 January.
- The Cambridge companion to the Cistercian order. Mette Birkedal Bruun. Cambridge. 2013. ISBN 978-1-107-00131-2. OCLC 795645066.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Feiss, Hugh (2009). "Book review of Stercal (2008)". American Benedictine Review. 60.2: 216–218.
- "Saint Stephen Harding | St Thomas & St Stephen". www.ss-thomas-stephen.org.uk. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
- Huddleston, Gilbert. "St. Stephen Harding." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance: OCSO". www.ocso.org. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
|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).