Early Carthusian Script and Silence

Cistercian Studies Quarterly 49 (3):367-397 (2014)
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At its founding and during its first three decades, the Carthusian order developed a distinctive and forceful concept of communication among the members and between the members and the extramural world.2 Saint Bruno’s life, contemporary twelfth-century exegesis, and the physical situation of La Grande Chartreuse established the necessary context in which this concept evolved. A review of historical background, the relevant documentary texts, and early development demonstrate the shaping of two steps in this concept. Close reading of the principal testimonies of Carthusians Bruno, Guigo I, Guigo II, and some other witnesses, as well as of some passages in Saint Augustine, argues that Carthusian scribal work was more preliminary practice for spiritual development than it was the sacralization of codices and texts. The two-step structure, composed of contrary movements of presentation and effacement, guarded what the Carthusians regarded as spiritual activity within a changing historical environment and became a fundamental part of Latin Christian mysticism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

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Bennett Gilbert
Portland State University


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