Robert of Molesme

Robert of Molesme

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Robert of Molesme
death_date=death date|1111|4|17|mf=y
feast_day=April 29
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church

caption=A painting of the founders of Citeaux, showing saints Robert, Alberic, and Stephen Harding venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary
canonized_by=Pope Honorius III

Saint Robert of Molesme (c. 1028 – 1111) was a Christian saint and abbot, one of the founders of the Cistercian Order in France.


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 a 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 a 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 of Molesme. The house quickly became known for its piety and sanctity, and Robert's reputation as a saintly man grew. When the house grew increasingly wealthy, new, 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 1098cite web |url= |title= Brief Introduction to the Cistercians |author= [ Dr. Deborah Vess] , Department of History and Geography |work= Georgia College & State University |quote= ] 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 the monastery of Citeaux. 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 Benedictine Order under his tutelage. Meanwhile, the monastery at Citeaux, under the direction of Alberic, and especially Stephen Harding, became the cornerstone for the new Cistercian Order, which would grow to greater fame in the 12th century under Bernard of Clairvaux.

Robert died on April 17, 1111. Pope Honorius III canonized him in 1220. His feast day in the Roman Catholic Church was fixed at first on April 17, but later it was transferred to April 29 cite web |url= |title= St. Robert of Molesme, Catholic Encyclopedia |author= F.M. Gildas |work= |quote= ] .


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