Stephen Harding

Stephen Harding

Infobox Saint
name=Stephen Harding
death_date=28 March 1134
feast_day=28 March

caption=A painting commemorating the 1111 founding of the monastery of Citeaux, showing saints Robert, Alberic, and Stephen Harding venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary.
birth_place=Dorset, England
attributes=Co-Founder of Cistercian Order; Wrote Carta caritatis, 'Charter of Love,' a principal document for the Cistercian Order
patronage=Saint Robert of Molesme
major_shrine=Church of St. Stephen Harding in Apátistvánfalva, Hungary, district of Szentgotthárd.

Saint Stephen Harding (died March 28, 1134), is a Christian saint and monastic abbot, one of the founders of the Cistercian Order.

Stephen Harding was born in Dorset, England. He was a speaker of English, Norman French, and Latin. He was placed in the abbey of Sherbourne at a young age, but eventually put aside the cowl and became a travelling scholar. He eventually moved to the abbey of Molesme in Burgundy, under the abbot Saint Robert of Molesme (c. 1027 – 1111).

When Robert left Molesme to avoid its corruption and laxity, Stephen and Saint Alberic went with him. Unlike Alberic, Stephen was not ordered to return, and he remained in solitude with Robert. When twenty-one monks deserted Molesme to join Robert, Harding, and Alberic, the three leaders formed a new monastery at Citeaux.

Robert was initially abbot at Citeaux, returning to Molesme after a year. Alberic then took over, serving as abbot until his death in 1108. Stephen Harding, the youngest of the three men, became the third abbot of Citeaux. As abbot, Stephen Harding guided the new monastery over a period of great growth. Bernard of Clairvaux came to visit in 1112 and brought with him his followers. Between 1112 and 1119, a dozen new Cistercian houses were founded to contain the monks coming to the new movement. In 1119, Stephen wrote the "Carta Caritatis", ('Charter of Love') an important document for the Cistercian Order, establishing its unifying principles. Stephen served the house at Citeaux for twenty-five years. While no single person is considered the founder of the Cistercian Order, the shape of Cistercian belief and its rapid growth in the 12th century was due to the leadership of Stephen Harding. In 1133, he resigned the head of the order, due to age and disability. He died the following year.

His feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints is March 28. The north aisle of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate church in London, U.K. was formerly a chapel dedicated to him (it became the Musicians' Chapel in the 20th century).

In Hungary, into the village Apátistvánfalva is a Catholic Baroque Church by 1785, his patron saint Stephen Harding. The village, and the country Vendvidék at one time was Cistercian lordship.

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