Skip to content
IUScholarWorks Journals
22.04.17 Rouzeau/Flammarion (eds.), Morimond 1117-2017

22.04.17 Rouzeau/Flammarion (eds.), Morimond 1117-2017

This beautiful volume of proceedings from a conference about Morimond in late August 2017 was collected and published by Benoit Rouzeau and Hubert Flammarion. It is very appropriately dedicated to the memory of their mentor, Professor Michel Parisse, a charming and dear friend to many of us, deceased on April 20, 2020.

Parisse’s important contributions to our understanding of Morimond are discussed in the homage (15-16) by Flammarion. Parisse showed not only that the foundation of Morimond was in 1117 or 1118 and not earlier, but also that Morimond did not take its place among the principal daughters of Cîteaux before the late 1150s, probably in 1156 or 1158. These conclusions presented already at a 2003 conference on Morimond are now widely accepted in France and beyond. They change the shape of how we understand the early Order. [1]

The volume has four parts. The first section, “Le site de l’abbaye de Morimond, nouvelles problématiques” begins with the argument by François Blary (23-37) for more comprehensive study of the entire economic sphere of an abbey and its granges, monastic enclosure, and ties to urban hospices; he identifies a whole series of collaborative projects underway.

Erwan Madigand and Benoit Rouzeau, in “L’hydraulique du monastère de Morimond” (29-44), trace the construction of a series of ponds and channels that drain the Flambart River above the abbey and direct that water to the abbey site and its drainage. Figure 5 (39) shows that the abbey church with flat east end was adjoined by a cloister to the north (something more typical of southern climes but found at Villers-Bettnach as well; see below).

A third article (45-50) requires more pause. This is the report by Hermann-Josef Roth of “La Fouille du choeur de l’abbaye en 1963,” regarding the excavation of the tomb of Otto of Freising in the choir of Morimond in July 1963 and the removal of Otto’s remains to the high altar of the abbey church of Heiligenkreutz near Vienna (photo, 49). The commission of monks who organized this expedition included Baldwin Skeehan and Chrysogonus Waddell from Gethsemane abbey in Kentucky, Bernhard Thebes and Hermann Josef Roth from Germany, and Sighard Sengstschmid and Leopold Grill from Austria; they seem to have consulted with M. Poisse, a Frenchman who had participated in earlier excavations by Eydoux, but the report mentions no French monks. There was considerable debris and soil to be removed from the burial site and the American, Skeehan, and the German, Thebes, asked the commander of the American Airbase at Chaumont to provide them a bulldozer and two drivers. With these they entered the site to remove an accumulation of soil, uncovering the lead container with the bones inside. Within five days, the soil had been returned and the bones of Otto were on their way to Vienna, where they were verified to be twelfth century bones.

One must then turn to the sixth article, “La Nécropole” (89-129), which concerns burials at Morimond. Its author, Hubert Flammarion, by a systematic survey of the literary evidence examines the disparate evidence for at least 66 funeral inscriptions for individual burials. It shows that except for that of Otto of Freising, more attention was paid to the burial of members of certain families than to the abbey’s abbots, priors, or cellarers. There are two annexes or appendices. The first describes parts of gravestones that have been recovered in excavations. The second lists names and evidence for 71 burials at Morimond over the centuries.

The fourth article (51-66) by Cédric Moulis and Benoit Rouzeau concerns the archeology and architecture of the abbey church itself, suggesting a new phase of construction after the earliest Romanesque church. That second phase had continued Romanesque beginnings, but circa 1200 the architectural program turned to early Gothic.

In the fifth article (67-88), Benoit Rouzeau examines the hôtellerie at Morimond, the buildings established near the gatehouse originally intended to provide care for travellers and guests. They were transformed to many different uses over the centuries. An annexe here (88) cites another 30 abbeys for which there is evidence for internal Cistercian hospices.

A seventh article (131-149) by Samuel Mourin discusses nineteenth-century artists and the accuracy of their depictions of Morimond; the ruins appear to have become popular with the exuberant walkers of that period.

Part Two of the volume, “Des débuts de Morimond: À l’abbaye reconstruite au xviiie siècle: Abbés et gestion du temporel” begins with a discussion (153-160) by Patrick Corbet of Henri of Carinthie, an important actor in the early history of Morimond. Henri was among those elite German monks who had entered Morimond in the first decade of its existence and in 1124 followed abbot Arnold in his scheme to depart for the Holy Land. Henri was the first to return. He later founded the abbey of Villers-Bettnach where he was abbot for a dozen years and was also involved with the founding of Viktring. As bishop of Troyes (1146-1169) he accompanied the French Crusaders of the Second Crusade as far as Hungary, possibly founding several other abbeys en route before returning to his bishopric in 1148.

The next article (161-175) by Benoit Chauvin is a continuation of his “Les abbés de Morimond (1194-1213): Nomenclature critique, entre affaires locales et interventions européennes” published in Francia 41(2014): 381-401. Here Chauvin turns to the thirteenth century and includes all documentary references to abbots Peter (?1214-1218?), Bartholomew (?1222-1225?), Arnold II (?1237-1243), and Conon (?1258-1264?).

This is followed by Jean-Vincent Jourd’heuil’s article on the abbots of Morimond from 1450 to 1503 (177-241). He questions the reliability of the various lists of abbots for Morimond coming from this era of instability. It was a period when local families might seize the abbacy for a time, when two popes might confirm two separate abbots, when rival powers in France might appoint their own favorites and when commendatory abbots might split apart their holdings from those of their monks.

Yet another article on abbots, this by Bertrand Marceau, considers a single abbot of Morimond, during the Wars of Religion (219-246), when Morimond’s location near the border of Lorraine caused confusion and unrest. Abbot Jean Coquey (c. 1559-1576) is seen commissioning other abbots to visit Cistercian nuns. By late 1571 he was also in charge of Cîteaux. In 1572 he was vicar general of the Order.

A short article (243-246) by Arnaud Baudin, follows. It concerns an unknown seal of this Abbot Jean Coquey.

Another short article (247-53) on the evolution of the properties of Morimond in the sixteenth century is by Alain Morgat, director of the departmental archives of la Haute Marne. He announced that the sources for Morimond were to come on-line in September 2017. [2] Morgat concludes that the temporal holdings of the abbey remained relatively coherent in the eighteenth century, because those holdings had not been dilapidated in times of trouble in the sixteenth. He mentions the “recuperation” of the properties of the abbey of nuns of Belfays in the late fourteenth century; “recuperation” is something of a misnomer as seen in the next article.

“La Reconstruction des granges de l’abbaye après la guerre de Trente Ans (1635-1715)” (255-268), by Sylvain Skora, tells us that most granges had been founded by Morimond in the twelfth century, beginning with Vaudainvilliers, very close to the abbey, in 1117. An annexe (269) summarizes the leasing out of farms at Vaudainvilliers from 1626-1729. Skora’s map (256) shows another five more granges in hand before mid-twelfth century, five more before that century’s end, one more in the thirteenth century, and then three, at Issonville, Chézoy, and Belfays, added in 1393 from the “Patrimoine foncier des moniales de Belfays” taken over by Morimond. Figure 94 (261) provides a color map of the triennial rotation at the grange of Issonville in 1784; clearly the third field for that rotation, a south field shown in blue, had been added to an earlier two-field rotation.

In “La présence de Morimond à Langres (269-296),” Georges Viard walks us through the various buildings and streets in Langres that were held by Morimond, starting with new streets in the early seventeenth century. After the nationalization of goods (on which see Leroux-Dhuys below), Langres and its cathedral acquired moveable goods from the abbey, including the organ, grills, and wooden fixtures. Good plans and good pictures elucidate the ways in which Langres itself recollects Morimond.

Benoit Chauvin and Camille Nicolas (297-321) consider Morimond’s urban hospice or relais in Dijon, as well as other Cistercian hospices in that city (mapped on 305). The article lists Latin charters and other notices for Morimond’s Dijon hospice.

The Third Part of the volume considers the filiations, particularly that of Morimond. It begins with an essay on the beginnings of the Cistercian filiations by Alexis Grélois (325-336), which proposes that we “not overvalue” the importance of the filiations, especially before the end of the twelfth century--an argument made in my own work, but unacknowledged here. [3]

Emma Bouvard (337-349) considers the integration of Cistercian abbeys in the medieval Auvergne. This is a preliminary archeological analysis, particularly of Feniers and le Bochet, although there is also a stunning picture of a snow-covered Mègemont (341). One would wish for more analysis of pasture rights shared among these abbeys and their ties to winter pastures elsewhere, but that would be a different study.

Agnès Charignon, Jean-Baptist Vincent, and Catherine Guyon present Morimond’s daughter-house of Villers-Bettnach (351-364). Here, as at Morimond, the cloister extends from the north side of the church. The gate house here too has in its vicinity the important structure of the Chapel of Saint-Catherine. More study of the entire complex is needed.

Katerina Charvatova (365-73) considers the small assemblages of central European abbots from the filiation of Morimond and how abbatial careers followed the routes between their abbeys. In the years before mid-fourteenth century these Bohemian abbots had considerable ties to the rulers of the region, often acting as executors for their wills.

Pietro Rimoldi, current architect of the abbey of Morimondo, provides an analysis (375-382) of Italian Cistercian granges belonging to a variety of abbeys, many of which had been described earlier by Righetti Tosti Coce. In addition to these, the granges of Morimondo itself are surveyed: those at Fornace, Basiano, Cerreto, Coronate, Fallavecchina, all acquired between 1136 and 1143, Ticinello and Casterno in 1189, and Zelata in 1194; the abbey’s site was not, as Rimoldi puts it, in the désert of Cistercian myth, but along a well-known mercantile route.

Philippe Josserand provides an analysis of Morimond and the Order of Calatrava (383-390); he focuses particularly on the infrequency of visits to Spain by early abbots of Morimond.

Fernando Miguel Hernandez considers the hydrological systems of the filiation of Morimond in the center of Spain (391-406). These include those of la Oliva, Matallana, Gumiel (which had a pre-Cistercian history), Fitero, Valbuena, and Palazuelos.

The Fourth part of this volume, “After the monks,” begins with an analysis of monks and patrimony during and after the French Revolution by Jean-François Leroux-Dhuys (409-419). He reports that at the time of the taking of the Bastille there were 228 Cistercian abbeys in France with 1500 monks. All were perceived to have considerable holdings in land, which were eyed by both the bourgeoisie who wanted to take them and the poor who wanted to be fed by them. Much of the suppression took place in 1789 when in August feudal privileges and tithes were suppressed, in October when contemplative religious orders were closed and in November when clerical goods and properties were placed at the disposition of the Nation. In an unsuccessful attempt to forestall suppression, Morimond’s monks opened an educational institution, a collège.

The disposition of moveable goods from monasteries from throughout France was much like that described for Morimond in Langres in the article by Viard above. Whereas a real revolution might have granted land to its peasant tenants, in fact the financial exigencies of the situation led to sales of church property to rich bourgeois, often from the immediate area and often all in one piece. Libraries and archives, as well as forests, were taken over by municipalities, although extremely valuable books might be sent to the national library in Paris. Although a few were saved, most churches were torn down for their materials. In contrast, dormitories and other communal buildings were most often converted to institutional use as prisons, hospitals, and asylums.

Finally, the “Conclusion” presented by Benoit Rouzeau (421-425). This is the climax of so many French conferences, the magisterial performance of one of the organizers that pulls together all that has gone before. Here is a tapestry woven together on the spot from the threads of the presentations, but which also challenges presenters and future readers to be inspired to new endeavors in ongoing and future work. Rouzeau proposes new research on the order’s statutes, on the order’s archaeology and the architecture of Morimond, on the new ways that the order may be seen. There are also abstracts in French, English and German and a bibliography of all those works cited.

This is indeed an inspiring volume concerning the abbey of Morimond and its place in our understanding of the Cistercian world of medieval Europe, of early modern Europe, and of the modern age. There are many diversities among the participants in this conference, from doctoral students to retired professors, from ambitious young men to hard-working women who have all labored long in these vineyards. It provides an appropriate commemoration of Michel Parisse by his students and friends and those inspired by his work as well as his openness to many points of view.



1. On the 2003 conference see L'Abbaye cistercienne de Morimond: Histoire et Rayonnement, ed. Georges Viard (Langres, 2005).

2. Not on-line on March 7 and March 8, 2022.

3. See Constance H. Berman, The Cistercian Evolution: The Invention of a Religious Order in the Twelfth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020), for instance, 158.