May 14th, 2008

Mount Grace Priory

Christian monasticism started with one man going off into the Egyptian desert to live in a cave.  As his reputation spread, so other men and women went out to join him. These early monks and nuns lived solitary, eremitical lives in rough ad hoc communities.

Bruno of Cologne,  founder of the Carthusian order, was attempting to return to these beginnings. His followers are dedicated to solitary prayer and study- and have minimal contact with their brothers and sisters. Bruno's first community was established in the Chartreuse mountains of Southern France- hence the Latin Cartusia and the English Charterhouse.

Mount Grace Priory in North Yorkshire is the best preserved, pre-Reformation Charterhouse in England. The church stands in the middle of two enclosures, the larger of which is a large quadrangle surrounded by the cells of the brothers. Each cell (the one still standing is a reconstruction) took the form of a tiny, two storey house, with its own water supply and walled garden.

The Charterhouse attracts men and women capable of leading autonymous spiritual lives and has never fallen into scandal.  Innocent XI wrote of the order, "The Charterhouse has never been reformed because it never needed to be."

The Carthusian motto is Stat crux dum volvitur orbis- "The world may turn but the cross stands still."

Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis

Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis


The young have other priorities-

I understand that.

A leman to hold you,

Children running in the garth,

White flowers at the start of the year,

Apples in the long grass smelling sweetly of death-

These are all good things

While their seasons last.

But why should an old man or woman want more

Than a roof to keep the rain off,

A stout door to keep the newsmongers out,

Water running from a bronze tap,

A garden to dig in,

Books to read and write in,

Brothers and sisters- all close-

But none of them speaking

Except in silence-


The conversation of angels-

And one Friend

Steady in all his gifts,

Steady in every season,

Of whom it would be foolish to say more?


A tree is desirable too- especially if it’s a nut tree.

Although I wouldn’t say I needed it,

I am happy to have one.