Stephen of Muret

(c. 1047—1124)

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hermit and founder of the Order of Grandmont. Born at Thiers (Auvergne) of noble parents, he studied in the household of Milo, archbishop of Benevento. In 1076 he renounced his inheritance to become a hermit in the mountains of Ambazac at Muret (NE. of Limoges). There he led an austere life, with little food or sleep, for forty-six years, remaining a deacon all his life. He also wore a metal breastplate instead of a hair-shirt, as is depicted by artists.

Towards the end of his life, disciples who had joined him in solitude established the Order of Grandmont and drew up a Rule based on his sayings. These are conspicuous for their intransigent insistence on total renunciation. He compared monastic life, as he understood it, to life in a prison. ‘If you come here’, he said, ‘you will be fixed to the cross and you will lose your own power over your eyes, your mouth, and your other members’… ‘if you go to a large monastery with fine buildings, you will find animals and vast estates; here, only poverty and the cross.’

Stephen died at Muret. The Rule of Grandmont was never widespread, but Henry II made several foundations, both in France and England, and petitioned the Holy See for Stephen's canonization. This was granted by Clement III in 1189. The austerity of Stephen inspired both Armand de Rancé and Charles de Foucauld. Feast: 8 February.

Life by the seventh prior of Grandmont in P.L., cciv. 1065–72;J. Becquet in Dict. de Spiritualité, iv. 1504–14;J. Webster in N.C.E., s.v.; H.S.S.C., vi. 139–42.

Subjects: Christianity — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).

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