First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

The Order of the Carthusians had its origin in the Year of the Lord 1086, in Gaul, in the bishopric of Grenoble, through Bruno, the most holy teacher of the divine Scriptures. After it was founded, and established by the help of Christ, it prospered in the number of its cloisters and members. It was preserved and confirmed and granted various privileges by Alexander the Third and the Fourth, and other popes. By reason of the strictness of its Rule it has always had precedence over other spiritual orders, and has been regarded as a well established pillar of the church. The order had its origin through the following terrifying incident: Although the university at Paris greatly flourished, and many excellent and very wise teachers and students from various places attended there, and were found proficient in all the arts, yet there was among them one who excelled the rest in his knowledge of the arts, in the piety of his life, and in high reputation. He died; and while the vigil was being sung in the presence of a great number of doctors, magistrates, and others, the corpse rose on the bier, and with a loud voice cried out, I am condemned by the just judgment of God. And immediately all those present became frightened, and decided to leave the corpse unburied. In the morning the dead body cried out as before. On the third day the whole city came to hear the miracle. And the deceased arose and cried, I am condemned by the just judgment of God. There was present a master, named Bruno, who said to his disciples, See how miserable and pitiful is the departed, who by many has been esteemed as holy. And so they left the world and went into a hermitage in the wilderness.[See succeeding note on Bruno.]

Bruno, the holy man, a highly renowned philosopher and theologian, and a native Germany (Theutonicus) from the city of Cologne, and a canon of the church of Reims, and a teacher at Paris, at this time forsook the world and its pomp, and with seven highly learned men retired to the hermitage of the Carthusians. There he built a monastery, and set up a strict rule for a solitary life, which rule has been highly observed by his successors for the past four hundred years through long fasts, partaking only of bread and water on Fridays, and totally abstaining from meat, no matter how ill they might be. They wear hair-cloth next to their skin. With the exception of the prior, they never go out, but remain in their cells, in strict silence, being awake for long periods. This Rule was initiated by Hugo, bishop of Grenoble, who received the habit of the order from said Bruno. Some say that among other disciples of Bruno was Pope Urban.

Bruno was a native of Cologne, born of noble parents, and of extraordinary gravity and religious earnestness from childhood. He studied at Laon or Bec, and was later sent to Paris to complete his education in the university. He rose to distinction, taught philosophy, and applied himself to theology. He became a canon of Reims, where he taught philosophy and was advanced to the chancellorship of the archdiocese. Unable to endure the irreligious conduct of his bishop, Bruno left Reims in 1076 and went to Paris; and there, it is said, a very striking incident occurred in his life, leading to his conversion: There was a certain canon of great renown for his learning and blameless life. When he died, all the members of the university attended his funeral. While the body lay on the bier, between flaming candles, the clergy chanted, and the officiating priest recited the proper lesson from Job: Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears. Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified. Who is he that will plead with me? For now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost. Only do not do two things to me: then I will not hide myself from You. Withdraw your hand far from me: and let not your dread make me afraid. Then call and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer me. At that moment the corpse opened its eyes, rose slowly on the bier, and said in a low voice, I am accused at the just judgment-seat of God. A horror fell on all present, they fled from the church, and the corpse, which had sunk back on the bier, was left alone. The next day the funeral ceremony was recommenced, and when the same passage of Job had been repeated, the corpse rose again, saying, I am judged at the just tribunal of God. Then it fell back motionless as before. The same panic occurred and the service was not completed that day. On the third day a wondering crowd of people assembled, and at the same stage of the religious rites the corpse rose for a third time, shrieking, I am condemned by the just judgment of God. Bruno, who was present, was so overcome by the scene that he resolved forever to quit the world and its vanities, and live with the just judgment of God ever before his eyes. Although he had returned to Cologne, worldly affairs sickened him, as did also the irreligious character of some of the prelates. He resigned his benefices, and in company with six friends, searched for a place where they might live in peace. On a midsummer day in 1086, Hugh, bishop of Grenoble, was approached by seven men who sought his guidance to such a place. There was a desolate spot in Hugh’s diocese that he had visited some time before. It had struck his fancy, and he dreamed of it, imagining that he saw a convent rise there, illuminated from above by seven stars. The dream came back to him and he conducted the seven men up the rocky path to the valley of Chartreuse; and there Bruno founded his Order. He built an oratory and small cells, planned for a society of hermits united under a common rule, which was singularly austere. Each man was obliged to work at some handicraft. They had no refectory, but ate in solitude in their cells. Their dress was of the meanest, and they wore hair-shirts next to their skin. They fasted almost perpetually, ate only bran bread, never touched meat, even when ill; never ate fish except when given them as alms; ate eggs and cheese on Sundays and Thursdays; boiled pulse and herbs on Tuesdays and Saturdays; bread and water on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. They had only one meal a day except during holidays. Their constant occupation was praying, reading, and transcribing books. They met together at vespers and matins, and said mass only on Sundays and festivals. Once a week the gates were opened and all the monks went forth in pairs for a walk among the mountains, through the forests, and over the meadows.

These monks regarded Bruno as their superior, and Hugh of Grenoble, who had guided them to this retreat, chose Bruno as his spiritual adviser. After six years Urban II, formerly one of Bruno’s pupils, called him to Rome, offering him the archbishopric of Reggio; but he refused and withdrew to a desert in Calabria, where he established two other monasteries. He died in 1101.

During the French Revolution the Carthusian monks were driven from the Grande Chartreuse, their property was confiscated, and on their restoration they recovered only the barren desert in which the monastery stood, and for it they had to pay rent. They lived in great poverty for some years; then the famous liquor, Chartreuse, was invented as a means of revenue. It produced a large annual income and enabled the institution to continue it s work. The monks who were driven from the Grande Chartreuse during the Revolution returned in 1816, but were again ejected under the Association Laws of 1901, and the community of the Grande Chartreuse is now settled in an old Certosa, or abandoned monastery, near Lucca.

Hugo, bishop of Grenoble, had a testimonial from his mother to the effect that while she was pregnant with him, she received a beautiful child in a dream, and the saints and Saint Peter took the child to heaven into the presence of God. So after he was born, and was still a child, he was assigned to the study of the Scriptures in order to be of special service to God and to benefit by his grace; and by the grace of God he developed many virtues. While in a Carthusian hermitage this Hugo, in a dream, saw God build for him an acceptable dwelling place, and seven stars which lighted his way. Through his renown for piety, there came to him seven men, fired by devotion, who were seeking a place in which to lead a secluded life. First among them was Master Bruno (as above stated); also four scholars and two laymen. On the advice of Hugo they built a Carthusian hermitage. This Hugo wished to lay aside the burdens of his bishopric, and to await the repose of his soul in peace; but he could not secure the consent of the popes, for Hugo was a pious man, and endowed with many virtues, and by his very life an example of piety to those who lived about him—a mirror of virtue to the people, to whom none other could be more useful or salutary as an example. After his death he was enrolled among the catalogue of saints.