The Chalaisians



All Information in french about federation of the chalaisian associations


In the year 1101, Hugues de Chateauneuf, bishop of the diocese of Grenoble, established a small community of men at an altitude of 940 metres above Voreppe, Isère, in the southern foothills of the Grande Chartreuse mountain range. They wished to live apart from the rest of the world in order to unite in prayer and to follow the Benedictine monastic obedience established by Saint Benoit while freeing themselves from parochial constraints and life outside. The first few monks, the "hermits of Chalais," eked out a meagre existence from working in the forest and tending sheep, though not without being hindered by the rivalry of their close and powerful neighbours, the monks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery. Chalais became an abbey in 1124.

In 1142, the Chalaisians were asked by the bishop of Embrun, in the Hautes Alpes, to take over a small religious community installed since 1130 in the Saint Marcellin chapel, on the wooded heights of Boscodon, which was a dependence of the counts of Forcalquier and of Provence. The bishop of Embrun considered that these communities should join up with the Chalaisian hermits and they were enlarged. A monastic life true to the Benedictine obedience, as lived at Chalais, was installed.

Chalaisian Abbeys situation map :

From then on the group was comprised of the abbey of Chalais and its development of Almeval, the abbey of Boscodon and its offshoot at Laverq, and the foundation of Aubevaux, which was created by the Chalaisians in 1144. In order to unite the group, the abbeys established their own obedience in 1148 by writing the Charter of Charity of the Order of Chalais.This was the beginning of the Chalaisian Order, of a pastoral and forestry vocation, which took in the communities already cited of Almeval, Boscodon, Laverq, Aubevaux, and also those of Prads-Faillefeu, Valserres, Lure, Clausonne, Claircombe, Valbonne, and Pierredon. In all there were ten abbeys and three priories, and spread between the alpine Dauphiné region and lower areas in the south and west, connected by the tracks used for the transhumance, the transfer of the flocks of sheep between their summer pastures in the mountains and their winter pastures in the plains. Some establishments were close to the valley of the River Durance, which was the important line of communication between their highland areas of Briançon, Oisans, Queyras, Ubaye and the delta of the River Rhône to the west. To the south, they stretched as far as Valbonne.

One man was outstanding for the part he played in the Chalaisian Order's expansion. Guigues de Revel was the monk sent by Bernard, the abbot of Chalais, with a small group of his fellows to build the abbey of Boscodon and he went on the build those of Lure and Prads. Guigues de Revel was not only a master builder and spiritual leader but also an exceptional organizer and manager. He conceived a rational plan for the development of the Order with communities that were economically viable, assured of their own supplies of olive oil, wine, and cereals, and which could handle the transport of cut timber and provide staging posts for the movement of flocks of sheep. He became abbot of Boscodon, then abbot of Lure, bishop of Digne in 1184, where he built the cathedral, and chief abbot of the Chalaisians in 1186. He died shortly before celebrating his one-hundredth birthday.

The upsurge of monastic development during the 13th century had favoured the creation and expansion of the Chalaisian Order, but the reputation for religious fervour, saintliness and courage of the monks were not enough to keep it going. Very soon the proximity of the powerful Chartreuse order, the lack of resources of their mother abbey, and problems of managing small and widely dispersed abbeys, led to discouragement, lack of morale and misery throughout the Order which were fated to close and disband as the 13th century ended and the 14th began.

Since the rediscovery of the origins and the history of the Chalaisian Order, the Abbey of Valbonne stands today as a testimony to this moving story from the long-forgotten past.

(c) Abbyvalb - Les Amis de l'Abbaye et du Patrimoine Valbonnais - 2006