Armand Jean Le Bouthillier de Rancé

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Armand Jean Le Bouthillier de Rancé

Armand Jean Le Bouthillier de Rancé (born January 9, 1626 in Paris , † October 27, 1700 in La Trappe ) was a French nobleman and monk. Although he cannot be considered the "founder" of the Trappists , he continued reform efforts in the Cistercian order and spread them among like-minded people who became a strong group in the 17th century. They split off in 1892 and founded the Trappist order.


Armand Jean Le Bouthillier de Rancé came from high French nobility . His father was the private secretary of Queen Maria de Medici . Actually, de Rancé was intended for a career in the army, but instead of his late brother Denis, his family let him pursue a career in the church. At the age of eleven, in 1637, he became Canon of Notre-Dame in Paris and abbot of five abbeys , including La Trappe . 1638 his mother died; his sister went to the monastery that same year. His father died in 1650. In that year he made contact with the Duchess of Montbazon , fourteen years his senior , who introduced him to high society and became his lover. In 1651, after studying in Paris, he was ordained a priest there by his uncle Victor Bouthillier . In 1654 he received his doctorate at the Sorbonne . He lived at the court of the French king and enjoyed court life there. In 1657 his uncle, the Archbishop of Tours, wanted to appoint him archdeacon with the right to succeed him, but this appointment was prevented. On April 28 of that year, famous for his sexual debauchery, he found his lover dead and beheaded. The sight of the corpse and the disappointment at the prevented archdeacon appointment brought about Rancé's conversion; henceforth he fulfilled the religious duties of a priest and began to be celibate.

In the years that followed, de Rancé distributed his fortune and benefice . In 1660, he also visited “his” La Trappe monastery, which was structurally and morally dilapidated at the time. So de Rancé set about rebuilding the building. He resigned the previous monks of the monastery with a pension and instead settled monks from the reform monastery Perseigne in La Trappe. They were monks of a reform movement within the Cistercian order . At that time they were called the abstainers because the main points of the reform were that they fasted regularly and lived on physical labor. During the reconstruction of La Trappe, de Rancé lived and worked with these monks. On August 20, 1662, choir prayers could be resumed in La Trappe. Now de Rancé's decision was made to head La Trappe, whose formal abbot ( commendatar abbot ) he had been since childhood, as resident abbot.

Therefore, in May 1663 he went to the Perseigne monastery, whose daughter monastery La Trappe was still at that time, and completed the novitiate there ; however, his excessive severity soon led to a breakdown, so that he could only attend novitiate classes for a few months. 1664 he put the profession from and received by the Bishop of Séez the benediction . Since July 14, 1664 he resided in La Trappe. The basic concern of the reform intentions that La Trappe had taken over from Perseigne was the literal interpretation of the Rule of Saint Benedict . De Rancé presented his interpretation of this rule in his work Declarationes in regulam beati Benedicti ad usum Domus Dei Beatae Mariae de Trappa , which, however, has never been printed and has only survived in a Latin handwriting, a French translation and a few quotations. From the reform efforts of de Rancé a special Cistercian congregation emerged, which was founded in 1678 by Pope Innocent XI. was recognized. In 1892 this group separated from the Cistercian order.

De Rancé was shaped both in his dramatic biography and in his reform efforts by a deep awareness of the need for penance . The reform therefore focused on self-denial, humility and asceticism . So de Rancé humbly rejected any scientific studies in the monastery. The asceticism of the Trappists was expressed in strict rules of silence, hard manual labor, especially in agriculture , and strict abstinence regulations .

Armand Jean Le Bouthillier de Rancé was never canonized or beatified, so any official liturgical worship is prohibited. Some Trappist monasteries commemorate the deceased on the day of his death, October 27th. In 1844, François-René de Chateaubriand wrote Vie de Rancé, an important book on de Rancé in terms of literary history. Today, however, the abbot is viewed more critically: the high mortality rate of the monks during his reign, the lack of theological education of his confreres and his ill-considered polemical nature are repeatedly criticized. Many members of the OCSO branch deliberately refuse to call themselves “Trappists” because they do not like the figure of Rancé (the abbot of la Trappe). Others adore him ardently.


  • On holiness and the duties of religious life. Striking texts - compiled according to topic . Edited by Jochen Michels. Patrimonium-Verlag, Heimbach 2012, ISBN 978-3-86417-009-6 .


  • AJ Krailsheimer: Rancé and the Trappist Legacy (= Cistercian Studies Series 86). Kalamazoo 1985.
  • Maria Magdalena Aust: Nothing else than God's house and gate to heaven. Principles of the Spirituality of the Abbot de Rancé (1626-1700). In: Cistercienser Chronik 107 (2000) 351-360 (1st part) and 108 (2001) 33-58 (2nd part).
  • David N. Bell: Understanding Rance: The Spirituality of the Abbot of La Trappe in Context. Cistercian Publications, 2005.
  • Josef Theodor Rath:  Rancé, Armand-Jean Le Bouthilier de. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 7, Bautz, Herzberg 1994, ISBN 3-88309-048-4 , Sp. 1320-1323.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Markus Stark, The Separation of the Observantia Strictior from the Cistercian Order (1880-1892). History and documents, in: Analecta Cisterciensia 48 (1992), pp. 105-310.
  2. Christian Füller The Silence of the Trappists in DIE WELT; September 18, 2018 p. 8
  3. David N. Bell, Understanding Rancé: the spirituality of the Abbot of La Trappe in context (Kalamazoo 2005), pp. 169-193.