Understanding Rancé: The Spirituality of the Abbot of La Trappe in Context

By Dr. David N. Bell

Understanding Rancé: The Spirituality of the Abbot of La Trappe in Context

Both during his lifetime and afterwards Armand Jean le Bouthiellier, the abbé de Rancé, was a controversial figure. Alive, he was extravagantly admired by many, yet had, as one recent biographer observed, “an unhappy genius for incurring hostility unnecessarily.”

Dead, he continued to evoke extreme reactions - he was either loved or loathed. One biographer nicknamed him “the thundering abbot;” others depicted him in hagiographical panegyrics. The present volume sets Rancé against the colourful and extravagant world of seventeenth-century France and corrects both masterly and entertaining caricatures by exploring the world which surrounded and formed this ever fascinating monk: the privileged circles of the ancient regime in which Rancé moved from his birth in 1626; and the austere monastic environment he created at la Trappe. “This is not so much a book about Rancé as around Rancé,” Dr. Bell writes. “I do not expect that it will persuade people who do not like Rancé to like him; it may, however, serve to explain why he said and did what he said and did in the way that he said and did.”

Dr. Bell is a University Research Professor of Religious Studies. His previous books with Cistercian Publications include translations of two works Baldwin of Forde; two hagiographic works translated from the Coptic; three volumes of medieval monastic indices; two volumes on the history of Christian doctrine; and Image and Likeness: The Augustinian Spirituality of William of Saint Thierry. Understanding Rancé is published by Cistercian Publications.