Armand Jean Le Bouthillier de Rance - Encyclopedia


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ARMAND JEAN LE BOUTHILLIER DE RANCE (1626-1700), founder of the Trappist Cistercians. He was born in Paris of a noble and influential family of Normandy; hence, being destined to the ecclesiastical state, he was when ten years old commendatory abbot of La Trappe and two other abbeys, prior of two priories, and canon of Notre Dame, Paris. At twelve he published a translation of Anacreon. He went through his course of theological studies with great distinction, defeating Bossuet at the Baccalaureat in theology. He was ordained in 1651, and embarked on the ambitious and worldly career of a court abbe in the days of Louis XIV. But after a few years he underwent a complete change of life, and in 1662 he retired to his abbey of La Trappe, of which he became regular abbot in 1664 and introduced an austere reform (see Trappists). The best known episode of his subsequent life was the "Contestation" with Mabillon on the lawfulness of monks devoting themselves to study, which De Rance denied. He resigned his abbacy in 1695, owing to declining health, and died in 1700.

The best of the early lives is that of P. le Nain, his sub-prior (1715); the most recent is by M. Serrant, L' Abbe de Rance et Bossuet (1903). A sufficient sketch is given by Helyot, Histoire des ordres religieux (1718), vi. c. 1. On the "Contestation" on Monastic Studies, see Maitland, Dark Ages, § x. (E. C. B.)

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