In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Carthusians and Eremitic Orders

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Periodicals and Series
  • Editions of Primary Sources
  • Collections of Primary Sources
  • Collections of Themed Essays
  • General Surveys of the Carthusian Order
  • Regional Studies
  • Case Studies
  • Liturgy and Ritual
  • Books and Texts
  • Art and Architecture
  • Origins and Development of the Carthusian Order

Medieval Studies Carthusians and Eremitic Orders
Julian Luxford
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0138


The Carthusian monastic order was founded by Bruno of Cologne and a handful of companions near Grenoble, France, in 1084–1086. Its first customary, often called its “rule,” was written c. 1127 at the Grande Chartreuse, the motherhouse of the order. Carthusian monasteries are called charterhouses. There were at least 226 of them in pre-Reformation Europe, distributed across eighteen provinces. About twenty charterhouses were founded for Carthusian nuns (on whom there is a thin and mostly obscure literature), the rest for monks. Medieval charterhouses were occupied by two sorts of monk: those who served in the choir and were accommodated in individual cells, and lay brethren (conversi), who lived a communal life and occupied separate quarters, usually contiguous with or very close to the main monastery. The Carthusians enjoyed considerable popularity in the late Middle Ages, when, against the general tide of patronage of monasteries, there was a flush of new foundations. This popularity was due largely to the spiritual purity of the order, encapsulated in a postmedieval motto commonly applied to the Carthusians: “numquam reformata quia numquam deformata” (“never reformed because never deformed”). Partially because there were few charterhouses in the order’s English province (nine in England, one in Scotland), very little—less than 10 percent—of the primary source material or scholarship on the Carthusians is in English.

Reference Works

There is no general reference work on the order in English. With the exception of Schlegel and Hogg 2004–2012, the most valuable sources were produced by Carthusians: the two major works (Le Couteulx 1887–1891, Le Vasseur 1890–1893) were published around two centuries after the deaths of their authors. Doreau 1897–1900 is essentially a supplement to Le Vasseur, but it gives only one biography for each day (Le Vasseur usually has two or more). Jacquemart, et al. 1913–1919 is concerned with the structure and topography of charterhouses rather than pious biography. The lack of accessible, well-documented reference works has played an important part in dampening scholarly enthusiasm for the order, which is in any case ill-disposed to external scrutiny.

  • Doreau, Victor-Marie. Les éphémérides de l’ordre des Chartreux, d’après les documents. 4 vols. Montreuil-sur-Mer, France: Charterhouse of Notre Dame de Prés, 1897–1900.

    A prosopographical collection in French. The volumes are arranged in calendrical form, here giving the life of one Carthusian celebrity for each day of the year. The material is stated to have been compiled according original documents, but no references are given, and the index is exiguous.

  • Jacquemart, Ludolphe, Pacome de Falconnet, Bernard-Marie Dubosquet, and Gerard Hulsbosch. Maisons de l‘ordre des Chartreux: Vues et notices. 4 vols. Montreuil-sur-Mer, France: Charterhouse of Notre-Dame des Prés, 1913–1919.

    A comprehensive gazetteer in French of the monasteries of the Carthusian order. The volumes are quartos and contain many drawings and ground plans of charterhouses to accompany the text. They are a particularly important source for historians interested in the topography and architecture of charterhouses. The text is superseded by the entries of the Monasticon Cartusiense (Schlegel and Hogg 2004–2012).

  • Le Couteulx, Charles. Annales Ordinis Cartusiensis ab anno 1084 ad annum 1429. 8 vols. Montreuil-sur-Mer, France: Charterhouse of Notre Dame de Prés, 1887–1891.

    The Annales, in Latin, were written in the late 17th century. They are the most extensive and important history of the medieval Carthusian order, and a fundamental resource for modern historians. The content of the volumes is arranged thus: Volume 1, 1084–1141; Volume 2, 1142–1183; Volume 3, 1184–1230; Volume 4, 1231–1308; Volume 5, 1309–1337; Volume 6, 1338–1395; Volume 7, 1395–1429; and Volume 8, indexes (modern).

  • Le Vasseur, Léon. Ephemerides ordinis Cartusiensis. 5 vols. Montreuil-sur-Mer, France: Charterhouse of Notre Dame de Prés, 1890–1893.

    The major work of Carthusian prosopography, and a fundamental source for the history of the order down to the 17th century (its author, a Carthusian monk, died in 1693). Text takes the form of a martyrology. The historical accuracy of many entries is naturally open to question. The Ephemerides’s intended functions were meditative and hortatory: the modern scholar should bear this in mind.

  • Schlegel, Gerhard, and James Hogg, eds. Monasticon Cartusiense. 4 vols. in 10. Analecta Cartusiana 185.1–4. Salzburg, Austria: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, University of Salzburg, 2004–2012.

    A first port of call for anyone researching the history of a particular charterhouse. The volumes contain illustrated entries for each monastery within a given Carthusian province. Volume 2 covers the German charterhouses, Volume 3 those of the Low Countries and Britain, and Volume 4, in six parts, those of Italy, Spain, and Portugal, as well as postmedieval monasteries in the Americas and South Korea.

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