in ALL THINGS (RB 57)  


 St. Benedict
15th Cent. fresco

Timelines [addt'l-nav.]          Bibliography / Suggested Reading / Study Links [pdf]




































in the

  Downside Abbey Church


The Following is adapted from: The Long Nineteenth Century, lec. 1.7, Robert I. Weiner.

Seen in Literature, Art, Music, but difficult to define precisely:

Emphasis on Emotion (and spontaneity)

Return to Nature

Past-oriented - Medieval Epics; Folktales and Folk-Art as legitimate disciplines and part of cultural heritage; e.g.Brothers Grimm

Anti-Enlightenment (anti-rationalist)

Rejection of Man-Machine (mechanistic) anthropology/sociology of Industrial Revolution

Romantic Tone:

Striving to create new systems of thought out of collapse of the old

Attempts to bridge the gap between ideal and real; between aspirations and limitations and suffering


BUT NOTE: The 1815-1848 era was also often an age of frustration.

Attempts to use positive elements from Enlightenment and French Revolution feared by those attempting to restore traditional political and religious institutions and practices

Constitutionalist and liberal nationalist expectations were often dashed.

The Following is adapted from: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. Cross, Livingstone; (OUP, 1983).

ROMANTICISM. The word is used for the movement in literature and art reasserting passion and imagination in reaction from the classicism and rationalism which marked the 18th cent. It is a vague term, and describes a mood or tendency rather than a system. Such a reaction against the Enlightenment is found first in Germany, among such writers as Goethe, F. Schlegel, F. D. E. Schleiermacher, and Novalis. Its influence spread to other countries and in England can be seen in the work of W. Blake, W. Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, P. B. Shelley, and J. Keats, among others, and in France in Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo, etc.


OUT of the devastation wrought by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars there arose a widespread longing to restore dignity, peace, and lost tradition.  The Catholic Church became an important (and ambiguous) ally for those who strove to restore what the revolutionaries had suppressed.  One of the French Catholic Church’s most widely-read defenders was the “romantic” author and statesman Chateaubriand, whose Genius of Christianity refuted the anti-Christianity and anti-Catholicism of the revolution.  His work found a wide readership among many who were instrumental in the renewal and refoundation of Catholic religious orders, such as Gueranger [OSB] and Lacordaire [OP].  The renewal of Catholic art is exemplified in the writings and work of the English architect Augustus Pugin.

Chateaubriand Pope Gregory XVI Lamennais

ROMANTIC renewal also had its dark, repressive side, however, as is evident in the encyclicals Mirari Vos and Singulari Nos of Gregory XVI.  In his condemnation of the “liberalism” of Lamennais Pope Gregory also condemned what had been valuable in the heritage of the Enlightenment, such as democracy, science and historical scholarship.  And he also doomed the Church of the nineteenth century to an unholy alliance with monarchy, a political structure that was already crumbling and was destined to fail.


At the head of a Frankish army, late in 754, or early in 755, Pippen invaded Italy and compelled Aistulf to agree to surrender to the Pope Ravenna and the other recent Lombard conquests. A second campaign, in 756, was necessary before the Lombard King made good his promise. The Exarchate of which Ravenna was the capital and the Pentapolis were now the possessions of the Pope.

The “States of the Church” were begun—that temporal sovereignty of the papacy which was to last till 1870, restored to the papacy at the Congress of Vienna after the Napoleonic wars.














(1800- present)


 Boniface Wimmer



1. BENEDICTINE restoration: Solesmes, Beuron, Subiaco

2. Benedictine Mission: American Cassinese; Ottilien; Annunciation

3. Trappist Renewal

4. Thomas Merton and the rise of Trappist scholarship





THE French revolution came very close to destroying Benedictine monasticism altogether.  The so-called Enlightenment and its chief instrument, Napoleon I, cheerfully predicted the imminent demise of the Catholic Church.  However, Napoleon fell, Pope Pius VII who endured threats and imprisonment under Napoleon was a Benedictine monk who urged compassion for the fallen dictator.

IN the atmosphere of romantic restoration that followed new monastic foundations and newly-created or restored monastic congregations flourished.

The French Congregation of Solesmes adopted universal uniformity in liturgy and especially the recovery of authentic Gregorian Chant as part of its mission;

the German Congregation of Beuron committed itself to the popular dissemination of liturgical renewal;

the English Benedictine Congregation embraced pastoral ministry and primary and secondary education;

and the American-Cassinese and Ottilien Congregations emphasized both missionary and pastoral work. 


Prosper Gueranger
Solesmes 1857
Maurus Wolter
1863 Beuron
Boniface Wimmer
St. Vincent 1846
Pietro Cassaretto
Subiaco 1850

IN 1893 under the leadership of the German/American Abbot Boniface Wimmer, founder of both St. Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania and of the American Cassinese Congregation, the Benedictine Confederation was born.  Enclosed contemplative spirituality was re-emphasized in both the Benedictine Subiaco Congregation and in the restored Trappist order.  A further renewal of Trappist spirituality arose after the Second World War under the influence of Thomas Merton, whose writings emphasized the importance of combining contemplative spirituality with serious historical scholarship.














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