17353591911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 17 — MauristsEdward Cuthbert Butler

MAURISTS, a congregation of French Benedictines called after St Maurus (d. 565), a disciple of St Benedict and the legendary introducer of the Benedictine rule and life into Gaul.[1] At the end of the 16th century the Benedictine monasteries of France had fallen into a state of disorganization and relaxation. In the abbey of St Vaune near Verdun a reform was initiated by Dom Didier de la Cour, which spread to other houses in Lorraine, and in 1604 the reformed congregation of St Vaune was established, the most distinguished members of which were Ceillier and Calmet. A number of French houses joined the new congregation; but as Lorraine was still independent of the French crown, it was considered desirable to form on the same lines a separate congregation for France. Thus in 1621 was established the famous French congregation of St Maur. Most of the Benedictine monasteries of France, except those belonging to Cluny, gradually joined the new congregation, which eventually embraced nearly two hundred houses. The chief house was Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, the residence of the superior-general and centre of the literary activity of the congregation. The primary idea of the movement was not the undertaking of literary and historical work, but the return to a strict monastic régime and the faithful carrying out of Benedictine life; and throughout the most glorious period of Maurist history the literary work was not allowed to interfere with the due performance of the choral office and the other duties of the monastic life. Towards the end of the 18th century a tendency crept in, in some quarters, to relax the monastic observances in favour of study; but the constitutions of 1770 show that a strict monastic régime was maintained until the end. The course of Maurist history and work was checkered by the ecclesiastical controversies that distracted the French Church during the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the members identified themselves with the Jansenist cause; but the bulk, including nearly all the greatest names, pursued a middle path, opposing the lax moral theology condemned in 1679 by Pope Innocent XI., and adhering to those strong views on grace and predestination associated with the Augustinian and Thomist schools of Catholic theology; and like all the theological faculties and schools on French soil, they were bound to teach the four Gallican articles. It seems that towards the end of the 18th century a rationalistic and free-thinking spirit invaded some of the houses. The congregation was suppressed and the monks scattered at the revolution, the last superior-general with forty of his monks dying on the scaffold in Paris. The present French congregation of Benedictines initiated by Dom Guéranger in 1833 is a new creation and has no continuity with the congregation of St Maur.

The great claim of the Maurists to the gratitude and admiration of posterity is their historical and critical school, which stands quite alone in history, and produced an extraordinary number of colossal works of erudition which still are of permanent value. The foundations of this school were laid by Dom Tarisse, the first superior-general, who in 1632 issued instructions to the superiors of the monasteries to train the young monks in the habits of research and of organized work. The pioneers in production were Ménard and d’Achery.

The following tables give, divided into groups, the most important Maurist works, along with such information as may be useful to students. All works are folio when not otherwise noted:—

I.—The Editions of the Fathers
Epistle of Barnabas
 (editio princeps)
Ménard 1645 1  in 4to
Lanfranc d’Achery 1648 1
Guibert of Nogent d’Achery 1651 1
Robert Pulleyn and Peter  
 of Poitiers
Mathou 1655 1
Bernard Mabillon 1667 2
Anselm Gerberon 1675 1
Cassiodorus Garet 1679 1
Augustine (see Kukula,
Die Mauriner-Ausgabe
des Augustinus, 1898)
Delfau, Blampin,
 Coustant, Guesnie
1681–1700  11
Ambrose du Frische 1686–1690 2
Acta martyrum sincera Ruinart 1689 1
Hilary Coustant 1693 1
Jerome Martianay 1693–1706 5
Athanasius Loppin and Montfaucon  1698 3
Gregory of Tours Ruinart 1699 1
Gregory the Great Sainte-Marthe 1705 4
Hildebert of Tours Beaugendre 1708 1
Irenaeus Massuet 1710 1
Chrysostom Montfaucon 1718–1738  13
Cyril of Jerusalem Touttée and Maran 1720 1
Epistolae romanorum
Coustant 1721 1
Basil Garnier and Maran 1721–1730 3
Cyprian (Baluze, not a Maurist)
 finished by Maran
1726 1
Origen Ch. de la Rue (1, 2, 3)
 V. de la Rue (4)
1733–1759  4
Justin and the Apologists Maran 1742 1
Gregory Nazianzen[3] Maran and Clémencet 1778 1
II.—Biblical Works
St Jerome’s Latin Bible Martianay 1693 1
Origen’s Hexapla Montfaucon 1713 2
Old Latin versions Sabbathier 1743–1749 3
III.—Great Collections of Documents
Spicilegium d’Achery 1655–1677  13  in 4to
Veterae analecta Mabillon 1675–1685 4  in 8vo
Musaeum italicum Mabillon 1687–1689 2  in 4to
Collectio nova patrum
Montfaucon 1706 2
Thesaurus novus
Martène and Durand 1717 5
Veterum scriptorum
Martène and Durand 1724–1733 9
De antiquis Martène 1690–1706  
ecclesiaeritibus (Final form) 1736–1738 4
IV.—Monastic History
Acta of the Benedictine
d’Achery, Mabillon
 and Ruinart
1668–1701 9
Benedictine Annals
 (to 1157)
Mabillon (1-4), Massuet (5),
 Martène (6)
1703–1739 6
V.—Ecclesiastical History and Antiquities of France
Gallia Christiana[4] Sainte-Marthe (1, 2, 3) 1715–1785 13
Monuments de la
 monarchie française
Montfaucon 1729–1733 5
Histoire littéraire
 de la France[5]
Rivet, Clémencet,
1733–1763 12  in 4to
Recueil des historiens
 de la France[6]
Bouquet (1-8), Brial (12–19)  1738–1833 19
Concilia Galliae[7] Labbat 1789 1
B.—Histories of the Provinces.
Bretagne Lobineau 1707 2
Paris Félibien and Lobineau 1725 5
Languedoc Vaissette and de Vic 1730–1745 5
Bourgogne Plancher (1-3), Merle (4) 1739–1748,
Bretagne Morice 1742–1756 5
VI.—Miscellaneous Works of Technical Erudition
De re diplomatica Mabillon 1681 1
 Ditto Supplement Mabillon 1704 1
Nouveau traité de
Toustain and Tassin 1750–1765 6  in 4to
Paleographia graeca Montfaucon 1708 1
Bibliotheca coisliniana Montfaucon 1715 1
Bibliotheca bibliothecarum
 manuscriptorum nova
Montfaucon 1739 2
L’Antiquité expliqué Montfaucon 1719–1724 15
New ed. of Du Cange’s
Dantine and Carpentier 1733–1736 6
 Ditto Supplement Carpentier 1766 4
Apparatus ad bibliothecam  
 maximam patrum
le Nourry 1703 2
L’Art de verifier les dates Dantine, Durand, Clémencet  1750 1  in 4to
 Ed. 2 Clément 1770 1
 Ed. 3 Clément 1783–1787 3

The 58 works in the above list comprise 199 great folio volumes and 39 in 4to or 8vo. The full Maurist bibliography contains the names of some 220 writers and more than 700 works. The lesser works in large measure cover the same fields as those in the list, but the number of works of purely religious character, of piety, devotion and edification, is very striking. Perhaps the most wonderful phenomenon of Maurist work is that what was produced was only a portion of what was contemplated and prepared for. The French Revolution cut short many gigantic undertakings, the collected materials for which fill hundreds of manuscript volumes in the Bibliothèque nationale of Paris and other libraries of France. There are at Paris 31 volumes of Berthereau’s materials for the Historians of the Crusades, not only in Latin and Greek, but in the oriental tongues; from them have been taken in great measure the Recueil des historiens des croisades, whereof 15 folio volumes have been published by the Académie des Inscriptions. There exist also the preparations for an edition of Rufinus and one of Eusebius, and for the continuation of the Papal Letters and of the Concilia Galliae. Dom Caffiaux and Dom Villevielle left 236 volumes of materials for a Trésor généalogique. There are Benedictine Antiquities (37 vols.), a Monasticon Gallicanum and a Monasticon Benedictinum (54 vols.). Of the Histories of the Provinces of France barely half a dozen were printed, but all were in hand, and the collections for the others fill 800 volumes of MSS. The materials for a geography of Gaul and France in 50 volumes perished in a fire during the Revolution.

When these figures were considered, and when one contemplates the vastness of the works in progress during any decade of the century 1680–1780; and still more, when not only the quantity but the quality of the work, and the abiding value of most of it is realized, it will be recognized that the output was prodigious and unique in the history of letters, as coming from a single society. The qualities that have made Maurist work proverbial for sound learning are its fine critical tact and its thoroughness.

The chief source of information on the Maurists and their work is Dom Tassin’s Histoire littéraire de la congregation de Saint-Maur (1770); it has been reduced to a bare bibliography and completed by de Lama, Bibliothèque des écrivains de la congr. de S.-M. (1882). The two works of de Broglie, Mabillon (2 vols., 1888) and Montfaucon (2 vols., 1891), give a charming picture of the inner life of the great Maurists of the earlier generation in the midst of their work and their friends. Sketches of the lives of a few of the chief Maurists will be found in McCarthy’s Principal Writers of the Congr. of S. M. (1868). Useful information about their literary undertakings will be found in De Lisle’s Cabinet des MSS. de la Bibl. Nat. Fonds St Germain-des-Prés. General information will be found in the standard authorities: Helyot, Hist. des ordres religieux (1718), vi. c. 37; Heimbucher, Orden und Kongregationen (1907) i. § 36; Wetzer und Welte, Kirchenlexicon (ed. 2) and Herzog-Hauck’s Realencyklopädie (ed. 3), the latter an interesting appreciation by the Protestant historian Otto Zöckler of the spirit and the merits of the work of the Maurists.  (E. C. B.) 

  1. His festival is kept on the 15th of January. He founded the monastery of Glanfeuil or St Maur-sur-Loire.
  2. 14 vols. of materials collected for the continuation are at Paris.
  3. The printing of vol. ii. was impeded by the Revolution.
  4. Three other vols. were published 1856–1865.
  5. Sixteen other vols. were published 1814–1881.
  6. Four other vols. were published 1840–1876.
  7. The printing of vol. ii. was interrupted by the Revolution; there were to have been 8 vols.