Nowadays, the heritage of Tiron-Gardais is still rich, full of the Tironenscian Order’s memories. Around its mother abbey were born more than one hundred monastic houses on the lands of France and overseas. But who is at origins of this religious establishment ?
His name was Bernard. His story is know thanks to an essential hagiographic document titled : Vita Beati Bernardi Tironensis, Life of the Blessed Bernard of Tiron. This text was commended by Geoffroy de Lèves, bishop of Chartres (1115-1148) and written by the monk Geoffroy le Gros in the thirteenth century. Although we only know a short version, this source is precious because it allows us to approach this exceptionnal character’s personality. Discover this man, whose piety marked his time and people who crossed his way.
Bernard was born around the year 1050, close to the little town of Abbeville. As a teenager already, he was driven by a yearning for travels and above all, guided by an incredible faith which stayed, even in trials he had to face.
His monastic life began when he was a bit mare than twenty, when Bernard took the benedictine robe to integrate Saint Cyprien Abbey, in the town of Poitiers. Around 1080, he became priest in the nearby Saint Savin Abbey where despite his youth they already could count on his example to revive the piety sometimes falterieng of his companions. Some years later in 1110, he came back to Saint Cyprien, called by the abbot who nominated him to his dependent on Cluny, the mother abbey and the only one who had the duty to choose the abbot. Pope Pascal II himself (1099-1118) had to intervene and decided in favour of Cluny.
Resigned, Bernard looked after peace in itinirance and asceticism. His journey as an hermit led him on the borders of Brittany, then in Normandy and in Maine. On his way, many curious were attracted by his special aura, full of holiness. This, Bernard wan the trust and loyalty of some companions, convinced by his vision of a precious life. As they were looking for a place to establish their new community, the right track appeared with an angel who advised them to find Rotrou, lord of the Perche. Guided by this divine message, Bernard and his followers found Rotrou in his castle of Nogent. This meeting marked the birth of a sincere friendship between the abbot and the count, who welcomed them warmly and even offered the group to settle on his own lands, near Arcisses, on a favourable site for cultivation. Unfortunately, this first donation was queekly revoked because of Beatrix, Rotrou’s mother, who feared the local monk’s feedback, loyals to Saint-Denis.
Wanting to help his new friend, the count suggested another place, on the edge of the wood of Thiron, on a sterile and marshy land. Graceful, Bernard and his companions found their right place there and built a church. A first mass was celebrated on Easter Sunday in 1109. Many eminent friends were present like Yves, bishop of Chartres (1090-1115). But once again, Bernard’s quest for peace was frustrated when the monks of Nogent claimed him a thith for his establishment.
The group had to find a place out of their jurisdiction. Bernard finally found his Eden bordering the county of the Perche and the country of Chartres, near creek source called la Thironne. At last, this gift was confirmed by a charter signed in 1113. This document marks the birth of the Tironensian Order, whose heart will live and stay in this thironian abbey for centuries.
His mission accomplished, Bernard died surrounded with his companions on the 25 april in 1116. A few years after in 1122, the king of France Louis VI le Gros made it a royal abbey, a significative acte which proved the fervor for Bernard and the community he founded. The Tironensian Order propered for years and centuries after him with many abbeys and priories in France but also in England, in Scotland, in Ireland and Wales.