Another famous “double” monastery was Remiremont (“Romanici Mons”) in Lorraine. Governed by the same Celtic rite that prevailed in Luxeuil, founded by brothers Romaric and Aimé in 620, shortly after St. Columban’s death, in a place called Mont Habend, it then became famous as Le Saint Mont, “the holy mountain”. Its overall structure, and the same topographical location of the buildings, was kind of a reflection and ad hoc adaptation of monastic communities who prayed in Armagh, the spiritual center of the Irish church: at the foot of the mountain was a friary, while the summit housed the nuns.
But perhaps some special rituals, remembered by A. Fournier, reveal much more. There is a series of enigmatic and amply attested sacramental forms in Remiremont abbey, that together clearly show a source that can not be framed within the normal ascetic practices used in the Christian convents, but they directly show towards ritual forms that can find their explanation within a religion derived from the old-Celtic world: the oath made by the nuns on the “Stone of Truth”; the sumptuous banquets for the various funerals; the absolutely unusual dance of the nuns around the fire of St. John the Baptist coinciding with the summer solstice, when the Sun was reaching the height of its ecliptic path, which, according to the most ancient cosmological traditions, gives “start” to the second half of the year which will be completed at winter solstice, “marked” by the feast of St. John the Evangelist; the perpetual fire set in the convent; the privilege of giving to the pope every year a white silver shod horse, a ritual that almost certainly was functional equivalent of the famous ritual prevailing in Rome at least up to the time of St. Gregory the Great, which provided a long procession in the wake of the Pope who was opening the procession on a white horse from the palace of the Lateran, followed by all the clergy and people of Rome.
But the most famous medieval “double communities” on the continent were flowering around Fontevrault, the most important monastery, one of the many founded by Robert of Arbrissel, a mystic with primordial connotations who used to go around preaching and converting, always followed by crowds of the repentant and praying people. Here too, the monastery consisting of monks and nuns followed a very particular rite. Dedicated to the Holy Virgin, it was entrusted to an abbess who always had to be a true widow, a Veuve Dame, and by no means an obvious nun who, according to church canons should have done vow of perpetual virginity. It was this enigmatic and highly symbolic Veuve Dame to oversee all monastic foundations created by Robert, not only to those “double”, but also those purely masculine.
There is no reader of Perceval who does not remember the famous, but strange, scene in which the young Blanchefleur (that’s to say the “virginal”, ‘”immaculate”, the cosmic principle power), covered only by her white silk robe, enters the room and, in tears, tells young knight all her misfortunes. Perceval hugs her and chastely falls asleep with the damsel: “She does not allow him to kiss her, but I do not think he bothers her, side by side, mouth to mouth, until the morning, when the day is approaching”. On the other hand, these aspects of monastic life of the time it intended to be created on the edge of a very unusual form of “erotic mysticism”, which was all but erotic, and instead centered in the pure union of hearts, in the fusion of souls and in total disregard of the flesh. That is what in literature we will know as Amor Cortese, courtly love (2).
This aspect can help us to even understand the special friendship between Robert of Arbrissel and Plantagenet (at whose court, it is known, the ancient Celtic traditions of the Bretons, Welsh and Scotts continued to be cultivated until the decline of the House and then merged into the legendary assets now belonging to the Crown of England), come to the point that Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart wanted to be buried not in Poitiers or London, the political and cultural capitasl of their vast kingdom, but simply in the Abbey of Fontevrault.
To be continued.
- See also The Last Lady of Rennes , Rennes le Chateau, Alchemy & Counter Initiation, Italian Masonic Hermeticism, Initiation & Counter Initiation ;
- See also Rossetti and the Mystery of Platonic Love. Part 1;