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Liturgical Press

Strangers in a Strange Land

The Trappist Monastery of Saint Susan at Lulworth, Dorset, 1794–1817

David N. Bell

Strangers in a Strange Land SEE INSIDE
Strangers in a Strange Land

ISBN: 9780879072209, CS299P

Details: 360 pgs, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 3/4
Publication Date: 03/12/2024
Cistercian Publications
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The history of Saint Susan’s monastery on the south coast of England is as remarkable as the tumultuous times in which it existed. Located at East Lulworth, it was founded in 1794 and existed for twenty-three years before political and other circumstances forced Dom Antoine Saulnier de Beauregard and his community to leave England for France in 1817. There they re-founded the old Cistercian abbey of Melleray in Brittany.

Strangers in a Strange Land brings the story of Saint Susan’s monastery to light against the backdrop of a war between England and France, religious prejudice, conflicts of personality, lies, and misunderstanding. It introduces the dominant figure of the time, Dom Augustin de Lestrange, abbot of La Valsainte in Switzerland, as well as two others of major importance including the first prior of the house, Dom Jean-Baptiste Desnoyers, and the last and only abbot, Dom Antoine Saulnier de Beauregard.

David N. Bell is professor emeritus of religious studies and dean of theology at Queen's College, St. John's, Newfoundland, and canon theologian in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John's. He is the author of a number of books published by Cistercian Publications, including The Very Devout Meditations attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, Handmaid of the Lord: Mary, the Cistercians, and Armand-Jean de Rancé (CS293, 2021), Everyday Life at La Trappe under Armand-Jean de Rancé (CS274, 2018), and A Saint in the Sun: Praising Saint Bernard in the France of Louis XIV (CS271, 2017).

ISBN: 9780879072209, CS299P

Details: 360 pgs, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 3/4
Publication Date: 03/12/2024
Cistercian Publications


"David Bell has produced a lively and readable account of the Trappist Abbey of St. Susan in Lulworth, England. During its twenty-three years in a country then hostile to Catholicism, the Lulworth monastery served as a refuge for monks escaping the French Revolution and an important way station in the preservation and revival of monasticism in the early nineteenth century. Professor Bell’s engaging history brings to life the personalities of the most important figures in St. Susan’s history. Some of them played crucial roles in the larger Trappist revival like Augustin de Lestrange and Dom Antoine Saulnier de Beauregard who under government pressure led the St. Susan monks back to France to establish Melleray Abbey and help the restoration of monasticism in France."
Jay Butler, Independent Scholar

"Established in 1794, the Trappist priory (later abbey) of Saint Susan at Lulworth (Dorset) was in existence for a mere twenty-three years before the departure of its monks to refound Melleray Abbey in Brittany. Its life may have been short, but it has a story to tell. David Bell tells it in a scholarly and engaging manner, setting it against the background of the tumultuous religious and political culture of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Europe. The fruit of meticulous research into a wide range of sources, this is a compelling read."
Janet Burton, Professor of Medieval History, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter

"David Bell is an excellent storyteller. His history of Lulworth Abbey has something of the pace and verve of the Da Vinci Code, but it is better written, carefully researched, and true. It places the abbey in the context of the history of the La Trappe Cistercian reform, English-French relations during the period of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and the anti-Catholicism of that time. Anyone interested in those topics will love this book."
Hugh Feiss, OSB, Monastery of the Ascension in Jerome, Idaho

"In his typically masterful way, David Bell not only narrates the fascinating and detailed history of this abbey and its monks but also provides keen insight and elucidating analysis that draw out the significance of Saint Susan’s Abbey from its foundation and Trappist conversatio, through myriad challenges and controversies, to its eventual closure."
F. Tyler Sergent, Associate Professor and Medievalist, Berea College

"Founded in 1794, the Trappist monks’ house of Saint Susan’s in Dorset was the first Roman Catholic monastery established in England since the dissolution of the monasteries. Adhering to the strict asceticism of La Valsainte abbey in Switzerland, when came its influential first prior Jean-Baptiste Desnoyers, Saint Susan’s was a monastery where silence prevailed for the entire twenty-three years of the community’s existence. But, from among all this silence, David Bell’s expertise, insights, and originality have created a vivid and lively tale, taking the reader on many journeys—to England, France, Switzerland, Russia, Ireland, Martinique, Sierra Leone, the United States, and hints of Canada and New South Wales too. A story of commitment to the monastic life, this book is also much more. The interconnected religious and political world of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century is delightfully, and unexpectedly, exemplified through the until-now little known monastery of Saint Susan’s."
Elizabeth Freeman, Senior Lecturer in Medieval European History, University of Tasmania