In Wolf Hall, we become enmeshed in the English Reformation and enthralled by the figure of Thomas Cromwell, who dissolved the monasteries. Four centuries earlier, the planting of Cistercian monasteries had been envisaged by an English genius, Stephen Harding, a 12th-century monk from Sherborne, Dorset, who wrote the two-page constitution of the new monastery in CÃ®teaux, France. He urged the founding of further houses, with annual visitations and a General Chapter.
He was the third Abbot at CÃ®teaux, and also the mentor of a young novice, Bernard, who was encouraged to set up the monastery at Clairvaux and matured into a major theologian and key figure in medieval Europe. One night, the novice Bernard did not complete his private Psalms and went to bed early. His Abbot asked in the morning: “Bernard, where, I ask, did you leave your Psalms yesterday after Compline, or to whom did you entrust them?” Bernard was astonished at this mystical insight, blushed and threw himself at Harding’s feet, asking for pardon.